The Righteous BranchJeremiah 23 1 “Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!” declares the LORD. 2 Therefore thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who care for my people: “You have scattered my flock and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for your evil deeds, declares the LORD. 3 Then I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply. 4 I will set shepherds over them who will care for them, and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall any be missing, declares the LORD.
5 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. 6 In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The LORD is our righteousness.’
7 “Therefore, behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when they shall no longer say, ‘As the LORD lives who brought up the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt,’ 8 but ‘As the LORD lives who brought up and led the offspring of the house of Israel out of the north country and out of all the countries where he had driven them.’ Then they shall dwell in their own land.”
Lying Prophets9 Concerning the prophets:
My heart is broken within me;
all my bones shake;
I am like a drunken man,
like a man overcome by wine,
because of the LORD
and because of his holy words.
10 For the land is full of adulterers;
because of the curse the land mourns,
and the pastures of the wilderness are dried up.
Their course is evil,
and their might is not right.
11 “Both prophet and priest are ungodly;
even in my house I have found their evil,
declares the LORD.
12 Therefore their way shall be to them
like slippery paths in the darkness,
into which they shall be driven and fall,
for I will bring disaster upon them
in the year of their punishment,
declares the LORD.
13 In the prophets of Samaria
I saw an unsavory thing:
they prophesied by Baal
and led my people Israel astray.
14 But in the prophets of Jerusalem
I have seen a horrible thing:
they commit adultery and walk in lies;
they strengthen the hands of evildoers,
so that no one turns from his evil;
all of them have become like Sodom to me,
and its inhabitants like Gomorrah.”
15 Therefore thus says the LORD of hosts concerning the prophets:
“Behold, I will feed them with bitter food
and give them poisoned water to drink,
for from the prophets of Jerusalem
ungodliness has gone out into all the land.”
18 For who among them has stood in the council of the LORD
to see and to hear his word,
or who has paid attention to his word and listened?
19 Behold, the storm of the LORD!
Wrath has gone forth,
a whirling tempest;
it will burst upon the head of the wicked.
20 The anger of the LORD will not turn back
until he has executed and accomplished
the intents of his heart.
In the latter days you will understand it clearly.
21 “I did not send the prophets,
yet they ran;
I did not speak to them,
yet they prophesied.
22 But if they had stood in my council,
then they would have proclaimed my words to my people,
and they would have turned them from their evil way,
and from the evil of their deeds.
33 “When one of this people, or a prophet or a priest asks you, ‘What is the burden of the LORD?’ you shall say to them, ‘You are the burden, and I will cast you off, declares the LORD.’ 34 And as for the prophet, priest, or one of the people who says, ‘The burden of the LORD,’ I will punish that man and his household. 35 Thus shall you say, every one to his neighbor and every one to his brother, ‘What has the LORD answered?’ or ‘What has the LORD spoken?’ 36 But ‘the burden of the LORD’ you shall mention no more, for the burden is every man’s own word, and you pervert the words of the living God, the LORD of hosts, our God. 37 Thus you shall say to the prophet, ‘What has the LORD answered you?’ or ‘What has the LORD spoken?’ 38 But if you say, ‘The burden of the LORD,’ thus says the LORD, ‘Because you have said these words, “The burden of the LORD,” when I sent to you, saying, “You shall not say, ‘The burden of the LORD,’ ” 39 therefore, behold, I will surely lift you up and cast you away from my presence, you and the city that I gave to you and your fathers. 40 And I will bring upon you everlasting reproach and perpetual shame, which shall not be forgotten.’ ”
The Good Figs and the Bad Figs
Jeremiah 24 1 After Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon had taken into exile from Jerusalem Jeconiah the son of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, together with the officials of Judah, the craftsmen, and the metal workers, and had brought them to Babylon, the LORD showed me this vision: behold, two baskets of figs placed before the temple of the LORD. 2 One basket had very good figs, like first-ripe figs, but the other basket had very bad figs, so bad that they could not be eaten. 3 And the LORD said to me, “What do you see, Jeremiah?” I said, “Figs, the good figs very good, and the bad figs very bad, so bad that they cannot be eaten.”
4 Then the word of the LORD came to me: 5 “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: Like these good figs, so I will regard as good the exiles from Judah, whom I have sent away from this place to the land of the Chaldeans. 6 I will set my eyes on them for good, and I will bring them back to this land. I will build them up, and not tear them down; I will plant them, and not pluck them up. 7 I will give them a heart to know that I am the LORD, and they shall be my people and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart.
8 “But thus says the LORD: Like the bad figs that are so bad they cannot be eaten, so will I treat Zedekiah the king of Judah, his officials, the remnant of Jerusalem who remain in this land, and those who dwell in the land of Egypt. 9 I will make them a horror to all the kingdoms of the earth, to be a reproach, a byword, a taunt, and a curse in all the places where I shall drive them. 10 And I will send sword, famine, and pestilence upon them, until they shall be utterly destroyed from the land that I gave to them and their fathers.”
Seventy Years of CaptivityJeremiah 25 1 The word that came to Jeremiah concerning all the people of Judah, in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah (that was the first year of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon), 2 which Jeremiah the prophet spoke to all the people of Judah and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem: 3 “For twenty-three years, from the thirteenth year of Josiah the son of Amon, king of Judah, to this day, the word of the LORD has come to me, and I have spoken persistently to you, but you have not listened. 4 You have neither listened nor inclined your ears to hear, although the LORD persistently sent to you all his servants the prophets, 5 saying, ‘Turn now, every one of you, from his evil way and evil deeds, and dwell upon the land that the LORD has given to you and your fathers from of old and forever. 6 Do not go after other gods to serve and worship them, or provoke me to anger with the work of your hands. Then I will do you no harm.’ 7 Yet you have not listened to me, declares the LORD, that you might provoke me to anger with the work of your hands to your own harm.
8 “Therefore thus says the LORD of hosts: Because you have not obeyed my words, 9 behold, I will send for all the tribes of the north, declares the LORD, and for Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, my servant, and I will bring them against this land and its inhabitants, and against all these surrounding nations. I will devote them to destruction, and make them a horror, a hissing, and an everlasting desolation. 10 Moreover, I will banish from them the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the grinding of the millstones and the light of the lamp. 11 This whole land shall become a ruin and a waste, and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years. 12 Then after seventy years are completed, I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation, the land of the Chaldeans, for their iniquity, declares the LORD, making the land an everlasting waste. 13 I will bring upon that land all the words that I have uttered against it, everything written in this book, which Jeremiah prophesied against all the nations. 14 For many nations and great kings shall make slaves even of them, and I will recompense them according to their deeds and the work of their hands.”
The Cup of the LORD’s Wrath15 Thus the LORD, the God of Israel, said to me: “Take from my hand this cup of the wine of wrath, and make all the nations to whom I send you drink it. 16 They shall drink and stagger and be crazed because of the sword that I am sending among them.”
17 So I took the cup from the LORD’s hand, and made all the nations to whom the LORD sent me drink it: 18 Jerusalem and the cities of Judah, its kings and officials, to make them a desolation and a waste, a hissing and a curse, as at this day; 19 Pharaoh king of Egypt, his servants, his officials, all his people, 20 and all the mixed tribes among them; all the kings of the land of Uz and all the kings of the land of the Philistines (Ashkelon, Gaza, Ekron, and the remnant of Ashdod); 21 Edom, Moab, and the sons of Ammon; 22 all the kings of Tyre, all the kings of Sidon, and the kings of the coastland across the sea; 23 Dedan, Tema, Buz, and all who cut the corners of their hair; 24 all the kings of Arabia and all the kings of the mixed tribes who dwell in the desert; 25 all the kings of Zimri, all the kings of Elam, and all the kings of Media; 26 all the kings of the north, far and near, one after another, and all the kingdoms of the world that are on the face of the earth. And after them the king of Babylon shall drink.
27 “Then you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Drink, be drunk and vomit, fall and rise no more, because of the sword that I am sending among you.’
28 “And if they refuse to accept the cup from your hand to drink, then you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts: You must drink! 29 For behold, I begin to work disaster at the city that is called by my name, and shall you go unpunished? You shall not go unpunished, for I am summoning a sword against all the inhabitants of the earth, declares the LORD of hosts.’
30 “You, therefore, shall prophesy against them all these words, and say to them:
“ ‘The LORD will roar from on high,
and from his holy habitation utter his voice;
he will roar mightily against his fold,
and shout, like those who tread grapes,
against all the inhabitants of the earth.
31 The clamor will resound to the ends of the earth,
for the LORD has an indictment against the nations;
he is entering into judgment with all flesh,
and the wicked he will put to the sword,
declares the LORD.’
32 “Thus says the LORD of hosts:
Behold, disaster is going forth
from nation to nation,
and a great tempest is stirring
from the farthest parts of the earth!
34 “Wail, you shepherds, and cry out,
and roll in ashes, you lords of the flock,
for the days of your slaughter and dispersion have come,
and you shall fall like a choice vessel.
35 No refuge will remain for the shepherds,
nor escape for the lords of the flock.
36 A voice—the cry of the shepherds,
and the wail of the lords of the flock!
For the LORD is laying waste their pasture,
37 and the peaceful folds are devastated
because of the fierce anger of the LORD.
38 Like a lion he has left his lair,
for their land has become a waste
because of the sword of the oppressor,
and because of his fierce anger.”
What I'm Reading
Learning To Rest In God's Faithfulness
By Alistair Begg
How many times we must relearn the lesson that God is the only unfailing One. He is the only One who is true to His Word on every occasion. “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God” (Psalm 20:7).
It appeared to Joseph that he had been forgotten—and he had, by the cupbearer. But he had not been forgotten by his Lord and Master.
What do you do when you are forgotten by people? What do you do when you have taken a few too many blows to the shins, too many elbows in the ribs as you’ve run the race of life? Where do you turn when you are so weary you feel you cannot run another step?
What you do is look away from people and look up. When I am weary and disappointed, I go back to my Bible, where I read:
Isaiah 40:28 Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable.
29 He gives power to the faint,
and to him who has no might he increases strength.
30 Even youths shall faint and be weary,
and young men shall fall exhausted;
31 but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint.
One evening I was on an airline flight, seated next to a young family. The smaller of the two children was seated between her mother and me. We were at the rear of the plane, where the roar of the engines was very pronounced.
In the course of that flight, the mother gathered her wee one into her lap and nestled her under her chin. And the little girl fell sound asleep with her face mashed up against her mother’s breast.
What a wonderful picture of resting in God’s care. This wee one was traveling at six hundred miles per hour in a steel tube thirty-five thousand feet above the ground, and yet she didn’t have a care in the world. She was with her mom, and she knew her mom would hold her fast.
Wouldn’t it be great to be loved like that? To be loved the way a mother loves her precious child? If I could write songs, I’d write a song about that, because that’s the way God loves you and me.
Listen to God’s word to his people through Isaiah: “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands” (Isaiah 49:15–16).
The hand of God under which His servant Joseph lived was engraved with the young man’s name. So let us learn to rest upon Him, and even the dungeon can become for us a place of peace and comfort. Dr. Alistair Begg | (Trent University; London School of Theology; Westminster Seminary) was born in Scotland and spent the first 30 years of life in the United Kingdom. Since September of 1983, he has been the senior pastor at Parkside Church in suburban Cleveland, Ohio. He is the daily speaker on the national radio program Truth For Life which stems from his weekly Bible teaching at Parkside. He and his wife, Susan, have three grown children.
Alistair Begg Books | Go to Books Page
The Mission to Slovakia
By Kris Lundgaard 4/1/2009
“We, the Slovak People, bearing in mind the political and cultural heritage of our predecessors…mindful of the spiritual bequest of Cyril and Methodius…adopted this constitution.” Slovakia, lying at the crossroads of East and West in secular Europe, after being dominated for over forty years by a government that was no friend to Christianity, introduced its constitution by acknowledging its debt to two Christian missionaries from the ninth century.
For over a thousand years the Slovaks were unable to establish a state of their own — yet from the ninth century they kept a sense of identity so distinct that they and the Czechs divided Czechoslovakia into two nations in 1993. Much credit for this enduring cohesion belongs to Cyril and Methodius, such that, according to one historian, their “contribution to the establishment and development of central and east European civilization and culture is second to none.”
Why does their work continue to influence a modern, secular nation? Who were they, and what did they do? And what can we learn from them now?
In God’s providence, political expediency brought these missionaries to Great Moravia, a vassal state of the Germanic Frankish Empire that was composed primarily of Czech and Slovak peoples and included much of Moravia and a large area in what is now Slovakia. Prince Rastislav (846–870), in order to stem the influence of Frankish missionaries, asked the Byzantine Emperor Michael III to send “a bishop and teacher…able to explain to them the true Christian faith in their own language.” In 863 Michael sent two brothers from Thessaloniki: Constantine (later Cyril) and Methodius. In spite of wars and the political intrigue of Rastislav and his nephew Svätopluk, who deposed him, Cyril and Methodius and their disciples spread Christianity through Slavic central Europe.
Cyril was a philosopher and one of the most educated men of his time. His brother Methodius studied law and was a gifted administrator. In order to bring the gospel to the Slavs, before they left their home they created an alphabet by adapting Greek letters to represent Slavic sounds. Cyril translated portions of Scripture and the liturgy into what we now call “Old Church Slavonic.” This became the basis of instruction in the seminary and the schools they established. From their foundational work grew a body of literature that shaped the rapidly developing culture.
In 867 the brothers traveled to Rome to show Pope Hadrian II their translations of Scripture and the Slavic liturgy. The Pope approved them, and Slavonic joined Hebrew, Greek, and Latin as an official language of Christian worship. Cyril, sensing that his strength was fading, joined a monastery in Rome, and before dying a few months later in 869, he urged Methodius to return to Great Moravia to continue their work.
When Methodius tried to reenter Great Moravia, he was arrested at the prompting of Frankish priests. In 873 he was finally released, only to be forbidden by Pope John VIII to use the Slavonic liturgy. Methodius defied this order and continued the work he and his brother began.
By the end of the ninth century Methodius had died, the pope had again forbidden the use of Slavonic in worship, and Svätopluk drove many disciples of Cyril and Methodius from the kingdom (which hastened the Christianization of other Slavic peoples). In 907, Great Moravia was overthrown by the Magyars, beginning the thousand-year Hungarian domination of the Slovaks. Yet, within a generation, a deep and indelible stamp had marked a new identity that would eventually become modern Slovakia.
Conflicts with politically motivated civic and religious leaders permeate the story of Cyril and Methodius. That they were able to accomplish anything is remarkable, and that they made such a lasting and far-reaching impact testifies to the grace of God in His mysterious providence.
Due to the influential and powerful preacher Peter Pazmany, the seventeenth-century counter-reformation swept aside much of the work of reformers in the region. Today Slovakia remains predominantly Roman Catholic, visibly marked by its rich Christian heritage. But centuries of secularization in Europe, including the communist era, have undermined the church’s role in the lives of the people. And though the nation has ostensibly shaken off its former oppression, the effects linger; many who lived through the days of the secret police and mysterious arrests remain reluctant to talk about deeply held convictions.
Spiritual leaders in Slovakia today, in order to be effective, will have to find ways to work in a context that is as complex as the ninth century — and their window of opportunity may be just as brief. They must leverage changing laws to their advantage, meet rising needs for English language and professional skills, help resolve ongoing ethnic conflict, and apply the gospel to hearts emptied by failed materialism. Christian workers from other nations must identify with the Slovaks’ lives and traditions. Together they must think deeply about how Jesus transforms nations.
To paraphrase 1 Chronicles 12:32: Slovakia needs leaders like Cyril and Methodius “who have understanding of the times, to know what Slovakia ought to do.”
Rev. Kris Lundgaard is a missionary with Mission to the World, an agency of the Presbyterian Church in America, currently serving in Slovakia. He is author of the book The Enemy Within Rev. Kris Lungaard Books:
Your Church and Your Life Planning
By Jonathan Leeman 3/01/2012
A friend recently emailed me asking how he should weigh leaving his church to take a job in another city. I told him that he was “free in Christ” to stay or go but that I loved his factoring his local church into the decision. Well done. Too often, it’s easy to make life’s “big decisions” just like a non-Christian would, giving no regard to how it will impact our membership in our local churches. We consider a job offer in another city with scant regard for whether that city has a healthy church. We consider a possible marriage partner without asking whether the person has a track record of loving and serving Christ’s body.
Let me look at the matter another way. We fail, when confronted with such decisions, to seek counsel from the brothers and sisters in our congregations who know us well — often because we have not sought meaningful relationships in the first place.
We don’t consider the impact our going will have on others — the children we’ve been teaching in Sunday school or the fellow people who depend on our weekly encouragement.
We face many difficult decisions about how to raise our children: Am I disciplining too much? Not enough? Should we home school? Public school? But we do not avail ourselves of older and wiser parents in the congregation.
You get the picture. If you are a Christian, it’s worth asking whether you include your church in your life planning. I mean “include the church” in two ways: do you consider it as a factor in your thinking, and do you actually involve the people in your decision making?
God has given all of us a wonderful gift in other Christians who have weaknesses and strengths, talents and resources, that complement our own. Whatever gift we have, we have it for the common good (1 Cor. 12:7; 1 Peter 4:10). We’re to build one another up to maturity (Eph. 4:13; 1 Thess. 5:11; Jude 20–21). Maturity in Christ is a group project, which is why our discipleship should occur primarily in and through the local church. Christian love and obedience put on flesh there.
(1 Co 12:7) 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. ESV
(1 Pe 4:10) 10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: ESV
(Eph 4:13) 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, ESV
(1 Th 5:11) 11 Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. ESV
(Jud 20–21) 20 But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. ESV
For instance, Philippians 2:1–11 says to “consider others better than [ourselves]” and to “look to the interests of others.” Then it tells us to have the same attitude as Christ, who became man, made Himself a servant, and went to die on the cross. Let me see if I can apply these verses by fleshing out one example of a big life decision: which home to buy or apartment to rent.
If you are able, “consider others better than yourselves” and “look to the interests of others” by living geographically close to the church. When a person lives within walking distance of a church or clumps of members, it is easier to invite people to one’s house for dinner, to watch one another’s children while running errands, and to pick up bread or milk at the store for one another. In other words, it is just plain easier to integrate daily life when there is relative — even walkable — geographic proximity.
When choosing a place to live, Christians do well to ask some of the same questions that non-Christians ask: What are the costs? Are there good schools nearby? But a Christian also does well to ask additional questions like these: Will the mortgage or rent payment allow for generosity to others? Will it give other church members quick access to me for discipleship and hospitality?
During my family’s last move, the question of living near the church came down to a choice between two houses, both of which were affordable but very different otherwise. House 1 was newer, better designed, more attractive, did not need repairs, and was less expensive. But it was a thirty-minute drive from the church building and near no other church members. House 2 was older, draftier, in need of several repairs (such as a rotting front porch and an occasionally flooding basement), and it was more expensive. But it was only a fifteen-minute drive from the church building and, more important, within walkable proximity of a dozen (now two dozen) church families. I sought the counsel of several elders, all of whom advised me to prioritize church relationships. This actually meant choosing the older, less attractive, more expensive house.
Thankfully, we did, and it has been enriching for our whole family. My wife interacts with the other mothers almost daily, and our children with their children. I met with one brother every weekday morning to pray and read Scripture for a year and a half. And our church families can work together in serving and evangelizing our neighbors.
Must a Christian move close to other members of his or her church? No, the Bible doesn’t command this. We’re free in Christ to live wherever we want. But this is one concrete way to love your church — to consider others better than yourself and look to their interests.
Did the Son of God submit Himself geographically for the church’s good? He left heaven. Now, let’s put on the same attitude our Savior put on for us.
Jonathan Leeman Books:
- 1 Don't Fire Your Church Members: The Case for Congregationalism
- 2 Four Views on the Church's Mission (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology)
- 3 Word-Centered Church: How Scripture Brings Life and Growth to God's People
- 4 Political Church: The Local Assembly as Embassy of Christ's Rule (Studies in Christian Doctrine and Scripture)
- 5 Understanding the Congregation's Authority (Church Basics)
- 6 The Church and the Surprising Offense of God's Love: Reintroducing the Doctrines of Church Membership and Discipline (IX Marks)
- 7 Don't Call It a Comeback: The Old Faith for a New Day (Gospel Coalition Series)
- 8 Reverberation: How God's Word Brings Light, Freedom, and Action to His People (9Marks)
- 9 Unashamed of the Gospel
- 10 The Underestimated Gospel
- 11 The Reformation and Your Church | 9Marks Journal
- 12 Authority | 9Marks Journal: God's good and dangerous gift
It’s Not About You
By Eric Landry 3/1/2012
After a particularly difficult marriage counseling session early in my first year of ministry, I called a mentor to debrief and decompress. He patiently heard me out and then offered a convicting assessment: “It sounds as if you’re more concerned about being right than you are about the couple you are counseling.” I knew immediately that he was right, but I made a mild protest and changed the subject. I didn’t want to face that truth about myself. It’s still hard to face the facts, but I can see now that in many different areas of my ministry, the focus has shifted from selfless service to selfish gain. It’s all about me.
I’m not sure you could notice, looking in from the outside. It’s not as if I’m some kind of Elmer Gantrylike character on the prowl. The shift in emphasis is subtle: Did I really connect in my sermon? Did I spend enough time pursuing visitors? Did I give the right advice to the parents of a troubled teen? If I had done something different, would the result have been better? Slowly but surely, the terms of evaluating my ministry have become highly self-referential.
When we try to think of examples of the kind of ministry that is focused on the self, it is easy to jump quickly to the televangelists. With their flashy suits, worldwide tours, and lavish lifestyles, they have become (like John Lennon once boasted) bigger than Jesus. But is that really our temptation? The inward curve that isn’t as easy to detect is the kind of ministry that preaches Christ from envy (Phil. 1:15) or shepherds people for shameful gain (1 Peter 5:2). The faster we humble, evangelical, Reformational pastors can identify the most egregious practitioners of such ministry, the easier it is to overlook some of our own temptations toward a ministry that puts ourselves at the center.
(Php 1:15) 15 Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. ESV
(1 Pe 5:2) 2 shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; ESV
Immediately after God delivered the Israelites from Pharaoh’s menace, there were three incidents of the people grumbling against God. They grumbled when they came upon bitter water, they grumbled when they didn’t have bread, and then they grumbled when they didn’t have water at all. By the third incident, Moses was fed up. He told them that their real problem was that they were testing the Lord with their short-lived gratitude for God’s gracious provision (Ex. 17:2). But when Moses turned to God, the focus of his complaint was on himself: “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me” (v. 4). Rather than going to God as he had done in the past and praying that God would come to rescue and redeem His people, Moses appears to have stepped over the people and put his own needs front and center.
(Ex 17:2) 2 Therefore the people quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.” And Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the LORD?” ESV
What happens when the ministry is reoriented to address my needs? I live or die by the people’s response. Does that brother still struggle with debilitating sin? Then I will make him my special project. But if he does not improve, if he does not see victory, if he never becomes a trophy of my success, then my own sense of ministry success is crushed. I am crushed. And that brother is crushed, too, for I have stood on him in order to raise myself up.
By exalting myself, my wellbehaved children, and my vision for ministry, I am training the people to look to me for the answers to their deepest fears and most challenging problems. For a time, I can keep up the façade, but it will crumble when real life starts to bear down. How, then, do I reorient my people and myself away from me? How do we all redirect our eyes to the supremacy of Jesus?
Even though the ministry is not about us, it is for us. As heralds of the great King, the message we bring is good news to us just as much as it is to the people who hear it. The great mysteries over which God has granted us stewardship benefit us just as much as the people who receive them. After focusing on his needs in Exodus 17:4, Moses was directed by God to the rock at Horeb, where God promised, “I will stand before you” (v. 6). Moses still had a task to accomplish, a ministry to perform — he hit the rock — but he was most of all a recipient of that life-giving drink and a witness to that life-giving act. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 10:4 that the “rock was Christ.” He did not provide physical and spiritual drink for the people in order to uphold Moses and his ministry; He gave it to sustain the people and their prophet, whose physical thirst was but a pale reflection of the spiritual thirst brought on by their self-referential focus.
That day, Moses stood with the people and looked to Christ. Together their eyes were drawn to God’s saving work and presence. And that day, their deepest needs were met and filled. May God grant to us the same posture each Sunday as we pull our eyes off of ourselves and, together with our people, seek Christ in Scripture and the Supper, finding in Him all of our hope, righteousness, and satisfaction.
By R.C. Sproul Jr. 3/1/2012
The last Saturday in October is perhaps my favorite day of the year. The Southwest Virginia church I served for more than a dozen years has a grand celebration every year on that day. The people celebrate the grace of God in bringing us the Reformation, which began October 31, 1517, when Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-Five Theses on the church door in Wittenberg. The celebration includes a telling of the story of Martin Luther to the children around a bonfire with s’mores. (I told the story when we lived there.) It includes contests in cooking chili and in cooking pies. It includes a grand street fair, with fresh fried doughnuts, barbeque, and hot french fries. All Ninety-Five of the theses are recited. Children and adults sing and play their instruments. And as the day draws to a close, the people dance. They dance with each other. They dance before the watching world. Most of all, they dance for the pleasure of our King and Redeemer. It’s a wonderful day, celebrating a glorious gospel.
On the last Saturday in October 2011, however, I was not at our Reformation celebration. I was not in the mountains watching the fall leaves float to the ground. I was not eating funnel cake or serving as a judge in the chili contest (a perk of winning in the past). I was, instead, in hot and muggy Orlando, surrounded by concrete. I was sitting in the hospital with my dear wife as she received a blood transfusion, part of her continuing treatment in her battle with leukemia.
One could argue that here we had evidence of the work of Christ in my life. I did not, after all, choose the crassly selfish thing. I did not kiss my wife on the cheek and wish her the best on my way out the door for a quick trip to Virginia. The truth is, however, that there is no place I would have rather been, but I moved my family from beauty and friends in Virginia to a crowded city out of a certain kind of selfishness. And I sat in that hospital room out of that same kind of selfishness.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus warns us against a grasping, fearful perspective on life. We tend to chase wealth, acclaim, and comfort, thinking only of ourselves. That Jesus condemns this perspective does not surprise us. How He does so, however, ought to stun us. His argument in this most famous sermon (and elsewhere) is not that we should give up on all the joy, peace, happiness, and satisfaction we would have if we were to be blessed to acquire wealth, acclaim, and comfort. Instead, out of gratitude for our eternal salvation, Jesus teaches that we must not seek these things first, but instead pursue our one duty.
Our redemption is indeed glorious enough that it ought to push us to be willing to set aside our own interests and pursue the greater good of the kingdom. Even those who are unredeemed owe Him everything. How much more, then, do we who are redeemed owe Him? Jesus, however, argues that instead of giving up our own interests, we ought to pursue those interests with wisdom. We don’t change the end, but the means.
Consider first my move to Florida. My earthly father asked me to move to Orlando. My heavenly Father tells me that the way to have a good life, the strategy for having it go well for me, is to honor my father and mother. The calculus, then, was rather simple. The same was true on this particular day. Would I rather be at a Reformation celebration than in the hospital? Of course. However, would I rather be with my wife or with my friends in Virginia? With my wife, of course. Whatever the circumstances, the one place I most want to be is with my wife.
We are called not to seek self but to seek first the kingdom of God. We are told, however, not just that when we do this, all these things, the silly things we worry about, will be added to us. We are told also that there we will find life abundant. There we will find, at the right hand of the King of this kingdom, pleasures forevermore (Ps. 16:11). The world promises us that if we will just seek it, we can be kings. Because He has already secured it, the King promises us the world.
When we moved to Florida, I reminded my children that all that we enjoyed in Virginia was by the grace of God and that the grace of God extends to Florida. It also extends into hospital rooms. His grace extends as far as the ends of His kingdom. And remember this: we are called to seek that kingdom, not to expand it. We seek, we serve, we pursue, and we promote, but we do not grow the kingdom. He reigns everywhere right now. His rule cannot be extended because He rules wherever there is a there. And there He showers us with His goodness.
We don’t, therefore, need to seek things. We already have everything. We don’t need to seek self. When we lost it, He found it. What we need instead is to rejoice, to give thanks, to ask that He would not give us more, save for a deeper gratitude for all that He has already given us.
R.C. Sproul Jr. Books
- 1 Biblical Economics: A Commonsense Guide to Our Daily Bread
- 2 When You Rise Up: A Covenantal Approach to Homeschooling
- 3 Almighty over All: Understanding the Sovereignty of God
- 4 Biblical Economics: A Complete Study Course
- 5 Feed My Sheep: A Passionate Plea for Preaching
- 6 The Potter's Freedom: A Defense of the Reformation and the Rebuttal of Norman Geisler's Chosen But Free
- 7 The View from a Hearse
- 8 What's In the Bible: A Tour of Scripture from the Dust of Creation to the Glory of Revelation
- 9 Economics for Everybody Study Guide
- 10 The Call to Wonder: Loving God Like a Child
- 11 Believing God: Twelve Biblical Promises Christians Struggle to Accept
- 12 Biblical Economics: A Commonsense Guide to Our Daily Bread
- 13 Made For His Pleasure: Ten Benchmarks of a Vital Faith
- 14 Almighty over All: Understanding the Sovereignty of God by R. C. Sproul Jr. (1999-03-01)
- 15 One Holy Passion: The Consuming Thirst to Know God
- 16 Biblical Economics: A Commonsense Guide To Our Daily Bread
- 17 Made For His Pleasure: Ten Benchmarks of a Vital Faith
- 18 Almighty over All: Understanding the Sovereignty of God by R. C. Sproul Jr. (1999-03-01)
- 19 One Holy Passion: The Consuming Thirst to Know God
- 20 Biblical Economics: A Commonsense Guide To Our Daily Bread
- 21 The Inerrant Word: Biblical, Historical, Theological, and Pastoral Perspectives
- 22 Holy, Holy, Holy: Proclaiming the Perfections of God
- 23 Tearing Down Strongholds: And Defending the Truth
- 24 Bound for Glory: A Practical Handbook For Raising a Victorious Family
- 25 After Darkness, Light: Distinctives of Reformed Theology: Essays in Honor of R. C. Sproul
- 26 Pulpit Aflame
- 27 Eternity in Our Hearts
- 28 Thinking. Loving. Doing.: A Call to Glorify God with Heart and Mind
- 29 Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus: Experiencing the Peace and Promise of Christmas
- 30 Almighty over All: Understanding the Sovereignty of God
- 31 Believing God: Twelve Biblical Promises Christians Struggle to Accept by R.C. Sproul Jr. (2009-02-26)
- 32 Covered or Uncovered: How 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 Applies to Worship and Leadership in the Church
- 33 Proclaiming a Cross-Centered Theology
- 34 R.C. Sproul, Thabiti Anyabwile ,Alistair Begg , D.A. Carson,Sinclair B. Ferguson W. Robert Godfrey,Steven J. Lawson,R.C. Sproul Jr.,Derek W.H. Thomas'sHoly, Holy, Holy: Proclaiming the Perfections of God [Hardcover](2010)
- 35 Biblical Economics Study Guide
By Elyse Fitzpatrick 3/1/2012
Allie was having a rough night. She had already been disciplined once for slapping one of the pastor’s sons across the face, and she had just done it again, this time to his brother. Her mother was humiliated and frustrated. Allie was angry, ashamed, and hopeless as she sat in her room awaiting the consequences.
When her mom went to speak with her, Allie cried, “I don’t deserve to be out there with my friends.”
How would you have answered her?
Practically every parent on the planet has had a conversation with a child about the impropriety of hitting others. The question before Christian parents is not “Should I correct this behavior?” The question is “How does the gospel inform the way I correct my children?” Perhaps a more pointed question would be “How does my parenting differ from that of my Mormon neighbors down the street?”
In one of only two direct commands about parenting in the New Testament, Paul writes, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4). Entire books have been written about this verse: how fathers can avoid provoking their kids and what discipline and instruction look like. But in all of our parsing of this verse, perhaps we’ve overlooked the most important phrase: “of the Lord.” This phrase would have shocked Paul’s early readers because Ephesian parents trained their children up in the discipline and instruction of the Greek philosophers. Paul tells Christian parents that we are to bring our children up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. What does that look like?
First of all, parenting that is “of the Lord” is dependent on grace. Because “salvation is of the Lord” (Jonah 2:9, NKJV), we know that we are incapable of transforming our children’s hearts or making them believe. So, rather than fussing, manipulating, worrying, and demanding, Christian dads or moms can rest in God’s grace, enjoy their children, and give up trying to do what only the Spirit can do.
Christian parenting is also transparent. As Christians, we know we are sinners. When it comes to righteousness before God, we are not superior to anyone, not even our children. We should never wonder, “Why would my child do that?” We know the answer: he or she is the child of a sinner. The gospel tells us that we are not warring against our children but rather alongside them, fighting sin together. It’s not us versus them but parents and children versus sin and unbelief.
Christian parents know the true function of God’s law in our children’s lives. God’s law makes them know their need for Christ, teaches believing children how to respond to the grace they’ve received, and makes them truly grateful for Jesus’ perfect keeping of it. But it does not make them good. Indeed, it cannot make them good, and we must stop expecting it to do so. Only Christ’s righteousness can earn the blessed benediction: “You are good.”
If our parenting is truly Christian, tethered to both the indicatives and imperatives of God’s Word, then we’ll need to pray. We’ll need to pray because we need help connecting the gospel to their everyday lives. None of us does this well.
Christian parents must flee from moralism and manipulation into the blood and righteousness of Jesus alone. We have to give them the gospel, graciously but relentlessly, so that they’ll know that there is a God who is as good as He says He is. Love them, discipline them, and tell them about Jesus.
Now, back to our opening vignette. Allie had just declared, “I don’t deserve to be with my friends.” How would the gospel transform her mom’s response?
Although her mom wasn’t thinking about the gospel and didn’t want to take time away from her company to correct her daughter or talk to her about Jesus, the Lord used Allie’s words to melt her heart.
“You’re right, Allie. You don’t deserve to be with your friends. But neither do I. I’ve been angry and embarrassed. I don’t deserve God’s good gifts either. But God is so kind, He doesn’t give us what we deserve. He gives us mercy instead. Do you know what mercy is, little one?” Allie shook her head no.
“Mercy is God giving you good when you deserve punishment. And grace is God just piling on all the good stuff you could never earn by being good enough. God can give us grace because His Son never slapped anyone. He can give us mercy because His Son was slapped in our place. Jesus has made a way for you and me to experience God’s mercy instead of His judgment. Isn’t He good?”
“You’re making me cry,” Allie whispered through her tears.
“Yes, God’s mercy is making me cry, too,” her mom replied. “Let’s pray together that the Lord helps us both remember His grace tonight.”
After discipline and prayer, Allie hugged her mom and said, “Mommy, now I know that God really loves me.”
Christian parenting isn’t a new method. It’s sharing the gospel you already know.
Elyse Fitzpatrick Books:
- 1 Give Them Grace: Dazzling Your Kids with the Love of Jesus
- 2 Because He Loves Me: How Christ Transforms Our Daily Life
- 3 Idols of the Heart: Learning to Long for God Alone, Revised and Updated
- 4 Overcoming Fear, Worry, and Anxiety: Becoming a Woman of Faith and Confidence
- 5 Finding the Love of Jesus from Genesis to Revelation
- 6 Comforts from the Cross (Redesign): Celebrating the Gospel One Day at a Time
- 7 Love to Eat, Hate to Eat: Breaking the Bondage of Destructive Eating Habits
- 8 Counsel from the Cross (Redesign): Connecting Broken People to the Love of Christ
- 9 You Never Stop Being a Parent: Thriving in Relationship With Your Adult Children
- 10 Good News for Weary Women: Escaping the Bondage of To-Do Lists, Steps, and Bad Advice
- 11 Home: How Heaven and the New Earth Satisfy Our Deepest Longings
- 12 Helper by Design: God's Perfect Plan for Women in Marriage
- 13 Found in Him: The Joy of the Incarnation and Our Union with Christ
- 14 A Steadfast Heart: Experiencing God's Comfort in Life's Storms
- 15 Comforts from Romans: Celebrating the Gospel One Day at a Time
- 16 Women Counseling Women: Biblical Answers to Life's Difficult Problems
- 17 Will Medicine Stop the Pain?: Finding God's Healing for Depression, Anxiety, and Other Troubling Emotions
- 18 Idols of the Heart: Learning to Long for God Alone
- 19 When Good Kids Make Bad Choices: Help and Hope for Hurting Parents
- 20 Ídolos del Corazón: Aprendiendo a anhelar solo a Dios (Spanish Edition)
- 21 Answering Your Kids' Toughest Questions: Helping Them Understand Loss, Sin, Tragedies, and Other Hard Topics
- 22 Women Helping Women: A Biblical Guide to Major Issues Women Face
- 23 Uncommon Vessels: A Program for Developing Godly Eating Habits
- 24 The Afternoon of Life: Finding Purpose and Joy in Midlife
- 25 Mujeres Aconsejando Mujeres
- 26 Counting the Days, Lighting the Candles: A Christmas Advent Devotional
- 27 The Empty Nest: Finding Hope in Your Changing Job Description
Seriousness in Worship
By Jason Helopoulos 5/01/2016
No experience on earth should delight the soul of the Christian more than corporate worship. It is the high point of our week and establishes the rhythm of our lives. As Christians, we live life from Lord’s Day to Lord’s Day. We dare not “neglect meeting together, as is the habit of some” (Heb. 10:25).
Why does worship occupy such an important place in our lives? Because of what takes place in worship.
We often speak of worship in terms of giving and receiving. We receive mercy, grace, kindness, peace, love, truth, and joy from God in corporate worship. And though this is true, receiving is not the essence of worship. We also give to God in worship. We give Him adoration, praise, confession, love, and service. And though this is true, neither is giving the essence of worship. Corporate worship, rather than primarily consisting of receiving or giving, is about being. Above all else, worship is an encounter with the living, true, holy, sovereign, triune God of the universe. He chooses to meet with us by His Word and Spirit, and there is nothing as meaningful, rich, and glorious on earth as the church gathered together with its Lord and Savior in worship. In that moment, we are enjoying a foretaste of heaven to come, the greatest longing of our soul, and the very purpose for our creation.
Therefore, as we approach corporate worship, we must seek to do so with purpose. We dare not attend it casually. If there is one thing consistently observable in the Scriptures, it is surely the reality that meeting with a holy God is anything but casual.
When men and women come into God’s presence, they know it. Moses takes off his shoes (Ex. 3), Israel is struck with fear (Ex. 20), Isaiah quakes (Isa. 6), Job silences his lips (Job 40), John falls down as though dead (Rev. 1). Even the elders and angels, who are worshiping day in and day out before the throne, aren’t casual in their worship (Isa. 6; Rev. 4). Casual worship of the living, true, holy, sovereign God of the universe just doesn’t exist. There is a seriousness that must mark it, a solemnity and honor that must attend it, a gravity that must saturate it.
Yet the temptation to treat worship as something casual is great. As part of our weekly activity, it lends itself to being treated as common and routine. We easily go through the motions, sing the songs mindlessly, and get our worship attendance card punched. May it never be. We are on holy ground. As we attend corporate worship, let us attend it with seriousness. Here are four things to consider as we weekly gather on the Lord’s Day for corporate worship.
Start EarlyFirst, the seriousness with which we come to corporate worship begins far before we enter the doors of the church. Seize the rest of the week. Practice family and secret worship daily, knowing that it will inform and encourage your experience in corporate worship. Be boring on Saturday nights and go to bed early. Sleepy heads make for drowsy worshipers.
PrepareSecond, prepare your heart on Sunday morning before entering the doors of the church. Take the time and effort to do so—your soul will be the beneficiary. Rise early and spend time reading the Word, praying, and meditating. Cultivate a spirit of joy on Sunday mornings in your home. If this is the highlight of our week, then let’s act like it. For example, we can talk about how wonderful the day is going to be, wake the kids up with excitement, turn on good Christian music for the whole family to listen to, and put smiles on our faces. On the drive to church, we can talk about the passage that will be preached, sing a hymn together, and converse about the things of God. We can arrive at church early, so we can read through the bulletin, think through the songs, meditate on the Scripture readings, and pray before the service begins.
Remind YourselfThird, in worship, tend to your heart. As your mind drifts in the service (which happens to the best of us), remind yourself of the great privilege of corporate worship. My friends, we are meeting with the triune God of the universe—never lose sight of this. The Lord of glory is speaking to us and the grace of Christ is being extended to us. Nothing in all the earth is more significant, monumental, and remarkable than the reality that God chooses to meet with us week in and week out.
ReflectFinally, reflect on the worship service afterward. Ask each family member on the drive home to explain what they heard in the service, how the Lord convicted them, and what delighted their soul. Use the Lord’s Day afternoon to reread and pray through the passage preached. Plead with the Lord to reveal your own sin, teach you new truths, uncover your weaknesses, increase your faith, and bind your wounds.
Worship is one of the greatest gifts we enjoy. Attending to it with seriousness is paramount. That does not mean moroseness or in some kind of stiff formality, but rather with intention, attention, and delight. God chooses to meet with us. That reality should rattle the Christian’s soul with joy. Rev. Jason Helopoulos is associate pastor of University Reformed Church (PCA) in East Lansing, Mich. He is author of The New Pastor’s Handbook and A Neglected Grace: Family Worship in the Christian Home.
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 89I Will Sing of the Steadfast Love of the LORD
89 A Maskil Of Ethan The Ezrahite.
25 I will set his hand on the sea
and his right hand on the rivers.
26 He shall cry to me, ‘You are my Father,
my God, and the Rock of my salvation.’
27 And I will make him the firstborn,
the highest of the kings of the earth.
28 My steadfast love I will keep for him forever,
and my covenant will stand firm for him.
29 I will establish his offspring forever
and his throne as the days of the heavens.
30 If his children forsake my law
and do not walk according to my rules,
31 if they violate my statutes
and do not keep my commandments,
32 then I will punish their transgression with the rod
and their iniquity with stripes,
33 but I will not remove from him my steadfast love
or be false to my faithfulness.
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
1/1/2017 True Success
Well done. Great job. Good work. As children, we loved to hear words of encouragement from our fathers, mothers, grandparents, teachers, and coaches. I fondly remember my father’s approving smile and my mother’s loving embrace when I did a good job. Truth be told, as adults we still want to be told we’ve done well. We love to be encouraged when we’ve been successful.
God has given us an inherent desire to be successful. We want to be successful men, women, parents, grandparents, employees, students, and Christians. We want to succeed not only because it feels good to succeed, but because we know it is good to succeed. We want to succeed for our own security and so we can provide for ourselves and our families. We want our lives to matter, and we want our work to matter. We want to be appreciated, respected, and loved. We do not want to do our best and fail, and we do not want to succeed at all the wrong things. We want to do the right things and for our lives to make a difference where it really counts.
Some say the desire for success is inherently evil. Others believe earthly success is all that matters. Both are wrong. God gave us the desire for success, and by striving for biblically defined success, we bring glory to our Creator. However, biblically defined success doesn’t always look like success to the world. God calls us to be faithful, for that is true success. Faithfulness always means fruitfulness and success in the eyes of God. It does not always mean success in the eyes of men. God calls us to be faithful as we daily depend upon the Holy Spirit to make our way prosperous and to have good success for His glory, not our own (Josh. 1:8; Ps. 118:25). And as we await the return of Jesus Christ, who is our only hope for true and ultimate success, may we strive to be always faithful so that we would hear our Savior say, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matt. 25:23a).
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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
His legal decisions were so respected they were referenced by in U.S. Supreme Court Cases. For forty years he served on the New York District Court and the U.S. Court of Appeals before dying this day, August 18, 1961. His name was Learned Hand. During World War II in New York’s Central Park, Judge Learned Hand stated: “The spirit of liberty is the spirit of Him who, nearly two thousand years ago, taught mankind the lesson it has never learned, but has never quite forgotten--that there may be a kingdom where the least shall be… side by side with the greatest.”
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
That best portion of a man's life,
his little, nameless,
unremembered acts of kindness and love.
--- William Wordsworth
One great characteristic in the life of a man whose life is hid with Christ in God is that he has received the gift Jesus Christ gives. What gift does Jesus Christ give to those who are identified with him? The gift His Father gave him, The Father gave Him the Cross, and He gives us our cross.
--- Oswald Chambers
Christian Disciplines: Building Strong Christian Character through Divine Guidance, Suffering, Peril, Prayer, Loneliness and Patience (OSWALD CHAMBERS LIBRARY)
Order my footsteps by Thy Word,
And make my heart sincere;
Let sin have no dominion, Lord,
But keep my conscience clear.
Our beliefs are not gospel. They are not universal truths. They are artifacts of specific times, places, and influential people. They may in fact be quite untrue.
--- Adam Burke, Ph.D.
... from here, there and everywhere
Thanks to Meir Yona
26. And thus did Josephus dispose of both his bodies of men; but then for the useless part of the citizens, the women and children, when they saw their city encompassed by a threefold army, [for none of the usual guards that had been fighting before were removed,] when they also saw, not only the walls thrown down, but their enemies with swords in their hands, as also the hilly country above them shining with their weapons, and the darts in the hands of the Arabian archers, they made a final and lamentable outcry of the destruction, as if the misery were not only threatened, but actually come upon them already. But Josephus ordered the women to be shut up in their houses, lest they should render the warlike actions of the men too effeminate, by making them commiserate their condition, and commanded them to hold their peace, and threatened them if they did not, while he came himself before the breach, where his allotment was; for all those who brought ladders to the other places, he took no notice of them, but earnestly waited for the shower of arrows that was coming.
27. And now the trumpeters of the several Roman legions sounded together, and the army made a terrible shout; and the darts, as by order, flew so last, that they intercepted the light. However, Josephus's men remembered the charges he had given them, they stopped their ears at the sounds, and covered their bodies against the darts; and as to the engines that were set ready to go to work, the Jews ran out upon them, before those that should have used them were gotten upon them. And now, on the ascending of the soldiers, there was a great conflict, and many actions of the hands and of the soul were exhibited; while the Jews did earnestly endeavor, in the extreme danger they were in, not to show less courage than those who, without being in danger, fought so stoutly against them; nor did they leave struggling with the Romans till they either fell down dead themselves, or killed their antagonists. But the Jews grew weary with defending themselves continually, and had not enough to come in their places, and succor them; while, on the side of the Romans, fresh men still succeeded those that were tired; and still new men soon got upon the machines for ascent, in the room of those that were thrust down; those encouraging one another, and joining side to side with their shields, which were a protection to them, they became a body of men not to be broken; and as this band thrust away the Jews, as though they were themselves but one body, they began already to get upon the wall.
28. Then did Josephus take necessity for his counselor in this utmost distress, [which necessity is very sagacious in invention when it is irritated by despair,] and gave orders to pour scalding oil upon those whose shields protected them. Whereupon they soon got it ready, being many that brought it, and what they brought being a great quantity also, and poured it on all sides upon the Romans, and threw down upon them their vessels as they were still hissing from the heat of the fire: this so burnt the Romans, that it dispersed that united band, who now tumbled clown from the wall with horrid pains, for the oil did easily run down the whole body from head to foot, under their entire armor, and fed upon their flesh like flame itself, its fat and unctuous nature rendering it soon heated and slowly cooled; and as the men were cooped up in their head-pieces and breastplates, they could no way get free from this burning oil; they could only leap and roll about in their pains, as they fell down from the bridges they had laid. And as they thus were beaten back, and retired to their own party, who still pressed them forward, they were easily wounded by those that were behind them.
29. However, in this ill success of the Romans, their courage did not fail them, nor did the Jews want prudence to oppose them; for the Romans, although they saw their own men thrown down, and in a miserable condition, yet were they vehemently bent against those that poured the oil upon them; while every one reproached the man before him as a coward, and one that hindered him from exerting himself; and while the Jews made use of another stratagem to prevent their ascent, and poured boiling fenugreek upon the boards, in order to make them slip and fall down; by which means neither could those that were coming up, nor those that were going down, stand on their feet; but some of them fell backward upon the machines on which they ascended, and were trodden upon; many of them fell down upon the bank they had raised, and when they were fallen upon it were slain by the Jews; for when the Romans could not keep their feet, the Jews being freed from fighting hand to hand, had leisure to throw their darts at them. So the general called off those soldiers in the Evening that had suffered so sorely, of whom the number of the slain was not a few, while that of the wounded was still greater; but of the people of Jotapata no more than six men were killed, although more than three hundred were carried off wounded. This fight happened on the twentieth day of the month Desius [Sivan]. 30. Hereupon Vespasian comforted his army on occasion of what happened, and as he found them angry indeed, but rather wanting somewhat to do than any further exhortations, he gave orders to raise the banks still higher, and to erect three towers, each fifty feet high, and that they should cover them with plates of iron on every side, that they might be both firm by their weight, and not easily liable to be set on fire. These towers he set upon the banks, and placed upon them such as could shoot darts and arrows, with the lighter engines for throwing stones and darts also; and besides these, he set upon them the stoutest men among the slingers, who not being to be seen by reason of the height they stood upon, and the battlements that protected them, might throw their weapons at those that were upon the wall, and were easily seen by them. Hereupon the Jews, not being easily able to escape those darts that were thrown down upon their heads, nor to avenge themselves on those whom they could not see, and perceiving that the height of the towers was so great, that a dart which they threw with their hand could hardly reach it, and that the iron plates about them made it very hard to come at them by fire, they ran away from the walls, and fled hastily out of the city, and fell upon those that shot at them. And thus did the people of Jotapata resist the Romans, while a great number of them were every day killed, without their being able to retort the evil upon their enemies; nor could they keep them out of the city without danger to themselves.
by D.H. Stern
don’t be greedy for his delicacies.
7 For he is like someone who keeps accounts—
“Eat! Drink!” he says to you,
but he doesn’t really mean it.
8 The little you eat you will vomit up,
and your compliments will have been wasted.
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
My Utmost for His Highest
Have you ever been expressionless with sorrow?
And when he heard this, he was very sorrowful: for he was very rich. --- Luke 18:23.
The rich young ruler went away expressionless with sorrow; he had not a word to say. He had no doubt as to what Jesus said, no debate as to what it meant, and it produced in him a sorrow that had not any words. Have you ever been there? Has God’s word come to you about something you are very rich in—temperament, personal affinity, relationships of heart and mind? Then you have often been expressionless with sorrow. The Lord will not go after you, He will not plead, but every time He meets you on that point He will simply repeat—“If you mean what you say, those are the conditions.’
I can be so rich in poverty, so rich in the consciousness that I am nobody, that I shall never be a disciple of Jesus; and I can be so rich in the consciousness that I am somebody—that I shall never be a disciple. Am I willing to be destitute of the sense that I am destitute? This is where discouragement comes in. Discouragement is disenchanted self-love, and self-love may be love of my devotion to Jesus.
the Poetry of RS Thomas
What made us think
It was yours? Because it was signed
With your blood, God of battles?
It is such a small thing,
Easily overlooked in the multitude
Of the worlds. We are misled
By perspective; the microscope
Is our sin, we tower enormous
Above it the stronger it
Grows. Where have your incarnations
Gone to? The flesh is too heavy
To wear you, God of light
And fire. The machine replaces
The hand that fastened you
To the cross, but cannot absolve us.
Nowadays we say that dog is “man’s best friend.” We ascribe incredible loyalty to the dog. We often hear amazing stories in the news: A dog would not leave its master’s side during a disaster, sacrificing its own life out of a sense of loyalty; or a dog continued barking after its owner had lost consciousness, thus saving the woman’s life. Dogs are legendary for an incredible sensitivity of smell and hearing. After all, they were smart enough to distinguish between Egyptians and Israelites! “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.”
But dogs can also be harmful because of their ability to become pack animals. In the wild, they will follow a leader, and often a savage and cruel one. Even tamed dogs have been known to go wild on hearing the howls of other animals. For reasons unknown to us, when one dog—even a house pet—starts barking, others will often join in, oblivious to our need for peace and quiet.
The Rabbis often look to animals for both positive and negative character traits. Thus, the Rabbis would remind us to emulate the loyalty and sensitivity of the dog, while not copying its mindless going along with the crowd. When a loud and crude person starts barking out complaints about a member of our community, we must be sensitive and think before joining in this yelping. When one neighbor begins snarling at another, we would be wise to step back and ponder the situation before joining in the howling. Otherwise, we might be like dogs who gather round and start barking at nothing at all.
“Conventional wisdom” has it that birth order goes a long way toward determining personality. First-borns, it is said, are serious and responsible; they follow the rules and look to please their parents. Youngest children grow up as the “baby” of their families. They are often showered with playful attention and sometimes “spoiled” by their older and more relaxed parents. Middle children struggle for attention, doing whatever it takes to stand out from the serious first-born and the cute baby. At the same time, they have excellent people skills, honed while mediating between their older and younger siblings.
The Midrash focuses on a number of first-borns: First-born children are redeemed from the service of God though the pidyon he-ben ceremony. The first-born of the flocks were dedicated to the Temple and offered as sacrifices. The first portions of the harvest were set aside as terumah for the Kohanim in the Temple. Then the Midrash brings in a brilliant insight of the prophet Jeremiah: the Jewish people are considered by God as “the first fruits of His harvest.” In other words, while other peoples and nations play the roles of youngest child and middle child, Israel has the position of first-born.
Those who are the first-born in their families will tell you that it is both a blessing and a curse. The other children look up enviously to the first-born, complaining that he or she gets all the privileges while they get none. But the oldest child will say that there are liabilities that go along with the position. If something goes wrong, he is held responsible and gets the lion’s share of the blame. She has to meet the very high expectations her parents have for her; ordinary or average accomplishments just won’t do. And finally, the first-borns have no accessible role models. They have to be the trailblazers, figuring out on their own just how to do this or that. Years later they can share their experiences with their younger siblings and offer advice and counsel. No one serves that function for the oldest.
Jeremiah’s metaphor about Israel being God’s first suggests that those same personality dynamics that apply to first-born children also apply to the Jewish people: There is a special affection from the Parent, but there is also a great deal of responsibility as well. While the other children—the nations of the world—may feel resentment and jealousy toward “the Chosen One,” that position brings great burdens as well as benefits.
Dogs, we are reminded, run in packs, blindly following the crowd. Israel, the firstborn, doesn’t have that luxury. It must find its own way, and then it is expected to show that way to the rest of the world.
Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.
--- John 17:17.
The second petition. (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.) You observe Jesus does not merely pray that they may be kept from evil, but that they may be made holy. Piety is not a mere negative thing. The Ten Commandments, I know, are all in negative form, “thou shalt not.” Even so, Christianity reveals that this is but one side and that the nobler and more glorious side of piety is that we must not merely try to keep from doing wrong but try to do right. Jesus prays not simply that they may be kept from evil but that they may be made holy. Do you want to be holy? You should desire to be holy! Anyhow, Jesus wishes that for you, and he prays, “Make them holy—make them holy through your truth; your word is truth.”
It is truth that makes people holy. Earth’s unholiness began with a lie that people believed and so went headlong to ruin. Truth is the lifeblood of piety. Truth is the medicine for the soul’s disease. Nobody is ever made holy except through truth. Blessed be God, it often works its healing work though sadly mingled with error. The truth may still work its healing, saving, sanctifying work. “Your word is truth.” We know that word, and we may use it as the means of becoming holy.
Regard the Bible as that which we are to use as the means of becoming holy. Regard the Bible as the means of making you better, of making you good. Use the Bible for that purpose. I know how it is, many times you do not love to read your Bible. The truth is, you take up your newspaper a second time and go on looking for something else in it when the Bible is lying neglected by your side. Then when you do take the Bible, you feel that it is rather dull reading. Learn to regard the Bible more as the means of making you holy. When you read it in private or hear it read in public, regard it as the great means of making you better, of strengthening you, of correcting your faults, of helping you to know your duty and helping you to do your duty. Fill your heart and mind full of the teachings of God’s Word, hoping it will make you better. You will take more interest in hearing the preacher read it from the pulpit and explain and impress on you its teachings, if you listen with the idea, “How I hope this will help me!” So in private read the Bible with the thought, “How I pray that this may do me good.” Please remember this suggestion and act on it!
--- John A. Broadus
One Hundred Hymns August 18
Can you imagine singing 100 hymns in one Evening? One church did, with history-shattering results.
Count Nikolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf, born in 1700, grew up in an atmosphere of Bible reading and hymn-singing. He married a Christian countess, and the two began allowing Protestant refugees to camp on their German estate. A Moravian community named Herrnhut
( “Under the Lord’s Watch”) soon developed.
One day a potter named Leonard Dober arrived to establish artistic pottery as a profitable product for Herrnhut. Not long thereafter, Zinzendorf returned from a trip to Copenhagen with reports of slaves in the West Indies having no one to tell them of Christ. Dober spent a sleepless night. “I could not get free of it,” he said. “I vowed to myself that if one other brother would go with me, I would become a slave.”
He found his brother in David Nitschmann, a carpenter.
On August 18, 1732, in an extraordinary, emotion-packed service, the two were commissioned. One hundred hymns were sung that night as the congregation bade them good-bye and Godspeed.
The two sailed from Copenhagen on October 8, sustained by Numbers 23:19: God is no mere human! He doesn’t tell lies or change his mind. God always keeps his promises.
They arrived on St. Thomas in December, and a planter named Lorenzen took them in. Their first Sunday saw them beginning their search for souls, preaching to a small group of slaves, several of whom soon followed Christ. Dober ministered to those suffering from malaria, at one point nearly dying of the fever himself. On another occasion, he almost starved. But reinforcements began arriving from Herrnhut in 1734. Though many died, the Moravian tide of missionaries continued—to Greenland, to Lapland and Georgia, to Surinam, to Guinea, to South Africa, to Algeria, to North American Indians, to Ceylon and Romania and Constantinople. From 1732 to 1742, more than 70 Moravian missionaries were sent from Herrnhut, a community of 600.
It has been called “The Golden Decade.” It was the dawn of Protestant missions.
Tell every nation on earth, “The LORD is wonderful and does marvelous things!”
--- Psalm 96:3.
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - August 18
“Strangers are come into the sanctuaries of the Lord’s house.” --- Jeremiah 51:51.
In this account the faces of the Lord’s people were covered with shame, for it was a terrible thing that men should intrude into the Holy Place reserved for the priests alone. Everywhere about us we see like cause for sorrow. How many ungodly men are now educating with the view of entering into the ministry! What a crying sin is that solemn lie by which our whole population is nominally comprehended in a National Church! How fearful it is that ordinances should be pressed upon the unconverted, and that among the more enlightened churches of our land there should be such laxity of discipline. If the thousands who will read this portion shall all take this matter before the Lord Jesus this day, he will interfere and avert the evil which else will come upon his Church. To adulterate the Church is to pollute a well, to pour water upon fire, to sow a fertile field with stones. May we all have grace to maintain in our own proper way the purity of the Church, as being an assembly of believers, and not a nation, an unsaved community of unconverted men.
Our zeal must, however, begin at home. Let us examine ourselves as to our right to eat at the Lord’s table. Let us see to it that we have on our wedding garment, lest we ourselves be intruders in the Lord’s sanctuaries. Many are called, but few are chosen; the way is narrow, and the gate is strait. O for grace to come to Jesus aright, with the faith of God’s elect. He who smote Uzzah for touching the ark is very jealous of his two ordinances; as a true believer I may approach them freely, as an alien I must not touch them lest I die. Heart searching is the duty of all who are baptized or come to the Lord’s table. “Search me, O God, and know my way, try me and know my heart.”
Evening - August 18
“And they gave him to drink wine mingled with myrrh: but he received it not.” --- Mark 15:23.
A golden truth is couched in the fact that the Saviour put the myrrhed wine-cup from his lips. On the heights of heaven the Son of God stood of old, and as he looked down upon our globe he measured the long descent to the utmost depths of human misery; he cast up the sum total of all the agonies which expiation would require, and abated not a jot. He solemnly determined that to offer a sufficient atoning sacrifice he must go the whole way, from the highest to the lowest, from the throne of highest glory to the cross of deepest woe. This myrrhed cup, with its soporific influence, would have stayed him within a little of the utmost limit of misery, therefore he refused it. He would not stop short of all he had undertaken to suffer for his people. Ah, how many of us have pined after reliefs to our grief which would have been injurious to us! Reader, did you never pray for a discharge from hard service or suffering with a petulant and wilful eagerness? Providence has taken from you the desire of your eyes with a stroke. Say, Christian, if it had been said, “If you so desire it, that loved one of yours shall live, but God will be dishonoured,” could you have put away the temptation, and said, “Thy will be done”? Oh, it is sweet to be able to say, “My Lord, if for other reasons I need not suffer, yet if I can honour thee more by suffering, and if the loss of my earthly all will bring thee glory, then so let it be. I refuse the comfort, if it comes in the way of thine honour.” O that we thus walked more in the footsteps of our Lord, cheerfully enduring trial for his sake, promptly and willingly putting away the thought of self and comfort when it would interfere with our finishing the work which he has given us to do. Great grace is needed, but great grace is provided.
MAY THE MIND OF CHRIST, MY SAVIOR
Kate B. Wilkinson, 1859–1928
Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 2:5
Each day our prayer life should include the request that the Holy Spirit reveal the mind of Christ to us. As we mature in the Christian faith, our personalities and characters should take on Christ-like qualities. To have a Christ-like mind, it is vitally important that we nourish our minds daily with quality materials—things “that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, and praiseworthy” (Philippians 4:8).
Kate Wilkinson was a member of the Church of England and actively involved in the Keswick Deeper Life Movement. The hymn first appeared in the Golden Bells Hymnal, published in 1925.
As a suggestion for your devotional times, take the six prayers of this hymn and use one each day to meditate upon as preparation for your worship on the Lord’s Day. What does it mean to have the “mind of Christ,” the “Word of God,” the “peace of God,” the “love of Jesus,” the strength of Jesus, and the beauty of Jesus in your life? How would these Christ-like virtues affect your daily living? How would they influence your worship of God?
May the mind of Christ, my Savior, live in me from day to day, by His love and pow’r controlling all I do and say.
May the Word of God dwell richly in my heart from hour to hour, so that all may see I triumph only thru His pow’r.
May the peace of God, my Father, rule my life in ev’rything that I may be calm to comfort sick and sorrowing.
May the love of Jesus fill me, as the waters fill the sea; Him exalting, self-abasing— this is victory.
May I run the race before me strong and brave to face the foe, looking only unto Jesus as I onward go.
May His beauty rest upon me as I seek the lost to win, and may they forget the channel, seeing only Him.
For Today: 1 Corinthians 15:49; Ephesians 3:17; Philippians 2:1–16
Try to base every action and decision on the response to this question: What is the Christ-like way for handling this situation? Reflect on this hymn ---
DISCOURSE II - ON PRACTICAL ATHEISM
(2.) As they are agreeable to sinful self. Not that the commands of God are suited to bolster up the corruptions of men, no more than the law can be said to excite or revive sin: but it is like a scandal taken, not given; an occasion taken by the tumultuousness of our depraved nature. The Pharisees were devout in long prayers, not from a sense of duty, or a care of God’s honor; but to satisfy their ambition, and rake together fuel for their covetousness, that they might have the greater esteem and richer offerings, to free by their prayers the souls of deceased persons from purgatory; an opinion that some think the Jewish synagogue had then entertained, since some of their doctors have defended such a notion. Men may observe some precepts of God to have a better conveniency to break others. Jehu was ordered to cut off the house of Ahab. The service he undertook was in itself acceptable, but corrupt nature misacted that which holiness and righteousness commanded. God appointed it to magnify his justice, and check the idolatry that had been supported by that family; Jehu acted it to satisfy his revenge and ambition: he did it to fulfil his lust, not the will of God who enjoined him: Jehu applauds it as zeal; and God abhors it as murder, and therefore would avenge the blood of Jezreel on the house of Jehu (Hos. 1:4). Such kind of services are not paid to God for his own sake, but to ourselves for our lusts’ sake.
4. This is evident in neglecting to take God’s direction upon emergent occasions. This follows the text, “None did seek God.” When we consult not with him, but trust more to our own will and counsel, we make ourselves our own governors and lords independent upon him; as though we could be our own counsellors, and manage our concerns without his leave and assistance; as though our works were in our own hands, and not in the “hands of God.” that we can by our own strength and sagacity direct them to a successful end without him. If we must “acquaint ourselves with God” before we decree a thing, then to decree a thing without acquainting God with it, is to prefer our purblind wisdom before the infinite wisdom of God: to resolve without consulting God, is to depose God and deify self, our own wit and strength. We would rather, like Lot, follow our own humor and stay in Sodom, than observe the angel’s order to go out of it.
6. As we account the actions of others to be good or evil, as they suit with, or spurn against our fancies and humors. Virtue is a crime, and vice a virtue, as it is contrary or concurrent with our humors. Little reason have many men to blame the actions of others, but because they are not agreeable to what they affect and desire; we would have all men take directions from us, and move according to our beck, hence that common speech in the world, Such an one is an honest friend. Why? because he is of their humor, and lackeys according to their wills. Thus we make self the measure and square of good and evil in the rest of mankind, and judge of it by our own fancies, and not by the will of God, the proper rule of judgment. Well then, let us consider: Is not this very common? are we not naturally more willing to displease God than displease ourselves, when it comes to a point that we must do one or other? Is not our own counsel of more value with us, than conformity to the will of the Creator? Do not our judgments often run counter to the judgment of God? Have his laws a greater respect from us, than our own humors? Do we scruple the staining his honor when it comes in competition with our own? Are not the lives of most men a pleasing themselves, without a repentance that ever they displeased God? Is not this to undeify God, to deify ourselves, and disown the propriety he hath in us by the right of creation and beneficence? We order our own ways by our own humors, as though we were the authors of our own being, and had given ourselves life and understanding. This is to destroy the order that God hath placed between our wills and his own, and a lifting up of the foot above the head; it is the deformity of the creature. The honor of every rational creature consists in the service of the First Cause of his being; as the welfare of every creature consists in the orders and proportionable motion of its members, according to the law of its creation. He that moves and acts according to a law of his own, offers a manifest wrong to God, the highest wisdom and chiefest good; disturbs the order of the world; nulls the design of the righteousness and holiness of God. The law of God is the rule of that order he would have observed in the world; he that makes another law his rule, thrusts out the order of the Creator, and establishes the disorder of the creature. But this will yet be more evident, in the fourth thing.
Fourthly, Man would make himself the rule of God, and give laws to his Creator. We are willing God should be our benefactor, but not our ruler; we are content to admire his excellency and pay him a worship, provided he will walk by our rule. “This commits a riot upon his nature, To think him to be what we ourselves “would have him, and wish him to be” (Psalm 50:21), we would amplify his mercy and contract his justice; we would have his power enlarged to supply our wants, and straitened when it goes about to revenge our crimes; we would have him wise to defeat our enemies, but not to disappoint our unworthy projects; we would have him all eye to regard our indigence, and blind not to discern our guilt; we would have him true to his promises, regardless of his precepts, and false to his threatenings; we would new mint the nature of God according to our models, and shape a God according to our own fancies, as he made us at first according to his own image;” instead of obeying him, we would have him obey us; instead of owning and admiring his perfections, we would have him strip himself of his infinite excellency, and clothe himself with a nature agreeable to our own. This is not only to set up self as the law of God, but to make our own imaginations the model of the nature of God. Corrupted man takes a pleasure to accuse or suspect the actions of God: we would not have him act conveniently to his nature; but act what doth gratify us, a nd abstain from what distastes us. Man is never well but when he is impeaching one or other perfection of God’s nature, and undermining his glory, as if all his attributes must stand indicted at the bar of our purblind reason: this weed shoots up in the exercise of grace. Peter intended the refusal of our Saviour s washing his feet, as an act of humility, but Christ understands it to be a prescribing a law to himself, a correcting his love (John 13:8, 9). This is evidenced,
1. In the strivings against his law. How many men imply by their lives, that they would have God deposed from his government, and some unrighteous being step into his throne; as if God had or should change his laws of holiness into laws of licentiousness: as if he should abrogate his old eternal precepts, and enact contrary ones in their stead? What is the language of such practices, but that they would be God’s lawgivers and not his subjects? that he should deal with them according to their own wills, and not according to his righteousness? that they could make a more holy, wise, and righteous law than the law of God? that their imaginations, and not God’s righteousness, should be the rule of his doing good to them? (Jer. 9:31): “They have forsaken my law, and walked after the imaginations of their own heart.” When an act is known to be a sin, and the law that forbids it acknowledged to be the law of God, and after this we persist in that which is contrary to it, we tax his wisdom as if he did not understand what was convenient for us; “we would teach God knowledge;” it is an implicit wish that God had laid aside the holiness of his nature, and framed a law to pleasure our lusts. When God calls for weeping and mourning, and girding with sackcloth upon approaching judgments, then the corrupt heart is for joy and gladness, eating of flesh and drinking of wine, because to-morrow they should die; as if God had mistaken himself when he ordered them so much sorrow, when their lives were so near an end; and had lost his understanding when he ordered such a precept: disobedience is therefore called contention (Rom. 2:8): “Contentious, and obey not the truth:” contention against God, whose truth it is that they disobey; a dispute with him, which hath more of wisdom in itself, and conveniency for them, his truth of their imaginations. The more the love, goodness, and holiness of God appears in any command, the more are we naturally averse from it, a nd cast an imputation on him, as if he were foolish, unjust, cruel, and that we could have advised and directed him better. The goodness of God is eminent to us in appointing a day for his own worship, wherein we might converse with him, and he with us, and our souls be refreshed with spiritual communications from him; and we rather use it for the ease of our bodies, than the advancement of our souls, as if God were mistaken and injured his creature, when he urged the spiritual part of duty. Every disobedience to the law is an implicit giving law to him, and a charge against him that he might have provided better for his creature.
2. In disapproving the methods of God’s government of the world. If the counsels of Heaven roll not about according to their schemes, instead of adoring the unsearchable depths of his judgments, they call him to the bar, and accuse him, because they are not fitted to their narrow vessels, as if a nut-shell could contain an ocean. As corrupt reason esteems the highest truths foolishness, so it counts the most righteous ways unequal. Thus we commence a suit against God., as though he had not acted righteously and wisely, but must give an account of his proceedings at our tribunal. This is to make ourselves God’s superiors, and resume to instruct him better in the government of the world; as tough God hindered himself and the world, in not making us of his privy council, and not ordering his affairs according to the contrivances of our dim understandings. Is not this manifest in our immoderate complaints of God’s dealings with his church, as though there were a coldness in God’s affections to his church, and a glowing heat towards it only in us? Hence are those importunate desires for things which are not established by any promise, as though we would overrule and over persuade God to comply with our humor. We have an ambition to be God’s tutors and direct him in his counsels: “Who hath been his counsellor?” saith the apostle. Who ought not to be his counsellor? saith corrupt nature. Men will find fault with God in what he suffers to be done according to their own minds, when they feel the bitter fruit of it. When Cain had killed his brother, and his conscience racked him, how saucily and discontentedly doth he answer God! (Gen. 4:9), “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Since thou dost own thyself the rector of the world, thou shouldst have preserved his person from my fury; since thou dost accept his sacrifice before my offering, preservation was due as well as acceptance. If this temper be found on earth, no wonder it is lodged in hell. That deplorable person under the sensible stroke of God’s sovereign justice, would oppose his nay to God’s will (Luke 16:30): “And he said, Nay, father Abraham, but if one went to them from the dead they will repent.” He would presume to prescribe more effectual means than Moses and the prophets, to inform men of the danger they incurred by their sensuality. David was displeased, it is said (2 Sam. 6:8), when the Lord had made a breach upon Uzzah, not with Uzzah, who was the object of his pity, but with God, who was the inflicter of that punishment. When any of our friends have been struck with a rod, against our sentiments and wishes, have not our hearts been apt to swell in complaints against God, as though he disregarded the goodness of such a person, did not see with our eyes, and measure him by our esteem of him? as if he should have asked our counsel, before he had resolved, and managed himself according, to our will, rather than his own. If he be patient to the wicked, we are apt to tax his holiness, and accuse him as an enemy to his own law. If he inflict severity upon the righteous, we are ready to suspect his goodness, and charge him to be an enemy to his affectionate creature. If he spare the Nimrods of the world, we are ready to ask, “Where is the God of judgment?” If he afflict the pillars of the earth, we are ready to question, where is the God of mercy? It is impossible, since the depraved nature of man, and the various interests and passions in the world, that infinite power and wisdom can act righteously for the good of the universe, but he will shake some corrupt interest or other upon the earth; so various are the inclinations of men, and such a weather-cock judgment hath every man in himself, that the divine method he applauds this day, upon a change of his interest, he will cavil at the next. It is impossible for the just orders of God to please the same person many weeks, scarce many minutes together. God must cease to be God, or to be holy, if he should manage the concerns of the world according to the fancies of men. How unreasonable is it thus to impose laws upon God! Must God revoke his own orders? govern according to the dictates of his creature? Must God, who hath only power and wisdom to sway the sceptre, become the obedient subject of every man’s humor, and manage everything to serve the design of a simple creature? This is not to be God, but to set the creature in his throne: though this be not formally done, yet that it is interpretatively and practically done, is every hour’s experience.
3. In impatience in our particular concerns. It is ordinary with man to charge God in his complaints in the time of affliction. Therefore it is the commendation the Holy Ghost gives to Job (ch. 1:22), that in all this, that is, in those many waves that rolled over him, he did not charge God foolishly, he never spake nor thought anything unworthy of the majesty and righteousness of God; yet afterwards we find him warping; he nicknames the affliction to be God’s oppression of him, and no act of his goodness (10:3): “Is it good for thee, that thou shouldst oppress?” He seems to charge God with injustice, for punishing him when he was not wicked, for which he appeals to God: “Thou knowest that I am not wicked” (ver. 7), and that God acted not like a Creator (ver. 8). If our projects are disappointed, what fretfulness against God’s management are our hearts racked with! How do uncomely passions bubble upon us, interpretatively at least wishing that the arms of his power had been bound, and the eye of his omniscience been hoodwinked, that we might have been left to our own liberty and designs? and this oftentimes when we have more reason to bless him than repine at him. The Israelites murmured more against God in the wilderness, with manna in their mouths, than they did at Pharaoh in the brickkilns, with their garlic and onions between their teeth. Though we repine at instruments in our afflictions, yet God counts it a reflection upon himself. The Israelites speaking against Moses, was, in God’s interpretation, a rebellion against himself: and rebellion is always a desire of imposing laws and conditions upon those against whom the rebellion is raised. The sottish dealings of the vinedressers in Franconia with the statue of St. Urban, the protector of the vines, upon his own day, is an emblem of our dealing with God: if it be a clear day and portend a prosperous vintage, they honor the statue and drink healths to it; if it be a rainy day, and presage a scantiness, they daub it with dirt in indignation. We cast out our mire and dirt against God when he acts cross to our wishes, and flatter him when the wind of his providence joins itself to the tide of our interest. Men set a high price upon themselves, and are angry God values them not at the same rate, as if their judgment concerning themselves were more piercing than his. This is to disannul God’s judgment, and condemn him and count ourselves righteous, as ’tis Job 40:8. This is the epidemical disease of human nature; they think they deserve caresses instead of rods, and upon crosses are more ready to tear out the heart of God, than reflect humbly upon their own hearts. When we accuse God, we applaud ourselves, and make ourselves his superiors, intimating that we have acted more righteously to him than he to us, which is the highest manner of imposing laws apon him; as that emperor accused the justice of God for snatching him out of the world too soon. What a high piece of practical atheism is this, to desire that infinite wisdom should be guided by our folly, and asperse the righteousness of God rather than blemish our own! Instead of silently submitting to his will and adoring his wisdom, we declaim against him, as an unwise and unjust governor: we would invert his order, make him the steward and ourselves the proprietors of what we are and have: we deny ourselves to be sinners, and our mercies to be forfeited.
4. It is evidenced in envying the gifts and prosperities of others. Envy hath a deep tincture of practical atheism, and is a cause of atheism. We are unwilling to leave God to be the proprietor and do what he will with his own, and as a Creator to do what he pleases with his creatures. We assume a liberty to direct God what portions, when and how, he should bestow upon his creatures. We would not let him choose his own favorites, and pitch upon his own instruments for his glory; as if God should have asked counsel of us how he should dispose of his benefits. We are unwilling to leave to his wisdom the management of his own judgments to the wicked, and the dispensation of his own love to ourselves. This temper is natural: it is as ancient as the first age of the world. Adam envied God a felicity by himself, and would not spare a tree that he had reserved as a mark of his sovereignty. The passion that God had given Cain to employ against his sin, he turns against his Creator. He was wroth with God and with Abel; but envy was at the root, because his brother’s sacrifice was accepted and his refused. How could he envy his accepted person, without reflecting upon the Acceptor of his offering? Good men have not been free from it. Job questions the goodness of God, that he should shine upon the counsel of the wicked (Job 10:3). Jonah had too much of self, in fearing to be counted a false prophet, when he came with absolute denunciations of wrath; and when he could not bring a volley of destroying judgments upon the Ninevites, he would shoot his fury against his Master, envying those poor people the benefit, and God the honor of his mercy; and this after he had been sent into the whale’s belly to learn humiliation, which, though he exercised there, yet those two great branches of self-pride and envy were not lopped off from him in the belly of hell; and God was fain to take pains with him, and by a gourd scarce makes him ashamed of his peevishness. Envy is not like to cease till all atheism be cashiered, and that is in heaven. This sin is an imitation of the devil, whose first sin upon earth was envy, as his first sin in heaven was pride. It is a wishing that to ourselves, which the devil asserted as his right, to give the kingdoms of the world to whom he pleased: it is an anger with God, because he hath not given us a patent for government. It utters the same language in disparagement of God, as Absalom did in reflection on his father: If I were king in Israel, justice should be better managed; if I were Lord of the world, there should be more wisdom to discern the merits of men, and more righteousness in distributing to them their several portions. Thus we impose laws upon God, and would have the righteousness of his will submit to the corruptions of ours, and have him lower himself to gratify our minds, rather than fulfil his own. We charge the Author of those gifts with injustice, that he hath not dealt equally; or with ignorance, that he hath mistook his mark. In the same breath that we censure him by our peevishness, we would guide him by our wills. This is an unreasonable part of atheism. If all were in the same state and condition, the order of the world would be impaired. Is God bound to have a care of thee, and neglect all the world besides? “Shall the earth be forsaken for thee?” Joseph had reason to be displeased with his brothers, if they had muttered because he gave Benjamin a double portion, and the rest a single. It was unfit that they, who had deserved no gift at all, should prescribe him rules how to dispense his own doles; much more unworthy it is to deal so with God; yet this is too rife.
5. It is evidenced in corrupt matter or ends of prayer and praise. When we are importunate for those things that we know not whether the righteousness, holiness, and wisdom of God can grant, because he hath not discovered his will in any promise to bestow them, we would then impose such conditions on God, which he never obliged himself to grant; when we pray for things not so much to glorify God, which ought to be the end of prayer, as to gratify ourselves. We acknowledge, indeed, by the act of petitioning, that there is a God; but we would have him ungod himself to be at our beck, and debase himself to serve our turns. When we desire those things which are repugnant to those attributes whereby he doth manage the government of the world; when, by some superficial services, we think we have gained indulgence to sins, which seems to be the thought of the strumpet, in her paying her vows, to wallow more freely in the mire of her sensual pleasures—“I have peace-offerings with me; this day I have paid my vows, I have made my peace with God, and have entertainment for thee;” or when men desire God to bless them in the commission of some sin, as when Balak and Balaam offered sacrifices, that they might prosper in the cursing of the Israelites (Num. 25:1) So for a man to pray to God to save him, while he neglects the means of salvation appointed by God, or to renew him when he slights the word, the only instrument to that purpose; this is to impose laws upon God, contrary to the declared will and wisdom of God, and to desire him to slight his own institutions. When we come into the presence of God with lusts reeking in our hearts, and leap from sin to duty. we would impose the law of our corruption on the holiness of God.
While we pray “the will of God may be done,” self-love wishes its own will may be performed, as though God should serve our humors, when we will not obey his precepts. And when we make vows under any affliction, what is it often but a secret contrivance to bend and flatter him to our conditions? We will serve him if he will restore us; we think thereby to compound the business with him, and bring him down to our terms.
Martin Luther | (1483-1546)
Sect. CXXI. — BUT pray let us suppose the sentiment of the Diatribe to stand good — ‘that every affection is not “flesh;” that is, ungodly; but is that which is called good and sound spirit.’ — Only observe what absurdity must hence follow; not only with respect to human reason, but with respect to the Christian religion, and the most important Articles of Faith. For if that which is most excellent in man be not ungodly, nor utterly depraved, nor damnable, but that which is flesh only, that is the grosser and viler affections, what sort of a Redeemer shall we make Christ? Shall we rate the price of His blood so low as to say, that it redeemed that part of man only which is the most vile, and that the most excellent part of man has power to work its own salvation, and does not want Christ? Henceforth then, I must preach Christ as the Redeemer, not of the whole man, but of his vilest part; that is, of his flesh; but that the man himself is his own redeemer, in his better part!
Have it, therefore, which way you will. If the better part of man be sound, it does not want Christ as a Redeemer. And if it does not want Christ, it triumphs in a glory above that of Christ: for it takes care of the redemption of the better part itself, whereas Christ only takes care of that of the vile part. And then, moreover, the kingdom of Satan will come to nothing at all, for it will reign only in the viler part of man, because the man himself will rule over the better part.
So that, by this doctrine of yours, concerning ‘the principal part of man,’ it will come to pass, that man will be exalted above Christ and the devil both: that is, he will be made God of gods, and Lord of lords! — Where is now that ‘probable opinion’ which asserted ‘that “Free-will” cannot will any thing good?’ It here contends, ‘that it is a principal part, meritoriously good, and sound; and that, it does not even want Christ, but can do more than God Himself and the devil can do, put together!
I say this, that you may again see, how eminently perilous a matter it is to attempt sacred and divine things, without the Spirit of God, in the temerity of human reason. If, therefore, Christ be the Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world, it follows, that the whole world is under sin, damnation, and the devil. Hence your distinction between the principal parts, and the parts not principal, profits you nothing: for the world, signifies men, savouring of nothing but the things of the world, throughout all their faculties.
The Bondage of the Will or Christian Classics Ethereal Library
Brett Meador | Athey Creek
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