Restoration for Israel and JudahJeremiah 30 1 The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD: 2 “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: Write in a book all the words that I have spoken to you. 3 For behold, days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will restore the fortunes of my people, Israel and Judah, says the LORD, and I will bring them back to the land that I gave to their fathers, and they shall take possession of it.”
4 These are the words that the LORD spoke concerning Israel and Judah:
5 “Thus says the LORD:
We have heard a cry of panic,
of terror, and no peace.
6 Ask now, and see,
can a man bear a child?
Why then do I see every man
with his hands on his stomach like a woman in labor?
Why has every face turned pale?
7 Alas! That day is so great
there is none like it;
it is a time of distress for Jacob;
yet he shall be saved out of it.
10 “Then fear not, O Jacob my servant, declares the LORD,
nor be dismayed, O Israel;
for behold, I will save you from far away,
and your offspring from the land of their captivity.
Jacob shall return and have quiet and ease,
and none shall make him afraid.
11 For I am with you to save you,
declares the LORD;
I will make a full end of all the nations
among whom I scattered you,
but of you I will not make a full end.
I will discipline you in just measure,
and I will by no means leave you unpunished.
12 “For thus says the LORD:
Your hurt is incurable,
and your wound is grievous.
13 There is none to uphold your cause,
no medicine for your wound,
no healing for you.
14 All your lovers have forgotten you;
they care nothing for you;
for I have dealt you the blow of an enemy,
the punishment of a merciless foe,
because your guilt is great,
because your sins are flagrant.
15 Why do you cry out over your hurt?
Your pain is incurable.
Because your guilt is great,
because your sins are flagrant,
I have done these things to you.
16 Therefore all who devour you shall be devoured,
and all your foes, every one of them, shall go into captivity;
those who plunder you shall be plundered,
and all who prey on you I will make a prey.
17 For I will restore health to you,
and your wounds I will heal,
declares the LORD,
because they have called you an outcast:
‘It is Zion, for whom no one cares!’
18 “Thus says the LORD:
Behold, I will restore the fortunes of the tents of Jacob
and have compassion on his dwellings;
the city shall be rebuilt on its mound,
and the palace shall stand where it used to be.
19 Out of them shall come songs of thanksgiving,
and the voices of those who celebrate.
I will multiply them, and they shall not be few;
I will make them honored, and they shall not be small.
20 Their children shall be as they were of old,
and their congregation shall be established before me,
and I will punish all who oppress them.
21 Their prince shall be one of themselves;
their ruler shall come out from their midst;
I will make him draw near, and he shall approach me,
for who would dare of himself to approach me?
declares the LORD.
22 And you shall be my people,
and I will be your God.”
23 Behold the storm of the LORD!
Wrath has gone forth,
a whirling tempest;
it will burst upon the head of the wicked.
24 The fierce anger of the LORD will not turn back
until he has executed and accomplished
the intentions of his mind.
In the latter days you will understand this.
The LORD Will Turn Mourning to Joy
Jeremiah 31 1 “At that time, declares the LORD, I will be the God of all the clans of Israel, and they shall be my people.”
2 Thus says the LORD:
“The people who survived the sword
found grace in the wilderness;
when Israel sought for rest,
3 the LORD appeared to him from far away.
I have loved you with an everlasting love;
therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.
4 Again I will build you, and you shall be built,
O virgin Israel!
Again you shall adorn yourself with tambourines
and shall go forth in the dance of the merrymakers.
5 Again you shall plant vineyards
on the mountains of Samaria;
the planters shall plant
and shall enjoy the fruit.
6 For there shall be a day when watchmen will call
in the hill country of Ephraim:
‘Arise, and let us go up to Zion,
to the LORD our God.’ ”
7 For thus says the LORD:
“Sing aloud with gladness for Jacob,
and raise shouts for the chief of the nations;
proclaim, give praise, and say,
‘O LORD, save your people,
the remnant of Israel.’
8 Behold, I will bring them from the north country
and gather them from the farthest parts of the earth,
among them the blind and the lame,
the pregnant woman and she who is in labor, together;
a great company, they shall return here.
9 With weeping they shall come,
and with pleas for mercy I will lead them back,
I will make them walk by brooks of water,
in a straight path in which they shall not stumble,
for I am a father to Israel,
and Ephraim is my firstborn.
10 “Hear the word of the LORD, O nations,
and declare it in the coastlands far away;
say, ‘He who scattered Israel will gather him,
and will keep him as a shepherd keeps his flock.’
11 For the LORD has ransomed Jacob
and has redeemed him from hands too strong for him.
12 They shall come and sing aloud on the height of Zion,
and they shall be radiant over the goodness of the LORD,
over the grain, the wine, and the oil,
and over the young of the flock and the herd;
their life shall be like a watered garden,
and they shall languish no more.
13 Then shall the young women rejoice in the dance,
and the young men and the old shall be merry.
I will turn their mourning into joy;
I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow.
14 I will feast the soul of the priests with abundance,
and my people shall be satisfied with my goodness,
declares the LORD.”
15 Thus says the LORD:
“A voice is heard in Ramah,
lamentation and bitter weeping.
Rachel is weeping for her children;
she refuses to be comforted for her children,
because they are no more.”
16 Thus says the LORD:
“Keep your voice from weeping,
and your eyes from tears,
for there is a reward for your work,
declares the LORD,
and they shall come back from the land of the enemy.
17 There is hope for your future,
declares the LORD,
and your children shall come back to their own country.
18 I have heard Ephraim grieving,
‘You have disciplined me, and I was disciplined,
like an untrained calf;
bring me back that I may be restored,
for you are the LORD my God.
19 For after I had turned away, I relented,
and after I was instructed, I struck my thigh;
I was ashamed, and I was confounded,
because I bore the disgrace of my youth.’
20 Is Ephraim my dear son?
Is he my darling child?
For as often as I speak against him,
I do remember him still.
Therefore my heart yearns for him;
I will surely have mercy on him,
declares the LORD.
21 “Set up road markers for yourself;
make yourself guideposts;
consider well the highway,
the road by which you went.
Return, O virgin Israel,
return to these your cities.
22 How long will you waver,
O faithless daughter?
For the LORD has created a new thing on the earth:
a woman encircles a man.”
“ ‘The LORD bless you, O habitation of righteousness,
O holy hill!’
26 At this I awoke and looked, and my sleep was pleasant to me.
27 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will sow the house of Israel and the house of Judah with the seed of man and the seed of beast. 28 And it shall come to pass that as I have watched over them to pluck up and break down, to overthrow, destroy, and bring harm, so I will watch over them to build and to plant, declares the LORD. 29 In those days they shall no longer say:
“ ‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes,
and the children’s teeth are set on edge.’
The New Covenant31 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. 33 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”
35 Thus says the LORD,
who gives the sun for light by day
and the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night,
who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar—
the LORD of hosts is his name:
36 “If this fixed order departs
from before me, declares the LORD,
then shall the offspring of Israel cease
from being a nation before me forever.”
37 Thus says the LORD:
“If the heavens above can be measured,
and the foundations of the earth below can be explored,
then I will cast off all the offspring of Israel
for all that they have done,
declares the LORD.”
What I'm Reading
By Larry G. Mininger 4/1/2009
About forty people scattered on metal chairs greeted me on my first Sunday in my first (and only) pastorate in a quaint little sanctuary nestled in the woods between massive orange groves just west of Orlando, Florida. There were no pews, organ, carpeting or paved roads leading to this place. Snakes in the breezeway and gators in the nearby lake — I thought I was in the jungle!
About one year into the ministry, a visitor complimenting my sermon whispered to me: “You won’t be here long.” Puzzled at first, I realized she meant that I wouldn’t have to labor very long in this obscure setting. I was good enough to get a bigger church! Feelings of flattery mutated into frustration. Was I supposed to be unhappy with my congregation? Were these people not worth my life’s sacrifice? Is the pastorate like a business where you climb the corporate ladder to “real success”? I determined that I would not allow that mind-set to direct my ministry.
Fascination with bigness obscures the truth that Jesus, the builder (Matt. 16:18) and head (Eph. 1:22) of the church, has built many more small congregations than large ones. Small churches, not large ones, are the norm. The congregation in the United States that has more than seventy-five members is above average. A recent report from one church-growth-oriented denomination revealed that one-third of its congregations have under fifty members and one-half have under one hundred.
While the first church in Jerusalem began with three thousand souls and quickly expanded to five thousand, similar results were not forthcoming in Asia. How big were the congregations in Ephesus or Colossae? The visible church of Christ grew immensely, but not all in one place. The size of its congregations varied widely then, as it does today.
That it is the Lord’s decision for congregations to vary in size may be gleaned from several texts. First, in Matthew 25:14–29, we have Jesus’ parable of the distribution of talents. Each servant was given a different amount with which to serve, and each returned with a different increase. We all know pastors who not only preach to their congregations, but also turn their sermons into books for “additional mileage,” and then put those sermons on the radio for an even bigger ministry. This illustrates that Jesus has entrusted different amounts of talents to different servants producing different results. Credit the difference to Jesus!
Second, in Matthew 13:23, Jesus proclaimed that the seed sown on good ground (that is, the Word preached) yields various harvests — thirty, sixty, or a hundredfold. According to Jesus, we should expect varying results from the same seed and the same labor. God, not the preacher, causes the diverse increase. Salvation is of the Lord. He builds His church as He wills.
Third, consider that “there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone” (1 Cor. 12:4–6).
Note that the Holy Spirit has deliberately created a variety in His church — a variety of spiritual gifts, a variety of services, and a variety of activities (“kind of working,” NIV). Does not this divinely determined variation help explain the varying sizes of Jesus’ congregations?
Also, experience tells us that not everyone does well in a large church. Some souls get lost in the crowd, while some do so on purpose. Others do not relish the attention they get in a small church — the natural accountability is too glaring for them. A large church may offer great programs (which, by the way, often bless smaller churches), while most saints feel more needed in a smaller church. A large church has multiple and specialized staff, while in a small church every member can relate to the pastor as to a personal trainer of his soul.
Usually a small church has the most favorable pastor-to-member ratio. In this respect a small church is more like Jesus’ ministry to the twelve or like the average New Testament church. A pastor of a small church can visit every home, know all his people well, and intercede for their most intimate prayer needs.
Finally, what is most important to Jesus in any church? Is it not the combination of biblical proclamation of His Word, faithful administration of His sacraments, as well as loving care and Jesus-like discipline of His people? A good small church can provide all these to Jesus’ sheep, and, in the case of care and discipline, probably more intensively than a good large church.
There isn’t a right and a wrong when it comes to size. Though size is surely affected by our faith versus our sin, in the end it is the Lord Jesus who makes that call. He builds the church as He wills. He distributes His gifts, ministries, and results, and gathers His people in flocks around the earth according to His own wisdom. Large, medium, or small churches are truly not in competition with each other, but are diverse parts of the Lord’s comprehensive, eternal plan for gathering all His people into one visible church — eventually — in glory. So, each pastor and congregation — each according to diverse God-given abilities — responds to Jesus’ Commission, and the results, and the glory, belong to Christ.
Dr. Larry G. Mininger is senior minister at Lake Sherwood Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Orlando, Florida, where he has served for the past thirty-seven years.
By Tim Challies 4/1/2009
Admiral Lord Nelson once remarked that “every sailor is a bachelor when beyond Gibraltar.” This was a statement about anonymity, a rare concept even just a few short generations ago. Nelson knew that once his sailors moved beyond the bounds of the British Empire, beyond society’s systems of morality and accountability, they underwent a transformation. Every man became a bachelor and sought only and always his own pleasure. Those who have read biographies of John Newton will see there a vivid portrayal of a man who was a gentleman at home but who was vulgar and abusive while away. Given only a measure of anonymity he became a whole new
In days past, anonymity was both rare and difficult. People tended to live in close-knit communities where every face was familiar and every action visible to the community. Travel was rare and the majority of people lived a whole lifetime in the same small geographic area. Os Guinness remarks that in the past “those who did right and those who did not do wrong often acted as they did because they knew they were seen by others. Their morality was accountability through visibility.” While anonymity is certainly not a new phenomenon, the degree of anonymity we can and often do enjoy in our society is unparalleled in history.
We need accountability. Left to our own devices, we will soon devise or succumb to all kinds of evil. As Christians we know that we need other believers to hold us accountable to the standards of Scripture. Passages such as Ecclesiastes 4:12 remind us that “a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” The Bible tells us that “iron sharpens iron” (Prov. 27:17) and that we are to “stir up one another to love and good works…encouraging one another” (Heb. 10:24–25). Life is far too difficult and we are far too sinful to live in solitude. We need community. We need accountability. And God has anticipated our need by giving us the local church as the primary means of this accountability.
Our society values anonymity. There are many who feel that anonymity is a right and one that must be guarded and protected. Technophiles will have noticed the influx of tools designed to protect the anonymity of the Internet user. The latest versions of web browsers come with tools designed to erase, with a single click, all traces of what a person has been watching or reading while browsing the web. They provide anonymity by minimizing accountability. Conversely, the software packages developed by Christians to guard the eyes and the heart do the exact opposite — they make public what a person has done. They provide accountability by minimizing anonymity.
Anonymity extends far beyond technology. It extends to the workplace where we may travel weeks out of every year, living life beyond prying eyes. It extends to the home where we watch television and read books and magazines behind closed doors. It extends to the community where we may not even know our next-door neighbors either by name or by face. We live only yards away from people we may never meet. It extends to the church where the congregations grow larger and relationships grow weaker. We are anonymous, impersonal people in a largely anonymous, impersonal world. We live beyond Gibraltar. Guinness does not exaggerate when he writes: “More of us today are more anonymous in more situations than any generation in human history.”
In former days, morality was accountability through visibility. Today many of us prefer to remain invisible and unaccountable. Not too long ago I was an invisible Internet user who valued my anonymity and an invisible church-goer who cared little for closer relationships. I wrote often and my articles and reviews were read by many people, but all the while I was safely removed from the people I wrote for and wrote about. I began to see the effect of this in my writing. It became increasingly abrasive and showed a lack of godly character. But a couple of years ago God was gracious to me in revealing the necessity of avoiding complete anonymity. He helped me understand that accountability is closely tied to visibility and that personal holiness will come not through anonymity but through deep and personal relationships with my brothers and sisters in the local church. And so I have sought to make myself more visible that I may accept correction and rebuke when it is necessary. At the same time, I have renewed my commitment to the One who is always watching and who knows every word I write and every intent of my heart.
We face unique struggles in our increasingly anonymous world. We must commit to making ourselves accountable through visibility. We must commit to purity of heart and commit to only speaking or writing or reading or watching or doing what is honoring to God. And then we must ensure that there are people who know us, who will watch over us, and who will lovingly exhort and correct us when we fail in this commitment. While the British sailors went beyond Gibraltar and heaped contempt on the Empire they represented, we wish to be Christians who are “the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing” (2 Cor. 2:15).
Tim Challies: I am a Christian, a husband to Aileen and a father to three children aged 10 to 16. I worship and serve as an elder at Grace Fellowship Church in Toronto, Ontario. I am a book reviewer, co-founder of Cruciform Press.
I began my web site in 2002 and have been writing there daily since 2003. It is my place to think out loud and in public while also sharing some of the interesting things I’ve discovered in my online travels.
Tim Challies is founding blogger of Challies.com and a pastor at Grace Fellowship Church in Toronto. You can follow him on Twitter @Challies. He began his web site in 2002 and has been writing there daily since 2003. It is his place to think out loud and in public while also sharing some of the interesting things he discovers in his online travels.
Tim Challies Books | Go to Books Page
By R.C. Sproul Jr. 04/12/2012
“Two things I ask of you; deny them not to me before I die: Remove far from me falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God.”
So the wisdom of Agur, found in Proverbs 30, reminds us. Though sin knows no tax brackets — the poor can be greedy and the rich envious — peculiar circumstances tend to produce peculiar temptations. Agur fears that should God lead him into poverty, he might be tempted to steal and thus profane the name of God. He fears in turn that should God lead him into great riches, he might forget God. He asks God to protect him, through His providence, from both temptations.
Many of us, oddly, are in both categories, at least in some sense. In a culture driven by dissatisfaction, we can all at least feel poor. The Joneses stay always ahead of us, pushing us onward. A rocky economy feeds our economic insecurities, and we are tempted, if not to steal, at least to cut some moral corners. Virtue and integrity can be expensive, and we can always buy them back when better times come. On the other hand, we are not the 99 percent but are in the 99th percentile. That is, by world historical standards, compared to all the people who ever lived on this planet, even if we are among the most poor in America, each of us is in the top one percent in terms of comforts, luxury, ease and wealth. Our poor are wealthier than kings of old.
There is no shame in being poor. There is no guilt in being wealthy. There is, however, shame in stealing and guilt in failing to give thanks.
A God-centered life, then, is not found in feeding a constant craving for more, better, newer. Neither, however, is it found in embracing an ascetic aesthetic, eschewing the good gifts of God. He is the giver of every good gift, both contentment in abasement and a shiny new car. He is not impressed with our piety if we accept the former but turn up our nose at the latter, thinking ourselves too pure for such crass blessings.
The issue, then, isn’t the size of our bank accounts or the square footage of our homes. The issue is the perspective of our hearts. A God-centered life is one that gives thanks in all His providences. It was one of the wealthiest men of ancient antiquity who spoke these wisest of words: “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21).
The issue isn’t in what we have but in what we want. What do we long for? What do we daydream about? How do we measure ourselves and the success or failure of our efforts? Who do we look up to, and what is it about them that we admire? The broader culture is obsessed with the rich and the famous. Tabloids at the grocery store, tabloid television, Internet gossip sites — these all feed our insatiable desire to know what they are like, how they live.
The evangelical world, as is so often the case, has its own version of the cultural phenomenon. We have rock-star preachers, Lollapalooza-like conferences and concerts, and, as well, Internet sites complete with all the latest gossip on who is hot, who is not, and the reasons why.
We, however, are in the world but are not to be of the world. We are called to aspire for not just something better but the one needful thing. We are called, in living a God-centered life, to seek God’s kingdom, to pursue God’s righteousness.
We are blessed to be shown the way to the one thing that will satisfy. A God-centered life, in the end, isn’t self-denying. It, instead, is how we find ourselves. Jesus said we would find our lives in losing them. Augustine said our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Him. And John Piper reminds us that God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him. The glory of the contentment, the blessing of the car, is not found in the contentment nor in the car, but in the Giver of these good gifts.
Our calling is to look through every good gift to the One giving it. He is the goodness in which the gifts live and move and have their being. He gives Himself. This is the path of life. Our end is that we would be in His presence, that we would rejoice to be there. His promise is not only that we will find pleasures at His right hand, but that we will find them forevermore (Ps. 16).
Whether grasping for more or turning up our noses at what He has given, we miss Him. The Lord blesses us and He keeps us. The Lord makes His face to shine upon us and He is gracious to us. The Lord lifts up His countenance upon us and gives us peace, now and forevermore (Num. 6:24–26).
R.C. Sproul Jr. Books | Go to Books Page
Between Two Worlds: An Interview with Justin Taylor
By Justin Taylor 04/01/2012
Tabletalk: What led you to start a blog?
JT: One of my favorite parts of elementary school was “show and tell.” I’ve always enjoyed sharing with others those things that I find fascinating. Eight years ago, I would regularly send a small group of friends items of interest on the Internet, and blogging seemed like a natural extension of what I was already doing, except for a wider audience. My assumption was that many Christians are already on the web every day. My goal is simply to put before them a steady stream of edifying links, excerpts, and notices that will help us all grow in godliness for God’s glory.
TT: How do you choose what topics to blog about?
JT: My two main criteria are those things that (1) are edifying and (2) are interesting or exciting to me. It’s easy to lose sight of the incredible (and humbling) fact that our generation has more access to gospel-centered resources than any generation in the history of the church. This makes the vocation of blogging easy at one level, given the plethora of spiritually healthy materials we have at our fingertips. Because the goal of the Christian life is to see and savor “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6), most of my blog posts have some connection with seeing and experiencing God, His grace, and His gospel.
TT: Do Christian bloggers face unique challenges? Do they have unique opportunities?
JT: Yes and yes. The biggest opportunity is also the biggest challenge, namely, real-time commentary, analysis, and interaction. A great book review can be read 100,000 times before a bad book hits the shelves (as was the case with Kevin DeYoung’s review of Rob Bell’s Love Wins). However, in our flesh we are all tempted to invert the admonition in James 1:19 and become “slow to hear, quick to speak, and quick to anger.” The virtual world is a gift of God’s common grace to us, filled with much opportunity for salt-and-light witness. But the disembodied medium of communication — so efficient for quick comments and tweets and posts — can sometimes facilitate forms of self-promotion, one-upmanship, defensiveness, and harshness that at the very least tend to be more restrained in face-to-face interaction.
TT: You have co-edited with Kelly Kapic two new editions of works by John Owen. Why should Christians today care what a seventeenth century English theologian had to say?
JT: The short answer is that Owen knew God and the gospel personally and experientially, and he was able to convey these truths not only at the highest levels of theological insight but also with pastoral warmth and sensitivity. It’s interesting to note that both J. I. Packer and Tim Keller point to Owen’s writings as the thing God used to save them from spiritual shipwreck.
One of my favorite quotes from Owen is that it does no good to contend for the faith “unless we find the power of the truths abiding in our own hearts, and have a continual experience of their necessity and excellency in our standing before God and our communion with him.” It’s quotes like these that led Sinclair Ferguson to say: “There is constantly in Owen, even when we are in the thick of him (and some of his writing is dense indeed) a doxological motive and motif. If we can persevere with his style (which becomes easier the longer we persevere), he will not fail to bring us to the feet of Jesus.”
TT: Aside from John Owen, which theologians have influenced you the most and why?
JT: John Calvin and Jonathan Edwards would be among the most influential dead heroes: the French Reformer for his relentless faithfulness to the biblical text and his ability to communicate complex truth with clarity and brevity; the New England Puritan for his zeal for God and godliness, along with his creative attempt to work within the Reformed tradition. Both men loved the glory of God and basked in their union with Christ through the gospel.
Among the living influencers, John Piper and R.C. Sproul stand out. When I was first wrestling with the question of predestination in my college days, I wrote down a list of my top questions and sent an email to two organizations: Desiring God Ministries and Ligonier Ministries. Both were gracious enough to help me. These ministries, and the men who founded them, opened up a whole new world to me, and I’ve never been the same since.
TT: From your perspective working with Crossway, what contribution does Christian publishing have to make to the church?
JT: One of my favorite quotes is from the acclaimed novelist (and OPC churchman) Larry Woiwode: “There is rugged terrain ahead for those who are constitutionally incapable of referring to the paths marked out by wise and spirit-filled cartographers over the centuries.” This is true not only across the centuries but also in our contemporary time. In God’s providence, he has provided publishers who preserve the insights of teachers of God’s Word. So, for example, my children will likely never have the opportunity to sit in Dr. Sproul’s living room to hear him tell a children’s story or sit in the pews at Saint Andrew’s. But through the printed word, the next generation — and even our children’s children — will be able to “hear” this wonderful teaching. If publishers like Crossway are doing their job correctly, then Christian publishing can be a complement to and a resource for Christ’s church in order to build up His body and edify His bride.
TT: What impact do you believe that e-readers will have on the future of book publishing?
JT: The world of publishing is changing, and things will continue to change — but no one knows exactly what the future will look like or what the ramifications will be. It certainly affects every aspect of publishing when you have a “book” that doesn’t need to be printed, shipped, or kept in stock. The possibilities are endless: Will some publishers sell individual chapters at a very cheap rate? Will someone figure out a seamless way to integrate audio books and e-books? Will libraries let users “check out” an e-book? Will writers stop using footnotes? Will independent bookstores eventually cease to exist?
Marshall McLuhan’s observation that “the medium is the message” was obviously an overstatement, but there’s no doubt that digital media will continue to impact the way in which content is both conceived and processed. We will always have with us two extremes: those who refuse to recognize the opportunities that this new technology creates and those who are so aggressive in adopting and advocating for the latest creation that they cannot see what we might unintentionally lose in the process. I think that the path of wisdom falls somewhere in the middle.
TT: Are there any current projects at Crossway that have you especially excited?
JT: Crossway always has a number of projects in the hopper that get me excited. This spring we’ll publish Matt Chandler’s The Explicit Gospel (Paperback Edition), a passionate call for our churches to stop assuming the gospel and to proclaim it in all its glory. We’ll also publish Fred Zaspel’s Warfield on the Christian Life: Living in Light of the Gospel (Theologians on the Christian Life), part of a new series that Steve Nichols and I are editing. David Dockery and Timothy George are co-authoring a book called The Great Tradition of Christian Thinking: A Student's Guide (Reclaiming the Christian Intellectual Tradition), the inaugural volume in a series of student guides on various college subjects. In the summer we’ll publish Kingdom through Covenant: A Biblical-Theological Understanding of the Covenants, which will be a massive biblical theology of all the biblical covenants. Then in the winter we’ll begin publishing A Christian Guide to the Classics, which will provide Christian analysis of books like The Scarlet Letter, Paradise Lost, Great Expectations, and so on. We at Crossway are grateful beyond measure to partner with so many authors to produce books that we pray will serve and strengthen the church of Jesus Christ.
Justin Taylor Books:
The Secret of Contentment
By William Barcley 04/01/2012
Contentment is one of the most difficult Christian virtues to attain. Almost four hundred years ago, Jeremiah Burroughs referred to the “rare jewel” of Christian contentment. It is safe to say that contentment is no more common in our day than it was in Burroughs’. Yet, it remains one of the most crucial virtues. A contented Christian is the one who best knows God’s sovereignty and rests in it. A contented Christian trusts God, is pure in heart, and is the one most willing to be used of God — however God sees fit.
We live in a world that breeds discontent. We are bombarded with the message that to be happy we need more things, less wrinkles, better vacations, and fewer troubles. But, ultimately, the problem is the sinful human heart. We are often discontented in our jobs, our marriages, our churches, our homes — in most areas of our lives. We can easily despair that we will never be able to attain contentment. But the Bible teaches us not only that we must be content (Heb. 13:5), it teaches us that we can be content.
This is the point that the Apostle Paul makes in Philippians 4:
For I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (vv. 11–13)
Twice in this passage, Paul says that he has “learned” to be content. Contentment does not come naturally to the sinful human heart. We need God’s grace to strengthen us and to change our hearts. But we also have the responsibility to learn contentment. It requires effort.
The fact that Paul refers to the “secret,” or “mystery,” of contentment, however, indicates not only that contentment does not come naturally, but also that how we pursue contentment is contrary to human ways of thinking. For example, the world typically teaches that the way to achieve peace in your life is to get out of difficult situations that cause you hardship or are not personally fulfilling. But Paul clearly indicates that he has learned to be content both in good situations and in bad — including prison, which is where he was when he wrote this letter. There are also different worldly ways of thinking about contentment and material goods. The “more is better” mentality teaches us that to be satisfied in life, we need this product or that gadget. There is also a worldly “simple living” mentality that says satisfaction comes by getting rid of stuff and living with less. Yet Paul says he has learned to be content in both plenty and hunger, in abundance and need. While there is some biblical truth to the thinking that we should not pursue earthly goods continually, a simple lifestyle alone does not guarantee a contented heart.
Ironically, in many ways the greatest “mystery” of contentment is that to achieve it we must be full of discontent. As Burroughs says, the contented Christian “is the most contented man in the world, and yet the most unsatisfied man in the world.” If we look back one chapter from Paul’s classic passage on contentment in Philippians 4, we read a passage that sounds decidedly discontented:
Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 3:12–14)
Far from being the opposite of the contentment that Paul describes in chapter 4, the discontent of chapter 3 is a necessary component of true Christian contentment.
Notice here that contentment does not equal complacency. Contentment, in fact, requires a holy ambition. What is this holy ambition? To understand what Paul means when he says that he has not “obtained this” (3:12), we need to look back to verse 10: “that I may know [Christ] and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.” The contented Christian is the one who knows Christ but who has a restless pursuit to know Him more. This knowledge of Christ comes in the Word, in prayer, and in worship. But it also comes in active ministry, which is exactly what Paul is describing in these verses. Paul wants to know the power of Christ in his ministry, to share the suffering of Christ that comes to His servants, and to become like Christ in His death—dying to self, living a life of selfless servanthood.
Burroughs states, “A soul that is capable of God can be filled with nothing else but God.” This, ultimately, is the “secret of contentment”: to know Christ but to press on to know Him more in all areas of life. When we know Him and press on to know Him better, we become like Him. When we know Him and press on to know Him better, we rest in His providence and provision, and we follow His call for us — not seeking our own agenda, but content with His.
The encouraging thing is that what is beyond our ability is attainable. Like Paul, we “can do all things through [Christ].”
Not So Fast
By Trevin Wax 04/01/2012
Jim and Sandra were longtime members at Christ Church. They gave generously — of their time, their talents, and their financial resources. Christ Church was known for being evangelistic and putting a priority on God’s Word. And Jim and Sandra were fulfilled and thriving there.
But the day came when the pastor let Jim and Sandra down. A series of bad decisions critically wounded their confidence in their leader’s wisdom. They were hurt, confused, and disillusioned. They began to toy with the idea of going to one of the other strong churches in town.
When Jim and Sandra (not their real names) asked me about leaving their church, I said, “Not so fast.” Since then, I’ve counseled a number of couples and individuals in similar situations. And whenever the issue at hand does not concern biblical fidelity or theological compromise, I usually give the same caution about leaving a church: “Not so fast.”
In a culture of consumerist expectations and values, even people in strong, Word-centered, gospel-proclaiming churches can think of church loyalty in terms of payment and receipt. “We pay our dues and expect a certain return” is the unspoken mindset. So, when things get difficult, reasons to leave begin multiplying: “I’m not being fed here.” “I’m not on the same page with the leadership right now.” “I’m not being useful here. Perhaps I could serve better if I were somewhere else.” The list goes on.
It’s true that there are plenty of Christians whose lives don’t resemble Christ’s. There are pastors who abuse their authority or lead poorly. There are churches that implement changes quickly, without the consent of key leaders, which then breeds disunity and quarrels. Leadership fumbles, personality conflicts, relationship breeches — they all exist in the church. That’s why, for many churchgoers, the temptation is strong to seek refuge and peace in another church across town.
But what if the choice to leave a difficult church situation will actually short-circuit your formation as a Christian? What if your desire for a better congregation will stunt your spiritual growth? Does God use uncomfortable church situations as part of His process of sanctifying us?
Whether your church situation is terrific or terrible right now, it’s the gospel that should direct and shape your decision to leave or stay in a church. Circumstances aren’t what matter most. Covenantal commitment to the body of Christ is what counts. And our commitments must be grounded in God’s unflagging commitment to us because of Jesus Christ’s work in our behalf.
“But you don’t understand. The people in my church are really messed up.” True. But so are you. So am I. We are all sinners, saved only by the grace of a merciful God. We are all being slowly transformed into the image of Christ, and one way that God forms us into the image of His Son is to place us in hard situations where “loving one another” seems unnatural and costly.
If Christ remains committed to us, in spite of our continual failings, why should we not remain committed to Christ’s bride? In a difficult church situation, what looks more like Jesus: to hop to an easier church situation or to stick with a local congregation through the dark days?
Many people think their church’s problems are an obstacle standing in the way of their spiritual development. Usually, the opposite is true. It’s their commitment to their church, in spite of its problems, that is making them more like Jesus.
“I’m not being fed here.” Perhaps God is challenging you about your tastes and preferences.
“I’m not on the same page with the leadership right now.” Perhaps God is teaching you the virtue of willing submission, even when it doesn’t come naturally.
“I’m not being useful here.” Perhaps God is removing certain activities from your life, so that your focus turns from what you are doing for God to a greater emphasis on the relationship you should be cultivating with God.
The grace of God is transformative. We are predestined to be conformed to the image of God’s Son. The heartbeat of every Christian should be to look more like Jesus. Just as the facial expressions and physical characteristics of two spouses begin to reflect one another after many years of marriage, we should look more like Jesus every day. But this transformation will not occur unless we stay committed to Christ’s people, challenging and encouraging others as they challenge and encourage us.
Discipleship is like a rock in a rock tumbler. The rock is shined the more it bumps up against all the other rocks and water. Over time, the process turns a rock into a gem. It’s easy to want out of a “rocky” church situation. The process of refinement is never pleasant, after all. But it is in our bumping up against the difficult trials in a church body that we are refined into beautiful gems that reflect the glory of our King.
Jim and Sandra thought long and hard about switching churches. And they stayed. Five years later, they are thankful they did. Their ministries are thriving. The difficulties have passed. And in the twinkling of their eyes, I can see flashes of Christlikeness that weren’t there before the storm. I’m glad they stayed.
How Is God Working in the World? Understanding Miracles and Providence
By Justin Holcomb 1/16/14
The pages of the Bible are filled with miraculous acts of God, and those who believe in the trustworthiness of Scripture surely believe in miracles. Yet today, when someone claims to have witnessed a miracle, even evangelical Christians tend to chuckle inside, perhaps attributing the “miracle” to an overactive imagination or the advancements of modern science. We are faced with a difficult paradox: on the one hand, we long for miraculous signs and wonders like those in Scripture, but often when we see or hear of events worthy of being called “miraculous” we struggle to overcome our modern skepticism. Has God ceased to work in the world the way he did in biblical times?
In order to answer this question, we need to develop a theology of miracles that will help us rightly understand the way God works in the world today so that we avoid the extremes of making everything a miracle, on the one hand, or allowing nothing to be a miracle, on the other. We need to determine what a miracle is and is not.
WRONG VIEWS OF MIRACLES
Many false views of miracles persist today. For example, some people believe God created the world like a watch that just needed to be wound up, only to be left alone, operating according to a set of natural laws. In this view, God isn’t usually involved in the world, and miracles are those times when he chooses to interrupt the laws of nature. But this view squeezes God out of any ordinary, providential sustainment of the created order. That is, it assumes God doesn’t normally act in creation, which, as we’ll see, is not biblical.
A second wrong view of miracles also tries to squeeze any divine action out of the world, but in a different way. This view suggests that there are really no such things as miracles because, by definition, miracles violate the laws of nature. However, because we don’t have an exhaustive understanding of the laws of nature, how can we be sure any given miracle did in fact violate some such law? Ironically, this position happily admits some things that happen in the world surpass our comprehension—it just attributes those mysteries to science rather than to God.
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Six Messianic Expectations and One Messsiah
By Eric Chabot chab 123 12/18/2014
Jewish messianism is a concept study. The word “messiah” means “anointed one” and is derived from verbs that have the general meaning of “to rub something” or, more specifically, “to anoint someone.” The Hebrew Bible records the anointing with oil of priests ( Exod. 29:1-9 ), kings (1 Sam 10:1;2 Sam 2:4;1 Kings 1:34), and sometimes prophets (1 Kings 19:16). Also, when God anointed or authorized for leadership, in many cases he provided the empowering of the Holy Spirit to complete the task (1 Sam. 16:13; Isa. 61:1). However, just because someone was anointed in the Old Testament to perform a specific task doesn’t mean they are “the Messiah.” Hence, we can conclude that “anointed one” was not used as a title with a capital “M” in the Old Testament.
Also, there are hardly any texts in the Jewish Scriptures that say “When the Messiah comes, he will do x, y, and z. However, most Jewish people think there is going to be a messianic age. Let me give an example:
The only way to define “the Messiah” is as the king who will rule during what we call the Messianic age. The central criterion for evaluating a Messiah must therefore be a single question: Has the Messianic age come? It is only in terms of this question that “the Messiah” means anything. What, then, does the Bible say about the Messianic age? Here is a brief description by famous Christian scholar: “The recovery of independence and power, an era of peace and prosperity, of fidelity to God and his law and justice and fair- dealing and brotherly love among men and of personal rectitude and piety” (G.F. Moore, Judaism, II, P 324). If we think about this sentence for just a moment in the light of the history of the last two thousand years, we will begin to see what enormous obstacles must be overcome if we are to believe in the messianic mission of Jesus. If Jesus was the Messiah, why have suffering and evil continued and even increased in the many centuries since his death.” (1)
“The state of the world must prove that the Messiah has come; not a tract. Don’t you think that when the Messiah arrives, it should not be necessary for his identity to be subject to debate – for the world should be so drastically changed for the better that it should be absolutely incontestable! Why should it be necessary to prove him at all? If the Messiah has come, why should anyone have any doubt?” (Rabbi Chaim Richman, available at http://www.ldolphin.org/messiah.html).
Remember: the Jewish Scriptures don’t reveal an explicit, fully disclosed, monolithic “messianic concept.” To build on the comments stated here, Stanley Porter says:
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Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 89I Will Sing of the Steadfast Love of the LORD
89 A Maskil Of Ethan The Ezrahite.
46 How long, O LORD? Will you hide yourself forever?
How long will your wrath burn like fire?
47 Remember how short my time is!
For what vanity you have created all the children of man!
48 What man can live and never see death?
Who can deliver his soul from the power of Sheol? Selah
49 Lord, where is your steadfast love of old,
which by your faithfulness you swore to David?
50 Remember, O Lord, how your servants are mocked,
and how I bear in my heart the insults of all the many nations,
51 with which your enemies mock, O LORD,
with which they mock the footsteps of your anointed.
52 Blessed be the LORD forever!
Amen and Amen.
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
3/1/2017 The Religion of Secularism
“In God we trust” officially became the national motto of the United States in 1956 when President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed it into law. Originally implemented in part to distinguish the United States from the Soviet Union and its explicit state atheism, the motto has remained to our day. Like many mottoes, however, the phrase has unfortunately become more of a throwaway statement for many Americans than a declaration of true faith in the one and only God of Scripture.
It is indeed our hope that our nation—and every nation—would genuinely trust God. Although many people claim to trust God, they act as if He has no authority whatsoever over their lives. They are an authority unto themselves, and the foundation for their self-appointed authority is as unstable as the emotions of their ever-changing hearts. Whether or not they know it, they have succumbed to secularism, which begins in the heart and ends in death. Secularism is the belief that man does not need God or God’s laws in man’s social, governmental, educational, or economic affairs. Ironically, secularism rejects religion, yet is itself a religion. In these United States of America, many of our politicians, courts, schools, and businesses embrace and promote the religion of secularism under the rubric of freedom from religion and by the advancement of human autonomy, which inevitably leads to anarchy.
It’s bad enough that secularism is a growing problem in our culture, yet it’s even worse that it’s making inroads in the church. Worship is often shaped by the felt needs and wants of secularized people. Many pastors will not preach on hell for fear of scaring people away. Some of our most popular religious leaders do little more than take self-help messages and dress them up with a veneer of Christianity. Even some preachers have embraced secularism’s teaching that we define our own reality. Thus, they are happy to redefine gender, marriage, and a host of other divinely revealed institutions and norms.
Secularism is not only a problem out there in the culture, it is something we must fight in our hearts, our homes, and our churches. We are too easily tempted to forget God and to avoid conflict with the world. It sometimes seems easier to live as if God really isn’t there, to go about our days without reflecting on His authority and that we’re called to live all of life coram Deo, before His face. But if we forget Him, we’ll forget who we are. We are His people, and we are called to stand firm against the creeping darkness of secularism, declaring to our hearts, our homes, our churches, and our nation that the Lord God Almighty has authority over all and that, unwaveringly, in God we trust.
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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
300,000 miles on horseback, from the Atlantic to the Appalachians, from Maine to the Gulf of Mexico, for forty-five years, he spread the Gospel. This was Francis Asbury, Methodist Circuit riding preacher who was born this day, August 20, 1745. When the Revolution started, he refused to return to England. He befriended Richard Bassett, a signer of the Constitution, who converted, freed his slaves and paid them as hired labor. He met personally with George Washington, congratulating him on his election. By the time he died, the Methodist Church in America had grown from 300 members to over 200,000.
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
Christ is the sun,
and all the watches of our lives
should be set by the dial of his motion.
--- Thomas Brooks
Let us see that our knowledge of Christ be not a powerless, barren, unpractical knowledge: O that, in its passage from our understanding to our lips, it might powerfully melt, sweeten, and ravish our hearts! Remember, brethren, a holy calling never saved any man, without a holy heart; if our tongues only be sanctified, our whole man must be damned. We must be judged by the same Gospel, and stand at the same bar, and be sentenced to the same terms, and dealt with as severely as any other men.
--- John Flavel
I thank God for my handicaps,
I have found myself, my work,
and my God.
--- Helen Keller
Forgiveness is the very opposite of anything which can be taken for granted. Nothing is less obvious than forgiveness.
--- Emil Brunner, Mediator
Forgiveness is to man the plainest of duties; to God it is the profoundest of problems.
P. Carneige Simpson
The fact of Christ: a series of lectures
... from here, there and everywhere
And practical Sense?
The noted Canadian atheist Kai Neilsen said:
We have been unable to show that Reason requires the moral point of view, or that really rational persons.. .need not be egoists or classical amoralists. Reason doesn’t decide here. The picture I have painted for you is not a pleasant one. Reflection on it depresses me__ Pure practical reason, even with a good knowledge of the facts, will not take you to morality.
Kai Neilsen, “Why Should I Be Moral?” American Philosophical Quarterly 21 (1984): 90.
Do you hear what Nielsen is saying? Reason cannot lead you to morality. Reason cannot argue against an amoral or egoistic lifestyle. One cannot call upon sheer rationality to argue for an “ought” in life. This is the prison of secular reasoning. This is the dead end of “one mans terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.” This is the voice of the student saying, “I would not like it, but I cannot call it morally wrong.” This is America’s quandary. How do we determine what is evil? Do we do so intuitively or rationally, when one is so personal and the other so beyond reason?
Let me take you one step further. Ultra-rationalists tell you not only that reason cannot lead you to morality; they tell you that your very hope for moral reasoning is irrational. Listen to the words of Richard Dawkins from Oxford:
In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, and other people are going to get lucky; and you won’t find any rhyme or reasoning to it, nor any justice. The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is at the bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, and no good. Nothing but blind, pitiless indifference. DNA neither knows nor cares. DNA just is. And we dance to its music. River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life (Science Masters Series)
Do you see what he is saying? Is he saying that the moralist is rationally wrong-headed because there is no such thing as good? Indeed! But he is saying more. Even the likes of Alan Dershowitz, who does not believe that we know what is right, is also wrong, says Dawkins, because Dershowitz at least believes that evil is recognizable. But according to Dawkins, there is no such thing as evil either. In short, no good, no evil. We are all just dancing to our DNA, and DNA neither knows nor cares.
Light in the Shadow of Jihad: The Struggle for Truth
Other Ravi Zacharias Books:
Jesus Among Secular Gods: The Countercultural Claims of Christ
The End of Reason: A Response to the New Atheists
Why Suffering?: Finding Meaning and Comfort When Life Doesn't Make Sense
Jesus Among Other Gods: The Absolute Claims of the Christian Message
Walking from East to West: God in the Shadows
Why Jesus?: Rediscovering His Truth in an Age of Mass Marketed Spirituality
The Grand Weaver: How God Shapes Us Through the Events of Our Lives
Can Man Live Without God
Beyond Opinion: Living the Faith We Defend
The Lotus and the Cross: Jesus Talks with Buddha (Great Conversations)
Who Made God?: And Answers to Over 100 Other Tough Questions of Faith
Cries of The Heart
I, Isaac, Take Thee, Rebekah: Moving from Romance to Lasting Love
Has Christianity Failed You?
Recapture the Wonder
The Lamb and the Fuhrer: Jesus Talks with Hitler (Great Conversations)
Deliver Us From Evil: Restoring the Soul in a Disintegrating Culture with Study Guide
The Real Face of Atheism
New Birth or Rebirth?: Jesus Talks with Krishna (Great Conversations)
Sense and Sensuality: Jesus Talks to Oscar Wilde on the Pursuit of Pleasure (Great Conversations)
The Radical Cross: Living the Passion of Christ
Is Your Church Ready? Motivating Leaders to Live an Apologetic Life
The Kingdom of the Cults
Can Man Live without God
Can I Trust the Bible? (RZIM Critical Questions Discussion Guides)
There Is a Plan
Doubting: Growing Through the Uncertainties of Faith
Hitler's Cross: How the Cross Was Used to Promote the Nazi Agenda
Stealing from God: Why Atheists Need God to Make Their Case
Why Suffering?: Finding Meaning and Comfort When Life Doesn't Make Sense by Ravi Zacharias (16-Oct-2014) Paperback
Sense and Sensuality: Jesus Talks to Oscar Wilde on the Pursuit of Pleasure (Great Conversations) by Ravi Zacharias (June 01,2006)
Thanks to Meir Yona
33. But as the people of Jotapata still held out manfully, and bore up under their miseries beyond all that could be hoped for, on the forty-seventh day [of the siege] the banks cast up by the Romans were become higher than the wall; on which day a certain deserter went to Vespasian, and told him how few were left in the city, and how weak they were, and that they had been so worn out with perpetual watching, and as perpetual fighting, that they could not now oppose any force that came against them, and that they might be taken by stratagem, if any one would attack them; for that about the last watch of the night, when they thought they might have some rest from the hardships they were under, and when a Morning sleep used to come upon them, as they were thoroughly weary, he said the watch used to fall asleep; accordingly his advice was, that they should make their attack at that hour. But Vespasian had a suspicion about this deserter, as knowing how faithful the Jews were to one another, and how much they despised any punishments that could be inflicted on them; this last because one of the people of Jotapata had undergone all sorts of torments, and though they made him pass through a fiery trial of his enemies in his examination, yet would he inform them nothing of the affairs within the city, and as he was crucified, smiled at them. However, the probability there was in the relation itself did partly confirm the truth of what the deserter told them, and they thought he might probably speak truth. However, Vespasian thought they should be no great sufferers if the report was a sham; so he commanded them to keep the man in custody, and prepared the army for taking the city.
34. According to which resolution they marched without noise, at the hour that had been told them, to the wall; and it was Titus himself that first got upon it, with one of his tribunes, Domitius Sabinus, and had a few of the fifteenth legion along with him. So they cut the throats of the watch, and entered the city very quietly. After these came Cerealis the tribune, and Placidus, and led on those that were tinder them. Now when the citadel was taken, and the enemy were in the very midst of the city, and when it was already day, yet was not the taking of the city known by those that held it; for a great many of them were fast asleep, and a great mist, which then by chance fell upon the city, hindered those that got up from distinctly seeing the case they were in, till the whole Roman army was gotten in, and they were raised up only to find the miseries they were under; and as they were slaying, they perceived the city was taken. And for the Romans, they so well remembered what they had suffered during the siege, that they spared none, nor pitied any, but drove the people down the precipice from the citadel, and slew them as they drove them down; at which time the difficulties of the place hindered those that were still able to fight from defending themselves; for as they were distressed in the narrow streets, and could not keep their feet sure along the precipice, they were overpowered with the crowd of those that came fighting them down from the citadel. This provoked a great many, even of those chosen men that were about Josephus, to kill themselves with their own hands; for when they saw that they could kill none of the Romans, they resolved to prevent being killed by the Romans, and got together in great numbers in the utmost parts of the city, and killed themselves.
35. However, such of the watch as at the first perceived they were taken, and ran away as fast as they could, went up into one of the towers on the north side of the city, and for a while defended themselves there; but as they were encompassed with a multitude of enemies, they tried to use their right hands when it was too late, and at length they cheerfully offered their necks to be cut off by those that stood over them. And the Romans might have boasted that the conclusion of that siege was without blood [on their side] if there had not been a centurion, Antonius, who was slain at the taking of the city. His death was occasioned by the following treachery; for there was one of those that were fled into the caverns, which were a great number, who desired that this Antonius would reach him his right hand for his security, and would assure him that he would preserve him, and give him his assistance in getting up out of the cavern; accordingly, he incautiously reached him his right hand, when the other man prevented him, and stabbed him under his loins with a spear, and killed him immediately.
36. And on this day it was that the Romans slew all the multitude that appeared openly; but on the following days they searched the hiding-places, and fell upon those that were under ground, and in the caverns, and went thus through every age, excepting the infants and the women, and of these there were gathered together as captives twelve hundred; and as for those that were slain at the taking of the city, and in the former fights, they were numbered to be forty thousand. So Vespasian gave order that the city should be entirely demolished, and all the fortifications burnt down. And thus was Jotapata taken, in the thirteenth year of the reign of Nero, on the first day of the month Panemus [Tamuz].
The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Wars of the Jews or History of the Destruction of Jerusalem, by Flavius Josephus Translator: William Whiston
by D.H. Stern
or encroach on the land of the fatherless;
11 for their Redeemer is strong;
he will take up their fight against you.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
My Utmost for His Highest
And I will give you rest. --- Matthew 11:28.
Whenever anything begins to disintegrate your life with Jesus Christ, turn to Him at once and ask Him to establish rest. Never allow anything to remain which is making the dis-peace. Take every element of disintegration as something to wrestle against, and not to suffer. Say—‘Lord, prove Thy consciousness in me’, and self-consciousness will go and He will be all in all. Beware of allowing self-consciousness to continue because by slow degrees it will awaken self-pity, and self-pity is Satanic. ‘Well, I am not understood; this is a thing they ought to apologize for; that is a point I really must have cleared up.’ Leave others alone and ask the Lord to give you Christ-consciousness, and He will poise you until the completeness is absolute.
The complete life is the life of a child. When I am consciously conscious, there is something wrong. It is the sick man who knows what health is. The child of God is not conscious of the will of God because he is the will of God. When there has been the slightest deviation from the will of God, we begin to ask—‘What is Thy will?’ A child of God never prays to be conscious that God answers prayer, he is so restfully certain that God always does answer prayer.
If we try to overcome self-consciousness by any commonsense method, we develop it tremendously. Jesus says “Come unto Me and I will give you rest,” i.e., Christ-consciousness will take the place of self-consciousness. Wherever Jesus comes He establishes rest, the rest of the perfection of activity that is never conscious of itself.
the Poetry of RS Thomas
And God thought: Pray away,
Creatures; I'm going to destroy
It. The mistake's mine,
If you like. I have blundered
Before; the glaciers erased
I saw them go
Further than you -- palaces,
Missiles. My privacy
Was invaded; then the flaw
Took over; they allied themselves
With the dust. Winds blew away
Their pasture. Their bones signalled
From the desert to me
After the dust, fire;
The earth burned. I have forgotten
How long, but the fierce writing
Seduced me. I blew with my cool
Breath; the vapour condensed
In the hollows. The sun was torn
From my side. Out of the waters
You came, as subtle
As water, with your mineral
Poetry and promises
Of obedience. I listened to you
Too long. Within the churches
You built me you genuflected
To the machine. Where will it
Take you from the invisible
Viruses, the personnel
Of the darkness that do my will?
At times, people will use the line “Run the synagogue like a business” as their mantra for making the synagogue into an efficient, cost-effective operation. These are often people whose concerns are the physical plant and financial ledgers—important considerations for those in positions of responsibility.
Yet, just as “A carpenter who doesn’t have a tool isn’t a carpenter,” so too a synagogue that is not run on the values of Torah is not truly a synagogue. The building must be more than a warehouse, a repository for Torah. The synagogue has to stand as a living representation of Torah and its values. For example, handicap access is mandated by American law in many public places. It may not be required in a synagogue, either because of the way the law is worded or because the synagogue is considered under a “grandfather clause.” Yet, there is more than civil law at stake here. The Torah tells us not to put a stumbling block before the blind (Leviticus 19:14), which Jewish tradition has interpreted to mean putting anything in the way of a person with a handicap, physical or mental. Wouldn’t Torah rules require handicap access for the synagogue even if American law may exempt it? Shouldn’t “Run it like a business” be secondary to “Run it by the values of our Jewish tradition”?
Bezalel had not only the skill to physically build the mishkan, but also—in the Rabbis’ view—חָכְמָה/ḥokhmah, “wisdom” to know the purpose of the place. Our challenge is to have not only the skills, but also the wisdom—and the heart—to go along with them.
ANOTHER D’RASH / What would the perfect rabbi be like? A number of years ago, Ann Landers printed a humorous piece that painted this picture:
The perfect pastor preaches exactly 15 minutes. He condemns sin but never embarrasses anyone. He works from 8 a.m. till midnight, and is also the janitor. He makes $60 a week, wears good clothes, drives a new car and gives $50 a week to the poor. He is 28, and has been preaching for 25 years, is wonderfully gentle and handsome, loves to work with teenagers and spends countless hours with senior citizens. He makes 15 calls daily on congregation families, shut-ins, and hospital patients, and is always in his office when needed.…
A congregational rabbi today must be many things: a biblical and talmudic scholar, an eternal student, a master teacher, a feeling and caring pastor, a dynamic preacher, a take-charge yet delegating administrator, a successful fund-raiser, a personable master of ceremonies, a gifted writer, a moral exemplar. No human being can excel at all of those things.
Realizing that no one person is “the perfect pastor,” which qualities would we consider the most important? What weaknesses would we be willing to accept? If we sat on the search committee, what kind of person would we look for in our religious leader?
In the Bible, when God is ready to build the Tabernacle, comparable to the modern synagogue, God hires Bezalel, whose chief qualifications are skills, ability, and knowledge. But constructing a building does not a synagogue make. Bezalel, we have to remember, was merely the chief craftsman. The spiritual leader was Mosheh Rabbenu, Moses “our Rabbi.”
Moses had many strengths. He cared deeply for his people (saving them from God’s anger on more than one occasion). He was a man of great courage (standing before Pharaoh and demanding his people’s freedom). He was a great writer (you may recall his Five Books). But he also had many weaknesses. He was not a good public speaker (he had a speech impediment). He couldn’t always control his temper (he struck the rock twice with his staff instead of speaking to it). He wasn’t very organized (his father-in-law Jethro had to show him how to set up the nation’s bureaucracy).
Despite his imperfections, Moses has gone down in history as our greatest religious leader. Perhaps a clue as to what made him the perfect Rabbi is found in the simple verse: “Now Moses was a very humble man, more so than any other man on earth” (Numbers 12:3). Humble does not mean shy or meek; those are not qualities that Moses had. Humility means the knowledge that we are not perfect, and it is the acceptance that Someone—God—is so much greater than we are. Humility also means, in the words of Rabbi Hoshaya, “the fear of sin,” that we have reverence, not for ourselves, but for the position that we hold and that we realize the terrible consequences of doing wrong.
Ironically, the perfect rabbi may be the one who realizes that he or she isn’t perfect.
Searching for Meaning in Midrash: Lessons for Everyday Living
Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me.
--- John 17:24.
I mention one more petition. (John A. Broadus, “The Saviour Praying for Us,” downloaded from the Blessed Hope Ministries of Shiloh Baptist Church, Gainesville, Ga. at members.aol.com/blesshope, accessed Aug. 21, 2001.) They had beheld his humiliation, those who accompanied him, and he longed that they might be with him to behold his glory. He offers the same prayer for all that would believe on him through their word.
There are two reasons why Jesus Christ made this petition. He asked it partly for his own sake. Did you never imagine that he was sad at leaving his disciples? You know that they were sad, but wasn’t he? Did you never suppose that he longs to have those who love him more immediately with him? He said to his disciples, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me” (John 14:1), and it will all be well. “I am going… to prepare a place for you. And… I will come back and take you to be with me” (vv. 2–3). He says it not only to comfort them, but more than they know perhaps, he says it to comfort his own heart also. And so Jesus said, “I want those you have given me to be with me where I am.” He wants to have his people with him.
But the other reason is more obvious to us; he made the prayer for their sake. He makes the prayer for our sake, “I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory.” To be with him is to be delivered from all the infirmities and imperfections and conflicts of this earthly life. I do not suppose we could bear all this if it were not for the fact that it is to end—and to end in victory. I suppose we would give up the struggling effort to do right and to do good in this world were it not for the assurance that we will at last be conquerors and “more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Rom. 8:37). To be with him will be to be with all who have loved us and who have gone before us to him. To be with him is to be free from all sin, and safe. Safe! O my soul, safe from all temptation to sin. To be with him is to behold his glory.
So the Savior prays for us, and how grateful we are. Let us strive to fulfill his petitions that one day we may be with him.
--- John A. Broadus
Study in Contrasts August 20
Jesus, the very thought of Thee, With sweetness fills my breast;
But sweeter far Thy face to see, And in Thy presence rest.
This hymn, sung for nearly 1,000 years, is attributed to a puzzling man in France named Bernard, a deeply spiritual Christian who advanced a militant Christianity.
Bernard seemed destined for a promising secular career until as a youth he turned toward Christ and persuaded more than two dozen of his friends to give themselves to celibacy and to the monastery of Citeaux. He soon became the most famous figure there and was sent to found a similar institution at Clairvaux.
The monastery of Clairvaux became his headquarters, and he seldom left it; but his influence radiated from its walls like spokes of a wheel. During his lifetime, he founded 70 more monasteries and oversaw 90 others. He loved the Scripture and became deeply acquainted with its teachings; but he loved the sword almost as much. He advanced monastic military orders—communities of knights and men-at-arms living under monastic discipline committed to the defense of church and faith. He wrote the rule book for the Knights Templar and inspired German military orders that forcibly Christianized parts of Europe. He envisioned the Second Crusade and persuaded Pope Eugene, his former pupil, to authorize it. And when it ended in disaster, Bernard commented, “It is better that they blame me than God.”
Many Christians today do blame Bernard. He was a fighter who battled the devil in his own life by rigid disciplines; and heresy by asserting orthodoxy at every stop; and paganism by preaching with a Bible in one hand and a sword in the other; and Muslims by sending Europe’s finest on an ill-fated crusade. He didn’t give up his battles until August 20, 1153, when at age 63 he departed—“Thy face to see and in Thy presence rest.”
We question his judgment, but we still sing his song. And we remember his life every August 20, the feast day of St. Bernard of Clairvaux.
One of Jesus’ followers pulled out a sword. He struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear. But Jesus told him, “Put your sword away.”
--- Matthew 26:51,52a
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - August 20
“The sweet psalmist of Israel.” --- 2 Samuel 23:1.
Among all the saints whose lives are recorded in Holy Writ, David possesses an experience of the most striking, varied, and instructive character. In his history we meet with trials and temptations not to be discovered, as a whole, in other saints of ancient times, and hence he is all the more suggestive a type of our Lord. David knew the trials of all ranks and conditions of men. Kings have their troubles, and David wore a crown: the peasant has his cares, and David handled a shepherd’s crook: the wanderer has many hardships, and David abode in the caves of Engedi: the captain has his difficulties, and David found the sons of Zeruiah too hard for him. The psalmist was also tried in his friends, his counsellor Ahithophel forsook him, “He that eateth bread with me, hath lifted up his heel against me.” His worst foes were they of his own household: his children were his greatest affliction. The temptations of poverty and wealth, of honour and reproach, of health and weakness, all tried their power upon him. He had temptations from without to disturb his peace, and from within to mar his joy. David no sooner escaped from one trial than he fell into another; no sooner emerged from one season of despondency and alarm, than he was again brought into the lowest depths, and all God’s waves and billows rolled over him. It is probably from this cause that David’s Psalms are so universally the delight of experienced Christians. Whatever our frame of mind, whether ecstasy or depression, David has exactly described our emotions. He was an able master of the human heart, because he had been tutored in the best of all schools—the school of heart-felt, personal experience. As we are instructed in the same school, as we grow matured in grace and in years, we increasingly appreciate David’s Psalms, and find them to be “green pastures.” My soul, let David’s experience cheer and counsel thee this day.
Evening - August 20
“And they fortified Jerusalem unto the broad wall.”
--- Nehemiah 3:8.
Cities well fortified have broad walls, and so had Jerusalem in her glory. The New Jerusalem must, in like manner, be surrounded and preserved by a broad wall of nonconformity to the world, and separation from its customs and spirit. The tendency of these days break down the holy barrier, and make the distinction between the church and the world merely nominal. Professors are no longer strict and Puritanical, questionable literature is read on all hands, frivolous pastimes are currently indulged, and a general laxity threatens to deprive the Lord’s peculiar people of those sacred singularities which separate them from sinners. It will be an ill day for the church and the world when the proposed amalgamation shall be complete, and the sons of God and the daughters of men shall be as one: then shall another deluge of wrath be ushered in. Beloved reader, be it your aim in heart, in word, in dress, in action to maintain the broad wall, remembering that the friendship of this world is enmity against God.
The broad wall afforded a pleasant place of resort for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, from which they could command prospects of the surrounding country. This reminds us of the Lord’s exceeding broad commandments, in which we walk at liberty in communion with Jesus, overlooking the scenes of earth, and looking out towards the glories of heaven. Separated from the world, and denying ourselves all ungodliness and fleshly lusts, we are nevertheless not in prison, nor restricted within narrow bounds; nay, we walk at liberty, because we keep his precepts. Come, reader, this Evening walk with God in his statutes. As friend met friend upon the city wall, so meet thou thy God in the way of holy prayer and meditation. The bulwarks of salvation thou hast a right to traverse, for thou art a freeman of the royal burgh, a citizen of the metropolis of the universe.
J. Edwin Orr, 1912–1988
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
(1 John 1:9)
The inspiration of a thrilling revival in New Zealand prompted the late J. Edwin Orr to blend the 23rd and 24th verses of Psalm 139a with a lovely Polynesian melody that has since become one of our most challenging hymns of revival. Dr. Orr’s text opens with the prayer that the revival begin in him. Then he reminds us that revival begins only after God’s people recognize their sin, receive cleansing from it and surrender their “will, passion, self and pride.” The hymn ends appropriately with the assurance of knowing that God will hear and supply our needs.
J. Edwin Orr has been widely known as a challenging evangelist and a noted scholar of historical revival movements. He has written many textbooks and was a professor of world missions. He also lectured and held workshops throughout the world while visiting 150 countries.
“Cleanse Me” was written in 1936 after a stirring Easter convention in Ngaruawahia, New Zealand. Fervent meetings sprang up throughout the city. Inspired by this intense movement of the Holy Spirit, Dr. Orr took time as he left New Zealand to write the verses of “Cleanse Me” on the back of an envelope in the post office. The tune he used was the lovely Maori Song of Farewell, sung to him by four Aborigine girls as he was leaving. In following campaigns in Australia and other parts of the world, Dr. Orr often used this hymn to encourage new spiritual awakenings. His ceaseless prayer was that the people of God would be stirred to pray for yet another world-wide awakening.
Search me, O God, and know my heart today; try me, O Savior, know my thoughts, I pray. See if there be some wicked way in me; cleanse me from ev’ry sin and set me free.
I praise Thee, Lord, for cleansing me from sin; fulfill Thy Word and make me pure within. Fill me with fire where once I burned with shame; grant my desire to magnify Thy name.
Lord, take my life and make it wholly Thine; fill my poor heart with Thy great love divine. Take all my will, my passion, self and pride; I now surrender, Lord—in me abide.
O Holy Ghost, revival comes from Thee; send a revival—start the work in me. Thy Word declares Thou wilt supply our need; for blessings now, O Lord, I humbly plead.
For Today: Leviticus 19:2; Psalm 51:7, 10; 85:6; 139:23, 24; Ephesians 1:4
Ask God to reveal any attitudes or actions that may be displeasing to Him. Confess each specific one, then claim His cleansing forgiveness and go forth with His joy and power. Use the words of this hymn to guide you ---
DISCOURSE II - ON PRACTICAL ATHEISM
II. The second main thing: As man would be a law to himself, so he would be his own end and happiness in opposition to God. Here four things shall be discoursed on. 1. Man would make himself his own end and happiness. 2. He would make anything his end and happiness rather than God. 3. He would make himself the end of all creatures. 4. He would make himself the end of God. First, Man would make himself his own end and happiness. As God ought to be esteemed the first cause, in point of our dependence on him, so he ought to be our last end, in point of our enjoyment of him. When we therefore trust in ourselves, we refuse him as the first cause; and when we act for ourselves, and expect a blessedness from ourselves, we refuse him as the chiefest good, and last end, which is an undeniable piece of atheism; for man is a creature of a higher rank than others in the world, and was not made as animals, plants, and other works of the divine power, materially to glorify God, but a rational creature, intentionally to honor God by obedience to his rule, dependence on his goodness, and zeal for his glory. It is, therefore, as much a slighting of God, for man, a creature, to set himself up as his own end, as to regard himself as his own law. For the discovery of this, observe that there is a threefold self-love.
1. Natural, which is common to us by the law of nature with other creatures, inanimate as well as animate, and so closely twisted with the nature of every creature, that it cannot be dissolved but with the dissolution of nature itself. It consisted not with the wisdom and goodness of God to create an unnatural nature, or to command anything unnatural, nor doth he; for when he commands us to sacrifice ourselves, and dearest lives for himself, it is not without a promise of a more noble state of being in exchange for what we lose. This self-love is not only commendable, but necessary, as a rule to measure that duty we owe to our neighbor, whom we cannot love as ourselves, if we do not first love ourselves. God having planted this self-love in our nature, makes this natural principle the measure of our affection to all mankind of the same blood with ourselves.
2. Carnal self-love: when a man loves himself above God, in opposition to God, with a contempt of God; when our thoughts, affections, designs, centre only in our own fleshly interest, and rifle God of his honor, to make a present of it to ourselves: thus the natural self-love, in itself good, becomes criminal by the excess, when it would be superior and not subordinate to God.
3. A gracious self-love: when we love ourselves for higher ends than the nature of a creature, as a creature dictates, viz. in subserviency to the glory of God. This is a reduction of the revolted creature to his true and happy order; a Christian is therefore said to be “created in Christ to good works.” As all creatures were created, not only for themselves, but for the honor of God; so the grace of the new creation carries a man to answer this end, and to order all his operations to the honor of God, and his well- pleasing. The first is from nature, the second from sin, the third from grace; the first is implanted by creation, the second the fruit of corruption, and the third is by the powerful operation of grace. This carnal self love is set up in the stead of God as our last end; like the sea, which all the little and great streams of our actions run to and rest in. And this is, 1. Natural. It sticks as close to us as our souls; it is as natural as sin, the foundation of all the evil in the world. As self-abhorrency is the first stone that is laid in conversion, so an inordinate self-love was the first inlet to all iniquity. As grace is a rising from self to centre in God, so is sin a shrinking from God into the mire of a carnal selfishness; since every creature is nearest to itself and next to God, it cannot fall from God, but must immediate)y sink into self; and, therefore, all sins are well said to be branches or modifications of this fundamental passion. What is wrath, but a defence and strengthening self against the attempts of some real or imaginary evil? Whence springs envy, but from a self-love, grieved at its own wants in the midst of another’s enjoyment, able to supply it? What is impatience, but a regret that self is not provided for at the rate of our wish, and that it hath met with a shock against supposed merit? What is pride, but a sense of self-worth, a desire to have self of a higher elevation than others? What is drunkenness, but a seeking a satisfaction for sensual self in the spoils of reason? No sin is committed as sin, but as it pretends a self-satisfaction. Sin, indeed, may well be termed a man’s self, because it is, since the loss of original righteousness, the form that overspreads every part of our souls. The understanding assents to nothing false but under the notion of true, and the will embraceth nothing evil but under the notion of good; but the rule whereby we measure the truth and goodness of proposed objects, is not the unerring Word, but the inclinations of self, the gratifying of which is the aim of our whole lives. Sin and self are all one: what is called a living to sin in one place, is called a living to self in another: “That they that live should not live unto themselves.”
And upon this account it is that both the Hebrew word, חטץ , and the Greek word, ἁμαρτάνειν, used in Scripture to express sin, properly signify to miss the mark, and swerve from that white to which all our actions should be directed, viz. the glory of God. When we fell to loving ourselves, we fell from loving God; and, therefore, when the Psalmist saith (Psalm 14:2), there were none that sought God, viz. as the last end; he presently adds, “They are all gone aside,” viz. from their true mark, and therefore become filthy. 2. Since it is natural, it is also universal. The not seeking God is as universal as our ignorance of him. No man in a state of nature but hath it predominant; no renewed man on this side of heaven but hath it partially. The one hath it flourishing, the other hath it struggling. If to aim at the glory of God as the chief end, and not to live to ourselves, be the greatest mark of the restoration of the divine image, and a conformity to Christ, who glorified not himself, but the Father; then every man, wallowing in the mire of corrupt nature, pays a homage to self, as a renewed man is biassed by the honor of God. The Holy Ghost excepts none from this crime (Phil. 2:21): “All seek their own.” It is rare for them to look above or beyond themselves. Whatsoever may be the immediate subject of their thoughts and inquiries, yet the utmost end and stage is their profit, honor, or pleasure. Whatever it be that immediately possesses the mind and will, self sits like a queen, and sways the sceptre, and orders things at that rate, that God is excluded, and can find no room in all his thoughts (Psalm 10:4): “The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God; God is not in all his thoughts.” The whole little world of man is so overflowed with a deluge of self, that the dove, the glory of the Creator, can find no place where to set its foot; and if ever it gain the favor of admittance, it is to disguise and be a vassal to some carnal project, as the glory of God was a mask for the murdering his servants. It is from the power of this principle that the difficulty of conversion ariseth: as there is no greater pleasure to a believing soul than the giving itself up to God, and no stronger desire in him, than to have a fixed and unchangeable will to serve the designs of his honor; so there is no greater torment to a wicked man, than to part with his carnal ends, and lay down the Dagon of self at the feet of the ark. Self love and self-opinion in the Pharisees waylaid all the entertainment of truth (John 5:44): “They sought honor one of another, and not the honor which comes from God.” It is of so large an extent, and so insinuating nature, that it winds itself into the exercise of moral virtues, mixeth with our charity (Matt. 6:2), and finds nourishment in the ashes of martyrdom (1 Cor. 13:3). This making ourselves our end will appear in a few things.
1. In frequent self-applauses, and inward overweening reflections. Nothing more ordinary in the natures of men, than a dotage on their own perfections, acquisitions, or actions in the world: “Most think of themselves above what they ought to think” (Rom. 12:3, 4.) Few think of themselves so meanly as they ought to think: this sticks as close to us as our skin; and as humility is the beauty of grace, this is the filthiest soil of nature. Our thoughts run more delightfully upon the track of our own perfections, than the excellency of God; and when we find anything of a seeming worth, that may make us glitter in the eyes of the world, how cheerfully do we grasp and embrace ourselves! When the grosser profanenesses of men have been discarded, and the floods of them dammed up, the head of corruption, whence they sprang, will swell the higher within, in self-applauding speculations of their own reformation, without acknowledgment of their own weaknesses, and desires of divine assistance to make a further progress. “I thank God I am not like this publican;” a self-reflection, with a contempt rather than compassion to his neighbor, is frequent in every Pharisee. The vapors of selfaffections, in our clouded understandings, like those in the air in misty mornings, alter the appearance of things, and make them look bigger than they are. This is thought by some to be the sin of the fallen angels, who, reflecting apon their own natural excellency superior to other creatures, would find a blessedness in their own nature, as God did in his, and make themselves the last end of their actions. It is from this principle we are naturally so ready to compare ourselves rather with those that are below us, than with those that are above us; and often think those that are above us inferior to us, and secretly glory that we are become none of the meanest and lowest in natural or moral excellencies. How far were the gracious penmen of the Scripture from this, who, when possessed and directed by the Spirit of God, and filled with a sense of him, instead of applauding themselves, publish upon record their own faults to all the eyes of the world! And if Peter, as some think, dictated the Gospel which Mark wrote as his amanuensis, it is observable that his crime in denying his Master is aggravated in that Gospel in some circumstances, and less spoken of his repentance than in the other evangelists: “When he thought thereon, he wept;” but in the other, “He went out and wept bitterly.” This is one part of atheism and self-idolatry, to magnify ourselves with the forgetfulness, and to the injury of our Creator.
2. In ascribing the glory of what we do or have to ourselves, to our own wisdom, power, virtue, &c. How flaunting is Nebuchadnezzar at the prospect of Babylon, which he had exalted to be the head of so great an empire! (Dan. 4:30): “Is not this great Babylon that I have built? For,” &c. He struts upon the battlements of his palace, as if there were no God but himself in the world, while his eye could not but see the heavens above him to be none of his own framing, attributing his acquisitions to his own arm, and referring them to his own honor, for his own delight; not for the honor of God, as a creature ought, nor for the advantage of his subjects, as the duty of a prince. He regards Babylon as his heaven, and himself as his idol, as if he were all, and God nothing. An example of this we have in the present age. But it is often observed, that God vindicates his own honor, brings the most heroical men to contempt and unfortunate ends, as a punishment of their pride, as he did here (Dan. 4:31): “While the word was in the king’s mouth, there fell a voice from heaven,” &c. This was Herod’s crime, to suffer others to do it: he had discovered his eloquence actively, and made himself his own end passively, in approving the flatteries of the people, and offered not with one hand to God the glory he received from his people with the other.
Samosatenus is reported to put down the hymns which were sung for the glory of God and Christ, and caused songs to be sung in the temple for his own honor. When anything succeeds well, we are ready to attribute it to our own prudence and industry: if we meet with a cross, we fret against the stars and fortune, and second causes, and sometimes against God: as they curse God as well as their king (Isa. 8:21), not acknowledging any defect in themselves. The Psalmist, by his repetition of, “Not unto us, not unto us, but to thy name give glory” (Psalm 115:1), implies the naturality of this temper, and the difficulty to cleanse our hearts from those self-reflections. If it be angelical to refuse an undue glory stolen from God’s throne (Rev. 22 :8, 9), it is diabolical to accept and cherish it. To seek our own glory is not glory (Prov. 25:27). It is vile, and the dishonor of a creature, who by the law of his creation is referred to another end. So much as we sacrifice to our own credit, to the dexterity of our hands, or the sagacity of our wit, we detract from God.
3. In desires to have self-pleasing doctrines. When we cannot endure to hear anything that crosses the flesh; though the wise man tells us, it is better to hear the “rebuke of the wise, than the song of fools” (Eccles. 7:5). If Hanani the seer reprove king Asa for not relying on the Lord, his passion shall be armed for self against the prophet, and arrest him a prisoner (2 Chron. 16:10). If Micaiah declare to Ahab the evil that shall befall him, Amon the governor shall receive orders to clap him up in a dungeon. Fire doth not sooner seize upon combustible matter than fury will be kindled, if self be but pinched. This interest of lustful self barred the heart of Herodias against the entertainment of the truth, and caused her savagely to dip her hands in the blood of the Baptist, to make him a sacrifice to that inward idol.
4. In being highly concerned for injuries done to ourselves, and little or not at all concerned for injuries done to God. How will the blood rise in us, when our honor and reputation is invaded, and scarce reflect upon the dishonor God suffers in our sight and hearing! Violent passions will transform us into Boanerges in the one case, and our unconcernedness render us Gallios in the other. We shall extenuate that which concerns God, and aggravate that which concerns ourselves. Nothing but the death of Jonathan, a first-born and a generous son, will satisfy his father Saul, when the authority of his edict was broken by his tasting of honey, though he had recompensed his crime committed in ignorance by the purchase of a gallant victory. But when the authority of God was violated in saving the Amalekites’ cattle, against the command of a greater sovereign than himself, he can daub the business, and excuse it with a design of sacrificing. He was not so earnest in hindering the people from the breach of God’s command, as he was in vindicating the honor of his own: he could hardly admit of an excuse to salve his own honor; but in the concerns of God’s honor, pretend piety, to cloak his avarice. And it is often seen, when the violation of God’s authority, and the stain of our own reputation are coupled together, we are more troubled for what disgraces us than for what dishonors God. When Saul had thus transgressed, he is desirous that Samuel would turn again to preserve his own honor before the elders, rather than grieved that he had broken the command of God (ver. 30).
5. In trusting in ourselves. When we consult with our own wit and wisdom, more than inquire of God, and ask leave of him: as the Assyrian (Isa. 10:13), “By the strength of my hands I have done it, and by my wisdom; for I am prudent.” When we attempt things in the strength of our own heads, and parts, and trust in our own industry, without application to God for direction, blessing, and success, we affect the privilege of the Deity, and make gods of ourselves. The same language in reality with Ajax in Sophocles: “Others think to overcome with the assistance of the gods, but I hope to gain honor without them.” Dependence and trust is an act due from the creature only to God. Hence God aggravates the crime of the Jews in trusting in Egypt (Isa. 31:3), “the Egyptians are men and not gods.” Confidence in ourselves is a defection from God (Jer. 17:5). And when we depart from and cast off God to depend upon ourselves, which is but an arm of flesh, we choose the arm of flesh for our God; we rob God of that confidence we ought to place in him, and that adoration which is due to him, and build it upon another foundation; not that we are to neglect the reason and parts God hath given us, or spend more time in prayer than in consulting about our own affairs, but to mix our own intentions in business, with ejaculations to heaven, and take God along with us in every motion: but certainly it is an idolizing of self, when we are more diligent in our attendance on our own wit, than fervent in our recourses to God.
6. The power of sinful self, above the efficacy of the notion of God, is evident in our workings for carnal self against the light of our own consciences. When men of sublime reason, and clear natural wisdom, are voluntary slaves to their own lusts, row against the stream of their own consciences, serve carnal self with a disgraceful and disturbing drudgery, making it their God, sacrificing natural self, all sentiments of virtue, and the quiet of their lives, to the pleasure, honor, and satisfaction of carnal self: this is a prostituting God in his deputy, conscience, to carnal affections, when their eyes are shut against the enlightenings of it, and their ears deaf to its voice, but open to the least breath and whisper of self; a debt that the creature owes supremely to God. Much more might be said, but let us see what atheism lurks in this, and how it entrencheth upon God.
Martin Luther | (1483-1546)
Sect. CXXIII. — ANOTHER passage is that of Jeremiah x. 23, “I know, O Lord, that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps.” — This passage (says the Diatribe) rather applies “to the events of prosperity, than to the power of Free-will.” —
Here again the Diatribe, with its usual audacity, introduces a gloss according to its own pleasure, as though the Scripture were fully under its control. But in order to any one’s considering the sense and intent of the prophet, what need was there for the opinion of a man of so great authority! — Erasmus says so! it is enough! it must be so! If this liberty of glossing as they lust, be permitted the adversaries, what point is there which they might not carry? Let therefore Erasmus shew us the validity of this gloss from the scope of the context, and we will believe him.
I, however, will shew from the scope of the context, that the prophet, when he saw that he taught the ungodly with so much earnestness in vain, was at once convinced, that his word could avail nothing unless God should teach them within; and that, therefore, it was not in man to hear the Word of God, and to will good. Seeing this judgment of God, he was alarmed, and asks of God that He would correct him, but with judgment, if he had need to be corrected; and that he might not be given up to His divine wrath with the ungodly, whom he suffered to be hardened and to remain in unbelief.
But let us suppose that the passage is to be understood concerning the events of adversity and prosperity, what will you say, if this gloss should go most directly to overthrow “Free-will?” This new evasion is invented, indeed, that ignorant and lazy deceivers may consider it satisfactory. The same which they also had in view who invented that evasion, ‘the necessity of the consequence.’ And so drawn away are they by these newly-invented terms, that they do not see that they are, by these evasions, ten-fold more effectually entangled and caught than they would have been without them. — As in the present instance: if the event of these things which are temporal, and over which man, Gen. i. 26-30, was constituted lord, be not in our own power, how, I pray you, can that heavenly thing, the grace of God, which depends on the will of God alone, be in our own power? Can that endeavour of “Free-will” attain unto eternal salvation, which is not able to retain a farthing or a hair of the head? When we have no power to obtain the creature, shall it be said that we have power to obtain the Creator? What madness is this! The endeavouring of man, therefore, unto good or unto evil, when applied to events, is a thousandfold more enormous; because, he is in both much more deceived, and has much less liberty, than he has in striving after money, or glory, or pleasure. What an excellent evasion is this gloss, then, which denies the liberty of man in trifling and created events, and preaches it up in the greatest and divine events? This is as if one should say, Codrus is not able to pay a groat, but he is able to pay thousands of thousands of pounds! I am astonished that the Diatribe, having all along so inveighed against that tenet of Wycliffe, ‘that all things take place of necessity,’ should now itself grant, that events come upon us of necessity.
— “And even if you do (says, the Diatribe) forcedly twist this to apply to “Free-will,” all confess that no one can hold on a right course of life without the grace of God. Nevertheless, we still strive ourselves with all our powers: for we pray daily, ‘O Lord my God, direct my goings in Thy sight.’ He, therefore, who implores aid, does not lay aside his own endeavours.” —
The Diatribe thinks, that it matters not what it answers, so that it does not remain silent with nothing to say; and then, it would have what it does say to appear satisfactory; such a vain confidence has it in its own authority. It ought here to have proved, whether or not we strive by our own powers; whereas, it proved, that he who prays attempts something. But, I pray, is it here laughing at us, or mocking the papists? For he who prays, prays by the Spirit; nay, it is the Spirit Himself that prays in us (Rom. viii. 26-27). How then is the power of “Free-will” proved by the strivings of the Holy Spirit? Are “Free-will” and the Holy Spirit, with the Diatribe, one and the same thing? Or, are we disputing now about what the Holy Spirit can do? The Diatribe, therefore, leaves me this passage of Jeremiah uninjured and invincible; and only produces the gloss out of its own brain. I also can ‘strive by my own powers:’ and Luther, will be compelled to believe this gloss, — if he will!
The Bondage of the Will or Christian Classics Ethereal Library
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