Isaiah 23 - 27
An Oracle Concerning Tyre and Sidon
Isaiah 23:1 The oracle concerning Tyre.
Wail, O ships of Tarshish,
for Tyre is laid waste, without house or harbor!
From the land of Cyprus
it is revealed to them.
2 Be still, O inhabitants of the coast;
the merchants of Sidon, who cross the sea, have filled you.
3 And on many waters
your revenue was the grain of Shihor,
the harvest of the Nile;
you were the merchant of the nations.
4 Be ashamed, O Sidon, for the sea has spoken,
the stronghold of the sea, saying:
“I have neither labored nor given birth,
I have neither reared young men
nor brought up young women.”
5 When the report comes to Egypt,
they will be in anguish over the report about Tyre.
6 Cross over to Tarshish;
wail, O inhabitants of the coast!
7 Is this your exultant city
whose origin is from days of old,
whose feet carried her
to settle far away?
8 Who has purposed this
against Tyre, the bestower of crowns,
whose merchants were princes,
whose traders were the honored of the earth?
9 The LORD of hosts has purposed it,
to defile the pompous pride of all glory,
to dishonor all the honored of the earth.
10 Cross over your land like the Nile,
O daughter of Tarshish;
there is no restraint anymore.
11 He has stretched out his hand over the sea;
he has shaken the kingdoms;
the LORD has given command concerning Canaan
to destroy its strongholds.
12 And he said:
“You will no more exult,
O oppressed virgin daughter of Sidon;
arise, cross over to Cyprus,
even there you will have no rest.”
14 Wail, O ships of Tarshish,
for your stronghold is laid waste.
16 “Take a harp;
go about the city,
O forgotten prostitute!
Make sweet melody;
sing many songs,
that you may be remembered.”
Judgment on the Whole Earth
Isaiah 24:1 Behold, the LORD will empty the earth and make it desolate,
(Polar axis shift? click here for interesting read See Hebrews 1:10-12)
and he will twist its surface and scatter its inhabitants.
2 And it shall be, as with the people, so with the priest;
as with the slave, so with his master;
as with the maid, so with her mistress;
as with the buyer, so with the seller;
as with the lender, so with the borrower;
as with the creditor, so with the debtor.
3 The earth shall be utterly empty and utterly plundered;
for the LORD has spoken this word.
4 The earth mourns and withers;
the world languishes and withers;
the highest people of the earth languish.
5 The earth lies defiled
under its inhabitants;
for they have transgressed the laws,
violated the statutes,
broken the everlasting covenant.
6 Therefore a curse devours the earth,
and its inhabitants suffer for their guilt;
therefore the inhabitants of the earth are scorched,
and few men are left.
7 The wine mourns,
the vine languishes,
all the merry-hearted sigh.
8 The mirth of the tambourines is stilled,
the noise of the jubilant has ceased,
the mirth of the lyre is stilled.
9 No more do they drink wine with singing;
strong drink is bitter to those who drink it.
10 The wasted city is broken down;
every house is shut up so that none can enter.
11 There is an outcry in the streets for lack of wine;
all joy has grown dark;
the gladness of the earth is banished.
12 Desolation is left in the city;
the gates are battered into ruins.
13 For thus it shall be in the midst of the earth
among the nations,
as when an olive tree is beaten,
as at the gleaning when the grape harvest is done.
14 They lift up their voices, they sing for joy;
over the majesty of the LORD they shout from the west.
15 Therefore in the east give glory to the LORD;
in the coastlands of the sea, give glory to the name of the LORD, the God of Israel
. 16 From the ends of the earth we hear songs of praise,
of glory to the Righteous One.
But I say, “I waste away,
I waste away. Woe is me!
For the traitors have betrayed,
with betrayal the traitors have betrayed.”
17 Terror and the pit and the snare
are upon you, O inhabitant of the earth!
18 He who flees at the sound of the terror
shall fall into the pit,
and he who climbs out of the pit
(RE: the pit, see Rev 9:1-6, Jude 6, 2 Peter 2:4, Rev 6:12-17, Rev 12:7-8, Rev 20:7)
shall be caught in the snare.
For the windows of heaven are opened,
and the foundations of the earth tremble.
19 The earth is utterly broken,
the earth is split apart,
the earth is violently shaken.
20 The earth staggers like a drunken man;
it sways like a hut;
its transgression lies heavy upon it,
and it falls, and will not rise again.
21 On that day the LORD will punish
the host of heaven, in heaven,
and the kings of the earth, on the earth.
22 They will be gathered together
as prisoners in a pit;
they will be shut up in a prison,
and after many days they will be punished.
23 Then the moon will be confounded
and the sun ashamed,
for the LORD of hosts reigns
on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem,
and his glory will be before his elders.
God Will Swallow Up Death Forever
Isaiah 25:1 O LORD, you are my God;
I will exalt you; I will praise your name,
for you have done wonderful things,
plans formed of old, faithful and sure.
2 For you have made the city a heap,
the fortified city a ruin;
the foreigners’ palace is a city no more;
it will never be rebuilt.
3 Therefore strong peoples will glorify you;
cities of ruthless nations will fear you.
4 For you have been a stronghold to the poor,
a stronghold to the needy in his distress,
a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat;
for the breath of the ruthless is like a storm against a wall,
5 like heat in a dry place.
You subdue the noise of the foreigners;
as heat by the shade of a cloud,
so the song of the ruthless is put down.
6 On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples
a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine,
of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined.
7 And he will swallow up on this mountain
the covering that is cast over all peoples,
the veil that is spread over all nations.
8 He will swallow up death forever;
( 1 Corinthians 15:53-58 Paul quotes from Isaiah. )
and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces,
and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth,
for the LORD has spoken.
9 It will be said on that day,
“Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us.
This is the LORD; we have waited for him;
let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”
10 For the hand of the LORD will rest on this mountain,
and Moab (Pride, Jordan) shall be trampled down in his place,
as straw is trampled down in a dunghill.
11 And he will spread out his hands in the midst of it
as a swimmer spreads his hands out to swim,
but the LORD will lay low his pompous pride together with the skill of his hands.
12 And the high fortifications of his walls he will bring down,
lay low, and cast to the ground, to the dust.
You Keep Him in Perfect PeaceIsaiah 26:1 In that day this song will be sung in the land of Judah:
“We have a strong city;
he sets up salvation
as walls and bulwarks.
2 Open the gates,
that the righteous nation that keeps faith may enter in.
3 You keep him in perfect peace
whose mind is stayed on you,
because he trusts in you.
4 Trust in the LORD forever,
for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock.
5 For he has humbled
the inhabitants of the height,
the lofty city.
He lays it low, lays it low to the ground,
casts it to the dust.
6 The foot tramples it,
the feet of the poor,
the steps of the needy.”
7 The path of the righteous is level;
you make level the way of the righteous.
8 In the path of your judgments,
O LORD, we wait for you;
your name and remembrance
are the desire of our soul.
9 My soul yearns for you in the night;
my spirit within me earnestly seeks you.
For when your judgments are in the earth,
the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness.
10 If favor is shown to the wicked,
he does not learn righteousness;
in the land of uprightness he deals corruptly
and does not see the majesty of the LORD.
11 O LORD, your hand is lifted up,
but they do not see it.
Let them see your zeal for your people, and be ashamed.
Let the fire for your adversaries consume them.
12 O LORD, you will ordain peace for us,
for you have indeed done for us all our works.
13 O LORD our God,
other lords besides you have ruled over us,
but your name alone we bring to remembrance.
14 They are dead, they will not live;
they are shades, they will not arise;
to that end you have visited them with destruction
and wiped out all remembrance of them.
15 But you have increased the nation, O LORD,
you have increased the nation; you are glorified;
you have enlarged all the borders of the land.
16 O LORD, in distress they sought you;
they poured out a whispered prayer
when your discipline was upon them.
17 Like a pregnant woman
who writhes and cries out in her pangs
when she is near to giving birth,
so were we because of you, O LORD;
18 we were pregnant, we writhed,
but we have given birth to wind.
We have accomplished no deliverance in the earth,
and the inhabitants of the world have not fallen.
19 Your dead shall live; their bodies shall rise.
You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy!
For your dew is a dew of light,
and the earth will give birth to the dead.
20 Come, my people, enter your chambers,
and shut your doors behind you;
hide yourselves for a little while
until the fury has passed by.
21 For behold, the LORD is coming out from his place
to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity,
and the earth will disclose the blood shed on it,
and will no more cover its slain.
The Redemption of IsraelIsaiah 27:1 In that day the LORD with his hard and great and strong sword will punish Leviathan the fleeing serpent, Leviathan the twisting serpent, and he will slay the dragon that is in the sea.
2 In that day,
“A pleasant vineyard, sing of it!
3 I, the LORD, am its keeper;
every moment I water it.
Lest anyone punish it,
I keep it night and day;
4 I have no wrath.
Would that I had thorns and briers to battle!
I would march against them,
I would burn them up together.
5 Or let them lay hold of my protection,
let them make peace with me,
let them make peace with me.”
6 In days to come Jacob shall take root,
Israel shall blossom and put forth shoots
and fill the whole world with fruit.
(Israel #3 fruit producer in the world)
7 Has he struck them as he struck those who struck them?
Or have they been slain as their slayers were slain?
8 Measure by measure, by exile you contended with them;
he removed them with his fierce breath in the day of the east wind.
9 Therefore by this the guilt of Jacob will be atoned for,
and this will be the full fruit of the removal of his sin:
when he makes all the stones of the altars
like chalkstones crushed to pieces,
no Asherim or incense altars will remain standing.
10 For the fortified city is solitary,
a habitation deserted and forsaken, like the wilderness;
there the calf grazes;
there it lies down and strips its branches.
11 When its boughs are dry, they are broken;
women come and make a fire of them.
For this is a people without discernment;
therefore he who made them will not have compassion on them;
he who formed them will show them no favor.
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Holding the Line: An Interview with R. Albert Mohler Jr.
By Albert Mohler 4/01/2011
Tabletalk: In 1993, shortly after your appointment as president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, there was substantial faculty fallout and a sharp move in an orthodox direction. Would you give us a glimpse into that time for you and how a seminary could do an about-face in such a short span of time?
Albert Mohler: My election as president of Southern Seminary came in the course of a larger movement within the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) — a movement that was specifically an attempt to bring the denomination back to its theological roots and especially to ground the denomination and its schools in a very clear affirmation of biblical inerrancy. The seminaries of the SBC had drifted considerably to the left over the previous half-century to the point that, in many ways, they were almost indistinguishable from mainline Protestant institutions. My election in 1993 did not occur in a vacuum. It was very much a part of this effort, and everyone knew what was at stake. I think I was elected, at least in part, because I had a very clear plan for how to bring a theological correction to an institution like Southern Seminary, the mother seminary of our denomination. It would be costly, it would be controversial, and it would be extremely difficult. But the only way to reform an academic institution and to bring it back to a clear affirmation of biblical orthodoxy was to make clear that we were a confessional institution that held to those doctrinal parameters.
It was indeed a very difficult time. The controversy and the conflict were, in human terms, almost unbearable, but it was clear to those who love biblical truth that it would be far better for the institution to die than for it to continue in the direction that it had been headed for several decades. Those of us who undertook this task understood it was a great risk, but we also understood that it simply had to be done. Institutions move left progressively, inch by inch. They move in a more liberal direction compromise by compromise. But you cannot correct an institution the same way. Confessional integrity is not something that can be accommodated to a progressive timeline. There is no way to say, “We are tolerating less and less heresy and false teaching.” If confessional integrity is to mean anything, it must stand as an absolute standard. For that reason, we went through five or six years of very intense controversy, and on the other side of it, we were able, by God’s grace, to emerge with a very clear confessional identity. We have a faculty of incredible scholars who are committed to teach within our confessional statement, and thousands of students have come to Southern knowing exactly where we stand.
TT: In what ways can the church better prepare its members to meet the challenges of the twenty-first century?
AM: For far too long, evangelical churches have simply assumed that it is our task to give our church members a basic level of biblical knowledge, to create opportunities for Christian fellowship, and to encourage parents in the Christian nurture of their children. But what we have failed to understand is that Christians in the twenty-first century are being thrown into a world in which just a little bit of Bible knowledge is simply not going to be enough. Simply having positive fellowship and nurturing experiences in the church and in the Christian family will not be enough. The church must prepare people to be able to think Christianly in a world where the intellectual rules have fundamentally changed. They are going to have to learn to be faithful in terms of everyday decision-making, in terms of profound moral questioning, and in terms of political, economic, and cultural issues. It is not that the church needs to be constantly talking about the culture; rather, it is that with the cultural challenge around us, we need to be talking more and more about the Bible and coming to a deeper understanding of the Scriptures. The church must equip its members to be deeply biblical so that the theological mode of thinking is something that comes naturally to believers. Such Christians will be saturated with biblical truth, sustained by the life of the congregation, and encouraged into faithfulness by the communion of the saints.
TT: To what extent do you expect the church to influence the state, and vice versa, in this fallen world (i.e., what are the healthy parameters of this relationship)?
AM: God clearly has a purpose for both the church and the state, even in a fallen world. The purpose of the church is eternal. God’s intended purpose for the state is temporal. The state has a responsibility to uphold justice and to create the set of conditions for an orderly civic life, but the modern state finds itself now exhausted by attempting to do far more than these things. The state has encroached upon the domain of the family and the roles of mediating institutions — those institutions between the individual and the state. The state increasingly threatens even the autonomy of the church and the freedom of the church to fulfill its ministry.
I believe that the church must influence the state insofar as the church has the opportunity to bear witness to the gospel and the totality of biblical truth. That is to say, the church must produce Christians who, in a Romans 13 sense, are properly related to the state as agents for gospel influence. I do not expect that in a fallen world the state will submit itself to the church, but I am far more concerned that the church not submit itself to the state. Though the church’s relationship to the state must always be one of respect, the church must fulfill a prophetic role, understanding the church’s eternal responsibility as the people of God over against the state’s temporal responsibility. Healthy parameters of that relationship include Christian citizens understanding that their faithfulness to Christ supersedes their identification with the state, their allegiance to the state, and commitments that may be demanded by the state. The parameters of a proper Christian citizenship are established by gospel priorities and by the teaching of Scripture. Jesus made clear that we are to render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s. But Christ was also very clear in setting limitations upon the things that Caesar could claim.
Over the history of the Christian church, there have been many lamentable moments of the church’s persecution by the state. But the more ignominious and disastrous moments are when the church has been servile to the state.
TT: Although there are many, is there one lesson the Lord has taught you that you would care to share with us?
AM: I think the one great lesson the Lord has taught me over these years is that the importance of the family and the local congregation supersedes every other relationship to which the Christian is called. Christians demonstrate the glory of God and the power of the gospel by the way we marry and stay married, by the way we raise our children, by the way we love each other, and by the way we live faithfully in the congregation of believers. In the end, I fear that far too much energy is devoted to and far too many hopes are invested in institutions, programs, and projects that will not last. The centrality of Christ’s purpose to glorify himself in His church and the blessings of God that are directed to the precious gift of the family — these far exceed our other allegiances.
TT: What project(s) are you working on currently?
AM: I am walking around with a set of ongoing writing projects, with top priority given to a book on the doctrine of creation, entitled Maker of Heaven and Earth. Two other projects include a book on Christians and social media and a book on leadership. These matters form the urgent part of my current writing. I am also working through longer-term projects on the Apostles’ Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, and a vision for Christian higher education. The reality is that my projects almost never turn out exactly as I intended because of what, humanly speaking, I might define as interruptions, but understood in terms of God’s providence are redirections of my energy and attention. In the end, these projects are always stronger because of those interventions.
Albert Mohler Books | Go to Books Page
The Victory Parade We Don’t Deserve
By R.C. Sproul Jr. 4/01/2011
Though I didn’t think such was possible, my esteem for both my father and the Bible took a rather sudden spike. I was blessed to be sitting in a seminary class, while he stood, teaching. He mentioned, almost in passing, this notion that rocked my world. “Some scholars,” he said (and by the way he said it I had a strong suspicion that he was one of those scholars), “believe that the ‘man’ Joshua met outside the wall of Jericho was a pre-incarnate manifestation of the second person of the Trinity, a christophany.” I was blown away as he went on to make the case. He encouraged us to remember that Joshua bowed and worshiped. Had he been with an angel from God, the angel would have forbidden such worship. That the being received the worship made the case.
That the Father sent the Son further sanctified an already holy moment, as Joshua prepared for the first battle for the Promised Land. Better still, however, was the conversation itself. Joshua, you will remember, had only recently replaced Moses as the leader of God’s people. The wandering in the wilderness had come to an end. The Jordan had been crossed, and now between God’s people and the land stood Jericho and its impenetrable walls. Wouldn’t you have been frightened? Confused? Would you not have felt the weight of every brick in that wall on your back as you took up the mantle of leadership? In the midst of this turmoil, Joshua found himself facing a “man.” Joshua neither rashly attacked, nor did he shrink back. Instead, he asked what seems to us an utterly fitting question: “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?”(Josh. 5:13).
God the Son did not come, however, merely to honor the occasion. Neither was His goal merely to bring the victory. He came instead to sanctify His servant, to give Joshua the right perspective. To Joshua’s either/or question, God the Son replied, “No.” Just as Jesus would befuddle the Pharisees as they sought to trap Him with their questions, here He befuddles us. No? What does that mean? He then continued, “but I am the commander of the army of the Lord. Now I have come.” He explained to Joshua this most fundamental truth: “The question, Joshua, is not whether or not I am on your side or theirs. The question is whether or not you are on My side.”
Whether at war or at peace, in want or in plenty, whatever our circumstances, this is the question we all face each day. Indeed, when Jesus spoke from the Mount, He made much the same point. He did so because we, like Joshua, need to learn the same point. Like Joshua, we look at our obstacles in fear and confusion. Will we be able to win this struggle at work? Will we be able to tame this challenge in our homes? Will we be able to overcome this obstacle at our church? And in our prayer lives, as we meet with our Father, through God the Son, we ask — sometimes in hope, other times in despair — whether He is with us, whether He will come to our aid and win the battle for us. And in His grace and terrible sovereign power and authority, He tells us, “No.”
God is not a witness to history, choosing sides and cheering His favorites on. God is Lord of history, moving history forward as what it is — His story. God’s grace to us isn’t that He sides with us, but that He has put enmity in our hearts against the Serpent and his seed. God’s grace isn’t that He fights for us but that He, by the power of the Holy Spirit, gives us life so that we might fight for Him.
When Jesus tells us to stop worrying about what we will eat and what we will wear, reminding us that the Gentiles worry about such things, He, naturally, reasons in the same manner. His message isn’t “Don’t sweat it — God is for you. He’ll come to your aid to make sure you get what you want. God is on your side.” Instead, the command is not to worry about these things — our own interests and agenda — because we are called to passionately pursue the interests and agenda of the kingdom of God. He tells us, “No, but seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.” The Truth, the Wisdom, the Word — He does not change and neither does His message to us. What He spoke to Joshua, He speaks to us.
Christ speaks the same message in both the Old and New Testaments because He is speaking to the same people — those who by faith are His. That He is Captain of the army of the Lord is grace to Joshua and grace to us because by the same grace we are made soldiers in that army. The same grace in turn ensures the victory. He is our Captain. He, not Joshua, brings down the walls of Jericho. He, not Joshua, brings His people into the Land of Promise. He, not Joshua, storms the very gates of hell. He, not Joshua, takes captivity captive. He, not Joshua, is Lord of lords and King of kings. And we, because He loves us, march in the victory parade with Him.
R.C. Sproul Jr. Books | Go to Books Page
By R.C. Sproul 5/01/2011
Anselm held the position of archbishop of Canterbury from 1093 to 1109. A Benedictine monk, philosopher, and theologian, he stands as one of the most significant thinkers in the history of the Western church.
His influence is not due to the sheer volume of his writings but to his ability to expound profound subjects biblically and thoughtfully in just a few words. In general, the assumption exists that to make a significant contribution to the body of literature that shapes scholarly thought requires the production of massive tomes. Anselm’s impact completely overthrows this notion.
His thought has had far-reaching consequences, even to this day. Anselm, more than any of the other thinkers of antiquity, plumbed the depths of the substitutionary, satisfaction view of the atonement. In his book Cur Deus Homo: Why God Became Man (Why the Godman?), he saw the work of Christ on the cross as an act of propitiation by which Jesus satisfied the demands of God’s justice. Neither the Devil nor human desires were satisfied, but God Himself. Neither was the wrath of God satisfied so much as His justice, which Anselm defined as His righteousness or rectitude.
Paul writes that in the drama of justification, through the work of Christ, God is both “just and the justifier” (Rom. 3:26). He labors the point that in the atoning work of Jesus God does not simply overlook the sin of fallen humanity and give us a pass. Rather, He ensures His own character is not compromised and thereby establishes His justice. God requires the payment by Christ, as our substitute, to maintain His justice. The cross is simultaneously God’s foremost manifestation of justice and grace. His justice is displayed in that Jesus pays for sin, and His grace is seen in that redemption is offered to us through Jesus’ work. It is the perfect Mediator who satisfies God’s justice and saves God’s people.
This truth impacted not only the church’s thinking about the atonement but also, unfortunately, the Roman Catholic Church’s understanding of the Mass as a repetition of the atoning work of Christ. Rome twisted Anselm’s thought to make it fit its sacerdotal system of salvation, using his words in ways Anselm never intended. Thus, the Mass is considered an unbloody sacrifice involving satisfaction.
After Cur Deus Homo, the second work for which Anselm is famous is a little book called A New, Interpretive Translation of St. Anselm's Monologion and Proslogion. In this book, he seeks to answer the question of the relationship between faith and reason. He argues that since revelation is at the foundation of all truth, the Christian begins by believing and trusting in God’s revelation. In approaching revelation, the Christian does not abandon the intellect. Instead, he grasps the rational coherence of revelation. This is the ongoing task of the Christian thinker, the starting point of faith. We do not come to a rational understanding of God’s revelation before we are able to believe; rather, we must first put our trust in that revelation in order to see its coherence. Anselm’s famous slogan was Credo ut intelligam (“I believe in order that I may understand”).
In this little book, following the process of faith seeking understanding, Anselm works out a cosmological argument for the existence of God. The essence of this argument is that only God, in His creative power, gives us sufficient reason for the existence of the universe. But the cosmological argument has been formulated in many ways and times by many different people.
What makes Anselm stand out in the history of philosophy and apologetics is his extraordinary argument set forth in his third book, Proslogion: Discourse on the Existence of God. Anselm desired to give a simple and quick proof for the existence of God based on the nature of God’s being. Hence, this proof has been called the ontological argument for the existence of God. It flows from and rests upon an understanding of God’s being.
Again basing his assumptions on the revelation by which God has made Himself known to all people, Anselm argues that every person has some idea of God. The idea that we have of God is not that of a mere mythical structure, but of a God who truly exists. There is a sense in which the very idea of God carries with it the idea of His existence. In an interesting twist of words, Anselm stated the argument this way: God is that than which nothing greater can be conceived. Since we conceive of God, we must conceive of Him as existing in reality and not just in the mind. Anselm understood that the mind is able to consider things that do not exist, but the idea of God being that than which no greater can be conceived, cannot be conceived as nonexistent. If we are conceiving of God simply as a formal concept but not attributing to Him existence, we have not reached the idea of Anselm’s God. This is because there would still be a being greater than a being that exists only in the mind and not in reality. That being, than which no greater can be conceived, must exist in reality as well as the mind or it is not that being than which no greater can be conceived.
This is the kind of argument that has given philosophers Excedrin headaches for centuries, but the impact of it remains powerful, as does the impact of the body of work of the ancient archbishop of Canterbury.
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
Human Trafficking in God’s World
By Justin Holcomb 5/01/2011
Genesis 3 records the terrible day when humanity fell into sin and shalom was violated. This was a moment of cosmic treason, when Adam and Eve violated their relationship with God by rebelling against His command and fell into the severe ignobility we all experience.
The entrance of sin wrecked the order and goodness of God’s world; it was the disintegration of peace. Sin inverted love for God, which in turn became idolatry, and inverted love for neighbor, which became exploitation of others.
One clear way this exploitation of others takes place is human trafficking. Trafficking is modern-day slavery and is the fastest growing criminal industry in the world. It is the recruitment, transportation, harboring, or taking of people by means of threat, force, coercion, abduction, fraud, or deception for the purpose of exploiting them.
The United Nations estimates that 2.5 million people are trafficked annually. It deprives people of their human rights and freedoms, it is a global health risk, and it fuels organized crime.
Victims of trafficking are forced or coerced into labor or sexual exploitation. Labor trafficking ranges from domestic servitude and small-scale labor operations to large-scale operations such as farms, sweatshops, and major multinational corporations.
Sex trafficking is one of the most profitable forms of trafficking and involves any form of sexual exploitation, such as prostitution, pornography, bride trafficking, and the commercial sexual abuse of children.
The United States is a destination country for international trafficking: foreign women and children are transported into the United States for purposes of sexual and labor exploitation. The State Department estimates that approximately eighteen thousand foreign nationals are trafficked annually into the United States.
Victims are brought to the United States from Asia, Latin America, Eastern Europe, and Africa. Most women and children brought to the United States find themselves forced to work in massage parlors, commercial or residential brothels, escort services, and strip clubs.
Sex trafficking also happens to United States citizens residing within United States borders. An estimated three hundred thousand American children are at risk for trafficking into the sex industry annually.
Traffickers coerce women and children to enter the commercial sex industry through a variety of recruitment techniques in strip clubs, street-based prostitution, and escort services.
Domestic sex traffickers particularly target vulnerable young girls, such as runaway, homeless, and fostercare children. In the United States, the average age of entry into prostitution is thirteen. One reason many girls working in prostitution enter the trade in their early teens has to do with the age at which many were victims of incest. The average age of incest is twelve. Incest and other forms of abuse often drive children to run away from home, making them vulnerable to the slick tactics of sex traffickers.
The pimp seduces a recruit with the lure of love, protection, wealth, designer clothes, fancy cars, and exclusive nightclubs. Pimps move from city to city looking for children and young women who are easy prey: alone, desperate, and alienated. Once a pimp moves a victim from her hometown into a strange city, the pimp can easily force her to work as a prostitute. Thousands of children and women are victimized in this way every year.
Human trafficking is a sin against the victim and a sin against God. Evil is anti-creation, anti-life, and the force that seeks to oppose, deface, and destroy God, His good world, and His image bearers. Simply put, when someone defaces a human being — God’s image bearer — it is ultimately an attack against God Himself.
Sexual violence is one of the most frequent and disturbing symbols of sin in the Bible. It is a complete distortion of relationship, a mockery and devastation of God’s intent in making us for relationships with Himself and others. By referring to sexual violence, God, through the biblical authors, communicates that sin has progressed so far that sex, an expression of union, peace, and love, is now used as a tool for violence.
Far from being a peripheral issue in the Bible, exploitation is mentioned frequently throughout Scripture, is depicted as sin against God and neighbor, and symbolizes how badly sin has corrupted God’s good creation.
The victim’s experience of trafficking is not ignored by God or minimized by the Bible, and it is not outside of the scope of healing and hope found in redemption. God’s response to evil and violence is redemption, renewal, and re-creation because of the gospel of Christ. And that should be the church’s response.
Evil and violence are not the final word. They are not capable of creating or ultimately defining reality. That is only God’s prerogative. However, evil and violence can pervert, distort, and destroy. They are parasitic on the original good of God’s creation. In this way, evil serves as the backdrop on the stage where God’s redemption shines with greater brilliance and pronounced drama. What evil uses to destroy, God uses to expose, excise, and then heal.
Justin Holcomb Books | Go to Books Page
By John Walvoord
The Prophecy against Tyre
Ezekiel 26:1–21. The prophecy against Tyre occupies three long chapters of Ezekiel. Tyre was judged because she rejoiced in Judah’s destruction, thinking that it would bring further business to her (vv. 1–2 ). God predicted that Tyre would be destroyed and the rubble of her city would be scraped away to bare rock. On the ocean side of Tyre where she formerly had great commerce, there would be fishnets (vv. 4–6 ).
This prophecy was given “In the eleventh year, on the first day of the month” (v. 1 ), the time when Jerusalem was in imminent danger of collapse or capture by Babylon. At this time of tension, God spoke to Ezekiel concerning Tyre. God pronounced judgment on her because she rejoiced in Judah’s fall (v. 2 ). God predicted that Tyre herself would be destroyed, her walls pulled down, the ruins scraped away down to the bare rock (vv. 3–4 ). Where they formerly had commerce, on the seashore fishermen would spread their nets. “Ravaged by the sword” (v. 6 ), Tyre would not be rebuilt. Though Tyre had gloated over Jerusalem’s fall, she herself was to experience the devastation of the Babylonian armies and alter the invasion of the armies of Alexander the Great.
In 332 BC the armies of Alexander destroyed the city on the shore and scraped the debris into the sea to make a causeway to the island fortress. The bare ground where Tyre once stood is testimony today of the literal fulfillment of this prophecy. Tyre never regained power after this attack. Further details concerning the prophecy of Tyre’s complete destruction are recorded in the rest of this chapter (vv. 15–21 ).
Ezekiel 27:1–36. Unlike Jerusalem, which was rebuilt many times, Tyre was not to survive and so her rich trading enterprise would cease. Her customers included Lebanon (v. 5 ); Egypt (v. 7 ); Elishah, an ancient name for Cyprus (v. 7 ); Persia; Lydia; Gebal, an ancient name for Byblos (vv. 8–10 ); Greece and Arabia (vv. 19–24 ); and many others. Her ships were renowned for their rich merchandise (vv. 25–27 ). Her destruction, however, would cause mourning on behalf of those who traded with her (vv. 27–36 ). God declared that she would “come to a horrible end and will be no more” (v. 36 ).
The Prophecy against the King of Tyre
Ezekiel 28:1–19. God pronounced judgment on the “ruler of Tyre” (vv. 1–2 ) because of his pride and claim to be God (v. 2 ). God asked the question, “Are you wiser than Daniel?” (v. 3 ). This was Ezekiel’s third reference to Daniel (cf. 14:14, 20 ), who at this time was a prominent ruler in Babylon. As the man immediately under King Nebuchadnezzar, he was known for his wisdom as he helped in the government of the vast empire. The question implied that Daniel, who did not claim any wisdom except from God, was actually wiser than the ruler of Tyre who claimed to be a god.
The ruler of Tyre had collected gold and silver and other things of great wealth ( 28:4–5 ), but God would bring “foreigners against you, the most ruthless of nations; they will draw their swords against your beauty and wisdom and pierce your shining splendor” (v. 7 ). He would die a violent death, and God challenged him to claim that he was a god in the presence of his executioners (vv. 8–10 ). In the foregoing section of this chapter, the ruler of Tyre was not called a king, as Ezekiel rarely uses the word king. In the verses that follow, however, a message was addressed to “the king of Tyre” (vv. 11–12 ).
Interpreters differ in their understanding of this passage because it seems to go beyond the attributes of the ruler of Tyre. Some claim it refers to his god, but the description given does not relate to a heathen god, and Ezekiel would not recognize such a claim. According to the passage, he was declared to be “the model of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God” (vv. 12–13 ).
This ruler of Tyre is described as having every precious stone set in gold (v. 13 ). Reference was made to “the day you were created” (v. 13 ). Here the passage seems to transcend anything that would correspond to the ruler of Tyre or his heathen gods. God then declared, “You were anointed as a guardian cherub, for so I ordained you. You were on the holy mount of God; you walked among the fiery stones. You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created till wickedness was found in you” (vv. 14–15 ).
Because of the unusual description of this king of Tyre, from the church fathers to modern time some expositors conclude that this was a reference to Satan rather than to a man. This would explain the fact that he was created (v. 13 ) and that he was “a guardian cherub” (v. 14 ). It would also explain how he was “on the holy mount of God” (v. 14 ), which implied he was permitted to be in God’s holy presence. Further, in verse 15, he was declared to be “blameless in your ways from the day you were created” (v. 15 ). This state of holiness, however, was lost when “wickedness was found in you” (v. 15 ).
Though the Bible does not give much specific information concerning the origin of Satan, theologians for centuries have long held that Satan was originally created as a holy angel and fell from that position long before man was created. Some relate this passage to Isaiah 14:12–15 as another reference to the fall of Satan from a state of holiness to a state of sin. These references to the origin of Satan and the origin of his present sinful condition harmonize with what the Bible teaches about Satan. Here he was described as the real power behind the ruler of Tyre and actually the king over the ruler of Tyre.
The further description of Satan as being driven from the mount of God and as a guardian cherub who was expelled because of his pride (vv. 16–17 ) also seems to go beyond anything that the ruler of Tyre experienced (vv. 18–19 ); or it may be interpreted as having a double reference to both the ruler of Tyre and Satan.
The Judgment on Sidon
Ezekiel 28:20–24. Located about twenty miles north of Tyre, Sidon was a city with a long history. Sidon was a son of Canaan, and later a city was founded in his name ( Gen. 10:15, 19 ). The history of Sidon continued to the time of Christ and for hundreds of years thereafter and is now the modern city of Saida. Because Sidon was a traditional enemy of Israel, God promised He would inflict punishment on her and her streets would flow with blood. Then she would know that God is the Lord ( Ezek. 28:21–23 ). Israel would remove Sidon like “painful briers and sharp thorns” (v. 24 ) that formerly afflicted her.
Ezekiel 28:25–26. Following the prophecy against Sidon, God again predicted that He would regather His people Israel (v. 25 ) and that they would live in safety in their own land (vv. 25–26 ). This will be fulfilled in the millennium ( Jer. 23:5–8 ).
The Prophecy against Egypt
Ezekiel 29:1–21. The nation of Egypt is the subject of many prophecies in the Old Testament. In Ezekiel 29, God declared Himself against Pharaoh and described Egypt’s destruction (vv. 1–6 ). Egypt, first mentioned in Genesis 12:10, is the subject of hundreds of prophecies throughout the Old Testament and frequent references in the New Testament as well. Egypt was the land where Israel grew from a family to a nation, where Christ spent His early years, where Moses was born, and from which the children of Israel left for the Promised Land. At the time of Ezekiel’s prophecy, Hophra was pharaoh of Egypt and reigned from 589 to 570 BC. Part of Zedekiah’s problem was that he depended on Egypt to protect him from Babylon, which proved a fatal mistake.
Egypt was declared to be “a staff of reed for the house of Israel” ( Ezek. 29:6 ). As a weak plant she was not capable of supporting weight, as Israel learned when she relied on Egypt (v. 7 ).
God declared that He would make Egypt “a desolate wasteland” (v. 9 ) and would kill both her men and animals (v. 8 ).
God predicted forty years of desolation for Egypt (vv. 10–12 ). Some interpret the forty years as a symbolic picture of trial. Though history does not record a deportation of Egypt to Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar conquered Egypt (cf. Jer. 43:8–13; 46:1–25; Ezek. 29:17–21 ), and it would have been natural for him to take Egyptian captives. When the Persians defeated Babylon, however, Egyptian captives were allowed to return to their land just as Israelites were allowed to return to Jerusalem. Forty-three years elapsed between Nebuchadnezzar’s conquering of Egypt and Babylon’s fall to the Persians; thus, the period could easily be referred to as approximately forty years. In this passage there is no need to expect a future fulfillment.
In any event, God promised to return the Egyptians to their ancient land after being scattered, much as He promised Israel that she would be returned to her land (vv. 13–14 ). However, Egypt will never rise to be a great nation again (vv. 15–16 ).
The Lord declared to Ezekiel that He was going to give Egypt to Nebuchadnezzar so that he would carry off its wealth as payment for destroying Tyre where he had no reward (vv. 17–20 ). The reference to a horn (v. 21 ) is probably a symbolic indication that Israel will once again have authority and power in the day of her restoration to her land, likely fulfilled in the return from Babylon.
The Lament for Egypt
Ezekiel 30:1–26. A poetic description of the Egyptian fall is recorded in Ezekiel 30. Her day of destruction would be a time of judgment when not only Egypt but also other nations would fall by the sword (v. 5 ). The nations mentioned were allies of Egypt, and when Egypt fell, they would as well. Cush, designated the area of southern Egypt, is known today as northern Ethiopia ( Est. 1:1; Jer. 46:9 ). Put corresponds to modern Libya ( Isa. 66:19; Jer. 46:9; Ezek. 27:10 ). Lydia formed a part of the western coast of Asia Minor (cf. v. 10 ). Arabia was normally designated as the large peninsula between the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf. The reference to “the people of the covenant land” may refer to those in Israel who fled to Egypt to escape from Nebuchadnezzar. The reference to “from Migdol to Aswan” ( 30:6 ) describes Egypt from north to south. Their cities would be ruined and their buildings set on fire (v. 8 ). The destruction of Egypt was related to the invasion of Nebuchadnezzar (v. 10 ). In the process of destroying Egypt, God would also destroy her idols and images (v. 13 ).
Memphis was one of the large cities of Egypt, originally its capital. Pathros probably referred to upper Egypt. The destruction would be as far as upper Egypt (v. 14 ). Zoan was a city in the delta of the Nile (cf. Ps. 78:12, 43; Isa. 19:11, 13 ). Thebes, another prominent city of Egypt, was located several hundred miles south of Cairo, an area featuring modern Karnak and Luxor, frequently visited by tourists today. Some of these cities were destroyed by the Assyrians when they invaded Egypt in 663 BC. They were probably rebuilt by the time the Babylonians invaded Egypt.
The reference to Heliopolis was the area in Egypt just below the Nile delta. Bubastis, referred to only by Ezekiel in Scripture, for a time served as the capital of Egypt and was located northeast of Cairo. Tahpanhes was in eastern Egypt near the present Suez Canal and was the location of one of the Egyptian palaces. Jeremiah predicted her destruction ( Jer. 2:16; cf. 43:7–8 ). As a result of her destruction, Egypt would know that the God of Israel is the true God ( Ezek. 30:19 ).
In the closing verses of Ezekiel 30, God declared that He would break both arms of Pharaoh and strengthen the arms of the king of Babylon (vv. 20–25 ). When Nebuchadnezzar conquered Egypt, God would disperse the Egyptians and scatter them through the countries. This would cause them to know that the Lord is God (v. 26 ).
RE: Isaiah 23:17
Isaiah 23:17 (ESV) 17 At the end of seventy years, the LORD will visit Tyre, and she will return to her wages and will prostitute herself with all the kingdoms of the world on the face of the earth.
RE: Isaiah 23:17, As a fact of history, after each disaster (until the Middle Ages) Tyre recovered after an interval and resumed her trading. The seventy years seem to be a round figure to denote a lifetime, like the ‘seventy years’ of Jewish captivity. But the metaphor of the forgotten prostitute (Isa 23:15–17) makes the renewal at once pathetic and corrupting. We are shown the perennial seductiveness of things material, although the final verse claims them for their proper use. It is the twofold emphasis of Rev. 18:3 and 21:24. --- F. Derek Kidner, “Isaiah,” in New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition, ed. D. A. Carson et al., 4th ed. (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994), 646.
The 70 years mentioned by Isaiah 23:15 were probably from about 700 to 630 B.C. when Phoenicia’s trading was greatly restricted by the Assyrians. In 701 Assyria installed Tubu‘alu (Ethbaal III) over Tyre. But around 630 Assyria declined in power, enabling Tyre to regain its autonomy and restore its trade.
This 70-year span is called the span of a king’s life (cf. Ps. 90:10). But after 70 years … Tyre would again become a trading center, like a prostitute (Isa. 23:15–17) who was forgotten but who returned to her illicit practice, singing to attract lovers to her again. Tyre would again ply her trade with various nations. But this time the profits from her trading would somehow benefit those who feared the LORD (v. 18). It is difficult to know exactly what Isaiah was referring to. Some have suggested that the 70 years referred not to the time from about 700 to 630 but to the coming Babylonian Captivity of Judah (605–536 B.C.) and that at the end of those years materials from Tyre were used in construction of the temple complex in Jerusalem which was built by the postexilic community. But Tyre’s trading was not restricted during those years (except for Nebuchadnezzar’s 13-year siege of the city from 587 to 574). --- John A. Martin, “Isaiah,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 1071–1072.
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 81Oh, That My People Would Listen to Me
81 To The Choirmaster: According To The Gittith. Of Asaph.
1 Sing aloud to God our strength;
shout for joy to the God of Jacob!
2 Raise a song; sound the tambourine,
the sweet lyre with the harp.
3 Blow the trumpet at the new moon,
at the full moon, on our feast day.
4 For it is a statute for Israel,
a rule of the God of Jacob.
5 He made it a decree in Joseph
when he went out over the land of Egypt.
I hear a language I had not known:
6 “I relieved your shoulder of the burden;
your hands were freed from the basket.
7 In distress you called, and I delivered you;
I answered you in the secret place of thunder;
I tested you at the waters of Meribah. Selah
8 Hear, O my people, while I admonish you!
O Israel, if you would but listen to me!
9 There shall be no strange god among you;
you shall not bow down to a foreign god.
10 I am the LORD your God,
who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.
Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.
The Continual Burnt Offering (John 1:1-3)
By H.A. Ironside - 1941
August 2John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. ESV
It is well known that the term “Word” translates the Greek word Logos. This was an expression already well known to thinking people when our Lord appeared on earth. Everywhere in the Greek speaking world the writings of Plato were circulated. He had spoken of the insolubility of many mysteries, but had expressed the hope that some day there would come forth a “Word” (Logos) from God that would make everything clear. John might even have had this in mind when, directed by the Holy Spirit, he penned the wonderful sentences with which this Gospel begins. It is as though God is saying: “The ‘Word’ has now been spoken. In Christ the mind of God is fully revealed. He who hears Him hears God, for in Him ‘are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.’” The Word never had a beginning. The Son is as truly eternal as the Father is. To teach otherwise is to deny the very foundations of our faith. He could not have a beginning, for He Himself is the beginning and the end (Revelation 22:13).
Revelation 22:13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” ESV
Thou art the everlasting Word—
The Father’s only Son,
God manifest, God seen and heard,
The Heaven’s beloved One;
In Thee most perfectly expressed
The Father’s self doth shine;
Fullness of Godhead, too: the blest,—
Image of th’Infinite Unseen,
Whose being none can know;
Brightness of light no eye hath seen,
God’s Love revealed below.
Worthy, O Lamb of God, art Thou
That ev’ry knee to Thee should bow.
--- J. Conder
The Continual Burnt Offering: Daily Meditations on the Word of God
The Institutes of the Christian Religion
Translated by Henry Beveridge
52. In considering Justification, which is the third effect of faith,
the first thing that occurs is an explanation of the word. He is said
to be justified who, in the judgment of God, is deemed righteous. He is
justified by works, whose life is pure and blameless before God; and no
such person ever existed except Christ. They are justified by faith
who, shut out from the righteousness of works, receive the
righteousness of Christ. Such are the elect of God.
53. Hence follows the strongest consolation; for instead of a severe Judge, we have a most merciful Father. Justified in Christ, and having peace, trusting to his power, we aim at holiness.
54. Next follows Christian liberty, consisting of three parts. 1. That the consciences of believers may rise above the Law, and may forget the whole righteousness of the Law. 2. That the conscience, free from the yoke of the Law, may cheerfully obey the will of God. 3. That they may not be bound by any religious scruples before God about things indifferent. But here we must avoid two precipices. 1. That we do not abuse the gifts of God. 2. That we avoid giving and taking offence.
55. The fourth effect of faith is Prayer; in which are considered its fruits, laws, faults, and petitions.
56. The fruit of prayer is fivefold. 1. When we are accustomed to flee to God, our heart is inflamed with a stronger desire to seek, love, and adore him. 2. Our heart is not a prey to any wicked desire, of which we would be ashamed to make God our witness. 3. We receive his benefits with thanksgiving. 4. Having obtained a gift, we more earnestly meditate on the goodness of God. 5. Experience confirms to us the Goodness, Providence, and Truth of God.
57. The laws are Four. 1. That we should have our heart framed as becomes those who enter into converse with God; and therefore the lifting up of the hands, the raising of the heart, and perseverance, are recommended. 2. That we should feel our wants. 3. That we should divest ourselves of every thought of our own glory, giving the whole glory to God. 4. That while we are prostrated amidst overwhelming evils, we should be animated by the sure hope of succeeding, since we rely on the command and promise of God.
58. They err who call on the Saints that are placed beyond this life. 1. Because Scripture teaches that prayer ought to be offered to God alone, who alone knows what is necessary for us. He chooses to be present, because he has promised. He can do so, for he is Almighty. 2. Because he requires that he be addressed in faith, which rests on his word and promise. 3. Because faith is corrupted as soon as it departs from this rule. But in calling on the saints there is no word, no promise; and therefore there is no faith; nor can the saints themselves either hear or assist.
59. The summary of prayer, which has been delivered to us by Christ the Lord, is contained in a Preface and two Tables.
60. In the Preface, the Goodness of God is conspicuous, for he is called our Father. It follows that we are his children, and that to seek supplies from any other quarter would be to charge God either with poverty or with cruelty; that sins ought not to hinder us from humbly imploring mercy; and that a feeling of brotherly love ought to exist amongst us. The power of God is likewise conspicuous in this Preface, for he is in Heaven. Hence we infer that God is present everywhere, and that when we seek him, we ought to rise above perceptions of the body and the soul; that he is far beyond all risk of change or corruption; that he holds the whole universe in his grasp, and governs it by his power.
61. The First Table is entirely devoted to the glory of God, and contains Three petitions. 1. That the name of God, that is, his power, goodness, wisdom, justice, and truth, may be hallowed; that is, that men may neither speak nor think of God but with the deepest veneration. 2. That God may correct, by the agency of his Spirit, all the depraved lusts of the flesh; may bring all our thoughts into obedience to his authority; may protect his children; and may defeat the attempts of the wicked. The use of this petition is threefold. (1). It withdraws us from the corruptions of the world. (2). It inflames us with the desire of mortifying the flesh. (3). It animates us to endure the cross. 3. The Third petition relates not to the secret will of God, but to that which is made known by the Scriptures, and to which voluntary obedience is the counterpart.
62. The Second Table contains the Three remaining petitions, which relate to ourselves and our neighbours. 1. It asks everything which the body needs in this sublunary state; for we commit ourselves to the care and providence of God, that he may feed, foster, and preserve us. 2. We ask those things which contribute to the spiritual life, namely, the forgiveness of sins, which implies satisfaction, and to which is added a condition, that when we have been offended by deed or by word, we nevertheless forgive them their offences against us. 3. We ask deliverance from temptations, or, that we may be furnished with armour and defended by the Divine protection, that we may be able to obtain the victory. Temptations differ in their cause, for God, Satan, the world, and the flesh tempt; in their matter, for we are tempted, on the right hand, in respect of riches, honours, beauty, &c., and on the left hand, in respect of poverty, contempt, and afflictions: and in their end, for God tempts the godly for good, but Satan, the flesh, and the world, tempt them for evil.
63. Those Four effects of faith bring us to the certainty of election, and of the final resurrection.
64. The causes of election are these. The efficient cause is--the free mercy of God, which we ought to acknowledge with humility and thanksgiving. The material cause is--Christ, the well-beloved Son. The final cause is--that, being assured of our salvation, because we are God's people, we may glorify him both in this life and in the life which is to come, to all eternity. The effects are, in respect either of many persons, or of a single individual; and that by electing some, and justly reprobating others. The elect are called by the preaching of the word and the illumination of the Holy Spirit, are justified, and sanctified, that they may at length be glorified.
65. The final resurrection will take place. 1. Because on any other supposition we cannot be perfectly glorified. 2. Because Christ rose in our flesh. 3. Because God is Almighty.
Christian Classics Ethereal Library / Public Domain
Institutes of the Christian Religion
An Extraordinary Glimpse of the Future
By Robert Jeffress 2023
Spoiler alert: this chapter gives away the ending — not just of the Bible but of the earth, the heavens, and all created beings. If you don’t want to know what happens, stop reading now.
A disclaimer like this likely wouldn’t deter many people from reading further, because most of us want to know how things are going to turn out — even if we may be peeking through our fingers at some of it.
As a planner by nature, I like to set clear goals for my personal life, family life, and ministry. There are certain things I intend to accomplish in the short term and in the long term. I like to know what’s ahead of me. But the reality is, no matter how many plans I make, I don’t actually know what will happen tomorrow, much less ten years from now. ( In my life, if God wills applies to everything; a trip to the store, a walk around the block and especially to everything concerning tomorrow, next week, next month, etc. The Bible has a lot to say about our plans. )
As finite creatures, you and I are hopelessly limited by our vantage point in time. We can look backward at the past, but we can’t see any further forward than this moment. To have any grasp of future events, we must rely on the one who is eternal. ( I love Isaiah 46:10 which says God knows the end from the beginning. In my mind the whole Calvin Arminian debate fades into nothing when I consider God's ways. )
Throughout the Bible — especially in the book of Revelation — God helps us see what we cannot see on our own. He gives us an apocalyptic yet hope - filled vision of how the final days of His original creation will play out.
Still, some people question why such information is relevant. After all, it involves biblical prophecy. And for many believers, biblical prophecy falls into the same category as advanced calculus — fascinating to a few outliers but irrelevant to everybody else.
Some people try to avoid the topic altogether by claiming biblical prophecy is too confusing. However, a closer look at Scripture suggests that’s not the case; God has made His prophecies quite knowable in His Word — if not necessarily the intricate details, then certainly His general plan for closing out the age. ( In a recent conversation about what I call the apathy of parents, parents who claim to love their children, but won't get off their phones to guide, direct, discipline their children ... and who would never make the time to go to a school board meeting, my friend said it is not apathy it is willfully ignorant. To quote Elmer, "The reason I call it willful ignorance is most people actually know something is wrong and yet, they willfully ignore the facts not from apathy but from FEAR of knowing the truth and a resulting change in their actions would be needed if they truly knew the facts of any situation.
In Matthew 24, Jesus and His disciples had just left the temple in Jerusalem when Jesus made a stunning prediction: one day that very temple would be torn down. Understandably, His announcement piqued His disciples’ curiosity. They said, “Tell us, when will these things happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” (v. 3). In other words, they were saying, “Lord, tell us about Bible prophecy.”
Jesus’s response was telling. He didn’t dismiss the disciples’ request or tell them the information was above their pay grade. Instead, Jesus warned them of false teachers who would try to mislead them with spurious claims. He spoke of the events of the tribulation, connecting them with the prophecies of Daniel. He offered a glimpse of the signs that will precede His second coming.
More to the point, Jesus rewarded His followers’ hunger for knowledge about Bible prophecy. He wanted them to understand end-times events.
Some people believe that studying biblical prophecy is a fruitless endeavor since no one can know when Christ will return. After all, Jesus Himself didn’t know the hour of His second coming. In Matthew 24:36, He said, “No one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.” Yet even though we can’t know exactly when Jesus will return, we can know the events that will lead up to His coming. And knowing what to look for is just as valuable as knowing when the events will take place.
Remember, Jesus warned about false teachers who will be intent on deceiving people in the last days. Knowing what to look for can protect us from being led astray by false teaching. That’s why it’s important for us to understand biblical prophecy.
Some people claim that studying biblical prophecy is unnecessary because it’s irrelevant to daily life. Let’s be honest: most people are not nearly as concerned with the beast in Revelation 13 as they are with the beast they work for Monday through Friday. Most people’s average weeks are too jam-packed ( jam-packed ?? I see people spending hours with their idols, smart phones, instead of making the effort to know the Lord. They say one thing but their actions prove them to be liars. ) with school events and church activities for them to be concerned about some future tribulation. They wonder, What difference does biblical prophecy make if it’s not tied to daily living? But the reality is, what’s going to happen in the hereafter does matter in the here and now.
Why Should We Understand Prophecy?
In a campaign speech he delivered at the 1858 Illinois Republican State Convention, Abraham Lincoln said, “If we could first know where we are, and whither we are tending, we could then better judge what to do, and how to do it.”1 The more we know about what our future holds, the better we can prepare ourselves for it.
For all of our hesitation about delving into biblical prophecy, there are three very good reasons for making it a priority.
1 Abraham Lincoln, “House Divided Speech, June 16, 1858,” in Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, edited by Roy P. Basier et al., Abraham Lincoln Online, accessed April 5, 2022, http://www.abrahamlincoln online.org/lincoln/speeches/house.htm.
Prophecy Is a Major Theme of the Bible
First, prophecy is a major theme of the Bible. There are more than eighteen hundred references to the second coming of Christ in the Old Testament, plus three hundred more in the New Testament. In fact, for every one prophecy that deals with the first coming of Jesus, there are eight prophecies that deal with His second coming. Twenty-three out of the twenty-seven books in the New Testament give prominence to the theme of Christ’s second coming. If biblical prophecy is that important to God, then it should be important to us as well.
Prophecy Helps Us Interpret and Apply the Bible
Second, understanding prophecy helps us interpret and apply God’s Word correctly. There are entire sections — and books — of the Bible we will never understand, much less apply, if we don’t understand prophecy. Prophecy is like a framework, a structure on which we hang the rest of the Bible.
Take Isaiah 65:20 as an example. The only way to understand phrases such as “the youth will die at the age of one hundred” is to realize they refer to a specific time in the future: the millennium, the thousand-year reign of Christ that will begin with His second coming. Without a proper understanding of the millennium, entire sections of Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and most other Old Testament Prophets will not make sense to us.
Likewise, without a proper understanding of future events, certain words of Jesus may be misinterpreted. In Matthew 25, the Lord talked about giving food to the hungry and drink to the thirsty, inviting strangers in, giving clothes to the naked, and visiting the sick and imprisoned. In verse 40, He said, “Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.” The popular interpretation of this passage is that Jesus identifies so completely with the poor and needy that He gives us an opportunity to do something for Him by doing something for them. However, a closer look at the passage reveals a more specific interpretation.
Jesus was talking about the end of the tribulation, a future seven-year period on earth. When Christ returns, He will judge the people who lived through the tribulation. The basis of His judgment will be how people treated the 144,000 missionaries who were saved at the beginning of the tribulation. The way people respond to those missionaries is tantamount to how they respond to Jesus. If we don’t understand biblical prophecy, we’ll be tempted to take the verses of Matthew 25 out of context and apply them in a way that isn’t relevant for the church today.
Prophecy Motivates Us to Live in a God-Honoring Way
Third, understanding prophecy motivates us to live in a God-honoring way. The Bible never separates prophecy from practical living. In 2 Peter 3, the apostle went to great lengths to describe the future destruction of the heavens and earth. But his purpose was something much more specific than inspiring shock and awe. In verses 11–12, Peter posed a pointed question: “Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God?” In other words, when we consider that all these things are going to be destroyed, shouldn’t we live holy, blameless lives? Therein lies the real motivation for embracing biblical prophecy.
Understanding the Timeline
With thousands of end-times prophecies to consider, the task of sorting and understanding them may seem monumental. But that task is made much easier by the fact that the Bible’s prophecies align in a way that reveals a specific timeline of future events.2 This timeline, which begins with the present age and extends to eternity, gives us an excellent starting point in understanding the ninth core belief of Christianity.
Let’s take a look at some of the key events on the timeline.
2 For deeper teaching about Bible prophecy, see my books Perfect Ending: Why Your Eternal Future Matters Today (Nashville: Hachette, 2014) and Final Conquest: A Verse-by-Verse Study of the Book of Revelation (Dallas: Pathway to Victory, 2020).
The Church Age
If the church age seems familiar to you, it’s because you’re living in it, some two thousand years after it began. The church age is the period of time from Pentecost until the rapture (a term we will discuss in the next section), during which Gentiles are invited to participate in the blessings of the covenant God made with Abraham and his descendants in Genesis 12. In the church age, God has extended the “invitation list” to be part of God’s kingdom beyond the Jews to include anyone who will accept His offer of salvation.
Throughout the Old Testament, God continually worked to draw His people into a right relationship with Him. But they resisted Him time and time again. Finally, in the New Testament, God sent His own Son, the long-promised Messiah, to accomplish the work of salvation. How did Israel respond to Jesus Christ? Most of God’s people rejected Him.
But God would not allow them to thwart His plan. He wanted people to acknowledge and worship His Son, so He temporarily turned away from His people, the Israelites, and invited Gentiles (non-Jews) to share in His blessing. That invitation ushered in the church age.
So here’s where we stand right now: God has temporarily set aside the people of Israel because they rejected His Son. He has given the rest of the world an opportunity to be included in the blessings of His covenant with Abraham. However, Paul made clear in Romans 11:1 that God is not through with Israel yet: “I say then, God has not rejected His people, has He? May it never be!” In verse 7, Paul referred to Israel’s attitude as being “hardened.” But it’s a temporary hardening — one that will last until every Gentile whom God has ordained to be saved is saved. After that, Israel will be given one final chance. Until that time, we’re living in the church age. And it will continue until the rapture of the church.
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
10/1/2015 The Perspicuity of Scripture
One of the most important but often most overlooked parts of our order of service at Saint Andrew’s Chapel is the prayer of illumination. In our liturgy, the prayer of illumination is situated between the reading of Scripture and the sermon. In our prayer, we humbly ask God to illumine His Word to us by the Holy Spirit so that we would rightly hear, understand, and apply what the Lord is saying to us in His Word. The reason it is one of the most important elements of our service is because we desperately need the Holy Spirit to help us understand His Word. The reason it is perhaps the most overlooked part of our service is because we too easily forget how dependent we are on the Holy Spirit to help us grasp the glorious truths of God’s sacred Word.
The Holy Spirit indwells us and enables us to interpret and apply His Word, and it is the Holy Spirit who leads us into all truth. We are utterly dependent upon the Holy Spirit. Without Him, we cannot rightly understand anything in His Word. We don’t need to be great scholars to understand God’s Word, we simply need to be born-again, humble children indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Yet, even as believers, we know that not everything in Scripture is easy to understand.
In theology, we speak of the perspicuity of Scripture. The word perspicuity, simply put, means “clarity.” Oddly enough, the word perspicuity is one of the more unclear words we could use to speak of clarity. What’s more, when we say we believe in the perspicuity of Scripture, people sometimes get the wrong impression that we are implying that everything in Scripture is entirely clear and easy to understand. But that’s not the case. We know this both from experience and because the Word of God itself tells us that not everything in it is easy to understand. The Westminster Confession of Faith (1.7) explains what we believe when we speak of the perspicuity of Scripture: “All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all. Yet, those things that are necessary to be known, believed, and observed for salvation are so clearly propounded, and opened in some place of Scripture or another, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them.” In other words, not everything in Scripture is easy to understand, but what we must understand in order to be saved is clear. The hard sayings of Jesus aren’t found only in the Gospels, but throughout Scripture, since Jesus is the ultimate author of Scripture as the eternal Word of God.
Fundamentally, what is so hard about the hard sayings of Jesus is not our inability to understand them fully but to believe them fully and obey them fully. That is why we need the illuminating work of the Holy Spirit to help us not only understand God’s Word but to obey it, love it, apply it, and proclaim it as we live coram Deo, before the face of God for His glory.
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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
The Navy torpedo boat PT 109 was rammed this day, August 2, 1943, by a Japanese destroyer and sunk. The commander, who sustained permanent back injury, helped the survivors swim miles to shore, only to find that they far behind enemy lines in the Solomon Islands. After a daring rescue, he was awarded the Medal of heroism. Though his brother was killed in the war, this commander went on to become a Congressman, Senator, and America’s 35th President. His name was John F. Kennedy, who stated in his Inaugural Address: “The rights of man come not from the generosity of the state, but from the hand of God.”
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
We fear the silence.
So we struggle with prayer.
We long for noise and business,
Least we encounter God …
We stumble and fall constantly even when we are most enlightened. But when we are in true spiritual darkness, we do not even know that we have fallen.
--- Thomas Merton
Forgiveness—when God buries our sins and does not mark the grave.
--- Louis Paul Lehman
Christianity is not a theory or speculation, but a life; not a philosophy of life, but a living presence. This realization can turn any gloom into a song.
--- S. T. Coleridge
Antinomianism rose among us from an obscure Preaching of Evangelical Grace, and insisting too much on tears and terrors.
--- Richard Baxter Apology for A Nonconformist Ministry (London, 1681), 226;
... from here, there and everywhere
Thanks to Meir Yona
Concerning John Of Gichala. Josephus Uses Stratagems Against The Plots John Laid Against Him And Recovers Certain Cities Which Had Revolted From Him.
1. Now as Josephus was thus engaged in the administration of the affairs of Galilee, there arose a treacherous person, a man of Gischala, the son of Levi, whose name was John. His character was that of a very cunning and very knavish person, beyond the ordinary rate of the other men of eminence there, and for wicked practices he had not his fellow any where. Poor he was at first, and for a long time his wants were a hinderance to him in his wicked designs. He was a ready liar, and yet very sharp in gaining credit to his fictions: he thought it a point of virtue to delude people, and would delude even such as were the dearest to him. He was a hypocritical pretender to humanity, but where he had hopes of gain, he spared not the shedding of blood: his desires were ever carried to great things, and he encouraged his hopes from those mean wicked tricks which he was the author of. He had a peculiar knack at thieving; but in some time he got certain companions in his impudent practices; at first they were but few, but as he proceeded on in his evil course, they became still more and more numerous. He took care that none of his partners should be easily caught in their rogueries, but chose such out of the rest as had the strongest constitutions of body, and the greatest courage of soul, together with great skill in martial affairs; as he got together a band of four hundred men, who came principally out of the country of Tyre, and were vagabonds that had run away from its villages; and by the means of these he laid waste all Galilee, and irritated a considerable number, who were in great expectation of a war then suddenly to arise among them.
2. However, John's want of money had hitherto restrained him in his ambition after command, and in his attempts to advance himself. But when he saw that Josephus was highly pleased with the activity of his temper, he persuaded him, in the first place, to intrust him with the repairing of the walls of his native city, [Gischala,] in which work he got a great deal of money from the rich citizens. He after that contrived a very shrewd trick, and pretending that the Jews who dwelt in Syria were obliged to make use of oil that was made by others than those of their own nation, he desired leave of Josephus to send oil to their borders; so he bought four amphorae with such Tyrian money as was of the value of four Attic drachmae, and sold every half-amphora at the same price. And as Galilee was very fruitful in oil, and was peculiarly so at that time, by sending away great quantities, and having the sole privilege so to do, he gathered an immense sum of money together, which money he immediately used to the disadvantage of him who gave him that privilege; and, as he supposed, that if he could once overthrow Josephus, he should himself obtain the government of Galilee; so he gave orders to the robbers that were under his command to be more zealous in their thievish expeditions, that by the rise of many that desired innovations in the country, he might either catch their general in his snares, as he came to the country's assistance, and then kill him; or if he should overlook the robbers, he might accuse him for his negligence to the people of the country. He also spread abroad a report far and near that Josephus was delivering up the administration of affairs to the Romans; and many such plots did he lay, in order to ruin him.
3. Now at the same time that certain young men of the village Dabaritta, who kept guard in the Great Plain laid snares for Ptolemy, who was Agrippa's and Bernice's steward, and took from him all that he had with him; among which things there were a great many costly garments, and no small number of silver cups, and six hundred pieces of gold; yet were they not able to conceal what they had stolen, but brought it all to Josephus, to Taricheae. Hereupon he blamed them for the violence they had offered to the king and queen, and deposited what they brought to him with Eneas, the most potent man of Taricheae, with an intention of sending the things back to the owners at a proper time; which act of Josephus brought him into the greatest danger; for those that had stolen the things had an indignation at him, both because they gained no share of it for themselves, and because they perceived beforehand what was Josephus's intention, and that he would freely deliver up what had cost them so much pains to the king and queen. These ran away by night to their several villages, and declared to all men that Josephus was going to betray them: they also raised great disorders in all the neighboring cities, insomuch that in the Morning a hundred thousand armed men came running together; which multitude was crowded together in the hippodrome at Taricheae, and made a very peevish clamor against him; while some cried out, that they should depose the traitor; and others, that they should burn him. Now John irritated a great many, as did also one Jesus, the son of Sapphias, who was then governor of Tiberias. Then it was that Josephus's friends, and the guards of his body, were so affrighted at this violent assault of the multitude, that they all fled away but four; and as he was asleep, they awaked him, as the people were going to set fire to the house. And although those four that remained with him persuaded him to run away, he was neither surprised at his being himself deserted, nor at the great multitude that came against him, but leaped out to them with his clothes rent, and ashes sprinkled on his head, with his hands behind him, and his sword hanging at his neck. At this sight his friends, especially those of Taricheae, commiserated his condition; but those that came out of the country, and those in their neighborhood, to whom his government seemed burdensome, reproached him, and bid him produce the money which belonged to them all immediately, and to confess the agreement he had made to betray them; for they imagined, from the habit in which he appeared, that he would deny nothing of what they suspected concerning him, and that it was in order to obtain pardon that he had put himself entirely into so pitiable a posture. But this humble appearance was only designed as preparatory to a stratagem of his, who thereby contrived to set those that were so angry at him at variance one with another about the things they were angry at. However, he promised he would confess all: hereupon he was permitted to speak, when he said, "I did neither intend to send this money back to Agrippa, nor to gain it myself; for I did never esteem one that was your enemy to be my friend, nor did I look upon what would tend to your disadvantage to be my advantage. But, O you people of Tarieheae, I saw that your city stood in more need than others of fortifications for your security, and that it wanted money in order for the building it a wall. I was also afraid lest the people of Tiberias and other cities should lay a plot to seize upon these spoils, and therefore it was that I intended to retain this money privately, that I might encompass you with a wall. But if this does not please you, I will produce what was brought me, and leave it to you to plunder it; but if I have conducted myself so well as to please you, you may if you please punish your benefactor."
The War of the Jews: The History of the Destruction of Jerusalem (complete edition, 7 books)
by D.H. Stern
because he shares his food with the poor.
by Frank W. Boreham
Gog and Magog, let it be dearly understood, are the two tall poplar-trees that keep ceaseless vigil by my gate. I state this fact baldly and unequivocally at the very outset in order to set at rest, once and for ever, all controversies and disputations on that fascinating point. Historians will reach down the ponderous and dusty tomes that litter up their formidable shelves, and will tell me that Gog and Magog were two famous British giants whose life-sized statues, fourteen feet high, have stood for more than two hundred years in the Guildhall in London. But that is all that the historians know about it! Theologians, and especially theologians of a certain school, will remind me that Gog and Magog are biblical characters. Are they not mentioned in the prophecy of Ezekiel and in the Book of Revelation? And then, looking gravely over their spectacles, these learned-looking gentlemen will ask me if I am seriously of opinion that the inspired writers were referring to my pair of lofty poplars. I hasten to assure these nervous and unimaginative gentlemen that I propose to commit myself to no such heresy. Like Mrs. Gamp, I would not presume. For ages past these cryptic titles have provided my excellent friends with ground for interminable speculation, and for the most ingenious exploits of interpretation. How could I have the heart to exclusively allocate to these stately sentinels that guard my gate the titles that have afforded the interpreters such endless pleasure? I would as soon attempt to snatch from a boy his only peg-top, or from a girl her only doll, as embark upon so barbarous an atrocity. How could they ever again declare, with the faintest scrap of confidence, that Gog and Magog represented any particular pair of princes or potentates if I deliberately anticipate them by walking off with both labels and coolly attaching them to my two poplar-trees? The thing is absurd upon the face of it. And so I repeat that for the purposes of this article, and for the purposes of this article only, Gog and Magog are the two tall poplar-trees that keep ceaseless vigil by my gate.
Trees are very lovable things. We all like Beaconsfield the better because he was so passionately devoted to the trees at Hughenden. He was so fond of them that he directed in his will that none of them should ever be cut down. So I am not ashamed of my tenderness for Gog and Magog. There they stand, down at the gate; the one on the one side, and the other on the other. Huge giants they are, with a giant's strength and a giant's stature, but with more than a giant's grace. From whichever direction I come, they always seem to salute me with a welcome as soon as I come round the bend in the road. It is always pleasant when home has something about it that can be seen at a distance. The last half-mile on the homeward road is the half-mile in which the climax of weariness is reached. It is like the last straw that breaks the camel's back. But if there is a light at the window, or some clear landmark that distinguishes the spot, the very sight of the familiar object lures the traveller on, and in actual sight of home he forgets his fatigue.
It is a very pleasant thing to have two glorious poplars at your gate. They always seem to be craning, straining, towering upward to catch the first glimpse of you; and they make home seem nearer as soon as you come within sight of them. Gog and Magog are such companionable things. They always have something to say to you. It is true that they talk of little but the weather; but then, that is what most people talk about. I like to see them in August, when a certain olive sheen mantles their branches and tells you that the swallows will soon be here. I like to see them in October, when they are a towering column of verdure, every leaf as bright as though it has just been varnished. I even like to see them in April, when they strew the paths with a rustling litter of bronze and gold. They tell me that winter is coming, with its long evenings, its roaring fires, and its insistence on the superlative attractions of home. There never dawns a day on which Gog and Magog are not well worth looking at and well worth listening to.
But although I have been speaking of Gog and Magog as though they were as much alike as two peas, the very reverse is the case. No two things—not even the two peas—are exactly alike. When God makes a thing He breaks the mould. The two peas do not resemble each other under a microscope. Macaulay, in his essay on Madame D'Arblay, declares that this extraordinary range of distinctions within very narrow limits is one of the most notable things in the universe. 'No two faces are alike,' he says, 'and yet very few faces deviate very widely from the common standard. Among the millions of human beings who inhabit London, there is not one who could be taken by his acquaintance for another; yet we may walk from Paddington to Mile End without seeing one person in whom any feature is so overcharged that we turn round to stare at it. An infinite number of varieties lies between limits which are not very far asunder. The specimens which pass those limits on either side form a very small minority.'
So is it with trees. When you first drive up an avenue of poplars you regard each tree as the exact duplicate of all the others. There is certainly a general similarity, just as, in some households, there is a striking family likeness. But just as, after spending a few days with that household, you no longer mistake Jack for Charlie, or Jessie for Jean, and even laugh at yourself for ever having been so stupid, so, when you get to know the poplars better, you no longer suppose that they are all alike. You soon detect the marks of individuality among them; and, if one were felled and brought you, you could describe with perfect accuracy the two trees between which it stood. That is particularly the case with Gog and Magog. A casual visitor would remark, as he approached the house, that we had a pair of gigantic poplars at the front gate. It does not occur to him to distinguish between them. For aught he knows, or for aught he cares, Gog might be Magog, or Magog might be Gog. But to us the thing is absurd. We know them so well that we should as soon think of mistaking one of the children for another as of mistaking Gog for Magog, or Magog for Gog. We salute the tall trees every morning when we rise; we pass them with mystic greetings of our own a dozen times a day; and, before retiring at night, we like to peep from the front windows and see their gigantic forms grandly silhouetted against the evening sky. Gog is Gog, and Magog is Magog; and the idea of mistaking the one for the other seems ludicrous in the extreme. The solar system is as full of mysteries as a conjurer's portmanteaux; but, of all the mysteries that it contains, the mystery of individuality is surely the most inscrutable of all.
'What is the difference between Gog and Magog?' somebody wants to know; and I am glad that somebody asked the question, for it gives me the opportunity of pointing out that between Gog and Magog there is all the difference in the world. There is a difference in girth; there is a difference in height; and there is a difference in fibre. I have just run a tape round both trees. Magog gives a measurement of just six feet; whilst Gog puts those puny proportions to shame with a record of seven feet six inches. I have not attempted to climb the trees; but I can see at a glance that Gog is at least eight feet taller than his brother. Nor do these measurements sum up the whole of Gog's advantage. For you cannot glance at the twins without seeing that Gog is incalculably the sturdier. In the trunk of Magog there is a huge cavity into which a child could creep and be perfectly concealed; but Gog is as sound as a bell. Any one who has seen two brothers grow up side by side—the one sturdy, masculine, virile, and full of health; the other, puny, delicate, fragile, and threatened with disease—knows how I feel whenever I pass between these two sentries at the gate. I am full of admiration for the glorious strength of Gog; I am touched to tenderness by the comparative frailty of poor Magog. It is odd that two trees of the same age, growing together under precisely identical conditions, should have turned out so differently. There must be a reason for it. Is there? There is!
The fact is, Gog gets all the wind. I have often watched the storm come sweeping down on the two tall trees, and it is grand to watch them. The huge things sway and bend like tossing plumes, and sometimes you almost fancy that they will break like reeds before the fury of the blast. Great branches are torn off; smaller boughs and piles of twigs are scattered all around like wounded soldiers on a hotly contested field; but the trees outlive the storm, and you love them all the better for it. But, all the time, you can see that it is Gog that is doing the fighting. The fearful onslaught breaks first upon him; and the force of the attack is broken by the time it reaches Magog. It may be that Gog is very fond of Magog, and, pitying his frailty, seeks to shelter him. It certainly looks like it. But, if so, it is a mistaken kindness. It is just because Gog has had to bear the brunt of so many attacks that he has sent down his roots so deeply and has become so magnificently strong. It is because Magog has always been protected and sheltered that he is so feeble, and cuts so sorry a figure beside his stouter brother.
And now I find myself sitting at the feet of Gog and Magog, not only literally but metaphorically, and they begin to teach me things. It is not half a bad thing to be living in a world that has some fight in it. It is a good thing for a man to be buffeted and knocked about. I fancy that Gog and Magog could say some specially comforting things to parents. The tendency among us is to try to secure for our children the kind of life that Magog leads, hidden, sheltered, and protected. Yet nobody can take a second glance at poor Magog—his shorter stature, his smaller girth, his softer fibre—without entertaining the gravest doubts concerning the wisdom of so apparently considerate a choice. It is perfectly natural, and altogether creditable to the fond hearts and earnest solicitude of doting parents, that they should seek to rear their children like hot-house plants, protected from the nipping frosts and frigid blasts of a chilling world. But it can be overdone. A great meeting, attended by five thousand people, was recently held in London to deal with the White Slave question. And I was greatly struck by the fact that one of the most experienced and observant of the speakers—the Rev. J. Ernest Rattenbury, of the West London Mission—declared with deep emotion and impressive emphasis that 'it is the girls who come from the sheltered homes who stand in the greatest peril.' Perhaps I shall render the most practical service if I put the truth the other way. Instead of dwelling so much on Magog, look at Gog. I know fathers and mothers who are inclined to break their hearts because their boys and girls have had to go out from the shielding care of their homes into the rough and tumble of the great world. Look at Gog, I say again, look at Gog!
Was it not Alfred Russel Wallace who tried to help an emperor-moth, and only harmed it by his ill-considered ministry? He came upon the creature beating its wings and struggling wildly to force its passage through the narrow neck of its cocoon. He admired its fine proportions, eight inches from the tip of one wing to the tip of the other, and thought it a pity that so handsome a creature should be subjected to so severe an ordeal. He therefore took out his lancet and slit the cocoon. The moth came out at once; but its glorious colours never developed. The soaring wings never expanded. The indescribable hues and tints and shades that should have adorned them never appeared. The moth crept moodily about; drooped perceptibly; and presently died. The furious struggle with the cocoon was Nature's wise way of developing the splendid wings and of sending the vital fluids pulsing through the frame until every particle blushed with their beauty. The naturalist had saved the little creature from the struggle, but had unintentionally ruined and slain it in the process. It is the story of Gog and Magog over again.
In my college days I used to go down to a quaint little English village for the week-end in order to conduct services in the village chapel on Sunday. I was always entertained by a little old lady whose face haunts me still. It was so very human, and so very wise, and withal so very beautiful; and the white ringlets on either side completed a perfect picture. She dwelt in a modest little cottage on top of the hill. It was a queer, tumble-down old place with crooked rafters and crazy lattice windows.
Roses and honeysuckle clambered all over the porch, straggled along the walls, and even crept under the eaves into the cottage itself. The thing that impressed me when I first went was the extraordinary number of old Bessie's visitors. On Saturday nights they came one after another, young men and sedate matrons, old men and tripping maidens, and each desired to see her alone. She was very old; she had known hunger and poverty; the deeply furrowed brow told of long and bitter trouble. She was a great sufferer, too, and daily wrestled with her pitiless disease. But, like the sturdier of the poplars by my gate, she had gathered into herself the force of all the cruel winds that had beaten so savagely upon her. And the result was that her own character had become so strong and so upright and so beautiful that she was recognized as the high-priestess of that English countryside, and every man and maiden who needed counsel or succour made a beaten path to her open door.
Mushrooms on the Moor
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
The discipline of difficulty
In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. --- John 16:33.
An average view of the Christian life is that it means deliverance from trouble. It is deliverance in trouble, which is very different. “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High … there shall no evil befall thee”—no plague can come nigh the place where you are at one with God.
If you are a child of God, there certainly will be troubles to meet, but Jesus says do not be surprised when they come. “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world, there is nothing for you to fear.” Men who before they were saved would scorn to talk about troubles, often become ‘fushionless’ after being born again because they have a wrong idea of a saint.
God does not give us overcoming life: He gives us life as we overcome. The strain is the strength. If there is no strain, there is no strength. Are you asking God to give you life and liberty and joy? He cannot, unless you will accept the strain. Immediately you face the strain, you will get the strength. Overcome your own timidity and take the step, and God will give you to eat of the tree of life and you will get nourishment. If you spend yourself out physically, you become exhausted; but spend yourself spiritually, and you get more strength. God never gives strength for tomorrow, or for the next hour, but only for the strain of the minute. The temptation is to face difficulties from a commonsense standpoint. The saint is hilarious when he is crushed with difficulties because the thing is so ludicrously impossible to anyone but God.
My Utmost for His Highest
the Poetry of RS Thomas
What is this? said God. The obstinacy
Of its refusal to answer
Enraged him. He struck it
Those great blows it resounds
With still. It glowered at
Him, but remained dumb,
Turning on its slow axis
Of pain, reflecting the year
In its seasons. Nature bandaged
Its wounds. Healing in
The smooth sun, it became
Fair. God looked at it
Again, reminded of
An intention. They shall answer
For you, he said. And at once
There were trees with birds
Singing, and through the trees
Animals wandered, drinking
Their own scent, conceding
An absence. Where are you?
He called, and riding the echo
The shapes came, slender
As trees, but with white hands,
Curious to build. On the altars
They made him the red blood
Told what he wished to hear.
The English author and Anglican clergyman Sydney Smith, in the early nineteenth century, wrote that “Praise is the best diet for us, after all.” Smith was right; we are often too quick to criticize others for the jobs they do. We think that praising another might cause a bloated sense of self or a swelled head. And we especially decry praising an “underling,” someone in an inferior position, as demeaning.
The reality, though, is that most people work better when they receive praise rather than criticism (or no comment at all). But this is only half the picture: Most people also work better when they give praise. Just as a compliment does wonders for the other, its also improves us. Lauding another can and should give us a good sense, making us more optimistic and cheerful. A few words of approval allow us not to take things, or people, for granted.
In the Talmud, Ṙabbi Meir holds that a person should recite one hundred blessings each day! Perhaps this is why Jewish tradition incorporated so many blessings into everyday life. We need them much more than God does: Birkat ha-Mazon, the blessings after a meal, may not change God, but it should sensitize us to an appreciation of the everyday blessing of food. Birkhot ha-Shaḥar, the Morning blessings, thank God for the most basic gifts of each day—consciousness upon waking, the ability to stand up and get dressed, the fact that we are created in God’s image and that we are free. It’s possible that God’s day would be much the same without our reciting these words; our day, on the other hand, would be significantly diminished.
Why was the traditional Jewish greeting to someone who had done well יִישַׁר כֹּחֲךָ/yishar ko-ḥa-kha (or in its Yiddishized form, Yoshr koyaḥ)? Of all the things we could say to them, of all the blessings we could bestow upon them, why a phrase that means “May your strength be straight?”
A clue may be found in the Bible, which provides us with many stories of human beings struggling with strength. Samson is famous for his physical strength. The Book of Judges relates several tales of his prowess: He tore apart a lion with his bare hands; he carried off the gate of the city of Gaza on his shoulders; he killed a thousand men with the jawbone of an ass. Yet, despite the fact that Samson lived at a time when the Philistines were oppressing the Israelites, he didn’t use his great strength to help his people. He squandered the gift that God had blessed him with, and instead used his power to settle personal scores with people he never should have been involved with in the first place. Only in dying did he use his strength to defeat the enemy and free his nation.
David had many strengths—fighter, musician, poet, politician, but none was as great as his charisma. David had the almost magical ability to attract people to him. He used his gift to unify the tribes of Israel into a mighty nation-state. Kings and princes, prophets and commoners all adored him. So did married women. David used his powerful position to conduct an illicit and ultimately destructive affair with Bathsheba.
Solomon’s great strength was of a different kind: He was known as the wisest of men. He used his wisdom for much good. It enabled him to judge the difficult cases that came before him, the most famous being of the two mothers who claimed the same baby as their own. He used his intellectual strength to build a Temple to expand his nation into a world power, and to compose three thousand proverbs and more than a thousand songs. However, in the end, Solomon applied his great wisdom to further his own glory and ambition. He imposed a complex bureaucracy upon the people that included heavy taxes and forced labor. He had a thousand wives; many of these marriages were entered into to seal alliances with foreign powers. His lavish life-style so drained the nation who paid for it that it sowed the seeds of the splitting of the kingdom into two nations.
Strength, we are taught, is morally neutral. It can be used for good, if it is controlled and kept straight, or it can be bent and twisted for evil. יִישַׁר כֹּחֲךָ/Yishar ko-ḥa-kha is both an acknowledgment of the strength in another person, as well as an exhortation to use it in a morally appropriate and straight way.
Searching for Meaning in Midrash: Lessons for Everyday Living
Delight yourself in the LORD.
--- Psalm 37:4.
[This delight in prayer is] a delight in the things asked. Works of Stephen Charnock (5 Volume Set) This heavenly cheerfulness is most in heavenly things. What delight others have in asking worldly goods, a gracious heart has in begging the light of God’s face. Souls cannot be dull in prayer who seriously consider they pray for no less than heaven and happiness, no less than the glory of the great God. A gracious person is never weary of spiritual things, as people are never weary of the sun; though spiritual things are enjoyed every day, yet we long for them to rise again. From this delight in the matter of prayer, the saints have redoubled and repeated their petitions and redoubled the Amen at the end of prayer, to show the great affections to those things they have asked. The soul loves to think of those things the heart is set on, and frequent thoughts express a delight.
[Delight in prayer is] a delight in those graces and affections that are exercised in prayer. A gracious heart is most delighted with that prayer in which grace has been more stirring, and gracious affections have been boiling over. The soul desires not only to speak to God, but to make melody to God; the heart is the instrument, but graces are the strings, and prayer is touching them, and therefore the soul is more displeased with the flagging of its graces than with missing an answer. There may be a delight in gifts, in a person’s own gifts, in the gifts of another, in the pomp and varnish of devotion, but a delight in exercising spiritual graces is an ingredient in this true delight. The Pharisees are marked by Christ to make long prayers, self-glorifying in an outward bravery of words, as if they were playing the courtiers with God and complimenting him; the publican had a short prayer but more grace: “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” There is reliance and humility. A gracious heart labors to bring flaming affections, and if it cannot bring flaming grace, it will bring smoking grace; Christians desire the preparation of their hearts as well as the answer of their prayers.
--- Stephen Charnock
Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
Arrow from Nowhere August 2
William the Conqueror may have conquered England during the Norman Invasion of 1066, but he never conquered his own appetites. He was ruthless, harsh, wrathful—and always hungry. He grew so stout that his coffin proved too small for him, and on his death attendants had trouble stuffing the corpse into place. It burst open during the effort.
His son Rufus moved quickly to seize the throne. He inherited all his father’s vices, none of his virtues, and is remembered as one of history’s worst men. He was officially William II, but commonly called Rufus because of his red hair, or, some say, his red face. He had reason to be red-faced. His cruelty was sadistic, and he derived perverse pleasure by watching animals tortured and innocent men subjected to screaming degrees of pain.
Rufus was incorrigible. Once while recovering from a severe illness he vowed never to become a good man. His sexual appetite was unquenchable. It was said he rose a worse man every Morning and lay down a worse man every night.
Rufus passionately hated Christ, Christianity, and the clergy. His profane and blasphemous words continually shocked his contemporaries. He plundered churches, robbing them of their offerings and treasuries. He sold church positions to the highest bidder. He kept the archbishopric of Canterbury vacant before finally appointing good Anselm to the office. And he converted sacred cemeteries into royal parks to satisfy his thirst for hunting.
It was this last indiscretion that took his life. He had seized land for a hunter’s paradise called New Forest. On August 2, 1100, while hot on the chase, he was struck by a powerful arrow that flew from nowhere. He died quickly, and to no one’s sorrow. No church bells tolled, no prayers were said for him, no alms given in his memory, no monuments built to his name. His eternal damnation was taken for granted by England, and his younger brother Henry reigned in his stead.
Send your sharp arrows through enemy hearts and make all nations fall at your feet. During the fighting a soldier shot an arrow without even aiming, and it hit Ahab where two pieces of his armor joined. Dogs licked Ahab’s blood off the ground, just as the Lord had warned.
--- Psalm 45:5; 1 Kings 22:34a,38b.
On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - August 2
“Who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.” --- Ephesians 1:11.
Our belief in God’s wisdom supposes and necessitates that he has a settled purpose and plan in the work of salvation. What would creation have been without his design? Is there a fish in the sea, or a fowl in the air, which was left to chance for its formation? Nay, in every bone, joint, and muscle, sinew, gland, and blood-vessel, you mark the presence of a God working everything according to the design of infinite wisdom. And shall God be present in creation, ruling over all, and not in grace? Shall the new creation have the fickle genius of free will to preside over it when divine counsel rules the old creation? Look at Providence! Who knoweth not that not a sparrow falleth to the ground without your Father? Even the hairs of your head are all numbered. God weighs the mountains of our grief in scales, and the hills of our tribulation in balances. And shall there be a God in providence and not in grace? Shall the shell be ordained by wisdom and the kernel be left to blind chance? No; he knows the end from the beginning. He sees in its appointed place, not merely the corner-stone which he has laid in fair colours, in the blood of his dear Son, but he beholds in their ordained position each of the chosen stones taken out of the quarry of nature, and polished by his grace; he sees the whole from corner to cornice, from base to roof, from foundation to pinnacle. He hath in his mind a clear knowledge of every stone which shall be laid in its prepared space, and how vast the edifice shall be, and when the top-stone shall be brought forth with shoutings of “Grace! Grace! unto it.” At the last it shall be clearly seen that in every chosen vessel of mercy, Jehovah did as he willed with his own; and that in every part of the work of grace he accomplished his purpose, and glorified his own name.
Evening - August 2
“So she gleaned in the field until even.” --- Ruth 2:17.
Let me learn from Ruth, the gleaner. As she went out to gather the ears of corn, so must I go forth into the fields of prayer, meditation, the ordinances, and hearing the word to gather spiritual food. The gleaner gathers her portion ear by ear; her gains are little by little: so must I be content to search for single truths, if there be no greater plenty of them. Every ear helps to make a bundle, and every Gospel lesson assists in making us wise unto salvation. The gleaner keeps her eyes open: if she stumbled among the stubble in a dream, she would have no load to carry home rejoicingly at eventide. I must be watchful in religious exercises lest they become unprofitable to me; I fear I have lost much already—O that I may rightly estimate my opportunities, and glean with greater diligence. The gleaner stoops for all she finds, and so must I. High spirits criticize and object, but lowly minds glean and receive benefit. A humble heart is a great help towards profitably hearing the Gospel. The engrafted soul-saving word is not received except with meekness. A stiff back makes a bad gleaner; down, master pride, thou art a vile robber, not to be endured for a moment. What the gleaner gathers she holds: if she dropped one ear to find another, the result of her day’s work would be but scant; she is as careful to retain as to obtain, and so at last her gains are great. How often do I forget all that I hear; the second truth pushes the first out of my head, and so my reading and hearing end in much ado about nothing! Do I feel duly the importance of storing up the truth? A hungry belly makes the gleaner wise; if there be no corn in her hand, there will be no bread on her table; she labours under the sense of necessity, and hence her tread is nimble and her grasp is firm; I have even a greater necessity, Lord, help me to feel it, that it may urge me onward to glean in fields which yield so plenteous a reward to diligence.
Morning and Evening
Words and music by Charles A. Tindley, 1851–1933
If our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from Him anything we ask, because we obey His commands and do what pleases Him. (1 John 3:21, 22)
Born to slave parents and separated from them when only five years of age, Charles Tindley was a most remarkable individual. He learned to read and write on his own at the age of 17, attended night school, completed seminary training through correspondence, and was ordained to the Methodist ministry. While attending Evening school, young Tindley supported himself as the janitor of the Calvary Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia. In 1902, Charles Tindley was called to pastor this prestigious church where he had once been the janitor. The Calvary Methodist Church prospered greatly under his leadership. Eventually several larger sanctuaries had to be built to accommodate the crowds of all races that came to hear this humble preacher. In 1924, in spite of Tindley’s protests, the new church building was renamed the Tindley Temple Methodist Church.
Charles Tindley expresses a concern in this hymn for many of the practices and attitudes that must be rejected if Christians are to be pleasing to their Lord. The hymn reminds us that we must watch out for those allurements and temptations that can easily disrupt our spiritual courses: “Delusive dreams, sinful-worldly pleasures, habits, pride, self or friends.” The Bible teaches that we are not to be conformed to this world but should know the transforming power of a spiritually renewed mind (Romans 12:1, 2).
Nothing between my soul and the Savior, naught of this world’s delusive dream: I have renounced all sinful pleasure—Jesus is mine! There’s nothing between.
Nothing between, like worldly pleasure! Habits of life, tho harmless they seem, must not my heart from Him ever sever—He is my all! There’s nothing between.
Nothing between, like pride or station: Self or friends shall not intervene; tho it may cost me much tribulation, I am resolved! There’s nothing between.
Nothing between, e’en many hard trials, tho the whole world against me convene; watching with prayer and much self denial—Triumph at last, with nothing between!
Chorus: Nothing between my soul and the Savior, so that His blessed face may be seen. Nothing preventing the least of His favor: Keep the way clear! Let nothing between.
For Today: Psalm 51:10; 2 Timothy 2:15; Hebrews 13:6; 1 John 3:18–24
Reflect on this truth: “The price of spiritual power is a purity of heart.” Ask God to reveal anything that might hinder His flow of power in your life. ---
Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
DISCOURSE I - ON THE EXISTENCE OF GOD
I shall further premise this, That the folly of atheism is evidenced by the light of reason. Men that will not listen to Scripture, as having no counterpart of it in their souls, cannot easily deny natural reason, which riseth up on all sides for the justification of this truth. There, is a natural as well as a revealed knowledge, and the book of the creatures is legible in declaring the being of a God, as well as the Scriptures are in declaring the nature of a God; there are outward objects in the world, and common principles in the conscience, whence it may be inferred.
For, 1. God in regard of his existence is not only the discovery of faith, but of reason. God hath revealed not only his being, but some sparks of his eternal power and godhead in his works, as well as in his word. (Rom. 1:19, 20), “God hath showed it unto them,”—how? in his works; by the things that are made, it is a discovery to our reason, as shining in the creatures; and an object of our faith as breaking out upon us in the Scriptures: it is an article of our faith, and an article of our reason. Faith supposeth natural knowledge, as grace supposeth nature. Faith indeed is properly of things above reason, purely depending upon revelation. What can be demonstrated by natural light, is not so properly the object of faith; though in regard of the addition of a certainty by revelation it is so. The belief that God is, which the apostle speaks of, is not so much of the bare existence of God, as what God is in relation to them that seek him, viz. a rewarder. The apostle speaks of the faith of Abel, the faith of Enoch, such a faith that pleases God: but the faith of Abel testified in his sacrifice, and the faith of Enoch testified in his walking with God, was not simply a faith of the existence of God. Cain in the time of Abel, other men in the world in the time of Enoch, believed this as well as they: but it was a faith joined with the worship of God, and desires to please him in the way of his own appointment; so that they, believed that God was such as he had declared himself to be in his promise to Adam, such an one as would be as good as his word, and bruise the serpent’s head. He that seeks to God according to the mind of God, must believe that he is such a God that will pardon sin, and justify a seeker of him; that he is a God of that ability and will, to justify a sinner in that way he hath appointed for the clearing the holiness of his nature, and vindicating the honor of his law violated by man. No man can seek God or love God, unless he believe him to be thus; and he cannot seek God without a discovery of his own mind how he would be sought. For it is not a seeking God in any way of man’s invention, that renders him capable of this desired fruit of a reward. He that believes God as a rewarder, must believe the promise of God concerning the Messiah. Men under the conscience of sin, cannot tell without a divine discovery, whether God will reward, or how he will reward the seekers of him; and therefore cannot act towards him as an object of faith. Would any man seek God merely because he is, or love him because he is, if he did not know that he should be acceptable to him? The bare existence of a thing is not the ground of affection to it, but those qualities of it and our interest in it, which render it amiable and delightful. How can men, whose consciences fly in their faces, seek God or love him, without this knowledge that he is a rewarder? Nature doth not show any way to a sinner, how to reconcile God’s provoked justice with his tenderness. The faith the apostle speaks of here is a faith that eyes the reward as an encouragement, and the will of God as the rule of its acting; he doth not speak simply of the existence of God.
I have spoken the more of this place, because the Socinians ( Definition of Socinian. : an adherent of a 16th and 17th century theological movement professing belief in God and adherence to the Christian Scriptures but denying the divinity of Christ and consequently denying the Trinity. ) use this to decry any natural knowledge of God, and that the existence of God is only to be known by revelation, so that by that reason any one that live without the Scripture hath no ground to believe the being of a God. The Scripture ascribes a knowledge of God to all nations in the world (Rom. 1:19); not only a faculty of knowing, if they had arguments and demonstrations, as an ignorant man in any art hath a faculty to know; but it ascribes an actual knowledge (ver.10) “manifest in them;” (ver. 21) “They knew God;” not they might know him; they knew him when they did not care for knowing him. The notices of God are as intelligible to us by reason, as any object in the world is visible; he is written in every letter. 2. We are often in the Scripture sent to take a prospect of the creatures for a discovery of God. The apostles drew arguments from the topics of nature, when they discoursed with those that owned the Scripture (Rom. 1:19), as well as when they treated with those that were ignorant of it, as Acts 14:16, 17. And among the philosophers of Athens (Acts 17:27, 29), such arguments the Holy Ghost in the apostles thought sufficient to convince men of the existence, unity, spirituality, and patience of God. Such arguments had not been used by them and the prophets from the visible things in the world to silence the Gentiles with whom they dealt, had not this truth, and much more about God, been demonstrable by natural reason: they knew well enough that probable arguments would not satisfy piercing and inquisitive minds.
In Paul’s account, the testimony of the creatures was without contradiction. God himself justifies this way of proceeding by his own example, and remits Job to the consideration of the creatures, to spell out something of his divine perfections. And this is so convincing an argument of the existence of God, that God never vouchsafed any miracle, or put forth any act of omnipotency, besides what was evident in the creatures, for the satisfaction of the curiosity of any atheist, or the evincing of his being, as he hath done for the evidencing those truths which were not written in the book of nature, or for the restoring a decayed worship, or the protection or deliverance of his people. Those miracles in publishing the gospel, indeed, did demonstrate the existence of some supreme power; but they were not seals designedly affixed for that, but for the confirmation of that truth, which was above the ken of purblind reason, and purely the birth of divine revelation. Yet what proves the truth of any spiritual doctrine, proves also in that act the existence of the Divine Author of it. The revelation always implies a revealer, and that which manifests it to be a revelation, manifests also the supreme Revealer of it. By the same light the sun manifests other things to us, it also manifests itself. But what miracles could rationally be supposed to work upon an atheist, who is not drawn to a sense of the truth proclaimed aloud by so many wonders of the creation? Let us now proceed to the demonstration of the atheist’s folly.
It is a folly to deny or doubt of a Sovereign Being, incomprehensible in his nature, infinite in his essence and perfections, independent in his operations, who hath given being to the whole frame of sensible and intelligible creatures, and governs them according to their several natures, by an unconceivable wisdom; who fills the heavens with the glory of his majesty, and the earth with the influences of his goodness.
It is a folly inexcusable to renounce, in this case, all appeal to universal consent, and the joint assurances of the creatures. Reason I. ’Tis a folly to deny or doubt of that which hath been the acknowledged sentiment of all nations, in all places and ages. There is no nation but hath owned some kind of religion, and, therefore, no nation but hath consented in the notion of a Supreme Creator and Governor.
1. This hath been universal. 2. It hath been constant and uninterrupted. 3. Natural and innate. First, It hath been universally assented to by the judgments and practices of all nations in the world.
1. No nation hath been exempt from it. All histories of former and latter ages have not produced any one nation but fell under the force of this truth. Though they have differed in their religions, they have agreed in this truth; here both heathen, Turk, Jew, and Christian, centre without any contention. No quarrel was ever commenced upon this score; though about other opinions wars have been sharp, and enmities irreconcilable. The notion of the existence of a Deity was the same in all, Indians as well as Britons, Americans as well as Jews. It hath not been an opinion peculiar to this or that people, to this or that sect of philosophers; but hath been as universal as the reason whereby men are differenced from other creatures, so that some have rather defined man by animal religiosum, than animal rationale. ’Tis so twisted with reason that a man cannot be accounted rational, unless he own an object of religion; therefore he that understands not this, renounceth his humanity when he renounceth a Divinity. No instance can be given of any one people in the world that disclaimed it. It hath been owned by the wise and ignorant, by the learned and stupid, by those who had no other guide but the dimmest light of nature, as well as those whose candles were snuffed by a more polite education, and that without any solemn debate and contention. Though some philosophers have been known to change their opinions in the concerns of nature, yet none can be proved to have absolutely changed their opinion concerning the being of a God.
One died for asserting one God; none, in the former ages upon record, hath died for asserting no God. Go to the utmost bounds of America, you may find people without some broken pieces of the law of nature, but not without this signature and stamp upon them, though they wanted commerce with other nations, except as savage as themselves, in whom the light of nature was as it were sunk into the socket, who are but one remove from brutes, who clothe not their bodies, cover not their shame, yet were they as soon known to own a God, as they were known to be a people. They were possessed with the notion of a Supreme Being, the author of the world; had an object of religious adoration; put up prayers to the deity they owned for the good things they wanted, and the diverting the evils they feared. No people so untamed where absolute perfect atheism had gained a footing. No one nation of the world known in the time of the Romans that were without their ceremonies, whereby they signified their devotion to a deity. They had their places of worship, where they made their vows, presented their prayers, offered their sacrifices, and implored the assistance of what they thought to be a god; and in their distresses run immediately, without any deliberation, to their gods: so that the notion of a deity was as inward and settled in them as their own souls, and, indeed, runs in the blood of mankind. The distempers of the understanding cannot utterly deface it; you shall scarce find the most distracted bedlam, in his raving fits, to deny a God, though he may blaspheme, and fancy himself one.
2. Nor doth the idolatry and multiplicity of gods in the world weaken, but confirm this universal consent. Whatsoever unworthy conceits men have had of God in all nations, or whatsoever degrading representations they have made of him, yet they all concur in this, that there is a Supreme Power to be adored. Though one people worshipped the sun, others the fire,—and the Egyptians, gods out of their rivers, gardens, and fields; yet the notion of a Deity existent, who created and governed the world, and conferred daily benefits upon them, was maintained by all, though applied to the stars, and in part to those sordid creatures. All the Dagons of the world establish this truth, and fall down before it. Had not the nations owned the being of a God, they had never offered incense to an idol: had there not been a deep impression of the existence of a Deity, they had never exalted creatures below themselves to the honor of altars: men could not so easily have been deceived by forged deities, if they had not had a notion of a real one. Their fondness to set up others in the place of God, evidenced a natural knowledge that there was One who had a right to be worshipped. If there were not this sentiment of a Deity, no man would ever have made an image of a piece of wood, worshipped it, prayed to it, and said, “Deliver me, for thou art my God.” They applied a general notion to a particular image. The difference is in the manner, and immediate object of worship, not in the formal ground of worship. The worship sprung from a true principle, though it was not applied to a right object: while they were rational creatures, they could not deface the notion; yet while they were corrupt creatures it was not difficult to apply themselves to a wrong object from a true principle. A blind man knows he hath a way to go as well as one of the clearest sight; but because of his blindness he may miss the way and stumble into a ditch. No man would be imposed upon to take a Bristol stone instead of a diamond, if he did not know that there were such things as diamonds in the world: nor any man spread forth his hands to an idol, if he were altogether without the sense of a Deity. Whether it be a false or a true God men apply to, yet in both, the natural sentiment of a God is evidenced; all their mistakes were grafts inserted in this stock, since they would multiply gods rather than deny a Deity. How should such a general submission be entered into by all the world, so as to adore things of a base alloy, if the force of religion were not such, that in any fashion a man would seek the satisfaction of his natural instinct to some object of worship? This great diversity confims this consent to be a good argument, for it evidenceth it not to be a cheat, combination or conspiracy to deceive, or a mutual intelligence, but every one finds it in his climate, yea in himself. People would never have given the title of a God to men or brutes had there not been a pre-existing and unquestioned persuasion, that there was such a being;—how else should the notion of a God come into their minds?—the notion that there is a God must be more ancient.
3. Whatsoever disputes there have been in the world, this of the existence of God was never the subject of contention. All other thing have been questioned. What jarrings were there among philosophers about natural things! into how many parties were they split! with what animosities did they maintain their several judgments! but we hear of no solemn controversies about the existence of a Supreme Being: this never met with any considerable contradiction: no nation, that hath but other things to question, would ever suffer this to be disparaged so much as by a public doubt. We find among the heathen contentions about the nature of God and the number of gods, some asserted an innumerable multitude of gods, some armed him to be subject to birth and death, some affirmed the entire world was God; others fancied him to be a circle of a bright fire; others that he was a spirit diffused through the whole world: yet they unanimously concurred in this, as the judgment of universal reason, that there was such a sovereign Being: and those that were skeptical in everything else, and asserted that the greatest certainty was that there was nothing certain, professed a certainty in this. The question was not whether there was a First Cause, but what it was. It is much the same thing, as the disputes about the nature and matter of the heavens, the sun and planets, though there be great diversity of judgments, yet all agree that there are heavens, sun, planets; so all the contentions among men about the nature of God, weaken not, but rather confirm, that there is a God, since there was never a public formal debate about his existence. Those that have been ready to pull out one another’s eyes for their dissent from their judgments, sharply censured one another’s sentiments, envied the births of one another’s wits, always shook hands with an unanimous consent in this; never censured one another for being of this persuasion, never called it into question; as what was never controverted among men professing Christianity, but acknowledged by all, though contending about other things, has reason to be judged a certain truth belonging to the christian religion; so what was never subjected to any controversy, but acknowledged by the whole world, hath reason to be embraced as a truth without any doubt.
4. This universal consent is not prejudiced by some few dissenters. History doth not reckon twenty professed atheists in all ages in the compass of the whole world: and we have not the name of any one absolute atheist upon record in Scripture; yet it is questioned, whether any of them, noted in history with that infamous name, were downright deniers of the existence of God, but rather because they disparaged the deities commonly worshipped by the nations where they lived, as being of a clearer reason to discern that those qualities, vulgarly attributed to their gods, as lust and luxury, wantonness and quarrels, were unworthy of the nature of a god. But suppose they were really what they are termed to be, what are they to the multitude of men that have sprung out of the loins of Adam? not so much as one grain of ashes is to all that were ever turned into that form by any fires in your chimneys. And many more were not sufficient to weigh down the contrary consent of the whole world, and bear down an universal impression. Should the laws of a country, agreed universally to by the whole body of the people, be accounted vain, because an hundred men of those millions disapprove of them, when not their reason, but their folly and base interest, persuades them to dislike them and dispute against them? What if some men be blind, shall any conclude from thence that eyes are not natural to men? shall we say that the notion of the existence of God is not natural to men, because a very small number have been of a contrary opinion? shall a man in a dungeon, that never saw the sun, deny that there is a sun, because one or two blind men tell him there is none, when thousands assure him there is. Why should then the exceptions of a few, not one to millions, discredit that which is voted certainly true by the joint consent of the world? Add this, too, that if those that are reported to be atheists had had any considerable reason to step aside from the common persuasion of the whole world, it is a wonder it met not with entertainment by great numbers of those, who, by reason of their notorious wickedness and inward disquiets, might reasonably be thought to wish in their hearts that there were no God. It is strange if there were any reason on their side, that in so long a space of tine as hath run out from the creation of the world, there could not be engaged a considerable number to frame a society for the profession of it. It hath died with the person that started it, and vanished as soon as it appeared.
The Existence and Attributes of God, Volume 7 of 50 Greatest Christian Classics, 2 Volumes in 1
Martin Luther | (1483-1546)
Sect. CV. — BUT it is worth while to hear the Diatribe make out, how it is that the argument of Paul does not exclude “Free-will” by that similitude: for it brings forward two absurd objections: the one taken from the Scriptures, the other from Reason. From the Scriptures it collects this objection.
— When Paul, 2 Tim. ii. 20, had said, that “in a great house there are vessels of gold and silver, wood and earth, some to honour and some to dishonour,” he immediately adds, “If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, &c.” (21.) — Then the Diatribe goes on to argue thus: — “What could be more ridiculous than for any one to say to an earthen chamber-convenience, If thou shalt purify thyself, thou shalt be a vessel unto honour? But this would be rightly said to a rational earthen vessel, which can, when admonished, form itself according to the will of the Lord.” — By these observations it means to say, that the similitude is not in all respects applicable, and is so mistaken, that it effects nothing at all.
I answer: (not to cavil upon this point:) — that Paul does not say, if any one shall purify himself from his own filth, but “from these;” that is, from the vessels unto dishonour: so that the sense is, if any one shall remain separate, and shall not mingle himself with wicked teachers, he shall be a vessel unto honour. Let us grant also that this passage of Paul makes for the Diatribe just as it wishes: that is, that the similitude is not effective. But how will it prove, that Paul is here speaking on the same subject as he is in Rom. ix. 11-23, which is the passage in dispute? Is it enough to cite a different passage without at all regarding whether it have the same or a different tendency? There is not (as I have often shewn) a more easy or more frequent fall in the Scriptures, than the bringing together different Scripture passages as being of the same meaning. Hence, the similitude in those passages, of which the Diatribe boasts, makes less to its purpose than our similitude which it would refute.
But (not to be contentious), let us grant, that each passage of Paul is of the same tendency; and that a similitude does not always apply in all respects; (which is without controversy true; for otherwise, it would not be a similitude, nor a translation, but the thing itself; according to the proverb, ‘A similitude halts, and does not always go upon four feet;’) yet the Diatribe errs and transgresses in this: — neglecting the scope of the similitude, which is to be most particularly observed, it contentiously catches at certain words of it: whereas, ‘the knowledge of what is said, (as Hilary observes,) is to be gained from the scope of what is said, not from certain detached words only.’ Thus, the efficacy of a similitude depends upon the cause of the similitude. Why then does the Diatribe disregard that, for the purpose of which Paul uses this similitude, and catch at that, which he says is unconnected with the purport of the similitude? That is to say, it is an exhortation where he saith, “If a man purge himself from these;” but a point of doctrine where he saith, “In a great house, there are vessels of gold, &c.” So that, from all the circumstances of the words and mind of Paul, you may understand that he is establishing the doctrine concerning the diversity and use of vessels.
The sense, therefore, is this: — seeing that so many depart from the faith, there is no comfort for us but the being certain that “the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are His. And let every one that calleth upon the name of the Lord depart from evil.” (2 Tim. ii. 19). This then is the cause and efficacy of the similitude — that God knows His own! Then follows the similitude — that there are different vessels, some to honour and some to dishonour. By this it is proved at once, that the vessels do not prepare themselves, but that the Master prepares them. And this is what Paul means, where he saith, “Hath not the potter power over the clay, &c.” (Rom. ix. 21). Thus, the similitude of Paul stands most effective: and that to prove, that there is no such thing as “Free-will” in the sight of God.
After this, follows the exhortation: “If a man purify himself from these,” &c. and for what purpose this is, may be clearly collected from what we have said already. It does not follow from this, that the man can purify himself. Nay, if any thing be proved hereby it is this: — that “Free-will” can purify itself without grace. For he does not say, if grace purify a man; but, “if a man purify himself.” But concerning imperative and conditional passages, we have said enough. Moreover, the similitude is not set forth in conditional, but in indicative verbs — that the elect and the reprobate, are as vessels of honour and of dishonour. In a word, if this fetch stand good, the whole argument of Paul comes to nothing. For in vain does he introduce vessels murmuring against God as the potter, if the fault plainly appear to be in the vessel, and not in the potter. For who would murmur at hearing him damned, who merited damnation!
The Bondage of the Will or Christian Classics Ethereal Library