Jeremiah 49 - 50
Judgment on Ammon
Jeremiah 49:1 Concerning the Ammonites.
Thus says the LORD:
“Has Israel no sons?
Has he no heir?
Why then has Milcom dispossessed Gad,
and his people settled in its cities?
2 Therefore, behold, the days are coming,
declares the LORD,
when I will cause the battle cry to be heard
against Rabbah of the Ammonites;
it shall become a desolate mound,
and its villages shall be burned with fire;
then Israel shall dispossess those who dispossessed him,
says the LORD.
3 “Wail, O Heshbon, for Ai is laid waste!
Cry out, O daughters of Rabbah!
Put on sackcloth,
lament, and run to and fro among the hedges!
For Milcom shall go into exile,
with his priests and his officials.
4 Why do you boast of your valleys,
O faithless daughter,
who trusted in her treasures, saying,
‘Who will come against me?’
5 Behold, I will bring terror upon you,
declares the Lord GOD of hosts,
from all who are around you,
and you shall be driven out, every man straight before him,
with none to gather the fugitives.
12 For thus says the LORD: “If those who did not deserve to drink the cup must drink it, will you go unpunished? You shall not go unpunished, but you must drink. 13 For I have sworn by myself, declares the LORD, that Bozrah shall become a horror, a taunt, a waste, and a curse, and all her cities shall be perpetual wastes.”
Judgment on Edom
7 Concerning Edom.
Thus says the LORD of hosts:
“Is wisdom no more in Teman?
Has counsel perished from the prudent?
Has their wisdom vanished?
8 Flee, turn back, dwell in the depths,
O inhabitants of Dedan!
For I will bring the calamity of Esau upon him,
the time when I punish him.
9 If grape gatherers came to you,
would they not leave gleanings?
If thieves came by night,
would they not destroy only enough for themselves?
10 But I have stripped Esau bare;
I have uncovered his hiding places,
and he is not able to conceal himself.
His children are destroyed, and his brothers,
and his neighbors; and he is no more.
11 Leave your fatherless children; I will keep them alive;
and let your widows trust in me.”
14 I have heard a message from the LORD,
and an envoy has been sent among the nations:
“Gather yourselves together and come against her,
and rise up for battle!
15 For behold, I will make you small among the nations,
despised among mankind.
16 The horror you inspire has deceived you,
and the pride of your heart,
you who live in the clefts of the rock,
who hold the height of the hill.
Though you make your nest as high as the eagle’s,
I will bring you down from there,
declares the LORD.
Judgment on Damascus
23 Concerning Damascus:
“Hamath and Arpad are confounded,
for they have heard bad news;
they melt in fear,
they are troubled like the sea that cannot be quiet.
24 Damascus has become feeble, she turned to flee,
and panic seized her;
anguish and sorrows have taken hold of her,
as of a woman in labor.
25 How is the famous city not forsaken,
the city of my joy?
26 Therefore her young men shall fall in her squares,
and all her soldiers shall be destroyed in that day,
declares the LORD of hosts.
27 And I will kindle a fire in the wall of Damascus,
and it shall devour the strongholds of Ben-hadad.”
28 Concerning Kedar and the kingdoms of Hazor that Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon struck down.
Judgment on Kedar and Hazor
Thus says the LORD:
“Rise up, advance against Kedar!
Destroy the people of the east!
29 Their tents and their flocks shall be taken,
their curtains and all their goods;
their camels shall be led away from them,
and men shall cry to them: ‘Terror on every side!’
30 Flee, wander far away, dwell in the depths,
O inhabitants of Hazor!
declares the LORD.
For Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon
has made a plan against you
and formed a purpose against you.
31 “Rise up, advance against a nation at ease,
that dwells securely,
declares the LORD,
that has no gates or bars,
that dwells alone.
32 Their camels shall become plunder,
their herds of livestock a spoil.
I will scatter to every wind
those who cut the corners of their hair,
and I will bring their calamity
from every side of them,
declares the LORD.
33 Hazor shall become a haunt of jackals,
an everlasting waste;
no man shall dwell there;
no man shall sojourn in her.”
34 The word of the LORD that came to Jeremiah the prophet concerning Elam, in the beginning of the reign of Zedekiah king of Judah.
Judgment on Elam
35 Thus says the LORD of hosts: “Behold, I will break the bow of Elam, the mainstay of their might. 36 And I will bring upon Elam the four winds from the four quarters of heaven. And I will scatter them to all those winds, and there shall be no nation to which those driven out of Elam shall not come. 37 I will terrify Elam before their enemies and before those who seek their life. I will bring disaster upon them, my fierce anger, declares the LORD. I will send the sword after them, until I have consumed them, 38 and I will set my throne in Elam and destroy their king and officials, declares the LORD.
39 “But in the latter days I will restore the fortunes of Elam, declares the LORD.”
Judgment on Babylon
Jeremiah 50:1 The word that the Lord spoke concerning Babylon,
concerning the land of the Chaldeans, by Jeremiah the prophet:
2 “Declare among the nations and proclaim,
set up a banner and proclaim,
conceal it not, and say:
‘Babylon is taken,
Bel is put to shame,
Merodach is dismayed.
Her images are put to shame,
her idols are dismayed.’
4 “In those days and in that time, declares the Lord, the people of Israel and the people of Judah shall come together, weeping as they come, and they shall seek the Lord their God. 5 They shall ask the way to Zion, with faces turned toward it, saying, ‘Come, let us join ourselves to the Lord in an everlasting covenant that will never be forgotten.’
6 “My people have been lost sheep. Their shepherds have led them astray, turning them away on the mountains. From mountain to hill they have gone. They have forgotten their fold. 7 All who found them have devoured them, and their enemies have said, ‘We are not guilty, for they have sinned against the Lord, their habitation of righteousness, the Lord, the hope of their fathers.’
8 “Flee from the midst of Babylon, and go out of the land of the Chaldeans, and be as male goats before the flock. 9 For behold, I am stirring up and bringing against Babylon a gathering of great nations, from the north country. And they shall array themselves against her. From there she shall be taken. Their arrows are like a skilled warrior who does not return empty-handed. 10 Chaldea shall be plundered; all who plunder her shall be sated, declares the Lord.
11 “Though you rejoice, though you exult,
O plunderers of my heritage,
though you frolic like a heifer in the pasture,
and neigh like stallions,
12 your mother shall be utterly shamed,
and she who bore you shall be disgraced.
Behold, she shall be the last of the nations,
a wilderness, a dry land, and a desert.
13 Because of the wrath of the Lord she shall not be inhabited
but shall be an utter desolation;
everyone who passes by Babylon shall be appalled,
and hiss because of all her wounds.
14 Set yourselves in array against Babylon all around,
all you who bend the bow;
shoot at her, spare no arrows,
for she has sinned against the Lord.
15 Raise a shout against her all around;
she has surrendered;
her bulwarks have fallen;
her walls are thrown down.
For this is the vengeance of the Lord:
take vengeance on her;
do to her as she has done.
16 Cut off from Babylon the sower,
and the one who handles the sickle in time of harvest;
because of the sword of the oppressor,
every one shall turn to his own people,
and every one shall flee to his own land.
21 “Go up against the land of Merathaim,
and against the inhabitants of Pekod.
Kill, and devote them to destruction,
declares the Lord,
and do all that I have commanded you.
22 The noise of battle is in the land,
and great destruction!
23 How the hammer of the whole earth
is cut down and broken!
How Babylon has become
a horror among the nations!
24 I set a snare for you and you were taken, O Babylon,
and you did not know it;
you were found and caught,
because you opposed the Lord.
25 The Lord has opened his armory
and brought out the weapons of his wrath,
for the Lord God of hosts has a work to do
in the land of the Chaldeans.
26 Come against her from every quarter;
open her granaries;
pile her up like heaps of grain, and devote her to destruction;
let nothing be left of her.
27 Kill all her bulls;
let them go down to the slaughter.
Woe to them, for their day has come,
the time of their punishment.
29 “Summon archers against Babylon, all those who bend the bow. Encamp around her; let no one escape. Repay her according to her deeds; do to her according to all that she has done. For she has proudly defied the Lord, the Holy One of Israel. 30 Therefore her young men shall fall in her squares, and all her soldiers shall be destroyed on that day, declares the Lord.
31 “Behold, I am against you, O proud one,
declares the Lord God of hosts,
for your day has come,
the time when I will punish you.
32 The proud one shall stumble and fall,
with none to raise him up,
and I will kindle a fire in his cities,
and it will devour all that is around him.
35 “A sword against the Chaldeans, declares the Lord,
and against the inhabitants of Babylon,
and against her officials and her wise men!
36 A sword against the diviners,
that they may become fools!
A sword against her warriors,
that they may be destroyed!
37 A sword against her horses and against her chariots,
and against all the foreign troops in her midst,
that they may become women!
A sword against all her treasures,
that they may be plundered!
38 A drought against her waters,
that they may be dried up!
For it is a land of images,
and they are mad over idols.
41 “Behold, a people comes from the north;
a mighty nation and many kings
are stirring from the farthest parts of the earth.
42 They lay hold of bow and spear;
they are cruel and have no mercy.
The sound of them is like the roaring of the sea;
they ride on horses,
arrayed as a man for battle
against you, O daughter of Babylon!
43 “The king of Babylon heard the report of them,
and his hands fell helpless;
anguish seized him,
pain as of a woman in labor.
What I'm Reading
The Verse the Culture Misquotes Most Regularly in an Effort to Quiet Christians
By J. Warner Wallace 9/9/2016
As a Christian, I’m often at odds with the culture around me. As our society embraces a growing number of unbiblical behaviors and attitudes, I find myself becoming more and more vocal in my opposition. I’m not alone; many other conservative Christians are also taking a stand for what the Bible teaches, particularly when it comes to moral behavior. Maybe that’s why I seem to hear Matthew 7:1 tossed around so frequently by those who want Christians to quiet down:
(Mt 7:1) “Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. NRSV
Whenever we, as Christians, speak out against something in the culture, one of two labels is immediately employed in an effort to silence us: we are either branded “intolerant” or “judgmental”. To make matters worse, the second label is often attached to the teaching of Jesus Himself. Are we Christians defying the words of our Master when we speak against the behaviors, attitudes or worldviews affirmed by others? Did Jesus command us to be silently non-judgmental?
This selective use of scripture by the opposition is perhaps the finest example of what we at Stand to Reason are addressing when we caution people to “never read a Bible verse””in isolation. Matthew 7:1, when read in isolation from the larger context of the Sermon on the Mount, may seem to command a form of silent acceptance and tolerance advocated by the culture, but a closer examination of the verse reveals Jesus’ true intent. If Jesus was advocating some form of quiet tolerance, how do we explain the following statements?
(Mt 7:6) “Do not give what is holy to dogs; and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under foot and turn and maul you. NRSV
(Mt 7:13–14) 13 “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. 14 For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it. NRSV
(Mt 7:21–23) 21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?’ 23 Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.’ NRSV
Wow, Jesus seems vocally judgmental in these passages. Some people are dogs and swine, unworthy of our efforts. Some people are wrong about the path they choose. Some people are false prophets. Some people are true disciples and some are not. Jesus sure seems comfortable making judgmental statements about people in these passages. How could Jesus say such things when he began this part of the sermon by saying, “Do not judge so that you will not be judged”? Maybe we should revisit the first verses of Matthew 7:
(Mt 7:1–5) 7 “Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. 2 For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. 3 Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye. NRSV
It turns out that Jesus is not prohibiting vocal discernment in these passages, but is cautioning against a certain kind of unbecoming behavior: hypocritical judgmentalism. We are called to live differently so that we can effectively identify and address unbiblical behavior in our culture. I cannot be a practicing thief and effectively caution against thievery. I cannot be an active adulterer and effectively advocate monogamy. I’m going to have to “first” stop and assess my own behavior (take out my own “log”) before I can “then” caution others about their behavior (help them take the “speck” out of their eye). This is a “first / then” commandment. Both sides of the directive are important; Jesus is commanding two equally critical actions. First, we must change our behavior; become people of God who are above reproach. Second, we must actively engage others about their behavior. Some ideas are good and some are bad. Some prophets are true and some are false. Some people are right, some people are wrong. We are called to make statements about such things after we eliminate hypocrisy in these areas of our own lives. We, as Christians, are called to (1) live righteously, and (2) speak out about unrighteousness. We are less likely to do this, however, if we allow folks misquote Jesus in an effort to silence us.
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J. Warner Wallace is a Cold-Case Detective, a Christian Case Maker, and the author of:
Never Read a Bible Verse
By Greg Koukl 2/4/2013
If there was one bit of wisdom, one rule of thumb, one single skill I could impart, one useful tip I could leave that would serve you well the rest of your life, what would it be? What is the single most important practical skill I've ever learned as a Christian?
Here it is: Never read a Bible verse. That's right, never read a Bible verse. Instead, always read a paragraph at least.
My Radio Trick | When I'm on the radio, I use this simple rule to help me answer the majority of Bible questions I'm asked, even when I'm totally unfamiliar with the verse. It's an amazingly effective technique you can use, too.
I read the paragraph, not just the verse. I take stock of the relevant material above and below. Since the context frames the verse and gives it specific meaning, I let it tell me what's going on.
This works because of a basic rule of all communication: Meaning always flows from the top down, from the larger units to the smaller units, not the other way around. The key to the meaning of any verse comes from the paragraph, not just from the individual words.
Greg started out thinking he was too smart to become a Christian and ended up giving his life for the defense of the Christian faith. A central theme of Greg's speaking and writing is that Christianity—if it's properly understood and properly communicated—makes the most sense of the world as we find it.
Greg has spoken on more than 70 college and university campuses both in the U.S. and abroad and has hosted his own call-in radio show for 27 years advocating “Christianity worth thinking about.” He’s debated atheist Michael Shermer on national radio and Deepak Chopra on national television on Lee Strobel's “Faith Under Fire.” He is an award-winning writer and best-selling author. Greg has been featured on Focus on the Family radio and has been interviewed for CBN and the BBC. He's been quoted in Christianity Today, the U.S. News & World Report, and the L.A. Times.
Greg received his Masters in Philosophy of Religion and Ethics at Talbot School of Theology, graduating with high honors, and his Masters in Christian Apologetics with honors from Simon Greenleaf University. He is an adjunct professor in Christian apologetics at Biola University. Greg Koukl Books:
- 1 The Story of Reality: How the World Began, How It Ends, and Everything Important that Happens in Between
- 2 Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions
- 3 Relativism: Feet Firmly Planted in Mid-Air
- 4 Jesus, the Only Way: 100 Verses
- 5 Faith Is Not Wishing: 13 Essays for Christian Thinkers
- 6 "Misquoting" Jesus? Answering Bart Ehrman (Solid Ground)
- 7 Precious Unborn Human Persons
The Coming of the Kingdom part 5
By Dr. Andrew Woods 6/11/2012
Because today’s evangelical world largely believes that the church is presently experiencing the messianic kingdom, we began a study chronicling what the Bible teaches concerning this important issue of the kingdom. That there will be a future, messianic kingdom on earth has been revealed thus far through the divine intention to restore the office of Theocratic Administrator ( Gen. 1:26-28 ) that was lost in Eden ( Gen. 3 ). Likewise, the promise of a future, earthly, messianic reign was prophesied in the Abrahamic Covenant ( Gen. 15 ) and related sub-covenants. While these covenants guarantee that the kingdom will one day come to the earth through Israel, according to the Mosaic Covenant, the kingdom’s ultimate manifestation is conditioned upon the nation’s acceptance of Christ as her long-awaited king during the events of the future Tribulation period. Previous articles also explained how God restored the office of Theocratic Administrator that was lost in Eden, at least in a limited sense, at Sinai. This theocratic arrangement covered most of Old Testament history as God, even after the time of Moses, governed Israel indirectly through Joshua, various judges, and finally, Israel’s kings until the Babylonian Captivity ended the Theocracy. Such termination initiated a dark time in Jewish history known as the “Times of the Gentiles” ( Luke 21:24; Rev. 11:2 ) when the nation had no Davidic king reigning on David's Throne as Judah would be trampled down by various Gentile powers. Against the backdrop of such bondage entered Jesus Christ, the rightful heir to David’s Throne. The Gospel accounts identify Christ as the long-awaited regal heir prophesied in the Old Testament.
As noted earlier, when the Abrahamic Covenant and related sub-covenants are considered in harmony with the Mosaic Covenant, Israel’s covenantal structure can best be described as an unconditional covenant with a conditional blessing. In other words, any Jewish generation must satisfy the conditional Mosaic Covenant before they can enter into the Abrahamic Covenant’s unconditional blessings. Such a condition can be satisfied if Israel enthrones the king of God’s own choosing ( Deut. 17:15 ). Thus, it was incumbent upon first-century Israel to enthrone Christ in order to enter into all of her covenantal blessings.
The opportunity for first-century Israel to enthrone Christ and consequently experience all these blessings is known as “the offer of the kingdom.” This idea is captured in the expression “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” as proclaimed to the nation by John the Baptist ( Matt. 3:1-2 ), Christ ( Matt. 4:17 ), the Twelve ( Matt. 10:5-7 ), and the Seventy ( Luke 10:1, 9 ). What this expression means is that the unchallenged rulership that God experiences in heaven had drawn near to the earth in the person of Jesus Christ, the long-awaited Davidic king. It is also called “the kingdom of heaven” since the kingdom will be inaugurated by the “God of heaven.” Notice how Daniel connects this “God of heaven” with His coming kingdom:
(ESV) Matthew 3:1–2 In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, 2 “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
Matthew 4:17 From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
Matthew 10:5–7 5 These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them, “Go nowhere among the Gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans, 6 but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 7 And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’
Luke 10:1 After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go.
Luke 10:9 (ESV) 9 Heal the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’
What this expression means is that the unchallenged rulership that God experiences in heaven had drawn near to the earth in the person of Jesus Christ, the long-awaited Davidic king. It is also called “the kingdom of heaven” since the kingdom will be inaugurated by the “God of heaven.” Notice how Daniel connects this “God of heaven” with His coming kingdom: (ESV) Daniel 2:44 And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever,
Because the king was present, the opportunity to enthrone Him was a reality for first-century Israel. However, the expression “at hand” does not mean that the kingdom had arrived. Rather, the kingdom was near or in a state of imminence or immediate expectation since the presence of the king allowed first-century Israel to make a bona fide choice to enthrone Christ and thus enter into her covenantal blessings.
Notice that the word “kingdom” in the expression “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” is left undefined by John the Baptist, Christ, the Twelve, and the Seventy. This lack of a New Testament definition shows that the notion of the kingdom was understood by how the concept had already been developed in the Old Testament. As we have learned, the Old Testament portrays a coming earthly, messianic kingdom. This kingdom is anticipated in the office of Theocratic Administrator that was lost in Eden, in the biblical covenants, in the earthly theocracy governing Israel from the time of Moses to Zedekiah, and in the predictions of the Old Testament prophets. Had first-century Israel enthroned Christ, this earthly kingdom would have become a reality not only for the nation but also for the entire world. Israel’s covenants would have been fulfilled, and the Times of the Gentiles would have terminated.
First Century Israel Rejects The Kingdom Offer
Despite the unprecedented opportunity for the establishment of the messianic kingdom due to the presence of the king among the first-century Jews, tragically, Israel rejected the kingdom offer. Why did the Israel of Christ’s day reject the opportunity to establish the kingdom? At least two reasons can be given. First, Christ emphasized in the Sermon on the Mount that the kingdom was not only physical and political but also moral and spiritual ( Matt. 5-7 ). Here, Christ reiterated what the Old Testament had already revealed that while the kingdom would certainly be earthly and terrestrial it would also be moral and ethical ( Ezek. 37:23-24 ). Thus, citizens of Christ’s kingdom had to exhibit certain moral qualities ( Matt. 5:3-12 ). Because Israel was far more interested in a physical and political kingdom that would overthrow an oppressive Rome than they were in a spiritual and moral kingdom ( John 6:15, 26 ), Christ’s emphasis upon the moral characteristics of His kingdom set the stage for Israel’s ultimate rejection of the kingdom offer.
Second, Israel pursued righteousness by way of self-effort rather than by accepting the imputed or transferred righteousness offered by Christ (Matt. 5:20 ). Israel’s works-oriented Pharisaical system (Mark 7:13 ) caused the nation to stumble over Christ’s simple message that righteousness can only be gained by faith alone (John 6:28-29 ). Romans 9:30-32 explains,
"What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, attained righteousness, even the righteousness which is by faith; but Israel, pursuing a law of righteousness, did not arrive at that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as though it were by works. They stumbled over THE STUMBLING STONE."
While a small Jewish remnant did accept Christ’s message, the crux of the nation as well as the nation’s leadership stumbled over it. Because Israel rejected the offer of the kingdom, the messianic kingdom was not established at Christ’s First Advent. Instead of inheriting His rightful kingdom, Christ never became king over the nation and consequently was “cut off” and inherited “nothing” ( Dan. 9:26a ). While the unconditional Abrahamic Covenant prevents Israel from forfeiting ownership of the covenanted promises, first-century Israel’s lack of response to the offer of the kingdom prevented the nation from possessing these blessings. From the time of Christ up to the present hour Israel remains only the owner rather than the possessor of the covenanted promises. Although not cancelled, the messianic kingdom remains in a state of postponement. Just as past generations of Jews were disciplined for Mosaic Covenant violations ( 2 Kgs. 17; 25 ), Christ-rejecting first-century Israel also experienced divine discipline ( Deut. 28:49-50 ) by means of the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple resulting in over a million Jewish deaths when Titus of Rome invaded Israel thirty-eight years after the time of Christ in the horrific events of A.D. 70 ( Dan. 9:26b; Matt. 24:1-2; Luke 19:41-44 ). Due to Israel’s rejection of the kingdom offer resulting in the messianic kingdom’s postponement, Christ began to explain the spiritual conditions that would prevail during the kingdom’s absence. This interim program includes His revelation of the kingdom mysteries ( Matt. 13 ) and the church ( Matt. 16:18 ). Before describing these spiritual realities, a few preliminary remarks must be made about this new interim age. In other words, when Israel of its own free will rejected the kingdom offer, that decision was used by an all-powerful God to usher in the next major phase of His pre-ordained plan. This plan entailed Christ paying the sin debt of the world by dying on the cross and God’s present work in the interim age.
The Gospels carefully reveal Israel’s rejection of the kingdom offer. The turning point is found in Matt. 12:24. When the Pharisees were unable to explain away one of Christ’s many miracles, they instead attributed the miracle’s performance to Satanic powers. At this point, the expression “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” virtually disappears from Matthew’s Gospel. The phrase does not resurface until the offer is re-extended to a distant generation of Jews during the future Tribulation period ( Matt. 24:14 ). Such an absence signifies that God took the kingdom offer off the table when the Pharisees demonstrated unbelief when confronted by Christ’s miracles. This rejection of the offer was ratified at Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem as well as by the nation’s decision to hand Christ over to the Romans for crucifixion ( Matt. 21–23; 26–27 ). Israel’s rejection of the kingdom offer is also represented in the following statement by the nation’s religious leaders to Pilate:
"Pilate said to them, 'Shall I crucify your King?' The chief priests answered, 'We have no king but Caesar'" (John 19:15 ).
Thus, John well summarizes:
“He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him” ( John 1:11).
The Interim Age And The Kingdom's Postponent
First, the fact that God knew that Israel would reject the kingdom offer ( Dan. 9:26a ) thereby ushering in His eternal purpose for the interim age in no way implies that the offer of the kingdom to national Israel was not a legitimate or bona fide offer. An all-powerful God can use the free will of His creatures in order to accomplish His eternal purposes. Chafer explains:
...God not only knows beforehand the choice His creatures will make, but is Himself able to work in them both to will and to do of His own good pleasure. The Scriptures present many incidents which disclose the fact that the will of God is executed by men even when they have no conscious intention to do the will of God...Was the death of Christ in danger of being abortive and all the types and prophecies respecting His death of being proved untrue until Pilate made his decision regarding that death? 
 Merill F. Unger, Unger's Commentary on the Old Testament (Chicago: Moody, 1981; reprint, Chatanooga, TN: AMG, 2002), 1643.
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Because Israel rejected the offer of the kingdom, the messianic kingdom was not established at Christ’s First Advent. Instead of inheriting His rightful kingdom, Christ never became king over the nation and consequently was “cut off” and inherited “nothing” ( Dan. 9:26a ). While the unconditional Abrahamic Covenant prevents Israel from forfeiting ownership of the covenanted promises, first-century Israel’s lack of response to the offer of the kingdom prevented the nation from possessing these blessings. From the time of Christ up to the present hour Israel remains only the owner rather than the possessor of the covenanted promises. Although not cancelled, the messianic kingdom remains in a state of postponement. Just as past generations of Jews were disciplined for Mosaic Covenant violations ( 2 Kgs. 17; 25 ), Christ-rejecting first-century Israel also experienced divine discipline ( Deut. 28:49-50 ) by means of the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple resulting in over a million Jewish deaths when Titus of Rome invaded Israel thirty-eight years after the time of Christ in the horrific events of A.D. 70 ( Dan. 9:26b; Matt. 24:1-2; Luke 19:41-44 ).
Due to Israel’s rejection of the kingdom offer resulting in the messianic kingdom’s postponement, Christ began to explain the spiritual conditions that would prevail during the kingdom’s absence. This interim program includes His revelation of the kingdom mysteries ( Matt. 13 ) and the church ( Matt. 16:18 ). Before describing these spiritual realities, a few preliminary remarks must be made about this new interim age.
In other words, when Israel of its own free will rejected the kingdom offer, that decision was used by an all-powerful God to usher in the next major phase of His pre-ordained plan. This plan entailed Christ paying the sin debt of the world by dying on the cross and God’s present work in the interim age.Continue Reading (Part 6 on Aug 27 web page)
By John Walvoord
The Prophecy in Haggai
Little is known concerning Haggai except that he was the first prophet to speak to the house of Israel in the postexilic period. His book, the second shortest book of the Old Testament — only Obadiah is shorter — reported five messages relative to the rebuilding of the temple. Each message was dated in the year 520 BC, the second year of Darius I. Haggai was a contemporary of Zechariah, whose ministry followed his and that of Ezra, who recorded the first return to the land. Haggai 1:1–11 should be compared with Ezra 4:24–5:1; Haggai 1:12–15 should be compared with Ezra 5:2 and Zechariah 1:1–6; Haggai 2:10–23 should be compared with Zechariah 1:7–6:15; also, Ezra 5:3–17 and 6:1–13 should be compared with Zechariah 7–8.
The messages that Haggai recorded were given to Zerubbabel, who was governor of Judah, and to Joshua the high priest. The theme of the messages was stated in Haggai 1–2, in which God rebuked the people for procrastinating on the rebuilding of the temple.
The pilgrims had returned to Jerusalem from the Babylonian captivity in 538 BC and had attempted to build the temple, laying the foundation as recorded in Ezra 3. Adversaries, however, accused them of rebuilding the city and succeeded in getting an order from King Artaxerxes (465–424 BC), who ordered them to stop building. When Haggai delivered his message, eighteen years had passed since the original start. King Artaxerxes had died, but no one apparently dared to proceed. The book of Haggai recorded his rebuke of the people of Israel for not building the temple and the beginning of her undertaking to construct it.
Haggai’s Message of Rebuke
Haggai 1:1–11. The prophet Haggai delivered the word of the Lord, which raised the question of why Israel was living comfortably in her own houses while the house of God was in ruin. Haggai reminded her that God had chastened her; her crops had not brought forth plentiful harvest because God was withholding His blessing.
Haggai’s Word of Encouragement
Haggai 1:12–15. When the people responded to Haggai’s message and began rebuilding the temple, Haggai delivered the message of the Lord, encouraging them, “‘I am with you,’ declares the LORD” (v. 13 ). Under the leadership of Zerubbabel and Joshua the high priest, work began on the temple.
Haggai’s Second Message of Encouragement
Haggai 2:1–9. The few who had seen the original temple saw, obviously, that the house they were building was far less glorious than that of Solomon’s. But God, speaking through Haggai, exhorted them to be strong and continue building the temple (vv. 2–4 ). Haggai delivered the message of God: “‘Be strong, all you people of the land,’ declares the LORD, ‘and work. For I am with you,’ declares the LORD Almighty. ‘This is what I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt. And my Spirit remains among you. Do not fear’” (vv. 4–5 ).
In addition to encouraging the people of Israel, God reminded her of His ultimate purpose of bringing in the kingdom on earth when Christ returns in His second coming. Haggai reported the word from God: “This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘In a little while I will once more shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. I will shake all nations, and the desired of all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory,’ says the LORD Almighty” (vv. 6–7 ).
God also promised, “‘The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house,’ says the LORD Almighty” (v. 9 ).
In this prophecy God was predicting the distant future where, before the second coming of Christ, the earth will be judged and Christ will return to take possession of the redeemed earth for the millennial kingdom. In this connection He will not only bless the temple that Israel was then building but also the future temples — one to be built in the period preceding the second coming of Christ, and the great temple described in Ezekiel 40–43 to be built after the second coming. God will glorify the millennial temple and will also glorify Himself in the temple that Israel was then building.
Haggai’s Second Message of Rebuke
Haggai 2:10–19. God delivered through Haggai the message concerning that which is defiled and that which is pure. The pure contacting the impure does not make the impure pure. Accordingly, what Israel had been doing and offering to the Lord was considered defiled. The result was that God had limited her harvests and not blessed her in a material way. Now that she was beginning the building of the temple, God declared, “From this day on I will bless you” (v. 19 ). This was fulfilled in the building of the temple.
Haggai’s Final Message of Encouragement
Haggai 2:20–23. The Lord instructed Haggai the prophet to deliver a message to Zerubbabel, stating, “Tell Zerubbabel governor of Judah that I will shake the heavens and the earth. I will overturn royal thrones and shatter the power of the foreign kingdoms. I will overthrow chariots and their drivers; horses and their riders will fall, each by the sword of his brother” (vv. 21–22 ). This referred to God’s sovereign judgment on the various governments and peoples throughout history and especially will be true of the final judgments preceding the second coming of Christ.
The message continued, “‘On that day,’ declares the LORD Almighty, ‘I will take you, my servant Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel,’ declares the LORD, ‘and I will make you like my signet ring, for I have chosen you,’ declares the LORD Almighty” (v. 23 ).
The closing verse of Haggai was another confirmation of the restoration of Israel with a background of judgment of Gentile power in the world. God promised to honor Zerubbabel and make him like a signet ring, a token of royal authority. This was not to be fulfilled in Zerubbabel’s lifetime but was symbolic of the coming of Messiah, at which time Zerubbabel will be raised from the dead and share delegated authority with David in the millennial kingdom. In this revelation God was reassuring His people of His ultimate blessing on her and the ultimate fulfillment of the promises to David concerning his kingdom and his people.
The Prophecy In Zechariah
Zechariah, the prophet whose book bears his name, was an outstanding postexilic prophet. The son of Berakiah and the grandson of Iddo, a priest ( Zech. 1:1 ), Zechariah was born in Babylon during the time of the Babylonian captivity ( Ezra 12:4, 16 ). Both Ezra and Nehemiah described him as “a descendant of Iddo” ( Ezra 5:1; 6:14; cf. Neh. 12:4, 16 ). He was both a prophet and a priest. His name, a common one shared with about thirty other individuals mentioned in the Old Testament, has the meaning, “The LORD remembers.” Zechariah had returned to Jerusalem from Babylon with the first expedition of about fifty thousand Jewish exiles. He was a contemporary of Haggai the prophet, Zerubbabel the governor, and Joshua the high priest ( Ezra 5:1–2; Zech. 3:1; 4:6; 6:11 ).
After the return of the Jewish captives to Jerusalem, an altar had been built to renew the burnt sacrifices ( Ezra 3:1–6 ), and the second year after they returned, the foundation of the temple was laid ( Ezra 3:8–13; 5:16 ). Because of the opposition of people of the land, however, the building of the temple was halted until 520 BC, when the children of Israel responded to the preaching of Haggai the prophet and began rebuilding ( Ezra 5:1–2; Hag. 1:1 ). Haggai was not mentioned after the brief period in which he prophesied, but Zechariah picked up the prophetic ministry (v. 1; Zech. 1:1 ). Portions of Zechariah’s prophecy that were dated were related to the rebuilding of the temple, which was completed in 515 BC. Undated prophecies, such as those found in Zechariah 9–14, may have been written later.
The important events, from Haggai’s first sermon to the dedication of the temple, form a chronological background for Zechariah’s time and may be itemized as follows:
August 29, 520 BC. First sermon of Haggai ( Hag. 1:1–11; Ezra 5:1 ).
September 21, 520 BC. The rebuilding of the temple resumed ( Hag. 1:12–15; Ezra 5:2 ).
October 17, 520 BC. Haggai’s second sermon of encouragement ( Hag. 2:1–9 ).
October–November 520 BC. Ministry of Zechariah began ( Zech. 1:1–6 ).
December 18, 520 BC. Haggai’s second message of rebuke and third message of encouragement ( Hag. 2:10–23 ).
February 15, 519 BC. Zechariah’s eight visions ( Zech. 1:7–6:8 ).
December 7, 518 BC. The delegation from Bethel with question about fasting ( Zech. 7 ).
March 12, 515 BC. The temple dedicated ( Ezra 6:15–18 ).
The book of Zechariah as a whole constituted one of the most compact apocalyptic prophetic books of the Old Testament. The book of Zechariah included not only the eight prophetic dreams, which were visions that occurred in one night ( Zech. 1:7–6:8 ), but also apocalyptic descriptions that constituted eschatological revelation. Chapters 9–15 concluded the book with two prophetic oracles relating to Israel’s future restoration. Though the apocalyptic sections are not easy to interpret, careful study will reveal the literal prophetic facts that are related to them.
The Warning to Repent
Zechariah 1:1–6. God warned the children of the captives of Israel not to be like their forefathers: “‘Do not be like your forefathers, to whom the earlier prophets proclaimed: This is what the LORD Almighty says: “Turn from your evil ways and your evil practices.” But they would not listen or pay attention to me,’ declares the LORD” (v. 4 ). The children of Israel had repented, but it was too late. They were carried off into captivity.
The First Vision: The Rider on the Red Horse
Zechariah 1:7–17. The date of the vision was declared to be the twenty-fourth day of the eleventh month, the month of Shebar in the second year of Darius. This was February 15, 519 BC. This prophecy in verse 1 uses a Gentile ruler to date the period, a reminder that the children of Israel were living in the times of the Gentiles and that Jerusalem would be under control of the Gentiles and Israel would be scattered.
The man on the red horse (v. 8 ) was identified as the Angel of the Lord (v. 11 ), which was a theophany, or an appearance of Jesus Christ in the Old Testament. The fact that the Angel of the Lord was the Lord Jesus Christ in the theophany was indicated in Zechariah 3:1–2 as well as many other Scriptures. The horses that were described were declared to be messengers of God sent throughout the earth ( 1:10 ) to find out what state the world was in. They reported to the Angel of the Lord, “We have gone throughout the earth and found the whole world at rest and in peace” (v. 11 ).
The fact that the nations were at peace when Israel was in captivity resulted in the revelation that God was angry with the nations (vv. 14–15 ). The promise of the Lord was given for the restoration of Israel, “Therefore, this is what the LORD says: ‘I will return to Jerusalem with mercy, and there my house will be rebuilt. And the measuring line will be stretched out over Jerusalem,’ declares the LORD Almighty” (v. 16 ). The prophecy concluded with the statement that prosperity would extend to the towns around Jerusalem and that God would comfort the people of Israel (v. 17 ). In general, the vision indicated that God would restore Israel in the immediate future. The rebuilding of the temple would be part of their present restoration after the Babylonian captivity.
The Second Vision: The Four Horns and the Four Craftsmen
Zechariah 1:18–20. In the second vision Zechariah saw four horns, which were described as scattering Judah, Israel, and Jerusalem (vv. 18–19 ). The four craftsmen were God’s instrument in bringing judgment on the very nations that afflicted Israel; “the craftsmen have come to terrify them and throw down these horns of the nations who lifted up their horns against the land of Judah to scatter its people” (v. 21 ).
The four craftsmen may be identified as four judgments from God: the sword, famine, wild beasts, and the plague (cf. Ezek. 14:21; Rev. 6:1–8). The revelation was to the point: The nations that afflicted Israel would themselves be afflicted, a fact that has been well illustrated in the history of the nations that afflicted Israel. Some have interpreted the four horns as relating to the four empires of Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome, but the scattering seems to refer to a period before Zechariah. In that case, the four empires might be Assyria, Egypt, Babylonia, and Medo-Persia. The principle was established, however, that God would ultimately judge those who judged Israel just as surely as He would restore Israel.
The Third Vision: The Man Who Will Measure Jerusalem
Zechariah 2:1–13. Zechariah saw a man with a measuring line (v. 1 ). When asked where he was going, the man said, “To measure Jerusalem, to find out how wide and how long it is” (v. 2 ). Interpreters of this Scripture have made several suggestions concerning who this man with the measuring line was. Some interpret him as a person whose identity was not known. Others think of it as Zechariah himself or the Angel of the Lord, Christ Himself in His Old Testament theophany. Actually, the Scriptures do not make it clear. The important point is that the revelation indicated that Jerusalem was to be rebuilt (cf. Ezek. 40:3–5 ). As such, the revelation would be an encouragement to those building the temple though the city itself was still in ruin.
After the preliminary revelation, the angel to whom Zechariah was speaking left, and another angel told him to run after the young man and declare, “‘Jerusalem will be a city without walls because of the great number of men and livestock in it. And I myself will be a wall of fire around it,’ declares the LORD, ‘and I will be its glory within’” (vv. 4–5 ).
This revelation, while related to the rebuilding of Jerusalem, obviously extended beyond the building of the city that followed the coming of Nehemiah. God’s ultimate purpose is to build Jerusalem in the millennial kingdom, where it will be a large city without walls as described here.
In keeping with God’s plan to restore Jerusalem and the people of Israel to her land, God invited her to come back from her scattering all over the world to the holy land (v. 6 ). He declared, “‘Come, O Zion! Escape, you who live in the Daughter of Babylon!’ For this is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘After he has honored me and has sent me against the nations that have plundered you — for whoever touches you touches the apple of his eye— I will surely raise my hand against them so that their slaves will plunder them. Then you will know that the LORD Almighty has sent me’” (vv. 7–9 ). The passage goes on to describe the blessings of Israel in the millennial kingdom, following the second advent of Christ (vv. 11–12 ).
The Fourth Vision: Joshua the High Priest
Zechariah 3:1–10. This vision differed from the previous visions in that the actors were identifiable and the symbolic actions did not require the same extent of interpretation as provided by the angel in previous visions. The actors included Joshua the high priest (v. 1); the Angel of the Lord, a theophany of Christ (v. 1 ); and Satan the accuser standing to accuse Joshua (v. 1 ). In addition to Zechariah himself, who was part of the vision, there were apparently angels in attendance (v. 4 ).
In the vision Joshua was pictured as standing before the Angel of the Lord (v. 3 ), implying that he was functioning as a priest ( Deut. 10:8; 2 Chron. 29:11 ). The fact that the Angel of the Lord was Christ in His revelation as an Old Testament theophany was brought out in Zechariah 3:2, where He spoke to Satan, and in verse 4, where He spoke as the Angel. Also, in verse 2 the Lord was distinguished from the Angel of the Lord speaking to Satan.
Because of Satan’s accusation, the scene became a judicial judgment on sin rather than a portrayal of the priestly work of Joshua. Joshua was pictured as “a burning stick snatched from the fire” (v. 2 ), indicating that he had been rescued in order to be one who serves the Lord. The reference to the Lord’s choosing Jerusalem (v. 2 ) indicated that Jerusalem had been chosen by the Lord for forgiveness and restoration.
The spiritual situation of Israel, however, was portrayed by Joshua and his filthy clothes (v. 3 ). The Angel of the Lord commanded “those who were standing before him” to take off Joshua’s filthy clothes, representing the act of God in taking away the sin of Israel, and instead to clothe him in the righteousness of God (v. 4 ).
Having been cleansed, Joshua then was exhorted by the Angel of the Lord to walk in the ways of the Lord and was promised that if he did, he “will govern my house” (v. 7 ), “have charge of my courts” (v. 7 ), and be given a place of one representing the people of Israel (v. 7 ). The vision, which represented Joshua being cleansed and recommissioned, was declared to be “symbolic of things to come” (v. 8 ).
The ultimate cleansing and restoration of Israel will result from God’s servant, the branch, coming (v. 8 ): the second coming of Christ to bring in His future kingdom and restore the people of Israel. Referring to Christ as “the branch” (v. 8 ) indicated that He was a descendant of David and will sit on David’s throne ( 2 Sam. 7:8–16; Isa. 11:1 ). As the branch, Christ will exercise supreme authority as King of Kings as well as occupy the throne of David ( Isa. 4:2; Jer. 23:5; 33:15; Zech. 6:12–13 ). As the branch, He will also be the servant of the Lord and will do God’s will ( Isa. 42:1; 49:3–4; 50:10; 52:13; 53:11 ).
As the stone ( Zech. 3:9; Ps. 118:22; Matt. 21:42; 1 Peter 2:6 ), He will bring purging judgment on the Gentiles ( Dan. 2:44–45 ), and to Israel He will be a stone of stumbling in their time of unbelief ( Rom. 9:31–33 ). Ultimately, however, in the time of Israel’s restoration He “will remove the sin of this land in a single day” ( Zech. 3:9 ). The result of the second coming of Christ — the establishment of His kingdom on earth and the restoration of Israel — will be peace on earth, fulfilling the promise that “‘in that day each of you will invite his neighbor to sit under his vine and fig tree,’ declares the LORD Almighty” (v. 10 ). The seven eyes (v. 9 ) indicated the all - seeing God who has complete knowledge of what is going on in the world and will judge in the light of that infinite knowledge ( Isa. 11:2–5 ). Taken as a whole, the vision reassured Joshua and the people of Israel that Israel should proceed in building the temple and promised the ultimate fulfillment of her restoration at the second coming of Christ.
How do Our Hearts Grow in Holiness?
By Chris Webb 8/18/2017
Thomas Aquinas, in his Summa Theologiae, discusses the root and origin of sin by comparing two verses, one from the New Testament and the other from the Deuterocanonical books. He notes first that Paul writes to Timothy: “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” (1 Tim 6:10). But alongside this he sets a line from the apocryphal book of Sirach which says (in the Latin Vulgate), “pride is the beginning of all sin” (Sir 10:15). Whether or not we want to accept, with Aquinas, the authority of the deuterocanonical text, the point he makes from these verses fits well with the tenor of Scripture as a whole. The first, he says, describes the way in which we allow our hearts to turn to an inappropriate degree towards the beauty and richness of creation. But the second cuts to the deeper and more serious issue of the way we allow our eyes to be turned away from God himself in the first place. As Paul puts it so directly, “they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator” (Rom 1:25). Our hearts become increasingly holy as they are healed of these twin maladies; we begin though by focusing our attention on the latter, our prideful turning from God.
The most odious corruption of love within our souls takes place when we allow love to become inwardly directed and self-absorbed. Christians insist on a simple truth which is strikingly counter-cultural in our contemporary society, obsessed as it is with self-realization and self-regard: we are not here to love ourselves.
Now that needs some qualification, of course. It is not that we Christians are called to hate ourselves. The loathing which some people experience when they look in the mirror is neither natural nor healthy. But, contrary to the way many preachers and writers have come to interpret Christ’s teaching on the great commandments, the call to “love your neighbor as you love yourself ” (Mt 22:39) does not imply that our first task is to learn self-love. The twelfth century Cistercian writer Bernard of Clairvaux had a clearer picture. In his short but brilliant work “On Loving God,” he argued that love at its least perfected is inwardly focused, seeking only its own good. And this self-love is not true love at all, merely the power of love corrupted into pride and vanity. As grace begins to reorder our hearts, though, some of that love starts to turn outward, towards God (and our neighbor), drawing us beyond ourselves–even if initially only because of the selfish benefits we can derive from others. A yet more well-ordered heart is able to love God and others for their own sake. And finally, says Bernard, we then truly learn what it means to love ourselves: to be grateful for the gift of ourselves, the only thing we truly have to offer to God and those around us, to express love. Growth in holiness ends in a proper love of self by turning outward to others, not by turning inward on ourselves.
The hallmark of the holiness of Jesus is this constant turning toward others seen in his constant acts of humility and service. Perhaps the most striking example occurs on the night of the last supper. The apostle John tells us that Jesus, fully aware of his divine origins and significance, was seeking a way to love his disciples “to the end” (Jn 13:1–an equally accurate translation of the Greek could be “to the utmost”). So he stripped off his outer garment and proceeded to perform the work of the lowest, most menial slave: washing the filthy, dirt-crusted feet of those around him. The disciples are shocked and appalled, so much so that Peter is embarrassed for Jesus and tries to refuse. But Jesus persists, teaching them what holiness towards others might mean—and calling them to love one another to exactly the same degree.
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He is currently Diocesan Spirituality Adviser to the Diocese of Leicester and Deputy Warden of Launde Abbey (in the heart of England).
Chris is the author of the IVP book The Fire of the Word.
Sunspots and Blind Spots
By David Hulme Summer 2017
In the 19th century, out-of-the-ordinary sunspot activity caused a breakdown in communications across Europe and the United States. Named for the amateur astronomer who recorded it, the Carrington Event brought extensive disruption to telegraph systems around the world. Sunspot activity is not rare in itself, but the magnitude of the 1859 solar flare and the fact that it made a direct hit on the earth was unusual.
Because society at the time was much less dependent on electronic devices than we are, the impact of the severe solar storm was not catastrophic. But if such an event were to occur today and make a direct hit on the East Coast of the United States, it could shut down a major part of the electrical power grid and most computers. The cost is estimated in terms of trillions of dollars, and the duration of time to repair the damage at three months to three years. As solar-storm expert John Kappenman remarked at a 2008 National Academy of Sciences workshop on the subject, “an event that could incapacitate the network for a long time could be one of the largest natural disasters that we could face.”
The 21st-century world is far more fragile than we care to think about. Most of us blind ourselves to this reality. But many scientists are now considering such risks and have formed themselves into academic communities to study ways to avoid existential threats of all kinds. The Centre for the Study of Existential Risk (CSER) at Cambridge University is one such body. It was cofounded in 2012 by the United Kingdom’s Astronomer Royal, Martin Rees, in an effort to bring public attention to the problems facing human civilization. The hope is that the public might in turn put pressure on governments to take action. And therein lies the weakness of the approach. In a June 2017 interview with Vision, Rees admitted as much when he said, “It’s hard for politicians to focus on long-term global issues in the pressure of short-term concerns. Politicians are influenced by what’s in the press and what’s in their inbox.” In his 2003 book, Our Final Century (published in the United States as Our Final Hour), he estimated that because of various existential threats, humanity had a 50-50 chance of not making it to 2100. With such odds in view, I asked if he was optimistic. “I’m a technical optimist but a political pessimist,” he replied, revealing that while he feels his confidence in technological salvation is justified, his faith in politicians’ willingness to bring about long-term results through appropriate policy is practically nil.
In the mind of Rees’s colleague Stephen Hawking, the only hope for survival seems to be other-worldly. The renowned cosmologist believes that we have less than a hundred years left on Earth and has proposed that nations unite to return man to the moon by 2020, journey to Mars by 2025, and establish a lunar base over the next 30 years. But is this sci-fi approach to human existential threats not merely another way of avoiding the essential problem—our human nature?
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Hulme holds a doctorate in International Relations from the University of Southern California with an emphasis on the Middle East. He has also studied theology, psychology and philosophy and is the author of Identity, Ideology, and the Future of Jerusalem (Palgrave 2006).
God as the best explanation of the most important aspects of life: 10 facts
By Travis Dickinson ?
I believe in God. Given this, I’m sometimes asked “Got any evidence?”
Uh, yes. Yes I do. In fact, I think there is an embarrassment of riches when it comes to the evidence for God.
Now I’m never quite sure what people have in mind by the notion of “evidence” when this concerns God. It often seems to be the case they want material evidence, like fingerprints or DNA evidence or eye witness sightings. Or they may ask for scientific evidence for God.
It is sometimes the case that what would count as evidence for God is so very restricted. The God of Christian theism is not material. We shouldn’t expect to see something like divine radioactivity, or some material fact like that, without which we will not believe in God. This is just not being intellectually honest.
When we ask whether there’s evidence for something we need to be careful with what sort of evidence would we expect to find. It would be like saying I will not believe in an electron until I see one with my own eyes. Well the problem is that no one has seen an electron with their own eyes and no one ever will. An electron is not the sort of thing than can be seen with human eyes. It is designated as an unobservable entity and only postulated because it makes sense of certain collections of data.
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I LOVE to dialogue about big ideas, especially with those with whom I disagree. But the tone of most discussions are, let’s call it, unproductive. I’m really interested in helping people with the art of dialoguing well.
No one likes to doubt deeply cherished beliefs. However, I want to suggest that there is great value in our doubts. When handled properly, they lead to truth and knowledge, and even deeper faith.
I’m convinced that Christianity is true, good and beautiful. I’m convinced that Jesus is peerless. Though faith is often disparaged, caricatured and deeply misunderstood, I’m convinced that Christian faith is the primary way to flourish as a human being.
I am the author of Everyday Apologetics and co-author of Stand Firm: Apologetics and the Brilliance of the Gospel (B&H, forthcoming). He blogs at www.travisdickinson.com. You can also follow him on Twitter.
Psalm 34 Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892)
By Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892)TITLE. Psalm of David, when he changed his behaviour before Abimelech; who drove him away, and he departed. Of this transaction, which reflects no credit upon David's memory, we have a brief account in 1Sa 21:1-15. Although the gratitude of the psalmist prompted him thankfully to record the goodness of the Lord in vouchsafing an undeserved deliverance, yet he weaves none of the incidents of the escape into the narrative, but dwells only on the grand fact of his being heard in the hour of peril. We may learn from his example not to parade our sins before others, as certain vainglorious professors are wont to do who seem as proud of their sins as old Greenwich pensioners of their battles and their wounds. David played the fool with singular dexterity, but he was not so real a fool as to sing of his own exploits of folly. In the original, the title does not teach us that the psalmist composed this poem at the time of his escape from Achish, the king or Abimelech of Gath, but that it is intended to commemorate that event, and was suggested by it. It is well to mark our mercies with well carved memorials. God deserves our best handiwork. David in view of the special peril from which he was rescued, was at great pains with this Psalm, and wrote it with considerable regularity, in almost exact accordance with the letters of the Hebrew alphabet. This is the second alphabetical Psalm, the twenty-fifth being the first.
DIVISION. The Psalm is split into two great divisions at the close of Ps 34:10, when the Psalmist having expressed his praise to God turns in direct address to men. The first ten verses are A HYMN, and the last twelve A SERMON. For further assistance to the reader we may subdivide thus: In Ps 34:1-3, David vows to bless the Lord, and invites the praise of others; from Ps 34:4-7 he relates his experience, and in Ps 34:8-10 exhorts the godly to constancy of faith. In Ps 34:1-14, he gives direct exhortation, and follows it up by didactic teaching from Ps 34:15-22 to the close.
Verse 1. I will bless the Lord at all times. He is resolved and fixed, I will; he is personally and for himself determined, let others so as they may; he is intelligent in head and inflamed in heart—he knows to whom the praise is due, and what is due, and for what and when. To Jehovah, and not to second causes our gratitude is to be rendered. The Lord hath by right a monopoly in his creatures praise. Even when a mercy may remind us of our sin with regard to it, as in this case David's deliverance from the Philistine monarch was sure to do, we are not to rob God of his meed of honour because our conscience justly awards a censure to our share in the transaction. Though the hook was rusty, yet God sent the fish, and we thank him for it. At all times, in every situation, under every circumstance, before, in and after trials, in bright days of glee, and dark nights of fear. He would never have done praising, because never satisfied that he had done enough; always feeling that he fell short of the Lord's deservings. Happy is he whose fingers are wedded to his harp. He who praises God for mercies shall never want a mercy for which to praise. To bless the Lord is never unseasonable. His praise shall continually be in my mouth, not in my heart merely, but in my mouth too. Our thankfulness is not to be a dumb thing; it should be one of the daughters of music. Our tongue is our glory, and it ought to reveal the glory of God. What a blessed mouthful is God's praise! How sweet, how purifying, how perfuming! If men's mouths were always thus filled, there would be no repining against God, or slander of neighbours. If we continually rolled this dainty morsel under our tongue, the bitterness of daily affliction would be swallowed up in joy. God deserves blessing with the heart, and extolling with the mouth—good thoughts in the closet, and good words in the world.
Verse 2. My soul shall make her boast in the Lord. Boasting is a very natural propensity, and if it were used as in this case, the more it were indulged the better. The exultation of this verse is no mere tongue bragging, "the soul" is in it, the boasting is meant and felt before it is expressed. What scope there is for holy boasting in Jehovah! His person, attributes, covenant, promises, works, and a thousand things besides, are all incomparable, unparalleled, matchless; we may cry them up as we please, but we shall never be convicted of vain and empty speech in so doing. Truly he who writes these words of comment has nothing of his own to boast of, but much to lament over, and yet none shall stop him of his boast in God so long as he lives. The humble shall hear thereof, and be glad. They are usually grieved to hear boastings; they turn aside from vauntings and lofty speeches, but boasting in the Lord is quite another matter; by this the most lowly are consoled and encouraged. The confident expressions of tried believers are a rich solace to their brethren of less experience. We ought to talk of the Lord's goodness on purpose that others may be confirmed in their trust in a faithful God.
Verse 3. O magnify the Lord with me. Is this request addressed to the humble? If so it is most fitting. Who can make God great but those who feel themselves to be little? He bids them help him to make the Lord's fame greater among the sons of men. Jehovah is infinite, and therefore cannot really be made greater, but his name grows in manifested glory as he is made known to his creatures, and thus he is said to be magnified. It is well when the soul feels its own inability adequately to glorify the Lord, and therefore stirs up others to the gracious work; this is good both for the man himself and for his companions. No praise can excel that which lays us prostrate under a sense of our own nothingness, while divine grace like some topless Alp rises before our eyes and sinks us lower and lower in holy awe. Let us exalt his name together. Social, congregated worship is the outgrowth of one of the natural instincts of the new life. In heaven it is enjoyed to the full, and earth is like heaven where it abounds.
Verse 4. I sought the Lord, and he heard me. It must have been in a very confused manner that David prayed, and there must have been much of self sufficiency in his prayer, or he would not have resorted to methods of such dubious morality as pretending to be mad and behaving as a lunatic; yet his poor limping prayer had an acceptance and brought him succour: the more reason for then celebrating the abounding mercy of the Lord. We may seek God even when we have sinned. If sin could blockade the mercyseat it would be all over with us, but the mercy is that there are gifts even for the rebellious, and an advocate for men who sin. And delivered me from all my fears. God makes a perfect work of it. He clears away both our fears and their causes, all of them without exception. Glory be to his name, prayer sweeps the field, slays all the enemies and even buries their bones. Note the egoism of this verse and of those preceding it; we need not blush to speak of ourselves when in so doing we honestly aim at glorifying God, and not at exalting ourselves. Some are foolishly squeamish upon this point, but they should remember that when modesty robs God it is most immodest.
Verse 5. They looked unto him, and were lightened. The psalmist avows that his case was not at all peculiar, it was matched in the lives of all the faithful; they too, each one of them on looking to their Lord were brightened up, their faces began to shine, their spirits were uplifted. What a means of blessing one look at the Lord may be! There is life, light, liberty, love, everything in fact, in a look at the crucified One. Never did a sore heart look in vain to the good Physician; never a dying soul turned its darkening eye to the brazen serpent to find its virtue gone. And their faces were not ashamed. Their faces were covered with joy but not with blushes. He who trusts in God has no need to be ashamed of his confidence, time and eternity will both justify his reliance.
Verse 6. This poor man cried. Here he returns to his own case. He was poor indeed, and so utterly friendless that his life was in great jeopardy; but he cried in his heart to the protector of his people and found relief. His prayer was a cry, for brevity and bitterness, for earnestness and simplicity, for artlessness and grief; it was a poor man's cry, but it was none the less powerful with heaven, for the Lord heard him, and to be heard of God is to be delivered; and so it is added that the Lord saved him out of all his troubles. At once and altogether David was clean rid of all his woes. The Lord sweeps our griefs away as men destroy a hive of hornets, or as the winds clear away the mists. Prayer can clear us of troubles as easily as the Lord made riddance of the frogs and flies of Egypt when Moses entreated him. This verse is the psalmist's own personal testimony: he being dead yet speaketh. Let the afflicted reader take heart and be of good courage.
Verse 7. The angel of the Lord. The covenant angel, the Lord Jesus, at the head of all the bands of heaven, surrounds with his army the dwellings of the saints. Like hosts entrenched so are the ministering spirits encamped around the Lord's chosen, to serve and succour, to defend and console them. Encampeth round about them that fear him. On every side the watch is kept by warriors of sleepless eyes, and the Captain of the host is one whose prowess none can resist. And delivereth them. We little know how many providential deliverances we owe to those unseen hands which are charged to bear us up lest we dash our foot against a stone.
Verse 8. O taste and see. Make a trial, an inward, experimental trial of the goodness of God. You cannot see except by tasting for yourself; but if you taste you shall see, for this, like Jonathan's honey, enlightens the eyes. That the Lord is good. You can only know this really and personally by experience. There is the banquet with its oxen and fatlings; its fat things full of marrow, and wine on the lees well refined; but their sweetness will be all unknown to you except you make the blessings of grace your own, by a living, inward, vital participation in them. Blessed is the man that trusteth in him. Faith is the soul's taste; they who test the Lord by their confidence always find him good, and they become themselves blessed. The second clause of the verse, is the argument in support of the exhortation contained in the first sentence.
Verse 9. O fear the Lord, ye his saints. Pay to him humble childlike reverence, walk in his laws, have respect to his will, tremble to offend him, hasten to serve him. Fear not the wrath of men, neither be tempted to sin through the virulence of their threats; fear God and fear nothing else. For there is no want to them that fear him. Jehovah will not allow his faithful servants to starve. He may not give luxuries, but the promise binds him to supply necessaries, and he will not run back from his word. Many whims and wishes may remain unfulfilled, but real wants the Lord will supply. The fear of the Lord or true piety is not only the duty of those who avow themselves to be saints, that is, persons set apart and consecrated for holy duties, but it is also their path of safety and comfort. Godliness hath the promise of the life which now is. If we were to die like dogs, and there were no hereafter, yet were it well for our own happiness' sake to fear the Lord. Men seek a patron and hope to prosper; he prospers surely who hath the Lord of Hosts to be his friend and defender.
Verse 10. The young lions do lack, and suffer hunger. They are fierce, cunning, strong, in all the vigour of youth, and yet they sometimes howl in their ravenous hunger, and even so crafty, designing, and oppressing men, with all their sagacity and unscrupulousness, often come to want; yet simple minded believers, who dare not act as the greedy lions of earth, are fed with food convenient for them. To trust God is better policy than the craftiest politicians can teach or practice. But they that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing. No really good thing shall be denied to those whose first and main end in life is to seek the Lord. Men may call them fools, but the Lord will prove them wise. They shall win where the world's wiseacres lose their all, and God shall have the glory of it.
Verse 11. Come, ye children. Though a warrior and a king, the psalmist was not ashamed to teach children. Teachers of youth belong to the true peerage; their work is honourable, and their reward shall be glorious. Perhaps the boys and girls of Gath had made sport of David in his seeming madness, and if so, he here aims by teaching the rising race to undo the mischief which he had done aforetime. Children are the most hopeful persons to teach—wise men who wish to propagate their principles take care to win the ear of the young. Hearken unto me: I will teach you the fear of the Lord. So far as they can be taught by word of mouth, or learned by the hearing of the ear, we are to communicate the faith and fear of God, inculcating upon the rising generation the principles and practices of piety. This verse may be the address of every Sabbath school teacher to his class, of every parent to his children. It is not without instruction in the art of teaching. We should be winning and attractive to the youngsters, bidding them "come, "and not repelling them with harsh terms. We must get them away, apart from toys and sports, and try to occupy their minds with better pursuits; for we cannot well teach them while their minds are full of other things. We must drive at the main point always, and keep the fear of the Lord ever uppermost in our teachings, and in so doing we may discreetly cast our own personality into the scale by narrating our own experiences and convictions.
Verse 12. Life spent in happiness is the desire of all, and he who can give the young a receipt for leading a happy life deserves to be popular among them. Mere existence is not life; the art of living, truly, really, and joyfully living, it is not given to all men to know. To teach men how to live and how to die, is the aim of all useful religious instruction. The rewards of virtue are the baits with which the young are to be drawn to morality. While we teach piety to God we should also dwell much upon morality towards man.
Verse 13. Keep thy tongue from evil. Guard with careful diligence that dangerous member, the tongue, lest it utter evil, for that evil will recoil upon thee, and mar the enjoyment of thy life. Men cannot spit forth poison without feeling some of the venom burning their own flesh. And thy lips from speaking guile. Deceit must be very earnestly avoided by the man who desires happiness. A crafty schemer lives like a spy in the enemy's camp, in constant fear of exposure and execution. Clean and honest conversation, by keeping the conscience at ease, promotes happiness, but lying and wicked talk stuffs our pillow with thorns, and makes life a constant whirl of fear and shame. David had tried the tortuous policy, but he here denounces it, and begs others as they would live long and well to avoid with care the doubtful devices of guile.
Verse 14. Depart from evil. Go away from it. Not merely take your hands off, but yourself off. Live not near the pest house. Avoid the lion's lair, leave the viper's nest. Set a distance between yourself and temptation. And do good. Be practical, active, energetic, persevering in good. Positive virtue promotes negative virtue; he who does good is sure to avoid evil. Seek peace. Not merely prefer it, but with zeal and care endeavour to promote it. Peace with God, with thine own heart, with thy fellow man, search after this as the merchantman after a precious pearl. Nothing can more effectually promote our own happiness than peace; strife awakens passions which eat into the heart with corroding power. Anger is murder to one's own self, as well as to its objects. And pursue it. Hunt after it, chase it with eager desire. It may soon be lost, indeed, nothing is harder to retain, but do your best, and if enmity should arise let it be no fault of yours. Follow after peace when it shuns you; be resolved not to be of a contentious spirit. The peace which you thus promote will be returned into your own bosom, and be a perennial spring of comfort to you.
Verse 15. The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous. He observes them with approval and tender consideration; they are so dear to him that he cannot take his eyes off them; he watches each one of them as carefully and intently as if there were only that one creature in the universe. His ears are open unto their cry. His eyes and ears are thus both turned by the Lord towards his saints; his whole mind is occupied about them: if slighted by all others they are not neglected by him. Their cry he hears at once, even as a mother is sure to hear her sick babe; the cry may be broken, plaintive, unhappy, feeble, unbelieving, yet the Father's quick ear catches each note of lament or appeal, and he is not slow to answer his children's voice.
Verse 16. The face of the Lord is against them that do evil. God is not indifferent to the deeds of sinners, but he sets his face against them, as we say, being determined that they shall have no countenance and support, but shall be thwarted and defeated. He is determinately resolved that the ungodly shall not prosper; he sets himself with all his might to overthrow them. To cut off the remembrance of them from the earth. He will stamp out their fires, their honour shall be turned into shame, their names forgotten or accursed. Utter destruction shall be the lot of all the ungodly.
Verse 17. The righteous cry. Like Israel in Egypt, they cry out under the heavy yoke of oppression, both of sin, temptation, care, and grief. And the Lord heareth; he is like the night watchman, who no sooner hears the alarm bell than he flies to relieve those who need him. And delivereth them out of all their troubles. No net of trouble can so hold us that the Lord cannot free us. Our afflictions may be numerous and complicated, but prayer can set us free from them all, for the Lord will show himself strong on our behalf.
Verse 18. The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart. Near in friendship to accept and console. Broken hearts think God far away, when he is really most near them; their eyes are holden so that they see not their best friend. Indeed, he is with them, and in them, but they know it not. They run hither and thither, seeking peace in their own works, or in experiences, or in proposals and resolutions, whereas the Lord is nigh them, and the simple act of faith will reveal him. And saveth such as be of a contrite spirit. What a blessed token for good is a repentant, mourning heart! Just when the sinner condemns himself, the Lord graciously absolves him. If we chasten our own spirits the Lord will spare us. He never breaks with the rod of judgment those who are already sore with the rod of conviction. Salvation is linked with contrition.
Verse 19. Many are the afflictions of the righteous. Thus are they made like Jesus their covenant Head. Scripture does not flatter us like the story books with the idea that goodness will secure us from trouble; on the contrary, we are again and again warned to expect tribulation while we are in this body. Our afflictions come from all points of the compass, and are as many and as tormenting as the mosquitoes of the tropics. It is the earthly portion of the elect to find thorns and briars growing in their pathway, yea, to lie down among them, finding their rest broken and disturbed by sorrow. BUT, blessed but, how it takes the sting out of the previous sentence! But the Lord delivereth him out of them all. Through troops of ills Jehovah shall lead his redeemed scatheless and triumphant. There is an end to the believer's affliction, and a joyful end too. None of his trials can hurt so much as a hair of his head, neither can the furnace hold him for a moment after the Lord bids him come forth of it. Hard would be the lot of the righteous if this promise, like a bundle of camphire, were not bound up in it, but this sweetens all. The same Lord who sends the afflictions will also recall them when his design is accomplished, but he will never allow the fiercest of them to rend and devour his beloved.
Verse 20. He keepeth all his bones: not one of them is broken. David had come off with kicks and cuffs, but no broken bones. No substantial injury occurs to the saints. Eternity will heal all their wounds. Their real self is safe; they may have flesh wounds, but no part of the essential fabric of their being shall be broken. This verse may refer to frequent providential protections vouchsafed to the saints; but as good men have had broken limbs as well as others, it cannot absolutely be applied to bodily preservations; but must, it seems to me, be spiritually applied to great injuries of soul, which are for ever prevented by divine love. Not a bone of the mystical body of Christ shall be broken, even as his corporeal frame was preserved intact. Divine love watches over every believer as it did over Jesus; no fatal injury shall happen to us, we shall neither be halt or maimed in the kingdom, but shall be presented after life's trials are over without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, being preserved in Christ Jesus, and kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.
Verse 21. Evil shall slay the wicked. Their adversaries shall be killing; they are not medicine, but poison. Ungodly men only need rope enough and they will hang themselves; their own iniquities shall be their punishment. Hell itself is but evil fully developed, torturing those in whom it dwells. Oh! happy they who have fled to Jesus to find refuge from their former sins, such, and such only will escape. And they that hate the righteous shall be desolate. They hated the best of company, and they shall have none; they shall be forsaken, despoiled, wretched, despairing. God makes the viper poison itself. What desolation of heart do the damned feel, and how richly have they deserved it!
Verse 22. The Lord redeemeth the soul of his servants—with price and with power, with blood and with water. All providential helps are a part of the redemption by power, hence the Lord is said still to redeem. All thus ransomed belong to him who bought them—this is the law of justice and the verdict of gratitude. Joyfully will we serve him who so graciously purchases us with his blood, and delivers us by his power. And none of them that trust in him shall be desolate. Faith is the mark of the ransomed, and wherever it is seen, though in the least and meanest of the saints, it ensures eternal salvation. Believer, thou shalt never be deserted, forsaken, given up to ruin. God, even thy God, is thy guardian and friend, and bliss is thine.
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 92How Great Are Your Works
92 A Psalm. A Song For The Sabbath.
10 But you have exalted my horn like that of the wild ox;
you have poured over me fresh oil.
11 My eyes have seen the downfall of my enemies;
my ears have heard the doom of my evil assailants.
12 The righteous flourish like the palm tree
and grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
13 They are planted in the house of the LORD;
they flourish in the courts of our God.
14 They still bear fruit in old age;
they are ever full of sap and green,
15 to declare that the LORD is upright;
he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.
By Kevin Smith 2/1/2009
Gary Thomas, in his book Seeking the Face of God: The Path To A More Intimate Relationship, makes this statement: “Christian health is not defined by how happy we are, how prosperous or healthy we are, or even by how many people we have led to the Lord in the past year. Christian health is ultimately defined by how sincerely we wave our flag of surrender.” What he is saying is this: a major way to measure our spiritual health is to determine how surrendered we are to God. I believe that many of our greatest struggles in living a healthy, productive Christian life come to us because of our unwillingness to surrender fully to God. Our churches are full of people who are not progressively growing in their surrender to Christ; therefore, many of our churches are spiritually unhealthy. Unhealthy churches are focused on self, more concerned with the size of our buildings and budgets than on the glory of Christ in the salvation and sanctification of His elect from all people groups.
I am an American, actually an African American; I have difficulty with the concept of surrender. Americans don’t surrender. Surrender means weakness. It means defeat. It means I give up, doesn’t it? Surrendering to God is a challenge even for those who have come to know the Lord of glory, Jesus Christ.
First, let’s examine the kind of surrender I believe the Lord calls for and then the path to it. The passage that has helped me reflect on this is Romans 12:1–2. God calls us to present our bodies as living sacrifices. By appealing to us to “present” our bodies to God, the apostle is saying that every Christian is a priest — a believer-priest. This is nothing new, for we see the people of the old covenant referred to as a “kingdom of priests” in Exodus 19:6. The new covenant writers pick this up, as in 1 Peter 2:9 where the church is a “royal priesthood.” As priests who stand before God, we must bring something to Him, not to make atonement but in response to the atonement. What do we offer? The only thing we have is ourselves. The surrender God wants is the surrender of our bodies to Him. Our lives and all that we have are to be at God’s disposal. Paul has spoken about the presenting of the members of our bodies to God as “instruments of righteousness” in Romans 6:12–19. No longer are we to give our legs, arms, ears, and minds to commit rebellion against God. Since we have been justified by Christ, we are to surrender the very members of our bodies to God to do what is good in His sight. Paul speaks collectively of this act in chapter 12, showing that it is a total surrender; nothing is left out. No aspect of our lives is to be outside of devotion to God through Jesus Christ.
He calls for our offering to be living and holy. Notice, God doesn’t want a dead sacrifice; He wants a living one. He intends for His people to live in joyful surrender to Him, finding our pleasure in Him, instead of worldy pursuits. Naturally, since the Lord our God is holy, an offering presented to Him must also be holy — pure and given to His service alone. As God’s people humbly offer ourselves in holiness, Paul says our churches will increasingly experience “spiritual worship.” How we fight about elements of worship! Some dislike hymns. Some dislike contemporary praise songs. Some dislike instruments. All see their preference as more biblical than the others. But none of us truly worships God unless we are growing in joyful surrender to Christ. It is a perversion of worship to the living God that we offer Him dead sacrifices and everything but our holy bodies. We say we are His, but our lives are tainted with self-righteousness, greed, bitterness, racism, lust, and envy. How, then, can we experience the power of God in our lives and witness? The answer lies in daily surrendering our whole selves to God, singing “I Surrender All,” and trusting God to transform us by His power.
The path to this surrender is also part of our problem. Our minds are full of the things of this world. We hunger for more and will not be satisfied with less, so we go into debt. Our marriages fail as we pursue the American Dream. Is it any wonder that our children who are catechized and sanitized go off to college and act like pagans? They have not experienced or even seen many examples of total surrender to Christ and the power of God at work in such a worshiping community.
Why are we to surrender ourselves to God totally? Our heavenly Father has poured out His vast wealth of mercy upon us in Christ. Mercy is God’s compassion given to those who are pitiful. It is similar to grace in that it is underserved. Do we really understand what we are without Christ? God’s people must ask Him to reveal to us our total depravity so that we are enabled to mourn over our sin and our culture’s sin. This is the way to blessedness (Matt. 5:4). The mercies of God in justification, sanctification, election, and glorification through Christ are most clearly seen when we understand the distance between God’s holiness and our spiritual poverty. People and churches who are humbled by the great mercies of God are more likely to grow in the surrender of their lives to Christ day by day. Our worship will be God-centered and our minds renewed by the power of the riches of His love. And by God’s marvelous grace, such churches will be enabled to make disciples of the nations who dwell in their communities.
Rev. Kevin Smith is senior pastor of Pinelands Presbyterian Church in Cutler Bay, Florida.
The Continual Burnt Offering (Acts 2:1)
By H.A. Ironside - 1941
August 26Acts 2:1 When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. ESV
It is all important to understand what took place at Pentecost. There had been many Pentecosts in Israel’s history, for it was an annual feast celebrating the beginning of the harvest, but all these were types. The Pentecost of Acts 2 was the fulfillment of the type. On that day God began a new work of taking out a special people to Himself, from Jews and Gentiles, to form the body of Christ. The Holy Spirit came that day as a divine Person to indwell believers and to baptize them into one body. He came too to empower them for service as a redeemed and cleansed people so that the message of the gospel might be carried to the ends of the earth. Strictly speaking, there can never be another Pentecost, any more than there can be another Passover owned by God since Christ our Passover has been sacrificed for us. But it is necessary for each believer to recognize and yield to the Spirit who came at Pentecost if he would be a witness in power to a lost world.
Before the coming of the Spirit the apostles were so many individuals as yet unfilled for the great task allotted to them. After that momentous event they were members of the body of Christ, endued with power from on high to go forth to proclaim the gospel message to the ends of the earth.
Acts 2:1 When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.
5 Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. 6 And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. 7 And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? 9 Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, 11 both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians — we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” 12 And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13 But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.”
14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. 15 For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. 16 But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel:
17 “ ‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams;
18 even on my male servants and female servants
in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.
19 And I will show wonders in the heavens above
and signs on the earth below,
blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke;
20 the sun shall be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood,
before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day.
21 And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’
“ ‘I saw the Lord always before me,
for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken;
26 therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced;
my flesh also will dwell in hope.
27 For you will not abandon my soul to Hades,
or let your Holy One see corruption.
28 You have made known to me the paths of life;
you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’
“ ‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at my right hand,
35 until I make your enemies your footstool.” ’
37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” 40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.
42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. ESV
The Comforter, now present,
Assures us of Thy love;
He is the blessed earnest
Of glory there above:
The river of Thy pleasure
Is what sustains us now,
Till Thy new name’s imprinted
On ev’ry sinless brow.
--- Mary Bowley
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
by Bill Federer
Women can vote! That was the monumental news this day, August 26th, 1920, as the nineteenth amendment became law. It reads: “The right of citizens of the U.S. to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” This culminated fifty years effort by many of the women leaders who fought to abolish slavery, one of which was Julia Ward Howe, author of The Battle Hymn of the Republic. She wrote in the third verse: “Let the Hero, born of woman, crush the serpent with his heel, Since God is marching on.”
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
Hold fast to the Bible. To the influence of this Book we are indebted for all the progress made in true civilization and to this we must look as our guide in the future.
--- Ulysses S. Grant
God, who foresaw your tribulation,
has specially armed you to go through it,
not without pain
but without stain.
--- C.S. Lewis
Great Master, teach us with Your skillful hand;
Let not the music that is in us die!
Great Sculptor, hew and polish us; nor let
Hidden and lost, Your form within us lie!
--- Horatius Bonar
Dreams come true; without that possibility, nature would not incite us to have them.
--- John Updike
We ought never to regard unity so much that we would or should forsake God’s Word for her sake.
--- The English Reformer Hugh Latimer
... from here, there and everywhere
by GA Studdert Kennedy
When Jesus came to Golgotha,
they hanged Him on a tree,
They drove great nails through hands and feet,
and made a Calvary;
They crowned Him with a crown of thorns,
red were His wounds and deep,
For those were crude and cruel days,
and human flesh was cheap.
When Jesus came to Birmingham,
they simply passed Him by.
They would not hurt a hair of Him,
they only let Him die;
For men had grown more tender,
and they would not give Him pain,
They only just passed down the street,
and left Him in the rain.
Still Jesus cried, ‘Forgive them,
for they know not what they do,’
And still it rained the winter rain
that drenched Him through and through;
The crowds went home and left the streets
without a soul to see,
And Jesus crouched against a wall,
and cried for Calvary.
Watch video below to hear David Pawson read the poem
Dr. John Stott
The Cross of Christ
One of the saddest features of Islam is that it rejects the cross, declaring it inappropriate that a major prophet of God should come to such an ignominious end. The Koran sees no need for the sin-bearing death of a Saviour. At least five times it declares categorically that ‘no soul shall bear another’s burden’. Indeed, ‘if a laden soul cries out for help, not even a near relation shall share its burden’. Why is this? It is because ‘each man shall reap the fruits of his own deeds’, even though Allah is merciful and forgives those who repent and do good. Denying the need for the cross, the Koran goes on to deny the fact. The Jews ‘uttered a monstrous falsehood’ when they declared ‘we have put to death the Messiah Jesus the son of Mary, the apostle of Allah’, for ‘they did not kill him, nor did they crucify him, but they thought they did’. (Quotations are from The Koran. The five rejections of the possibility of ‘substitution’ are on pages 114 (liii.38), 176 (xxv.18), 230 (xvii.15), 274 (xxxix.7) and 429 (vi.164).) Although Muslim theologians have interpreted this statement in different ways, the commonly held belief is that God cast a spell over the enemies of Jesus in order to rescue him, and that either Judas Iscariot (The spurious ‘Gospel of Barnabas’, written in Italian in the fourteenth or fifteenth century by a Christian convert to Islam, contains parts of the Koran as well as of the four canonical Gospels. It tells the fantastic tale that, when Judas came with the soldiers to arrest Jesus, he withdrew into a house. There angels rescued him through a window, while Judas ‘was so changed in speech and in face to be like Jesus’ that everybody was deceived, and Judas was crucified in Jesus’ place.) or Simon of Cyrene was substituted for him at the last moment. In the nineteenth century the Ahmadiya sect of Islam borrowed from different liberal Christian writers the notion that Jesus only swooned on the cross, and revived in the tomb, adding that he subsequently travelled to India to teach, and died there; they claim to be the guardians of his tomb in Kashmir.
But Christian messengers of the good news cannot be silent about the cross. Here is the testimony of the American missionary Samuel M. Zwemer (1867–1952), who laboured in Arabia, edited The Muslim World for forty years, and is sometimes called ‘The Apostle to Islam’:
The missionary among Moslems (to whom the Cross of Christ is a stumbling- block and the atonement foolishness) is driven daily to deeper meditation on this mystery of redemption, and to a stronger conviction that here is the very heart of our message and our mission....
If the Cross of Christ is anything to the mind, it is surely everything – the most profound reality and the sublimest mystery. One comes to realize that literally all the wealth and glory of the gospel centres here. The Cross is the pivot as well as the centre of New Testament thought. It is the exclusive mark of the Christian faith, the symbol of Christianity and its cynosure.
The more unbelievers deny its crucial character, the more do believers find in it the key to the mysteries of sin and suffering. We rediscover the apostolic emphasis on the Cross when we read the gospel with Moslems. We find that, although the offence of the Cross remains, its magnetic power is irresistible. The Glory of The Cross
Thanks to Meir Yona
9. But now, when the vessels were gotten ready, Vespasian put upon ship-board as many of his forces as he thought sufficient to be too hard for those that were upon the lake, and set sail after them. Now these which were driven into the lake could neither fly to the land, where all was in their enemies' hand, and in war against them; nor could they fight upon the level by sea, for their ships were small and fitted only for piracy; they were too weak to fight with Vespasian's vessels, and the mariners that were in them were so few, that they were afraid to come near the Romans, who attacked them in great numbers. However, as they sailed round about the vessels, and sometimes as they came near them, they threw stones at the Romans when they were a good way off, or came closer and fought them; yet did they receive the greatest harm themselves in both cases. As for the stones they threw at the Romans, they only made a sound one after another, for they threw them against such as were in their armor, while the Roman darts could reach the Jews themselves; and when they ventured to come near the Romans, they became sufferers themselves before they could do any harm to the ether, and were drowned, they and their ships together. As for those that endeavored to come to an actual fight, the Romans ran many of them through with their long poles. Sometimes the Romans leaped into their ships, with swords in their hands, and slew them; but when some of them met the vessels, the Romans caught them by the middle, and destroyed at once their ships and themselves who were taken in them. And for such as were drowning in the sea, if they lifted their heads up above the water, they were either killed by darts, or caught by the vessels; but if, in the desperate case they were in, they attempted to swim to their enemies, the Romans cut off either their heads or their hands; and indeed they were destroyed after various manners every where, till the rest being put to flight, were forced to get upon the land, while the vessels encompassed them about [on the sea]: but as many of these were repulsed when they were getting ashore, they were killed by the darts upon the lake; and the Romans leaped out of their vessels, and destroyed a great many more upon the land: one might then see the lake all bloody, and full of dead bodies, for not one of them escaped. And a terrible stink, and a very sad sight there was on the following days over that country; for as for the shores, they were full of shipwrecks, and of dead bodies all swelled; and as the dead bodies were inflamed by the sun, and putrefied, they corrupted the air, insomuch that the misery was not only the object of commiseration to the Jews, but to those that hated them, and had been the authors of that misery. This was the upshot of the sea-fight. The number of the slain, including those that were killed in the city before, was six thousand and five hundred.
10. After this fight was over, Vespasian sat upon his tribunal at Taricheae, in order to distinguish the foreigners from the old inhabitants; for those foreigners appear to have begun the war. So he deliberated with the other commanders, whether he ought to save those old inhabitants or not. And when those commanders alleged that the dismission of them would be to his own disadvantage, because, when they were once set at liberty, they would not be at rest, since they would be people destitute of proper habitations, and would be able to compel such as they fled to fight against us, Vespasian acknowledged that they did not deserve to be saved, and that if they had leave given them to fly away, they would make use of it against those that gave them that leave. But still he considered with himself after what manner they should be slain 8 for if he had them slain there, he suspected the people of the country would thereby become his enemies; for that to be sure they would never bear it, that so many that had been supplicants to him should be killed; and to offer violence to them, after he had given them assurances of their lives, he could not himself bear to do it. However, his friends were too hard for him, and pretended that nothing against Jews could be any impiety, and that he ought to prefer what was profitable before what was fit to be done, where both could not be made consistent. So he gave them an ambiguous liberty to do as they advised, and permitted the prisoners to go along no other road than that which led to Tiberias only. So they readily believed what they desired to be true, and went along securely, with their effects, the way which was allowed them, while the Romans seized upon all the road that led to Tiberias, that none of them might go out of it, and shut them up in the city. Then came Vespasian, and ordered them all to stand in the stadium, and commanded them to kill the old men, together with the others that were useless, which were in number a thousand and two hundred. Out of the young men he chose six thousand of the strongest, and sent them to Nero, to dig through the Isthmus, and sold the remainder for slaves, being thirty thousand and four hundred, besides such as he made a present of to Agrippa; for as to those that belonged to his kingdom, he gave him leave to do what he pleased with them; however, the king sold these also for slaves; but for the rest of the multitude, who were Trachonites, and Gaulanites, and of Hippos, and some of Gadara, the greatest part of them were seditious persons and fugitives, who were of such shameful characters, that they preferred war before peace. These prisoners were taken on the eighth day of the month Gorpieus [Elul].
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 of those who eat meat to excess,
21 for both drunkard and glutton will become poor—
drowsiness will clothe them with rags.
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
Are you ever disturbed?
Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you.
--- John 14:27.
There are times when our peace is based upon ignorance, but when we awaken to the facts of life, inner peace is impossible unless it is received from Jesus. When Our Lord speaks peace, He makes peace, His words are ever “spirit and life.” Have I ever received what Jesus speaks? “My peace I give unto you”—it is a peace which comes from looking into His face and realizing His undisturbedness.
Are you painfully disturbed just now, distracted by the waves and billows of God’s providential permission, and having, as it were, turned over the boulders of your belief, are you still finding no well of peace or joy or comfort; is all barren? Then look up and receive the undisturbedness of the Lord Jesus. Reflected peace is the proof that you are right with God because you are at liberty to turn your mind to Him. If you are not right with God, you can never turn your mind anywhere but on yourself. If you allow anything to hide the face of Jesus Christ from you, you are either disturbed or you have a false security.
Are you looking unto Jesus now, in the immediate matter that is pressing, and receiving from Him peace? If so, He will be a gracious benediction of peace in and through you: But if you try to worry it out, you obliterate Him and deserve all you get. We get disturbed because we have not been considering Him. When one confers with Jesus Christ the perplexity goes, because He has no perplexity, and our only concern is to abide in Him. Lay it all out before Him and in the face of difficulty, bereavement and sorrow, hear Him say—“Let not your heart be troubled.”
the Poetry of RS Thomas
Selected poems, 1946-1968
The Cry of Elisha after Elijah
The chariot of Israel came,
And the bold, beautiful knights,
To free from his close prison
The friend who was my delight;
Cold is my cry over the vast deep shaken,
Bereft was I, for he was taken.
Through the straight places of Baca
We went with an equal will,
Not knowing who would emerge
First from that gloomy vale;
Cold is my cry; our bond was broken,
Bereft was I, for he was taken.
Where, then, came they to rest,
Those steeds and that car of fire?
My understanding is darkened,
It is no gain to enquire;
Better to await the long night's ending,
Till the light comes, far truths transcending.
I yield, since no wisdom lies
In seeking to go his way;
A man without knowledge am I
Of the quality of his joy;
Yet living souls, a prodigious number,
Bright-faced as dawn, invest God's chamber.
The friends that we loved well,
Though they vanished far from our sight,
In a new country were found
Beyond this vale of night;
O blest are they, without pain or fretting
In the sun's light that knows no setting.
Matthew Arnold once described culture as “a study of perfection.” Perhaps he was a spiritual descendent of Rabbi Levi, for both seem to possess little patience for those who err. “Does the anointed priest sin?” We can answer Rabbi Levi very simply: Of course the anointed priest sins! That’s the very point of the verse in the Torah! The Kohen did indeed transgress, and now he has to make expiation for his wrong by offering a sacrifice to God.
It’s no different today with those in positions of power or public trust. Our elected leaders are human. Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia of New York grasped this when he quipped, “When I make a mistake it’s a beaut!” Even the world’s greatest surgeon will, at one time or another, botch a surgery. The financial wizard who predicts the permutations of the stock market may be the best in the business, but he will not be right all of the time. And even the best batter in Major League Baseball will hit no more than 400; that is, he makes an out more than 60 percent of the time.
What do we do when it’s the surgeon into whose hands we’re putting our lives, or the planner who will ultimately determine our family’s financial stability? We can find the most competent professional available. We can research his or her credentials, track record, and experience. And then, we can understand that it’s out of our hands. That, very simply, is reality. People will make mistakes.
It seems wrong for Rabbi Levi to create this expectation of perfection. Rather than seeing our human faults and foibles as a negative, we should reframe them as a positive. Our mistakes can be good for us. We can learn from them. The sacrifice that the Kohen gave was an opportunity to grow from the error, just as our prayers and thoughts can be an opportunity for introspection and development on our part.
The cow brought by the Kohen as a guilt offering, rather than denying his humanity, simply reaffirms it. And that’s “no bull.”
ANOTHER D’RASH / The Rabbis of the Midrash were many things; they were not, however, fools. They understood clearly the disappointing nature of the world they lived in, and they knew only too well the frailties of humankind. How do we, then, explain their rhetorical question in our text, “Does the anointed priest sin?” It seems to imply the naïve answer, “Of course not!” Did the Rabbis really think that a Kohen was incapable of doing wrong? Today, we are painfully aware of religious leaders who are embroiled in all kinds of scandals: the preacher involved with a prostitute; the priest accused of being a pedophile; the rabbi arrested for laundering drug money through a yeshivah. What’s true in our own day is nothing new; even the Bible was aware of priests who sinned. In the opening chapters of the Book of Samuel, we read that the two sons of Eli the priest, Hophni and Phinehas, were “scoundrels.” They stole from the sacrifices that were brought for God, and they had sex with many of the women who came to the Tent of Meeting. The Rabbis certainly knew the story; how could they think that a priest doesn’t sin?
The answer to this riddle may be twofold. First, the Rabbis were familiar with the imperfect nature of religious leaders; they knew that priests did sin. Second, they also understood that, more often than not, people will live up to others’ expectations of them. This latter principle has been proven by tests conducted in schools. Randomly split the fifth grade into two sections. Tell one group they are the “accelerated class” and treat them as such, and they will perform better than the other group, which is labeled and treated like the “dumb class.” What’s true of kids is also true of grownups—and even of our leaders. When we believe that all presidents are promiscuous, that all members of Congress sell their votes to the biggest contributor, and that all politicians are liars, we are sending a message to our elected officials: We don’t expect very much of you. True, the temptations in the world of politics are many, and some who go into the field are too easily seduced. But we play a role in the disintegration of our political culture by lowering the bar and expecting too little.
The Rabbis respond to the weaknesses of our leaders by saying thus: We have great expectations of you! Don’t you dare disappoint us!
The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands. --- John 3:35.
We are told, “He had to go through Samaria” (John 4:4).”
(The RS Thomas And Other Practical Works Of The Late Reverend And Learned Mr. Ralph Erskine V9) The purpose was to give from his grace to a poor, sinful harlot there. Was there a blessed necessity for his suffering at Jerusalem? Yes: “Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” (Luke 24:26). Even so, there is a blessed necessity for his applying the beneficial power of his death and sufferings, by pouring out his Spirit and communicating his grace for that purpose.
Consider, that though Christ is exalted to this honor and majesty of having everything placed in his hands, yet it is not possible that he would be therefore proud and disdainful, so as not to regard the case of poor sinners, for quite the contrary is the truth. Because he is thus honored, therefore he humbles himself. Read his mind on this with wonder and admiration: “Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he… began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him” (John 13:3–5). What was the reason, then, that Christ stooped down to wash his disciples’ feet? Because he knew the Father had put everything in his hands. Was he therefore proud? No, he was therefore humble.
There is a twofold humiliation of Christ. First, he humbled himself to come down into human nature and shed his blood for us. Secondly, being exalted, he humbles himself to come down into our hearts, our filthy hearts, and wash them in his blood.
He is exalted for this very purpose: to pardon and purge guilty and polluted sinners. As high and honorable as he is, he thinks it his honor to give out grace. He knows that the lower he stoops the higher will he be honored in the hearts of his people. I appeal to all believing hearts—the lower that he condescended to you—didn’t your hearts exalt him the more and wonder at his glory? O sinner, then, do not think he is too high to look down toward you. The higher he is, the lower he stoops, and therefore the higher you believe he is, the more hope you may have of his pity and favor toward you, and the more you see is placed in his hands, the more do you expect to get out of his hands; faith has the more footing.
--- Ralph Erskine
The Ravings of a Wife August 26
Blessed is the man whose wife speaks with wisdom even when she’s out of her mind.
Ebenezer Erskine was a minister, but not a good one. His Scottish congregation wearied of his preaching, but he seemed unable to do better. “I began my ministry without much zeal, callously and mechanically,” he later wrote, “being swallowed up in unbelief and in rebellion against God.” He had no enthusiasm for the Lord or his Word. No devotional life. No fresh insights from Scripture. His RS Thomas were long, formal, and memorized; he preached them word for word in a monotone, never looking up or glancing into the jaded faces of his audience.
His wife, barely able to endure it, dreaded each approaching Sunday. For years she wept secretly over her husband’s unregenerate heart and unspiritual ministry. She prayed earnestly for God, yet she said little to Ebenezer until … until she contracted a raging fever. Ebenezer, 28, anxiously hovered over her as she twisted and tossed, body shrouded in sweat. In her delirium, she babbled her opinions of his ministry—it was lifeless and long-winded. And his heart? It was lost and languishing. Her words pierced him.
“At last,” Ebenezer wrote in his diary, “the Lord was pleased to calm her spirit and give her a sweet serenity of mind. This, I think, was the first time ever I felt the Lord touching my heart in a sensible manner. Some few weeks after, she and I were sitting together in my study, and while we were conversing about the things of God, the Lord was pleased to rend the veil and to give me a glimmering view of salvation which made my soul acquiesce in Christ.”
His “acquiescence” came on August 26, 1708. He wrote, “I offer myself up, soul and body, unto God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. I flee for shelter to the blood of Jesus. I will live to him; I will die to him. I take heaven and earth to witness that all I am and all I have are his.”
Ebenezer Erskine became a popular preacher in eighteenth-century Scotland and the founder of the Scottish Secession Church.
The right word at the right time
Is like precious gold set in silver.
Listening to good advice
Is worth much more than jewelry made of gold.
--- Proverbs 25:11,12.
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - August 26
“He hath commanded his covenant for ever.”
--- Psalms 111:9.
The Lord’s people delight in the covenant itself. It is an unfailing source of consolation to them so often as the Holy Spirit leads them into its banqueting house and waves its banner of love. They delight to contemplate the antiquity of that covenant, remembering that before the day-star knew its place, or planets ran their round, the interests of the saints were made secure in Christ Jesus. It is peculiarly pleasing to them to remember the sureness of the covenant, while meditating upon “the sure mercies of David.” They delight to celebrate it as “signed, and sealed, and ratified, in all things ordered well.” It often makes their hearts dilate with joy to think of its immutability, as a covenant which neither time nor eternity, life nor death, shall ever be able to violate—a covenant as old as eternity and as everlasting as the Rock of ages. They rejoice also to feast upon the fulness of this covenant, for they see in it all things provided for them. God is their portion, Christ their companion, the Spirit their Comforter, earth their lodge, and heaven their home. They see in it an inheritance reserved and entailed to every soul possessing an interest in its ancient and eternal deed of gift. Their eyes sparkled when they saw it as a treasure-trove in the Bible; but oh! how their souls were gladdened when they saw in the last will and testament of their divine kinsman, that it was bequeathed to them! More especially it is the pleasure of God’s people to contemplate the graciousness of this covenant. They see that the law was made void because it was a covenant of works and depended upon merit, but this they perceive to be enduring because grace is the basis, grace the condition, grace the strain, grace the bulwark, grace the foundation, grace the topstone. The covenant is a treasury of wealth, a granary of food, a fountain of life, a store-house of salvation, a charter of peace, and a haven of joy.
Evening - August 26
“The people, when they beheld him, were greatly amazed, and running to him saluted him.” --- Mark 9:15.
How great the difference between Moses and Jesus! When the prophet of Horeb had been forty days upon the mountain, he underwent a kind of transfiguration, so that his countenance shone with exceeding brightness, and he put a veil over his face, for the people could not endure to look upon his glory. Not so our Saviour. He had been transfigured with a greater glory than that of Moses, and yet, it is not written that the people were blinded by the blaze of his countenance, but rather they were amazed, and running to him they saluted him. The glory of the law repels, but the greater glory of Jesus attracts. Though Jesus is holy and just, yet blended with his purity there is so much of truth and grace, that sinners run to him amazed at his goodness, fascinated by his love; they salute him, become his disciples, and take him to be their Lord and Master. Reader, it may be that just now you are blinded by the dazzling brightness of the law of God. You feel its claims on your conscience, but you cannot keep it in your life. Not that you find fault with the law, on the contrary, it commands your profoundest esteem, still you are in nowise drawn by it to God; you are rather hardened in heart, and are verging towards desperation. Ah, poor heart! turn thine eye from Moses, with all his repelling splendour, and look to Jesus, resplendent with milder glories. Behold his flowing wounds and thorn-crowned head! He is the Son of God, and therein he is greater than Moses, but he is the Lord of love, and therein more tender than the lawgiver. He bore the wrath of God, and in his death revealed more of God’s justice than Sinai on a blaze, but that justice is now vindicated, and henceforth it is the guardian of believers in Jesus. Look, sinner, to the bleeding Saviour, and as thou feelest the attraction of his love, fly to his arms, and thou shalt be saved.
LIVING FOR JESUS
Thomas O. Chisholm, 1866–1960
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—which is your spiritual worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Romans 12:1, 2)
For the Christian, a foremost priority must be to live for Christ and to seek first His kingdom (Matthew 6:33). That does not line up with all the talk we hear today about self-realization. The Christian, however, knows that we were created by God that we might glorify Him. Therefore, we should not live to please ourselves but rather to exalt and serve our Lord. “My dearest treasure the light of His smile”—the ultimate goal of our lives.
“Living for Jesus” was written in 1917 by Thomas Chisholm at the request of the composer, Harold Lowden, who had used his tune two years earlier with another text. Lowden, however, was not satisfied with the union of his tune with the earlier text and wrote Mr. Chisholm, suggesting the title “Living for Jesus” for the new hymn setting. Chisholm felt very inadequate for the task, but within two weeks the words were completed.
Thomas Chisholm had been an editor, a schoolteacher, and a Methodist minister before ill health forced him to begin a less strenuous life as an insurance salesman. His favorite endeavor had always been the writing of poetry, and he continued to do this all through his 94 years. “I have greatly desired,” he said, “that each hymn or poem might send some definite message to the hearts for whom it was written.” Though humble in spirit and frail in health, Chisholm found that writing encouraging words such as these for God’s people to sing was his “pathway of blessing.”
Living for Jesus a life that is true, striving to please Him in all that I do, yielding allegiance, glad-hearted and free—this is the pathway of blessing for me.
Living for Jesus who died in my place, bearing on Calv’ry my sin and disgrace—such love constrains me to answer His call, follow His leading and give Him my all.
Living for Jesus thru earth’s little while, my dearest treasure the light of His smile, seeking the lost ones He died to redeem, bringing the weary to find rest in Him.
Chorus: O Jesus, Lord and Savior, I give myself to Thee, for Thou in Thine atonement didst give Thyself for me. I own no other Master—my heart shall be Thy throne: My life I give, henceforth to live, O Christ, for Thee alone.
For Today: Mark 12:33; Romans 6:13, 18; 2 Corinthians 4:10, 11
Tomorrow is God’s secret, but today is your opportunity to live cooperatively with and for Him. Make it “God’s today.” Live this day to glorify His Son in every possible way. Sing as you go ---
DISCOURSE II - ON PRACTICAL ATHEISM
First, Let us labor to be sensible of this atheism in our nature, and be humbled for it. How should we lie in the dust, and go bowing under the humbling thoughts of it all our days! Shall we not be sensible of that whereby we spill the blood of our souls, and give a stab to the heart of our own salvation? Shall we be worse than any creature, not to bewail that which tends to our destruction? He that doth not lament it, cannot challenge the character of a Christian, hath nothing of the divine life and love planted in his soul. Not a man but shall one day be sensible, when the eternal God shall call him out to examination, and charge his conscience to discover every crime, which will then own the authority whereby it acted; when the heart shall be torn open, and the secrets of it brought to public view; and the world and man himself shall see what a viperous brood of corrupt principles and ends nested in his heart. Let us, therefore, be truly sensible of it, till the consideration draw tears from our eyes and sorrow from our souls; let us urge the thoughts of it upon our hearts till the core of that pride be eaten out, and our stubbornness changed into humility; till our heads become waters, and our eyes fountains of tears, and be a spring of prayer to God to change the heart, and mortify the atheism in it; and consider what a sad thing it is to be a practical atheist: and who is not so by nature?
1. Let us be sensible of it in ourselves. Have any of our hearts been a soil wherein the fear and reverence of God hath naturally grown? Have we a desire to know him, or a will to embrace him? Do we delight in his will, and love the remembrance of his name? Are our respects to him, as God, equal to the speculative knowledge we have of his nature? Is the heart, wherein he hath stamped his image, reserved for his residence? Is not the world more affected than the Creator of the world; as though that could contribute to us a greater happiness than the Author of it? Have not creatures as much of our love, fear, trust, nay, more, than God that framed both them and us? Have we not too often relied upon our own strength, and made a calf of our own wisdom, and said of God, as the Israelites of Moses, “As for this Moses we wot not what is become of him?” (Exod. 32:1) and given oftener the glory of our good success to our drag and our net, to our craft and our industry, than to the wisdom and blessing of God? Are we, then, free from this sort of atheism? It is as impossible to have two Gods at one time in one heart, as to have two kings at one time in full power in one kingdom. Have there not been frequent neglects of God? Have we not been deaf whilst he hath knocked at our doors? slept when he hath sounded in our ears, as if there had been no such being as a God in the world? How many strugglings have been against our approaches to him! Hath not folly often been committed, with vain imaginations starting up in the time of religious service, which we would scarce vouchsafe a look to at another time, and in another business, but would have thrust them away with indignation? Had they stept in to interrupt our worldly affairs, they would have been troublesome intruders; but while we are with God they are acceptable guests. How unwilling have our hearts been to fortify themselves with strong and influencing considerations of God, before we addressed to him! Is it not too often that our lifelessness in prayer proceeds from this atheism; a neglect of seeing what arguments and pleas may be drawn from the divine perfections, to second our suit in hand, and quicken our hearts in the service? Whence are those indispositions to any spiritual duty, but because we have not due thoughts of the majesty, holiness, goodness, and excellency of God? Is there any duty which leads to a more particular inquiry after him, or a more clear vision of him, but our hearts have been ready to rise up and call it cursed rather than blessed? Are not our minds bemisted with an ignorance of him, our wills drawn by aversion from him, our affections rising in distaste of him? more willing to know anything than his nature, and more industrious to do anything than his will? Do we not all fall under some one or other of these considerations? Is it not fit, then, that we should have a sense of them? It is to be bewailed by us, that so little of God is in our hearts, when so many evidences of the love of God are in the creatures; thikt God should be so little our end, who hath been so much our benefactor; that he should be so little in our thoughts, who sparkles in everything which presents itself to our eyes.
2. Let us be sensible of it in others. We ought to have a just execration of the too open iniquity in the midst of us; and imitate holy David, whose tears plentifully gushed out, “because men kept not God’s law.” And is it not a time to exercise this pious lamentation? Hath the wicked atheism of any age been greater, or can you find worse in hell, than we may hear of and behold on earth? How is the excellent Maiesty of God adored by the angels in heaven, despised and reproached by men on earth, as if his name were published to be matter of their sport! What a gasping thing is a natural sense of God among men in the world! Is not the law of God, accompanied with such dreadful threatenings and curses, made light of, as if men would place their honor in being above or beyond any sense of that glorious Majesty? How many wallow in pleasures, as if they had been made men only to turn brutes, and their souls given them only for salt, to keep their bodies from putrefying? It is as well a part of atheism not to be sensible of the abuses of God’s name and laws by others, as to violate them ourselves: what is the language of a stupid senselessness of them, but that there is no God in the world whose glory is worth a vindication, and deserves our regards? That we may be sensible of the unworthiness of neglecting God as our rule and end, consider,
1. The unreasonableness of it as it concerns God.
1st. It is a high contempt of God. It is an inverting the order of things; a making God the highest to become the lowest; and self the lowest to become the highest: to be guided by every base companion, some idle vanity, some carnal interest, is to acknowledge an excellency abounding in them which is wanting in God; an equity in their orders, and none in God’s precepts; a goodness in their promises, and a falsity in God’s; as if infinite excellency were a mere vanity, and to act for God were the debasement of our reason; to act for self or some pitiful creature, or sordid lust, were the glory and advancement of it. To prefer any one sin before the onor of God, is as if that sin had been our creator and benefactor, as if it were the original cause of our being and support. Do not men pay as great a homage to that as they do to God? Do not their minds eagerly pursue it? Are not the revolvings of it, in their fancies, as delightful to them as the remembrance of God to a holy soul? Do any obey the commands of God with more readiness than they do the orders of their base affections? Did Peter leap more readily into the sea to meet his Master, than many into the jaws of hell to meet their Dalilahs? How cheerfully did the Israelites part with their ornaments for the sake of an idol, who would not have spared a moiety for the honor of their Deliverer! If to make God our end is the principal duty in nature, then to make ourselves, or anything else, our end, is the greatest vice in the rank of evils.
2d. It is a contempt of God as the most amiable object. God is infinitely excellent and desirable (Zech. 9:17): “How great is his goodness, and how great is his beauty!” There is nothing in him but what may ravish our affections; none that knows him but finds attractives to keep them with him; He hath nothing in him which can be a proper object of contempt, no defects or shadow of evil; there is infinite excellency to charm us, and infinite goodness to allure us,—the Author of our being, the Benefactor of our lives. Why then should man, which is his image, be so base as to slight the beautiful Original which stamped it on him? He is the most lovely object; therefore to be studied, therefore to be honored, therefore to be followed. In regard of his perfection he hath the highest right to our thoughts. All other beings were eminently contained in his essence, and were produced by his infinite power. The creature hath nothing but what it hath from God. And is it not unworthy to prefer the copy before the original—to fall in love with a picture, instead of the beauty it represents? The creature which we advance to be our rule and end, can no more report to us the true amiableness of God, than a few colors mixed and suited together upon a piece of cloth, can the moral and intellectual loveliness of the soul of man. To contemn God one moment is more base than if all creatures were contemned by us forever; because the excellency of creatures is, to God, like that of a drop to the sea, or a spark to the glory of unconceivable millions of suns. As much as the excellency of God is above our conceptions, so much doth the debasing of him admit of unexpressible aggravations.
2. Consider the ingratitude in it. That we should resist that God with our hearts who made us the work of his hands, and count him as nothing, from whom we derive all the good that we are or have. There is no contempt of man but steps in here to aggravate our slighting of God; because there is no relation one man can stand in to another, wherein God doth not more highly appear to man. If we abhor the unworthy carriage of a child to a tender father, a servant to an indulgent master, a man to his obliging friend, why do men daily act that toward God which they cannot speak of without abhorrency, if acted by another against man? Is God a being less to be regarded than man, and more worthy of contempt than a creature?—“It would be strange if a benefactor should live in the same town, in the same house with us, and we never exchange a word with him; yet this is our case, who have the works of God in our eyes, the oodness of God in our being, the mercy of God in our daily food”—yet think so little of him, converse so little with him, serve everything before him, and prefer everything above him? Whence have we our mercies but from his hand? Who, besides him, maintains our breath this moment? Would he call for our spirits this moment, they must depart from us to attend his command. There is not a moment wherein our unworthy carriage is not aggravated, because there is not a moment wherein he is not our Guardian, and gives us not tastes of a fresh bounty. And it is no light aggravation of our crime, that we injure him without whose bounty, in giving us our being, we had not been capable of casting contempt upon him: that he that hath the greatest stamp of his image, man, should deserve the character of the worst of his rebels: that he who hath only reason by the gift of God to judge of the equity of the laws of God, should swell against them as grievous, and the government of the Lawgiver as burdensome. Can it lessen the crime to use the principle wherein we excel the beasts to the disadvantage of God, who endowed us with that principle above the beasts?
1. It is a debasing of God beyond what the devil doth at present. He is more excusable in his present state of acting, than man is in his present refusing God for his rule and end. He strives against a God that exerciseth upon him a vindictive justice; we debase a God that loads us with his daily mercies. The despairing devils are excluded from any mercy or divine patience; but we are not only under the long- suffering of his patience, but the large expressions of his bounty. He would not be governed by him when he was only his bountiful Creator: we refuse to be guided by him after he hath given us the blessing of creation from his own hand, and the more obliging blessings of redemption by the hand and blood of his Son. It cannot be imagined that the devils and the damned should ever make God their end, since he hath assured them he will not be their happiness; and shut up all his perfections from their experimental notice, but those of his power to preserve them, and his justice to punish them. They have no grant from God of ever having a heart to comply with his will, or ever having the honor to be actively employed for his glory. They have some plea for their present contempt of God, not in regard of his nature, for he is infinitely amiable, excellent and lovely, but in regard of his administration toward them. But what plea can man have for his practical atheism, who lives by his power, is sustained by his bounty, and solicited by his Spirit? What an ungrateful thing is it to put off the nature of man for that of devils, and dishonor God under mercy, as the devils do under his wrathful anger!
2. It is an ungrateful contempt of God, who cannot be injurious to us. He cannot do us wrong, because he cannot be unjust (Gen. 18:25): “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” His nature doth as much abhor unrighteousness, as love a communicative goodness: he never commanded anything but what was highly conducible to the happiness of man. Infinite goodness can no more injure man than it can dishonor itself: it lays out itself in additions of kindness, and while we debase him, he continues to benefit us; and is it not an unparalleled ingratitude to turn our backs upon an object so lovely, an object so loving, in the midst of varieties of allurements from him? God did create intellectual creatures, angels and men, that he might communicate more of himself and his own goodness and holiness to man, than creatures of a lower rank were capable of. What do we do, by rejecting him as our rule and end, but cross, as much as in us lies, God’s end in our creation, and shut our souls against the communications of those perfections he was so willing to bestow? We use him as if he intended us the greatest wrong, when it is impossible for him to do any to any of hiss creatures.
3. Consider the misery which will attend such a temper if it continue predominant. Those that thrust God away as their happiness and end, can expect no other but to be thrust away by him, as to any relief and compassion. A distance from God here can look for nothing, but a remoteness from God hereafter.
When the devil, a creature of vast endowments, would advance himself above God, and instruct man to commit the same sin, he is “cursed above all creatures.” When we will not acknowledge him a God of all glory, we shall be separated from him as a God of all comfort: “All they that are afar off shall perish” (Psalm 73:27). This is the spring of all woe. What the Prodigal suffered, was because he would leave his father, and live of himself. Wliosoever is ambitious to be his own heaven, will at last find his soul to become its own hell. As it loved all things for itself, so it shall be grieved with all things for itself. As it would be its own god against the right of God, it shall then be its own tormentor by the justice of God.
Secondly, Watch against this atheism, and be daily employed in the mortification of it. In every action we shold make the inquiry, What is the rule I observe? Is it God’s will or my own? Whether do my intentions tend to set up God or self? As much as we destroy this, we abate the power of sin: these two things are the head of the serpent in us, which we must be bruising by the power of the cross. Sin is nothing else but a turning from God, and centering in self, and most in the inferior part of self: if we bend our force against those two, self-will and self-ends, we shall intercept atheism at the spring head, take away that which doth constitute and animate all sin: the sparks must vanish if the fire be quenched which affords them fuel. They are but two short things to ask in every undertaking: Is God my le in regard of his will? Is God my end in regard of his glory? All sin lies in the neglect of these, all grace lies in the practice of them. Without some degree of the mortification of these; we cannot make profitable and comfortable approaches to God. When we come with idols in our hearts, we shall be answered according to the multitude and the baseness of them too. What expectation of a good look from him can we have, when we come before him with undeifying thoughts of him, a petition in our mouths, and a sword in our hearts, to stab his honor To this purpose,
1. Be often in the views of the excellencies of God. When we have no intercourse with God by delightful meditations, we begin to be estranged from him, and prepare ourselves to live without God in the world. Strangeness is the mother and nurse of disaffection: we slight men sometimes because we know them not. The very beasts delight in the company of men; when being tamed and familiar, they become acquainted with their disposition. A daily converse with God would discover so much of loveliness in his nature, so much of sweetness in his ways, that our injurious thoughts of God would wear off, and we should count it our honor to contemn ourselves and magnify him. By this means a slavish fear, which is both a dishonor to God and a torment to the soul, and the root of atheism, will be cast out, and an in Tenuous fear of him wrought in the heart. Exercised thoughts on him would issue out in affections to him, which would engage our hearts to make him both our rule and our end. This course would stifle any temptations to gross atheism, wherewith good souls are sometimes haunted, by confirming us more in the belief of a God, and discourage any attempts to a deliberate practical atheism. We are not like to espouse any principle which is confuted by the delightful converse we daily have with him. The more we thus enter into the presence chamber of God, the more we cling about him with our affections, the more vigorous and lively will the true notion of God grow up in us, and be able to prevent anything which may dishonor him and debase our souls. Let us therefore consider him as the only happiness; set up the true God in our understandings; possess our hearts with a deep sense of his desirable excellency above all other things. This is the main thing we are to do in order to our great business: all the directions in the world, with the neglect of this, will be insignificant ciphers. The neglect of this is common, and is the basis of all the mischiefs which happen to the souls of men.
2. Prize and study the Scripture. We can have no delight in meditation on him, unless we know him; and we cannot know him but by the means of his own revelation; when the revelation is despised, the revealer will be of little esteem. Men do not throw off God from being their rule, till they throw off Scripture from being their guide; and God must needs be cast off from being an end, when the Scripture is rejected from being a rule. Those that do not care to know his will, that love to be ignorant of his nature; can never be affected to his honor. Let therefore the subtleties of reason veil to the doctrine of faith, and the humor of the will to the command of the word.
3. Take heed of sensual pleasures, and be very watchful and cautious in the use of those comforts God allows us. Job was afraid, when his “sons feasted, that they should curse God in their hearts.” It was not without cause that the apostle Peter joined sobriety with watchfulness and prayer (1 Pet. 4:7): “The end of all things is at hand; be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer.”—A moderate use of worldly comforts. — Prayer is the great acknowledgment of God, and too much sensuality is a hindrance of this, and a step to atheism. Belshazzar’s lifting himself up against the Lord, and not glorifying of God, is charged upon his sensuality (Dan. 5:23). Nothing is more apt to quench the notions of God, and root out the conscience of him, than an addictedness to sensual pleasures. Therefore take heed of that snare.
4. Take heed of sins against knowledge. The more sins against knowledge are committed, the more careless we are, and the more careless we shall be of God and his honor; we shall more fear his judicial power; and the more we fear that, the more we shall disaffect that God in whose hand vengeance is, and to whom it doth belong. Atheism in conversation proceeds to atheism in affection, and that will endeavor to sink into ageism in opinion and judgment.
The sum of the whole.—And now consider in the whole what has been spoken.
1. Man would set himself up as his own rule. He disowns the rule of God, is unwilling to have any acquaintance with the rule God sets him, negligent in using the means for the knowledge of his will, and endeavors to shake it off when any notices of it break in upon him; when he cannot expel it, he hath no pleasure in the consideration of it, and the heart swells against it. When the notions of the will of God are entertained, it is on some other consideration, or with wavering and unsettled affections. Many times men design to improve some lust by his truth. This unwillingness respects truth as it is most spiritual and holy; as it most relates and leads to God; as it is most contrary to self. He is guilty of contempt of the will of God, which is seen in every presumptuous breach of his law; in the natural aversions to the declaration of his will and mind, which way soever he turns; in slighting that part of his will which is most for his honor; in the awkwardness of the heart when it is to pay God a service. A constraint in the first engagement, slightness in the service, in regard of the matter, in regard of the frame, without a natural vigor. Many distractions, much weariness, in deserting the rule of God, when our expectations are not answered upon our service, in breaking promises with God. Man naturally owns any other rule rather than that of God’s prescribing: the rule of Satan; the will of man; in complying more with the dictates of men than the will of God; in observing that which is materially so, not because it is his will, but the injunctions of men; in obeying the will of man when it is contrary to the will of God. This man doth in order to the setting up himself. This is natural to man as he is corrupted. Men are dissatisfied with their own consciences when they contradict the desires of self. Most actions in the world are done, more because they are agreeable to self, than as they are honorable to God; as they are agreeable to natural and moral self, or sinful self. It is evident in neglects of taking God’s directions upon emergent occasions; in counting the actions of others to be good or bad, as they suit with, or spurn against our fancies and humors. Man would make himself the rule of God, and give laws to his Creator, in striving against his law; disapproving of his methods of government in the world; in impatience in our particular concerns; envying the gifts and prosperity of others; corrupt matter or ends of prayer or praise; bold interpretations of the judgments of God in the world; mixing rules in the worship of God with those which have been ordained by him; suiting interpretations of Scripture with our own minds and humors; falling off from God after some fair compliances, when his will grates upon us, and crosseth ours.
2. Man would be his own end. This is natural and universal. This is seen in frequent self-applauses and inward overweening reflections; in ascribing the glory of what we do or have to ourselves; in desire of self-pleasing doctrines; in being highly concerned in injuries done to ourselves, and little or not at all concerned for injuries done to God; in trusting in ourselves; in workings for carnal self against the light of our own consciences: this is a usurping God’s prerogative, vilifying God, destroying God. Man would make anything his end or happiness rather than God.
This appears in the fewer thoughts we have of him than of anything else; in the greedy pursuit of the world; in the strong addictedness to sensual pleasures; in paying a service, upon any success in the world, to instruments more than to God: this is a debasing God in setting up a creature, but more in setting up a base lust; it is a denying of God. Man would make himself the end of all creatures. In pride; using the creatures contrary to the end God hath appointed: this is to dishonor God, and it is diabolical. Man would make himself the end of God; in loving God, because of some self-pleasing benefits distributed by him; in abstinence from some sins, because they are against the interest of some other beloved corruption; in performing duties merely for a selfish interest, which is evident in unwieldiness in religious duties, where self is not concerned; in calling upon God only in a time of necessity; in begging his assistance to our own projects after we have by our own craft, laid the plot; in impatience upon a refusal of our desires; in selfish aims we have in our duties: this is a vilifying God, a dethroning him; in unworthy imaginations of God, universal in man by nature. Hence spring idolatry, superstition, presumption, the common disease of the world. This is a vilifying God; worse than idolatry, worse than absolute atheism. Natural desires to be distant from him; no desires for the remembrance of him; no desires of converse with him; no desires of a thorough return to him; no desire of any close imitation of him.
Martin Luther | (1483-1546)
Sect. CXXX. — THERE is also that of 1 Cor. xiii. 2. “If I have not charity I am nothing:” Why the Diatribe adduces this as an example I cannot see, unless it seeks only numbers and forces, or thinks that we have no arms at all, by which we can effectually wound it. For he who is without charity, is, truly and properly, ‘nothing’ before God. The same also we say of “Free-will.” Wherefore, this example also stands for us against the Diatribe. Or, can it be that the Diatribe does not yet know the argument ground upon which I am contending? — I am not speaking about the essence of nature, but the essence of grace (as they term it.) I know, that “Free-will” can by nature do something; it can eat, drink, beget, rule, &c. Nor need the Diatribe laugh at me as having prating frenzy enough to imply, when I press home so closely the term ‘nothing,’ that “Free-will” cannot even sin without Christ: whereas Luther, nevertheless says, ‘that “Free-will” can do nothing but sin’ — but so it pleases the wise Diatribe to play the fool in a matter so serious. For I say, that man without the grace of God, remains, nevertheless, under the general Omnipotence of an acting God, who moves and carries along all things, of necessity, in the course of His infallible motion; but that the man’s being thus carried along, is nothing; that is, avails nothing in the sight of God, nor is considered any thing else but sin. Thus in grace, he that is without love, is nothing. Why then does the Diatribe, when it confesses itself, that we are here speaking of evangelical fruits, as that which cannot be produced without Christ, turn aside immediately from the subject point, harp upon another string, and cavil about nothing but natural works and human fruits? Except it be to evince, that he who is devoid of the truth, is never consistent with himself.
So also that of John iii. 27, “A man can receive nothing except it were given him from above.”
John is here speaking of man, who is now a something, and denies that this man can receive any thing; that is, the Spirit with His gifts; for it is in reference to that he is speaking, not in reference to nature. For he did not want the Diatribe as an instructor to teach him, that man has already eyes nose, ears, mouth, hands, mind, will, reason, and all things that belong to man. — Unless the Diatribe believes, that the Baptist, when he made mention of man, was thinking of the ‘chaos’of Plato, the ‘vacuum’ of Leucippus, or the ‘infinity’ of Aristotle, or some other nothing, which, by a gift from heaven, should at last be made a something. — Is this producing examples out of the Scripture, thus to trifle designedly in a matter so important!
And to what purpose is all that profusion of words, where it teaches us, ‘that fire, the escape from evil, the endeavour after good, and other things are from heaven,’ as though there were any one who did not know, or who denied those things? We are now talking about grace, and, as the Diatribe itself said, concerning Christ and evangelical fruits; whereas, it is itself, making out its time in fabling about nature; thus dragging out the cause, and covering the witless reader with a cloud. In the mean time, it does not produce one single example as it professed to do, wherein ‘nothing,’ is to be understood as signifying some small degree. Nay, it openly exposes itself as neither understanding nor caring what Christ or grace is, nor how it is, that grace is one thing and nature another, when even the Sophists of the meanest rank know, and have continually taught this difference in their schools, in the most common way. Nor does it all the while see, that every one of its examples make for me, and against itself. For the word of the Baptist goes to establish this: — that man can receive nothing unless it be given him from above; and that, therefore, “Free-will” is nothing at all.
Thus it is, then, that my Achilles is conquered — the Diatribe puts weapons into his hand, by which it is itself dispatched, naked and weapon-less. And thus it is also that the Scriptures, by which that obstinate assertor Luther urges his cause, are, ‘by one word, brought to nothing.’
The Bondage of the Will or Christian Classics Ethereal Library
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