Jeremiah 26 - 29
Jeremiah Threatened with DeathJeremiah 26:1 In the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, this word came from the LORD: 2 “Thus says the LORD: Stand in the court of the LORD’s house, and speak to all the cities of Judah that come to worship in the house of the LORD all the words that I command you to speak to them; do not hold back a word. 3 It may be they will listen, and every one turn from his evil way, that I may relent of the disaster that I intend to do to them because of their evil deeds. 4 You shall say to them, ‘Thus says the LORD: If you will not listen to me, to walk in my law that I have set before you, 5 and to listen to the words of my servants the prophets whom I send to you urgently, though you have not listened, 6 then I will make this house like Shiloh, and I will make this city a curse for all the nations of the earth.’ ”
7 The priests and the prophets and all the people heard Jeremiah speaking these words in the house of the LORD. 8 And when Jeremiah had finished speaking all that the LORD had commanded him to speak to all the people, then the priests and the prophets and all the people laid hold of him, saying, “You shall die! 9 Why have you prophesied in the name of the LORD, saying, ‘This house shall be like Shiloh, and this city shall be desolate, without inhabitant’?” And all the people gathered around Jeremiah in the house of the LORD.
10 When the officials of Judah heard these things, they came up from the king’s house to the house of the LORD and took their seat in the entry of the New Gate of the house of the LORD. 11 Then the priests and the prophets said to the officials and to all the people, “This man deserves the sentence of death, because he has prophesied against this city, as you have heard with your own ears.”
12 Then Jeremiah spoke to all the officials and all the people, saying, “The LORD sent me to prophesy against this house and this city all the words you have heard. 13 Now therefore mend your ways and your deeds, and obey the voice of the LORD your God, and the LORD will relent of the disaster that he has pronounced against you. 14 But as for me, behold, I am in your hands. Do with me as seems good and right to you. 15 Only know for certain that if you put me to death, you will bring innocent blood upon yourselves and upon this city and its inhabitants, for in truth the LORD sent me to you to speak all these words in your ears.”
Jeremiah Spared from Death16 Then the officials and all the people said to the priests and the prophets, “This man does not deserve the sentence of death, for he has spoken to us in the name of the LORD our God.” 17 And certain of the elders of the land arose and spoke to all the assembled people, saying, 18 “Micah of Moresheth prophesied in the days of Hezekiah king of Judah, and said to all the people of Judah: ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts,
“ ‘Zion shall be plowed as a field;
Jerusalem shall become a heap of ruins,
and the mountain of the house a wooded height.’
20 There was another man who prophesied in the name of the LORD, Uriah the son of Shemaiah from Kiriath-jearim. He prophesied against this city and against this land in words like those of Jeremiah. 21 And when King Jehoiakim, with all his warriors and all the officials, heard his words, the king sought to put him to death. But when Uriah heard of it, he was afraid and fled and escaped to Egypt. 22 Then King Jehoiakim sent to Egypt certain men, Elnathan the son of Achbor and others with him, 23 and they took Uriah from Egypt and brought him to King Jehoiakim, who struck him down with the sword and dumped his dead body into the burial place of the common people.
24 But the hand of Ahikam the son of Shaphan was with Jeremiah so that he was not given over to the people to be put to death.
The Yoke of Nebuchadnezzar
Jeremiah 27:1 In the beginning of the reign of Zedekiah the son of Josiah, king of Judah, this word came to Jeremiah from the LORD. 2 Thus the LORD said to me: “Make yourself straps and yoke-bars, and put them on your neck. 3 Send word to the king of Edom, the king of Moab, the king of the sons of Ammon, the king of Tyre, and the king of Sidon by the hand of the envoys who have come to Jerusalem to Zedekiah king of Judah. 4 Give them this charge for their masters: ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: This is what you shall say to your masters: 5 “It is I who by my great power and my outstretched arm have made the earth, with the men and animals that are on the earth, and I give it to whomever it seems right to me. 6 Now I have given all these lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, my servant, and I have given him also the beasts of the field to serve him. 7 All the nations shall serve him and his son and his grandson, until the time of his own land comes. Then many nations and great kings shall make him their slave.
8 “ ‘ “But if any nation or kingdom will not serve this Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and put its neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon, I will punish that nation with the sword, with famine, and with pestilence, declares the LORD, until I have consumed it by his hand. 9 So do not listen to your prophets, your diviners, your dreamers, your fortune-tellers, or your sorcerers, who are saying to you, ‘You shall not serve the king of Babylon.’ 10 For it is a lie that they are prophesying to you, with the result that you will be removed far from your land, and I will drive you out, and you will perish. 11 But any nation that will bring its neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon and serve him, I will leave on its own land, to work it and dwell there, declares the LORD.” ’ ”
12 To Zedekiah king of Judah I spoke in like manner: “Bring your necks under the yoke of the king of Babylon, and serve him and his people and live. 13 Why will you and your people die by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence, as the LORD has spoken concerning any nation that will not serve the king of Babylon? 14 Do not listen to the words of the prophets who are saying to you, ‘You shall not serve the king of Babylon,’ for it is a lie that they are prophesying to you. 15 I have not sent them, declares the LORD, but they are prophesying falsely in my name, with the result that I will drive you out and you will perish, you and the prophets who are prophesying to you.”
16 Then I spoke to the priests and to all this people, saying, “Thus says the LORD: Do not listen to the words of your prophets who are prophesying to you, saying, ‘Behold, the vessels of the LORD’s house will now shortly be brought back from Babylon,’ for it is a lie that they are prophesying to you. 17 Do not listen to them; serve the king of Babylon and live. Why should this city become a desolation? 18 If they are prophets, and if the word of the LORD is with them, then let them intercede with the LORD of hosts, that the vessels that are left in the house of the LORD, in the house of the king of Judah, and in Jerusalem may not go to Babylon. 19 For thus says the LORD of hosts concerning the pillars, the sea, the stands, and the rest of the vessels that are left in this city, 20 which Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon did not take away, when he took into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon Jeconiah the son of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, and all the nobles of Judah and Jerusalem— 21 thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, concerning the vessels that are left in the house of the LORD, in the house of the king of Judah, and in Jerusalem: 22 They shall be carried to Babylon and remain there until the day when I visit them, declares the LORD. Then I will bring them back and restore them to this place.”
Hananiah the False ProphetJeremiah 28:1 In that same year, at the beginning of the reign of Zedekiah king of Judah, in the fifth month of the fourth year, Hananiah the son of Azzur, the prophet from Gibeon, spoke to me in the house of the LORD, in the presence of the priests and all the people, saying, 2 “Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: I have broken the yoke of the king of Babylon. 3 Within two years I will bring back to this place all the vessels of the LORD’s house, which Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon took away from this place and carried to Babylon. 4 I will also bring back to this place Jeconiah the son of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, and all the exiles from Judah who went to Babylon, declares the LORD, for I will break the yoke of the king of Babylon.”
5 Then the prophet Jeremiah spoke to Hananiah the prophet in the presence of the priests and all the people who were standing in the house of the LORD, 6 and the prophet Jeremiah said, “Amen! May the LORD do so; may the LORD make the words that you have prophesied come true, and bring back to this place from Babylon the vessels of the house of the LORD, and all the exiles. 7 Yet hear now this word that I speak in your hearing and in the hearing of all the people. 8 The prophets who preceded you and me from ancient times prophesied war, famine, and pestilence against many countries and great kingdoms. 9 As for the prophet who prophesies peace, when the word of that prophet comes to pass, then it will be known that the LORD has truly sent the prophet.”
10 Then the prophet Hananiah took the yoke-bars from the neck of Jeremiah the prophet and broke them. 11 And Hananiah spoke in the presence of all the people, saying, “Thus says the LORD: Even so will I break the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon from the neck of all the nations within two years.” But Jeremiah the prophet went his way.
12 Sometime after the prophet Hananiah had broken the yoke-bars from off the neck of Jeremiah the prophet, the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah: 13 “Go, tell Hananiah, ‘Thus says the LORD: You have broken wooden bars, but you have made in their place bars of iron. 14 For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: I have put upon the neck of all these nations an iron yoke to serve Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and they shall serve him, for I have given to him even the beasts of the field.’ ” 15 And Jeremiah the prophet said to the prophet Hananiah, “Listen, Hananiah, the LORD has not sent you, and you have made this people trust in a lie. 16 Therefore thus says the LORD: ‘Behold, I will remove you from the face of the earth. This year you shall die, because you have uttered rebellion against the LORD.’ ”
17 In that same year, in the seventh month, the prophet Hananiah died.
Jeremiah’s Letter to the ExilesJeremiah 29:1 These are the words of the letter that Jeremiah the prophet sent from Jerusalem to the surviving elders of the exiles, and to the priests, the prophets, and all the people, whom Nebuchadnezzar had taken into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon. 2 This was after King Jeconiah and the queen mother, the eunuchs, the officials of Judah and Jerusalem, the craftsmen, and the metal workers had departed from Jerusalem. 3 The letter was sent by the hand of Elasah the son of Shaphan and Gemariah the son of Hilkiah, whom Zedekiah king of Judah sent to Babylon to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon. It said: 4 “Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5 Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. 6 Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. 7 But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. 8 For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Do not let your prophets and your diviners who are among you deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams that they dream, 9 for it is a lie that they are prophesying to you in my name; I did not send them, declares the LORD.
10 “For thus says the LORD: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. 11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. 13 You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you, declares the LORD, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the LORD, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.
15 “Because you have said, ‘The LORD has raised up prophets for us in Babylon,’ 16 thus says the LORD concerning the king who sits on the throne of David, and concerning all the people who dwell in this city, your kinsmen who did not go out with you into exile: 17 ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, behold, I am sending on them sword, famine, and pestilence, and I will make them like vile figs that are so rotten they cannot be eaten. 18 I will pursue them with sword, famine, and pestilence, and will make them a horror to all the kingdoms of the earth, to be a curse, a terror, a hissing, and a reproach among all the nations where I have driven them, 19 because they did not pay attention to my words, declares the LORD, that I persistently sent to you by my servants the prophets, but you would not listen, declares the LORD.’ 20 Hear the word of the LORD, all you exiles whom I sent away from Jerusalem to Babylon: 21 ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, concerning Ahab the son of Kolaiah and Zedekiah the son of Maaseiah, who are prophesying a lie to you in my name: Behold, I will deliver them into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and he shall strike them down before your eyes. 22 Because of them this curse shall be used by all the exiles from Judah in Babylon: “The LORD make you like Zedekiah and Ahab, whom the king of Babylon roasted in the fire,” 23 because they have done an outrageous thing in Israel, they have committed adultery with their neighbors’ wives, and they have spoken in my name lying words that I did not command them. I am the one who knows, and I am witness, declares the LORD.’ ”
Shemaiah’s False Prophecy24 To Shemaiah of Nehelam you shall say: 25 “Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: You have sent letters in your name to all the people who are in Jerusalem, and to Zephaniah the son of Maaseiah the priest, and to all the priests, saying, 26 ‘The LORD has made you priest instead of Jehoiada the priest, to have charge in the house of the LORD over every madman who prophesies, to put him in the stocks and neck irons. 27 Now why have you not rebuked Jeremiah of Anathoth who is prophesying to you? 28 For he has sent to us in Babylon, saying, “Your exile will be long; build houses and live in them, and plant gardens and eat their produce.” ’ ”
29 Zephaniah the priest read this letter in the hearing of Jeremiah the prophet. 30 Then the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah: 31 “Send to all the exiles, saying, ‘Thus says the LORD concerning Shemaiah of Nehelam: Because Shemaiah had prophesied to you when I did not send him, and has made you trust in a lie, 32 therefore thus says the LORD: Behold, I will punish Shemaiah of Nehelam and his descendants. He shall not have anyone living among this people, and he shall not see the good that I will do to my people, declares the LORD, for he has spoken rebellion against the LORD.’ ”
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What the Earliest Non-Biblical Authors Say About Jesus
By J. Warner Wallace 11/26/2014
What would we know about Jesus if we lost every Biblical manuscript on the planet? Could we have any certainty Jesus actually lived, and would we be able to re-capture any of the details of his life or nature? As it turns out, there are several ancient sources of information about Jesus. Some of these are from pagan, non-Christian authors (I’ve written about these sources here at Cold-Case Christianity). But there are even more compelling early non-Biblical accounts we can reference in an effort to understand who Jesus is (and was). We can still read the accounts of those early Christians who learned directly from the Biblical authors. Ignatius and Polycarp were direct students of the Apostle John; Clement was a direct student of the Apostle Paul. These students later became leaders in the early Christian Church and wrote their own letters to local congregations. Seven letters from Ignatius still survive, along with one letter from Polycarp and Clement. These are the earliest non-Biblical accounts we have describing the life and nature of Jesus. They are not in your Bible, but the information provided by these students of the Biblical authors is compelling. It provides us with the earliest snapshot of Jesus, and demonstrates the story of Jesus was not distorted or modified in the centuries between Jesus’ ministry and the first Church Councils. Here is a brief summary of what we can know about Jesus from the earliest Non-Biblical authors:
The Old Testament Prophets Predicted Jesus as the Messiah | Ignatius said the prophets predicted and waited for Jesus who was in the line of King David. Clement also said the prophets predicted the life and ministry of Jesus.
Jesus Was Born Miraculously | Ignatius said Jesus was (and is) the “Son of God.” He was conceived by the Holy Spirit and a star announced His birth. Jesus came forth from God the Father and was born of the Virgin Mary.
Jesus Had a Powerful Earthly Ministry | Ignatius said Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist. He was the “perfect” man and manifested the will and knowledge of God the Father. He taught and had a “ministry” on earth. He was the source of wisdom and taught many commandments, speaking the words of God. Ointment was poured on Jesus’s head. Polycarp also said Jesus was sinless. According to Polycarp, Jesus taught commandments and preached the Sermon on the Mount. Clement also said Jesus provided His disciples with important instruction. According to Clement, Jesus taught principles as described by Mark and Luke. He was humble and unassuming.
James "Jim" Warner Wallace (born June 16, 1961) is an American homicide detective and Christian apologist. Wallace is a Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview and an Adjunct Professor of Apologetics at Biola University in La Mirada, California. He has authored several books, including Cold-Case Christianity, God’s Crime Scene, and Forensic Faith, in which he applies principles of cold case homicide investigation to apologetic concerns such as the existence of God and the reliability of the Gospels.
Does Jeremiah 29:11 Apply to You?
By Russell Moore 1/01/2018
Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. ESV
These words are the John 3:16 of American cultural Christianity. Watch how often they show up on the Bible verse plaques sold in Bible Belt mall kiosks or posted on Facebook walls, even on tattoos. Whether as home decor or on social media posts, I see this passage claimed fervently by people I know haven’t been in a church service since the first Bush administration. Not a Prosperity Gospel Preacher How It Applies to You “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; God’s Long-Term Plan for You Russell Moore is president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, the moral and public policy agency of the nation’s largest Protestant denomination. He is a TGC Council member and he blogs at Moore to the Point and you can follow him on Twitter. He is a frequent cultural commentator, an ethicist and theologian by background, and an ordained Southern Baptist minister. He and his wife Maria are the parents of five sons.
John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. ESV
Naturally, this love for Jeremiah 29:11 has often led more theologically oriented Christians to lament its out-of-context use. So much so that a young Christian recently asked me, “Does Jeremiah 29:11 apply to me, or not?”
My answer: Kind of.
Let me take that back. Yes, it does apply to you, but not in the way many “claim” the passage.
The Book of Jeremiah is all about God disrupting his people’s plans and upending his people’s dreams. This verse comes in the context of a shocking message from the prophet. Those “left behind” in Jerusalem — anchored around the temple and the throne — assume their relative fortune is a sign that God is for them, while those carted off in captivity to Babylon are seen to be under God’s curse. It’s not just those in Jerusalem who are tempted to think this way; those in Babylon are tempted to think it, too. Israel’s God seems distant to them, and they seem as though they’ve been raptured away from the promises to Abraham. Jeremiah says, though, that God’s judgment will fall on Jerusalem, and that God’s purposes will spring to life through the exiles.
This isn’t actually good news for any of the hearers. The Jerusalem establishment chafes at this message, and finds prophets who will say that peace is just around the corner. For the exiles, the message isn’t a cheery one either, at least in the short-term. In Jeremiah’s letter to them, they’re told their return from exile won’t happen anytime in their generation, so they should create new lives in Babylon.
2 Corinthians 1:20 For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.
Through Jeremiah, God is telling the exiles that their scattering isn’t accidental. God has plans for them, plans that include even what seems chaotic and random. Moreover, these plans mean the exile isn’t permanent. That isn’t because of their faithfulness but because of God’s promise to Abraham — a promise that was itself looking forward to Abraham’s son, the Lord Jesus (Rom. 4). And indeed, the exiles didn’t stay scattered. God restored them to their home. Why? He brought them home because through them “according to the flesh is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever” (Rom. 9:5).
Galatians 3:13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”—
Galatians 3:14–29 14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.
15 To give a human example, brothers: even with a man-made covenant, no one annuls it or adds to it once it has been ratified. 16 Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ. 17 This is what I mean: the law, which came 430 years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void. 18 For if the inheritance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise.
19 Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary. 20 Now an intermediary implies more than one, but God is one.
21 Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law. 22 But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.
23 Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. 24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise. ESV
Romans 9:5 To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen. ESV
And God tells us that since we are in Christ, we are strangers and exiles in this time between the times (Heb. 11:13; 1 Pet. 2:11). We suffer, we bleed, we die — and through all that we are tempted to think that this means God has abandoned us. We conclude we are “as sheep to be slaughtered” (Rom. 8:36). Not so, the gospel word tells us.
Hebrews 11:13 These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.
1 Peter 2:11 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.
Romans 8:36 As it is written,
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” ESV
Romans 8:12–39 So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
How can you know this? You can know it the way the exiles of old did: not by observing your present condition but by the Word of God, his oath and his covenant. That means your plans may evaporate. Your dreams may be crushed. Your life may be snuffed out. But the God who raised Jesus from the dead will raise you up with him.
18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. ESV
Does Jeremiah 29:11 apply to you? If you are in Christ, you can count on it. The passage doesn’t promise you the kind of future American culture prizes, and maybe even promises a future you would tremble at it if you saw it in a crystal ball. Short-term, you may suffer. But long-term, your future is co-signed with Christ. That’s a future for your welfare, and not for evil; a future of hope, not of despair.
Not a Prosperity Gospel PreacherMany understand the text to be about God’s favor on one’s life and plans. If I just have confidence and follow my heart, someone might think, God will bless me. That’s not the prophet Jeremiah; that’s Deepak Chopra. Anyone who could find that kind of moralistic therapeutic deism in the Book of Jeremiah hasn’t read anything in Jeremiah beyond or behind this verse.
How It Applies to YouSo how does this passage apply to you? Well, Jeremiah 29:11 must be read in the context of the whole Book of Jeremiah, and the Book of Jeremiah must be read in the context of Israel’s story. But then all of Jeremiah and all of Israel’s story must be read in the context of God’s purposes in Jesus Christ. All the promises of God “find their yes in him” (2 Cor. 1:20). If we are in Christ, then all the horrors of judgment warned about in the prophets have fallen on us, in the cross, where we were united to Christ as he bore the curse of the law (Gal. 3:13). And, if we are in Christ, then all of the blessings promised to Abraham’s offspring are now ours, since we are united to the heir of all those promises (Gal. 3:14–29).
“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
God’s Long-Term Plan for YouGod has a plan for you, in Christ. That plan is not for your destruction but for your wellbeing. You are being conformed into the image of Christ — by sharing in his suffering — and your ultimate end is not as a victim but as a victor, a joint-heir with the King (Rom. 8:12–39).
Russell Moore is president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, the moral and public policy agency of the nation’s largest Protestant denomination. He is a TGC Council member and he blogs at Moore to the Point and you can follow him on Twitter. He is a frequent cultural commentator, an ethicist and theologian by background, and an ordained Southern Baptist minister. He and his wife Maria are the parents of five sons.Russell Moore Books | Go to Books Page
Scripture and Science in Conflict?: An Interview with Stephen C. Meyer
By Stephen Meyer 3/01/2012
Tabletalk: What is your book Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design all about?
Stephen Meyer: It’s about what I call “the DNA enigma,” the mystery of the origin of the information in living cells and the closely related question of the origin of life, that is, the origin of the first living cell.
TT: Your book used discoveries about DNA to argue for intelligent design. Other scientists use the evidence of DNA to argue for common ancestry and naturalistic evolution. How can non-specialists evaluate these complicated arguments?
SM: First, the arguments are not actually that complicated. Most people can follow them if they acquaint themselves with a bit of basic biology. Second, it’s important to keep some basic distinctions in mind.
My book addresses the fundamental question of the origin of the information in DNA and presents intelligent design as the best explanation for the origin of the information necessary to produce the first life.
Those arguing for universal common ancestry and biological evolution are not addressing that question. Instead, they are typically comparing pre-existing genes (sections of the genetic text, that is, information) in different organisms. They assume that the degree of difference in the sequences of similar genes from different organisms indicates how long ago they diverged from a common ancestor. Whether readers judge the evidence that scientists muster in support of universal common ancestry to be compelling or not, they should recognize that scientists making these arguments are addressing a different question than I address in my book. My argument could be right and there could also be evidence for universal common ancestry, though I am personally skeptical of that thesis (see below).
In any case, a good book that evaluates the arguments for and against universal common ancestry is the supplementary textbook Explore Evolution: The Arguments For and Against Neo-Darwinism. It will help readers who want to examine responsibly the evidence on both sides of that question.
TT: Is the idea of an original human couple (Adam and Eve) in conflict with science? Does DNA tell us anything about the existence of Adam and Eve?
SM: Readers have probably heard that the 98 percent similarity of human DNA to chimp DNA establishes that humans and chimps had a common ancestor. Recent studies show that number dropping significantly. More important, it turns out that previous measures of human and chimp genetic similarity were based upon an analysis of only 2 to 3 percent of the genome, the small portion that codes for proteins. This limited comparison was justified based upon the assumption that the rest of the genome was non-functional “junk.” Since the publication of the results of something called the “Encode Project,” however, it has become clear that the noncoding regions of the genome perform many important functions and that, overall, the non-coding regions of the genome function much like an operating system in a computer by regulating the timing and expression of the information stored in the “data files” or coding regions of the genome. Significantly, it has become increasingly clear that the non-coding regions, the crucial operating systems in effect, of the chimp and human genomes are species specific. That is, they are strikingly different in the two species. Yet, if alleged genetic similarity suggests common ancestry, then, by the same logic, this new evidence of significant genetic disparity suggests independent separate origins. For this reason, I see nothing from a genetic point of view that challenges the idea that humans originated independently from primates, possibly even from a single breeding pair.
TT: Recently, a number of professing Christians have claimed that the evidence for evolution has reached the point where to deny it is actually damaging to the cause of Christ. How do you respond to those who say that we now know evolution is simply the means by which God created life?
SM: I find this claim extremely ironic in light of the growing skepticism about the adequacy of neo-Darwinism among leading secular biologists and even among evolutionary biologists. There is currently a group of leading evolutionary biologists called the Altenburg 16 who are calling for a new theory of evolution because they recognize that the neo-Darwinian mechanism of mutation and natural selection does not have the power that has long been attributed to it. If such experts can openly question the standard theory of evolution, I fail to see how it brings disrepute on anyone else, Christian or otherwise, to raise thoughtful scientific questions about the adequacy of the theory.
I also think it is important for people evaluating claims about evolution to keep in mind the different meanings of the term that are in play. Evolution can have several different meanings. It can mean change over time, or it can mean that all organisms share a common ancestor such that the history of life looks like the great branching tree that Darwin used to depict the history of life. Or it can mean that a purely undirected process — namely, natural selection acting on random mutations — has produced all the change that has occurred over time. This last meaning of evolution is central to classical and modern Darwinian theory. And it is the meaning of evolution that the theory of intelligent design is challenging. We do not think that there is evidence that a purely undirected mechanism has produced every appearance of design in nature or in biology. Neither do I see, as a matter of logic, how even God could have used a purely undirected process to create life. Not even God can direct an undirected process because as soon as He does, it is no longer undirected. If God is directing the process of evolution, it is no longer Darwinian; instead, at that point it becomes a mode or form of intelligent design.
TT: Some scientists argue that intelligent design is not real science because it “gives up” looking for the observable explanation too soon. How do you respond to such charges?
SM: Neo-Darwinism does not posit an observable explanation for the origin of new forms of life from simpler pre-existing forms. It posits unobservable past entities and events — transitional intermediate forms of life and unobservable past mutational events. But positing unobservable entities or events is nothing unusual in science. Scientists often posit unobservable entities to explain observable phenomena. For this reason, I have argued that positing the unobservable activity of a designing intelligence violates no sound canon of scientific reasoning. What matters is not whether the explanatory entity can be observed, but how well it explains the evidence. In any case, I am happy to have scientists continue to try to find materialistic explanations for the origin of life and the origin of biological information. Their attempts to date have only strengthened my case for intelligent design because all attempts to simulate the origin of digital or genetic information have invariably involved the use of intelligence, typically the intelligence of a scientist or computer programmer.
TT: The age of the earth remains a highly contentious point of disagreement among Christians. How should believers deal with this subject?
SM: The case for intelligent design that I make does not depend upon a particular view of the age of the earth. Neither is the age of the earth a primary concern of the intelligent design research community. My own view is that the earth is very old, but I have some colleagues who take the opposite view. We tend not to make it an issue in our scientific work on design. This seems like a good policy generally.
TT: Many Christians believe science is in conflict with Scripture and with faith. Should Christians have this fear of science?
SM: Definitely not. I think many discoveries of modern science have positive, faith-affirming implications, including the discovery that the universe, time, and space had a beginning; that the laws and constants of physics are finely tuned to allow for the possibility of life; and that biological systems display striking evidence of design, in particular, the molecular machinery and digital information we find in living cells. It’s a great time for Christians to work in science.
Stephen Meyer Books:
By John Walvoord
Daniel’s Fourth Vision: Resurrections of the End Time
Daniel was informed that many who die will be resurrected: “Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt” ( Dan. 12:2 ). This prophecy concerns the fact of resurrection. In reconstruction of the order of resurrection, it is clear that all will not be resurrected at the same time. Also mentioned in relation to Christ’s resurrection was the token resurrection of a small number of saints ( Matt. 27:51–53 ). At the rapture of the church at the end of the present age, members of the body of Christ — Christians who died since Pentecost — will be raised from among the dead. A special resurrection also was revealed concerning the two witnesses ( Rev. 11:3–13 ), who will be raised and caught up to heaven at the conclusion of their witness (v. 12 ). All of these resurrections precede the resurrection at the time of the second coming ( Dan. 12:2–3 ). The resurrection of some to shame and everlasting contempt (v. 2 ) will not occur until the end of the millennium, as is made clear in Revelation 20:4–6, 11–15. The resurrection here extended to all the saved of the Old Testament, whether Jews or Gentiles, all who were not resurrected at the time of the rapture. They will be given resurrection life and new bodies and will enter the millennial kingdom as resurrected people. Tribulation saints will also be raised (v. 4 ). At the beginning of the millennium the only ones remaining in the grave will be the unsaved.
The time of resurrection will be a time of reward as well, and Daniel was told, “Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever” ( Dan. 12:3 ). Just as those who are raptured will be judged and rewarded at the judgment seat of Christ, so all other saints who have died will be resurrected at the time of the second coming and, in like manner, be rewarded for what they have done for God.
Daniel’s Fourth Vision: Outcome of the End Time
Daniel 12:4. Though Daniel had been a faithful recorder of the prophecies received from God, he only partially understood what he was writing. Then Daniel was instructed, “But you, Daniel, close up and seal the words of the scroll until the time of the end” (v. 4 ). Those who will profit most by the prophecies of Daniel will be those who are living in the end time. Even today, before the climactic events take place that will follow the rapture, it is possible to interpret most of Daniel’s prophecies and find fulfillment of these prophecies in history. Those not fulfilled will yet be fulfilled. The age leading up to the end was characterized in the final words: “Many will go here and there to increase knowledge” (v. 4 ). The implication is that they will rush around trying to increase knowledge. Our modern world is certainly characterized by this, and there is more scientific discovery in one year now than there used to be in a century. But the sad fact is that most of this knowledge does not pertain to eternal values and does not prepare a person for the coming of the Lord. Too often in an intellectual world, the Scriptures, which are the fountain of all truth about God and His plan for the universe, are neglected.
Daniel 12:5–13. In receiving further revelation, Daniel was still standing on the bank of the Tigris ( 10:4 ), and now he saw two others, one on one side of the river and one on the other side. He heard them conversing: “One of them said to the man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, ‘How long will it be before these astonishing things are fulfilled?’” ( 12:6 ). The Scriptures record the other man’s reply: “The man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, lifted his right hand and his left hand toward heaven, and I heard him swear by him who lives forever, saying, ‘It will be for a time, times and half a time’” (v. 7 ). The expression “time, times and half a time” (cf. 7:25; Rev. 12:14 ) is the final three and a half years before the second coming. In connection with the great tribulation, the woman, referring to the nation of Israel, was declared to be protected “for a time, times and half a time” from the persecution of Satan (v. 14 ). Though many Israelites will be killed in the great tribulation ( 7:9–17 ), the nation as such will survive, will be regathered ( Ezek. 20:33–38 ), and will be judged, and only those who are saved will be allowed to enter the millennial kingdom. Because the period of the great tribulation was declared to be forty-two months (cf. Dan. 9:27; Rev. 13:5 ), the expression is best understood as being that a “time” is one year, “times” two years, and “a half a time” a half a year, adding up to three and a half years.
Daniel was also informed that “when the power of the holy people has been finally broken, all these things will be completed” (v. 7 ). As indicated in many Scriptures such as Revelation 13:7, the people of Israel as well as Gentiles who become Christians will be subject to purging judgments at the hand of the world ruler at the end of time, who will attempt to exterminate all Christians and all Jews.
Scriptures are clear that sometimes God has permitted martyrdom, but on other occasions He delivered His people from martyrdom, as illustrated in the 144,000 of Revelation 7.
Daniel again declared that he did not understand the prophecy and that he asked, “My Lord, what will the outcome of all this be?” ( Dan. 12:8 ).
The angel replied, “Go your way, Daniel, because the words are closed up and sealed until the time of the end” (v. 9 ). Daniel was further instructed that in the end time some will be purified by their persecution but that the wicked will continue to be wicked: “Many will be purified, made spotless and refined, but the wicked will continue to be wicked. None of the wicked will understand, but those who are wise will understand” (v. 10 ).
The climax of the time of the end is summarized by the angel: “From the time that the daily sacrifice is abolished and the abomination that causes desolation is set up, there will be 1,290 days. Blessed is the one who waits for and reaches the end of the 1,335 days” (vv. 11–12 ).
Other Scriptures confirm this brief summary of the end time of approximately three and a half years. The beginning of the three and a half years of the great tribulation will feature the abolishment of the daily sacrifices and the setting up of an abomination in the temple ( 7:25; 9:27; Rev. 11:2–3 ). The time in view will be the great tribulation, the last three and a half years leading up to the second coming of Christ. This will be a terrible time of divine judgment as well as governmental persecution as brought out in Revelation 6:1–18:24. Because three and a half years of 360 days each, commonly used as a prophetic year, did not explain the additional 30 days in the figure 1,290, two explanations remain possible. It may be that the announcement of the stopping of the sacrifices will occur 30 days before the middle of the last 7 years, allowing for the remaining 1,260 days to climax in the second coming of Christ. Another explanation is that when Christ comes back, there will be a time gap before the millennium as He begins to deal with judgments, which may not all take place in a few days. In that case the 30 days would be a period in which Christ begins to bring to bear His judgment on the world before the millennium begins.
In any event, at the time of the second coming the wicked will be brought to trial. The sheep will be rescued and will enter the kingdom, but the goats will be put to death ( Matt. 24:36–41; 25:31–46 ). These passages seem to refer to Gentile judgment particularly, but the Jews will experience a similar purging judgment ( Ezek. 20:33–38 ). In these judgments all adult unbelievers, whether Jew or Gentile, will be purged, and only believers will be allowed to enter the millennial kingdom, with children who are not old enough to make a decision apparently exempted from judgment. Accordingly, anyone who lives to the end of the 1,335 days will be saved because the purging judgments have taken place of all the unsaved before this time is reached. Accordingly, those who remain will be allowed to enter the millennial kingdom.
Daniel obviously did not understand these prophecies, though today with the perspective of history and many prophecies being fulfilled, interpreters can understand it better than he could. But Daniel was told simply that he would go on his way, that is, he would die, and then at the end of days, namely, at the time of the second coming of Christ, he would be resurrected: “As for you, go your way till the end. You will rest, and then at the end of the days you will rise to receive your allotted inheritance” ( Dan. 12:13 ).
The Great Scope of Daniel’s Prophecies
The tremendous scope of Daniel’s prophetic revelation can hardly be overemphasized. Only the book of Daniel gives us the sweep of Israel’s history in 490 years with the present age interjected between the 483rd year and the 490th year. Likewise, Gentile prophecy, describing the empires of Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome, has the same course, beginning at 605 BC when Nebuchadnezzar conquered Jerusalem and extending to the second coming of Christ when Gentile power will be destroyed and the world ruler will be cast into the lake of fire.
Like the panoramic view of Israel, Gentile prophecies relating to the kingdoms will be interrupted by the present age, extending from the first coming of Christ to the period just before His second coming and excluding the period from Pentecost to the rapture of the church. The revelation of Daniel is not only essential to understanding Old Testament prophecy, but in a particular sense it is the key to understanding the book of Revelation. The book of Daniel supports the idea that the book of Revelation from chapter 4 on is yet to come from our present point of view, like the end times of the Gentiles in Daniel, as well as the end times in the course of Israel’s prophetic future.
By Bernie van Eyk 4/01/2012
“People are starving for the greatness of God,” observes John Piper, “but most of them would not give this diagnosis of their troubled lives. The majesty of God is an unknown cure. There are far more popular prescriptions on the market, but the benefit of any other remedy is brief and shallow. Thus preaching that does not have the aroma of God’s greatness may entertain for a season, but it will not touch the hidden cry of the soul: ‘Show me your glory.’” Our greatest need, as we walk through the wilderness of this present age, is to see what the Apostle John saw on the Isle of Patmos — a glimpse of the glory of God.
Yet, as preachers we want to connect with the congregation, don’t we? We want to be relevant. We want to meet our flocks where they are. We have heard the protests for more “practical sermons.” These critics desire sermons that instruct on “how I can be a better self,” “how I can deal with stress in my life,” or “how I can be more successful.” And so, acquiescing to these laments, therapy has replaced theology in much contemporary preaching. The self has acquired center stage, and God, if He is there at all, has been marginalized. The focus has shifted from God, who He is and what He has done, to self and our activity, our needs, and our experiences. The assumption, of course, is that theology is not practical, that the study of God is irrelevant for our daily lives. But nothing could be further from the truth. What our people need is God-centered preaching.
We need to preach the Word if God’s people are ever to catch a glimpse of the glory of God (1 Tim. 4:4). It’s through the Word that the Spirit reveals to us God — His person, name, attributes, work, and glory. The Bible was given to reveal God to His people so that they might know, love, and worship Him. The Bible is fundamentally a book about God. This might come as a surprise to some. Because of our natural bent toward self, we tend to think that the Bible is a book about us. It is not. It is, from beginning to end, a book about God: “In the beginning, God” (Gen. 1:1).
If the Word is theocentric (God-centered), how can our preaching be anything other that theocentric? Our preaching is a reflection of our theology. When our theology is focused on God and His glory, our preaching will be the same. In our narcissistic culture, plagued with materialism, pragmatism, and relativism, a concentrated emphasis on God and His glory is precisely what our people need. Our minds and our hearts need to be lifted from the things that can be seen and directed to the things that are unseen and eternal. Wasn’t this the remedy for Asaph’s troubled soul (Ps. 73)? He had become so absorbed with self and the comforts of this present age that he became envious of the wicked — until, that is, he entered the temple of God. It was only as his eyes shifted from things temporal to things eternal that his mind and heart were recalibrated.
God-centered preaching, however, does not negate the need for preaching Christ; rather, it requires it. God-centered preaching must necessarily be focused on Christ, for it is only as we see Christ that we can know God (John 1:18). It is only through Christ, who is the exact imprint of God, that we come to know and love God. Jesus Christ is the sum and substance of all the Scriptures: “For all the promises of God find their Yes in him” (2 Cor. 1:20). That’s why Paul can boldly declare to the Corinthians, “I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2); to the Colossians succinctly state, “Him we proclaim” (Col. 1:28); and at the same time acknowledge to the elders at Ephesus that he “did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27). Jesus Christ is the One sent from heaven (John 6) to deliver us from this present evil age and bring us to God. He is Immanuel — God with us — and He is God for us and, by his Holy Spirit, God in us.
Only preaching that is centered on the triune God and His majesty and condescending love for sinners, demonstrated in Jesus Christ, will solicit the eternal doxology: “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever” (Rev. 5:13).
God-centered preaching exposes the things of this passing age as forfeit and rouses the soul to confess with Asaph: “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Ps. 73:25–26). It is only as God’s people catch a vision of God in all of His splendid glory that they will begin to ache for uninterrupted communion with Him and more earnestly pray, “Come, Lord Jesus” (Rev. 22:20). Can anything be more relevant to our daily lives than God-centered preaching? And can anything be more satisfying than to see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ?
Jesus: The Only Savior
By R.C. Sproul 4/01/2012
I cannot imagine an affirmation that would meet with more resistance from contemporary Westerners than the one Paul makes in 1 Timothy 2:5: “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.”This declaration is narrow and downright un-American. We have been inundated with the viewpoint that there are many roads that lead to heaven, and that God is not so narrow that He requires a strict allegiance to one way of salvation. If anything strikes at the root of the tree of pluralism and relativism, it is a claim of exclusivity to any one religion. A statement such as Paul makes in his first letter to Timothy is seen as bigoted and hateful.
Paul, of course, is not expressing bigotry or hatefulness at all. He is simply expressing the truth of God, the same truth Jesus taught when He said: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Paul is affirming the uniqueness of Christ, specifically in His role as Mediator. A mediator is a go-between, someone who stands between two parties that are estranged or involved in some kind of dispute. Paul declares that Christ is the only Mediator between two parties at odds with one another — God and men.
We encounter mediators throughout the Bible. Moses, for example, was the mediator of the old covenant. He represented the people of Israel in his discussions with God, and he was God’s spokesman to the people. The prophets in the Old Testament had a mediatorial function, serving as the spokesmen for God to the people. Also, the high priest of Israel functioned as a mediator; he spoke to God on behalf of the people. Even the king of Israel was a kind of mediator; he was seen as God’s representative to the people, so God held him accountable to rule in righteousness according to the law of the Old Testament.
Why, then, does Paul say there is only one mediator between God and man? I believe we have to understand the uniqueness of Christ’s mediation in terms of the uniqueness of His person. He is the God-man, that is, God incarnate. In order to bring about reconciliation between God and humanity, the second person of the Trinity united to Himself a human nature. Thus, Jesus has the qualifications to bring about reconciliation — He represents both sides perfectly.
People ask me, “Why is God so narrow that He provided only one Savior?” I do not think that is the question we ought to ask. Instead, we should ask, “Why did God give us any way at all to be saved?” In other words, why did He not just condemn us all? Why did God, in His grace, give to us a Mediator to stand in our place, to receive the judgment we deserve, and to give to us the righteousness we desperately need? The astonishing thing is not that He did not do it in multiple ways, but that He did it in even one way.
Notice that Paul, in declaring the uniqueness of Christ, also affirms the uniqueness of God: “There is one God.” This divine uniqueness was declared throughout the Old Testament; the very first commandment was a commandment of exclusivity: “You shall have no other gods before me” (Ex. 20:3).
So Paul brings all these strands together. There is only one God, and God has only one Son, and the Son is the sole Mediator between God and mankind. As I said above, that is very difficult for people who have been immersed in pluralism to accept, but they have to quarrel with Christ and His Apostles on this point. The Bible offers no hope that sincere worshipers of other religions will be saved without personal faith in Jesus Christ. As Paul said in Athens, “The times of ignorance God has overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30). There is a universal requirement for people to profess faith in Christ.
Perhaps you are concerned to hear me talk in such narrow terms of the exclusivity of Christ and of the Christian faith. If so, let me ask you to think through the ramifications of putting leaders of other religions on the same level as Christ. In one sense, there is no greater insult to Christ than to mention Him in the same breath as Muhammad, for example. If Christ is who He claims to be, no one else can be a way to God. Furthermore, if it is true that there are many ways to God, Christ is not one of them, because there is no reason one of many ways to God would declare to the world that He is the only way to God.
As we celebrate the death and resurrection of Christ this month, it is good for us to remember the uniqueness of Christ. May we never suggest that God has not done enough for us, considering what He has done for us in Christ Jesus.
Robert Charles Sproul, 2/13/1939 – 12/14/2017 was an American theologian, author, and ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America. Dr. R.C. Sproul was founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries, an international Christian education and discipleship organization located near Orlando, Fla. He was also copastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., chancellor of Reformation Bible College, and executive editor of Tabletalk magazine. Dr. Sproul has contributed dozens of articles to national evangelical publications, has spoken at conferences, churches, and schools around the world, and has written more than one hundred books. He also served as general editor of the Reformation Study Bible.R.C. Sproul Books | Go to Books Page
Growing in Humility
By Geoffrey Thomas 5/01/2016
There is no other way of achieving humility than by looking unto Jesus. Paul tells us, “He humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:8). The Son of God humbled Himself. That was something extraordinary. But there is more. He was made in human likeness. God the Son in a stable, His diapers being changed, and His being washed and fed by a young mother, Mary. But there is more. He took the very nature of a servant. God washing feet. But there is more. As Donald Macleod states in A Faith to Live By:
What did the angels think of it all? One day they blinked in astonishment as they saw their great Creator in a manger in Bethlehem. They must have found the spectacle incomprehensible. Then as the days and years moved on they saw a drama unfold which must have overloaded every circuit in their computers. One day word came that their Lord was in Gethsemane, and one of them had been sent to strengthen him. Hours later there came even more astonishing news: he was bleeding on the cross of Calvary. That, surely, was the bottom: the very worst! But no! The next thing was, the Father had forsaken him! The God whose whole impulse it was to wash away the tears from the eyes of his people not washing away the tears of his own Son! That’s how it was from beginning to end of the earthly life: down! The tremendous step from throne to stable, and then the incredible journey from the stable to the cross and beyond it the journey on the cross itself from the immolation to the dereliction. The angels must have been saying, “Will this never end? How low is he going to go? How low does he have to go?”
Notice three things about the structure of Paul’s comments on humility.
First, “He humbled himself.” Jesus quite deliberately took each step by Himself. In other words, there was not just a single plinth (platform) and then one step down from the throne to our redemption. No. There was a ladder that went down and down, and on each step were carved such words as these: conception, birth, stable, infantile weakness, refugee in Egypt, carpenter’s shop, baptism, wilderness temptations, Satan, constant travel, endless teaching, exhausting healings, betrayal, Gethsemane, flogging, crucifixion, dereliction, abandonment, death, burial. Christ goes down and down. On the cross, He plumbed the depths of the lake of fire when He entered into the cosmic incinerator of sin called Golgotha.
Second, Paul says that Jesus “became obedient to death.” The key word here is “obedient.” Christ’s sufferings were not fate. It was not that some great whirling wheel came crashing into the life of Jesus, and He was helpless before it. It was no calamity. It was not the accident of suffering. It was obedience to God’s appointing Him to become the Lamb of God who would take away the sin of the world. So, it was obedience to all the implications of that—arrest, trial, scourging, mockery, unbearable pain.
God made Him to be sin who knew no sin that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him (2 Cor. 5:21), and we are saying that at every stage the Son was obedient. The first Adam couldn’t even obey the simple command not to take a fruit from one tree in Paradise. The last Adam displayed a range of costly obediences year after year in the wilderness of this world. By the disobedience of one man, many were made sinners, and so by the obedience of one man, many were made righteous. From Bethlehem to Golgotha, the God-man practiced obedience. It was vicarious obedience, and that obedience of Christ is the believing sinner’s righteousness. We are clothed with all the merit, all the eloquence, and all the discernment of the unfaltering obedience of the Son of God from the cradle to the cross. There was no moment in that whole experience when He was not the Redeemer. There was no day in that full life when He was not acting in a substitutionary capacity. Each moment had the glory of grace and truth, the glory of the staggering obedience of the incarnate God. That is what is imputed to us so that we are clothed with His merit and righteousness.
Finally, we are told that Jesus “became obedient to death—even death on a cross.” There is death, and then there is death. There is what Revelation calls the second death, but there is a death for the Christian that cannot separate us from the love of God in Christ. There is the anticipation of a death that means being absent from the body and present with the Lord. That death is without sting, a death without anathema and condemnation. But that is not the death referred to in Philippians 2. The death in Philippians 2 is the cursed death, the second death. He who knew no sin died as one to whom guilt and shame have been given. He died paying the wages of sin. He died as one made sin and not spared. He died with God’s absolute integrity confronting Him, and there was no mitigation. God doesn’t say, “How obedient He’s been, so I must spare Him.” God did not spare Him. All that our sin deserves went over His soul in this death. All consciousness of the divine favor was withdrawn from Him.
This is the example of Christ. So we are of the same mind, having the same love. We refuse to look to our own interests, but we are very concerned for the interests of others. Costly love. Hurting love. Golgotha love. Servant love. The world is to see that love in the Christian community, and that will make its own impact on them.
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 89I Will Sing of the Steadfast Love of the LORD
89 A Maskil Of Ethan The Ezrahite.
34 I will not violate my covenant
or alter the word that went forth from my lips.
35 Once for all I have sworn by my holiness;
I will not lie to David.
36 His offspring shall endure forever,
his throne as long as the sun before me.
37 Like the moon it shall be established forever,
a faithful witness in the skies.” Selah
38 But now you have cast off and rejected;
you are full of wrath against your anointed.
39 You have renounced the covenant with your servant;
you have defiled his crown in the dust.
40 You have breached all his walls;
you have laid his strongholds in ruins.
41 All who pass by plunder him;
he has become the scorn of his neighbors.
42 You have exalted the right hand of his foes;
you have made all his enemies rejoice.
43 You have also turned back the edge of his sword,
and you have not made him stand in battle.
44 You have made his splendor to cease
and cast his throne to the ground.
45 You have cut short the days of his youth;
you have covered him with shame. Selah
Pop Goes the Evangelical
By Keith Mathison 12/1/2008
What do commercialism, the problem of evil, Chick tracts, American Idol, and Francis Beckwith’s recent conversion to Roman Catholicism have in common? Anyone? If you couldn’t come up with an answer, not to worry. One would be hard-pressed to find an overarching conceptual category that would encompass all of these topics, not to mention creeds and confessions, anti-aging products, and the Psalms, but they all have one thing in common. At one point or another, they have all been the subject of Carl Trueman’s wide ranging interests, and they are all discussed in his most recent book, Minority Report: Unpopular Thoughts on Everything from Ancient Christianity to Zen Calvinism (Sent to Save) by Carl R. Trueman (2008-03-20).
There is some difficulty involved in explaining the contents of a book like Minority Report. It has no overarching theme or thesis. Instead, it is a collection of essays on a wide-range of subjects, or as the subtitle expresses it: Unpopular Thoughts on Everything from Ancient Christian-ity to Zen-Calvinism. The author, Dr. Carl R. Trueman, is the Dean of Faculty and professor of historical theology and church history at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. He has authored or coauthored several books, including John Owen, Protestant Scholasticism, and Luther’s Legacy. He has also written another collection of short essays entitled The Wages of Spin.
The first four chapters in part one of Minority Report are somewhat longer than the remaining chapters in part two. Chapter one is a revised version of Trueman’s inaugural lecture as professor of historical theology and church history at Westminster Seminary. In it Trueman lays out his agenda for the study of church history. Chapter two is a previously published editorial in which Trueman draws together insights from the evangelical scholar Carl F. H. Henry and the Palestinian scholar Edward Said. Chapter three is a paper delivered at the Veritas Forum on the subject of evil. Finally, chapter four is Trueman’s critical review of Mark Noll’s book Is the Reformation Over?
The chapters in part two are substantially shorter. Many were first published on the website Reformation 21. In this section, Trueman deals with a variety of issues. He begins with a discussion of apathy — the characteristic vice of the modern Western world. He continues with an essay on the importance of teaching (and thus learning) history. A particularly thought-provoking chapter is titled “A Good Creed Seldom Goes Unpunished.” In this essay, Trueman walks the fine line between those who espouse the creed “No Creed But Christ” and those who elevate creeds and confessions to practical equality with Scripture. A recurring theme appears in the fourth chapter of this section, as Trueman discusses some reasons behind evangelical conversions to Rome.
The effects of our culture’s gradual acceptance of homosexuality is the focus of the fifth short piece in part two. Trueman argues that we should not despair because as homosexuality becomes more accepted, true Christianity becomes what it was in the first decades of the church — a scandal. In reflecting on the conversion of Francis Beckwith to Rome, Trueman outlines several things evangelicals can learn from Rome (not least, how to write well) as well as the disagreements we cannot overlook.
Another recurring theme in the book is what evangelicals need to learn from the Psalms, and this is the particular focus of chapter seven. The Psalms offer a look at authentic spiritual experience and must not be neglected. The cult of fame associated with the television program American Idol and the new problems created by the blog world come under scrutiny in following chapters. The blog world, according to Trueman, has confused the right to speak (which belongs to all) with the right to be heard (which must be earned). The remaining chapters deal with topics as diverse as death, the dangers of leadership, and something Trueman refers to (with tongue in cheek) as “Zen-Calvinism,” a way of living that is so focused on Christ and His kingdom, and so mindful of the fallen state of creation and the depravity of man, that the problems of life do not shock us.
Carl Trueman’s goal in Minority Report is to force readers to think about what they believe, how they behave, and why. With wit and wisdom he topples the idols of contemporary pop-evangelicalism and dares us to reflect on matters many of us would rather not. Few will agree with everything Trueman says, but this is not his goal. His goal is to prod the minds of an apathetic generation of believers, and in this he succeeds.
Per Amazon, Keith A. Mathison (MA, Reformed Theological Seminary; PhD, Whitefield Theological Seminary) is dean of the Ligonier Academy of Biblical and Theological Studies and an associate editor of Tabletalk magazine at Ligonier Ministries. He is editor of When Shall These Things Be: A Reformed Response to Hyper-Preterism and associate editor of The Reformation Study Bible. He lives in Lake Mary, Florida, with his wife and children.Keith Mathison Books:
- 1 Postmillennialism: An Eschatology of Hope
- 2 The Shape of Sola Scriptura
- 3 Given for You: Reclaiming Calvin's Doctrine of the Lord's Supper
- 4 From Age to Age: The Unfolding of Biblical Eschatology
- 5 Dispensationalism: Rightly Dividing the People of God?
- 6 A Reformed Approach to Science and Scripture
- 7 Not a Chance: God, Science, and the Revolt against Reason
- 8 When Shall These Things Be?: A Reformed Response to Hyper-Preterism
The Unexpected Value of Insignificance
By Mark Moore 4/22/2016
Are you accomplishing something significant? Do you see yourself as significant?
Feeling significant is a major quest for some people. In fact, it is a deep-rooted identity issue. Our society contributes to this issue by attempting to make everyone feel significant–thus our kids play games at school where there are no winners or losers. On one level we could legitimately say that in our culture “feeling significant” is a basic human need.
In Richard Rohr’s outstanding book, Adam’s Return: The Five Promises of Male Initiation, he describes the practice of male initiation rites and vision quests that many cultures have practiced throughout the ages. His study reveals that there are five common themes in all male initiation rites, no matter the people or culture. These five themes, which he calls promises, are:
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Mark Moore is a Director of Church Mobilization at International Justice Mission. He equips churches and communities by sharing the biblical call to seek justice, introducing them to IJM’s work, and mobilizing them to engage in both local and global ministry. Prior to joining IJM, Mark spent eleven years as the pastor of Providence Community, a church he planted in Dallas, TX. Mark is also a faculty member at The Leadership Institute in California where he helps train leaders who listen to God, follow Jesus’ rhythms of life, and lead from the overflow. He is currently writing a book called The Unlikely Contemplative (InterVarsity Press), which addresses the challenges of being a driven visionary leader and a contemplative.
The Continual Burnt Offering (John 16:26)
By H.A. Ironside - 1941
August 19John 16:26 In that day you will ask in my name, and I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; ESV
How terribly do they dishonor God who tell us that angels, apostles, the mother of Jesus, or other eminent saints are necessary as go - betweens in order that we may receive of the Father! Even our Lord Jesus Himself tells us the Father gives out of the love of His own heart. It is not necessary to have someone as a special pleader on our behalf, “The Father Himself loves you.” How blessed to realize this, and so to go to Him with implicit confidence, assured that He delights to do for us everything that is consistent with His holy purpose and therefore which will be for our good.
If you had been living when Christ was on earth,
And had met the Saviour kind,
What would you have asked Him to do for you.
Supposing you were stone blind?
The child considered, and then replied,—
“I expect that, without doubt,
I’d have asked for a dog, with a collar and chain,
To lead me daily about.”
And how often thus, in our faithless prayers,
We acknowledge with shamed surprise,
We have only asked for a dog and a chain,
When we might have had—opened eyes.
--- M. Colley
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
2/1/2017 Joy in Christ Alone
Christianity is a religion of joy. Real joy comes from God, who has invaded us, conquered us, and liberated us from eternal death and sadness—who has given us hope and joy because He has poured out His love within our hearts by the Holy Spirit whom He has given us (Rom. 5:5). Joy comes from God, not from within. When we look within, we just get sad. We have joy only when we look outside ourselves to Christ. Without Christ, joy is not only hard to find, it’s impossible to find. The world desperately seeks joy, but in all the wrong places. However, our joy comes because Christ sought us, found us, and keeps us. We cannot have joy apart from Christ, because it doesn’t exist. Joy is not something we can conjure up.
Joy isn’t the absence of sadness—it’s the presence of the Holy Spirit. And although the Holy Spirit produces joy within us, He often does so by humbling us so that we would take our eyes off ourselves and fix our eyes on Christ. Real joy exists even amid real sadness, and real joy doesn’t always mean there’s a smile on our faces. It sometimes means we are on our knees with tears of repentance. Charles Spurgeon admitted, “I do not know when I am more perfectly happy than when I am weeping for sin at the foot of the cross.” Joy comes in repentance and forgiveness and by daily looking to Christ and living for His glory, not by looking to self and living for our glory. But if we live each day bearing the shame of yesterday and the anxieties of tomorrow, we will never experience the joys of today. So let us always be quick to run to the cross to seek the joy that only Christ can give, for trying to find joy apart from Christ is like trying to find day without the sun.
Christ was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief in order that we might have fullness of joy, now and forever. This is why the first answer of the Westminster Shorter Catechism teaches us that “man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.” C.S. Lewis rightly said that “joy is the serious business of heaven.” But having real joy that comes from enjoying God is not something we will experience only in heaven. It is what we experience now. For the greatest joy in this life is to know that our greatest joy is not in this life but in the one to come. We live each day in light of our hope for the future, when Christ “will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Rev. 21). And when we see Christ, He will dry every tear from our eyes—not just our tears of sadness, but our tears of joy as well. Otherwise, we would never be able to see Him.
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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
A graduate of Georgetown University, he was a Rhodes Scholar before becoming the Governor of Arkansas and then America’s 42nd President. In 1998, he became the 2nd president ever to be impeached. His original name was William Jefferson Blythe IV, born this day, August 19, 1946. At age 15, he took his stepfather’s name Clinton. Also on this day, August 19, 1785, Thomas Jefferson wrote to a friend: “He who permits himself to tell a lie once, finds it much easier to do it a second and third time, till at length it becomes habitual… This falsehood of the tongue leads to that of the heart.”
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
A carefully cultivated heart will,
assisted by the grace of God,
or transform most of the painful situations
before which others stand
like helpless children saying “Why?"
--- Dallas Willard
Renovation of the Heart: Putting On the Character of Christ
A waiting person is a patient person. The word patience means the willingness to stay where we are and live the situation out to the full in the belief that something hidden there will manifest itself to us.
--- Henri J.M. Nouwen
I have held many things in my hands, and I have lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God’s hands, that I still possess.
--- Martin Luther
The cross undermines our self-righteousness. We can stand before it only with a bowed head and a broken spirit. And there we remain until the Lord Jesus speaks to our hearts his word of pardon and acceptance, and we, gripped by his love and brimful of thanksgiving, go out into the world to live our lives in his service.
--- John Stott
The Cross of Christ
What makes you think that we can do it instead of God?
... from here, there and everywhere
Were They Real?
You might be wondering, “Why on earth are you offering evidence for the existence of the apostles? Does anyone really question that they were real?” Well, yes, some do. Recently I had a debate about the fate of the apostles with mythicist Ken Humphreys on Premier Christian Radio. Unsurprisingly, he began by questioning that the apostles even existed.
If you are surprised that the existence of the apostles is questioned, then you are in good company. In the third volume of his massive text, A Marginal Jew, historical Jesus scholar John Meier laments that he even needs to defend that Jesus had a group of followers known as the Twelve: “Fortunately we don’t need to spend a great deal of time on the question of whether Jesus in fact had disciples during his lifetime, since the historicity of some such group is rarely if ever denied.” A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus, Volume III: Companions and Competitors (The Anchor Yale Bible Reference Library)
Nevertheless, here is a simple case for the historicity of the Twelve from my book The Fate of the Apostles: Examining the Martyrdom Accounts of the Closest Followers of Jesus:
1. Multiple Attestation
A group known as “The Twelve” is multiple attested in various sources and forms. Reference to the Twelve appears ten times in Mark (some of these cases, such as 3:13-19, may even be pre-Markan). Mention of the disciples also exists in John (e.g., 6:67, 20:24), Q (Matt 19:28 || Luke 22:30), and in the writings of Paul (1 Cor. 15:5).
2. Criterion of Embarrassment
It would have been embarrassing for the early church to invent a disciple of Jesus who betrayed him. Meier observes, “The criterion of embarrassment clearly comes in to play as well, for there is no cogent reason why the early church should have gone out of its way to invent such a troubling tradition as Jesus’ betrayal by Judas, one of his chosen Twelve.” The Fate of the Apostles: Examining the Martyrdom Accounts of the Closest Followers of Jesus
3. Lack of Flowery Details in the Early Church
To provide evidence against the existence of the apostles, Humphreys writes:
“The apostles should be twelve of the most famous people in history. We're told they were hand picked by Jesus to witness his wondrous deeds, learn his sublime teachings, and take the good news of his kingdom to the ends of the earth. Which makes it all the more surprising that we know next to nothing about them. We can't even be sure of their names: It should be apparent that if the twelve were actual historical figures, with such an important role in the foundation and growth of the Church, it would be impossible to have such wild confusion over the basic question of who they really were.” Ken Humphreys, “The 12 Apostles: Fabricated Followers of a Fabricated Saviour,” accessed August 13, 2016: http://www.jesusneverexisted.com/apostles.html.
He makes a fair point, but in reality, I think the evidence points the exact other direction. Think about it: If the early church had invented the apostles, then we would expect the earliest records (such as Acts) to be filled with details about their lives and exploits. If the early church made them up, they would have likely felt the need to give us substantial details of about their lives and ministries to justify their existence. The mere fact that these flowery details are scant in the earliest records is evidence that the early church did not invent their existence and that they go back to the time of the historical Jesus. Craig S. Keener explains why there is not more focus in the early church on the individual apostles:
“Although these witnesses were foundational (cf. similarly Eph 2:20), from the standpoint of Luke’s theology, such choices did not exalt the individuals chosen as individuals (hence the emphasis on their backgrounds, e.g., Luke 5:8; 22:34; Acts 8:3); rather, these choices highlighted God’s sovereign plan to fulfill the mission effectively … apart from Jesus, all the protagonists would be like David, who passed from the scene after fulfilling God’s purpose in his generation (Acts 13:36).” Acts: An Exegetical Commentary
4. Onomastic Studies
Richard Bauckham recently completed an onomastic study of Jewish names in the first century that lends additional support to the authenticity of the Twelve. Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony Among Jews in first century Palestine there were a small number of very popular names and a large number of rare ones. As would be expected, if the tradition of the Twelve were reliable, a combination of common and rare names would be on the lists. This is exactly what we find.
Taken together, these facts make it highly likely the Twelve existed as a special group of disciples who formed an inner circle around Jesus. Some scholars do doubt the existence of the Twelve (such as Rudolf Bultmann). Yet given the nature of the evidence, the vast majority accepts it. In fact, E.P. Sanders considers the existence of the Twelve among the “(almost) indisputable facts about Jesus.” Jesus and Judaism
Thanks to Meir Yona
31. About this time it was that Vespasian sent out Trajan against a city called Japha, that lay near to Jotapata, and that desired innovations, and was puffed up with the unexpected length of the opposition of Jotapata. This Trajan was the commander of the tenth legion, and to him Vespasian committed one thousand horsemen, and two thousand footmen. When Trajan came to the city, he found it hard to be taken, for besides the natural strength of its situation, it was also secured by a double wall; but when he saw the people of this city coming out of it, and ready to fight him, he joined battle with them, and after a short resistance which they made, he pursued after them; and as they fled to their first wall, the Romans followed them so closely, that they fell in together with them: but when the Jews were endeavoring to get again within their second wall, their fellow citizens shut them out, as being afraid that the Romans would force themselves in with them. It was certainly God therefore who brought the Romans to punish the Galileans, and did then expose the people of the city every one of them manifestly to be destroyed by their bloody enemies; for they fell upon the gates in great crowds, and earnestly calling to those that kept them, and that by their names also, yet had they their throats cut in the very midst of their supplications; for the enemy shut the gates of the first wall, and their own citizens shut the gates of the second, so they were enclosed between two walls, and were slain in great numbers together; many of them were run through by swords of their own men, and many by their own swords, besides an immense number that were slain by the Romans. Nor had they any courage to revenge themselves; for there was added to the consternation they were in from the enemy, their being betrayed by their own friends, which quite broke their spirits; and at last they died, cursing not the Romans, but their own citizens, till they were all destroyed, being in number twelve thousand. So Trajan gathered that the city was empty of people that could fight, and although there should a few of them be therein, he supposed that they would be too timorous to venture upon any opposition; so he reserved the taking of the city to the general. Accordingly, he sent messengers to Vespasian, and desired him to send his son Titus to finish the victory he had gained. Vespasian hereupon imagining there might be some pains still necessary, sent his son with an army of five hundred horsemen, and one thousand footmen. So he came quickly to the city, and put his army in order, and set Trajan over the left wing, while he had the right himself, and led them to the siege: and when the soldiers brought ladders to be laid against the wall on every side, the Galileans opposed them from above for a while; but soon afterward they left the walls. Then did Titus's men leap into the city, and seized upon it presently; but when those that were in it were gotten together, there was a fierce battle between them; for the men of power fell upon the Romans in the narrow streets, and the women threw whatsoever came next to hand at them, and sustained a fight with them for six hours' time; but when the fighting men were spent, the rest of the multitude had their throats cut, partly in the open air, and partly in their own houses, both young and old together. So there were no males now remaining, besides infants, which, with the women, were carried as slaves into captivity; so that the number of the slain, both now in the city and at the former fight, was fifteen thousand, and the captives were two thousand one hundred and thirty. This calamity befell the Galileans on the twenty-fifth day of the month Desius [Sivan.] 32. Nor did the Samaritans escape their share of misfortunes at this time; for they assembled themselves together upon the mountain called Gerizzim, which is with them a holy mountain, and there they remained; which collection of theirs, as well as the courageous minds they showed, could not but threaten somewhat of war; nor were they rendered wiser by the miseries that had come upon their neighboring cities. They also, notwithstanding the great success the Romans had, marched on in an unreasonable manner, depending on their own weakness, and were disposed for any tumult upon its first appearance. Vespasian therefore thought it best to prevent their motions, and to cut off the foundation of their attempts. For although all Samaria had ever garrisons settled among them, yet did the number of those that were come to Mount Gerizzim, and their conspiracy together, give ground for fear what they would be at; he therefore sent thither Cerealis, the commander of the fifth legion, with six hundred horsemen, and three thousand footmen, who did not think it safe to go up to the mountain, and give them battle, because many of the enemy were on the higher part of the ground; so he encompassed all the lower part of the mountain with his army, and watched them all that day. Now it happened that the Samaritans, who were now destitute of water, were inflamed with a violent heat, [for it was summer time, and the multitude had not provided themselves with necessaries,] insomuch that some of them died that very day with heat, while others of them preferred slavery before such a death as that was, and fled to the Romans; by whom Cerealis understood that those which still staid there were very much broken by their misfortunes. So he went up to the mountain, and having placed his forces round about the enemy, he, in the first place, exhorted them to take the security of his right hand, and come to terms with him, and thereby save themselves; and assured them, that if they would lay down their arms, he would secure them from any harm; but when he could not prevail with them, he fell upon them and slew them all, being in number eleven thousand and six hundred. This was done on the twenty-seventh day of the month Desius [Sivan]. And these were the calamities that befell the Samaritans at this time.
by D.H. Stern
for he will only despise the common sense in your words.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
My Utmost for His Highest
Come unto Me. --- Matthew 11:28.
God means us to live a fully-orbed life in Christ Jesus, but there are times when that life is attacked from the outside, and we tumble into a way of introspection which we thought had gone. Self-consciousness is the first thing that will upset the completeness of the life in God, and self-consciousness continually produces wrestling. Self-consciousness is not sin; it may be produced by a nervous temperament or by a sudden dumping down into new circumstances. It is never God’s will that we should be anything less than absolutely complete in Him. Anything that disturbs rest in Him must be cured at once, and it is not cured by being ignored, but by coming to Jesus Christ. If we come to Him and ask Him to produce Christ-consciousness, He will always do it until we learn to abide in Him.
Never allow the dividing up of your life in Christ to remain without facing it. Beware of leakage, of the dividing up of your life by the influence of friends or of circumstances; beware of anything that is going to split up your oneness with Him and make you see yourself separately. Nothing is so important as to keep right spiritually. The great solution is the simple one—“Come unto Me.” The depth of our reality, intellectually, morally and spiritually, is tested by these words. In every degree in which we are not real, we will dispute rather than come.
the Poetry of RS Thomas
I look. You look
Away. No colour,
No ruffling of the brow's
Your feeling. As though I
Were not here; as
Though you were your own
Mirror, you arrange yourself
For the play. My eyes'
Adjectives; the way that
I scan you; the
Conjunction the flesh
Needs -- all these
Are as nothing
To you. Serene, cool,
Motionless, no statue
Could show less
The impression of
My regard. Madam, I
Grant the artistry
Of your part. Let us
Consider it, then,
A finished performance.
BIBLE TEXT / Exodus 31:1–5 / The Lord spoke to Moses; See, I have singled out by name Bezalel son of Uri son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. I have endowed him with a divine spirit of skill, ability, and knowledge in every kind of craft; to make designs for work in gold, silver, and copper, to cut stones for setting and to carve wood—to work in every kind of craft.
MIDRASH TEXT / Exodus Rabbah 40, 1 / The Lord spoke to Moses: See, I have singled out by name Bezalel.… Rabbi Tanḥuma bar Abba began this way, “Then He saw it and recounted it; He prepared it and searched it” (Job 28:27, authors’ translation). The Rabbis said: A person should learn by [God’s] example, saying his chapter or his aggadah or his Midrash [privately] before he plans to say it in public. He shouldn’t say: Since I know it so well, when I go to teach, I’ll just say it.
Rabbi Aḥa said, “You can learn this from God, for when He sought to say the Torah to Israel, He said it four times to Himself before He ever said it to Israel, as it says, ‘Then He saw it and recounted it; He prepared it and searched it.’ Only afterward, ‘He said to the man’ (Job 28:28, authors’ translation). So too ‘God spoke all these words’ (Exodus 20:1) and only afterwards, ‘saying’—to Israel.”
The Rabbis said: Once, Rabbi Yoḥanan ben Torta came before Rabbi Akiva. He said to him, “Come up and read from the Torah.” He said to them, “I haven’t gone over the portion,” and the Sages praised him. This is “then he saw it, and recounted it.”
Rabbi Hoshaya said, “A person who has knowledge but doesn’t possess fear of sin has nothing. A carpenter who doesn’t have a tool isn’t a carpenter. Why? For the mantle of Torah is the fear of sin, as it says, ‘Fear of God is his treasure chest’ ” (Isaiah 33:6, authors’ translation).
CONTEXT / In this Midrash, the Rabbis teach a very practical lesson: A person should learn by [God’s] example, saying his chapter or his aggadah or his Midrash in private, practicing it before he plans to say it in public. He shouldn’t say: Since I know it, the teaching, so well, when I go to teach, I’ll just say it, without first reviewing it. The Rabbis find their proof in God’s actions, reading the verse from Job—“Then He saw it and recounted it; He prepared it and searched it”—as referring to the giving of the Torah, where even God reviewed the Torah before presenting it. The Rabbis read the four verbs in one verse (“saw,” “recounted,” “prepared,” “searched”) as meaning that God (the teacher) reviewed the material (the Torah) four times before presenting it to the students (the Israelites on Mount Sinai): “God spoke all these words”—going over them mentally—before “saying” them—out loud—to the people. Only afterward, after reviewing it, “He, God, said the Torah to the man,” whom the Rabbis interpret to mean the man, Moses.
The Rabbis now bring a human example of the same principle: Once, Rabbi Yoḥanan ben Torta came before Rabbi Akiva. He, Rabbi Akiva, said to him: “Come up and read from the Torah.” He, Rabbi Yoḥanan ben Torta, said to them, those present, “I haven’t gone over the portion,” and the Sages praised him because he would not repeat in public words of Torah that he had not first reviewed in private. This is another proof of the verse “then he saw it, and recounted it.”
Our final verse, from Isaiah, emphasizes the importance of the fear of God. Rabbi Hoshaya said, “A person who has knowledge but doesn’t possess fear of sin has nothing.” In bringing the image of the carpenter—A carpenter who doesn’t have a tool isn’t a carpenter—we connect the Midrash back to the Torah verse and Bezalel. He was the artisan chosen by God to oversee the building of the Tabernacle, the portable sanctuary that the Israelites carried with them in the wilderness. The word used for the skill that God gave to Bezalel (“I have endowed him with a divine spirit of skill”) is the same word as for “wisdom,” חָכְמָה/ḥokhmah, used in Job. The Rabbis understood חָכְמָה/ḥokhmah in both instances to mean the Torah.
Why is a carpenter without a tool not a carpenter? For the mantle of Torah is the fear of sin, as it says, “Fear of God is his treasure chest.” The word אוֹצָר/otzar can mean “a treasure,” but is probably understood by Rabbi Hoshaya in a very concrete way, as a treasure chest, and is thus analogous to the carpenter’s tool box. Knowledge of Torah alone is not enough; one must also posses a fear of, or reverence for, God. This is the Rabbi’s “set of tools” that enable him to build and fashion a world based on Torah.
I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father.
--- John 17:20–21.
The third 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.) I see Jesus Christ standing in that night hour with his little company of eleven. He sends his thoughts down the years to dwell on those who would believe on him, and his heart went out toward them, praying “that all of them may be one.” Jesus Christ bends now from the mediator’s throne with endless solicitude for every human heart that looks lovingly up to him, knowing them all, the sheep of his flock on earth, and praying still “that all of them may be one.”
You expect me to contrast with this prayer the divisions of the Christian world. But I will not. The prayer is answered—imperfectly, certainly—and so is that other prayer, “Sanctify them.” You may deem it strange that Jesus prayed that his people might be holy, and they are so unholy, yet you do not say his prayer is not answered. So with this other prayer; Christ’s true people are one. All who truly trust in Jesus Christ are more one than they know, and in proportion as they are united to the Redeemer, they are united with each other.
This prayer will be more fully answered in the same way as the previous prayer—by the truth. The more Gospel truth we know and believe and live by, the more we will be one. One of the problems of our day is to know how to cling to Gospel truth in kindliness toward those who differ from us as to what is Gospel truth.
Many people are possessed with the idea that everything must be given up to outward union. They have so liberalized the Christian faith that they say there is no assured truth; one thing is as true as another. Other people set their heads on certain views of truth until there is not anything in their view but those particular tenets that distinguish them from other Christians.
Now it is a fact that people are made better only by truth and that Christians will be made more thoroughly one through truth, and it is folly to sacrifice truth for the sake of outward union. The problem is how to maintain devotion to God’s truth and yet deal in all loving-kindness and affection and cooperation with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. You say it is hard to do both of these things! Of course, it is hard to do anything well, always hard to do right and to do good, with this poor human nature of ours.
--- John A. Broadus
A Dog’s Tale August 19
God both guides and provides. He leads and feeds his people, and sometimes in ways unusual—as John Craig once learned. Craig was born in Scotland in 1512, studied at the University of St. Andrews, and entered the ministry. While living on the Continent, he found a copy of Calvin’s Institutes and in reading them found himself becoming a Protestant. As a result, he was arrested by agents of the Inquisition, taken prisoner to Rome, and condemned to death at the stake. On the Evening of August 19, 1559, while awaiting execution the next day, dramatic news arrived that Pope Paul IV had died. According to custom, the prisons in Rome were thrown open, the prisoners temporarily released.
Craig took advantage of the opportunity, escaping to an inn on the city’s outskirts. A band of soldiers tracked him down, but as the captain of the guard arrested him, he paused, looking at him intently. Finally he asked Craig if he remembered helping a wounded soldier some years before in Bologna. “I am the man you relieved,” said the captain, “and providence has now put it into my power to return the kindness—you are at liberty.” The soldier gave Craig the money in his pockets and marked out an escape route for him.
As he made his way through Italy, Craig avoided public roads, taking the circuitous route suggested by the captain and using the money for food. But at length Craig’s money was exhausted, and so were his spirits. He lay down in the woods and gloomily considered his plight. Suddenly the sound of steps was heard, and Craig tensed. It was a dog, and in its mouth, a purse. Craig waved the animal away, fearing a trick. But the dog persisted, fawned on him, and left the purse in his lap.
Using money from the purse, Craig reached Austria where Emperor Maximilian listened to his sermon and gave him safe conduct. He thus returned to his native Scotland where he preached Christ and abetted the Reformation until his death many years later at age 88.
Elijah was a prophet from Tishbe in Gilead. The LORD said to Elijah, “Leave and go across the Jordan River so you can hide near Cherith Creek. You can drink water from the creek, and eat the food I’ve told the ravens to bring you.” Elijah obeyed the LORD and went to live near Cherith Creek. Ravens brought him bread and meat twice a day, and he drank water from the creek.
--- 1 Kings 17:1a,2–6.
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - August 19
“He shall stand and feed in the strength of the Lord.” --- Micah 5:4.
Christ’s reign in his Church is that of a shepherd-king. He has supremacy, but it is the superiority of a wise and tender shepherd over his needy and loving flock; he commands and receives obedience, but it is the willing obedience of the well-cared-for sheep, rendered joyfully to their beloved Shepherd, whose voice they know so well. He rules by the force of love and the energy of goodness.
His reign is practical in its character. It is said, “He shall stand and feed.” The great Head of the Church is actively engaged in providing for his people. He does not sit down upon the throne in empty state, or hold a sceptre without wielding it in government. No, he stands and feeds. The expression “feed,” in the original, is like an analogous one in the Greek, which means to shepherdize, to do everything expected of a shepherd: to guide, to watch, to preserve, to restore, to tend, as well as to feed.
His reign is continual in its duration. It is said, “He shall stand and feed”; not “He shall feed now and then, and leave his position”; not, “He shall one day grant a revival, and then next day leave his Church to barrenness.” His eyes never slumber, and his hands never rest; his heart never ceases to beat with love, and his shoulders are never weary of carrying his people’s burdens.
His reign is effectually powerful in its action; “He shall feed in the strength of Jehovah.” Wherever Christ is, there is God; and whatever Christ does is the act of the Most High. Oh! it is a joyful truth to consider that he who stands to-day representing the interests of his people is very God of very God, to whom every knee shall bow. Happy are we who belong to such a shepherd, whose humanity communes with us, and whose divinity protects us. Let us worship and bow down before him as the people of his pasture.
Evening - August 19
“Pull me out of the net that they have laid privily for me: for thou art my strength.” --- Psalm 31:4.
Our spiritual foes are of the serpent’s brood, and seek to ensnare us by subtlety. The prayer before us supposes the possibility of the believer being caught like a bird. So deftly does the fowler do his work, that simple ones are soon surrounded by the net. The text asks that even out of Satan’s meshes the captive one may be delivered; this is a proper petition, and one which can be granted: from between the jaws of the lion, and out of the belly of hell, can eternal love rescue the saint. It may need a sharp pull to save a soul from the net of temptations, and a mighty pull to extricate a man from the snares of malicious cunning, but the Lord is equal to every emergency, and the most skilfully placed nets of the hunter shall never be able to hold his chosen ones. Woe unto those who are so clever at net laying; they who tempt others shall be destroyed themselves.
“For thou art my strength.” What an inexpressible sweetness is to be found in these few words! How joyfully may we encounter toils, and how cheerfully may we endure sufferings, when we can lay hold upon celestial strength. Divine power will rend asunder all the toils of our enemies, confound their politics, and frustrate their knavish tricks; he is a happy man who has such matchless might engaged upon his side. Our own strength would be of little service when embarrassed in the nets of base cunning, but the Lord’s strength is ever available; we have but to invoke it, and we shall find it near at hand. If by faith we are depending alone upon the strength of the mighty God of Israel, we may use our holy reliance as a plea in supplication.
“Lord, evermore thy face we seek:
Tempted we are, and poor, and weak;
Keep us with lowly hearts, and meek.
Let us not fall. Let us not fall.”
O FOR A CLOSER WALK WITH GOD
William Cowper, 1731–1800
So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in Him, rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. (Colossians 2:6
The Christian life begins with a step of faith for salvation. Then it continues step by step toward spiritual maturity as we develop a growing closeness to God. If we sincerely desire a more intimate relationship with our Lord, we will need perseverance and often personal denial or sacrifice. This thoughtful hymn text teaches that there may be idols that will hinder a close walk with God. It is only as these are forsaken that our way will be characterized by serenity, love, and purity while we go on with the Lord in a daily walk of faith.
As we endeavor to walk closely with God, unscheduled events will often come into our lives. Yet these unexpected happenings may result in greater blessing than we had ever anticipated. If we learn to be flexible and calmly trust God to lead us in His way, we will not only be drawn closer to Him but will be more aware of “a light to shine upon the road.”
The life of William Cowper was filled with troubling events. Early in life he began to be plagued with chronic melancholy and depression that afflicted him at various times until his death. At one time he was in such mental torment that he even attempted to drown himself. Eventually he moved to the little village of Olney, England, where he began a close friendship with John Newton, pastor of the Anglican church there. Each day the two men met in the garden of Cowper’s home to write devotional poetry and hymns. In 1779, their combined talents produced the famous Olney Hymns hymnal, one of the most important contributions to evangelical hymnody. Cowper wrote 67 of the texts in this book. This hymn text was originally titled “Walking With God,” based on Genesis 5:24: “And Enoch walked with God: And he was not; for God took him.”
O for a closer walk with God, a calm and heav’nly frame, a light to shine upon the road that leads me to the Lamb!
The dearest idol I have known, whate’er that idol be, help me to tear it from Thy throne, and worship only Thee.
So shall my walk be close with God, calm and serene my frame, so purer light shall mark the road that leads me to the Lamb.
For Today: Genesis 5:24; Psalm 63:7, 8; 2 Corinthians 5:7; Galatians 5:13–18; Ephesians 5:8–10
Be so sensitive to God’s presence and leading that you will be ready to adjust your schedule and represent Him whenever the slightest opportunity comes your way. Allow this hymn to help in this faith adventure ---
DISCOURSE II - ON PRACTICAL ATHEISM
6. It is evidenced in positive and bold interpretations of the judgments of God in the world. To interpret the judgments of God to the disadvantage of the sufferer, unless it be an unusual judgment, and have a remarkable hand of God in it, and the sin be rendered plainly legible in the affliction, is a. presumption of this nature. When men will judge the Galileans, whose blood Pilate mingled with the sacrifices, greater sinners than others, and themselves righteous, because no drops of it were dashed upon them; or when Shimei, being of the house of Saul, shall judge according to his own interest, and desires David’s flight upon Absalom’s rebellion to be a punishment for invading the rights of Saul’s family, and depriving him of the succession in the kingdom, as if he had been of God’s privy council, when he decreed such acts of justice in the world. Thus we would fasten our own wills as a law or motive upon God, and interpret his acts according to the motions of self. Is it not too ordinary, when God sends an affliction upon those that bear ill-will to us, to judge it to be a righting of our cause, to be a fruit of God’s concern for us in revenging our wrongs, as if we “had heard the secrets of God,” or, as Eliphaz saith, “had turned over the records of heaven?” (Job 15:8.) This is a judgment according to self-love, not a divine rule; and imposeth laws upon heaven, implying a secret wish that God would take care only of them, make our concerns his own, not in ways of kindness and justice, but according to our fancies; and this is common in the profane world, in those curses they so readily spit out upon any affront, as if God were bound to draw his arrows and shoot them into the heart of all their offenders at their beck and pleasure.
7. It is evidenced, in mixing rules for the worship of God with those which have been ordered by him. Since men are most prone to live by sense, it is no wonder that a sensible worship, which affects their outward sense with some kind of amazement, is dear to them, and spiritual worship most loathsome. Pompous rites have been the great engine wherewith the devil hath deceived the souls of men, and wrought them to a nauseating the simplicity of divine worship, as unworthy the majesty and excellency of God. Thus the Jews would not understand the glory of the second temple in the presence of the Messiah, because it had not the pompous grandeur of that of Solomon’s erecting. Hence in all ages men have been forward to disfigure God’s models, and dress up a brat of their own; as though God had been defective in providing for his own honor in his institutions, without the assistance of his creature. This hath always been in the world; the old world had their imaginations, and the new world hath continued them. The Israelites in the midst of miracles, and under the memory of a famous deliverance, would erect a calf. The Pharisees, that sate in Moses’ chair, would coin new traditions, and enjoin them to be as current as the law of God. Papists will be blending the christian appointments with pagan ceremonies, to please the carnal fancies of the common people. “Altars have been multiplied” under the knowledge of the law of God. Interest is made the balance of the conveniency of God’s injunctions. Jeroboam fitted a worship to politic ends, and posted up calves to prevent his subjects revolting from his sceptre, which might be occasioned by their resort to Jerusalem, and converse with the body of the people from whom they were separated. Men will be putting in their own dictates with God’s laws, and are unwilling he should be the sole Governor of the world without their counsel; they will not suffer him to be Lord of that which is purely and solely his concern. How often hath the practice of the primitive church, the custom wherein we are bred, the sentiments of our ancestors, been owned as a more authentic rule in matters of worship, than the mind of God delivered in his Word! It is natural by creation to worship God; and it is as natural by corruption for man to worship him in a human way, and not in a divine; is not this to impose laws upon God, to esteem ourselves wiser than he? to think him negligent of his own service, and that our feeble brains can find out ways to accommodate his honor, better than himself hath done? Thus do men for the most part equal their own imaginations to God’s oracles: as Solomon built a high place to Moloch and Chemoch, upon the Mount of Olives, to face on the east part Jerusalem and the temple; this is not only to impose laws on God, but also to make self the standard of them.
8. It is evidenced, in suiting interpretations of Scripture to their own minds and humors. Like the Lacedæmonians, that dressed the images of their gods according to the fashion of their own country, we would wring Scripture to serve our own designs, and judge the law of God by the law of sin, and make the serpentine seed in us to be the interpreter of divine oracles: this is like Belshazzar to drink healths out of the sacred vessels. As God is the author of his law and word, so he is the best interpreter of it; the Scripture having an impress of divine wisdom, holiness, and goodness, must be regarded according to that impress, with a submission and meekness of spirit and reverence of God in it; but when, in our inquiries into the word, we inquire not of God, but consult flesh and blood, the temper of the times wherein we live, or the satisfaction of a party we side withal, and impose glosses upon it according to our own fancies, it is to put laws upon God, and make self the rule of him. He that interprets the law to bolster up some eager appetite against the will of the lawgiver, ascribes to himself as great an authority as he that enacted it.
9. In falling off from God after some fair compliances, when his will grateth upon us, and crosseth ours. They will walk with him as far as he pleaseth them, and leave him upon the first distaste, as though God must observe their humors more than they his will. Amos must be suspended from prophesying, because the “land could not bear his words,” and his discourses condemned their unworthy practices against God. The young man came not to receive directions from our Saviour, but expected a confirmation of his own rules, rather than an imposition of new. He rather cares for commendations than instructions, and upon the disappointment turns his back; “he was sad,” that Christ would not suffer him to be rich, and a Christian together; and leaves him because his command was not suitable to the law of his covetousness. Some truths that are at a further distance from us, we can hear gladly; but when the conscience begins to smart under others, if God will not observe our wills, we will, with Herod, be a law to ourselves. More instances might be observed. — Ingratitude is a setting up self, and an imposing laws on God. It is as much as to say, God did no more than he was obliged to do; as if the mercies we have were an act of duty in God, and not of bounty. — Insatiable desires after wealth: hence are those speeches (James 4:13), “We will go into such a city, and buy and sell, &c. to get gain;” as though they had the command of God, and God must lacquey after their wills. When our hearts are not contented with any supply of our wants, but are craving an overplus for our lust; when we are unsatisfied in the midst of plenty, and still like the grave, cry, Give, give.— Incorrigibleness under affliction.
Martin Luther | (1483-1546)
Sect. CXXII. — “IF the whole man, (says the Diatribe) even when regenerated by faith, is nothing else but “flesh,” where is the “spirit” born of the Spirit? Where is the child of God? Where is the new-creature? I want information upon these points.” — Thus the Diatribe.
Where now! Where now! my very dear friend, Diatribe! What dream now! You demand to be informed, how the “spirit” born of the Spirit can be “flesh.” Oh how elated, how secure of victory do you insultingly put this question to me, as though it were impossible for me to stand my ground here. — All this while, you are abusing the authority of the Ancients: for they say ‘that there are certain seeds of good implanted in the minds of men. But, however, whether you use, or whether abuse, the authority of the Ancients, it is all one to me: you will see by and by what you believe, when you believe men prating out of their own brain, without the Word of God. Though perhaps your care about religion does not give you much concern, as to what any one believes; since you so easily believe men, without at all regarding, whether or not that which they say be certain or uncertain in the sight of God. And I also wish to be informed, when I ever taught that, with which you so freely and publicly charge me. Who would be so mad as to say, that he who is “born of the Spirit,” is nothing but “flesh?”
I make a manifest distinction between “flesh” and “spirit,” as things that directly militate against each other; and I say, according to the divine oracles, that the man who is not regenerated by faith “is flesh;” but I say, that he who is thus regenerated; is no longer flesh, excepting as to the remnants of the flesh, which war against the first fruits of the Spirit received. Nor do I suppose you wish to attempt to charge me, invidiously, with any thing wrong here; if you do, there is no charge that you could more iniquitously bring against me.
But you either understand nothing of my side of the subject, or else you find yourself unequal to the magnitude of the cause; by which you are, perhaps, so overwhelmed and confounded, that you do not rightly know what you say against me, or for yourself. For where you declare it to be your belief, upon the authority of the ancients, ‘that there are certain seeds of good implanted in the minds of men, you must surely quite forget yourself; because, you before asserted, ‘that “Free-will” cannot will any thing good.’ And how ‘cannot will any thing good,’ and ‘certain seeds of good’ can stand in harmony together, I know not. Thus am I perpetually compelled to remind you of the subject-design with which you set out; from which you with perpetual forgetfulness depart, and take up something contrary to your professed purpose.
The Bondage of the Will or Christian Classics Ethereal Library
Don Fowler | 15-23
People Groups, Rise Of Monarchy 15
Theology of Kingship 16
Kingship in the Ancient
Near East 17
Rise Of Assyria 18
Imperial Assyria 19
Demise of Assyria 20
NeoBabylonian Empire 21
Persian Empire 22
Persians To Greeks 23