Jeremiah 18 - 22
The Potter and the ClayJeremiah 18:1 The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD: 2 “Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.” 3 So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. 4 And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do.
5 Then the word of the LORD came to me: 6 “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the LORD. Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel. 7 If at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it, 8 and if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I intended to do to it. 9 And if at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom that I will build and plant it, 10 and if it does evil in my sight, not listening to my voice, then I will relent of the good that I had intended to do to it. 11 Now, therefore, say to the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem: ‘Thus says the LORD, Behold, I am shaping disaster against you and devising a plan against you. Return, every one from his evil way, and amend your ways and your deeds.’
12 “But they say, ‘That is in vain! We will follow our own plans, and will every one act according to the stubbornness of his evil heart.’
13 “Therefore thus says the LORD:
Ask among the nations,
Who has heard the like of this?
The virgin Israel
has done a very horrible thing.
14 Does the snow of Lebanon leave
the crags of Sirion?
Do the mountain waters run dry,
the cold flowing streams?
15 But my people have forgotten me;
they make offerings to false gods;
they made them stumble in their ways,
in the ancient roads,
and to walk into side roads,
not the highway,
16 making their land a horror,
a thing to be hissed at forever.
Everyone who passes by it is horrified
and shakes his head.
17 Like the east wind I will scatter them
before the enemy.
I will show them my back, not my face,
in the day of their calamity.”
19 Hear me, O LORD,
and listen to the voice of my adversaries.
20 Should good be repaid with evil?
Yet they have dug a pit for my life.
Remember how I stood before you
to speak good for them,
to turn away your wrath from them.
21 Therefore deliver up their children to famine;
give them over to the power of the sword;
let their wives become childless and widowed.
May their men meet death by pestilence,
their youths be struck down by the sword in battle.
22 May a cry be heard from their houses,
when you bring the plunderer suddenly upon them!
For they have dug a pit to take me
and laid snares for my feet.
23 Yet you, O LORD, know
all their plotting to kill me.
Forgive not their iniquity,
nor blot out their sin from your sight.
Let them be overthrown before you;
deal with them in the time of your anger.
The Broken Flask
Jeremiah 19:1 Thus says the LORD, “Go, buy a potter’s earthenware flask, and take some of the elders of the people and some of the elders of the priests, 2 and go out to the Valley of the Son of Hinnom at the entry of the Potsherd Gate, and proclaim there the words that I tell you. 3 You shall say, ‘Hear the word of the LORD, O kings of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem. Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Behold, I am bringing such disaster upon this place that the ears of everyone who hears of it will tingle. 4 Because the people have forsaken me and have profaned this place by making offerings in it to other gods whom neither they nor their fathers nor the kings of Judah have known; and because they have filled this place with the blood of innocents, 5 and have built the high places of Baal to burn their sons in the fire as burnt offerings to Baal, which I did not command or decree, nor did it come into my mind— 6 therefore, behold, days are coming, declares the LORD, when this place shall no more be called Topheth, or the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, but the Valley of Slaughter. 7 And in this place I will make void the plans of Judah and Jerusalem, and will cause their people to fall by the sword before their enemies, and by the hand of those who seek their life. I will give their dead bodies for food to the birds of the air and to the beasts of the earth. 8 And I will make this city a horror, a thing to be hissed at. Everyone who passes by it will be horrified and will hiss because of all its wounds. 9 And I will make them eat the flesh of their sons and their daughters, and everyone shall eat the flesh of his neighbor in the siege and in the distress, with which their enemies and those who seek their life afflict them.’
10 “Then you shall break the flask in the sight of the men who go with you, 11 and shall say to them, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts: So will I break this people and this city, as one breaks a potter’s vessel, so that it can never be mended. Men shall bury in Topheth because there will be no place else to bury. 12 Thus will I do to this place, declares the LORD, and to its inhabitants, making this city like Topheth. 13 The houses of Jerusalem and the houses of the kings of Judah—all the houses on whose roofs offerings have been offered to all the host of heaven, and drink offerings have been poured out to other gods—shall be defiled like the place of Topheth.’ ” 14 Then Jeremiah came from Topheth, where the LORD had sent him to prophesy, and he stood in the court of the LORD’s house and said to all the people: 15 “Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, behold, I am bringing upon this city and upon all its towns all the disaster that I have pronounced against it, because they have stiffened their neck, refusing to hear my words.”
Jeremiah Persecuted by PashhurJeremiah 20:1 Now Pashhur the priest, the son of Immer, who was chief officer in the house of the LORD, heard Jeremiah prophesying these things. 2 Then Pashhur beat Jeremiah the prophet, and put him in the stocks that were in the upper Benjamin Gate of the house of the LORD. 3 The next day, when Pashhur released Jeremiah from the stocks, Jeremiah said to him, “The LORD does not call your name Pashhur, but Terror on Every Side. 4 For thus says the LORD: Behold, I will make you a terror to yourself and to all your friends. They shall fall by the sword of their enemies while you look on. And I will give all Judah into the hand of the king of Babylon. He shall carry them captive to Babylon, and shall strike them down with the sword. 5 Moreover, I will give all the wealth of the city, all its gains, all its prized belongings, and all the treasures of the kings of Judah into the hand of their enemies, who shall plunder them and seize them and carry them to Babylon. 6 And you, Pashhur, and all who dwell in your house, shall go into captivity. To Babylon you shall go, and there you shall die, and there you shall be buried, you and all your friends, to whom you have prophesied falsely.”
7 O LORD, you have deceived me,
and I was deceived;
you are stronger than I,
and you have prevailed.
I have become a laughingstock all the day;
everyone mocks me.
8 For whenever I speak, I cry out,
I shout, “Violence and destruction!”
For the word of the LORD has become for me
a reproach and derision all day long.
9 If I say, “I will not mention him,
or speak any more in his name,”
there is in my heart as it were a burning fire
shut up in my bones,
and I am weary with holding it in,
and I cannot.
10 For I hear many whispering.
Terror is on every side!
“Denounce him! Let us denounce him!”
say all my close friends,
watching for my fall.
“Perhaps he will be deceived;
then we can overcome him
and take our revenge on him.”
11 But the LORD is with me as a dread warrior;
therefore my persecutors will stumble;
they will not overcome me.
They will be greatly shamed,
for they will not succeed.
Their eternal dishonor
will never be forgotten.
12 O LORD of hosts, who tests the righteous,
who sees the heart and the mind,
let me see your vengeance upon them,
for to you have I committed my cause.
13 Sing to the LORD;
praise the LORD!
For he has delivered the life of the needy
from the hand of evildoers.
14 Cursed be the day
on which I was born!
The day when my mother bore me,
let it not be blessed!
15 Cursed be the man who brought the news to my father,
“A son is born to you,”
making him very glad.
16 Let that man be like the cities
that the LORD overthrew without pity;
let him hear a cry in the morning
and an alarm at noon,
17 because he did not kill me in the womb;
so my mother would have been my grave,
and her womb forever great.
18 Why did I come out from the womb
to see toil and sorrow,
and spend my days in shame?
Jerusalem Will Fall to NebuchadnezzarJeremiah 21:1 This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD, when King Zedekiah sent to him Pashhur the son of Malchiah and Zephaniah the priest, the son of Maaseiah, saying, 2 “Inquire of the LORD for us, for Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon is making war against us. Perhaps the LORD will deal with us according to all his wonderful deeds and will make him withdraw from us.”
3 Then Jeremiah said to them: “Thus you shall say to Zedekiah, 4 ‘Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: Behold, I will turn back the weapons of war that are in your hands and with which you are fighting against the king of Babylon and against the Chaldeans who are besieging you outside the walls. And I will bring them together into the midst of this city. 5 I myself will fight against you with outstretched hand and strong arm, in anger and in fury and in great wrath. 6 And I will strike down the inhabitants of this city, both man and beast. They shall die of a great pestilence. 7 Afterward, declares the LORD, I will give Zedekiah king of Judah and his servants and the people in this city who survive the pestilence, sword, and famine into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and into the hand of their enemies, into the hand of those who seek their lives. He shall strike them down with the edge of the sword. He shall not pity them or spare them or have compassion.’
8 “And to this people you shall say: ‘Thus says the LORD: Behold, I set before you the way of life and the way of death. 9 He who stays in this city shall die by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence, but he who goes out and surrenders to the Chaldeans who are besieging you shall live and shall have his life as a prize of war. 10 For I have set my face against this city for harm and not for good, declares the LORD: it shall be given into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall burn it with fire.’
Message to the House of David11 “And to the house of the king of Judah say, ‘Hear the word of the LORD, 12 O house of David! Thus says the LORD:
“ ‘Execute justice in the morning,
and deliver from the hand of the oppressor
him who has been robbed,
lest my wrath go forth like fire,
and burn with none to quench it,
because of your evil deeds.’ ”
13 “Behold, I am against you, O inhabitant of the valley,
O rock of the plain,
declares the LORD;
you who say, ‘Who shall come down against us,
or who shall enter our habitations?’
14 I will punish you according to the fruit of your deeds,
declares the LORD;
I will kindle a fire in her forest,
and it shall devour all that is around her.”
Jeremiah 22Jeremiah 22:1 Thus says the LORD: “Go down to the house of the king of Judah and speak there this word, 2 and say, ‘Hear the word of the LORD, O king of Judah, who sits on the throne of David, you, and your servants, and your people who enter these gates. 3 Thus says the LORD: Do justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor him who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the resident alien, the fatherless, and the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place. 4 For if you will indeed obey this word, then there shall enter the gates of this house kings who sit on the throne of David, riding in chariots and on horses, they and their servants and their people. 5 But if you will not obey these words, I swear by myself, declares the LORD, that this house shall become a desolation. 6 For thus says the LORD concerning the house of the king of Judah:
“ ‘You are like Gilead to me,
like the summit of Lebanon,
yet surely I will make you a desert,
an uninhabited city.
7 I will prepare destroyers against you,
each with his weapons,
and they shall cut down your choicest cedars
and cast them into the fire.
10 Weep not for him who is dead,
nor grieve for him,
but weep bitterly for him who goes away,
for he shall return no more
to see his native land.
Message to the Sons of Josiah11 For thus says the LORD concerning Shallum the son of Josiah, king of Judah, who reigned instead of Josiah his father, and who went away from this place: “He shall return here no more, 12 but in the place where they have carried him captive, there shall he die, and he shall never see this land again.”
13 “Woe to him who builds his house by unrighteousness,
and his upper rooms by injustice,
who makes his neighbor serve him for nothing
and does not give him his wages,
14 who says, ‘I will build myself a great house
with spacious upper rooms,’
who cuts out windows for it,
paneling it with cedar
and painting it with vermilion.
15 Do you think you are a king
because you compete in cedar?
Did not your father eat and drink
and do justice and righteousness?
Then it was well with him.
16 He judged the cause of the poor and needy;
then it was well.
Is not this to know me?
declares the LORD.
17 But you have eyes and heart
only for your dishonest gain,
for shedding innocent blood,
and for practicing oppression and violence.”
“They shall not lament for him, saying,
‘Ah, my brother!’ or ‘Ah, sister!’
They shall not lament for him, saying,
‘Ah, lord!’ or ‘Ah, his majesty!’
19 With the burial of a donkey he shall be buried,
dragged and dumped beyond the gates of Jerusalem.”
20 “Go up to Lebanon, and cry out,
and lift up your voice in Bashan;
cry out from Abarim,
for all your lovers are destroyed.
21 I spoke to you in your prosperity,
but you said, ‘I will not listen.’
This has been your way from your youth,
that you have not obeyed my voice.
22 The wind shall shepherd all your shepherds,
and your lovers shall go into captivity;
then you will be ashamed and confounded
because of all your evil.
23 O inhabitant of Lebanon,
nested among the cedars,
how you will be pitied when pangs come upon you,
pain as of a woman in labor!”
28 Is this man Coniah a despised, broken pot,
a vessel no one cares for?
Why are he and his children hurled and cast
into a land that they do not know?
29 O land, land, land,
hear the word of the LORD!
30 Thus says the LORD:
“Write this man down as childless,
a man who shall not succeed in his days,
for none of his offspring shall succeed
in sitting on the throne of David
and ruling again in Judah.”
What I'm Reading
Why Shouldn’t We Trust the Non-Canonical “Gospel of the Savior”?
By J. Warner Wallace 11/23/2017
The Gospel of the Savior is an ancient text allegedly citing statements made by Jesus during his years with the disciples. But, is this non-biblical text reliable? Was it really written by an eyewitness who observed the ministry of Jesus and heard him speak? There are four attributes of reliable eyewitness testimony, and the first requirement is simply that the account be old enough to actually be written by someone who was present to see what he or she reported. The Gospel of the Savior was written too late in history to have been written by anyone who would have truly known Jesus, and like other late non-canonical texts, this fictional account was rejected by the early Church. In spite of this, The Gospel of the Savior still references accurate details related to Jesus. Although it is a legendary fabrication written by an author hoped to provide detail about the childhood and family history of Jesus, much can still be learned about the historic Jesus from this late text:
The Gospel of the Savior (120-180AD)
This Gnostic text was discovered by two American scholars in a Berlin museum. It is only a fragment, and scholars date the fragment to somewhere between the 4th and 7th century, although the date of writing has been attributed to the 2nd century. The manuscript was discovered on “calfskin” and only 15 pages remain from the original document which appears to have been damaged in a fire. It is a “sayings” document, much like The Gospel of Thomas, in which Jesus is quoted as the source for a number of statements.
Why Isn’t It Considered Reliable?
The Gospel of the Savior was originally written in Coptic. It contains a number of Gnostic statements and concepts related to the nature of Salvation and the material world, and numerous Gnostic terms commonly found in other heretical documents from the 2nd century. There is, therefore, good reason to believe that The Gospel of the Savior is yet another late Gnostic Gospel corrupted (like other Gnostic documents) by the prior heretical beliefs of Gnostic communities. The text clearly appears in history far too late to be a reliable eyewitness account of Jesus’ statements. Both Eusebius and Irenaeus were familiar with Gnostic groups (and their late texts), and considered Gnostic scriptures to be heretical forgeries. Tertullian believed that the Gnostics based their texts more on contemporary philosophy than Biblical revelation.
Click here to go to source
James "Jim" Warner Wallace (born June 16, 1961) is an American homicide detective and Christian apologist. Wallace is a Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview and an Adjunct Professor of Apologetics at Biola University in La Mirada, California. He has authored several books, including Cold-Case Christianity, God’s Crime Scene, and Forensic Faith, in which he applies principles of cold case homicide investigation to apologetic concerns such as the existence of God and the reliability of the Gospels.
Paul on Salvation
By Dallas Willard from Hearing God: Developing a Conversational Relationship with God
The substance of Paul’s teachings about salvation is drained off when we fail to take literally his words about our union and identification with Christ. Without this his writings can be handily subjected to elaborate plans of salvation or made into a “Roman road” of doctrinal assents, by which we supposedly gain God’s approval merely for believing what every demon believes to be true about Jesus and his work. James S. Stewart’s profound book A Man in Christ deals with this tendency in interpreting Paul and forcefully corrects it:
Beyond the reproduction in the believer’s spiritual life of his Lord’s death and burial lies the glorious fact of union with Christ in His resurrection. “Like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4). Everything that Paul associates with salvation—joy, and peace, and power, and progress, and moral victory—is gathered up in the one word he uses so constantly, “life.” Only those who through Christ have entered into a vital relationship to God are really “alive.” . . . But what Paul now saw with piercing clearness was that this life into possession of which souls entered by conversion was nothing else than the life of Christ Himself. He shared His very being with them. [James S. Stewart A Man in Christ: The Vital Elements of St. Paul's Religion (Classic Reprint)]
Stewart points out how Paul speaks of “Christ who is your life” (Col 3:4) and of “the life of Jesus” being “made visible in our bodies” (2 Cor 4:10). He points to Paul’s contrast of the law of sin and death with “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” (Rom 8:2). And he emphasizes that “this life which flows from Christ into man is something totally different from anything experienced on the merely natural plane. It is different, not only in degree, but also in kind. It is kainoteˉs zoˉeˉs (Romans 6:4), a new quality of life, a supernatural quality.” This is what Paul means when he says that if one is in Christ, one is a new creation (2 Cor 5:17).
It is this identity between the additional life of the regenerate, or restarted, individual and the person and life of Christ himself that turns believers into “a colony of heaven” (as Moffatt translates Phil 3:20) and enables them to fulfill their call to be the light of the world, showing the world what it is really like to be alive.
Dallas Willard Books:
The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life In God
The Spirit of the Disciplines: Understanding How God Changes Lives
Hearing God: Developing a Conversational Relationship with God
How God is in Business
Renovation of the Heart: Putting On the Character of Christ
The Allure of Gentleness: Defending the Faith in the Manner of Jesus
Living in Christ's Presence: Final Words on Heaven and the Kingdom of God
The Great Omission: Reclaiming Jesus&8217;s Essential Teachings on Discipleship
Renovation of the Heart: Putting On the Character of Christ (Designed for Influence)
Renewing the Christian Mind: Essays, Interviews, and Talks
The Kingdom Life: A Practical Theology of Discipleship and Spiritual Formation
Knowing Christ Today
Getting Love Right
Archaeology Silences Bible Critics
By Christians In Pakistan 7/28/2015
For many years, the critics of the Old Testament continued to argue that Moses invented the stories found in Genesis. The critics contended that the ancient people of the Old Testament times were too primitive to record documents with precise details.
In doing so, these critics basically claimed that there was no verification that the people and cities mentioned in the oldest of Biblical accounts ever really existed.
The discovery of the Ebla archive in northern Syria in the 1970′s confirmed that the Biblical records concerning the Patriarchs are spot on. It was during the excavations in northern Syria that the excavating found a large library inside a royal archive room. This library had tablets dating from 2400 -2300 BC.
The excavating team discovered almost 15,000 ancient tablets and fragments which when joined together accounted for about 2,500 tablets. Amazingly, these tablets confirmed that personal and location titles in the Biblical Patriarchal accounts are authentic. These tablets are known as the Ebla Tablets.
For a long period of time, the critics of the Old Testament used to argue that the name ‘Canaan’ was used wrongly in the early chapters of the Bible. They claimed the name Canaan was never used at that specific time in history. They further accused that the name was inserted in the Old Testament afterwards, while the earliest books of The Holy Bible were not written in the times that are described.
Christians in Pakistan http://www.christiansinpakistan.com
Toward Christian Spirituality
By N.T. Wright from Simply Christian
According to Christian belief, God’s own Spirit offers the answer to the four questions with which this book began—questions about our yearnings for beauty, relationship, spirituality, and justice. We take them in reverse order.
God has promised that, through his Spirit, he will remake the creation so that it becomes what it is straining and yearning to be. All the beauty of the present world will be enhanced, ennobled, set free from that which at present corrupts and defaces it. Then there will appear that greater beauty for which the beauty we already know is simply an advance signpost.
God offers us, by the Spirit, a fresh kind of relationship with himself—and, at the same time, a fresh kind of relationship with our neighbors and with the whole of creation. The renewal of human lives by the Spirit provides the energy through which damaged and fractured human relationships can be mended and healed.
God offers us, through the Spirit, the gift of being at last what we know in our bones we were meant to be: creatures that live in both dimensions of his created order. The quest for spirituality now appears as a search for that coming together of heaven and earth which, deeply challenging though of course it is, is genuinely on offer to those who believe.
Finally, God wants to anticipate now, by the Spirit, a world set right, a world in which the good and joyful gift of justice has flooded creation. The work of the Spirit in the lives of individuals in the present time is designed to be another advance sign, a down payment and guarantee, as it were, of that eventual setting-right of all things. We are “justified” in the present (I’ll say more about that later) in order to bring God’s justice to the world, against the day when—still by the operation of the Spirit—the earth is filled with the knowledge of YHWH as the waters cover the sea.
Within this remarkable picture, two things stand out about characteristically Christian spirituality.
First, Christian spirituality combines a sense of the awe and majesty of God with a sense of his intimate presence. This is hard to describe but easy to experience. As Jesus addressed God by the Aramaic family word Abba, Father, so Christians are encouraged to do the same: to come to know God in the way in which, in the best sort of family, the child knows the parent. From time to time I have met Christians who look puzzled at this, and say that they have no idea what all that stuff is about. I have to say that being a Christian without having at least something of that intimate knowledge of the God who is at the same time majestic, awesome, and holy sounds like a contradiction in terms. I freely grant that there may be conditions under which, because of wounds in the personality, or some special calling of God, or some other reason, people may genuinely believe in the gospel of Jesus, strive to live by the Spirit, and yet have no sense of God’s intimate presence. There is, after all, such a thing as the “dark night of the soul,” reported by some who have probed the mysteries of prayer further than most of us. But Jesus declares that the Holy Spirit will not be denied to those who ask (Luke 11:13). One of the characteristic signs of the Spirit’s work is precisely that sense of the intimate presence of God.
Second, Christian spirituality normally involves a measure of suffering. One of the times when Jesus is recorded as having used the Abba-prayer was when, in Gethsemane, he asked his Father if there was another way, if he really had to go through the horrible fate that lay in store for him. The answer was yes, he did. But if Jesus prayed like that, we can be sure that we will often have to as well. Both Paul and John lay great stress on this. Those who follow Jesus are called to live by the rules of the new world rather than the old one, and the old one won’t like it. Although the life of heaven is designed to bring healing to the life of earth, the powers that presently run this earth have carved it up to their own advantage, and they resent any suggestion of a different way. That is why the powers—whether they are in politics or the media, in the professions or the business world—bitterly resent any suggestion from Christian leaders as to how things ought to be, even while sneering at the church for not “speaking out” on issues of the day.
Suffering may, then, take the form of actual persecution. Even in the liberal modern Western world—perhaps precisely in that world!—people can suffer discrimination because of their commitment to Jesus Christ. How much more so, in places where the worldview of those in power is explicitly stated to be opposed to the Christian faith in all its forms, as in some (not all) Muslim countries today. But suffering comes in many other forms, too: illness, depression, bereavement, moral dilemmas, poverty, tragedy, accidents, and death. Nobody reading the New Testament or any of the other Christian literature from the first two or three centuries could have accused the early Christians of painting too rosy a picture of what life would be like for those who follow Jesus. But the point is this: it is precisely when we are suffering that we can most confidently expect the Spirit to be with us. We don’t seek, or court, suffering or martyrdom. But if and when it comes, in whatever guise, we know that, as Paul says toward the end of his great Spirit-chapter, “in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Romans 8:37).
N.T. Wright Books
The Day the Revolution Began: Reconsidering the Meaning of Jesus's Crucifixion
Evil and the Justice of God
Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church
Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense
How God Became King: The Forgotten Story of the Gospels
The Resurrection of the Son of God (Christian Origins and the Question of God, Vol. 3)
Romans (N. T. Wright for Everyone Bible Study Guides)
After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters
Simply Jesus: A New Vision of Who He Was, What He Did, and Why He Matters
Scripture and the Authority of God: How to Read the Bible Today
Simply Good News: Why the Gospel Is News and What Makes It Good
Surprised by Scripture: Engaging Contemporary Issues
Acts (N.T. Wright for Everyone Bible Study Guides)
Paul and the Faithfulness of God
Paul and the Faithfulness of God
John (N. T. Wright for Everyone Bible Study Guides)
The Kingdom New Testament: A Contemporary Translation
Philippians (N.T. Wright for Everyone Bible Study Guides)
The New Testament and the People of God/ Christian Origins and the Question of God, Vol.1 (Christian Origins and the Question of God (Paperback))
Justification: God's Plan & Paul's Vision
Revelation (N. T. Wright for Everyone Bible Study Guides)
The Challenge of Jesus: Rediscovering Who Jesus Was and Is
The Case for the Psalms: Why They Are Essential
The Lord and His Prayer
1 Corinthians (N.T. Wright for Everyone Bible Study Guides)
Paul: In Fresh Perspective
James (N. T. Wright for Everyone Bible Study Guides)
The Letters of John (N.T. Wright for Everyone Bible Study Guides)
Revelation for Everyone (The New Testament for Everyone)
The Meal Jesus Gave Us, Revised Edition
Acts for Everyone, Part One: Chapters 1-12 (The New Testament for Everyone)
The Meaning of Jesus: Two Visions
Mark (N. T. Wright for Everyone Bible Study Guides)
Paul for Everyone: Romans, Part 2, Chapters 9-16 (The New Testament for Everyone)
Following Jesus: Biblical Reflections on Discipleship
Ephesians (N.T. Wright for Everyone Bible Study Guides)
Luke (N.T. Wright for Everyone Bible Study Guides)
Paul and His Recent Interpreters
Paul: A Biography
Pauline Perspectives: Essays on Paul, 1978–-2013
1 & 2 Peter and Jude (N. T. Wright for Everyone Bible Study Guides)
Hebrews (N.T. Wright for Everyone Bible Study Guides)
Paul for Everyone: Galatians and Thessalonians (The New Testament for Everyone)
Galatians (N. T. Wright for Everyone Bible Study Guides)
Acts for Everyone, Part Two: Chapters 13-28 (The New Testament for Everyone)
Early Christian Letters for Everyone (The New Testament for Everyone)
Paul for Everyone: Romans, Part One (For Everyone)
Colossians and Philemon (Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (IVP Numbered))
Paul for Everyone: The Pastoral Letters: 1 and 2 Timothy, and Titus (The New Testament for Everyone)
Colossians & Philemon (N.T. Wright for Everyone Bible Study Guides)
Paul for Everyone: Galatians and Thessalonians (The New Testament for Everyone)
John for Everyone, Part 1: Chapters 1-10 (The New Testament for Everyone)
1 & 2 Timothy and Titus (N. T. Wright for Everyone Bible Study Guides)
1 & 2 Thessalonians (N.T. Wright for Everyone Bible Study Guides)
What Saint Paul Really Said: Was Paul of Tarsus the Real Founder of Christianity?
2 Corinthians (N. T. Wright for Everyone Bible Study Guides)
For All the Saints: Remembering the Christian Departed
Luke for Everyone (The New Testament for Everyone)
Surprised by Hope Participant's Guide with DVD: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church
Jesus, the Final Days: What Really Happened
The Paul Debate: Critical Questions for Understanding the Apostle
Paul for Everyone: The Prison Letters: Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon (The New Testament for Everyone)
Matthew for Everyone, Part 1: Chapters 1-15 (The New Testament for Everyone)
Who Was Jesus?
Twelve Months of Sundays: Biblical Meditations on the Christian Years A, B and C
The Last Word
Matthew for Everyone, Part 2: Chapters 16-28 (The New Testament for Everyone)
The Way of the Lord: Christian Pilgrimage Today
A Prayer About the Spiritually Distressed
By Scotty Smith 07-09-2010
Jeremiah 20:7 O LORD, you have deceived me,
and I was deceived;
you are stronger than I,
and you have prevailed.
I have become a laughingstock all the day;
everyone mocks me. ESV
Jeremiah 20:18 Why did I come out from the womb
to see toil and sorrow,
and spend my days in shame? ESV
Dear heavenly Father, as I meditate on Jeremiah’s painful prayer, I’m praising you today for the freedom you give us to bring our unfiltered and unfettered feelings to you. For if we don’t bring our anguish, angst and anger to you, we will take these feelings somewhere. But you alone have a big enough heart and broad enough shoulders to welcome and to walk with us through the chaos and confusion of our seasons of spiritual distress. I praise you for your welcoming and gracious heart.
This record of Jeremiah’s lament is such a gift to us. What a comfort it is to know that the same prophet who assured others of your gracious promise and good plan—a plan for prosperity, not harm (Jeremiah 29:11)… the same prophet who gave us a vision of the glory and the grace of the New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-34)… this same prophet, like us, experienced seasons in which he felt deceived, betrayed and abandoned by you—even grieving the day he was born.
Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. ESV
Jeremiah 31:31 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. 33 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” ESV
This gives me courage as I’ll seek to be a better steward my own feelings. But today, it gives me compassion as I pray for a few friends who’re feeling exactly what Jeremiah felt. Father, for the friend I sat with yesterday who’s feeling set up, chewed up and spit out by you… bring the gospel to bear. She loves you, but she feels abandoned by you. She knows better, but she feels bitter. My instinct is to “fix her,” but the way of the gospel is to listen and love before launching. Give me patience and kindness, as I trust you to restore her to gospel sanity.
For my friend whose spiritual melancholia is heading to an even darker place, Father, give me wisdom. What’s purely physical? What’s to some degree demonic? What’s just plane ole pity-party? I don’t know, I just don’t know. Help me Lord, and heal my friends. Meet them as you met Jeremiah. So very Amen, I pray, in Jesus’ strong and loving name.
By Carl R. Trueman 3/01/2012
One of the most pressing but invisible threats to Christian thinking at the present time is that of fallacious history. Like carbon monoxide, it can kill; you just do not notice it is happening until it is too late. Fallacious history comes in numerous forms. The most obvious and influential are those pushed by popular culture. Movies are the primary culprits here. So powerful are the aesthetics of modern cinema that the stories the movies tell can be compelling for no other reason than that they seem so real. Thus, if there is a movie in which Americans crack the Enigma code in the Second World War, then the common assumption is, well, the Americans cracked the Enigma Code. (It was actually the British who did so.)
Books, too, have an influence, especially those that are combined with a glossy movie. Take The Da Vinci Code, for example. Dan Brown tells us therein that the church only agreed to affirm Christ’s deity by the narrowest of margins and as a result of powerful political pressure. The truth is more prosaic: while there was certainly a political component to the Trinitarian debates of the fourth century, the case was ultimately won by arguments and by a huge majority.
Old wives’ tales, or, to use the more “politically correct” terminology, urban myths, also play their role in shaping the popular understanding of the past. That John Calvin burned Michael Servetus in Geneva is certainly true but hardly the whole truth. Attention to the life and times of Servetus reveals that he was wanted by Catholics as much as Protestants, and that Calvin tried to have his mode of execution changed to beheading as a small act of mercy. Without pardoning Calvin or lessening the nastiness of what happened, Calvin’s actions were simply not exceptional by the standards of the time, a point that should temper our judgment of him.
Christianity is, of course, a historical religion. Paul makes that point clearly regarding the resurrection: if Christ is not raised (in real time and space), then we are of all people to be most pitied (1 Cor. 15:19). The church is also a historical phenomenon: her actions, her creeds and confessions, everything she has ever done has been historical. All Christians should therefore be historians.
In light of this, we need to be good historians in order to spot the bogus and fallacious when we see it. Now, there is no secret to being a good historian. It just requires a set of skills learned like any other, from playing the piano to baking cakes.
Thus, there are numerous things Christians should keep in mind when reading history books, particularly those that touch on the history of Christianity.
First, remember that history is a narrative of the past constructed on the basis of evidence. Thus, when reading history, always ask: What evidence is being cited? Indeed, is evidence being cited? What kind is it? Is it eyewitness testimony? Is it a written document? And is the evidence capable of sustaining the narrative being offered? For example, a train ticket in a woman’s purse might indicate that she traveled from New York to Washington one December. But if that is the only evidence for the journey, and yet the historian claims that she went to Washington and met the president, the reader can legitimately question the narrative.
Second, remember that the historian has an agenda. This does not mean that all histories can simply be reduced to the viewpoint of the writer. The racist who denies the Holocaust ever happened does not offer a narrative that is just as legitimate as the Jewish writer who says it did. Yet the Jewish writer’s Jewishness will no doubt shape to some extent how he reads the evidence. When Dan Brown wrote his nonsense about the Council of Nicaea, his desire to write a controversial bestseller while undermining the Christian faith was no doubt a factor in how he selected and interpreted the evidence.
Third, read as much good history as you can. These are great times for reading history. Every week, I receive an email from Amazon.com informing me of the latest books being published in the historical genre. Rarely does a week go by when I am not tempted to type in my credit card number and purchase a new volume. The period does not matter: the canons of good history, in terms of marshalling and interpreting evidence, are the same for histories of ancient Greece as they are for those of modern Nicaragua. Reading good history will help you spot the bad when you see it.
Christianity needs Christians who know good history. Good history helps to build our confidence in our historical religion and to offer an answer to the bad historians — and there are many of them.
Carl R. Trueman Books:
- 1 Grace Alone---Salvation as a Gift of God: What the Reformers Taught...and Why It Still Matters (The Five Solas Series)
- 2 Histories and Fallacies: Problems Faced in the Writing of History
- 3 The Creedal Imperative
- 4 From Heaven He Came and Sought Her: Definite Atonement in Historical, Biblical, Theological, and Pastoral Perspective
- 5 The Real Scandal of the Evangelical Mind
- 6 Luther on the Christian Life: Cross and Freedom
- 7 Fools Rush in Where Monkeys Fear to Tread: Taking Aim at Everyone
- 8 Republocrat: Confessions of a Liberal Conservative
- 9 The Wages of Spin: Critical Writings on Historical and Contemporary Evangelicalism
- 10 Reformation: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow
- 11 Minority Report: Unpopular Thoughts on Everything from Ancient Christianity to Zen Calvinism
- 12 Precious Blood: The Atoning Work of Christ
- 13 Luther's Legacy: Salvation and English Reformers, 1525-1556
- 14 Reformation: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow
- 15 John Owen: Reformed Catholic, Renaissance Man (Great Theologians)
- 16 Histories and Fallacies by Carl R. Trueman (2011-01-21)
Where Shall We Put This Grief?
By Kathleen Nielson 12-16-2012
Where shall it go, all this grief? We do not have the depths in us to hold it. Any death is grievous. Any senseless murder is more than we can take in. But children. Many children. I love the moments just after recess when schoolchildren are all kind of flushed and sweaty and a little disheveled and lively, bordering on rowdy. The classroom pulses and smells earthy and alive! There’s not a place more overflowing with life and hope than an elementary classroom. The grief of what happened in Newtown, Connecticut, is as large as all that bursting life and hope. It has no boundaries. Where shall we put a grief so large? We do not have the depths in us to hold it. We must not pretend we do. Matthew 2:18 A voice was heard in Ramah, Jeremiah 31:15 Thus says the LORD: There Is a Place
Tears cannot help us hold it. Tears are the overflow as grief pushes in and finds not nearly enough room. Tears are grief’s edges turned liquid, but there are never enough of them to lessen the weight or make room for the grief to fit with any comfort. But still we weep. For ages we have wept. Jeremiah knew this weeping, this deep kind, for children. His weeping became part of the first Christmas story, when wicked Herod (afraid of a child) killed all the male children in Bethlehem two years old or younger. Matthew recognizes this weeping:
weeping and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.” ESV
“A voice is heard in Ramah,
lamentation and bitter weeping.
Rachel is weeping for her children;
she refuses to be comforted for her children,
because they are no more.” ESV
We could give up the effort to find a place for this grief, letting it loose and watching it seep into every light-filled crevice, finally leaving us surrounded by the dark and either despairing or perhaps just oblivious, forgetting about the light. When grief takes over, it grows, allowing and inviting more deeds that can be done only in the dark. Perhaps the grievous deed of 12/14 reflects a culture that is darker than we think. Many of our younger generation suffer from fatal oblivion, desperately needing to be reminded of the light.
God can not only hold our grief. God can heal our grief. Not in a little quick way, but in a huge, eternal way—-a way that matches the extent of it. God sent his Son that first Christmas to take on the darkness, to invite into himself the whole universe-sized wave of sin and pain and brokenness and grief. Jesus the Son of God held it all, on the cross, suffered it all for us, with an eternal capacity for suffering that we cannot imagine. Jesus paid it all, with his death. Because he is God, he could suffer so, and he could pay perfectly, and he could rise victorious. “The light shines in the darkness,” John writes, “and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5). I will speak those words, even in the darkness.
John 1:5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. ESV
Where shall it go, all this grief? It is here, and we must find (and we must share) a way to hold it today, on the way to eternity. It is a large grief, and we do not have the depths in us to hold it ourselves. God does. God has, in Jesus his Son. Such grief as grows in the darkness can be held and healed only in the heart of God—-the eternal God who made us and who offers eternal life to us in his Son. “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows” (Isaiah 53:4).
Matthew 2:18 A voice was heard in Ramah,
Jeremiah 31:15 Thus says the LORD:
There Is a PlaceThere is a place for this grief. The only place large and deep and strong enough to hold it is the heart of God. He is eternal; his being reaches from eternity past to eternity future. Everything that exists came from him, made by the breath of his mouth. He is other than and larger than all of it. He can hold our grief.
Isaiah 53:4 Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted. ESV
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 89I Will Sing of the Steadfast Love of the LORD
89 A Maskil Of Ethan The Ezrahite.
19 Of old you spoke in a vision to your godly one, and said:
“I have granted help to one who is mighty;
I have exalted one chosen from the people.
20 I have found David, my servant;
with my holy oil I have anointed him,
21 so that my hand shall be established with him;
my arm also shall strengthen him.
22 The enemy shall not outwit him;
the wicked shall not humble him.
23 I will crush his foes before him
and strike down those who hate him.
24 My faithfulness and my steadfast love shall be with him,
and in my name shall his horn be exalted.
The Continual Burnt Offering (John 14:6)
By H.A. Ironside - 1941
August 17John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. ESV
It is all-important that we recognize in Jesus not simply a great teacher or a religious leader who, having found God for himself, could now point out the right way to others. He is far more than one who showed the way. He is Himself the Way the Truth, the Life. The authority with which He spoke was the very voice of God, who had become incarnate in Jesus. He who subsisted in the form of God from eternity had divested Himself of His glory and taken the servant’s form that He might become the propitiation for our sins and that we might live through Him (1 John 4:9-10). He spoke with authority because He had come to reveal the mind of God; and though in humiliation He chose to be subject in all things to the Father’s will, the very words He uttered were those the Father gave Him. All His works too were in the power of the Holy Spirit, to whom He yielded Himself for service, choosing to learn obedience by the things which He suffered. He who had always commanded became the obedient Servant in order to carry out the counsels of the Godhead in all perfection.
1 John 4:9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. ESV
By Thee, O God, invited,
We look unto the Son,
In whom Thy soul deligted,
Who all Thy will hath done;
And by the one chief treasure
Thy bosom freely gave,
Thine own pure love we measure,
Thy willing mind to save.
O God of mercy—Father,
The one unchanging claim,
The brightest hopes, we gather
From Christ’s most precious name;
What always sounds so sweetly
In Thine unwearied ear,
Has freed our souls completely
From all our sinful fear.
--- Mary Bowley
By John Walvoord
Daniel’s Fourth Vision: His Experience
Daniel 10:1–3. The fourth and final vision given to Daniel was recorded in Daniel 10–12. This was Daniel’s final vision “in the third year of Cyrus king of Persia” (the year 536 BC) (v. 1 ). Daniel was assured that the vision presented the truth and that its main vision related to a “great war” (v. 1 ).
Apparently in response to the fact that a vision was to be given, Daniel prepared by fasting for three weeks (v. 2 ). This does not mean that he completely abstained from food or drink but that, as he expressed it, “I ate no choice food; no meat or wine touched my lips; and I used no lotions at all until the three weeks were over” (v. 3 ). At the time this vision came to Daniel, he was about eighty-five years of age.
Though Daniel did not mention it, he had occasion for distress because the Israelites who had returned to the Promised Land and were attempting to build the temple had run into hard times. The period of his fast included the time of the Passover, which normally occurred on the fourteenth day of the first month and was followed by seven days in which unleavened bread was eaten. The three-week period, obviously, were weeks of days in contrast to the “seventy sevens” of Daniel 9, referred to here as “three sevens of day.” The fact that the word day was used makes clear that Daniel was speaking of a literal twenty-four-hour day.
Word had come back from Jerusalem concerning the plight of the Jews who had attempted to build the temple and had laid the foundation only to be stopped by the opposition of the people who already lived in the land ( Ezra 4:1–5, 24 ). Daniel considered this a great difficulty, as one of the primary reasons for going back to Jerusalem was to rebuild the temple and reinstitute the sacrificial system. Actually, the temple was delayed about twenty years. As has been explained before, the difference was between the seventy years of the captivity, which began in 605 BC, and the seventy years of the desolation of Jerusalem, which began in 586 BC. The temple construction was delayed twenty years and completed in 515 BC, seventy years after the temple was destroyed in 586 BC. From a human standpoint it was delayed; from a divine standpoint it was on time. The period of fasting, however, gave opportunity for further revelation from God.
Daniel 10:4–6. The beginning of the three weeks of fasting was not indicated in the Bible, but it apparently was completed by the twenty-fourth day of the first month. This would allow time for the two-day festival of the beginning of the year and the beginning of the new moon, which was a time of joy and, accordingly, not a suitable time for Daniel to fast ( 1 Sam. 20:18–19, 34 ). Apparently, Daniel’s period of fasting began immediately afterward, or on the fourth day of the new month, and it continued through the Feast of the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which had concluded before the vision was given.
Daniel recorded that the vision came to him as he was “standing on the bank of the great river, the Tigris” ( Dan. 10:4 ). In Daniel 8, he had a vision “beside the Ulai Canal” ( 8:2 ), but that would be interpreted as being there in the vision, not actually there in body. Here the implication was that he was actually at the Tigris and standing on its bank when the vision began. The fact that Daniel was beside the river Tigris answers the question why he did not go back to Jerusalem with the returning pilgrims. Apparently, this was impossible for Daniel, partly due to his age and partly due to his occupation as one of the administrators of the empire. He may have been there on some business for the empire. The Tigris River was approximately thirty-five miles to the northeast of Babylon, which would not have required a great deal of travel.
Daniel recorded that in his vision he saw a glorious figure in the form of a man: “I looked up and there before me was a man dressed in linen, with a belt of the finest gold around his waist. His body was like chrysolite, his face like lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and his voice like the sound of a multitude” ( 10:5–6 ).
Scholars have wrestled with the question as to whether this man is a theophany (appearance of God) or a glorious angel. Because of the similarity of this vision to the one found in Revelation 1:11–16, many regard this first revelation as that of Christ Himself appearing as the Angel of the Lord. If so, it was in contrast to the person described in Daniel 10:10–14 or the one Michael mentioned in verse 13 because they were clearly angels. What Daniel saw was in keeping with the glorious vision of God.
The general clothing of the man was linen, which seemed to characterize heavenly visitors ( Ezek. 9:2–3, 11; 10:2, 6–7 ) as well as the garments of priests ( Ex. 28:39–43 ). Angels frequently appeared in long white garments, whether linen or not, and sometimes brilliant in color ( Mark 16:5; Luke 24:4; John 20:12; Acts 1:10 ). The belt, or girdle, was probably made of linen embroidered with the finest gold ( Dan. 10:5 ). In the King James Version the “girdle” was described as having “fine gold of Uphaz.” A similar reference is found in Jeremiah 10:9, but it is unknown what the meaning of this phrase was except that it intimates that it was of very fine gold.
The glorious appearance of the body of the man was said to be “like chrysolite,” also translated as “beryl” (NASB). Some think it was like a topaz. This jewel was mentioned also in Exodus 28:17 and Ezekiel 1:16; 10:9. Because in the Hebrew it was called tarshish, the implication was that it originated in Spain and possibly was yellow in color.
The face of the man was described to be “like lightning, his eyes like flaming torches,” similar to the description of Christ in Revelation 1:14–16. The arms and legs were described as “burnished bronze,” similar to the description of Christ in Revelation 1:15: “His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace.” As in Revelation 1:15, the voice of Christ was described “like the sound of rushing waters,” so here Daniel hears a sound “like the sound of a multitude” ( Dan. 10:6 ).
Daniel 10:7–9. Though Daniel saw the vision that overwhelmed him with terror, those who were with him did not see the vision but sensed that something awesome was happening and “they fled and hid themselves” (v. 7 ). Daniel, however, after gazing on the image, declared, “I had no strength left, my face turned deathly pale and I was helpless. Then I heard him speaking, and as I listened to him, I fell into a deep sleep, my face to the ground” (vv. 8–9 ). Daniel’s experience is similar to that of Paul’s on the road to Damascus when the men with Saul (Paul) heard a sound but did not see anyone and did not understand what was being said ( Acts 9:7; 22:9 ). The fact that the men with Daniel did not see the vision corroborates the conclusion that he was actually at the river Tigris geographically. How he knew that his face was “deathly pale” was not stated, but apparently he sensed that he was very weak. He then fell into a deep sleep. The account illustrates how men in their mortal bodies, even godly men like Daniel, cannot stand the glorious presence of God — also illustrated in Paul’s response to the vision of Christ on the road to Damascus ( Acts 9:4 ).
Daniel 10:10–11. In his weakness Daniel recorded, “A hand touched me and set me trembling on my hands and knees” (v. 10 ). Daniel was told the vision was given to him because he was a man “highly esteemed,” and he was instructed to “consider carefully the words I am about to speak to you, and stand up, for I have now been sent to you” (v. 11 ). In response to this, Daniel said he “stood up trembling.”
Daniel 10:12–14. The person talking to him said, “Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them. But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, because I was detained there with the king of Persia. Now I have come to explain to you what will happen to your people in the future, for the vision concerns a time yet to come” (vv. 12–14 ).
If the man described in verses 4–6 were a theophany, a revelation of Christ Himself, it was made clear that the first man described here was an angel and not Christ because he was said to be less than omnipotent and was resisted by “the prince of the Persian kingdom” for “twenty-one days” (v. 13 ). He was then assisted by Michael the archangel who helped him (v. 13 ). The angel declared to Daniel that “the vision concerns a time yet to come” (v. 14 ). The revelation of the conflict between the angels and the demon world described in this passage is similar to other indications of this conflict that goes on without ceasing ( Eph. 6:10–17 ).
Daniel 10:15–19. The revelation left Daniel “speechless” (v. 15 ), and he bowed toward the ground. Again Daniel was touched by “one who looked like a man” (v. 16 ). It was not clear whether this refers to an angel or to the theophany, but more probably it was to the angel mentioned in the preceding verses. Daniel, who tried to talk, stated, “My strength is gone and I can hardly breathe” (v. 17 ).
Daniel was again touched and given strength, and the angelic being stated, “‘Do not be afraid, O man highly esteemed,’ he said. ‘Peace! Be strong now; be strong’” (v. 19 ). In response to this, Daniel declared, “I was strengthened and said, ‘Speak, my lord, since you have given me strength’” (v. 19 ).
Daniel 10:20–11:1. The angelic figure told Daniel, “Do you know why I have come to you? Soon I will return to fight against the prince of Persia, and when I go, the prince of Greece will come; but first I will tell you what is written in the Book of Truth. (No one supports me against them except Michael, your prince. And in the first year of Darius the Mede, I took my stand to support and protect him).” This referred to the prophetic vision given to Daniel in chapter 8 where the ultimate triumph of Greece over Medo-Persia was prophesied. The angel indicated, however, that he supported Darius the Mede when he took charge of Babylon.
Daniel’s Fourth Vision: Prophecy of Kings before Antiochus IV
Daniel 11:2–35. This passage provides the most detailed prophecy to be found anywhere in Scripture. The interpreter is faced with the question as to whether God is omniscient, that is, He knows all events of the future, and also whether God reveals future events in detail.
The book of Daniel was held as genuine Scripture written by Daniel the prophet in the sixth century BC for at least eight hundred years without anyone questioning the validity of this prophecy.
As previously discussed, in the third century of the Christian era, about eight hundred years after Daniel, an atheistic philosopher by the name of Porphyry, in studying the book of Daniel, concluded that the prophecies of Daniel 11:2–35 were extremely accurate describing the historical period they covered. Because he did not believe in God or believe that God was omniscient, he had to find some way to account for this extraordinary piece of writing. He concluded that whoever wrote it must have lived after the events described. Accordingly, he offered the theory that Daniel was not written by Daniel the prophet in the sixth century BC, but rather by a man in the Maccabean period, around 175 BC, who claimed to be Daniel.
Until modern times no others undertook to support Porphyry. When liberal scholars began to emerge, they faced the same problem as Porphyry had in attempting to interpret this passage. Because they did not believe in supernatural revelation and they even questioned whether God was omniscient, they adopted the view of Porphyry with little change and argued that the book must be a forgery of the second century after the events described. Up to the present time this is has been a position of the liberal scholars.
The finding of a complete manuscript of Daniel among the Qumran papers, which was hundreds of years older than the oldest copy of Daniel previously found, served to undermine this liberal position because it brought the book of Daniel back to the second century BC, but in comparatively modern Hebrew instead of ancient Hebrew. According to the liberal theologians’ own position, this would require a couple of centuries between this copy and the original, which of course, would have it back in Daniel’s lifetime or at least before the events described in Daniel 11. Liberals have been largely silent about this discovery, but a new generation of liberals will have to face the fact that their old theory no longer holds and that the book of Daniel contains genuine prophecy.
The details offered in Daniel 11:2–35 include the major events and personalities of the Persian Empire, and then continue into the major events of the Alexandrian period, culminating in the prophecy about Antiochus Epiphanes (175–164 BC). Beginning with verse 36, the prophecy leaped ahead of events that have followed Antiochus to the time of the end, which is yet to come from the viewpoint of our present time.
Daniel 11:2. The prophecy began by describing four kings of Persia (v. 2 ). Daniel wrote, “Now then, I tell you the truth: Three more kings will appear in Persia, and then a fourth, who will be far richer than all the others. When he has gained power by his wealth, he will stir up everyone against the kingdom of Greece” (v. 2 ).
In attempting to identify the four kings, it is probable that Daniel excluded Darius the Mede and Cyrus II (550–540 BC). The four kings probably were Cambyses (529–522 BC), who was not mentioned in the Old Testament, Pseudo-Smerdis (522–521 BC), Darius I Hystaspes (521–486 BC, Ezra 5–6), and Xerxes I (486–465 BC, Ezra 4:6 ).
As Daniel indicated, Xerxes I was the ruler who attempted to conquer Greece at the time of the greatest power of the Persian Empire. Xerxes I had gathered an army of several hundred thousand and began a war against Greece (580 BC) in which his fleet as well as his troops were defeated. Persia declined in power after this. Many identify Ahasuerus, who chose Esther as his queen, as this Xerxes I. The disastrous expedition against Greece probably occurred between Esther 1 and Esther 2. Daniel did not give many details on the Persian Empire, as additional facts were furnished in Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther, supplemented by Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. As Daniel probably died around 530 BC, his life ended before these events took place, and therefore it had to be genuine prophecy.
Daniel 11:3–4. Daniel prophesied the coming of Alexander the Great: “Then a mighty king will appear, who will rule with great power and do as he pleases. After he has appeared, his empire will be broken up and parceled out toward the four winds of heaven. It will not go to his descendants, nor will it have the power he exercised, because his empire will be uprooted and given to others” (vv. 3–4 ). This prophecy anticipated the rise of Alexander the Great and his conquering or the Persian Empire. As history records, when Alexander the Great died in 323 BC, his conquest was divided among his four generals. The same events were prophesied in verses 5–8 and interpreted by Daniel in verses 21–22. At the time Daniel wrote this prophecy, Greece was a small and relatively insignificant nation.
Daniel 11:5–6. Daniel continued with a prophecy even more detailed than the previous prophecies. He wrote, “The king of the South will become strong, but one of his commanders will become even stronger than he and will rule his own kingdom with great power. After some years, they will become allies. The daughter of the king of the South will go to the king of the North to make an alliance, but she will not retain her power, and he and his power will not last. In those days she will be handed over, together with her royal escort and her father and the one who supported her” (vv. 5–6 ).
As intimated in verse 5, the passage concerned struggles between Syria as the king of the North and Egypt as the king of the South. Though Syria was not mentioned because it did not exist as a nation at that time and the ruler of Egypt was referred to only as the king of the South, it was nevertheless quite clear how this corresponds to history. Ptolemy I Soter (323–285 BC) is the king of the South. The one who is stronger than he is in reference to Seleucus I Nicator (312–281 BC). In the historic background of these events there is evidence that Seleucus had left Antigonus in Babylon and for a brief time was associated with Ptolemy I in Egypt. They together had defeated Antigonus, which made it possible for Seleucus to control in a military way the large area from Asia Minor to India, and he became stronger than Ptolemy, who ruled Egypt. This explains verse 5: “One of his commanders will become even stronger than he and will rule over his kingdom with great power.” The two areas of strength in this period were Egypt, led by Ptolemy, and Seleucus as the ruler of Syria. It is also indicated, “After some years, they will become allies” (v. 6 ).
It would be normal to have intermarriage between these two rulers, and this is referred to in verse 6, stating, “The daughter of the king of the South will go to the king of the North to make an alliance, but she will not retain her power, and he and his power will not last. In those days she will be handed over, together with her royal escort and her father and the one who supported her” (v. 6 ). The daughter mentioned here was Berenice, who was the daughter of Ptolemy II Philadelphus (285–246 BC), who was king of Egypt. At that time the king of Syria, or “the king of the North,” was Antiochus II Theos (261–246 BC). However, the alliance did not last as a former wife of Antiochus by name of Laodice joined a conspiracy in which both Berenice and Antiochus were killed, and her father, Ptolemy, also died at that time. The verses are accurate in describing the future events of that period.
Daniel 11:7–9. A later king of Egypt, Ptolemy III Euergetes (246–222 BC), was able to conquer the northern kingdom, seizing a great deal of booty as is described by Daniel: “One from her family line will arise to take her place. He will attack the forces of the king of the North and enter his fortress; he will fight against them and be victorious. He will also seize their gods, their metal images and their valuable articles of silver and gold and carry them off to Egypt. For some years he will leave the king of the North alone” (vv. 7–8 ). Ptolemy III Euergetes, in commemorating his victory over the kingdom of the North, erected a monument named Marmor Adulitanum, in which he recorded his boast that he had conquered a large area, including Mesopotamia, Persia, Media, Susiana, and other countries. After this victory he apparently ceased invading the North.
In the history that followed this period, there were attacks from the North and from the South as they fought each other at various times. Verse 9 indicates an attack of the king of the North against the king of the South that occurred around 240 BC and was led by Seleucus II Callinicus. He, however, was defeated and returned without conquering the land of Egypt.
Daniel 11:10–12. Seleucus’s older son was killed while on a military campaign in Asia Minor. But later, the younger son, Antiochus III, attacked Egypt with some success. As ruler of the kingdom of the North, Antiochus III had several successful campaigns against Egypt during a period when the Egyptian ruler, Ptolemy Philopator (221–203 BC) did not raise sufficient defense against him.
In a later battle in 217 BC, Antiochus the Great challenged an Egyptian army, with about seventy thousand soldiers on each side, which resulted in Egypt destroying the entire army of Antiochus as indicated in verses 11–12.
Daniel 11:13–16. In the verses that follow, however, additional invasions of Egypt carried on by the king of the North are mentioned: “For the king of the North will muster another army, larger than the first; and after several years, he will advance with a huge army fully equipped. In those times many will rise against the king of the South. The violent men among your own people will rebel in fulfillment of the vision, but without success. Then the king of the North will come and build up siege ramps and will capture a fortified city. The forces of the South will be powerless to resist; even their best troops will not have the strength to stand. The invader will do as he pleases; no one will be able to stand against him. He will establish himself in the Beautiful Land and will have the power to destroy it” (vv. 13–16 ).
These prophecies correspond precisely to the history of the period that described these wars and the success of the kingdom of the North. The conquering of a fortified city (v. 15 ) was fulfilled when the Egyptian armies were defeated at Paneas at the headwaters of the Jordan River with the result that Antiochus III was able to take Sidon, which was captured in 199–198 BC. The result was that Syria controlled all the Holy Land as far south as Gaza.
Subsequently, Egypt attempted to conquer Syria, and armies led by the Egyptians Eropas, Menacles, and Damoyenus failed to dent the Syrian power.
Daniel 11:17–20. At this time, however, Rome began to exert its power in the eastern Mediterranean, and it seemed best for Antiochus to make peace with Egypt by marrying his daughter Cleopatra to Ptolemy V Epiphanes. Daniel described this: “He will determine to come with the might of his entire kingdom and will make an alliance with the king of the South. And he will give him a daughter in marriage in order to overthrow the kingdom, but his plans will not succeed or help him” (v. 17).
Antiochus, having settled things with Egypt, attempted to conquer Greece but was defeated in 191 BC at Thermopylae and in 189 BC again was defeated at Magnesia southeast of Ephesus, this time by Roman soldiers. This fulfilled what Daniel wrote: “Then he will turn his attention to the coastlands and will take many of them, but a commander will put an end to his insolence and will turn his insolence back upon him. After this, he will turn back toward the fortresses of his own country but will stumble and fall, to be seen no more” (vv. 18–19 ). Though Antiochus was a great ruler, his failure to conquer Greece left him a broken man at the time of his death, which occurred when he attempted to plunder a temple in Elam.
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
12/1/2016 God Never Forgets Us
We are a forgetful people. We too often overlook the majesty of creation and how it directs our gaze to our sovereign, holy, and gracious Creator. We forget to give God glory for creating us and for sustaining us. We forget to thank Him for all blessings. We forget to pray to Him, and we forget to praise Him. We forget His steadfast and abounding love. We forget what Christ has done for us, in us, and through us. We forget Christ’s law-fulfilling life, and we forget His sacrificial, atoning death. We forget His resurrection, and we forget that we are awaiting resurrection. We forget that Christ is interceding for us at the right hand of the Father. We forget that Christ is coming back to judge the living and the dead. We forget that God is all-knowing and knows the intentions of our hearts. We forget the person and power of the Holy Spirit. We forget that the Holy Spirit dwells within us and that we are the temple of God. We forget that God is at work in us both to will and to work according to His good pleasure. We forget that God is working all things together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. We forget that we are united to Christ and that our salvation is secure in Christ. We forget that we are seated with Christ in the heavenly places. We forget that God will make all things new in the new heaven and new earth. We forget God’s promises. We forget the law. We forget the gospel. We forget God’s faithfulness. And yet, God never forgets us.
Throughout Scripture, our faithful, covenant Lord reminds us, “I will remember” (Gen. 9:15; Lev. 26:42; Ezek. 16:60). He will not forget us and His everlasting promises to us. And though we are prone to wander and forget God, God has promised that He will never allow us to forget Him in the end. In order to help us remember Him, our Lord has provided us with abundant means to remember Him. The Lord has given us His inspired, authoritative, and inerrant Word, and He has given us the ability to know it, to love it, and to hide it in our hearts. Moreover, the Lord has given us Himself in the person and work of Jesus Christ. As God incarnate, Christ is the eternal Word, the “radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature” (Heb. 1:3). And foundational to knowing Christ is the work of the Holy Spirit who has made us know Christ by conquering, quickening, and liberating our hearts.
If God were to let us forget Him finally, there would be no inheritance for His Son. But because God remembers our sin no more in Christ, He will, for the sake of Christ, cause us to remember Him now and forever, for His glory and our eternal good.
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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
On this day, August 17, 1955, President Dwight Eisenhower authorized the code of conduct for American soldiers in captured in war. Revealing the high level of commitment made by those in the armed services, the code states: “I serve in the forces which guard my country and our way of life. I am prepared to give my life in their defense… If captured… I will accept neither parole nor special favors from the enemy… I will never forget I am an American fighting man, responsible for my actions and dedicated to the principles which made my country free. I will trust in my God and in the United States of America.”American Minute
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
Is what you're living for
the same thing Jesus died for?
--- Ryan Rhoades
People who lean on logic and philosophy
and rational exposition
end by starving
the best part of the mind.
--- William Butler Yeats
He must pull out his own eyes, and see no creature, before he can say, he sees no God; He must be no man, and quench his reasonable soul, before he can say to himself, there is no God.
--- John Donne
Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes,
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries,
And daub their natural faces unaware
--- Elizabeth Barrett Browning (Aurora Leigh)
... from here, there and everywhere
Dr. John Stott
The Cross of Christ
First, Christ died for us. In addition to being necessary and voluntary, his death was altruistic and beneficial. He undertook it for our sake, not for his own, and he believed that through it he would secure for us a good which could be secured in no other way. The Good Shepherd, he said, was going to lay down his life ‘for the sheep’, for their benefit. Similarly, the words he spoke in the upper room when giving them the bread were, ‘This is my body given for you.’ The apostles picked up this simple concept and repeated it, sometimes making it more personal by changing it from the second person to the first: ‘Christ died for us.’ (1) There is no explanation yet, and no identification of the blessing he died to procure for us, but at least we are agreed over the ‘for you’ and ‘for us’.
Secondly, Christ died for us that he might bring us to God (1 Pet. 3:18). The beneficial purpose of his death focuses down on our reconciliation. As the Nicene Creed expresses it, ‘for us (general) and for our salvation (particular) he came down from heaven...’. The salvation he died to win for us is variously portrayed. At times it is conceived negatively as redemption, forgiveness or deliverance. At other times it is positive – new or eternal life, or peace with God in the enjoyment of his favour and fellowship. (2) The precise vocabulary does not matter at present. The important point is that it is in consequence of his death that he is able to confer upon us the great blessing of salvation.
Thirdly, Christ died for our sins. Our sins were the obstacle preventing us from receiving the gift he wanted to give us. So they had to be removed before it could be bestowed. And he dealt with our sins, or took them away, by his death. This expression ‘for our sins’ (or very similar phrases) is used by most of the major New Testament authors; they seem to have been quite clear that – in some way still to be determined – Christ’s death and our sins were related to each other. Here is a sample of quotations: ‘Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures’ (Paul); ‘Christ died for sins once for all’ (Peter); ‘he has appeared once for all...to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself’, and he ‘offered for all time one sacrifice for sins’ (Hebrews); ‘the blood of Jesus, (God’s) Son, purifies us from all sin’ (John); ‘to him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood...be glory’ (Revelation). 1 Cor. 15:3; 1 Pet. 3:18; Heb. 9:26; 10:12; 1 John 1:7; Rev. 1:5–6 All these verses (and many more) link his death with our sins. What, then, is the link?
Fourthly, Christ died our death, when he died for our sins. That is to say, granted that his death and our sins are linked, the link is not merely that of consequence (he was the victim of our human brutality) but of penalty (he endured in his innocent person the penalty our sins had deserved). For, according to Scripture, death is related to sin as its just reward: ‘the wages of sin is death’ (Rom. 6:23). The Bible everywhere views human death not as a natural but as a penal event. It is an alien intrusion into God’s good world, and not part of his original intention for humankind. To be sure, the fossil record indicates that predation and death existed in the animal kingdom before the creation of man. But God seems to have intended for his human image-bearers a more noble end, akin perhaps to the ‘translation’ which Enoch and Elijah experienced, and to the ‘transformation’ which will take place in those who are alive when Jesus comes. See Gen. 5:24; 2 Kgs 2:1–11; 1 Cor. 15:50–54 Throughout Scripture, then, death (both physical and spiritual) is seen as a divine judgment on human disobedience. E.g. Gen. 2:17; 3:3, 19, 23; Rom. 5:12–14; Rev. 20:14; 21:8.5, / Hence the expressions of horror in relation to death, the sense of anomaly that man should have become ‘like the beasts that perish’, since ‘the same fate awaits them both’. Ps. 49:12, 20; Eccl. 3:19–21 Hence too the violent ‘snorting’ of indignation which Jesus experienced in his confrontation with death at the graveside of Lazarus. (3) Death was a foreign body. Jesus resisted it; he could not come to terms with it.
(1) John 10:11, 15; Luke 22:19; Rom. 5:8; Eph. 5:2; 1 Thess. 5:10; Titus 2:14. Professor Martin Hengel has shown with great erudition that the concept of a person voluntarily dying for his city, family and friends, truth, or to pacify the gods, was widespread in the Graeco-Roman world. A special composite word hyperapothnēskein (‘to die for’) had been formed to express it. The gospel that ‘Christ died for us’ would, therefore, have been readily intelligible to first-century pagan audiences. (Martin Hengel, Atonement, pp.1–32.)
(2) For the negative see, e.g., Gal. 1:4; Eph. 1:7; Heb. 9:28. For the positive see, e.g., John 3:14–16; Eph. 2:16; Col. 1:20; 1 Thess. 5:10; 1 Pet. 3:18.
(3) See the occurrence of the verb embrimaomai in John 11:33, 38. Used of the snorting of horses, it was transferred to the strong human emotions of displeasure and indignation.
Thanks to Meir Yona
22. After these men's performances, Josephus, and the rest of the multitude with him, took a great deal of fire, and burnt both the machines and their coverings, with the works belonging to the fifth and to the tenth legion, which they put to flight; when others followed them immediately, and buried those instruments and all their materials under ground. However, about the Evening, the Romans erected the battering ram again, against that part of the wall which had suffered before; where a certain Jew that defended the city from the Romans hit Vespasian with a dart in his foot, and wounded him a little, the distance being so great, that no mighty impression could be made by the dart thrown so far off. However, this caused the greatest disorder among the Romans; for when those who stood near him saw his blood, they were disturbed at it, and a report went abroad, through the whole army, that the general was wounded, while the greatest part left the siege, and came running together with surprise and fear to the general; and before them all came Titus, out of the concern he had for his father, insomuch that the multitude were in great confusion, and this out of the regard they had for their general, and by reason of the agony that the son was in. Yet did the father soon put an end to the son's fear, and to the disorder the army was under, for being superior to his pains, and endeavoring soon to be seen by all that had been in a fright about him, he excited them to fight the Jews more briskly; for now every body was willing to expose himself to danger immediately, in order to avenge their general; and then they encouraged one another with loud voices, and ran hastily to the walls.
23. But still Josephus and those with him, although they fell down dead one upon another by the darts and stones which the engines threw upon them, yet did not they desert the wall, but fell upon those who managed the ram, under the protection of the hurdles, with fire, and iron weapons, and stones; and these could do little or nothing, but fell themselves perpetually, while they were seen by those whom they could not see, for the light of their own flame shone about them, and made them a most visible mark to the enemy, as they were in the day time, while the engines could not be seen at a great distance, and so what was thrown at them was hard to be avoided; for the force with which these engines threw stones and darts made them hurt several at a time, and the violent noise of the stones that were cast by the engines was so great, that they carried away the pinnacles of the wall, and broke off the corners of the towers; for no body of men could be so strong as not to be overthrown to the last rank by the largeness of the stones. And any one may learn the force of the engines by what happened this very night; for as one of those that stood round about Josephus was near the wall, his head was carried away by such a stone, and his skull was flung as far as three furlongs. In the day time also, a woman with child had her belly so violently struck, as she was just come out of her house, that the infant was carried to the distance of half a furlong, so great was the force of that engine. The noise of the instruments themselves was very terrible, the sound of the darts and stones that were thrown by them was so also; of the same sort was that noise the dead bodies made, when they were dashed against the wall; and indeed dreadful was the clamor which these things raised in the women within the city, which was echoed back at the same time by the cries of such as were slain; while the whole space of ground whereon they fought ran with blood, and the wall might have been ascended over by the bodies of the dead carcasses; the mountains also contributed to increase the noise by their echoes; nor was there on that night any thing of terror wanting that could either affect the hearing or the sight: yet did a great part of those that fought so hard for Jotapata fall manfully, as were a great part of them wounded. However, the Morning watch was come ere the wall yielded to the machines employed against it, though it had been battered without intermission. However, those within covered their bodies with their armor, and raised works over against that part which was thrown down, before those machines were laid by which the Romans were to ascend into the city.
24. In the Morning Vespasian got his army together, in order to take the city [by storm], after a little recreation upon the hard pains they had been at the night before; and as he was desirous to draw off those that opposed him from the places where the wall had been thrown down, he made the most courageous of the horsemen get off their horses, and placed them in three ranks over against those ruins of the wall, but covered with their armor on every side, and with poles in their hands, that so these might begin their ascent as soon as the instruments for such ascent were laid; behind them he placed the flower of the footmen; but for the rest of the horse, he ordered them to extend themselves over against the wall, upon the whole hilly country, in order to prevent any from escaping out of the city when it should be taken; and behind these he placed the archers round about, and commanded them to have their darts ready to shoot. The same command he gave to the slingers, and to those that managed the engines, and bid them to take up other ladders, and have them ready to lay upon those parts of the wall which were yet untouched, that the besieged might be engaged in trying to hinder their ascent by them, and leave the guard of the parts that were thrown down, while the rest of them should be overborne by the darts cast at them, and might afford his men an entrance into the city.
25. But Josephus, understanding the meaning of Vespasian's contrivance, set the old men, together with those that were tired out, at the sound parts of the wall, as expecting no harm from those quarters, but set the strongest of his men at the place where the wall was broken down, and before them all six men by themselves, among whom he took his share of the first and greatest danger. He also gave orders, that when the legions made a shout, they should stop their ears, that they might not be affrighted at it, and that, to avoid the multitude of the enemy's darts, they should bend down on their knees, and cover themselves with their shields, and that they should retreat a little backward for a while, till the archers should have emptied their quivers; but that When the Romans should lay their instruments for ascending the walls, they should leap out on the sudden, and with their own instruments should meet the enemy, and that every one should strive to do his best, in order not to defend his own city, as if it were possible to be preserved, but in order to revenge it, when it was already destroyed; and that they should set before their eyes how their old men were to be slain, and their children and wives were to be killed immediately by the enemy; and that they would beforehand spend all their fury, on account of the calamities just coming upon them, and pour it out on the actors.
The War of the Jews: The History of the Destruction of Jerusalem (complete edition, 7 books)
by D.H. Stern
be smart enough to desist.
5 If you make your eyes rush at it,
it’s no longer there!
For wealth will surely grow wings,
like an eagle flying off to the sky.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
Excerpt From Simply Christian
Once we glimpse this vision of the Holy Spirit coming to live within human beings, making them Temples of the living God—which ought to make us shiver in our shoes—we are able to grasp the point of the Spirit’s work in several other ways as well.
To begin with, building on the startling call to holiness we just noticed, we see right across the early Christian writings the notion that those who follow Jesus are called to fulfill the Law—that is, the Torah, the Jewish Law. Paul says it; James says it; Jesus himself says it. Now there are all kinds of senses in which Christians do not, and are not meant to, perform the Jewish Law. The New Testament Letter to the Hebrews insists that with the death of Jesus the sacrificial system came to an end, and with it the whole point of the Temple. Paul insists that when pagan men and boys believe the gospel of Jesus and get baptized, they do not have to get circumcised. Jesus himself hinted strongly that the food laws which had marked out the Jews from their pagan neighbors were to be set aside in favor of a different kind of marking out, a different kind of holiness. The early Christians, following Jesus himself, were quite clear that keeping the Jewish Sabbath was no longer mandatory, even though doing so was one of the Ten Commandments.
Nevertheless, the early Christians continued to speak, not least in the passages where they talked of the Spirit, of the obligation to fulfill the Law. If you are guided and energized by the Spirit, declares Paul, you will no longer do those things which the Law forbids—murder, adultery, and the rest. “The mind set on the flesh is hostile to God’s Law,” he writes in the Letter to the Romans. “Such a mindset does not submit to God’s Law, indeed it can’t; and those of that sort cannot please God.” But, as he goes on at once, “You are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if God’s Spirit does indeed dwell in you” (note the Temple language again). The Spirit will give life—resurrection life—to all those in whom the Spirit dwells; and this is to be anticipated (future-in-the-present language again) in holiness of life here and now (Romans 8:7–17). Later in the same letter, he explains further: “Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the Law” (13:10).
The point, once again, is not that the Law is a convenient moral guide, ancient and venerable. It is that the Torah, like the Temple, is one of the places where heaven and earth meet, so that, as some Jewish teachers had suggested, those who study and keep the Torah are like those who worship in the Temple. And the early Christians are encouraging one another to live as points of intersection, points of overlap, between heaven and earth. Again, this sounds fearsomely difficult, not to say downright impossible. But there is no getting around it. Fortunately, as we shall see, what ought to be normal Christianity is actually all about finding out how to sustain this kind of life and even grow in it.
The fulfillment of the Torah by the Spirit is one of the main themes underlying the spectacular description, in Acts 2, of the day of Pentecost itself. To this day, Pentecost is observed in Judaism as the feast of the giving of the Law. First comes Passover, the day when the Israelites leave their Egyptian slavery behind for good. Off they go through the desert, and fifty days later they reach Mount Sinai. Moses goes up the mountain and comes down with the Law, the tablets of the covenant, God’s gift to his people of the way of life by which they will be able to demonstrate that they really are his people.
This is the picture we ought to have in mind as we read Acts 2. The previous Passover, Jesus had died and been raised, opening the way out of slavery, the way to forgiveness and a new start for the whole world—especially for all those who follow him. Now, fifty days later, Jesus has been taken into “heaven,” into God’s dimension of reality; but, like Moses, he comes down again, to ratify the renewed covenant and to provide the way of life, written not on stone but in human hearts, by which Jesus’s followers may gratefully demonstrate that they really are his people. That is the underlying theology by which the remarkable phenomenon of Pentecost as Luke tells it—the wind, the fire, the tongues, and the sudden, powerful proclamation of Jesus to the astonished crowds—is given its deepest meaning. Those in whom the Spirit comes to dwell are to be people who live at the intersection between heaven and earth.
Nor is it only Temple and Torah that are fulfilled by the Spirit. Remember the two additional ways in which, in the language of ancient Judaism, God was at work within the world: God’s word and God’s wisdom.
From Simply Christian-N.T. Wright
We are called to live at the overlap both of heaven and earth—the earth that has yet to be fully redeemed as one day it will be—and of God’s future and this world’s present. We are caught on a small island near the point where these tectonic plates—heaven and earth, future and present—are scrunching themselves together. Be ready for earthquakes! When Paul writes his greatest chapter about life in the Spirit and the coming renewal of the whole cosmos, he points out at the heart of it all that, while we don’t know how to pray as we ought, the Spirit—God’s very own Spirit—intercedes for us according to God’s will. It’s a small passage (Romans 8:26–27), but it’s extremely important both for what it says and for where it says it. Here’s the context: God’s whole creation is groaning in labor pains, says Paul, waiting for the new world to be born from its womb. The church, God’s people in the Messiah, find themselves caught up in this, as we, too, groan in longing for redemption. (Paul was talking, a few verses earlier, about sharing the sufferings of the Messiah. Did he, perhaps, have Gethsemane in mind?) Christian prayer is at its most characteristic when we find ourselves caught in the overlap of the ages, part of the creation that aches for new birth.
And the strange new promise, the point at which Christian prayer is marked out over against pantheism and Deism and a good deal else besides, is that, by the Spirit, God himself is groaning from within the heart of the world, because God himself, by the Spirit, dwells in our hearts as we resonate with the pain of the world. This isn’t the pantheistic getting-in-touch-with-the-heart-of-things. This is the strange, new getting-in-touch-with-the-living-God, who is doing a new thing, who has come to the heart of the world in Jesus precisely because all is not well (a point the pantheist can never acknowledge) and it needs to be put right, who now comes by his Spirit to the place where the world is in pain (a point the Deist can never contemplate) in order that, in and through us—those who pray in Christ and by the Spirit—the groaning of all creation may come before the Father himself, the heart-searcher (8:27), the one who works all things together for good for those who love him (8:28). This is what it means to be “conformed to the image of his Son” (8:29). This is what it means, within the present age, to share his glory (8:18, 30).
This explains why specifically Christian prayer makes the sense it does within the world where heaven and earth belong together. It is worth developing the picture we sketched earlier, to show how prayer within the Christian worldview is significantly different from prayer as seen from within the two other main options.
For the pantheist, living in Option One, prayer is simply getting in tune with the deepest realities of the world and of oneself. Divinity is everywhere, including within me. Prayer is therefore not so much addressing someone else, who lives somewhere else, but rather discovering and getting in tune with an inner truth and life that are to be found deep within my own heart and within the silent rhythms of the world around. That is pantheistic prayer. It is (in my judgment) a lot healthier than pagan prayer, where a human being tries to invoke, placate, cajole, or bribe the sea-god, the wargod, the river-god, or the marriage-god to get special favors or avoid particular dangers. Compared with that, pantheistic prayer has a certain stately nobility about it. But it isn’t Christian prayer.
For the Deist, living in Option Two, prayer is calling across a void to a distant deity. This lofty figure may or may not be listening. He, or it, may or may not be inclined, or even able, to do very much about us and our world, even if he (or it) wanted to. So, at the extreme of Option Two, all you can do is send off a message, like a marooned sailor scribbling a note and putting it in a bottle, on the off-chance that someone out there might pick it up. That kind of prayer takes a good deal of faith and hope. But it isn’t Christian prayer.
Sometimes, of course, prayer within the Jewish and Christian traditions feels exactly like the prayer of Option Two, as the Psalms themselves bear witness. But, for the Psalmist, the sense of a void, an emptiness where there ought to be a Presence, isn’t something to accept calmly as the way things simply are. It is something to complain at, to jump up and down about. “Wake up, YHWH!” shouts the Psalmist, like someone standing at the foot of the bed, hands on hips, looking crossly at a sleeping form. (That is of course how the disciples addressed Jesus, asleep in the boat during the storm.) “It’s time to get up and do something about this mess!”
But the whole point of the Christian story, at the climax of the Jewish story, is that the curtain has been pulled back, the door has been opened from the other side, and like Jacob we have glimpsed a ladder between heaven and earth with messengers going to and fro upon it. “The kingdom of heaven is at hand,” says Jesus in Matthew’s gospel, not offering a new way of getting to heaven hereafter, but announcing that the rule of heaven, the very life of heaven, is now overlapping with earth in a new way—a way which sweeps together all the moments from Jacob’s ladder to Isaiah’s vision, all the patriarchal insights and prophetic dreams, and turns them into a human form, a human voice, a human life, a human death. Jesus is the reason for Option Three; and, with that, prayer has come of age. Heaven and earth have overlapped permanently where he stands, where he hung, where he rises, wherever the fresh wind of his Spirit now blows. Living as a Christian means living in the world as it’s been reshaped by and around Jesus and his Spirit. And that means that Christian prayer is a different kind of thing—different both from the prayer of the pantheist, getting in touch with the inwardness of nature, and that of the Deist, sending out messages across a lonely emptiness.
Christian prayer is about standing at the fault line, being shaped by the Jesus who knelt in Gethsemane, groaning in travail, holding heaven and earth together like someone trying to tie two pieces of rope with people tugging at the other ends to pull them apart. It goes, quite closely, with the triple identity of the true God at which we stared, dazzled, in the previous section of this book. No wonder we give up so easily. No wonder we need help.
Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
My Utmost for His Highest
Are you discouraged in devotion?
Yet lackest thou one thing; sell all that thou hast … and come, follow Me. --- Luke 18:22.
“And when he heard this …” Have you ever heard the Master say a hard word? If you have not, I question whether you have heard Him say anything. Jesus Christ says a great deal that we listen to, but do not hear; when we do hear, His words are amazingly hard.
Jesus did not seem in the least solicitous that this man should do what He told him, He made no attempt to keep him with Him. He simply said—‘Sell all you have, and come, follow Me.’ Our Lord never pleaded, He never cajoled, He never entrapped; He simply spoke the sternest words mortal ears ever listened to, and then left it alone.
Have I ever heard Jesus say a hard word? Has He said something personally to me to which I have deliberately listened? Not something I can expound or say this and that about, but something I have heard Him say to me? This man did understand what Jesus said, he heard it and he sized up what it meant, and it broke his heart. He did not go away defiant; he went away sorrowful, thoroughly discouraged. He had come to Jesus full of the fire of earnest desire, and the word of Jesus simply froze him; instead of producing an enthusiastic devotion, it produced a heart-breaking discouragement. And Jesus did not go after him, He let him go. Our Lord knows perfectly that when once His word is heard, it will bear fruit sooner or later. The terrible thing is that some of us prevent it bearing fruit in actual life. I wonder what we will say when we do make up our minds to be devoted to Him on that particular point? One thing is certain, He will never cast anything up at us.
the Poetry of RS Thomas
He touched it. It exploded.
Man was inside with his many
Devices. He turned from him as from his own
Excrement. He could not stomach his grin.
I'll mark you, he thought. He put his finger
On him. The result was poetry:
The lament of Job, Aeschylus,
The groveling of the theologians.
Man went limping through life, holding
But who were these in the laboratories
Of the world? He followed the mazes
Of their calculations, and returned
To his centre to await their coming for him.
It was not his first time to be crucified.
BIBLE TEXT / Exodus 22:28–29 / You shall not put off the skimming of the first yield of your vats. You shall give Me the first-born among your sons. You shall do the same with your cattle and your flocks: seven days it shall remain with its mother; on the eighth day you shall give it to Me.
MIDRASH TEXT / Exodus Rabbah 31, 9 / You shall do the same with your cattle. “And from the eighth day on” (Leviticus 22:27). And so it is written, “on the eighth day you shall give it to Me.” If you give it, you’re not giving yours but Mine. And so it says, “but all is from You, and it is Your gift that we have given to You” (1 Chronicles 29:14). If you do this, “You shall be Holy people to Me” (Exodus 22:30). And so it is written, “Israel was holy to the Lord, the first fruits of His harvest” (Jeremiah 2:3). Just as this pile stands and the Kohen takes terumah from it, so did the Holy One, praised is He: The world is the pile, and He took our ancestors who are His terumah, as it says, “Israel was holy to the Lord, the first fruits of His harvest.” Therefore, the Holy One, praised is He, said to Israel, “Since you are terumah, you do not have the right to eat treifah, as it says, ‘You must not eat flesh torn [triefah] by beasts in the field; you shall cast it to the dogs’ ” (Exodus 22:30). Why to the dogs? The Holy One, praised is He, said, “You owe the dogs: When I slew the first-born Egyptians, they were up all night burying their dead, and the dogs barked at them, but at Israel, they didn’t bark, as it says, ‘But not a dog shall snarl at any of the Israelites’ ” (Exodus 11:7). Therefore, you owe the dogs, as it says, “you shall cast it to the dogs.” So it is with dogs: When one barks, all of them gather round and start barking at nothing. But you must not be like that, because you are a holy people, as it says, “You shall be Holy people to Me.”
CONTEXT / God tells the Israelites that their first-born children belong to God. (The pidyon ha-ben ceremony that is done in our day exempts the first-born from service to God.) Similarly, you shall do the same with your cattle—the first-born of cattle belong to God and were to be offered as a sacrifice. The same principle applies whether we find the proof from the verse in Leviticus 22:27, “and from the eighth day on,” or from the verse in this section of Exodus 22:28, “on the eighth day you shall give it to Me.” The Midrash continues, speaking on behalf of God: If you give it, the cow to God as a sacrifice, you’re not giving up anything of yours but Mine, because everything ultimately is Mine. The proof for this is from 1 Chronicles: David announced plans for a Temple in Jerusalem and asked the Israelites for offerings. The people responded with copious amounts of gold, silver, and precious stones. David then blessed God, saying that “riches and honor are Yours to dispense.” Therefore, in responding so generously, the people were only returning to God what was God’s: “All is from You, and it is Your gift that we have given to You.”
God further tells the people: If you do this, follow the laws that I have outlined, including those of the first-born being Mine, then you shall be Holy people to Me. Proof for this is seen in a verse from Jeremiah: “Israel was holy to the Lord, the first fruits of His harvest.” By giving the terumah, a special portion of the harvest set aside for the Kohanim in the Temple, Israel (the people) became God’s “special portion,” God’s chosen and prized possession. Just as the pile of grain stands and the Kohen takes terumah from it, keeping a select portion for himself, so did the Holy One, praised is He, choose Israel from all peoples. The world is the pile, and He took our ancestors who are His terumah, as it says, “Israel was holy to the Lord, the first fruits of His harvest.”
By being chosen as a “special portion,” the Israelites also have special responsibilities: Therefore, the Holy One, praised is He, said to Israel, “Since you are terumah, you do not have the right to eat treifah.…” We now use the words treif and treifah to mean “non-kosher.” In their original sense, these words meant “torn,” referring to the flesh of animals not slaughtered but “torn” in the field by other animals. Exodus tells us, “You must not eat flesh torn [triefah] by beasts in the field; you shall cast it to the dogs.” The Rabbis wonder, Why to the dogs? If we cannot eat it, why specifically throw it to the dogs? The Holy One, praised is He, said, “You owe the dogs”; casting this unfit food to the dogs is a reward for what they previously did: “When I slew the first-born Egyptians in the tenth plague, they, the Egyptians, were up all night burying their dead, and the dogs barked at them, but at Israel, they didn’t bark, as it says, in describing the tenth plague, ‘And there shall be a loud cry in the land of Egypt, such as has never been or will ever be again, but not a dog shall snarl at any of the Israelites.’ ” Therefore, God says, you owe the dogs for their deference during the final plague. And therefore, meat that is treifah and not for human consumption “you shall cast it to the dogs.”
The Midrash next makes an observation about dogs, which is also a veiled criticism of human nature. So it is with dogs: When one barks, all of them gather round and start barking at nothing. God tells the Israelites: Don’t act like dogs who blindly follow a leader in yelping for no particular reason. “You must not be like that, because you are holy people, as it says, “You shall be Holy people to Me.’ ”
I pray for them. --- John 17:9.
Jesus was speaking immediately of the little company of men who were right around him, the disciples. (John A. Broadus, “The Saviour Praying for Us,” downloaded from the Blessed Hope Ministries of Shiloh Baptist Church, Gainesville, Ga. at members.aol.com/blesshope, accessed Aug. 21, 2001.) On the Evening before the crucifixion he said, “I pray for them,” but a little later he said, “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one” (John 17:20–21). Through them and their word the circle would continue to widen until it would embrace all that would ever become believers in him.
I invite you to take this prayer in John 17 as an idea of what sort of things the Lord Jesus Christ is asking for [right] now in your behalf. Oh, the Savior who always lives prays for you and me, knowing us better than we know ourselves.
Notice this first petition: “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one” (v. 15). What a common mistake it is to think that the only object Jesus Christ has with reference to the human race is to gather a few of us out of this world and carry us to the better world. But he was going out of the world, and his heart longed after those who had been with him. They wondered why they could not go with him, and one even said, in self-confident fervor, “I will lay down my life for you” (John 13:37). Many good people think hard of themselves because they do not want to die. I have heard such persons say, “Ah, me! I am so unwilling to die! I think anyone who loves God ought to be willing to die.” Well, that is against nature. It is impossible; it is wrong. The Lord Jesus Christ proposes not merely to rescue some souls from this world, but to rescue them in this world and make them live in this world as they were meant to live, by the help of his grace. This world belongs to him, and he proposes to help those—all that will come to him—that are thus oppressed by sin to live a life such as they should live.
Elijah lay under a juniper tree in the desert and requested that he might die. In answer to his prayer, an angel came with food that he might eat and lie down and sleep again, and getting up might go work in God’s service. Often when people are whining that they do not want to live, what they really need is food and sleep and exercise so that they may be ready to serve God.
--- John A. Broadus
The Two Lips of God August 17
When the British monarchy was reinstated in 1660, a series of new laws stifled religious liberty. The Act of Uniformity, for example, required all ministers to use The Book of Common Prayer as a format for worship. Many non-Anglicans refused, and in August, 1662, over 2,000 of England’s finest ministers were ejected from their pulpits. Among them, Thomas Watson of Cambridge, who preached his “Farewell Sermon” on August 17, 1662:
I have exercised my ministry among you for sixteen years and have received many demonstrations of love from you. I have observed your reverent attentions to the word preached. I have observed your zeal against error; and as much as could be expected in a critical time, your unity. Though I should not be permitted to preach to you, yet shall I not cease to love and pray for you; but why should there be any interruption made? Where is the crime? Some say that we are disloyal and seditious. Beloved, what my actions and sufferings for his majesty have been is known. I desire to be guided by the silver thread of God’s word and of God’s providence. And if I must die, let me leave some legacy with you before I go from you, some counsel.
First, keep your constant hours every day with God. Begin the day with God, visit God in the Morning before you make any other visit; wind up your hearts towards heaven in the Morning and they will go the better all the day after! Oh turn your closets into temples; read the scriptures. The two Testaments are the two lips by which God speaks to us; this will make you wise unto salvation. Besiege heaven every day with your prayer, thus perfume your houses.
Watson proceeded to give his listeners 19 more “directions” then he ended, saying: I have many things yet to say to you, but I know not whether God will give me another opportunity. My strength is almost gone. Consider what hath been said, and the Lord will give you understanding in all things.
Enemies spend the whole day finding fault with me;
All they think about is how to do me harm.
They attack from ambush,
Watching my every step and hoping to kill me.
You have kept record of my days of wandering.
You have stored my tears in your bottle
And counted each of them.
--- Psalm 56:5,6,8.
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - August 17
“The mercy of God.” --- Psalm 52:8.
Meditate a little on this mercy of the Lord. It is tender mercy. With gentle, loving touch, he healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds. He is as gracious in the manner of his mercy as in the matter of it. It is great mercy. There is nothing little in God; his mercy is like himself—it is infinite. You cannot measure it. His mercy is so great that it forgives great sins to great sinners, after great lengths of time, and then gives great favours and great privileges, and raises us up to great enjoyments in the great heaven of the great God. It is undeserved mercy, as indeed all true mercy must be, for deserved mercy is only a misnomer for justice. There was no right on the sinner’s part to the kind consideration of the Most High; had the rebel been doomed at once to eternal fire he would have richly merited the doom, and if delivered from wrath, sovereign love alone has found a cause, for there was none in the sinner himself. It is rich mercy. Some things are great, but have little efficacy in them, but this mercy is a cordial to your drooping spirits; a golden ointment to your bleeding wounds; a heavenly bandage to your broken bones; a royal chariot for your weary feet; a bosom of love for your trembling heart. It is manifold mercy. As Bunyan says, “All the flowers in God’s garden are double.” There is no single mercy. You may think you have but one mercy, but you shall find it to be a whole cluster of mercies. It is abounding mercy. Millions have received it, yet far from its being exhausted; it is as fresh, as full, and as free as ever. It is unfailing mercy. It will never leave thee. If mercy be thy friend, mercy will be with thee in temptation to keep thee from yielding; with thee in trouble to prevent thee from sinking; with thee living to be the light and life of thy countenance; and with thee dying to be the joy of thy soul when earthly comfort is ebbing fast.
Evening - August 17
“This sickness is not unto death.” --- John 11:4.
From our Lord’s words we learn that there is a limit to sickness. Here is an “unto” within which its ultimate end is restrained, and beyond which it cannot go. Lazarus might pass through death, but death was not to be the ultimatum of his sickness. In all sickness, the Lord saith to the waves of pain, “Hitherto shall ye go, but no further.” His fixed purpose is not the destruction, but the instruction of his people. Wisdom hangs up the thermometer at the furnace mouth, and regulates the heat.
1. The limit is encouragingly comprehensive. The God of providence has limited the time, manner, intensity, repetition, and effects of all our sicknesses; each throb is decreed, each sleepless hour predestinated, each relapse ordained, each depression of spirit foreknown, and each sanctifying result eternally purposed. Nothing great or small escapes the ordaining hand of him who numbers the hairs of our head.
2. This limit is wisely adjusted to our strength, to the end designed, and to the grace apportioned. Affliction comes not at haphazard—the weight of every stroke of the rod is accurately measured. He who made no mistakes in balancing the clouds and meting out the heavens, commits no errors in measuring out the ingredients which compose the medicine of souls. We cannot suffer too much nor be relieved too late.
3. The limit is tenderly appointed. The knife of the heavenly Surgeon never cuts deeper than is absolutely necessary. “He doth not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men.” A mother’s heart cries, “Spare my child”; but no mother is more compassionate than our gracious God. When we consider how hard-mouthed we are, it is a wonder that we are not driven with a sharper bit. The thought is full of consolation, that he who has fixed the bounds of our habitation, has also fixed the bounds of our tribulation.
I NEED THEE EVERY HOUR
Annie S. Hawks, 1835–1918
Refrain added by Robert Lowry
In the day of my trouble I will call to You, for You will answer me. (Psalm 86:7
This deeply personal hymn came from the heart of a busy housewife and mother who had no idea of the spiritual strength that her own hastily written words would bring her later during a sorrowful time in her life.
The author, Annie S. Hawks, has left this account about the writing of her poem in 1872:
One day as a young wife and mother of 37 years of age, I was busy with my regular household tasks. Suddenly, I became filled with the sense of nearness to the Master, and I began to wonder how anyone could ever live without Him, either in joy or pain. Then the words were ushered into my mind and these thoughts took full possession of me.
Sixteen years later, Mrs. Hawks experienced the death of her husband. Years after, she wrote:
I did not understand at first why this hymn had touched the great throbbing heart of humanity. It was not until long after, when the shadow fell over my way, the shadow of a great loss, that I understood something of the comforting power in the words which I had been permitted to give out to others in my hour of sweet serenity and peace.
One of the blessings of a victorious Christian life is knowing the closeness of our Lord in every circumstance of life. Like Annie Hawks, it is so important that we develop strong spiritual lives during the peaceful hours in order that we will be able to be victorious when difficulties come, which they surely will to everyone at some time.
I need Thee every hour, most gracious Lord. No tender voice like Thine can peace afford.
I need Thee every hour; stay Thou near by. Temptations lose their pow’r when Thou art nigh.
I need Thee every hour, in joy or pain. Come quickly, and abide, or life is vain.
I need Thee every hour; teach me Thy will, and Thy rich promises in me fulfill.
I need Thee every hour, Most Holy One; O make me Thine indeed, Thou blessed Son.
Refrain: I need Thee, O I need Thee; every hour I need Thee! O bless me now, my Savior—I come to Thee!
For Today: Psalm 4:1; 86; John 15:4, 5; 16:33; 1 Corinthians 10:13; Hebrews 4:16
Consciously practice walking close to the Savior each hour so that whether there are times of joy or grief, He will be there to meet every need. Sing as you go meditating on the fact ---
DISCOURSE II - ON PRACTICAL ATHEISM
Interest drives many men on to some kind of service, and when they do not find an advance of that, they will acknowledge God no more; but like some beggars, if you give them not upon their asking, and calling you good master, from blessing they will turn to cursing. How often do men do that secretly, practically, if not plainly, which Job’s wife advised him to, curse God, and cast off that disguise of integrity they had assumed! (Job 2:9): “Dost thou still retain thy integrity? curse God.” What a stir, and pulling, and crying is here! Cast off all thoughts of religious service, and be at daggers drawing with that God, who for all thy service of him has made thee so wretched a spectacle to men, and a banquet for worms. The like temper is deciphered in the Jews (Mal. 3:14), “It is in vain to serve God, and what profit is it that we have kept his ordinances, that we have walked mournfully before the Lord?” What profit is it that we have regarded his statutes, and carried ourselves in a way of subjection to God, as our Sovereign, when we inherit nothing but sorrow, and the idolatrous neighbors swim in all kind of pleasures? as if it were the most miserable thing to acknowledge God? If men have not the benefits they expect, they think God unrighteous in himself, and injurious to them, in not conferring the favor they imagine they have merited; and if they have not that recompense, they will deny God that subjection they owe to him as creatures. Grace moves to God upon a sense of duty; corrupt nature apon a sense of interest. Sincerity is encouraged by gracious returns, but is not melted away by God’s delay or refusal. Corrupt nature would have God at its back, and steers a course of duty by hope of some carnal profit, not by a sense of the sovereignty of God.
7. This contempt is seen in breaking promises with God. “One while the conscience of a man makes vows of new obedience, and perhaps binds himself with many an oath; but they prove like Jonah’s purd, withering the next day after their birth. This was Pharaohs temper: under a storm he would submit to God, and let Israel go; but when the storm is ended, he will not be under God’s control, and Israel’s slavery shall be increased. The fear of Divine wrath makes many a sinner turn his back upon his sin, and the love of his ruling lust makes him turn his back upon his true Lord. This is from the prevalency of sin, that disputes with God for the sovereignty.” When God hath sent a sharp disease, as a messenger to bind men to their beds, and make an interruption of their sinful pleasures, their mouths are full of promises of a new life, in hope to escape the just vengeance of God: the sense of hell, which strikes strongly upon them, makes them full of such pretended resolutions when they howl upon their beds. But if God be pleased in his patience to give them a respite, to take off the chains wherewith he seemed to be binding them for destruction, and recruit their strength, they are more earnest in their sins than they were in their promises of a reformation, as if they had got the mastery of God, and had outwitted him. How often doth God charge them of not returning to him after a succession of judgments! So hard it is, not only to allure, but to scourge men, to an acknowledgment of God as their Ruler!
Consider then, are we not naturally inclined to disobey the known will of God? Can we say, Lord, for thy sake we refrain the thing to which our hearts incline? Do we not allow ourselves to be licentious, earthly, vain, proud, revengeful, though we know it will offend him? Have we not been peevishly cross to his declared will? run counter to him and those laws which express most of the glory of his holiness? Is not this to disown him as our rule? Did we never wish there were no law to bind us, no precept to check our idols? What is this, but to wish that God would depose himself from being our governor, and leave us to our own conduct? or else to wish that he were as unholy as ourselves, as careless of his own laws as we are; that is, that he were no more a God than we, a God as sinful and unrighteous as ourselves? He whose heart riseth against the law of God to unlaw it, riseth against the Author of that law to undeify him. He that casts contempt upon the dearest thing God hath in the world, that which is the image of his holiness, the delight of his soul; that which he hath given a special charge to maintain, and that because it is holy, just, and good, would not stick to rejoice at the destruction of God himself. If God’s holiness and righteousness in the beam be despised, much more will an immense goodness and holiness in the fountain be rejected: he that wisheth a beam far from his eyes, because it offends and scorcheth him, can be no friend to the sun, from whence that beam doth issue. How unworthy a creature is man, since he only, a rational creature, is the sole being that withdraws itself from the rule of God in this earth! And how miserable a creature is he also, since, departing from the order of God’s goodness, he falls into the order of his justice; and while he refuseth God to be the rule of his life, he cannot avoid him being the Judge of his punishment! It is this is the original of all sin, and the fountain of all our misery. This is the first thing man disowns, the rule which God sets him.
Secondly, Man naturally owns any other rule rather than that of God’s prescribing. The law of God orders one thing, the heart of man desires another. There is not the basest thing in the world, but man would sooner submit to be guided by it, rather than by the holiness of God; and when anything that God commands crosses our own wills, we value it no more than we would the advice of a poor dispicable beggar. How many are “lovers of pleasure, more than lovers of God!” To make something which contributes to the perfection of nature, as learning, wisdom, moral virtues, our rule, would be more tolerable; but to pay that homage to a swinish pleasure, which is the right of God, is an inexcusable contempt of him. The greatest excellency in the world is infinitely below God; much more a bestial delight, which is both disgraceful and below the nature of man. If we made the vilest creature on earth our idol, it is more excusable than to be the slave of a brutish pleasure. The viler the thing is that doth possess the throne in our heart, the greater contempt it is of him who can only claim a right to it, and is worthy of it. Sin is the first object of man’s election, as soon as the faculty whereby he chooses comes to exercise its power; and it is so dear to man, that it is, in the estimate of our Saviour, counted as the right hand, and the right eye, dear, precious, and useful members.
1. The rule of Satan is owned before the rule of God. The natural man would rather be under the guidance of Satan than the yoke of his Creator. Adam chose him to be his governor in Paradise. No sooner had Satan spoke of God in a way of derision (Gen. 3:1, 5), “Yea, hath God said,” but man follows his counsel and approves of the scoff; and the greatest part of his posterity have not been wiser by his fall, but would rather ramble in the devil’s wilderness, than to stay in God’s fold. It is by the sin of man that the devil is become the god of the world, as if men were the electors of him to the government; sin is an election of him for a lord, and a putting the soul under his government. Those that live according to the course of the world, and are loth to displease it, are under the government of the prince of it. The greatest part of the works done in the world is to enlarge the kingdom of Satan. For how many ages were the laws whereby the greatest part of the world was governed in the affairs of religion, the fruits of his usurpation and policy? When temples were erected to him, priests consecrated to his service; the rites used in most of the worship of the world were either of his own coining, or the misapplying the rites God had ordained to himself, under the notion of a God: whence the apostle calls all idolatrous feasts the table of devils, the cup of devils, sacrifice to devils, fellowship with devils; devils being the real object of the pagan worship, though not formally intended by the worshipper; though in some parts of the Indies, the direct and peculiar worship is to the devil, that he might not hurt them. And though the intention of others was to offer to God, and not the devil, yet since the action was contrary to the will of God, he regards it as a sacrifice to devils. It was not the intention of Jeroboam to establish priests to the devil, when he consecrated them to the service of his calves, for Jehu afterwards calls them “the servants of the Lord” (2 Kings 10:23), “See if there be here none of the servants of the Lord,” to distinguish them from the servants of Baal; signifying that the true God was worshipped under those images, and not Baal, nor any of the gods of the heathens; yet the Scripture couples the calves and devils together, and ascribes the worship given to one to be given to the other: “He ordained him priests for the high places, and for the devils, and for the calves which he had made;” so that they were sacrifices to devils, notwithstanding the intention of Jeroboam and his subjects that had set them up and worshipped them, because they were contrary to the mind of God, and agreeable to the doctrine and mind of Satan, though the object of their worship in their own intention were not the devil, but some deified man or some canonized saint. The intention makes not a good action; if so, when men kill the best servants of God with a design to do God service, as our Saviour foretells, the action would not be murder; yet who can call it otherwise, since God is wronged in the persons of his servants? Since most of the worship of the world, which men’s corrupt natures incline them to, is false and different from the revealed will of God, it is a practical acknowledgment of the devil, as the governor, by acknowledging and practising those doctrines, which have not the stamp of divine revelation upon them, but were minted by Satan to depress the honor of God in the world. It doth concern men, then, to take good heed, that in their acts of worship they have a divine rule; otherwise it is an owning the devil as the rule: for there is no medium; whatsoever is not from God, is from Satan. But to bring this closer to us, and consider that which is more common among us: men that are in a natural condition, and wedded to their lusts, are under the paternal government of Satan (John 8:44): “Ye are of your father, the devil, and the lusts of your father you will do.” If we divide sin into spiritual and carnal, which division comprehends all, the devil’s authority is owned in both; in spiritual, we conform to his example, because those he commits; in carnal, we obey his will, because those he directs: he acts the one, and sets us a copy; he tempts to the other, and gives us a kind of a precept. Thus man by nature being a willing servant of sin, is more desirous to be bound in the devil’s iron chain, than in God’s silken cords. What greater atheism can there be, than to use God as if he were inferior to the devil? to take the part of his greatest enemy, who drew all others into the faction against him? to pleasure Satan by offending God, and gratify our adversary with the injury of our Creator? For a subject to take arms against his prince with the deadliest enemy both himself and prince hath in the whole world, adds a greater blackness to the rebellion.
2. The more visible rule preferred before God in the world, is man. The opinion of the world is more our rule than the precept of God; and many men’s abstinence from sin is not from a sense of the Divine will, no, nor from a principle of reason, but from an affection to some man on whom they depend, or fear of punishment from a superior; the same principle with that in a ravenous beast, who abstains from what he desires, for fear only of a stick or club. Men will walk with the herds, go in fashion with the most, speak and act as the most do. While we conform to the world, we cannot perform a reasonable service to God, nor prove, nor approve practically what the good and acceptable will of God is; the apostle puts them in opposition to one another. This appears,
1. In complying more with the dictates of men, than the will of God. Men draw encouragement from God’s forbearance to sin more freely against him; but the fear of punishment for breaking the will of man lays a restraint upon them. The fear of man is a more powerful curb, to restrain men in their duty, than the fear of God; so we may please a friend, a master, a governor, we are regardless whether we please God or no; men-pleasers are more than God-pleasers; man is more advanced as a rule, than God, when we submit to human orders, and stagger and dispute against divine. Would not a prince think himself slighted in his authority, if any of his servants should decline his commands, by the order of one of his subjects? And will not God make the same account of us, when we deny or delay our obedience, for fear of one of his creatures? In the fear of man, we as little acknowledge God for our sovereign, as we do for our comforter (Isa. 51:12, 13): “I, even I, am he that comforteth you; who art thou, that thou shouldst be afraid of a man that shall die,” &c. “and forgettest the Lord thy maker?” &c. We put a slight upon God, as if he were not able to bear us out in our duty to him, and incapable to balance the strength of an arm of flesh.
2. In observing that which is materially the will of God, not because it is his will, but the injunctions of men. As the word of God may be received, yet not as his word, so the will of God may be performed, yet not as his will; it is materially done, but not formally obeyed. An action, and obedience in that action, are two things; as when man commands the ceasing from all works of the ordinary calling on the Sabhath, it is the same that God enjoins: the cessation, or attendance of his servants on the hearing of the word, are conformable in the matter of it to the will of God; but it is only conformable in the obediential part of the acts to the will of man, when it is done only with respect to a human precept. As God hath a right to enact his laws without consulting his creature in the way of his government, so man is bound to obey those laws, without consulting whether they be agreeable to men’s laws or no. If we act the will of God because the will of our superiors concurs with it, we obey not God in that, but man, a human will being the rule of our obedience, and not the divine; this is to vilify God, and make him inferior to man in our esteem, and a valuing the rule of man above that of our Creator. Since God is the highest perfection and infinitely good, whatsoever rule he gives the creature must be good, else it cannot proceed from God. A base thing cannot be the product of an infinite excellency, and an unreasonable thing cannot be the product of an infinite wisdom and goodness; therefore, as the respecting God’s will before the will of man is excellent and worthy of a creature, and is an acknowledging the excellency, goodness, and wisdom of God, so the eying the will of man before and above the will of God, is on the contrary, a denial of all those in a lump, and a preferring the wisdom, goodness, and power of man in his law, above all those perfections of God in his. Whatsoever men do that looks like moral virtue or abstinence from vices, not out of obedience to the rule God hath set, but because of custom, necessity, example, or imitation, they may, in the doing of it, be rather said to be apes than Christians.
3. In obeying the will of man when it is contrary to the will of God; as the Israelites willingly “walked after the commandment,” not of God, but of Jeroboam in the case of the calves, and “made the king’s heart glad with their lies.” They cheered him with their ready obedience to his command for idolatry (which was a lie in itself, and a lie in them) against the commandment of God, and the warnings of the prophets, rather than cheer the heart of God with their obedience to his worship instituted by him; nay, and when God offered them to cure them their wound, their iniquity breaks out afresh; they would neither have him as a lord to rule them, nor a physician to cure them (Hosea 7:1): “When I would have healed Israel, then the iniquity of Ephraim was discovered.” The whole Persian nation shrunk at once from a duty due by the light of nature to the Deity, upon a decree that “neither God or man should be petitioned to for thirty days, but only their king;” one only, Daniel, excepted against it, who preferred his homage to God, above obedience to his prince. An adulterous generation is many times made the rule of men’s professions, as is implied in those words of our Saviour (Mark 8:38): “Whosoever shall be ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation:” own him among his disciples, and be ashamed of him among his enemies. Thus men are said to deny God (Tit. 1:16), when they “attend to Jewish fables and the precepts of men rather than the word of God;” when the decrees or canons of fallible men are valued at a higher rate, and preferred before the writings of the Holy Ghost by his apostles. As man naturally disowns the rule God sets him, and owns any other rule than that of God’s prescribing, so,
Thirdly, He doth this in order to the setting himself up as his own rule; as though our own wills, and not God’s, were the true square and measure of goodness. We make an idol of our own wills, and as much as self is exalted, God is deposed; the more we esteem our own wills, the more we endeavor to annihilate the will of God; account nothing of him, the more we account of ourselves, and endeavor to render ourselves his superiors, by exalting our own wills. No prince but would look upon his authority as invaded, his royalty derided, if a subject should resolve to be a law to himself, in opposition to his known will; true piety is to hate ourselves, deny ourselves, and cleave solely to the service of God. To make ourselves our own rule, and the object of our chiefest love, is atheism. If self-denial be the greatest part of godliness, the great letter in the alphabet of religion; self-love is the great letter in the alphabet of practical atheism. Self is the great antichrist and anti-God in the world, that sets up itself above all that is called God; self-love is the captain of that black band (2 Tim. 3:2): it sits in the temple of God, and would be adored as God. Self-love begins; but denying the power of godliness, which is the same with denying the ruling power of God, ends the list. It is so far from bending to the righteous will of the Creator, that it would have the eternal will of God stoop to the humor and unrighteous will of a creature; and this is the ground of the contention between the flesh and spirit in the heart of a renewed man; flesh wars for the godhead of self, and spirit fights for the godhead of God; the one would settle the throne of the Creator, and the other maintain a law of covetousness, ambition, envy, lust, in the stead of God. The evidence of this will appear in these propositions:
1. This is natural to man as he is corrupted. What was the venom of the sin of Adam, is naturally derived with his nature to all his posterity. It was not the eating a forbidden apple, or the pleasing his palate that Adam aimed at, or was the chief object of his desire, but to live independently on his Creator, and be a God to himself (Gen. 3:5): “You shall be as gods.” That which was the matter of the devil’s temptation, was the incentive of man’s rebellion; a likeness to God he aspired to in the judgment of God himself, an infallible interpreter of man’s thoughts; “Behold, man is become as one of us, to know good and evil,” in regard of self-sufficiency and being a rule to himself. The Jews understand the ambition of man to reach no further than an equality with the angelical nature; but Jehovah here understands it in another sense; God had ordered man by this prohibition not to eat of the fruit of the “tree of knowledge of good and evil;” not to attempt the knowledge of good and evil of himself, but to wait upon the dictates of God; not to trust to his own counsels, but to depend wholly upon him for direction and guidance. Certainly he that would not hold off his hand from so small a thing as an apple, when he had his choice of the fruit of the garden, would not have denied himself anything his appetite had desired, when that principle had prevailed upon him; he would not have stuck at a greater matter to pleasure himself with the displeasing of God, when for so small a thing he would incur the anger of his Creator. Thus would he deify his own understanding against the wisdom of God, and his own appetite against the will of God. This desire of equality with God, a learned man thinks the apostle intimates (Phil. 2:6): “Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God;” the Son’s being in the form of God, and thinking it no robbery to be equal with God, implies that the robbery of sacrilege committed by our first parents, for which the Son of God humbled himself to the death of the cross, was an attempt to be equal with God, and depend no more upon God’s directions, but his own conduct; which could be no less than an invasion of the throne of God, and endeavor to put himself into a posture to be his mate. Other sins, adultery, theft, &c. could not be committed by him at that time, but he immediately puts forth his hand to usurp the power of his Maker; this treason is the old Adam in every man. The first Adam contradicted the will of God to set up himself; the second Adam humbled himself, and did nothing but by the command and will of his Father. This principle wherein the venom of the old Adam lies, must be crucified to make way for the throne of the humble and obedient principle of the new Adam, or quickening Spirit; indeed sin in its own nature is nothing else but “a willing according to self, and contrary to the will of God;” lusts are therefore called the wills of the flesh and of the mind. As the precepts of God are God’s will, so the violation of these precepts is man’s will; and thus man usurps a godhead to himself, by giving that honor to his own will which belongs to God, appropriating the right of rule to himself, and denying it to his Creator. That servant that acts according to his own will, with a neglect of his master’s, refuseth the duty of a servant, and invades the right of his master. This self-love and desire of independency on God has been the root of all sin in the world. The great controversy between God and man hath been, whether he or they shall be God; whether his reason or theirs, his will or theirs, shall be the guiding principle. As grace is the union of the will of God and the will of the creature, so sin is the opposition of the will of self to the will of God; “Leaning to our own understanding,” is opposed as a natural evil to “trusting in the Lord,” a supernatural grace. Men commonly love what is their own, their own inventions, their own fancies; therefore the ways of a wicked man are called the “ways of his own heart,” and the ways of a superstitious man his own devices (Jer. 18:11): “We will walk after our own devices;” we will be a law to ourselves; and what the Psalmist saith of the tongue, Our tongues are our own, who shall control us? is as truly the language of men’s hearts, Our wills are our own, who shall check us?
2. This is evident in the dissatisfaction of men with their own consciences when they contradict the desires of self. Conscience is nothing but an actuated or reflex knowledge of a superior power and an equitable law; a law impressed, and a power above it impressing it. Conscience is not the lawgiver, but the remembrancer to mind us of that law of nature imprinted upon our souls, and actuate the considerations of the duty and penalty, to apply the rule to our acts, and pass judgment upon matter of fact: it is to give the charge, urge the rule, enjoin the practice of those notions of right, as part of our duty and obedience. But man is as much displeased with the directions of conscience, as he is out of love with the accusations and condemning sentence of this officer of God: we cannot naturally endure any quick and lively practical thoughts of God and his will, and distaste our own consciences for putting us in mind of it: they therefore “like not to retain God in their knowledge,” that is, God in their own consciences; they would blow it out, as it is the candle of the Lord in them to direct them, and their acknowledgments of God, to secure themselves against the practice of its principles: they would stop all the avenues to any beam of light, and would not suffer a sparkle of divine knowledge to flutter in their minds, in order to set up another directing rule suited to the fleshly appetite: and when they cannot atop the light of it from glaring in their faces, they rebel against it, and cannot endure to abide in its paths. He speaks not of those which had the written word, or special revelations; but only a natural light or traditional, handed from Adam: hence are all the endeavors to still it when it begins to speak, by some carnal pleasures, as Saul’s evil spirit with a fit of music; or bribe it with some fits of a glavering devotion, when it holds the law of God in its commanding authority before the mind: they would we out all the impressions of it when it presses the advancement of God above self, and entertain it with no better compliment than Ahab did Elijah, “Hast thou found me, O my enemy?” If we are like to God in anything of our natural fabric, it is in the auperior and more spiritual part of our souls. The resistance of that which is most like to God, and instead of God in us, is a disowning of the Sovereign represented by that officer. He that would be without conscience, would be without God, whose vicegerent it is, and make the sensitive part, which conscience opposes, his lawgiver. Thus a man, out of respect to sinful self, quarrels with his natural self, and cannot comport himself in a friendly behavior to his internal implanted principles: he hates to come under the rebukes of them, as much as Adam hated to come into the presence of God, after he turned traitor against him: the bad entertainment God’s deputy hath in us, reflects upon that God whose cause it pleads: it is upon no other account that men loathe the upright language of their own reasons in those matters, and wish the eternal silence of their own consciences, but as they maintain the rights of God, and would hinder the idol of self from usurping his godhead and prerogative. Though this power be part of a man’s self, rooted in his nature, as essential to him and inseparable from him as the best part of his being; yet he quarrels with it, as it is God’s deputy, and stickling for the honor of God in his soul, and quarrelling with that sinful self he would cherish above God. We are not displeased with this faculty barely as it exerciseth a self-reflection; but as it is God’s vicegerent, and bears the mark of his authority in it. In some cases this self-reflecting act meets with good entertainment, when it acts not in contradiction to self, but suitable to natural affections. As suppose a man hath in his passion struck his child, and caused thereby some great mischief to him, the reflection of conscience will not be unwelcome to him; will work some tenderness in him, because it takes the part of self and of natural affection; but in the more spiritual concerns of God it will be rated as a busy-body.
3. Many, if not most actions, materially good in the world, are done more because they are agreeable to self, than as they are honorable to God. As the word of God may be heard not as his word, but as there may be pleasing notions in it, or discourses against an opinion or party we disaffect; so the will of God may be performed, not as his will, but as it may gratify some selfish consideration, when we will please God so far as it may not displease ourselves, and serve him as our Master, so far as his command may be a servant to our humor; when we consider not who it is that commands, but how short it comes of displeasing that sin which rules in our heart, pick and choose what is least burdensome to the flesh, and distasteful to our lusts. He that doth the will of God, not out of conscience of that will, but because it is agreeable to himself, casts down the will of God, and sets his own will in the place of it; takes the crown from the head of God, and places it upon the head of self. If things are done, not because they are commanded by God, but desirable to us, it is a disobedient obedience; a conformity to God’s will in regard of the matter, a conformity to our own will in regard of the motive; either as the things done are agreeable to natural and moral self, or sinful self.
(1). As they are agreeable to natural or moral self. When men will practise some points of religion, and walk in the track of some divine precepts; not because they are divine, but because they are agreeable to their humor or constitution of nature; from the sway of a natural bravery, the bias of a secular interest, not from an ingenuous sense of God’s authority, or a voluntary submission to his will; as when a man will avoid excess in drinking, not because it is dishonorable to God, but as it is a blemish to his own reputation, or an impair of the health of his body: doth this deserve the name of an observance of the divine injunction, or rather an obedience to ourselves? Or when a man will be liberal in the distribution of his charity, not with an eye to God’s precept, but in compliance with his own natural compassion, or to pleasure the generosity of his nature: the one is obedience to a man’s own preservation; the other an obedience to the interest or impulse of a moral virtue. It is not respect to the rule of God, but the authority of self, and, at the best, is but the performance of the material part of the divine rule, without any concurrence of a spiritual motive or a spiritual manner. That only is a maintaining the rights of God, when we pay an observance to his rule, without examining the agreeableness of it to our secular interest, or consulting with the humor of flesh and blood; when we will not decline his service, though we find it cross, and hath no affinity with the pleasure of our own nature: such an obedience as Abraham manifested in his readiness to sacrifice his son; such an obedience as our Saviour demands in cutting off the right hand. When we observe anything of divine order upon the account of its suitableness to our natural sentiments, we shall readily divide from him, when the interest of nature turns its point against the interest of God’s honor; we shall fall off from him according to the change we find in our own humors. And can that be valued as a setting up the rule of God, which must be deposed upon the mutable interest of an inconstant mind? Esau had no regard to God in delaying the execution of his resolution to shorten his brother’s days, though he was awed by the reverence of his father to delay it; he considered, perhaps, how justly he might lie under the imputation of hastening crazy Isaac’s death, by depriving him of a beloved son. But had the old man’s head been laid, neither the contrary command of God, nor the nearness of a fraternal relation, could have bound his hands from the act, no more than they did his heart from the resolution (Gen. 27:41): “Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing wherewith his father blessed him; and Esau said in his heart, The days of mourning for my father are at hand, then will I slay my brother.” So many children, that expect at the death of their parents great inheritances of portions, may be observant of them, not in regard of the rule fixed by God, but to their own hopes, which they would not frustrate by a disobligement. Whence is it that many men abstain from gross sins, but in love to their reputation?
Wickedness may be acted privately, which a man’s own credit puts a bar to the open commission of. The preserving his own esteem may divert him from entering into a brothel house, to which he hath set his mind before, against a known precept of his Creator. As Pharaoh parted with the Israelites, so do some men with their blemishing sins; not out of a sense of God’s rule, but the smart of present judgments, or fear of a future wrath. Our security then, and reputation, is set up in the place of God. This also may be, and is in renewed men, who have the law written in their hearts, that is, an habitual disposition to an agreement with the law of God; when what is done is with a respect to this habitual inclination, without eying the divine precept, which is appointed to be their rule. This also is to set up a creature, as renewed self is, instead of the Creator, and that law of his in his word, which ought to be the rule of our actions.
Thus it is when men choose a moral life, not so much out of respect to the law of nature, as it is the law of God, but as it is a law become one with their souls and constitutions. There is more of self in this than consideration of God; for if it were the latter, the revealed law of God would, upon the same reason, be received as well as his natural law. From this principle of self, morality comes by some to be advanced above evangelical dictates.
Martin Luther | (1483-1546)
Sect. CXX. — AND as to your saying — “Yet every affection of man is not flesh. There is an affection called, soul: there is an affection called, spirit: by which, we aspire to what is meritoriously good, as the philosophers aspired: who taught, that we should rather die a thousand deaths than commit one base action, even though we were assured that men would never know it, and that God would pardon it.” —
I answer: He who believes nothing certainly, may easily believe and say any thing. I will not ask you, but let your friend Lucian ask you, whether you can bring forward any one out of the whole human race, let him be two-fold or seven-fold greater than Socrates himself, who ever performed this of which you speak, and which you say they taught. Why then do you thus babble in vanities of words? Could they ever aspire to that which is meritoriously good, who did not even know what good is?
If I should ask you for some of the brightest examples of your meritorious good, you would say, perhaps, that it was meritoriously good when men died for their country, for their wives and children, and for their parents; or when they refrained from lying, or from treachery; or when they endured exquisite torments, as did Q. Scevola, M. Regulus, and others. But what can you point out in all those men, but an external shew of works. For did you ever see their hearts? Nay, it was manifest from the very appearance of their works, that they did all these things for their own glory; so much so, that they were not even ashamed to confess, and to boast, that they sought their own glory. For the Romans, according to their own testimonies, did whatever they did of virtue or valour, from a thirst after glory. The same did the Greeks, the same did the Jews, the same do all the race of men.
But though this be meritoriously good before men, yet, before God, nothing is less meritoriously good than all this; nay, it is most impious, and the greatest of sacrilege; because, they did it not for the glory of God, nor that they might glorify God, but with the most impious of all robbery. For as they were robbing God of His glory and taking it to themselves, they never were farther from meritorious good, never more base, than when they were shining in their most exalted virtues. How could they do what they did for the glory of God, when they neither knew God nor His glory? Not, however, because it did not appear, but because the “flesh” did not permit them to see the glory of God, from their fury and madness after their own glory. This, therefore, is that right-ruling ‘spirit,’ that ‘principal part of man, which aspires to what is meritoriously good’ — it is a plunderer of the divine glory, and an usurper of the divine Majesty! and then the most so, when men are at the highest of their meritorious good, and the most glittering in their brightest virtues! Deny, therefore, if you can, that these are “flesh” and carried away by an impious affection.
But I do not believe, that the Diatribe can be so much offended at the expression, where man is said to be, either “flesh” or “spirit;” because a Latin would here say, Man is either carnal or spiritual. For this particularity, as well as many others, must be granted to the Hebrew tongue, that when it says, Man is “flesh” or “spirit,” its signification is the same as ours is, when we say, Man is carnal or spiritual. The same signification which the Latins also convey, when they say, ‘The wolf is destructive to the folds,’ ‘Moisture is favourable to the young corn:’ or when they say, ‘This fellow is iniquity and evil itself.’ So also the Holy Scripture, by a force of expression, calls man “flesh;” that is, carnality itself; because it savours too much of, nay, of nothing but, those things which are of the flesh: and “spirit,” because he savours of, seeks, does, and can endure, nothing but those things which are of the spirit.
Unless, perhaps, the Diatribe should still make this remaining query — Supposing the whole of man to be “flesh,” and that which is most excellent in man to be called “flesh,” must therefore that which is called “flesh” be at once called ungodly? — I call him ungodly who is without the Spirit of God. For the Scripture saith, that the Spirit was therefore given, that He might justify the ungodly. And as Christ makes a distinction between the spirit and the flesh, saying, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh,” and adds, that that which is born of the flesh “cannot see the kingdom of God” (John iii. 3-6), it evidently follows, that whatsoever is flesh is ungodly, under the wrath of God, and a stranger to the kingdom of God. And if it be a stranger to the kingdom of God, it necessarily follows, that it is under the kingdom and spirit of Satan. For there is no medium between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan; they are mutually and eternally opposed to each other.
These are the arguments that prove, that the most exalted virtues among the nations, the highest perfections of the philosophers, and the greatest excellencies among men, appear indeed, in the sight of men, to be meritoriously virtuous and good, and are so called; but that, in the sight of God, they are in truth “flesh,” and subservient to the kingdom of Satan: that is, ungodly, sacrilegious, and, in every respect, evil!
The Bondage of the Will or Christian Classics Ethereal Library