Lamentations 3:37 - 5:22
Lamentations 3:37 Who has spoken and it came to pass,
unless the Lord has commanded it?
38 Is it not from the mouth of the Most High
that good and bad come?
39 Why should a living man complain,
a man, about the punishment of his sins?
40 Let us test and examine our ways,
and return to the LORD!
41 Let us lift up our hearts and hands
to God in heaven:
42 “We have transgressed and rebelled,
and you have not forgiven.
43 “You have wrapped yourself with anger and pursued us,
killing without pity;
44 you have wrapped yourself with a cloud
so that no prayer can pass through.
45 You have made us scum and garbage
among the peoples.
46 “All our enemies
open their mouths against us;
47 panic and pitfall have come upon us,
devastation and destruction;
48 my eyes flow with rivers of tears
because of the destruction of the daughter of my people.
49 “My eyes will flow without ceasing,
50 until the LORD from heaven
looks down and sees;
51 my eyes cause me grief
at the fate of all the daughters of my city.
52 “I have been hunted like a bird
by those who were my enemies without cause;
53 they flung me alive into the pit
and cast stones on me;
54 water closed over my head;
I said, ‘I am lost.’
55 “I called on your name, O LORD,
from the depths of the pit;
56 you heard my plea, ‘Do not close
your ear to my cry for help!’
57 You came near when I called on you;
you said, ‘Do not fear!’
58 “You have taken up my cause, O Lord;
you have redeemed my life.
59 You have seen the wrong done to me, O LORD;
judge my cause.
60 You have seen all their vengeance,
all their plots against me.
61 “You have heard their taunts, O LORD,
all their plots against me.
62 The lips and thoughts of my assailants
are against me all the day long.
63 Behold their sitting and their rising;
I am the object of their taunts.
64 “You will repay them, O LORD,
according to the work of their hands.
65 You will give them dullness of heart;
your curse will be on them.
66 You will pursue them in anger and destroy them
from under your heavens, O LORD.”
The Holy Stones Lie Scattered
Lamentations 4:1 How the gold has grown dim,
how the pure gold is changed!
The holy stones lie scattered
at the head of every street.
2 The precious sons of Zion,
worth their weight in fine gold,
how they are regarded as earthen pots,
the work of a potter’s hands!
3 Even jackals offer the breast;
they nurse their young;
but the daughter of my people has become cruel,
like the ostriches in the wilderness.
4 The tongue of the nursing infant sticks
to the roof of its mouth for thirst;
the children beg for food,
but no one gives to them.
5 Those who once feasted on delicacies
perish in the streets;
those who were brought up in purple
embrace ash heaps.
6 For the chastisement of the daughter of my people has been greater
than the punishment of Sodom,
which was overthrown in a moment,
and no hands were wrung for her.
7 Her princes were purer than snow,
whiter than milk;
their bodies were more ruddy than coral,
the beauty of their form was like sapphire.
8 Now their face is blacker than soot;
they are not recognized in the streets;
their skin has shriveled on their bones;
it has become as dry as wood.
9 Happier were the victims of the sword
than the victims of hunger,
who wasted away, pierced
by lack of the fruits of the field.
10 The hands of compassionate women
have boiled their own children;
they became their food
during the destruction of the daughter of my people.
11 The LORD gave full vent to his wrath;
he poured out his hot anger,
and he kindled a fire in Zion
that consumed its foundations.
12 The kings of the earth did not believe,
nor any of the inhabitants of the world,
that foe or enemy could enter
the gates of Jerusalem.
13 This was for the sins of her prophets
and the iniquities of her priests,
who shed in the midst of her
the blood of the righteous.
14 They wandered, blind, through the streets;
they were so defiled with blood
that no one was able to touch
15 “Away! Unclean!” people cried at them.
“Away! Away! Do not touch!”
So they became fugitives and wanderers;
people said among the nations,
“They shall stay with us no longer.”
16 The LORD himself has scattered them;
he will regard them no more;
no honor was shown to the priests,
no favor to the elders.
17 Our eyes failed, ever watching
vainly for help;
in our watching we watched
for a nation which could not save.
18 They dogged our steps
so that we could not walk in our streets;
our end drew near; our days were numbered,
for our end had come.
19 Our pursuers were swifter
than the eagles in the heavens;
they chased us on the mountains;
they lay in wait for us in the wilderness.
20 The breath of our nostrils, the LORD’s anointed,
was captured in their pits,
of whom we said, “Under his shadow
we shall live among the nations.”
21 Rejoice and be glad, O daughter of Edom,
you who dwell in the land of Uz;
but to you also the cup shall pass;
you shall become drunk and strip yourself bare.
22 The punishment of your iniquity, O daughter of Zion, is accomplished;
he will keep you in exile no longer;
but your iniquity, O daughter of Edom, he will punish;
he will uncover your sins.
Restore Us to Yourself, O LORD
Lamentations 5:1 Remember, O LORD, what has befallen us;
look, and see our disgrace!
2 Our inheritance has been turned over to strangers,
our homes to foreigners.
3 We have become orphans, fatherless;
our mothers are like widows.
4 We must pay for the water we drink;
the wood we get must be bought.
5 Our pursuers are at our necks;
we are weary; we are given no rest.
6 We have given the hand to Egypt, and to Assyria,
to get bread enough.
7 Our fathers sinned, and are no more;
and we bear their iniquities.
8 Slaves rule over us;
there is none to deliver us from their hand.
9 We get our bread at the peril of our lives,
because of the sword in the wilderness.
10 Our skin is hot as an oven
with the burning heat of famine.
11 Women are raped in Zion,
young women in the towns of Judah.
12 Princes are hung up by their hands;
no respect is shown to the elders.
13 Young men are compelled to grind at the mill,
and boys stagger under loads of wood.
14 The old men have left the city gate,
the young men their music.
15 The joy of our hearts has ceased;
our dancing has been turned to mourning.
16 The crown has fallen from our head;
woe to us, for we have sinned!
17 For this our heart has become sick,
for these things our eyes have grown dim,
18 for Mount Zion which lies desolate;
jackals prowl over it.
19 But you, O LORD, reign forever;
your throne endures to all generations.
20 Why do you forget us forever,
why do you forsake us for so many days?
21 Restore us to yourself, O LORD, that we may be restored!
Renew our days as of old—
22 unless you have utterly rejected us,
and you remain exceedingly angry with us.
What I'm Reading
The All-Prevailing Plea (Prayer)
By Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892)
O LORD God! the Fountain of all Fulness, we, who are nothing but emptiness, come unto Thee for all supplies, nor shall we come in vain, since we bear with us a plea which is all prevalent. Since we come commanded by Thy Word, encouraged by Thy promise, and preceded by Christ Jesus, our great High Priest, we know that whatsoever we shall ask in prayer, believing, we shall receive. Only do Thou help us now to ask right things, and may the utterances of our mouth be acceptable in Thy sight, O God our Strength and our Redeemer.
We would first adore Thy blessed and ever-to-be-beloved Name. "All the earth doth worship Thee, the Father everlasting." Heaven is full of Thy glory. Oh! that men's hearts were filled therewith, that the noblest creatures Thou hast made, whom Thou didst set in the Paradise of God, for whom the Saviour shed His blood, loved Thee with all their hearts.
The faithful, chosen, called, and separated, join in the everlasting song. All Thy redeemed praise Thee, O God ! As the God of our election we extol Thee for Thine everlasting and immutable love. As the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, we bless Thee for that unspeakable gift, the offering of Thine Only-begotten. Words are but air, and tongues but clay, and Thy compassion is divine, therefore it is not possible that any words of ours should "reach the height of this great argument," or sound forth Thy worthy praise for this superlative deed of grace.
We bless Thee, also. Divine Son of God, co-equal and co-eternal with the Father, that Thou didst not disdain to be born of the Virgin, and that, being found in fashion like a man, thou didst not refuse to be obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Let Thy brows be girt with something better than thorns ; let the eternal diadem for ever glitter there. Thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by Thy blood ; unto Thee be glory, and honour, and power, and majesty, and dominion, and might, for ever and ever !
And equally, most blessed Spirit, Thou who didst brood over chaos and bring it into order, Thou who didst beget the Son of God's body of flesh. Thou who didst quicken us to spiritual life, by whose divine energy we are sanctified, and hope to be made meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light, unto Thee, also, be hallelujahs, world without end!
O Lord ! our soul longeth for words of fire, but we cannot reach them ! Oh ! when shall we drop this clay which now is so uncongenial to our song ? When shall we be able with wings to mount upward to Thy throne, and having learned some flaming sonnets that have once been sung by cherubim above, we shall praise Thee for ever ?
Yet even these are not rich enough for Thy glory. We would sing unto Thee a new song. We will, when we reach the heavenly shore, become leaders of the eternal music. " Day without night " will we "circle God's throne rejoicing," and count it the fulness of our glory, our bliss, our heaven, to wave the palm and cast our crowns with our songs at Thy feet for ever and ever !
Our Father, which art in heaven ; next to this we would offer prayer for those who never think of Thee ; who, though created by Thee, are strangers to Thee ; who are fed by Thy bounty, and yet never lift their voices to Thee, but live for self, for the world, for Satan, for sin. Father, these cannot pray for themselves for they are dead ; Thy quickened children pray for them. These will not come to Thee, for, like sheep, they are lost ; but do Thou seek them, Father, and bring them back.
Oh ! our glorious Lord, Thou hast taught us to pray for others, for the grace which could have met with such undeserving sinners as we are must be able to meet with the vilest of the vile. Oh! we cannot boast of what we are ; we cannot boast of what we have been by nature. Had we our doom we had now been in hell. Had we this day our proper, natural, and deserved position, we should still have been in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity. 'Tis Thy rich, free, sovereign, distinguishing grace which has brought us up out of the miry clay, and set our feet upon a rock. And shall we even refuse to pray for others ? Shall we leave a stone unturned for their conversion ? Shall we not weep for those who have no tears and cry for those who have no prayers ? Father, we must and we will.
"Fain our pity would reclaim,
And snatch the fire-brands from the flame."
There are those who are utterly careless about Divine Things. Wilt Thou impress them ! May some stray shot reach their conscience ! Oh ! that they may be led solemnly to consider their position and their latter end ! May thoughts of death and of eternity dash like some mighty waves, irresistibly against their souls ! Oh ! may heaven's light shine into their conscience ! May they begin to ask themselves where they are, and what they are, and may they be turned unto the Lord with full purpose of heart.
There are others who are concerned, but they are halting between two opinions. There are some that we love in the flesh who have not yet decided for God. Behold it trembles in the balance ! Cast in Thy cross, O Jesus, and turn the scale ! Oh ! Love irresistible, come forth, and carry by blessed storm the hearts which have not yet yielded to all the attacks of the law ! Oh ! that some who never could be melted, even by the furnace of Sinai, may be dissolved by the beams of love from the tearful eyes of Jesus !
Lord, Lord, if there be a heart that is saying, "Now, behold I yield; lo ! at Thy feet rebellion's weapons I lay down, and cease to be Thy foe, Thou King of kings "—if there be one who is saying, "I am willing to be espoused unto Christ, to be washed in His blood, to be called in His righteousness "—bring that willing sinner in now! May there be no longer delay, but may this be the time when, once for all, the great transaction shall be done, and they shall be their Lord's, and He shall be theirs.
Oh ! that we could pour out our soul in prayer for the unconverted! Thou knowest where they will all be in a few years ! Oh ! by Thy wrath, we pray Thee, let them not endure it ! By the flames of hell be pleased to ransom them from going down into the pit ! By everything that is dreadful in the wrath to come we do argue with Thee to have mercy upon these sons of men, even upon those who have no mercy upon themselves. Father, hast Thou not promised Thy Son to see of His soul's travail ? We point Thee to the ransom paid ; we point Thee once again to the groans of Thy Son, to His agony, and bloody sweat ! Turn, turn Thy glorious eyes thither, and then look on sinners, and speak the word, and bid them live. Righteous Father, refresh every corner of the vineyard, and on every branch of the vine let the dew of heaven rest. Oh ! that Thou wouldest bless Thy church throughout the world! Let visible union be established, or if not that, yet let the invisible union which has always existed be better recognised by believers. Wilt Thou repair our schisms ; wilt Thou repair the breaches which have been made in the walls of Zion? Oh! that Thou wouldest purge us of everything unscriptural, till all Christians shall come to the law and to the testimony, and still keep the ordinances and the doctrines as they were committed to the apostles by Christ !
Remember our land in this time of need. Do Thou be pleased by some means to relieve the distress prevalent. Quicken the wheels of commerce that the many who are out of employment in this city may no longer be crying for work and bread. Oh ! that Thou wouldest make wars to cease, to the ends of the earth, or, when they break out break Thou the slave's fetters thereby, and though desperate be the. evil, yet grant that Satan may cast out Satan, and may his kingdom be divided, and so fall.
Above all. Thou long-expected Messiah, do Thou come! Thine ancient people who despised Thee once are waiting for Thee in Thy second coming, and we, the Gentiles, who knew Thee not, neither regarded Thee, we, too, are watching for Thine advent. Make no tarrying, O Jesus ! May Thy feet soon stand again on Olivet ! Thou shalt not have this time there to sweat great drops of blood, but Thou shalt come to proclaim the year of vengeance for Thy foes, and the year of acceptance for Thy people.
"When wilt thou the heavens rend,
In majesty come down ? "
Earth travails for Thy coming. The whole creation groaneth in pain together until now. Thine own expect Thee ; we are longing till we are weary for Thy coming. Come quickly. Lord Jesus, come quickly. Amen and Amen.
Message Of The CrossPaul found no anomaly in defining his gospel as ‘the message of the cross’, his ministry as ‘we preach Christ crucified’, baptism as initiation ‘into his death’ and the Lord’s Supper as a proclamation of the Lord’s death. He boldly declared that, though the cross seemed either foolishness or a ‘stumbling block’ to the self-confident, it was in fact the very essence of God’s wisdom and power. 1 Cor. 1:18–25; Rom. 6:3; 1 Cor. 11:26 So convinced was he of this that he had deliberately resolved, he told the Corinthians, to renounce worldly wisdom and instead to know nothing among them ‘except Jesus Christ and him crucified’ (1 Cor. 2:1–2). When later in the same letter he wished to remind them of his gospel, which he had himself received and had handed on to them, which had become the foundation on which they were standing and the good news by which they were being saved, what was ‘of first importance’ (he said) was ‘that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared...’ (1 Cor. 15:1–5). And when a few years later he developed this outline into the full gospel manifesto which his letter to the Romans is, his emphasis is even more strongly on the cross. For having proved all humankind sinful and guilty before God, he explains that God’s righteous way of putting the unrighteous right with himself operates ‘through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus’, whom ‘God presented as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood’ (Rom. 3:21–25). Consequently, we are ‘justified by his blood’ and ‘reconciled to God through the death of his Son’ (Rom. 5:9–10). Without Christ’s sacrificial death for us salvation would have been impossible. No wonder Paul boasted in nothing except the cross (Gal. 6:14)
( The Cross of Christ )
Paul The Theologian, Not
By James S. Stewart(1 Co 2:2) For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. NRSV
We have seen reason, then, while agreeing with the reaction from the rigidly scholastic view of Paul, to criticize these two forms which that reaction has assumed. The patronizing way of approving of his religion, while forgiving him for his theology, is as little to be commended as the attempt to ignore him altogether. He was a Christ-apprehended, Christ-filled man, with nothing in his religion that was not rooted and grounded in experience; but the very vividness of that experience, and its daily growth and development, made reflection on it inevitable. Always the experience was primary, the reflection secondary. " He is not a ' theologian ' in the technical or modern sense of the word. . . . Yet neither is he a dreamer, indifferent to history and to reason, satisfied with emotion, sentiment or ecstasy." A systematic theologian he certainly was not. No system in the world could satisfy that untrammelled spirit, that mind of surpassing boldness, that heart of flame. This can be seen even in an epistle so elaborate and compendious as that to the Romans. Here Paul, desiring to prepare the way for his visit to a Christian community to which he was still personally unknown, has given a summary of certain main points of his teaching, and it is not without reason that Julicher calls this letter the apostle's " confession of faith." But beyond that we cannot go: and those who would find here "a compendium of systematic theology," "a manual of Christian doctrine," are certainly mistaken. For Romans, like all Paul's letters, is ultimately not abstract but personal, not metaphysical but experimental. Written on the eve of his last journey to Jerusalem, it looks back on all he had learnt of Christ since he had given Him his heart, and gathers up the ripe fruits of those years of experience and meditation and ever deepened consecration. Passages there are, notably in chapters 3 and 4, where the voice of the theologian trained in the ways of Rabbinism seems to speak almost as loudly as the voice of the herald of Christ (though even there, for those who have ears to hear, the heart is speaking): but when you turn the page, the trumpet tones ring out again. The section from chapter 9 to chapter 11, to take another instance, has sometimes been regarded as a rather academic discussion of the question of predestination and free-will: in point of fact, right from the impassioned utterance at the beginning, "I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren," to the ascription of glory at the end, it is a cry straight from the heart. The man who spoke like that was not interested in abstractions. He cared little, if at all, for logical structure. Romans, the most elaborate of the apostle's letters, the one which, superficially at any rate, shows most resemblance to a treatise in theology, refuses as stubbornly as any of the others to bear the role that Bernhard Weiss would assign to it. If it is a "compendium" at all, it is a compendium, not of abstract doctrine, but of vital religion.A Man in Christ: The Vital Elements of St. Paul's Religion (Classic Reprint)
Faithful with Little, Joyful in Much How God Meets Us in the Small Things
By Adam Cavalier 8/10/2017
Immediately after sending the text message I was confronted by a moral dilemma. Honestly, I felt a little silly at the triviality of it. I was running late to a meeting and said I would only be five minutes late. But that wasn’t the truth. Having driven the same route on a weekly basis, I knew exactly how long it would take. It would take me fifteen minutes. So why did I send a message knowing it was wrong?
Catch the Little Foxes | We are called to obey God — even in the small things.
Circumstances test our integrity every day. It often seems easier to lie about a situation than to tell the truth. My coworkers won’t care if it’s not an exact estimation. Surely, they’ll give a little extra measure of grace knowing I’m a little later than anticipated. What’s a few additional minutes?
Stretching the truth in this situation isn’t really that big of a deal.
In fact, the world would have us think that these sorts of things are not only acceptable, but necessary. If we knowingly deceive, saying, “No, officer, I don’t know how fast I was going” — we are told that it is less likely we get a traffic ticket. It seems as though it was just an innocent mistake. If we’re drawn into that popular TV show that looks a little risqué, we’re not really committing an egregious sin. It’s just a small indulgence that keeps you relevant and culturally up-to-date. Or so we tell ourselves.
But Song of Solomon 2:15 tells us that it is “the little foxes that spoil the vineyards.” Little areas of our life feel so minuscule and unimportant. It’s easy to dismiss these things as inconsequential, if not petty, in the grand scope of things. Undoubtedly, following God’s ways is certainly about obedience in bigger things, but it is also about choosing to submit to his will in the little details.
Contagious Joy in a Never-Enough World What Gratitude Says About God
By Adam Cavalier 11/23/2016
As Christians visit with extended family this Thanksgiving, most of us will come into close contact with unbelievers.
The apostle Paul says, “Being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us” (1 Thessalonians 2:8). Our witness should not simply be about transmitting information, but becoming living proof that God has the ability to save and change sinners. Our time together will say either that God is our only hope, or subtly preach another gospel.
Our witness should also serve as a living invitation to all, testifying to God’s sovereign ability to meet the deepest cravings of the human heart: “He satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things” (Psalm 107:9). Our time together either will say God is enough for us, or it will tell another story about our happiness.
This Thanksgiving, how will you interact with lost loved ones in your life? Will you view your conversations as an opportunity to exhibit the all-satisfying power of God? Or will you be lured into the temptations to avoid spiritual things or to grumble about your circumstances?
Hunger for More | We live in a world that leaves us constantly wanting more. This moves people to be frustrated and unsatisfied in their jobs, friendships, and marriages. Never having enough, we feel entitled to grumble and complain. Protesting about the things we don’t have comes all too naturally, and over time poisons the soul.
The Cattle on a Thousand Hills Overcoming Anxiety in Support Raising
By Adam Cavalier 4/5/2016
Frustrated and angry at the task in front of me, I simply wanted to throw in the towel. Working through my list of contacts and not seeing much return, the thought of giving up was appealing like never before. No one had prepared me for how difficult support raising would be.
One of the primary methods missionaries and other vocational ministers use to receive their wages is support raising. These workers enlist the financial support of local churches and individuals. This integrated partnership provides an opportunity for the body of Christ to work in tandem in order to complete his kingdom work around the world. One goes down; the other holds the rope. That image was popularized by Andrew Fuller, who held the rope for William Carey while he served in India.
Often the thought of support raising can scare a potential worker away before ministry even begins. Much like the ten spies who returned after scouting the Promised Land, a paralyzing fear can halt gospel workers from pursuing God’s call on their lives.
How Anxiety Hamstrings Us | Even for those that have crossed the initial threshold, the process can be intimidating and fearful. While there are encouraging times, the moments of uncertainty and apprehension can dominate one’s thoughts. Not only from personal experience, but also from my interactions with others whom are actively support raising, it can be hard to trust that God will provide for our every need, when the checks or commitments are few and far between.
This spirit of anxiety hamstrings those who are actively raising support. It also deprives the church of potential workers for the harvest field, whether locally or globally. At its worst, this debilitating fear causes us to doubt that their Father really will provide for his children. This kind of challenge can be a sobering test as to where we find our ultimate satisfaction and security.
Adam Cavalier is currently completing work on a PhD in Church History from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Married to Magan, they have three small children.
By John Walvoord
The Prophecy In Malachi
The book of Malachi is a fitting climax to the Old Testament, Note that in the Tanak, the Hebrew Bible, the last book is Chronicles. So which order do you think Jesus used? carefully providing the last prophetic utterance until John the Baptist appeared in the New Testament. From references to the temple worship, it was clear that the temple had already been reconstructed and finished as in 515 BC. It is probable that Malachi was a younger contemporary of Nehemiah, whose ministry was either to the same generation addressed by Ezra and Nehemiah or to the generation after their ministries.
Malachi encountered the same sins of Israel that had been earlier met by Ezra in 458 BC and by Nehemiah in 444 BC. The situation included corruption of the priesthood as illustrated in Malachi’s criticism of them ( 1:6–2:9 ). Divorce from previous wives and intermarriages with Gentiles was criticized by Malachi in 2:10, and a similar condition existed in Ezra 9:1–2 and Nehemiah 13:1–3, 23–28. In a similar way there was lack of support for the priests and Levites ( Mal. 3:10; cf. Neh. 13:10 ), and the poor were oppressed ( Mal. 3:5; cf. Neh. 5:4–5 ). It is clear that these were recurring sins, and Nehemiah’s corrective probably did not last very long. The name Malachi appears to mean “my messenger,” and as such he was the last prophet of the Old Testament.
The form of the book is not in the form of a direct quotation of God but rather in the form of questions and answers; Malachi would ask questions of priests or other people, and there would be a dispute concerning the answer. Malachi in the process would offer proof that his charges and corrections were justified. Several centuries were to elapse between the ministry of Malachi and the coming of John the Baptist, anticipated in Malachi 3:1. As the first verse of the book illustrates, the contents were a message from God given through Malachi. The revelation related to six oracles that dealt with successive problems in Israel, to which Malachi addressed the truth of God.
The First Oracle: They Should Love God
Malachi 1:1–5. These verses show Israel’s failure to respond to God’s love. The discussion begins with the statement, “‘I have loved you,’ says the LORD. ‘But you ask, “How have you loved us?”’” (v. 2 ). The Lord replied with the statement, “Yet I have loved Jacob, but Esau I have hated” (v. 2 ). As proof, God pointed out how the inheritance of Edom had been left a waste (v. 3 ). Though Edom might have boasted that they would rebuild, God declared that if they did He would demolish their building (v. 4 ).
The statement that God loved Jacob but hated Esau must be understood as a relative statement in the sense that God, choosing between the two, chose Jacob. Esau was the father of Edom and the Edomites ( Gen. 36:1 ). Though he was the firstborn, Jacob was chosen even before he was born to be the heir of the messianic promise.
In subsequent history God blessed Jacob and his descendants and did not bless Edom though they were entitled to some promises that God had given Jacob. Edom had gradually been reduced until her last recognition as a separate people faded in history. By contrast, Israel was promised to be a nation forever ( Jer. 31:35–37 ). As the chosen people, Israel should have recognized God’s love for them and His purposes that should be fulfilled in eternity as well as time.
The Second Oracle: They Must Honor God
Malachi 1:6–2:9. Despite all that God had done for them, Israel had failed to honor God, and the priests had been leaders in this lack of proper respect. Malachi pointed out that a son should honor his father and a servant his master (v. 6 ), and if God was their Father, where was the respect that was due Him (v. 6 )? Then they asked how they had not honored His name. Malachi said that they had offered “defiled food on my altar” (v. 7 ). Malachi pointed out how they had brought animals for sacrifice that were blind or crippled or diseased, and he challenged them to observe that they would not have dared do this to one of their political governors. How much more should they have avoided doing this to God (vv. 8–9 )?
Malachi declared that it would be better to shut the temple’s doors and not have sacrifices on the altar at all if they were not going to do it according to the law of God, which demands perfect offerings (vv. 10–13 ). Malachi challenged them that if they did not correct their ways, God would curse them and defile their faces with offal from their sacrifices, showing His contempt for them ( 2:1–3 ). Instead of being priests who did not honor the Lord, they needed instead to be the fountain of instruction in the truth of God (v. 7 ). Instead, they caused the people of Israel to stumble (v. 8 ). The result was that they themselves were despised by the people (v. 9 ). They should have known that they were doing wrong in bringing imperfect animals for sacrifice because the law was clear ( Lev. 22:18–25; Deut. 15:21 ). Instead of honoring God, they were defiling the table, probably a reference to the sacrificial offering. They had made the Lord’s table, the place of offerings, contemptible to the people. These prophecies were fulfilled in history and prophecy.
The Third Oracle: They Were to Be Thankful as God’s Covenant People
Malachi 2:10–16. Not only had they sinned against God, but they also sinned against each other in profaning the covenant that God had made with their forefathers (v. 10 ). Not only had they sinned against each other, but they had also sinned against God as a group by desecrating His sanctuary and worshipping idols, which Malachi referred to as “marrying the daughter of a foreign god” (v. 11 ). God would not accept their offering because of their sins (v. 13 ), and they wept because of it. They had been guilty of breaking faith with their wives in order to enter into other unions, often with foreign women (v. 14 ). They needed to stop breaking faith with their wives and doing evil in the sight of the Lord (v. 16 ).
The Fourth Oracle: Their Hope Should Be in God
Malachi 2:17–3:6. The people had made the charge, “‘All who do evil are good in the eyes of the LORD, and he is pleased with them’ or ‘Where is the God of justice?’” ( 2:17 ). The problem of how the wicked may temporarily prosper, apparently without check from God, is a frequent subject of Scripture ( Job 21:7–26; 24:1–17; Ps. 73:1–14; Ecc. 8:14; Jer. 12:1–4; Hab. 1:12–17).
Job 21:7–26 (NASB95)
7 “Why do the wicked still live,
Continue on, also become very powerful?
8 “Their descendants are established with them in their sight,
And their offspring before their eyes,
9 Their houses are safe from fear,
And the rod of God is not on them.
10 “His ox mates without fail;
His cow calves and does not abort.
11 “They send forth their little ones like the flock,
And their children skip about.
12 “They sing to the timbrel and harp
And rejoice at the sound of the flute.
13 “They spend their days in prosperity,
And suddenly they go down to Sheol.
14 “They say to God, ‘Depart from us!
We do not even desire the knowledge of Your ways.
15 ‘Who is the Almighty, that we should serve Him,
And what would we gain if we entreat Him?’
16 “Behold, their prosperity is not in their hand;
The counsel of the wicked is far from me.
17 “How often is the lamp of the wicked put out,
Or does their calamity fall on them?
Does God apportion destruction in His anger?
18 “Are they as straw before the wind,
And like chaff which the storm carries away?
19 “You say, ‘God stores away a man’s iniquity for his sons.’
Let God repay him so that he may know it.
20 “Let his own eyes see his decay,
And let him drink of the wrath of the Almighty.
21 “For what does he care for his household after him,
When the number of his months is cut off?
22 “Can anyone teach God knowledge,
In that He judges those on high?
23 “One dies in his full strength,
Being wholly at ease and satisfied;
24 His sides are filled out with fat,
And the marrow of his bones is moist,
25 While another dies with a bitter soul,
Never even tasting anything good.
26 “Together they lie down in the dust,
And worms cover them.
Job 24:1–17 (NASB95)
Job Says God Seems to Ignore Wrongs
1 “Why are times not stored up by the Almighty,
And why do those who know Him not see His days?
2 “Some remove the landmarks;
They seize and devour flocks.
3 “They drive away the donkeys of the orphans;
They take the widow’s ox for a pledge.
4 “They push the needy aside from the road;
The poor of the land are made to hide themselves altogether.
5 “Behold, as wild donkeys in the wilderness
They go forth seeking food in their activity,
As bread for their children in the desert.
6 “They harvest their fodder in the field
And glean the vineyard of the wicked.
7 “They spend the night naked, without clothing,
And have no covering against the cold.
8 “They are wet with the mountain rains
And hug the rock for want of a shelter.
9 “Others snatch the orphan from the breast,
And against the poor they take a pledge.
10 “They cause the poor to go about naked without clothing,
And they take away the sheaves from the hungry.
11 “Within the walls they produce oil;
They tread wine presses but thirst.
12 “From the city men groan,
And the souls of the wounded cry out;
Yet God does not pay attention to folly.
13 “Others have been with those who rebel against the light;
They do not want to know its ways
Nor abide in its paths.
14 “The murderer arises at dawn;
He kills the poor and the needy,
And at night he is as a thief.
15 “The eye of the adulterer waits for the twilight,
Saying, ‘No eye will see me.’
And he disguises his face.
16 “In the dark they dig into houses,
They shut themselves up by day;
They do not know the light.
17 “For the morning is the same to him as thick darkness,
For he is familiar with the terrors of thick darkness.
Psalm 73:1–14 (NASB95)
1 Surely God is good to Israel,
To those who are pure in heart!
2 But as for me, my feet came close to stumbling,
My steps had almost slipped.
3 For I was envious of the arrogant
As I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
4 For there are no pains in their death,
And their body is fat.
5 They are not in trouble as other men,
Nor are they plagued like mankind.
6 Therefore pride is their necklace;
The garment of violence covers them.
7 Their eye bulges from fatness;
The imaginations of their heart run riot.
8 They mock and wickedly speak of oppression;
They speak from on high.
9 They have set their mouth against the heavens,
And their tongue parades through the earth.
10 Therefore his people return to this place,
And waters of abundance are drunk by them.
11 They say, “How does God know?
And is there knowledge with the Most High?”
12 Behold, these are the wicked;
And always at ease, they have increased in wealth.
13 Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure
And washed my hands in innocence;
14 For I have been stricken all day long
And chastened every morning.
Ecclesiastes 8:14 (NASB95)
14 There is futility which is done on the earth, that is, there are righteous men to whom it happens according to the deeds of the wicked. On the other hand, there are evil men to whom it happens according to the deeds of the righteous. I say that this too is futility.
Jeremiah 12:1–4 (NASB95)
1 Righteous are You, O LORD, that I would plead my case with You;
Indeed I would discuss matters of justice with You:
Why has the way of the wicked prospered?
Why are all those who deal in treachery at ease?
2 You have planted them, they have also taken root;
They grow, they have even produced fruit.
You are near to their lips
But far from their mind.
3 But You know me, O LORD;
You see me;
And You examine my heart’s attitude toward You.
Drag them off like sheep for the slaughter
And set them apart for a day of carnage!
4 How long is the land to mourn
And the vegetation of the countryside to wither?
For the wickedness of those who dwell in it,
Animals and birds have been snatched away,
Because men have said, “He will not see our latter ending.”
Habakkuk 1:12–17 (NASB95)
12 Are You not from everlasting,
O LORD, my God, my Holy One?
We will not die.
You, O LORD, have appointed them to judge;
And You, O Rock, have established them to correct.
13 Your eyes are too pure to approve evil,
And You can not look on wickedness with favor.
Why do You look with favor
On those who deal treacherously?
Why are You silent when the wicked swallow up
Those more righteous than they?
14 Why have You made men like the fish of the sea,
Like creeping things without a ruler over them?
15 The Chaldeans bring all of them up with a hook,
Drag them away with their net,
And gather them together in their fishing net.
Therefore they rejoice and are glad.
16 Therefore they offer a sacrifice to their net
and burn incense to their fishing net;
Because through these things their catch is large,
And their food is plentiful.
17 Will they therefore empty their net
And continually slay nations without sparing?
The Scripture, however, makes plain that while the wicked may prosper for a time, ultimately justice from God will come on them ( Job 24:22–24; 27:13–23; Ps. 73:16–20; Ecc. 8:12–13; Jer. 12:7–17; Hab. 2:3; 3:2–19 ). Scripture frequently refers to the fact that God will bring in His righteous kingdom as the climax to human history in the period following the second coming of Christ.
Job 24:22–24 (NASB95)
22 “But He drags off the valiant by His power;
He rises, but no one has assurance of life.
23 “He provides them with security, and they are supported;
And His eyes are on their ways.
24 “They are exalted a little while, then they are gone;
Moreover, they are brought low and like everything gathered up;
Even like the heads of grain they are cut off.
Job 27:13–23 (NASB95)
13 “This is the portion of a wicked man from God,
And the inheritance which tyrants receive from the Almighty.
14 “Though his sons are many, they are destined for the sword;
And his descendants will not be satisfied with bread.
15 “His survivors will be buried because of the plague,
And their widows will not be able to weep.
16 “Though he piles up silver like dust
And prepares garments as plentiful as the clay,
17 He may prepare it, but the just will wear it
And the innocent will divide the silver.
18 “He has built his house like the spider’s web,
Or as a hut which the watchman has made.
19 “He lies down rich, but never again;
He opens his eyes, and it is no longer.
20 “Terrors overtake him like a flood;
A tempest steals him away in the night.
21 “The east wind carries him away, and he is gone,
For it whirls him away from his place.
22 “For it will hurl at him without sparing;
He will surely try to flee from its power.
23 “Men will clap their hands at him
And will hiss him from his place.
Psalm 73:16–20 (NASB95)
16 When I pondered to understand this,
It was troublesome in my sight
17 Until I came into the sanctuary of God;
Then I perceived their end.
18 Surely You set them in slippery places;
You cast them down to destruction.
19 How they are destroyed in a moment!
They are utterly swept away by sudden terrors!
20 Like a dream when one awakes,
O Lord, when aroused, You will despise their form.
Ecclesiastes 8:12–13 (NASB95) 12 Although a sinner does evil a hundred times and may lengthen his life, still I know that it will be well for those who fear God, who fear Him openly.
13 But it will not be well for the evil man and he will not lengthen his days like a shadow, because he does not fear God.
Jeremiah 12:7–17 (NASB95) God’s Answer
7 “I have forsaken My house,
I have abandoned My inheritance;
I have given the beloved of My soul
Into the hand of her enemies.
8 “My inheritance has become to Me
Like a lion in the forest;
She has roared against Me;
Therefore I have come to hate her.
9 “Is My inheritance like a speckled bird of prey to Me?
Are the birds of prey against her on every side?
Go, gather all the beasts of the field,
Bring them to devour!
10 “Many shepherds have ruined My vineyard,
They have trampled down My field;
They have made My pleasant field
A desolate wilderness.
11 “It has been made a desolation,
Desolate, it mourns before Me;
The whole land has been made desolate,
Because no man lays it to heart.
12 “On all the bare heights in the wilderness
Destroyers have come,
For a sword of the LORD is devouring
From one end of the land even to the other;
There is no peace for anyone.
13 “They have sown wheat and have reaped thorns,
They have strained themselves to no profit.
But be ashamed of your harvest
Because of the fierce anger of the LORD.”
14 Thus says the LORD concerning all My wicked neighbors who strike at the inheritance with which I have endowed My people Israel, “Behold I am about to uproot them from their land and will uproot the house of Judah from among them.
15 “And it will come about that after I have uprooted them, I will again have compassion on them; and I will bring them back, each one to his inheritance and each one to his land.
16 “Then if they will really learn the ways of My people, to swear by My name, ‘As the LORD lives,’ even as they taught My people to swear by Baal, they will be built up in the midst of My people.
17 “But if they will not listen, then I will uproot that nation, uproot and destroy it,” declares the LORD.
Habakkuk 2:3 (NASB95)
3 “For the vision is yet for the appointed time;
It hastens toward the goal and it will not fail.
Though it tarries, wait for it;
For it will certainly come, it will not delay.
Habakkuk 3:2–19 (NASB95)
2 LORD, I have heard the report about You and I fear.
O LORD, revive Your work in the midst of the years,
In the midst of the years make it known;
In wrath remember mercy.
3 God comes from Teman,
And the Holy One from Mount Paran.
His splendor covers the heavens,
And the earth is full of His praise.
4 His radiance is like the sunlight;
He has rays flashing from His hand,
And there is the hiding of His power.
5 Before Him goes pestilence,
And plague comes after Him.
6 He stood and surveyed the earth;
He looked and startled the nations.
Yes, the perpetual mountains were shattered,
The ancient hills collapsed.
His ways are everlasting.
7 I saw the tents of Cushan under distress,
The tent curtains of the land of Midian were trembling.
8 Did the LORD rage against the rivers,
Or was Your anger against the rivers,
Or was Your wrath against the sea,
That You rode on Your horses,
On Your chariots of salvation?
9 Your bow was made bare,
The rods of chastisement were sworn.
You cleaved the earth with rivers.
10 The mountains saw You and quaked;
The downpour of waters swept by.
The deep uttered forth its voice,
It lifted high its hands.
11 Sun and moon stood in their places;
They went away at the light of Your arrows,
At the radiance of Your gleaming spear.
12 In indignation You marched through the earth;
In anger You trampled the nations.
13 You went forth for the salvation of Your people,
For the salvation of Your anointed.
You struck the head of the house of the evil
To lay him open from thigh to neck.
14 You pierced with his own spears
The head of his throngs.
They stormed in to scatter us;
Their exultation was like those
Who devour the oppressed in secret.
15 You trampled on the sea with Your horses,
On the surge of many waters.
16 I heard and my inward parts trembled,
At the sound my lips quivered.
Decay enters my bones,
And in my place I tremble.
Because I must wait quietly for the day of distress,
For the people to arise who will invade us.
17 Though the fig tree should not blossom
And there be no fruit on the vines,
Though the yield of the olive should fail
And the fields produce no food,
Though the flock should be cut off from the fold
And there be no cattle in the stalls,
18 Yet I will exult in the LORD,
I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.
19 The Lord GOD is my strength,
And He has made my feet like hinds’ feet,
And makes me walk on my high places.
For the choir director, on my stringed instruments.
While the people still questioned whether God is just, God was going to send His messenger to prepare the way of the Lord: “‘See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,’ says the LORD Almighty” ( Mal. 3:1 ). This reference was to John the Baptist, according to the New Testament ( Matt. 11:10; Mark 1:2; Luke 7:27 ), but the phrase “the Lord you are seeking” was not quoted in the New Testament. It was true that when Christ came, He would come suddenly to His temple at His first coming. But the final second coming of Christ will be one of judgment, not of grace. As is so often true in the Old Testament, both the first and second comings of Christ are considered one event. None of the prophets seem to have understood the separation of these events by a long period between. The messenger obviously was John the Baptist, however, and Christ was the One who would come suddenly in His first coming and will come again suddenly in His second coming.
The second coming of Christ will be preceded by the beginning of the day of the Lord, including the judgments leading up to the second coming of Christ ( Isa. 2:12; Joel 3:11–16; Amos 5:18–21; Zech. 1:14–18 ). The answer to the question of who can endure the day of His coming ( Mal. 3:2 ), is that no one, except by God’s purification, can stand at that time. The figure was used of refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap (v. 2 ). God will purify His people, including the Levites, and they will come to the Lord for cleansing, bringing their acceptable sacrifices in that day (vv. 3–4 ).
In the day of judgment those who are adulterers and perjurers and others who have sinned will be easily identified (v. 5 ). By contrast, God Himself will not change, and He will see to it that Jacob is not destroyed.
The Fifth Oracle: The Command to Obey God
Malachi 3:7–12. God accused them of turning away from His commands and not keeping them from the time of their forefathers (v. 7 ).
Israel had a long history of disobedience to God ( Ex. 32:7–9; Deut. 9:6–8, 13, 23–24; 31:27–29 ).
Accordingly, God pleaded with them, “‘Return to me, and I will return to you,’ says the LORD Almighty” ( Mal. 3:7 ). But they ask, “How are we to return?” (v. 7 ). Their pretense of being unaware of their waywardness illustrated how far they were from God. God bluntly accused them of robbing Him (v. 8 ).
When they asked how they had robbed Him, He replied, “‘In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse — the whole nation of you — because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,’ says the LORD Almighty, ‘and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it’” (vv. 8–10 ).
If they had been faithful in obeying God, He would have blessed their harvest and made them a nation obviously blessed: “‘Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,’ says the LORD Almighty” (v. 12 ). The promises of blessing and cursing are fulfilled in history and prophecy.
The Sixth Oracle: The Command to Fear God
Malachi 3:13–4:3. Though God had abundantly blessed Israel, He charged Israel, “You have said harsh things against me” ( 3:13 ). When the people asked, “What have we said against you?” God charged that they had said, “It is futile to serve God. What did we gain by carrying out his requirements and going about like mourners before the LORD Almighty? But now we call the arrogant blessed. Certainly the evildoers prosper, and even those who challenge God escape” (vv. 14–15 ).
As always in times of apostasy, the majority may not serve God or honor Him, but there were always the godly few — in this case, a faithful remnant who were walking with God. They had written “a scroll of remembrance,” listing those who feared the Lord and honored Him (v. 16 ). “‘They will be mine,’ said the LORD Almighty, ‘in the day when I make up my treasured possession. I will spare them, just as in compassion a man spares his son who served him. And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not’” (vv. 17–18 ).
The distinction between the righteous and the wicked will be a feature of the day of the Lord that Malachi stated was coming ( 4:1 ). It will be a day that “‘will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and that day that is coming will set them on fire,’ says the LORD Almighty” (v. 1 ). Further, God said, “not a root or a branch will be left to them” (v. 1 ). This does not promise annihilation of the wicked, but it does indicate that any who are so wicked will be excluded from the kingdom.
While the day of the Lord will be a time of judgment on the wicked, it also will be a time when the righteous will be recognized: “But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall” (v. 2 ). The wicked were represented as being trampled underfoot like ashes (v. 3 ). This answers completely the false statement of the wicked, but it does make a difference whether they serve God or not. In the ultimate judgment the righteous will flourish and the wicked will suffer. This was fulfilled in history and will be fulfilled at the second coming.
The Final Word
Malachi 4:4–6. By way of conclusion to the entire book as well as by way of spiritual preparation for the coming days, God declared, “Remember the law of my servant Moses, the decrees and laws I gave him at Horeb for all Israel” (v. 4 ). The law that God delivered through Moses was His word to the people of Israel, including the commands to do righteousness and the prohibition of evil. They were given the promise that they would be blessed if they kept the law but cursed if they rejected it. History has demonstrated the truth about this prediction.
The final word from Malachi predicted the coming of Elijah: “See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse” (vv. 5–6 ).
Interpreters have differed as to whether this prophecy of Elijah was fulfilled by John the Baptist. According to Matthew 11:7–10, the messenger of Malachi 3:1 was specifically stated to be John the Baptist and as such, one who prepared the way of the Lord in His first coming. It was predicted before his birth that John would operate in the spirit and power of Elijah ( Luke 1:17 ).
Though it is clear that John the Baptist prepared the way for the Lord ( Isa. 40:3; Mal. 3:1 ), John the Baptist expressed that he was not Elijah ( John 1:21–23 ). Christ even called John “the Elijah who was to come,” with the stipulation, “if you are willing to accept it” ( Matt. 11:14 ). The matter is further discussed in Matthew 17:11–12, where Christ affirmed, “Elijah comes and will restore all things” ( Matt. 17:11 ). In other words, because Israel did not accept John the Baptist as Elijah, another Elijah is yet to come. But in Matthew 17:12 Jesus said, “Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him.”
It is clear that Elijah was a type of John and to some extent that John the Baptist fulfilled Elijah’s role. But, predictively, it is difficult to determine whether the future one will come in the spirit and power of Elijah or be Elijah himself. Though some identify one of the two witnesses in Revelation 11:1–13 as Elijah, there is no scriptural evidence that this will be the case. The book of Malachi closes with a warning that if the hearts of the people of Israel are not turned to the Lord, God will strike the land with a curse ( Mal. 4:6 ).
So the Old Testament, which began with the statement “In the beginning God,” ends with the possibility of a curse on the land, followed by several hundred years of silence during which there was no prophet until John the Baptist appeared on the scene. Much of the Old Testament has already been fulfilled, but much also awaits future fulfillment in the last days.
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 94The LORD Will Not Forsake His People
12 Blessed is the man whom you discipline, O LORD,
and whom you teach out of your law,
13 to give him rest from days of trouble,
until a pit is dug for the wicked.
14 For the LORD will not forsake his people;
he will not abandon his heritage;
15 for justice will return to the righteous,
and all the upright in heart will follow it.
16 Who rises up for me against the wicked?
Who stands up for me against evildoers?
17 If the LORD had not been my help,
my soul would soon have lived in the land of silence.
18 When I thought, “My foot slips,”
your steadfast love, O LORD, held me up.
19 When the cares of my heart are many,
your consolations cheer my soul.
20 Can wicked rulers be allied with you,
those who frame injustice by statute?
21 They band together against the life of the righteous
and condemn the innocent to death.
22 But the LORD has become my stronghold,
and my God the rock of my refuge.
23 He will bring back on them their iniquity
and wipe them out for their wickedness;
the LORD our God will wipe them out.
The Pastor’s Example of Evangelism
By Steven Lawson 6/01/2012
In his final letter, Paul charges Timothy, his son in the faith, to “do the work of an evangelist” (2 Tim. 4:5). By these words, the aged Apostle establishes the timeless standard for pastoral ministry, not only for young Timothy but for all pastors in every generation and in every place.
With Apostolic authority, this imperative command comes with binding force. All pastors must do the work of an evangelist. They must earnestly proclaim the gospel message, urging people to trust in Jesus Christ alone for salvation. So, where should this pastoral evangelism begin?
First, every pastor must preach the gospel to himself. Before any pastor can call others to repent, he must believe in Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul exhorts Timothy, saying, “Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you” (1 Tim. 4:16). That is, every preacher must examine his own soul first. The success of one’s evangelism is, first and foremost, dependent upon his right standing in grace.
In The Reformed Pastor, Puritan Richard Baxter addressed the ministers of his day, many of whom were unconverted: “See that the work of saving grace be thoroughly wrought in your own souls. Take heed to yourselves, lest you be void of that saving grace of God which you offer to others.” Simply put, pastors must embrace the very message they preach.
Charles Spurgeon writes:
A graceless pastor is a blind man elected to a professorship of optics, philosophizing upon light and vision, discoursing upon … the nice shades and delicate blendings of the prismatic colours, while he himself is absolutely in the dark! He is a dumb man elevated to the chair of music; a deaf man f luent upon symphonies and harmonies! He is a mole professing to educate eaglets.Sadly, unconverted pastors do exist. Martin Luther was a doctor of theology and professor of Bible before he was born again. John Wesley was an overseas missionary prior to his conversion. Every pastor must be certain of his own salvation before he can powerfully preach the gospel to others.
Second, every pastor must preach the gospel to his family. Evangelism in the home begins with shepherding one’s own wife in her relationship with Christ. I will never forget an elder’s meeting in which one of our pastors shared that his wife had been converted the previous night. She was one of the nicest people in the church, yet, unknown to us, she was unconverted. How often is this the reality? To this end, every pastor must give attention to the spiritual state of his wife.
Similarly, he must give the same attention to his children. This evangelism should begin early and involve disciplines such as Bible readings, catechizing, and family devotions. I came to faith in Christ as a result of my father reading the Bible to me in the evenings. Moreover, home evangelism should include informal conversations, probing questions, and a consistently godly life modeled before the children.
Third, every pastor must preach the gospel to his flock. There must be a sober realization that not every church member is regenerate. Every pastor’s evangelistic work must center in his pulpit ministry as he regularly presents the gospel with clear, decisive appeals. He must implore his congregation to respond to the gospel and be saved. There should be a distinct urgency in his voice as he exhorts, even pleads, for his flock to be converted.
Certainly, this evangelistic thrust is not to be confused with abuses and manipulative methods. I am not contending that people raise a hand, walk an aisle, parrot a prayer, and be declared saved—all within five minutes. But I am insisting that our gospel preaching must be compelling. It must come with bold proclamations of the cross, warm appeals to come to Christ, and passionate persuasions that urge people to respond by faith alone. Pastors must give gospel messages that call for repentance and issue severe warnings of eternal consequences for unbelief.
Fourth, every pastor should evangelize the community. The strategies will differ from one man to the next, depending upon his gifts and opportunities. As a fisher of men, he must go where the fish are. He must leave dry land, sail out into deep waters, and cast his net. Pastors must venture out into the community, share the gospel, and urge people to believe upon Christ. Community outreach involves building bridges to unbelievers. This may include hosting a Bible study in an office, a restaurant, or a home. It can involve a local radio program, a newspaper editorial, or an Internet blog. It means showing acts of mercy with a gospel presentation. Whatever the strategy, making such inroads requires going where unconverted people are and unashamedly sharing Christ.
It has been rightly said that the greatest joy is knowing Christ and the second greatest is making Him known. May every pastor enter joyfully into this privileged task of doing the work of an evangelist. Per Amazon | Dr. Steven J. Lawson is founder and president of OnePassion Ministries, a ministry designed to bring about a new reformation in the church. He is a teaching fellow for Ligonier Ministries, director of the Doctor of Ministry program at The Master's Seminary, and a visiting professor in the Doctor of Ministry program at the Ligonier Academy of Biblical and Theological Studies.
Steven Lawson | Go to Books Page
The Continual Burnt Offering (Acts 7:56)
By H.A. Ironside - 1941
August 29Acts 7:56 And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” ESV
In Acts 7 we have Stephen’s address when called to witness before the Jewish Council. He traces all Jehovah’s ways with His people from Abraham to Christ and leads us in spirit by the God of glory (Acts 7:2) up to the glory of God (Acts 7:55). When he falls smitten by the stones hurled by his cruel murderers he exclaims with rapture, “I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” Elsewhere, after the ascension of our Lord, He is set forth as seated at the right hand of the Majesty in the heavens. Here He is standing as though bending eagerly forward to welcome His faithful witness and to express His deep sympathy with him in his suffering. Such is His attitude toward His persecuted saints. How blessed to know that His love is unfailing and His welcome sure! Meantime His protecting care is over us.
Acts 7:2 And Stephen said: “Brothers and fathers, hear me. The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran,
Acts 7:55 But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. ESV
Safely covered with His feathers—
Oh, the blest security!—
Sheltered from all kinds and weathers,
Covert from the enemy.
In all confidence abiding,
‘Neath His strong protecting wings,
Oh, how sweet is such confiding,
While the trustful spirit sings.
Covered? Yes, as He can cover.
Sheltered? Who could shelter thus?
O’er His own His love doth hover—
His, because of Calv’ry’s cross.
Covered, trusting, watching ever.
Knowing there is nought to fear,
Sweet the confident assurance
While His coming draweth near.
--- Helen McDowell
The Coming of the Kingdom part 8
By Dr. Andrew Woods 6/11/2012
Because today's evangelical world believes that the church is experiencing the messianic kingdom, we began a study chronicling what the Bible teaches about the kingdom. This earthly kingdom is anticipated in the office of Theocratic Administrator that was lost in Eden, in the biblical covenants, in the predictions of the Old Testament prophets, and in the earthly theocracy governing Israel from the time of Moses to Zedekiah. This theocratic arrangement terminated with the initiation of the "Times of the Gentiles" when the nation had no king reigning on David’s Throne as Judah was trampled by various Gentile powers. Against that backdrop entered Jesus Christ, the rightful Heir to David's Throne. Had first-century Israel enthroned Christ, the earthly kingdom would have become a reality. Despite this unprecedented opportunity, Israel rejected the kingdom offer ( Matt. 12 ) leading to the kingdom's postponement. Due to this 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 ).
The kingdom mysteries represent the events to be experienced by the kingdom heirs or the “sons of the kingdom” ( Matt. 13:38 ) between Israel’s rejection of the kingdom and the re-offer of the kingdom to Israel in the future. Thus, the kingdom mysteries cover the time period between Israel’s formal rejection of the kingdom and the Second Advent ( 13:40-42, 49-50 ). The kingdom mysteries represent new truths concerning the kingdom that were undisclosed in the Old Testament. Because these truths had never before been made known, they represent a mystery age or a period of time not revealed in prior Scripture ( Matt. 13:11; Eph. 3:9; Rom. 16:25-26 ). When the parables of Matthew 13 are understood together, we gain a complete picture of the course of the present “mystery age.” As explained in the previous article, during this age, the gospel will be preached with mixed results ( Matt. 13:1-9, 18-23 ). It will be difficult to distinguish between the saved and unsaved within professing Christendom ( Matt. 13:24-30, 36-43, 47-50 ). Also, Christendom will experience great expansion from a small beginning ( Matt. 13:31-32 ) and become increasingly apostate as the age progresses ( Matt. 13:33 ). Israel will remain in unbelief and unconverted until the age’s conclusion ( Matt. 13:44 ), and the Lord will gain a treasure from among the Gentiles ( Matt. 13:45-46 ).
While Christ revealed the kingdom mysteries in parabolic form, He did not give the Sermon on the Mount ( Matt. 5–7 ) or the missions discourse ( 10 ) in parabolic form. Why did Christ reveal the kingdom mysteries in parabolic form? In addition to fulfilling prophecy ( Matt. 13:34-35; Ps. 78:2 ), the parabolic form of teaching allowed Him to simultaneously conceal and reveal. Christ desired to conceal truth from the nation since they had already rejected the offer of the kingdom ( Matt. 12 ). Such concealment was actually merciful since the disclosure of more truth would have brought first-century Israel into even greater condemnation. Earlier, Christ had explained that greater revelation brings forth greater accountability ( Matt. 11:20-24 ). The disclosure of more truth to the nation at this point would not have helped Israel but rather would have only increased her degree of discipline since she had already chosen to reject the kingdom offer. On the other hand, Christ wanted to reveal truth to the believing remnant to prepare them for their leadership roles ( Eph. 2:20 ) in the soon to be birthed church. Because they were to be His earthly representatives throughout the mystery age, they needed full information concerning the spiritual characteristics of this new age.
Mystery Form Of The Kingdom
A mistake typically made even by dispensational, premillennial interpreters is to contend that the Matthew 13 parables reveal a present spiritual form of the kingdom known as the "mystery form of the kingdom." While not contending that the Davidic kingdom is present, they instead believe that the kingdom is spiritually present in mystery form only.  However, even this is to read too much into the text of Matthew 13 than is actually there. Toussaint notes:
It is often alleged that the Lord predicted a form of the kingdom for the Church age in His parables, particularly those in Matthew 13. For many years dispensationalists have referred to these parables as teaching a mystery form or a new form of the kingdom... However, nowhere in Matthew 13 or anywhere does the Lord Jesus use the term mystery form. Rather, He refers to the “mysteries of the kingdom of heaven” (v. 11 ); that is, the Lord in these parables is giving to His disciples new truths about the kingdom that were hitherto unknown. It is strange that so many dispensationalists claim a new form of the kingdom is introduced in Matthew 13. Dispensationalists argue strenuously for a literal, earthly kingdom that is the fulfillment of the Old Testament when John, Jesus, and His disciples announced its nearness. Then suddenly these dispensationalists change the meaning in Matthew 13. 
McClain similarly observes:
The fiction of a present “kingdom of heaven” established on earth in the Church, has been lent some support by an incautious terminology sometimes used in defining the “mysteries of the kingdom of heaven” ( Matt. 13:11 ). The parables of this chapter, it is said carelessly by some, describe the kingdom of heaven as now existing in “mystery form” during the Church age. Now it is true that these parables present certain conditions related to the Kingdom which are contemporaneous with the present age. But nowhere in Matthew 13 is the establishment of the Kingdom placed within this age. On the contrary, in two of these parables the setting up of the Kingdom is definitely placed at the end of the “age” (vss. 39 and 49 ASV, with 41-43 ). 
As these citations explain, there are at least four problems associated with equating the "kingdom mysteries" of Matthew 13 with a present spiritual form of the kingdom in "mystery form." First, although Christ uses the expression “mysteries of the kingdom of heaven” (v. 11 ), Matthew 13, or any other place in Christ's teachings for that matter, fails to employ the expression "mystery form of the kingdom." These words must be read into the text. Second, the word "kingdom" or basileia must be interpreted inconsistently in Matthew's Gospel in order to justify the existence of a present mystery form of the kingdom. While premillennial dispensationalists interpret the word "kingdom" in reference to the future earthly reign of Christ in most of Matthew's uses of the word ( Matt. 3:2; 4:17; 6:10; 7:21; 8:11; 10:7; 24:14; 25:1, 34; 26:29 ), they inconsistently attach a spiritualized and allegorized meaning to the same word in Matthew 13.
Third, according to the revelation of the Times of the Gentiles as given to the prophet Daniel ( Dan. 2; 7 ), the earthly theocracy terminated with the deposing of Zedekiah in 586 B.C. and will not return until the Second Advent ( Matt. 25:31 ). As explained in an earlier article, during this period known as the Times of the Gentiles, Judah will be trampled down by various Gentile powers. Only after the final kingdom of man (the revived Roman Empire of the Antichrist) has been terminated by Christ, will God's kingdom be established on earth ( Dan. 2:34-35; 43-45; 7:23-27 ). Thus, during the Times of the Gentiles, no spiritual form of the kingdom on earth is predicted by Daniel. This omission includes allusions to any spiritual form of the kingdom whatsoever, whether it be a spiritual form of the Davidic Kingdom, an "already but not yet" present manifestation of the Davidic Kingdom, a mystery form of the kingdom, or any other sophisticated vocabulary "kingdom now" theologians choose to employ. The lack of any reference to an earthly kingdom prior to Christ's Second Advent in Daniel's prophecies should deter interpreters from finding a premature spiritual manifestation of the kingdom in the present Church Age. Unfortunately, those promoting a "mystery form of the kingdom" ignore this Danielic chronology by arguing for a present, spiritual form of the kingdom, despite the fact that the kingdoms of man have not yet run their course, the Antichrist and his kingdom have not yet been overthrown, and the Second Advent has not yet occurred.
Fourth, the whole "mystery form of the kingdom" idea seems to be more of the product of eisegesis (bringing to the biblical text what is not there) rather than exegesis (drawing out of the text what is naturally there). Since most dispensationalists adhere to a present mystery form of the kingdom, I too was taught this kingdom now theology early on. In fact, at one point, I even embraced this idea. However, I eventually became disillusioned with the concept after discovering its origin. The idea goes back to amillennialists (those who do not believe in a future earthly reign of Christ since the kingdom promises are being spiritually realized in the present age) accusing dispensationalists (those who believe that God has dealt with humanity through seven successive ages called dispensations) of dividing up the Bible to such an extent that the Scripture no longer contained a unifying and overarching theme. This charge upset dispensationalists to such a degree that they set out to find a unifying theme in the Bible. The theme that they settled upon was the kingdom. Thus, they sought to show the presence of the kingdom in every age or dispensation. This ambition, in turn, led them to conclude that the kingdom is present in mystery form only ( Matt. 13:11 ). However, the hermeneutical danger associated with trying to make all of Scripture adhere to a predetermined theme, is that one ends up bringing a theology to the text rather than drawing a theology from the text. This explanation of the origin of the "mystery form of the kingdom" concept helps explain why so many source the idea in Matthew 13 despite the fact that this theology is not borne out by a careful exegesis of this chapter.
ENDNOTES J. Dwight Pentecost, Thy Kingdom Come (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1990), 215-28.
 Stanley D. Toussaint, "Israel and the Church of a Traditional Dispensationalist," in Three Central Issues in Contemporary Dispensationalism, ed. Herbert W. Bateman(Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1999), 237.
 Alva J. McClain, The Greatness of the Kingdom (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1959), 440-41.
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Note I copied this article from The Bible Prophecy Blog.
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Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
by Bill Federer
“Beloved Cherokees,” wrote President Washington on this day, August 29, 1796, “The wise men of the United States meet… once a year, to consider what will be for the good their people…. I have thought that a meeting of your wise men… would be alike useful to you…. I now send my best wishes to the Cherokees and pray the Great Spirit to preserve them.” On another occasion, the Delaware Chiefs brought him three of their sons to be trained in American schools. Washington replied: “You do well… to learn our arts and ways of life, and above all, the religion of Jesus Christ… I pray God He may make your Nation wise and strong.”American Minute
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
There are two kinds of people:
those who say to God,
“Thy will be done,”
and those to whom God says,
“All right, then, have it your way.”
--- C.S. Lewis
Over the years, I have come to realize that the greatest trap in our life is not success, popularity, or power, but self-rejection. Success, popularity, and power can indeed present a great temptation, but their seductive quality often comes from the way they are part of the much larger temptation to self-rejection. When we have come to believe in the voices that call us worthless and unlovable, then success, popularity, and power are easily perceived as attractive solutions. The real trap, however, is self-rejection. As soon as someone accuses me or criticizes me, as soon as I am rejected, left alone, or abandoned, I find myself thinking, "Well, that proves once again that I am a nobody." ... [My dark side says,] I am no good... I deserve to be pushed aside, forgotten, rejected, and abandoned. Self-rejection is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life because it contradicts the sacred voice that calls us the "Beloved." Being the Beloved constitutes the core truth of our existence.
--- Henri J.M. Nouwen
Tis heaven alone that is given away,
'T is only God may be had for the asking;...
--- James Russell Lowell The vision of Sir Launfal
You are to think of yourself as only existing in this world to do God's will. To think that you are your own is as absurd as to think you are self-created. It is an obvious first principle that you belong completely to God.
--- William Law
... from here, there and everywhere
We apologists love to offer evidence for the existence of God, the reliability of the Bible, and the resurrection of Jesus. These are powerful truths that have convinced many to personally trust Christ. Yet amidst our desire to defend the truth of Christianity, let us not forget the power of forgiveness, which, in my view, is perhaps our greatest apologetic today.
Our world seems to be falling apart at the seams. Each week the news is filled with increasing awareness that our world is profoundly broken and that humanity’s problems—whether racial, economic, political, moral, or religious—run deeper than we can imagine.
In light of the current state of the world, and given how many outsiders increasingly have a negative view of Bible-believing Christians, here is a question we must contemplate: How can we demonstrate the unique power of Christ in a world in which everyone has a microphone?
We certainly need to keep proclaiming the truth of the Christian message. In fact, as I show in A New Kind of Apologist, we need apologetics in the church today as urgently today as ever before. Jesus, Paul, the apostles, and the early church fathers were all apologists. And yet there is something we must not forget: our willingness to offer forgiveness to people who have wronged us, and especially our enemies, demonstrates the unique power of the cross more robustly than arguments alone. Genuinely offering forgiveness often breaks down barriers and invites people to consider reasons for our faith.
Why is this so? For one, there is always a way to avoid truth (2 Peter 3:15-16). It is our human nature to suppress it (Romans 1:18-20). We naturally get defensive when people challenge our cherished beliefs. But unexpected, grace-filled acts of forgiveness are harder to dismiss. They subvert our defensiveness. In fact, they often catch us off guard and invite us to consider the deeper reasons motivating people to act with such kindness. And it is uniquely the Christian worldview that can provide both the moral basis and motivation for forgiveness (e.g., Matthew 18:21-35; Ephesians 4:32).
This was clearly on display a decade ago in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania. A man stormed into an Amish schoolhouse, shooting ten girls and killing five. Although clearly grieved, shocked, and heart-broken, the Amish community responded in a manner that the world had trouble comprehending—they offered forgiveness to the man, and reached out lovingly to his family. Some members of the Amish community went to the cemetery for the killer's burial and others donated money to the widow and her kids.
Why did they respond in this manner? First, the Amish believe that God is sovereign, even when things appear to be spiraling out of control. Second, they have experienced God’s love and grace, and believe He has called them to extend His grace to other people. They hold no grudges and willingly offer the same forgiveness to other people that God has extended to them.
The world was watching when the Amish forgave the man who committed this horrific act. Many people were inspired, and others simply in wonder, just as some people were at the death of Jesus. After seeing the calm and gracious manner in which Jesus faced execution, the Roman centurion professed, “Truly this man was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:39).
Few things invite people to consider the power of Christianity more than the genuine offer of forgiveness in the face of wretched evil. This is what Jesus did, and if we care about the proclaiming and defending the gospel, we must be willing to do no less.
Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, a best-selling author of over 18 books, an internationally recognized speaker, and a part-time high school teacher. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell and his blog: seanmcdowell.org.
( The Cross of Christ )
We must now pass by the details of the betrayal and arrest of Jesus, his trials before Annas and Caiaphas, Herod and Pilate, Peter’s denials, the cruel mockery by priests and soldiers, the spitting and the scourging, and the hysteria of the mob who demanded his death. We move on to the end of the story. Condemned to death by crucifixion, ‘he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth’ (Isa. 53:7). Carrying his own cross, until Simon of Cyrene was compelled to carry it for him, he will have walked along the Via Dolorosa, out of the city, to Golgotha, ‘the place of the skull’. ‘Here they crucified him’, the evangelists write, declining to dwell on the stripping, the clumsy hammering home of the nails, or the wrenching of his limbs as the cross was hoisted and dropped into its place. Even the excruciating pain could not silence his repeated entreaties: ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.’ The soldiers gambled for his clothes. Some women stood afar off. The crowd remained a while to watch. Jesus commended his mother to John’s care and John to hers. He spoke words of kingly assurance to the penitent criminal crucified at his side. Meanwhile, the rulers sneered at him, shouting: ‘He saved others, but he can’t save himself!’ Their words, spoken as an insult, were the literal truth. He could not save himself and others simultaneously. He chose to sacrifice himself in order to save the world.
Gradually the crowd thinned out, their curiosity glutted. At last silence fell and darkness came – darkness perhaps because no eye should see, and silence because no tongue could tell, the anguish of soul which the sinless Saviour now endured. ‘At the birth of the Son of God’, Douglas Webster has written, ‘there was brightness at midnight; at the death of the Son of God there was darkness at noon.’ (Douglas Webster, In Debt to Christ) What happened in the darkness is expressed by biblical writers in a variety of ways:
Isa. 53:5–6; John 1:29; Mark 10:45; Heb. 9:28; 1 Pet. 2:24; 3:18; 2 Cor. 5:21; Gal. 3:13
... it seems that the darkness of the sky was an outward symbol of the spiritual darkness which enveloped him. For what is darkness in biblical symbolism but separation from God who is light and in whom ‘there is no darkness at all’ (1 John 1:5)? ‘Outer darkness’ was one of the expressions Jesus used for hell, since it is an absolute exclusion from the light of God’s presence. Into that outer darkness the Son of God plunged for us. Our sins blotted out the sunshine of his Father’s face. We may even dare to say that our sins sent Christ to hell – not to the ‘hell’ (hadēs, the abode of the dead) to which the Creed says he ‘descended’ after death, but to the ‘hell’ (gehenna, the place of punishment) to which our sins condemned him before his body died.
The darkness seems to have lasted for three hours. For it was at the third hour (9 a.m.) that he was crucified, at the sixth hour (12 noon) that the darkness came over the whole land, and at the ninth hour (3 p.m.) that, emerging out of the darkness, Jesus cried out in a loud voice in Aramaic: ‘Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?’ meaning, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ Mark 15:25, 33–34 The Greek speakers present misunderstood his words and thought he was calling for Elijah. What he said is still misunderstood by many today. Four main explanations of his terrible cry of ‘dereliction’ (desertion, abandonment) have been offered. All commentators agree that he was quoting Psalm 22:1. But they are not agreed as to why he did so. What was the significance of this quotation on his lips?
First, some suggest that it was a cry of anger, unbelief or despair. Perhaps he had clung to the hope that even at the last moment the Father would send angels to rescue him, or at least that in the midst of his utter obedience to the Father’s will he would continue to experience the comfort of the Father’s presence. But no, it was now clear to him that he had been abandoned, and he cried out with a heart-rending ‘why?’ of dismay or defiance. His faith failed him. But of course, these interpreters add, he was mistaken. He imagined he was forsaken, when he was not. Those who thus explain the cry of dereliction can scarcely realize what they are doing. They are denying the moral perfection of the character of Jesus. They are saying that he was guilty of unbelief on the cross, as of cowardice in the garden. They are accusing him of failure, and failure at the moment of his greatest and supremest self-sacrifice. Christian faith protests against this explanation.
A second interpretation, which is a modification of the first, is to understand the shout of dereliction as a cry of loneliness. Jesus, it is now maintained, knew God’s promises never to fail or forsake his people. E.g. Josh. 1:5, 9 and Isa. 41:10 He knew the steadfastness of God’s covenant love. So his ‘why?’ was not a complaint that God had actually forsaken him, but rather that he had allowed him to feel forsaken. ‘I have sometimes thought’, wrote T. R. Glover, ‘there never was an utterance that reveals more amazingly the distance between feeling and fact.’ (T. R. Glover, The Jesus of History) Instead of addressing God as ‘Father’, he could now call him only ‘my God’, which is indeed an affirmation of faith in his covenant faithfulness, but falls short of declaring his fatherly loving-kindness. In this case Jesus was neither mistaken, nor unbelieving, but experiencing what the saints have called ‘the dark night of the soul’, and indeed doing so deliberately out of solidarity with us. In this condition, as Thomas J. Crawford puts it, the people of God ‘derive no conscious satisfaction from the joys of his favour and the comforts of his fellowship’. They are granted ‘no approving smile, no commending voice, no inward manifestation of the divine favour’. (Thomas J. Crawford, The Doctrine Of Holy Scripture Respecting The Atonement (1871)) This explanation is possible. It does not cast a slur on the character of Jesus like the first. Yet there seems to be an insuperable difficulty in the way of adopting it, namely that the words of Psalm 22:1 express an experience of being, and not just feeling, God-forsaken.
A third quite popular interpretation is to say that Jesus was uttering a cry of victory, the exact opposite of the first explanation, the cry of despair. The argument now is that, although Jesus quoted only the first verse of Psalm 22, he did so to represent the whole Psalm which begins and continues with an account of appalling sufferings, but ends with great confidence, and even triumph: ‘I will declare your name to my brothers; in the congregation I will praise you. You who fear the Lord, praise him!...For he has not despised or disdained the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help’ (vv. 22). This is ingenious but (it seems to me) far-fetched. Why should Jesus have quoted from the Psalm’s beginning if in reality he was alluding to its end? It would seem rather perverse. Would anybody have understood his purpose?
The fourth explanation is simple and straightforward. It is to take the words at their face value and to understand them as a cry of real dereliction. I agree with Dale who wrote: ‘I decline to accept any explanation of these words which implies that they do not represent the actual truth of our Lord’s position.’ (R. W. Dale, The Atonement) Jesus had no need to repent of uttering a false cry. Up to this moment, though forsaken by men, he could add, ‘Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me’ (John 16:32).
In the darkness, however, he was absolutely alone, being now also God-forsaken. As Calvin put it, ‘If Christ had died only a bodily death, it would have been ineffectual...Unless his soul shared in the punishment, he would have been the Redeemer of bodies alone.’ In consequence, ‘he paid a greater and more excellent price in suffering in his soul the terrible torments of a condemned and forsaken man’. (Calvin’s Institutes, II. Institutes of the Christian Religion (Set of 2 volumes)) So then an actual and dreadful separation took place between the Father and the Son; it was voluntarily accepted by both the Father and the Son; it was due to our sins and their just reward; and Jesus expressed this horror of great darkness, this God-forsakenness, by quoting the only verse of Scripture which accurately described it, and which he had perfectly fulfilled, namely, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ The theological objections and problems we shall come to later, although we already insist that the God-forsakenness of Jesus on the cross must be balanced with such an equally biblical assertion as ‘God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ’. C. E. B. Cranfield is right to emphasize both the truth that Jesus experienced ‘not merely a felt, but a real, abandonment by his Father’ and ‘the paradox that, while this God-forsakenness was utterly real, the unity of the Blessed Trinity was even then unbroken’. (C. E. B. Cranfield, The Gospel according to St Mark: An Introduction and Commentary (Cambridge Greek Testament Commentaries)) At this point, however, it is enough to suggest that Jesus had been meditating on Psalm 22, which describes the cruel persecution of an innocent and godly man, as he was meditating on other Psalms which he quoted from the cross; (E.g. ‘I am thirsty’ (John 19:28) is an allusion to Ps. 69:21 (cf. Ps. 22:15), and ‘Into your hands I commit my spirit’ (Luke 23:46), a quotation of Ps. 31:5.) that he quoted verse 1 for the same reason that he quoted every other Scripture, namely that he believed he was fulfilling it; and that his cry was in the form of a question (‘Why...?’), not because he did not know its answer, but only because the Old Testament text itself (which he was quoting) was in that form.
Almost immediately after the cry of dereliction, Jesus uttered three more words or sentences in quick succession. First, ‘I am thirsty’, his great spiritual sufferings having taken their toll of him physically. Secondly, he called out, again (according to Matthew and Mark) in a loud voice, ‘It is finished.’ And thirdly the tranquil, voluntary, confident self-commendation, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit,’ as he breathed his last breath. (John 19:28, 30; Luke 23:46) The middle cry, the loud shout of victory, is in the Gospel text the single word tetelestai. Being in the perfect tense, it means ‘it has been and will for ever remain finished’. We note the achievement Jesus claimed just before he died. It is not men who have finished their brutal deed; it is he who has accomplished what he came into the world to do. He has borne the sins of the world. Deliberately, freely and in perfect love he has endured the judgment in our place. He has procured salvation for us, established a new covenant between God and humankind, and made available the chief covenant blessing, the forgiveness of sins. At once the curtain of the Temple, which for centuries had symbolized the alienation of sinners from God, was torn in two from top to bottom, in order to demonstrate that the sin-barrier had been thrown down by God, and the way into his presence opened.
Thirty-six hours later God raised Jesus from the dead. He who had been condemned for us in his death, was publicly vindicated in his resurrection. It was God’s decisive demonstration that he had not died in vain.
All this presents a coherent and logical picture. It gives an explanation of the death of Jesus which takes into proper scientific account all the available data, without avoiding any. It explains the central importance which Jesus attached to his death, why he instituted his supper to commemorate it, and how by his death the new covenant has been ratified, with its promise of forgiveness. It explains his agony of anticipation in the garden, his anguish of dereliction on the cross, and his claim to have decisively accomplished our salvation. All these phenomena become intelligible if we accept the explanation given by Jesus and his apostles that ‘he himself bore our sins in his body on the tree’.
In conclusion, the cross enforces three truths – about ourselves, about God and about Jesus Christ.
First, our sin must be extremely horrible. Nothing reveals the gravity of sin like the cross. For ultimately what sent Christ there was neither the greed of Judas, nor the envy of the priests, nor the vacillating cowardice of Pilate, but our own greed, envy, cowardice and other sins, and Christ’s resolve in love and mercy to bear their judgment and so put them away. It is impossible for us to face Christ’s cross with integrity and not to feel ashamed of ourselves. Apathy, selfishness and complacency blossom everywhere in the world except at the cross. There these noxious weeds shrivel and die. They are seen for the tatty, poisonous things they are. For if there was no way by which the righteous God could righteously forgive our unrighteousness, except that he should bear it himself in Christ, it must be serious indeed. It is only when we see this that, stripped of our self-righteousness and self-satisfaction, we are ready to put our trust in Jesus Christ as the Saviour we urgently need.
Secondly, God’s love must be wonderful beyond comprehension. God could quite justly have abandoned us to our fate. He could have left us alone to reap the fruit of our wrongdoing and to perish in our sins. It is what we deserved. But he did not. Because he loved us, he came after us in Christ. He pursued us even to the desolate anguish of the cross, where he bore our sin, guilt, judgment and death. It takes a hard and stony heart to remain unmoved by love like that. It is more than love. Its proper name is ‘grace’, which is love to the undeserving.
Thirdly, Christ’s salvation must be a free gift. He ‘purchased’ it for us at the high price of his own life-blood. So what is there left for us to pay? Nothing! Since he claimed that all was now ‘finished’, there is nothing for us to contribute. Not of course that we now have a licence to sin and can always count on God’s forgiveness. On the contrary, the same cross of Christ, which is the ground of a free salvation, is also the most powerful incentive to a holy life. But this new life follows. First, we have to humble ourselves at the foot of the cross, confess that we have sinned and deserve nothing at his hand but judgment, thank him that he loved us and died for us, and receive from him a full and free forgiveness. Against this self-humbling our ingrained pride rebels. We resent the idea that we cannot earn – or even contribute to – our own salvation. So we stumble, as Paul put it, over the stumbling-block of the cross.
Thanks to Meir Yona
8. And these were the hard circumstances that the people of Gamala were in. But now Vespasian went about other work by the by, during this siege, and that was to subdue those that had seized upon Mount Tabor, a place that lies in the middle between the great plain and Scythopolis, whose top is elevated as high as thirty furlongs 2 and is hardly to be ascended on its north side; its top is a plain of twenty-six furlongs, and all encompassed with a wall. Now Josephus erected this so long a wall in forty days' time, and furnished it with other materials, and with water from below, for the inhabitants only made use of rain water. As therefore there was a great multitude of people gotten together upon this mountain, Vespasian sent Placidus with six hundred horsemen thither. Now, as it was impossible for him to ascend the mountain, he invited many of them to peace, by the offer of his right hand for their security, and of his intercession for them. Accordingly they came down, but with a treacherous design, as well as he had the like treacherous design upon them on the other side; for Placidus spoke mildly to them, as aiming to take them, when he got them into the plain; they also came down, as complying with his proposals, but it was in order to fall upon him when he was not aware of it: however, Placidus's stratagem was too hard for theirs; for when the Jews began to fight, he pretended to run away, and when they were in pursuit of the Romans, he enticed them a great way along the plain, and then made his horsemen turn back; whereupon he beat them, and slew a great number of them, and cut off the retreat of the rest of the multitude, and hindered their return. So they left Tabor, and fled to Jerusalem, while the people of the country came to terms with him, for their water failed them, and so they delivered up the mountain and themselves to Placidus.
9. But of the people of Gamala, those that were of the bolder sort fled away and hid themselves, while the more infirm perished by famine; but the men of war sustained the siege till the two and twentieth day of the month Hyperbereteus, [Tisri,] when three soldiers of the fifteenth legion, about the Morning watch, got under a high tower that was near them, and undermined it, without making any noise; nor when they either came to it, which was in the night time, nor when they were under it, did those that guarded it perceive them. These soldiers then upon their coming avoided making a noise, and when they had rolled away five of its strongest stones, they went away hastily; whereupon the tower fell down on a sudden, with a very great noise, and its guard fell headlong with it; so that those that kept guard at other places were under such disturbance, that they ran away; the Romans also slew many of those that ventured to oppose them, among whom was Joseph, who was slain by a dart, as he was running away over that part of the wall that was broken down: but as those that were in the city were greatly affrighted at the noise, they ran hither and thither, and a great consternation fell upon them, as though all the enemy had fallen in at once upon them. Then it was that Chares, who was ill, and under the physician's hands, gave up the ghost, the fear he was in greatly contributing to make his distemper fatal to him. But the Romans so well remembered their former ill success, that they did not enter the city till the three and twentieth day of the forementioned month.
10. At which time Titus, who was now returned, out of the indignation he had at the destruction the Romans had undergone while he was absent, took two hundred chosen horsemen and some footmen with him, and entered without noise into the city. Now as the watch perceived that he was coming, they made a noise, and betook themselves to their arms; and as that his entrance was presently known to those that were in the city, some of them caught hold of their children and their wives, and drew them after them, and fled away to the citadel, with lamentations and cries, while others of them went to meet Titus, and were killed perpetually; but so many of them as were hindered from running up to the citadel, not knowing what in the world to do, fell among the Roman guards, while the groans of those that were killed were prodigiously great every where, and blood ran down over all the lower parts of the city, from the upper. But then Vespasian himself came to his assistance against those that had fled to the citadel, and brought his whole army with him; now this upper part of the city was every way rocky, and difficult of ascent, and elevated to a vast altitude, and very full of people on all sides, and encompassed with precipices, whereby the Jews cut off those that came up to them, and did much mischief to others by their darts, and the large stones which they rolled down upon them, while they were themselves so high that the enemy's darts could hardly reach them. However, there arose such a Divine storm against them as was instrumental to their destruction; this carried the Roman darts upon them, and made those which they threw return back, and drove them obliquely away from them; nor could the Jews indeed stand upon their precipices, by reason of the violence of the wind, having nothing that was stable to stand upon, nor could they see those that were ascending up to them; so the Romans got up and surrounded them, and some they slew before they could defend themselves, and others as they were delivering up themselves; and the remembrance of those that were slain at their former entrance into the city increased their rage against them now; a great number also of those that were surrounded on every side, and despaired of escaping, threw their children and their wives, and themselves also, down the precipices, into the valley beneath, which, near the citadel, had been dug hollow to a vast depth; but so it happened, that the anger of the Romans appeared not to be so extravagant as was the madness of those that were now taken, while the Romans slew but four thousand, whereas the number of those that had thrown themselves down was found to be five thousand: nor did any one escape except two women, who were the daughters of Philip, and Philip himself was the son of a certain eminent man called Jacimus, who had been general of king Agrippa's army; and these did therefore escape, because they lay concealed from the rage of the Romans when the city was taken; for otherwise they spared not so much as the infants, of which many were flung down by them from the citadel. And thus was Gamala taken on the three and twentieth day of the month Hyperbereteus, [Tisri,] whereas the city had first revolted on the four and twentieth 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 WhistonThe War of the Jews: The History of the Destruction of Jerusalem (complete edition, 7 books)
Pre-Trib Research Center
The number one question in Bible prophecy is — where is America in the end times? I’ve been asked this question so many times that I decided to write a book to address all the issues related to America in Bible prophecy. The book is titled The Late Great United States: What Bible Prophecy Reveals about America’s Last Days. The thesis of the book is that America is not mentioned in the Bible, either directly or indirectly and that this silence is significant. The Scriptures reveal that the major superpower in the end times, at least by the mid-point of the tribulation, will be a reunited Roman Empire ( Revelation 13:4 ). This European dominance can only be explained in light of America’s decline.
John Walvoord sees no major end time role for America. “Although conclusions concerning the role of America in prophecy in the end time are necessarily tentative, the Scriptural evidence is sufficient to conclude that America in that day will not be a major power and apparently does not figure largely in either the political, economic, or religious aspects of the world.” Charles Ryrie agrees:
The Bible has made crystal clear the destiny of many nations. Babylon, Persia, Greece, Rome, Egypt, Russia, and Israel . . . But not so with the United States . . . The Bible’s silence concerning the future of the United States might well mean that she will play no prominent role in the end time drama. A nation does not have to be named in order to be identified in Bible prophecy. When Ezekiel described the future Russian invasion he used the phrase “remote parts of the north” ( Ezekiel 38:15 ). Surely some prophet would have predicted something about those countries or peoples in the remote parts of the West if God had intended a major end-time role for them in the Western Hemisphere.
The fact is that no one did. . . .
Instead, we are led to conclude that the United States will be neutralized, subordinated, or wiped out, thus having little or no part in the political and military affairs of the end time.”
To be sure, I don’t want to see the United States decline. I love this country, but it seems unlikely to me that the United States will play a key role in the end times. But what could reduce America to a subordinate role? What kind of event could bring America to its knees? While we cannot speak with certainty at this point — since the Bible doesn’t tell us — we can make some educated guesses. Several plausible scenarios fit the current world situation. They could occur alone . . . or in a fatal combination. In the last year, we have witnessed major developments on three fronts that threaten the continued role of the America as the world’s superpower. These three fronts are the internal, moral condition of our nation, the threat from the outside by nuclear terror, and the economic peril of a diminishing role for America and the dollar. Let’s update each of these areas briefly. I’m sad to say that the news is not good.
Robert Bork, in his book Slouching Towards Gomorrah: Modern Liberalism and American Decline, says, “American culture is complex and resilient. But it is also not to be denied that there are many aspects of almost every branch of our culture that are worse than ever before and that the rot is spreading.” Sadly, this is true. The national disaster of almost 50% out-of-wedlock birth, a $12 billion a year pornography industry, and 50 million abortions since 1973 are dreadful scourges on the national landscape.
Added to this, the homosexual movement continues to propel its agenda forward, tragically affirming America’s deepening slide into the death spiral of judgment described in Romans 1:24-31. Homosexual marriage has been legal in Massachusetts and Connecticut for some time, but more states continue to legalize it. The Iowa Supreme Court voided the state’s gay marriage ban in April 2009. Same sex marriages became legal in Iowa on April 27, 2009. Vermont, which has allowed civil unions for gays and lesbians for ten years, became the first state to passing legislation sanctioning same-sex marriage. The state legislature had the votes to override the governor’s veto. Same-sex marriage will become legal there on September 1, 2009. Maine has also approved same-sex marriage. More states are considering similar legislation as the dominos continue to fall. The sexual revolution of Romans 1:24-25 has been followed with shocking suddenness by the homosexual revolution of Romans 1:26-27.
The ridicule and derision of Miss California in the Miss USA contest and the federal hate crimes legislation are two more examples of the lemming-like rush to silence any speech or action opposed to homosexuality and same-sex marriage. America is hemorrhaging from within. The Huns and Vandals of moral rot are upon us.
The Nuclear Front
Pakistan is in growing danger of becoming Talibanistan. The northwest region of the country could already be described as a “little” Talibanistan. There’s real and growing fear that the unstable government in Pakistan could be in danger of falling to the Taliban. The dailymail.co.uk reported that “Pakistanan teetered on the brink of collapse today as Taliban fighters threatened to overrun the volatile country.” The LA Times (May 8, 2009) ran an article titled “Pakistan on the Precipice?” General David Petraeus, the head of US central command, warns that the Taliban pose a threat “to the very existence of the Pakistani state.” The number one priority for the United States is to safeguard Islamabad’s nuclear arsenal. Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal totals at least 55 warheads. Allowing these weapons to fall into Taliban hands is not an option. Added to the Pakistan threat, North Korea continues to taunt the world with its nuclear program and Iran is close to crossing the nuclear finish line. The horrifying threat of a nuclear 9/11 is growing.
It’s the Economy Stupid
Thomas Macauley, a British Parliamentarian, wrote these sobering words about the United States in 1857. “Your Republic will be as fearfully plundered and laid waste by barbarians in the 20th century as the Roman Empire was in the 5th century, with this difference — the Huns and Vandals who ravaged the Roman Empire came from without, and your Huns and Vandals will have been engendered within your own country. Tragically, we are witnessing this today on both the moral and economic fronts. ( Even more today, August 15, 2021. Come Lord Jesus. )
The economic tsunami is being leveraged by powerful world leaders as an incredible opportunity to drastically move the world to a global economy and one world currency. The recent G20 meeting in London, called “The London Summit 2008,” confirmed this sharp left turn away from American prominence toward globalism. Time magazine ran an article on April 6, 2009 titled “Is the Almighty Dollar Doomed?” that chronicles the growing consensus that the days of the dollar reserve system are numbered. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said that the days of U.S. primacy are gone and that “global problems require global solutions.” The G20 meeting is the wave of the future. It has been called the “archetype for future global negotiations.” “It’s the passing of an era,” said Robert Hormats, vice chairman of Goldman Sachs International, who helped prepare summits for presidents Gerald R. Ford, Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan. “The U.S. is becoming less dominant while other nations are gaining influence.” 
It’s not great surprise why America’s stock is dropping. America’s national debt now stands at a staggering $11 trillion dollars . . . and counting. The numbers on America’s infamous debt clock near New York’s Times Square have been spinning like the dial on Clark Griswold’s electric meter. Major financial institutions have been nationalized. Many have noted that America is on the road to socialism. Newsweek’s attention-grabbing cover story on February 16, 2009 was “We Are All Socialists Now.” That same issue of Newsweek ran an article titled “Big Government is Back — Big Time” that highlights the fact that more and more Americans are looking to the government for support. Cradle to grave entitlements have led to what is being dubbed a “nanny state.” The words of Thomas Jefferson are a stark reminder and warning: “A government big enough to give you everything you want is strong enough to take everything you have.” According to the Bible that’s exactly where this all is ultimately headed under the Antichrist.
The U.S. recession is having a devastating effect on entitlements. In 2008, U.S. debt was 41% of the economy; in 2010 it will be 62% of the economy — a 50% increase in just two years. This kind of debt load is unsustainable. Medicare is already paying out more money than it receives. This just began last year for the first time. The Medicare trust fund will be insolvent by 2017. Social Security will be paying out more than it receives in 2016 and will be belly-up by 2037. Time magazine (March 24, 2008) could be right: “The 21st century will overturn many of our basic assumptions about economic life. The 20th century saw the end of European dominance of global politics and economics. The 21st century will see the end of American dominance too.”
The End of America
Add in the rapture to all these surging problems and America will become a second-rate nation in the twinkling of an eye. The rapture will change everything! While there are believers in every nation, America has a larger percentage of believers than any other nation on earth. Think about the Dow Jones the next day. The bank failures. The immediate extraction of the salt and light from the U.S. may be God’s final judgment on America.
What Can We Do?
No one on earth knows when the rapture will occur and America will fall. In the meantime we must never forget to follow God’s domestic policy for our nation by praying earnestly for our nation and leaders ( 1 Timothy 2:2 ) and living righteous lives ( Proverbs 14:34 ), and to fulfill God’s foreign policy by sharing the good news with the nations ( Romans 10:15 ) and blessing the Jewish people ( Genesis 12:1-3 ). We must remember that the fate of a nation is not ultimately dependent upon politics, military might, or economics, but on righteousness, goodness, and mercy.Article Source
Dr. Mark Hitchcock Books
by D.H. Stern
let your eyes observe my ways.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
My Utmost for His Highest
Said I not unto thee, that if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God? --- John 11:40.
Every time you venture out in the life of faith, you will find something in your commonsense circumstances that flatly contradicts your faith. Common sense is not faith, and faith is not common sense; they stand in the relation of the natural and the spiritual. Can you trust Jesus Christ where your common sense cannot trust Him? Can you venture heroically on Jesus Christ’s statements when the facts of your commonsense life shout ‘It’s a lie’? On the mount it is easy to say—‘Oh yes, I believe God can do it’; but you have to come down into the demon-possessed valley and meet with facts that laugh ironically at the whole of your mount-of-transfiguration belief. Every time my programme of belief is clear to my own mind, I come across something that contradicts it. Let me say I believe God will supply all my need, and then let me run dry, with no outlook, and see whether I will go through the trial of faith, or whether I will sink back to something lower.
Faith must be tested, because it can be turned into a personal possession only through conflict. What is your faith up against just now? The test will either prove that your faith is right, or it will kill it. “Blessed is he whosoever shall not be offended in Me.” The final thing is confidence in Jesus. Believe steadfastly on Him and all you come up against will develop your faith. There is continual testing in the life of faith, and the last great test is death. May God keep us in fighting trim! Faith is unutterable trust in God which never dreams that He will not stand by us.
the Poetry of RS Thomas
The fox drags its wounded belly
Over the snow, the crimson seeds
Of blood burst with a mild explosion,
Soft as excrement, bold as roses.
Over the snow that feels no pity,
Whose white hands can give no healing,
The fox drags its wounded belly.
BIBLE TEXT / Leviticus 20:25–26 / So you shall set apart the clean beast from the unclean, the unclean bird from the clean. You shall not draw abomination upon yourselves through beast or bird or anything with which the ground is alive, which I have set apart for you to treat as unclean. You shall be holy to Me, for I the Lord am holy, and I have set you apart from other peoples to be Mine.
MIDRASH TEXT / Sifra Kedoshim 9:11–12 / You shall be holy to Me, for I the Lord am holy. Just as I am holy, so you too shall be holy. Just as I abstain, so too you shall abstain.
I have set you apart from other peoples to be Mine. If you are set apart from other peoples—then you are Mine. And if not, you belong to Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, and his associates.
Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah says, “From where [do we know] that a person should not say, ‘It is impossible for me to eat pork; it is impossible for me to have sexual relations with a forbidden person,’ but rather, ‘It is possible for me, but what can I do since my Father in heaven has decreed this upon me?’ The Torah says, ‘I have set you apart from other peoples to be Mine’—this means abstaining from sin and accepting upon himself the Kingdom of heaven.”
CONTEXT / Our Midrash looks to define the concept of “holiness” and to understand what it means to be “a holy people.” Since no independent definition of the term is given in the Bible, the Rabbis have to develop their understanding of holiness based upon the context in which the concept is used. From the biblical passage that is quoted, we can see an important clue. To be holy is, in some way, to be like God, since God is holy: “You shall be holy to Me, for I the Lord am holy.” We then have to ask: What aspect of God is it possible for human beings to emulate? The Rabbis center on the idea that God is different, special, unique. By nature, God is distinct from every other thing in the universe. However, the Jewish people are not, by their very nature, different from every other people. If the Jews are going to emulate God’s uniqueness, then it can be only by their making conscious choices to be different. Consequently, the word “holy” is translated by the Rabbis using the Hebrew word פָּרוּשׁ/parush, “abstaining.” Just as I abstain, so too you shall abstain. One becomes holy by abstaining from certain behaviors in which the rest of the world engages.
This brings us to why Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah chose as his two examples pork and forbidden sexual relations. Chapter 20 of the Book of Leviticus speaks about “holiness.” Much of this chapter then concerns itself with biblical notions of sexual immorality: adultery, incest, homosexuality, and bestiality (20:10–21). This is the basis of the statement in the Midrash about forbidden sexual relations. The Torah then goes on, in verse 25, to refer to the dietary restrictions, mentioning in particular animals and fowl. Because the Torah discusses both together, Rabbi Elazar uses both examples.
The Midrash continues by advising how one should relate to these restrictions. One should not say, “It is impossible for me to eat pork.” That is, “Pork is disgusting; I hate pork.” “It is impossible for me to have sexual relations with a forbidden person,” in other words, “That woman is repulsive, and therefore I could never have sex with her.” Rather, one should take the approach: “There is nothing inherently bad about pork. We Jews don’t eat it because God told us not to.” And “That woman is desirable, but because she is married, I may not have relations with her.” In the words of the Midrash, “What can I do since my Father in heaven has decreed this upon me?” By abstaining from such forbidden things, the Jews would be set apart as different, unique, special—that is, holy.
In the middle section of this Midrash, Nebuchadnezzar is cast as the negative alternative to God. Nebuchadnezzar was King of Babylon (605–562 B.C.E.), conqueror of Judah, and the destroyer of the First Temple in Jerusalem. He is often used by the Rabbis as a veiled substitute for the Roman emperor of their own time.
He spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm.--- Psalm 33:9.
The power of God appears in raising up a church to himself in spite of all his enemies. (Thomas Boston, “Of God and His Perfections,” downloaded from The Boston Homepage at www.geocities.com/~thomasboston, accessed Aug. 21, 2001.) For there were many and great difficulties in the way, such as gross and detestable idolatry. The princes of the world thought themselves obliged to prevent the introduction of a new religion, for fear that their empires should be in danger or the greatness and majesty of them impaired. If we consider the means by which the Gospel was propagated, the divine power will evidently appear. The persons employed in this great work were a few illiterate fishers, with a publican and a tentmaker, without authority to force people to obedience and without eloquence to enforce the belief of the doctrines they taught. Yet this doctrine prevailed, and the Gospel had wonderful success through all the parts of the then-known world. How could this possibly be, without a mighty operation of the power of God on human hearts?
The power of God appears in preserving, defending, and supporting his church under the trouble and persecution that were raised against it: “The gates of Hades will not overcome it” (Matt. 16:18). The most flourishing monarchies have decayed and wasted, and the strongest kingdoms have been broken in pieces, yet the church has been preserved to this very day. God has displayed his power in the preservation of his church and people, notwithstanding all the rage, power, and malice of their enemies.
The power of God appears in the conversion of the elect. O what a mighty power quells the lusts and stubbornness of the heart, demolishes the strongholds of sin in the soul, routs all the armies of corrupt nature, and makes the obstinate and rebellious will strike sail to Christ! The power of God that is exerted here is greater than there was in the creation of the world. For when God made the world, he met with no opposition; but when he comes to convert a sinner, he meets with all the opposition that the Devil and a corrupt heart can make against him. God wrought only one miracle in the creation, but there are many miracles wrought in conversion. The blind is made to see, the dead raised, and the deaf hears the voice of the Son of God. O the infinite power of Jehovah! In this work the mighty arm of the Lord in revealed.
--- Thomas Boston
Mass Escape August 29
John Dick, son of an Edinburgh lawyer, was a graduate of Edinburgh University where he studied theology in hope of becoming a minister of the Gospel. He didn’t make it, for he was among the Presbyterians deemed outlaws during the reign of Charles II. He lived a fugitive’s life until betrayed by a poor woman who later lost her mind over the incident.
John was brought before the Committee of Public Affairs on August 29, 1683, found guilty of treason, and sentenced to die by hanging. The Canongate tollbooth contained two large upper cells, and John, tossed into one of them, found there two dozen other religious prisoners. The men joined hearts in prayer, asking God’s help as they planned a mass escape. News seeped out, and Presbyterians all over Edinburgh prayed for a successful breakout. On the appointed night, the men begin sawing painstakingly through the iron bars of their glassless window.
The first bar was cut about nine o’clock, but to the horror of all, before any of them could catch it, it fell down into the narrow street near the sentry. They held their breath and watched and prayed, but no alarm sounded. They continued their furtive work; then one by one, the men dropped from the window and disappeared into the night. The next Morning, confusion erupted through official Edinburgh. Police, city fathers, guards and sentries were questioned; but none of the prisoners was ever recaptured—except John Dick. He enjoyed but six months of freedom, using the time to write his 58-page The One Year Christian History (One Year Books) which, despite its unwieldy title, circulated widely. Then, his book finished, he was captured; and on the scaffold he sang Psalm 2, read Ezekiel 9, and preached his last sermon, saying: “Remember when Abraham was about to sacrifice his son? Isaac said, ‘Here is the wood, and the fire, but where is the sacrifice?’ ” John Dick turned and gazed upon the gallows. “Now blessed be the Lord,” he said, “here is the sacrifice.”
They arrested the apostles and put them in the city jail. But that night an angel from the Lord opened the doors of the jail and led the apostles out.
--- Acts 5:18.
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - August 29
“Have mercy upon me, O God.”
--- Psalm 51:1.
When Dr. Carey was suffering from a dangerous illness, the enquiry was made, “If this sickness should prove fatal, what passage would you select as the text for your funeral sermon?” He replied, “Oh, I feel that such a poor sinful creature is unworthy to have anything said about him; but if a funeral sermon must be preached, let it be from the words, ‘Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness; according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions.’ ” In the same spirit of humility he directed in his will that the following inscription and nothing more should be cut on his gravestone:—
WILLIAM CAREY, BORN AUGUST 17th, 1761: DIED - -
“A wretched, poor, and helpless worm
On thy kind arms I fall.”
Only on the footing of free grace can the most experienced and most honoured of the saints approach their God. The best of men are conscious above all others that they are men at the best. Empty boats float high, but heavily laden vessels are low in the water; mere professors can boast, but true children of God cry for mercy upon their unprofitableness. We have need that the Lord should have mercy upon our good works, our prayers, our preachings, our alms-givings, and our holiest things. The blood was not only sprinkled upon the doorposts of Israel’s dwelling houses, but upon the sanctuary, the mercy-seat, and the altar, because as sin intrudes into our holiest things, the blood of Jesus is needed to purify them from defilement. If mercy be needed to be exercised towards our duties, what shall be said of our sins? How sweet the remembrance that inexhaustible mercy is waiting to be gracious to us, to restore our backslidings, and make our broken bones rejoice!
Evening - August 29
“All the days of his separation shall he eat nothing that is made of the vine tree, from the kernels even to the husk.” --- Numbers 6:4.
Nazarites had taken, among other vows, one which debarred them from the use of wine. In order that they might not violate the obligation, they were forbidden to drink the vinegar of wine or strong liquors, and to make the rule still more clear, they were not to touch the unfermented juice of grapes, nor even to eat the fruit either fresh or dried. In order, altogether, to secure the integrity of the vow, they were not even allowed anything that had to do with the vine; they were, in fact, to avoid the appearance of evil. Surely this is a lesson to the Lord’s separated ones, teaching them to come away from sin in every form, to avoid not merely its grosser shapes, but even its spirit and similitude. Strict walking is much despised in these days, but rest assured, dear reader, it is both the safest and the happiest. He who yields a point or two to the world is in fearful peril; he who eats the grapes of Sodom will soon drink the wine of Gomorrah. A little crevice in the sea-bank in Holland lets in the sea, and the gap speedily swells till a province is drowned. Worldly conformity, in any degree, is a snare to the soul, and makes it more and more liable to presumptuous sins. Moreover, as the Nazarite who drank grape juice could not be quite sure whether it might not have endured a degree of fermentation, and consequently could not be clear in heart that his vow was intact, so the yielding, temporizing Christian cannot wear a conscience void of offence, but must feel that the inward monitor is in doubt of him. Things doubtful we need not doubt about; they are wrong to us. Things tempting we must not dally with, but flee from them with speed. Better be sneered at as a Puritan than be despised as a hypocrite. Careful walking may involve much self-denial, but it has pleasures of its own which are more than a sufficient recompense.
PRECIOUS LORD, TAKE MY HAND
Thomas A. Dorsey, 1899–1993
For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, “Do not fear; I will help you.” Isaiah 41:13)
Out of a broken heart after his wife and newly born son had both died, Thomas Dorsey cried to his Lord to lead him “through the storm, through the night” In doing so, he created lines that have since ministered to others in an unusual way. This tender song, written by a black Gospel musician in 1932, has since been a favorite with Christians everywhere.
Thomas A. Dorsey grew up in Georgia as a “preacher’s kid.” As he began to be successful as a composer of jazz and blues songs, however, he drifted away from God. After it seemed to him that he was miraculously spared in brushes with death, Dorsey came back to the Lord. As his life dramatically changed he began to write Gospel songs and to sing in church services. It was during a revival meeting in St. Louis, Missouri, that he received a telegram telling the tragic news of his wife and infant son. Stunned and grief-stricken, Dorsey cried, “God, you aren’t worth a dime to me right now!”
A few weeks later, however, as Dorsey fingered the keyboard of a piano, he created the lines of “Precious Lord” to fit a tune that was familiar to him. The following Sunday the choir of the Ebenezer Baptist Church in South Chicago, Illinois, sang the new song with Dorsey playing the accompaniment. “It tore up the church!”
God continued to lead Thomas Dorsey by the hand until he had written more than 250 Gospel songs. He once stated:
“My business is to try to bring people to Christ instead of leaving them where they are. I write for all of God’s people. All people are my people. What I share with people is love. I try to lift their spirits and let them know that God still loves them. He’s still saving, and He can still give that power.”
* * * *
Precious Lord, take my hand, lead me on, help me stand—I am tired, I am weak, I am worn; thro’ the storm, thro’ the night, lead me on to the light—Take my hand, precious Lord, lead me home.
When my way grows drear, Precious Lord, linger near—when my life is almost gone. Hear my cry, hear my call, hold my hand lest I fall—Take my hand, precious Lord, lead me home.
For Today: 27:11; 48:14; John 1:7; 10:3
Enjoy the fellowship of God so strongly that you feel He is holding your hand and leading you in whatever circumstances you may find yourself. Share this testimony of Thomas Dorsey as you go ---
Origins and Authority of NT
"Canon Revisited: Establishing the Origins and Authority of the New Testament Books
At this point, the critic of the New Testament might respond by saying that this whole affair sounds suspiciously circular. After all, it is no surprise that Christians “conclude” that the New Testament is harmonious—they already believe in the truth of the New Testament from the outset! Therefore, it is not proper (it is argued) to allow those who believe the New Testament to be the final judges of its theological harmony. (112) However, this argument cuts both ways. If the Christian assumes the truth of the New Testament while arguing for its unity, then it is clear that the non-Christian assumes the falsity of the New Testament while arguing for its disunity. He assumes that (at least) 1 Corinthians 2:14 is mistaken and that New Testament theology can be understood rightly by those without the Spirit. (113) Thus, one could ask why we should allow those who have already rejected the New Testament to be the final judges of its theological harmony? Again, keeping with the music analogy, that would be like allowing a person who is tone-deaf (and thus rejects this whole concept of being “on key”) to judge a singing contest. If the tone-deaf person were kept from judging, he might object and claim that this whole “on key” thing is a sham run by musical insiders who claim to have a special ability to hear such things. But despite all the protests, the truth of the matter would remain: there is such a thing as being on key whether the tone-deaf person hears it or not.
DISCOURSE III - ON GOD’S BEING A SPIRIT
We can conceive no other of God, if he were not a pure, entire, unmixed Spirit. If he had distinct parts, he would depend upon them; those parts would be before him; his essence would be the effect of those distinct parts, and so be would not be absolutely and entirely the first being; but he is so (Isa. 44:6): “I am the first, and I am the last.” He is the first; nothing is before him. Whereas, if he had bodily parts, and those finite, it would follow, God is made up of those parts which are not God; and that which is not God, is in order of nature before that which is God. So that we see if God were not a Spirit he could not be independent.
6. If God were not a Spirit, he were not immutable and unchangeable. His immutability depends upon his simplicity. He is unchangeable in his essence, because he is a pure and unmixed spiritual Being. Whatsoever is compounded of parts may be divided into those parts, and resolved into those distinct parts which make up and constitute the nature. Whatsoever is compounded is changeable in its own nature, though it should never be changed. Adam, who was constituted of body and soul, had he stood in innocence, had not died; there had been no separation made between his soul and body whereof he was constituted, and his body had not resolved into those principles of dust from whence it was extracted. Y et in his own nature he was dissoluble into those distinct parts whereof he was compounded; and so the glorified saints in heaven, after the resurrection, and the happy meeting of their souls and bodies in a new marriage knot, shall never be dissolved; yet in their own nature they are mutable and dissoluble, and cannot be otherwise, because they are made up of such distinct parts that may be separated in their own nature, unless sustained by the grace of God: they are immutable by will, the will of God, not by nature. God is immutable by nature as well as will: as he hath a necessary existence, so be hath a necessary unchangeableness (Mal. 3:6), “I, the Lord, change not.” He is as unchangeable in his essence as in his veracity and faithfulness: they are perfections belonging to his nature. But if he were not a pure Spirit, he could not be immutable by nature.
7. If God were not a pure Spirit, he could not be omnipresent. He is in heaven above, and the earth below; he fills heaven and earth. The divine essence is at once in heaven and earth; but it is impossible a body can be in two places at one and the same time. Since God is everywhere, he must be spiritual. Had he a body, he could not penetrate all things; he would be circumscribed in place. He could not be everywhere but in parts, not in the whole; one member in one place, and another in another; for to be confined to a particular place, is the property of a body: but, since he is diffused through the whole world, higher than heaven, deeper than hell, longer than the earth, broader than the sea, he hath not any corporeal matter. If he had a body wherewith to fill heaven and earth, there could be no body besides his own: it is the nature of bodies to bound one another, and hinder the extending of one another. Two bodies cannot be in the same place in the same point of earth: one excludes the other; and it will follow hence that we are nothing, no substances, mere illusions; there could be no place for anybody else. If his body were as big as the world, as it must be if with that he filled heaven and earth, there would not be room for him to move a hand or a foot, or extend a finger; for there would be no place remaining for the motion.
8. If God were not a Spirit, he could not be the most perfect being. The more perfect anything is in the rank of creatures, the more spiritual and simple it is, as gold is the more pure and perfect that hath least mixture of other metals. If God were not a Spirit, there would be creatures of a more excellent nature than God, as angels and souls, which the Scripture call spirits, in opposition to bodies. There is more of perfection in the first notion of a spirit than in the notion of a body. God cannot be less perfect than his creatures, and contribute an excellency of being to them which he wants himself. If angels and souls possess such an excellency, and God want that excellency, he would be less than his creatures, and the excellency of the effect would exceed the excellency of the cause. But every creature, even the highest creature, is infinitely short of the perfection of God; for whatsoever excellency they have is finite and limited; it is but a spark from the sun—a drop from the ocean; but God is unboundedly perfect, in the highest manner, without any limitation; and therefore above spirits, angels, the highest creatures that were made by him: an infinite sublimity, a pure act, to which nothing can be added, from which nothing can be taken. “In him there is light and no darkness,” spirituality without any matter, perfection without any shadow or taint of imperfection. Light pierceth into all things, preserves its own purity, and admits of no mixture of anything else with it.
Question. It may be said, If God be a Spirit, and it is impossible he can be otherwise than a Spirit, how comes God so often to have such members as we have in our bodies ascribed to him, not only a soul, but particular bodily parts, as heart, arms, hands, ayes, ears, face, and back parts? And how is it that he is never called a Spirit in plain words, but in this text by our Saviour? Answer. It is true, many parts of the body, and natural affections of the human nature, are reported of God in Scripture. Head, eyes and eye-lids, apple of the eye, mouth, &c.; our affections also, grief, joy, anger, &c. But it is to be considered, 1. That this is in condescension to our weakness. God being desirous to make himself known to man, whom he created for his glory, humbles, as it were, his own nature to such representations as may suit and assist the capacity of the creature; since by the condition of our nature nothing erects a notion of itself in our understanding, but as it is conducted in by our sense. God hath served himself of those things which are most exposed to our sense, most obvious to our understandings, to give us some acquaintance with his own nature, and those things which otherwise we were not capable of having any notion of. As our souls are linked with our bodies, so our knowledge is linked with our sense; that we can scarce imagine anything, at first, but under a corporeal form and figure, till we come, by great attention to the object, to make, by the help of reason, a separation of the spiritual substance from the corporeal fancy, and consider it in its own nature. We are not able to conceive a spirit, without some kind of resemblance to something below it, nor understand the actions of a spirit, without considering the operations of a human body in its several members. As the glories of another life are signified to us by the pleasures of this; so the nature of God, by a gracious condescension to our capacities, is signified to us by a likeness to our own. The more familiar the things are to us which God uses to this purpose, the more proper they are to teach us what he intends by them.
2. All such representations are to signify the acts of God, as they bear some likeness to those which we perform by those members he ascribes to himself. So that those members ascribed to him rather note his visible operations to us, than his invisible nature; and signify that God doth some works like to those which men do by the assistance of those organs of their bodies. So the wisdom of God is called his eye, because he knows that with his mind which we see with our eyes. The efficiency of God is called his hand and arm; because as we act with our hands, so doth God with his power. The divine efficacies are signified:—by his eyes and ears, we understand his omniscience; by his face, the manifestation of his favor; by his mouth, the revelation of his will; by his nostrils, the acceptation of our prayers; by his bowels, the tenderness of his compassion; by his heart, the sincerity of his affections; by his hand, the strength of his power; by his feet, the ubiquity of his presence. And in this, he intends instruction and comfort: by his eyes, he signifies his watchfulness over us; by his ears, his readiness to hear the cries of the oppressed; by his arm, his power—an arm to destroy his enemies, and an arm to relieve his people. All those are attributed to God to signify divine actions, which he doth without bodily organs as we do with them.
3. Consider also, that only those members which are the instruments of the noblest actions, and under that consideration, are used by him to represent a notion of him to our minds. Whatsoever is perfect and excellent is ascribed to him, but nothing that savors of imperfection. The heart is ascribed to him, it being the principle of vital actions, to signify the life that he hath in himself; watchful and discerning ayes, not sleepy and lazy ones; a mouth to reveal his will, not to take in food. To eat and sleep are never ascribed to him, nor those parts that belong to the preparing or transmitting nourishment to the several parts of the body, as stomach, liver, reins, nor bowels under that consideration, but as they are significant of compassion; but only those parts are ascribed to him whereby we acquire knowledge, as eyes and ears, the organs of learning and wisdom; or to communicate it to others, as the mouth, lips, tongue, as they are instruments of speaking, not of tasting; or those parts which signify strength and power, or whereby we perform the actions of charity for the relief of others; taste and touch, senses that extend no farther than to corporeal things, and are the grossest of all the senses, are never ascribed to him.
4. It were worth consideration, “whether this describing God by the members of a human body were so much figuratively to be understood, as with respect to the incarnation of our Saviour, who was to assume the human nature, and all the members of a human body?” Asaph, speaking in the person of God (Psalm 78:1), “I will open my mouth in parables;” in regard of God it is to be understood figuratively, but in regard of Christ literally, to whom it is applied (Matt. 13:34, 35); and that apparition (Isa. 6.) which was the appearance of Jehovah, is applied to Christ (John 12:40, 41). After the report of the creation, and the forming of man, we read of God’s speaking to him, but not of God’s appearing. to him in any visible shape. A voice might be formed in the air to give man notice of his duty; some way of information he must have what positive laws he was to observe, besides that law which was engraves in his nature, which we call the law of nature; and without a voice the knowledge of the divine will could not be so conveniently communicated to man. Though God was heard in a voice, he was not seen in a shape; but after the fall we several times read of his appearing in such a form; though we read of his speaking before man’s committing of sin, yet not of his walking, which is more corporeal, till afterwards.
“Though God would not have man believe him to be corporeal, yet he judged it expedient to give some prenotices of that divine incarnation which he had promised.”
5. Therefore, we must not conceive of the visible Deity according to the letter of such expressions, but the true intent of them. Though the Scripture speaks of his eyes and arm, yet it denies them to be “arms of flesh.” We must not conceive of God according to the letter, but the design of the metaphor. When we hear things described by metaphorical expressions, for the clearing them up to our fancy, we conceive not of them under that garb, but remove the veil by an act of our reason. When Christ is called a sun, a vine, bread, is any so stupid as to conceive him to be a vine with material branches, and clusters, or be of the same nature with a loaf? But the things designed by such metaphors are obvious to the conception of a mean understanding. If we would conceive God to have a body like a man, because he describes himself so, we may conceit him to be like a bird, because he is mentioned with wings; or like a lion, or leopard, because he likens himself to them in the acts of his strength and fury. He is called a rock, a horn, fire, to note his strength and wrath; if any be so stupid as to think God to be really such, they would make him not only a man but worse than a monster. Onkelos, the Chaldee paraphrast upon parts of the Scripture, was so tender of expressing the notion of any corporeity in God, that when he meets with any expressions of that nature, he translates them according to the true intent of them; as when God is said that when he meets with any expressions of that nature, he translates them according to the true intent of them; as when God is said to descend (Gen. 11:5), which implies a local motion, a motion from one place to another, he translates it, “And God revealed himself.” We should conceive of God according to the design of the expressions; when we read of his eyes, we should conceive his omniscience; of his hand, his power; of his sitting, his immutability; of his throne, his majesty; and conceive of him as surmounting, not only the grossness of bodies, but the spiritual excellency of the most dignified creatures; something so perfect, great, spiritual, as nothing can be conceived higher and purer. “Christ,” with one, “is truly Deus figuratus; and for his sake, was it more easily permitted to the Jews to think of God in the shape of a man.”
Use. If God be a pure spiritual being, then 1. Man is not the image of God, according to his external bodily form and figure. The image of God in man consisted not in what is seen, but in what is not seen; not in the conformation of the members, but rather in the spiritual faculties of the soul; or, most of all, in the holy endowments of those faculties (Eph. 4:24): “That ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.” The image which is restored by redeeming grace, was the image of God by original nature. The image of God cannot be in that part which is common to us with beasts, but rather in that wherein we excel all living creatures, in reason, understanding, and an immortal spirit. God expressly saith, that none “saw a similitude” of him (Deut. 4:15, 16); whioh had not been true, if man, in regard of his body, had been the image and similitude of God, for then a figure of God had been seen every day, as often as we saw a man or beheld ourselves. Nor would the apostle’s argument stand good (Acts 17:29), “That the Godhead is not like to stone graven by art,” if we were not the offspring of God, and bore the stamp of his nature in our spirits rather than our bodies. It was a fancy of Eugubinus, that when God set upon the actual creation of man, he took a bodily form for an exemplar of that which he would express in his work, and therefore that the words of Moses are to be understood of the body of man; because there was in man such a shape which God had then assumed. To let alone God’s forming himself a body for that work as a groundless fancy, man can in no wise be said to be the image of God, in regard of the substance of his body; but beasts may as well be said to be made in the image of God, whose bodies have the same members as the body of man for the most part, and excel men in the acuteness of the senses and swiftness of their motion, agility of body, greatness of strength, and in some kind of ingenuities also, wherein man hath been a scholar to the brutes, and beholden to their skill. The soul comes nearest the nature of God, as being a spiritual substance; yet considered singly, in regard of its spiritual substance, cannot well be said to be the image of God; a beast, because of its corporeity, may as well be called the image of a man, for there is a greater similitude between man and a brute, in the rank of bodies, than there can be between God and the highest angels in the rank of spirits. If it doth not consist in the substance of the soul, much less can it in any similitude of the body. This image consisted partly in the state of man, as he had dominion over the creatures; partly in the nature of man, as he was an intelligent being, and thereby was capable of having a grant of that dominion; but principally in the conformity of the soul with God, in the frame of his spirit, and the holiness of his actions; not at all in the figure and form of his body, physically, though morally there might be, as there was a rectitude in the body as an instrument to conform to the holy motions of the soul, as the holiness of the soul sparkled in the actions and members of the body. If man were like God because he hath a body, whatsoever hath a body hath some resemblance to God, and may be said to be in part his image; but the truth is, the essence of all creatures cannot be an image of the immense essence of God.
Martin Luther | (1483-1546)
Sect. CXXXIII. — HERE, I bring to a conclusion, THE DEFENCE OF MY SCRIPTURES WHICH THE DIATRIBE ATTEMPTED TO REFUTE; lest my book should be swelled to too great a bulk: and if there be anything yet remaining that is worthy of notice, it shall be taken into THE FOLLOWING PART; WHEREIN, I MAKE MY ASSERTIONS. For as to what Erasmus says in his conclusion — ‘that, if my sentiments stand good, the numberless precepts, the numberless threatenings, the numberless promises, are all in vain, and no place is left for merit or demerit, for rewards or punishments; that moreover, it is difficult to defend the mercy, nay, even the justice of God, if God damn sinners of necessity; and that many other difficulties follow, which have so troubled some of the greatest men, as even to utterly overthrow them,’ —
To all these things I have fully replied already. Nor will I receive or bear with that moderate medium, which Erasmus would (with a good intention, I believe,) recommend to me; — ‘that we should grant some certain little to “Free-will;” in order that, the contradictions of the Scripture, and the difficulties before mentioned, might be the more easily remedied.’ — For by this moderate medium, the matter is not bettered, nor is any advantage gained whatever. Because, unless you ascribe the whole and all things to “Free-will,” as the Pelagians do, the ‘contradictions’ in the Scriptures are not altered, merit and reward are taken entirely away, the mercy and justice of God are abolished, and all the difficulties which we try to avoid by allowing this ‘certain little ineffective power’ to “Free-will,” remain just as they were before; as I have already fully shewn. Therefore, we must come to the plain extreme, deny “Free-will” altogether, and ascribe all unto God! Thus, there will be in the Scriptures no contradictions; and if there be any difficulties, they will be borne with, where they cannot be remedied.
The Bondage of the Will or Christian Classics Ethereal Library
Excerpt From Simply Christian
If the Spirit is the one who brings God’s future into the present, the Spirit is also the one who joins heaven and earth together. We are back again with Option Three. We had better remind ourselves how this works.
Option One, you’ll recall, is to see heaven and earth as basically coterminous. It is a way of saying that there is a divine power, force, or presence in and with all that exists, ourselves included. This is pantheism. It is a way of recognizing that nothing in the world we know is free from the smell of divinity—but it goes on to conclude that that’s all there is, that divinity is simply the sum total of this divine flavor we find in the earth, the rivers, the animals, the stars, and ourselves. Panentheism allows that there is more to God than this but still has all of creation permeated with God’s presence.
Within that scheme, speaking of God’s Spirit at work within us appears easy. Of course, thinks the pantheist: if something we call “God” is within everything, talking of God’s Spirit is just another way of saying the same thing. This seems fine and, in our modern world, “democratic.” We don’t like to think that God would be more particularly in and with some people or places than others; it offends our post-Enlightenment Western sensibilities.
I well remember the first pantheist I ever encountered, a girl I met while hitchhiking half the length of British Columbia in the summer of 1968. “Of course Jesus is divine,” she said. (I can’t remember how the conversation started, but she must have discovered that I was a Christian.) “But so am I. So are you. So is my pet rabbit.”
Now I have nothing against pet rabbits (except that their owners, in my household, used to leave other people—namely, me—to clear out their hutches).
But—and this, no doubt, is why the conversation stuck in my mind—to say that God’s Spirit is in and with a pet rabbit in the same sense that God’s Spirit was in and with Jesus struck me (and still strikes me) as absurd. That’s the trouble with pantheism. It leaves you where you are. You already have all that there is. Not only is there no solution to evil; there is no future beyond where we now are. If Option One is true, Jesus was indeed a deluded fanatic.
Option Two might seem at first sight a better prospect for understanding the idea of God’s fresh, fiery rushing wind. It suggests that God’s sphere and ours are utterly different places. How wonderful, how exciting, how dramatic, to think of a power coming all the way from God’s distant world to ours—to us—to me! This is where the language about “natural” and “supernatural” has played a key role for many people in our world. They suppose that everything in our sphere is “natural,” to be explained by the ordinary laws of nature, physics, history, and so on, and that everything in God’s sphere is “supernatural,” entirely “other,” completely unlike our ordinary experience. (I know that the words “natural” and “supernatural” have a longer and more interesting history than this last sentence might imply, but I’m talking about the way in which the words are commonly used today.) That is why people who have assumed a worldview something like Option Two have looked for evidence of the Holy Spirit’s presence and work, not in a quiet growth of moral wisdom, a steady, undramatic lifetime of selfless service, but in spectacular “supernatural” events such as healings, speaking in tongues, wonderful conversions, and so on.
Please note: I am not saying that healings and speaking in tongues don’t happen, or don’t matter. They do, and they do. I’m not saying that God doesn’t sometimes convert people with wonderful, dramatic suddenness. He does. What I am saying is that Option Two sets up the wrong framework for understanding what is going on. In particular, it excludes that sense of God’s presence and power which already exists within the “natural” world.
Neither of the first two options will do as a framework for understanding what the New Testament says about the Spirit. For that, we need Option Three. Somehow, God’s dimension and our dimension—heaven and earth—overlap and interlock. All the questions we want to ask—how does this happen, who does it happen to, when, where, why, under what conditions, what does it look like when it does?—remain partly mysterious, and will do so until creation is finally renewed and the two dimensions are joined into one as they were designed to be (and as Christians pray daily that they will be). But the point of talking about the Spirit within Option Three ought by now to be clear. If it wasn’t, St. Paul would rub our noses in it: those in whom the Spirit comes to live are God’s new Temple. They are, individually and corporately, places where heaven and earth meet.
Most of the next section of this book will be devoted to exploring and explaining what this means in practice. But one or two things must be said right away.
First, the obvious retort. “It doesn’t look like that to me!” Most of us, thinking even of those Christians to whom we look up as examples, find it difficult to imagine that those people are walking Temples, places where heaven and earth meet. Most of us have even more difficulty thinking of ourselves in that way. We certainly find it hard, looking at all the tragic nonsense that has marred the history of Christianity, to see the church as a whole in this light.
But the counter-retort is equally obvious to anyone who knows the writings of St. Paul. He could see the failings of the church, and of individual Christians, just as clearly as we can. And it’s in one of the letters where those failings are most embarrassingly obvious—Paul’s first letter to the Christians in Corinth—where he makes the claim. You corporately, he says to the whole church, are God’s Temple, and God’s Spirit dwells within you (1 Corinthians 3:16). That’s why the unity of the church matters so much. Your bodies, he says to them one by one, are Temples of the Holy Spirit within you (6:19). That’s why bodily holiness, including sexual holiness, matters so much. Unity and holiness have been two great problems for the church in the last generation. Could it be that we need to recapture Paul’s bracing teaching about the Holy Spirit?