Isaiah 42 - 44
The LORD’s Chosen Servant
Isaiah 42:1 Behold my servant, whom I uphold,
my chosen, in whom my soul delights;
I have put my Spirit upon him;
he will bring forth justice to the nations.
2 He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice,
or make it heard in the street;
3 a bruised reed he will not break,
and a faintly burning wick he will not quench;
he will faithfully bring forth justice.
4 He will not grow faint or be discouraged
till he has established justice in the earth;
and the coastlands wait for his law.
5 Thus says God, the LORD,
who created the heavens and stretched them out,
who spread out the earth and what comes from it,
who gives breath to the people on it
and spirit to those who walk in it:
6 “I am the LORD; I have called you in righteousness;
I will take you by the hand and keep you;
I will give you as a covenant for the people,
a light for the nations,
7 to open the eyes that are blind,
to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon,
from the prison those who sit in darkness.
8 I am the LORD; that is my name;
my glory I give to no other,
nor my praise to carved idols.
9 Behold, the former things have come to pass,
and new things I now declare;
before they spring forth
I tell you of them.”
Sing to the LORD a New Song
10 Sing to the LORD a new song,
his praise from the end of the earth,
you who go down to the sea, and all that fills it,
the coastlands and their inhabitants.
11 Let the desert and its cities lift up their voice,
the villages that Kedar inhabits;
let the habitants of Sela sing for joy,
let them shout from the top of the mountains.
12 Let them give glory to the LORD,
and declare his praise in the coastlands.
13 The LORD goes out like a mighty man,
like a man of war he stirs up his zeal;
he cries out, he shouts aloud,
he shows himself mighty against his foes.
14 For a long time I have held my peace;
I have kept still and restrained myself;
now I will cry out like a woman in labor;
I will gasp and pant.
15 I will lay waste mountains and hills,
and dry up all their vegetation;
I will turn the rivers into islands,
and dry up the pools.
16 And I will lead the blind
in a way that they do not know,
in paths that they have not known
I will guide them.
I will turn the darkness before them into light,
the rough places into level ground.
These are the things I do,
and I do not forsake them.
17 They are turned back and utterly put to shame,
who trust in carved idols,
who say to metal images,
“You are our gods.”
Israel’s Failure to Hear and See
18 Hear, you deaf,
and look, you blind, that you may see!
19 Who is blind but my servant,
or deaf as my messenger whom I send?
Who is blind as my dedicated one,
or blind as the servant of the LORD?
20 He sees many things, but does not observe them;
his ears are open, but he does not hear.
21 The LORD was pleased, for his righteousness’ sake,
to magnify his law and make it glorious.
22 But this is a people plundered and looted;
they are all of them trapped in holes
and hidden in prisons;
they have become plunder with none to rescue,
spoil with none to say, “Restore!”
23 Who among you will give ear to this,
will attend and listen for the time to come?
24 Who gave up Jacob to the looter,
and Israel to the plunderers?
Was it not the LORD, against whom we have sinned,
in whose ways they would not walk,
and whose law they would not obey?
25 So he poured on him the heat of his anger
and the might of battle;
it set him on fire all around, but he did not understand;
it burned him up, but he did not take it to heart.
Israel’s Only Savior
Isaiah 43:1 But now thus says the LORD,
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
3 For I am the LORD your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
I give Egypt as your ransom,
Cush and Seba in exchange for you.
4 Because you are precious in my eyes,
and honored, and I love you,
I give men in return for you,
peoples in exchange for your life.
5 Fear not, for I am with you;
I will bring your offspring from the east,
and from the west I will gather you.
6 I will say to the north, Give up,
and to the south, Do not withhold;
bring my sons from afar
and my daughters from the end of the earth,
7 everyone who is called by my name,
whom I created for my glory,
whom I formed and made.”
8 Bring out the people who are blind, yet have eyes,
who are deaf, yet have ears!
9 All the nations gather together,
and the peoples assemble.
Who among them can declare this,
and show us the former things?
Let them bring their witnesses to prove them right,
and let them hear and say, It is true.
10 “You are my witnesses,” declares the LORD,
“and my servant whom I have chosen,
that you may know and believe me
and understand that I am he.
Before me no god was formed,
nor shall there be any after me.
11 I, I am the LORD,
and besides me there is no savior.
12 I declared and saved and proclaimed,
when there was no strange god among you;
and you are my witnesses,” declares the LORD, “and I am God.
13 Also henceforth I am he;
there is none who can deliver from my hand;
I work, and who can turn it back?”
14 Thus says the LORD,
your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel:
“For your sake I send to Babylon
and bring them all down as fugitives,
even the Chaldeans, in the ships in which they rejoice.
15 I am the LORD, your Holy One,
the Creator of Israel, your King.”
16 Thus says the LORD,
who makes a way in the sea,
a path in the mighty waters,
17 who brings forth chariot and horse,
army and warrior;
they lie down, they cannot rise,
they are extinguished, quenched like a wick:
18 “Remember not the former things,
nor consider the things of old.
19 Behold, I am doing a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert.
20 The wild beasts will honor me,
the jackals and the ostriches,
for I give water in the wilderness,
rivers in the desert,
to give drink to my chosen people,
21 the people whom I formed for myself
that they might declare my praise.
22 “Yet you did not call upon me, O Jacob;
but you have been weary of me, O Israel!
23 You have not brought me your sheep for burnt offerings,
or honored me with your sacrifices.
I have not burdened you with offerings,
or wearied you with frankincense.
24 You have not bought me sweet cane with money,
or satisfied me with the fat of your sacrifices.
But you have burdened me with your sins;
you have wearied me with your iniquities.
25 “I, I am he
who blots out your transgressions for my own sake,
and I will not remember your sins.
26 Put me in remembrance; let us argue together;
set forth your case, that you may be proved right.
27 Your first father sinned,
and your mediators transgressed against me.
28 Therefore I will profane the princes of the sanctuary,
and deliver Jacob to utter destruction
and Israel to reviling.
Israel the LORD’s Chosen
Isaiah 44:1 “But now hear, O Jacob my servant,
Israel whom I have chosen!
2 Thus says the LORD who made you,
who formed you from the womb and will help you:
Fear not, O Jacob my servant,
Jeshurun whom I have chosen.
3 For I will pour water on the thirsty land,
and streams on the dry ground;
I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring,
and my blessing on your descendants.
4 They shall spring up among the grass
like willows by flowing streams.
5 This one will say, ‘I am the LORD’s,’
another will call on the name of Jacob,
and another will write on his hand, ‘The LORD’s,’
and name himself by the name of Israel.”
Besides Me There Is No God
6 Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel
and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts:
“I am the first and I am the last;
besides me there is no god.
7 Who is like me? Let him proclaim it.
Let him declare and set it before me,
since I appointed an ancient people.
Let them declare what is to come, and what will happen.
8 Fear not, nor be afraid;
have I not told you from of old and declared it?
And you are my witnesses!
Is there a God besides me?
There is no Rock; I know not any.”
The Folly of Idolatry9 All who fashion idols are nothing, and the things they delight in do not profit. Their witnesses neither see nor know, that they may be put to shame. 10 Who fashions a god or casts an idol that is profitable for nothing? 11 Behold, all his companions shall be put to shame, and the craftsmen are only human. Let them all assemble, let them stand forth. They shall be terrified; they shall be put to shame together.
12 The ironsmith takes a cutting tool and works it over the coals. He fashions it with hammers and works it with his strong arm. He becomes hungry, and his strength fails; he drinks no water and is faint. 13 The carpenter stretches a line; he marks it out with a pencil. He shapes it with planes and marks it with a compass. He shapes it into the figure of a man, with the beauty of a man, to dwell in a house. 14 He cuts down cedars, or he chooses a cypress tree or an oak and lets it grow strong among the trees of the forest. He plants a cedar and the rain nourishes it. 15 Then it becomes fuel for a man. He takes a part of it and warms himself; he kindles a fire and bakes bread. Also he makes a god and worships it; he makes it an idol and falls down before it. 16 Half of it he burns in the fire. Over the half he eats meat; he roasts it and is satisfied. Also he warms himself and says, “Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire!” 17 And the rest of it he makes into a god, his idol, and falls down to it and worships it. He prays to it and says, “Deliver me, for you are my god!”
18 They know not, nor do they discern, for he has shut their eyes, so that they cannot see, and their hearts, so that they cannot understand. 19 No one considers, nor is there knowledge or discernment to say, “Half of it I burned in the fire; I also baked bread on its coals; I roasted meat and have eaten. And shall I make the rest of it an abomination? Shall I fall down before a block of wood?” 20 He feeds on ashes; a deluded heart has led him astray, and he cannot deliver himself or say, “Is there not a lie in my right hand?”
The LORD Redeems Israel
21 Remember these things, O Jacob,
and Israel, for you are my servant;
I formed you; you are my servant;
O Israel, you will not be forgotten by me.
22 I have blotted out your transgressions like a cloud
and your sins like mist;
return to me, for I have redeemed you.
23 Sing, O heavens, for the LORD has done it;
shout, O depths of the earth;
break forth into singing, O mountains,
O forest, and every tree in it!
For the LORD has redeemed Jacob,
and will be glorified in Israel.
24 Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer,
who formed you from the womb:
“I am the LORD, who made all things,
who alone stretched out the heavens,
who spread out the earth by myself,
25 who frustrates the signs of liars
and makes fools of diviners,
who turns wise men back
and makes their knowledge foolish,
26 who confirms the word of his servant
and fulfills the counsel of his messengers,
who says of Jerusalem, ‘She shall be inhabited,’
and of the cities of Judah, ‘They shall be built,
and I will raise up their ruins’;
27 who says to the deep, ‘Be dry;
I will dry up your rivers’;
28 who says of Cyrus, ‘He is my shepherd,
and he shall fulfill all my purpose’;
saying of Jerusalem, ‘She shall be built,’
and of the temple, ‘Your foundation shall be laid.’ ”
What I'm Reading
Why “Closure” Requires A Christian Worldview
By J. Warner Wallace 8/15/2014
Yesterday the jury came back with a Guilty verdictin my most recent cold-case homicide investigation. As I began to read the press clippings and reports related to the case and the verdict, I noticed several reporters wrote about “closure”. One article cited a police official who said, “We sincerely hope that this verdict brings a moment of comfort and closure to Lynne’s family as they continue to cope with the loss of their loved one (emphasis mine).” The families of the victims in my cases often start off hoping they will experience “closure” of some sort, only to find this sense of resolution elusive. As a result, I usually try to prepare the families I work with to be cautious in their expectations. Even if we are able to convict the killer, it’s likely these families will never experience “closure”. This expression is typically defined in the following way:
clo-sure [kloh-zher] – NOUN:
1. The act of closing; the state of being closed.
2. A bringing to an end; conclusion.
Victim families think they will achieve an end to their suffering; a conclusion to their pain. This simply doesn’t happen. Victim families may find justice, but they probably won’t experience closure. As I reflected on this reality last night, reading through the dozens of news report related to the case, I realized the sense of closure these families are seeking is available to them if they are Christians. The Christian worldview offers all of us the kind of closure we are seeking.
If atheism is true, we are purely material beings. We are only “molecules in motion”; strictly physical beings whose lives are nothing more than a fleeting, temporal series of causes and events. We are born, we live a certain number of years, and then we die. Stuff happens to us; we like some of this stuff and we dislike some of it. Nothing is transcendently good or bad, right or wrong. Some of us live a long time, some shorter. Some die naturally, some die criminally. Sometimes criminals are brought to justice and sometimes they aren’t. Nothing more can really be said (or needs to be said) about this; it’s just the way it is. In a world like this, “closure” (as we typically think about it) is often impossible to achieve. The guilty verdict cannot bring back Lynne Knight (the victim in my most recent case). It cannot end the sense of loss her family continues to experience. While the case is now closed, the family may still find “closure” difficult to achieve.
But if the Christian worldview is true, a day is coming when all the evil committed in this world will be reversed. All losses will be returned. All pain will be abolished. For those of us who have accepted the pardon offered by God through Jesus Christ, we will someday be reunited with those we miss today. The heavenly realm of God lacks pain, suffering, regret, or frustration. The justice and mercy of God reign in perfect balance: all wrongs are righted, all questions are answered, all doubt is removed, and all joy is returned. If Christianity is true, this often painful mortal experience will draw to a close, once and for all. We will experience justice and closure.
James "Jim" Warner Wallace (born June 16, 1961) is an American homicide detective and Christian apologist. Wallace is a Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview and an Adjunct Professor of Apologetics at Biola University in La Mirada, California. He has authored several books, including Cold-Case Christianity, God’s Crime Scene, and Forensic Faith, in which he applies principles of cold case homicide investigation to apologetic concerns such as the existence of God and the reliability of the Gospels.
Are you the king of the Jews?
By Lydia McGrew
When John describes the transfer of Jesus as a prisoner from the custody of the Jewish leaders to Pilate, he paints a vivid scene. The Jewish leaders take Jesus to the Praetorium early in the morning and rouse Pilate to judge his case. They refuse to enter the Praetorium lest they be ceremonially defiled, so Pilate (no doubt annoyed by being awakened to deal with a disturbance from his difficult subjects) goes out to them. He asks them what accusation they bring against Jesus, and they answer unhelpfully, “If this man were not doing evil, we would not have delivered him over to you.” (John 18.30) Pilate urges them to judge Jesus according to their own law, since (he suspects) the matter concerns only some violation of Jewish law. They reply, in a frankly bloodthirsty manner, that they are not authorized to put anyone to death, whereupon Pilate reluctantly re-enters the Praetorium and questions Jesus. 13 Not a word is said in the account John gives of an accusation of sedition or any other political accusation against Jesus. But when Pilate confronts Jesus, the first thing he asks is, “Are you the king of the Jews?” (v 33) Why does Pilate ask this, if John’s account tells us all that the Jewish leaders have said against Jesus? Why would Pilate even think that Jesus claimed to be the king of the Jews?
(Jn 18:30-33) 30 They answered him, “If this man were not doing evil, we would not have delivered him over to you.” 31 Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.” The Jews said to him, “It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death.” 32 This was to fulfill the word that Jesus had spoken to show by what kind of death he was going to die. 33 So Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” ESV
Luke alone among the Gospels answers this question. 14 Luke tells of the original accusation like this:
(Lk 23:1–3) 23:1 Then the whole company of them arose and brought him before Pilate. 2 And they began to accuse him, saying, “We found this man misleading our nation and forbidding us to give tribute to Caesar, and saying that he himself is Christ, a king.” 3 And Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” And he answered him, “You have said so.” ESV
So Luke’s sources evidently indicated that the Jewish leaders made an accusation of sedition against Jesus, forcing Pilate to intervene in the case. 15 It is worth emphasizing the uniqueness of Luke in this respect, since both Matthew and Mark do have a generally similar scene in which Jesus is turned over to Pilate and Pilate asks Jesus whether he is the king of the Jews (Mark 15.1– 3, Matt 27.11– 12). They do not, however, record that the Jewish leaders accused Jesus of sedition when they brought him to Pilate. They merely mention unspecified charges and accusations. Luke is therefore adding details to this part of the story in some way independently of the earlier Gospels, even if we consider him to have been relying in some measure on Mark and/ or Matthew. Luke is reporting independently, moreover, not only in whole passages that are unique but even in passages that cover the same events and contain similar wording.
(Mk 15:1–3) 1 And as soon as it was morning, the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council. And they bound Jesus and led him away and delivered him over to Pilate. 2 And Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” And he answered him, “You have said so.” 3 And the chief priests accused him of many things.ESV
(Mt 27:11–12) 11 Now Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus said, “You have said so.” 12 But when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he gave no answer.ESV
A skeptic might try to say that John’s and Luke’s accounts are in contradiction to one another, but there is no reason to think so unless one insists on taking them both to be complete accounts of everything that was said between Pilate and Jesus’ accusers. But why should we think that? Witnesses do not always give complete accounts. Rather, they often give accounts of what struck them or what they consider most interesting to mention at the time. It is entirely possible that the accusers said both what John gives and what Luke gives— that at first they grumbled to Pilate that they would not have brought Jesus if he were not an evildoer but that, upon Pilate’s trying to refuse the case and give it back to them to judge according to Jewish law, they made the incendiary accusation of sedition, which would bring a sentence of death from the Roman authorities if upheld. The fact that Luke does not tell about the initial slight insouciance toward Pilate and that John does not tell about the accusation of sedition shows the independence of the accounts from each other. The fact that the accounts fit together, with Luke explaining John, is both evidence of the truthfulness of the accounts and evidence that the sources of the accounts were very close to the facts.
Don’t Waste Your Cancer: An Interview with Matt Chandler
By Matt Chandler 7/1/2011
Tabletalk: By way of offering a brief introduction of yourself and your family, when was God’s call to serve His people confirmed for you? Click here to go to source
Matt Chandler: I think my story is a bit strange in that my awareness of God’s call on my life to serve His people was a bit lost in me serving His people. I’ll try and explain that. I was very frustrated with my church experiences heading into college. I loved sharing the gospel and loved the God of the Bible, but it appeared to me (probably my immaturity) that my church and I were seeing different things in the Scriptures. I saw atonement and the fear of the Lord, and at church they were teaching us not to drink beer and not to have sex. To be truthful, I wasn’t drinking beer or having sex, and could see that drunkenness was sinful and that God had a plan for sex in marriage. Yet it appeared to me that those were secondary issues that should be addressed after the atoning work of Christ was communicated and understood. I started teaching at an ecumenical gathering while I was in college and assumed I would finish school, become a good lawyer, and teach Sunday school at the local Baptist church wherever I settled (I was hoping for the West Coast). The Bible study blew up numerically, and we were running around one thousand to fifteen hundred students every week. A young woman from that study asked me when I received the “call of ministry.” I was honestly confused by her question. I thought she was asking if the Baptists had literally called me on the phone and let me teach the Bible study. She clarified her question, and it sent all my dreams and plans into another direction altogether. It was at this time that I came to understand that I wouldn’t be spending my life doing law and teaching Sunday school but rather teaching and leading God’s people into maturity by the Spirit’s power and by the proclamation of the Word.
TT: What counsel would you give to a believer on the day he or she is diagnosed with cancer? How about six months after the diagnosis?
MC: One of God’s big mercies in all of this has been allowing me to pastor a young church. I have done multiple funerals every year I have been here, and only one has been for a person over the age of fifty. I learned very early that people need to have a good grasp of God’s goodness and God’s sovereignty. On the day that a person is diagnosed, I try to encourage them in God’s knowledge — that this hasn’t surprised Him or caught Him off guard. I want to remind them that this isn’t punitive, but rather that God is on the move and He can be trusted. Six months after the diagnosis is harder to answer because cancer can go one of two ways. If the man or woman is still in a real fight, I want to draw his or her attention to Hebrews 11 or the story of Abraham being promised a son or even David being anointed king and then running from Saul for all those years before sitting on the throne. I think it’s important to remind people after the initial shock of diagnosis wears off and the wear and tear of treatment settles in that victory for those who are children of God is guaranteed, although difficulty, pain, and waiting might all be very present.
TT: In what ways has your cancer sanctified you?
MC: It’s made me look long and hard at my motives and has drawn me deeply into God in prayer. I am an excellent studier and researcher, and before all this began, I would say a decent man of prayer; but I learned after they told me I only had two to three years left that I knew much more about God than I actually knew Him. The bulk of my sanctification through this ordeal has been the birth of a deep desire for intimacy with our great God and King.
TT: How do you counsel christians to face death and disease (both those who are personally facing such crises and those who are currently enjoying robust health)?
MC: I simply have tried to point out that we shouldn’t be surprised by death and disease because the Bible is filled with it. As I stated above, an understanding of God’s goodness and His sovereign power are necessary to cope with life in a fallen world. I want to teach people that life is extremely fragile and that there isn’t a person in our sanctuary or listening to a podcast who can’t have his or her whole world change with a phone call or, as in my case, getting up one morning and getting a cup of coffee. Those are heavy truths, and I know they don’t make for feel-good sermons, but it’s better to know these truths than to pretend it’s not reality.
TT: You’ve written that if you had not heard John Piper’s answer to the question “For whom did Christ die?” at the 1997 Passion conference, you would not have had ground to stand on years later when you heard the words “brain cancer.” How did your understanding of the atonement help you deal with such a devastating diagnosis?
MC: Actually, I think my wife, Lauren, said that in a blog she wrote after my prognosis was given to us. That sermon was significant for both of us because up until that point, I’m not sure we grasped the size and holiness of God. That sermon changed the trajectory of both our lives in that it shifted how we saw God and understood Him.
TT: You’ve also written that there were moments last year when you felt you were “punched in the soul” but that you were reminded nevertheless that the disease with which you’re dealing “isn’t punitive but somehow redemptive.” Could you unpack that a little?
MC: I have been very blessed by God in my life. My cancer has honestly been one of the more difficult things to deal with. Lauren and I have tried to trust the Lord in everything, and when we’ve stepped out in faith He has been beyond gracious to us. People come to hear; they give generously to the church, and almost every “idea” we’ve had God has blessed and grown. I can honestly say that ministry and life were pretty easy for us up until Thanksgiving 2009. After I had the seizure and they found the tumor, I thought it would be like everything else had been — easy and would end well. When I first met my neurosurgeon on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, I was ignorantly and maybe even arrogantly thinking that nothing would come of it and that we would just need to watch this thing and see.
I was caught completely off guard when Dr. Barnett told me that it didn’t look good and that we needed to do surgery immediately. That was one of the first times in my life, if not the first time, that things went “worst-case scenario” on me. The Holy Spirit was quick to remind me of great passages on God’s sovereignty and goodness in difficulty. I thought of Romans 8, Hebrews 11, and several others. I wasn’t being punished with brain cancer because I didn’t tell that guy at the gym about Jesus or because I hadn’t read Piper’s latest book, but rather God was at work. He was doing something, and I could be sure that He loved me and in the end I would have increased joy and He would be glorified. Here we are over a year later and that’s exactly what’s happened.
TT: How has dealing with your disease affected your view of God’s sovereignty (or, how has your view of God’s sovereignty affected how you view your disease)?
MC: I believe the Scriptures teach that God is aware of every act at every level of the universe. From a star exploding to the rate at which our planet spins to a cell dividing, He knows. I don’t believe in the end that God gave me cancer, but He certainly could have stopped it and didn’t. So I have to believe like Joseph, John the Baptist, and Paul had to believe when they were in prison — that God is working, and what the enemy means for evil, He will turn to good. There have been multiple occasions when God has used this tremendously. The Associated Press let me preach the gospel in an article that ran worldwide. The story has caught the imagination of the media here in Dallas, and we’ve been able to talk about the atoning work of Christ on TV as well as in newspaper articles. That has led to a ton of men and women surrendering their lives to Christ after wanting to talk with me through their own sufferings. If my life gets “cut short” but we get to see new births in the kingdom, then I don’t feel slighted or robbed in the least.
TT: In the late summer/early fall of 2010, you went to Sudan. How did that trip impact your life?
MC: I was deeply moved by my trip to Sudan. I’ve traveled quite a bit internationally but have never seen anything like it. It isn’t even a Third World country. That’s what they want to be. We are connected with some extremely godly men there, and the opportunities for the advancement of a Christ-centered, biblically-strong faith growing in southern Sudan are very real. On a side note, if I had not been diagnosed with cancer, I would not have been able to make the trip. The original diagnosis had us clear my external speaking schedule and opened that time frame for us to go.
Matt Chandler serves as lead pastor of the Village Church in Flower Mound, Texas. He has become a leader in the evangelical world through his ministry at the Village Church, his involvement in the Acts 29 Church Planting Network, his teaching at multiple conferences, and most recently through his faithful witness to Jesus Christ while battling a malignant brain tumor.
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He Loves Me, He Really Loves Me
By Tim Challies 8/1/2011
I have had the privilege of attending a series of Ligonier Ministries National Conferences, and along the way I have noticed a little phenomenon or tradition that takes place at the beginning of these events. For many of the people who attend, these conferences mark an annual opportunity to connect with friends. Many people have attended the conference year after year, and along the way they have met new friends or have reconnected with old friends. The conference offers a once-per-year opportunity to spend a little time together and to catch up on the year that has gone by.
I remember a time when people carried printed photos in their wallets or small photo albums in their purses. Today, though, people carry photos on their cell phones or on their iPods. So often, when I see people meet after the passing of yet another year, I see them embracing and then immediately digging out their phones or their iPods to show off the pictures of their children or grandchildren. And it is interesting to hear them talk, to hear them share proudly about the children they’ve already begun to miss even after only one or two days apart. As you listen to these parents tell about their children, you notice that they dwell on the things that make them proud. “Brian is nine. He loves basketball and leads his team in scoring. He’s getting so tall. His head comes up to my chest now, and he eats like there’s no tomorrow. And here’s Rebecca. She is fourteen. You can see she looks just like her mom. She loves cameras and says she wants to be a photographer… .”
You know, of course, that the last year has not been free of conflict. You know that Mom and Dad are probably working hard to maintain boundaries around Rebecca, who is already acting out as a rebellious teenager, and that they are working hard to make Brian respect authority. It may well be that on the night before he left, Dad had to invoke some discipline, and he left the house only after making Rebecca promise that she would obey the person who is watching her while her parents are away. But when Dad gets together with his friends, these things are not at the front of his mind. He loves his children, he is proud of his children, and he wants to tell others about them.
I thought about this a short time ago when I was considering how God feels about us, how He feels about me, and how He feels about all of His children. I often go through life thinking that God is generally displeased with me. I see my sin, I see my failings, and I see my heart. At the same time, I see from Scripture God’s majesty, His holiness, and His perfection. When I put these together, I believe that God must be looking at me with at least some level of disgust.
He must regard me as I regard myself so much of the time — as a person who may try to do what’s right but as a person who so often fails when it comes to holiness. Though I do love Him, and truly I do, I still have some love for sin. There is still some of the traitor in me. I pledge allegiance to Him but too often prove allegiance to myself. What could there be for Him to love here?
I’ve had this all wrong. As I study God’s Word day by day in the quiet of my home and week by week in my local church, and as I learn about who God is, I see that He is a proud Father who is lavish with His love. Maybe it was my studies in the parable of the prodigal son. Maybe it was my reading through the prophets, seeing how God hates sin but remains committed to His people. Maybe it was reading Hebrews 11, the Hall of Heroes, and seeing all of those great saints commended instead of condemned. Somehow along the way, I began to see that God hates my sin and commands me to mortify it, but that He loves me. God despises the evil that lurks within me but is extravagant in His grace. He actually, really, truly loves me. He doesn’t love me for who He wishes I could be but for who I am in Christ.
Maybe in that way God isn’t so different from the proud parents I see at conferences. Maybe in that way they are a reflection of their Creator. He loves us. He loves me. More than that, He’s proud of me. He isn’t petty, filling His mind with all those things I’ve done wrong, but rather He is gracious, seeing all those evidences of His grace in my life. Somehow I had lost sight of the fact that God truly does regard me as a child, His child, a child He not only loves but one He genuinely likes. And there’s a difference between the two, isn’t there?
I began my web site in 2002 and have been writing there daily since 2003. It is my place to think out loud and in public while also sharing some of the interesting things I’ve discovered in my online travels.
Tim Challies is founding blogger of Challies.com and a pastor at Grace Fellowship Church in Toronto. You can follow him on Twitter @Challies. He began his web site in 2002 and has been writing there daily since 2003. It is his place to think out loud and in public while also sharing some of the interesting things he discovers in his online travels.
Tim Challies Books | Go to Books Page
By John Piper 8/1/2011
God loves it when man boasts in God, and God hates it when man boasts in man. “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord” (2 Cor. 10:17). “Far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Gal. 6:14). “The haughty looks of man shall be brought low, and the lofty pride of men shall be humbled, and the LORD alone will be exalted in that day. For the LORD of hosts has a day against all that is proud and lofty, against all that is lifted up” (Isa. 2:11–12).
There are two reasons (at least) why God hates for man to boast in man:
1) Boasting in man deflects man’s attention from the fountain of his joy and ruins his life. It tricks man into replacing magnificence with a mirror. Man was not made to admire man. He was made to admire God. The joy of admiration is prostituted and ruined when man tries to find galaxy-size glory in the glow of his own reflection. God does not like the damage done by boasting in man.
2) The other reason God hates for man to boast in man is this: It conveys the conviction that man is more admirable than God. Now that is, of course, untrue. But we would miss the point if we said, “God hates lying and therefore God hates boasting in man because it conveys a lie.” No.
That’s not quite right. What God hates is the dishonoring of God. Lying happens to be one way that he is dishonored as the God of truth. So the real problem with man’s boasting in man is that it belittles God.
Boasting in God, on the other hand, does the double opposite: it honors God and gives man the joy for which he was made: admiring the infinitely admirable.
Mercifully, therefore, God has doubly excluded boasting by the way He saves sinners.
First, boasting is excluded by faith. As Paul explains in his epistle to the Romans: “Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith” (3:27). Why does faith exclude boasting? The reason is not merely because faith is a gift of God, which it is. All the fruits of the Spirit are gifts. Yet they do not all exclude boasting in the same way. Faith is unique among all the acts of the soul. It is the weakest, most helpless, and most empty-handed act of the soul. It is all-dependence on Another. In a sense, it is an acted non-act.
Let me explain. I mean it is an inclination of the soul to seek help with no expectation that any inclination of the soul is good enough to obtain help, not even the inclination of faith. It is unique among all the acts of the soul. Since it is empty- handed, it is not like a virtue. It looks to the virtue of another. It looks to the strength of another. It looks to the wisdom of another. It is entirely other-directed and other-dependent. Therefore, it can’t boast in itself, for it can’t even look at itself. It is the kind of thing that in a sense has no “self.” As soon as the unique act of the soul exists, it is attached to another from whom it gets all its reality.
Second, boasting is excluded by election: “God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God” (1 Cor. 1:27–29).
God’s election is designed to remove boasting. The point is that God does not choose people with a view to any feature in us that would allow us to boast. In fact, Romans 9:11 makes it clear that God’s election is designed to make God’s saving purpose rest finally on God alone, not any act of the human soul: “Though [Jacob and Esau] were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad — in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls [God chose Jacob not Esau]”. The contrast with works here is not faith but “him who calls.” The choice of God rests finally on God alone. He decides who will believe and who will be saved undeservingly.
Therefore, let us look away from ourselves and all human help. Let all boasting in man and man’s accomplishments cease, and let us boast in the Lord.
John Piper Books | Go to Books Page
Clement Of Rome (Intro)
Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, eds., The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, vol. 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885).
The First Epistle Of Clement To The Corinthians Intro
[A.D. 100–200.] THE APOSTOLIC FATHERS are here understood as filling up the second century of our era. Irenæus, it is true, is rather of the sub-apostolic period; but, as the disciple of Polycarp, he ought not to be dissociated from that Father’s company. We thus find ourselves conducted, by this goodly fellowship of witnesses, from the times of the apostles to those of Tertullian, from the martyrs of the second persecution to those of the sixth. Those were times of heroism, not of words; an age, not of writers, but of soldiers; not of talkers, but of sufferers. Curiosity is baffled, but faith and love are fed by these scanty relics of primitive antiquity. Yet may we well be grateful for what we have. These writings come down to us as the earliest response of converted nations to the testimony of Jesus. They are primary evidences of the Canon and the credibility of the New Testament. Disappointment may be the first emotion of the student who comes down from the mount where he has dwelt in the tabernacles of evangelists and apostles: for these disciples are confessedly inferior to the masters; they speak with the voices of infirm and fallible men, and not like the New Testament writers, with the fiery tongues of the Holy Ghost. Yet the thoughtful and loving spirit soon learns their exceeding value. For who does not close the records of St. Luke with longings; to get at least a glimpse of the further history of the progress of the Gospel? What of the Church when its founders were fallen asleep? Was the Good Shepherd “always” with His little flock, according to His promise? Was the Blessed Comforter felt in His presence amid the fires of persecution? Was the Spirit of Truth really able to guide the faithful into all truth, and to keep them in the truth?
And what had become of the disciples who were the first-fruits of the apostolic ministry? St. Paul had said, “The same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.” How was this injunction realized? St. Peter’s touching words come to mind, “I will endeavour that ye may be able after my decease to have these things always in remembrance.” Was this endeavour successfully carried out? To these natural and pious inquiries, the Apostolic Fathers, though we have a few specimens only of their fidelity, give an emphatic reply. If the cold-hearted and critical find no charm in the simple, childlike faith which they exhibit, ennobled though it be by heroic devotion to the Master, we need not marvel. Such would probably object: “They teach me nothing; I do not relish their multiplied citations from Scripture.” The answer is, “If you are familiar with Scripture, you owe it largely to these primitive witnesses to its Canon and its spirit. By their testimony we detect what is spurious, and we identify what is real. Is it nothing to find that your Bible is their Bible, your faith their faith, your Saviour their Saviour, your God their God?” Let us reflect also, that, when copies of the entire Scriptures were rare and costly, these citations were “words fitly spoken, —apples of gold in pictures of silver.” We are taught by them also that they obeyed the apostle’s precept, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing,” etc. Thus they reflect the apostolic care that men should be raised up able to teach others also.
Their very mistakes enable us to attach a higher value to the superiority of inspired writers. They were not wiser than the naturalists of their day who taught them the history of the Phœnix and other fables; but nothing of this sort is found in Scripture. The Fathers are inferior in kind as well as in degree; yet their words are lingering echoes of those whose words were spoken “as the Spirit gave them utterance.” They are monuments of the power of the Gospel. They were made out of such material as St. Paul describes when he says, “Such were some of you.” But for Christ, they would have been worshippers of personified Lust and Hate, and of every crime. They would have lived for “bread and circus-shows.” Yet to the contemporaries of a Juvenal they taught the Decalogue and the Sermon on the Mount. Among such beasts in human form they reared the sacred home; they created the Christian family; they gave new and holy meanings to the names of wife and mother; they imparted ideas unknown before of the dignity of man as man; they infused an atmosphere of benevolence and love; they bestowed the elements of liberty chastened by law; they sanctified human society by proclaiming the universal brotherhood of redeemed man. As we read the Apostolic Fathers, we comprehend, in short, the meaning of St. Paul when he said prophetically, what men were slow to believe, “The foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.… But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are.” --- December 1884
Clement Of Rome (Introductory Note to the First Epistle Of Clement To The Corinthians)
[A.D. 30–100.] Clement was probably a Gentile and a Roman. He seems to have been at Philippi with St. Paul (A.D. 57) when that first-born of the Western churches was passing through great trials of faith. There, with holy women and others, he ministered to the apostle and to the saints. As this city was a Roman colony, we need not inquire how a Roman happened to be there. He was possibly in some public service, and it is not improbable that he had visited Corinth in those days. From the apostle, and his companion, St. Luke, he had no doubt learned the use of the Septuagint, in which his knowledge of the Greek tongue soon rendered him an adept. His copy of that version, however, does not always agree with the Received Text, as the reader will perceive.
A co-presbyter with Linus and Cletus, he succeeded them in the government of the Roman Church. I have reluctantly adopted the opinion that his Epistle was written near the close of his life, and not just after the persecution of Nero. It is not improbable that Linus and Cletus both perished in that fiery trial, and that Clement’s immediate succession to their work and place occasions the chronological difficulties of the period. After the death of the apostles, for the Roman imprisonment and martyrdom of St. Peter seem historical, Clement was the natural representative of St. Paul, and even of his companion, the “apostle of the circumcision;” and naturally he wrote the Epistle in the name of the local church, when brethren looked to them for advice. St. John, no doubt, was still surviving at Patmos or in Ephesus; but the Philippians, whose intercourse with Rome is attested by the visit of Epaphroditus, looked naturally to the surviving friends of their great founder; nor was the aged apostle in the East equally accessible. All roads pointed towards the Imperial City, and started from its Milliarium Aureum. But, though Clement doubtless wrote the letter, he conceals his own name, and puts forth the brethren, who seem to have met in council, and sent a brotherly delegation (Chap. lix.). The entire absence of the spirit of Diotrephes (St. John, Ep. 3. 9),
3 John 9 (NASB95) I wrote something to the church; but Diotrephes, who loves to be first among them, does not accept what we say.
and the close accordance of the Epistle, in humility and meekness, with that of St. Peter (Ep. 1, 5:1–5), are noteworthy features. The whole will be found animated with the loving and faithful spirit of St. Paul’s dear Philippians, among whom the writer had learned the Gospel.
1 Peter 5:1–5 (NASB95) 1 Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed,
2 shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness;
3 nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock.
4 And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.
5 You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.
Clement fell asleep, probably soon after he despatched his letter. It is the legacy of one who reflects the apostolic age in all the beauty and evangelical truth which were the first-fruits of the Spirit’s presence with the Church. He shares with others the aureole of glory attributed by St. Paul (Phil. 4:3), “His name is in the Book of Life.”
Philippians 4:3 (NASB95) Indeed, true companion, I ask you also to help these women who have shared my struggle in the cause of the gospel, together with Clement also and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.
The plan of this publication does not permit the restoration, in this volume, of the recently discovered portions of his work. It is the purpose of the editor to present this, however, with other recently discovered relics of primitive antiquity, in a supplementary volume, should the undertaking meet with sufficient encouragement. The so-called second Epistle of Clement is now known to be the work of another, and has been relegated to another place in this series.
The following is the INTRODUCTORY NOTICE of the original editors and translators, Drs. Roberts and Donaldson:—
THE first Epistle, bearing the name of Clement, has been preserved to us in a single manuscript only. Though very frequently referred to by ancient Christian writers, it remained unknown to the scholars of Western Europe until happily discovered in the Alexandrian manuscript. This MS. of the Sacred Scriptures (known and generally referred to as Codex A) was presented in 1628 by Cyril, Patriarch of Constantinople, to Charles I., and is now preserved in the British Museum. Subjoined to the books of the New Testament contained in it, there are two writings described as the Epistles of one Clement. Of these, that now before us is the first. It is tolerably perfect, but there are many slight lacunæ, or gaps, in the MS., and one whole leaf is supposed to have been lost towards the close. These lacunæ, however, so numerous in some chapters, do not generally extend beyond a word or syllable, and can for the most part be easily supplied.
Who the Clement was to whom these writings are ascribed, cannot with absolute certainty be determined. The general opinion is, that he is the same as the person of that name referred to by St. Paul (Phil. 4:3). The writings themselves contain no statement as to their author. The first, and by far the longer of them, simply purports to have been written in the name of the Church at Rome to the Church at Corinth. But in the catalogue of contents prefixed to the MS. they are both plainly attributed to one Clement; and the judgment of most scholars is, that, in regard to the first Epistle at least, this statement is correct, and that it is to be regarded as an authentic production of the friend and fellow-worker of St. Paul. This belief may be traced to an early period in the history of the Church. It is found in the writings of Eusebius (Hist. Eccl., iii. 15), of Origen (Comm. in Joan., i. 29), and others. The internal evidence also tends to support this opinion. The doctrine, style, and manner of thought are all in accordance with it; so that, although, as has been said, positive certainty cannot be reached on the subject, we may with great probability conclude that we have in this Epistle a composition of that Clement who is known to us from Scripture as having been an associate of the great apostle.
The date of this Epistle has been the subject of considerable controversy. It is clear from the writing itself that it was composed soon after some persecution (chap. i.) which the Roman Church had endured; and the only question is, whether we are to fix upon the persecution under Nero or Domitian. If the former, the date will be about the year 68; if the latter, we must place it towards the close of the first century or the beginning of the second. We possess no external aid to the settlement of this question. The lists of early Roman bishops are in hopeless confusion, some making Clement the immediate successor of St. Peter, others placing Linus, and others still Linus and Anacletus, between him and the apostle. The internal evidence, again, leaves the matter doubtful, though it has been strongly pressed on both sides. The probability seems, on the whole, to be in favour of the Domitian period, so that the Epistle may be dated about A.D. 97.
This Epistle was held in very great esteem by the early Church. The account given of it by Eusebius (Hist. Eccl., iii. 16) is as follows: “There is one acknowledged Epistle of this Clement (whom he has just identified with the friend of St. Paul), great and admirable, which he wrote in the name of the Church of Rome to the Church at Corinth, sedition having then arisen in the latter Church. We are aware that this Epistle has been publicly read in very many churches both in old times, and also in our own day.” The Epistle before us thus appears to have been read in numerous churches, as being almost on a level with the canonical writings. And its place in the Alexandrian MS., immediately after the inspired books, is in harmony with the position thus assigned it in the primitive Church. There does indeed appear a great difference between it and the inspired writings in many respects, such as the fanciful use sometimes made of Old-Testament statements, the fabulous stories which are accepted by its author, and the general diffuseness and feebleness of style by which it is distinguished. But the high tone of evangelical truth which pervades it, the simple and earnest appeals which it makes to the heart and conscience, and the anxiety which its writer so constantly shows to promote the best interests of the Church of Christ, still impart an undying charm to this precious relic of later apostolic times.
[N.B.—A sufficient guide to the recent literature of the Clementine MSS. and discoveries may be found in The Princeton Review, 1877, p. 325, also in Bishop Wordsworth’s succinct but learned Church History to the Council of Nicæa, p. 84. The invaluable edition of the Patres Apostolici, by Jacobson (Oxford, 1840), with a critical text and rich prolegomena and annotations, cannot be dispensed with by any Patristic inquirer. A. C. C.]
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 83O God, Do Not Keep Silence
83 A Song. A Psalm Of Asaph.
9 Do to them as you did to Midian,
as to Sisera and Jabin at the river Kishon,
10 who were destroyed at En-dor,
who became dung for the ground.
11 Make their nobles like Oreb and Zeeb,
all their princes like Zebah and Zalmunna,
12 who said, “Let us take possession for ourselves
of the pastures of God.”
13 O my God, make them like whirling dust,
like chaff before the wind.
14 As fire consumes the forest,
as the flame sets the mountains ablaze,
15 so may you pursue them with your tempest
and terrify them with your hurricane!
16 Fill their faces with shame,
that they may seek your name, O LORD.
17 Let them be put to shame and dismayed forever;
let them perish in disgrace,
18 that they may know that you alone,
whose name is the LORD,
are the Most High over all the earth.
By John Walvoord
Prophecy against Gog (continued)
Ezekiel 38:10–13. The invaders are quoted as saying, “I will invade a land of unwalled villages; I will attack a peaceful and unsuspecting people — all of them living without walls and without gates and bars” (v. 11 ).
The scene described is a modern scene where walls are no longer necessary to protect a village, confirming the idea that it is an unexpected attack. The people of Israel in the land are described as “a peaceful and unsuspecting people — all of them living without walls and without gates and bars” (v. 11 ). The people of Israel are described as living in “the resettled ruins” (v. 12 ), and they are described as “gathered from the nations, rich in livestock and goods, living at the center of the land” (v. 12 ).
Sheba, Dedan, and the merchants of Tarshish ask the question whether they have come to seize plunder (v. 13 ). Sheba probably refers to the kingdom from which the queen of Sheba had come to see Solomon ( 1 Kings 10:1–13; 2 Chron. 9:1–12 ). It was located in southwestern Arabia, mentioned by Isaiah ( Isa. 21:13 ), Jeremiah ( Jer. 25:23; 49:8 ), and Ezekiel ( Ezek. 25:13; 27:15, 20; 38:13 ), and probably referred to a tribe that had intermarried with the Cushite people. Tarshish was probably related to an area where oil was collected in Spain, though some identify it also at a location in southern Arabia where ore was also smelted. In a word, these were merchants who were acquainted with the wealth of Israel.
Ezekiel 38:14–16. Ezekiel was instructed to prophesy that this event would take place. Israel is described as “living in safety” (v. 14 ), and their safety is mentioned also in verse 8 and 39:6. This reference should make clear that it is not describing Israel today, which is an armed camp and living in fear of its neighbors. The nature of the attack is summarized by God: “You will come from your place in the far north, you and many nations with you, all of them riding on horses, a great horde, a mighty army. You will advance against my people Israel like a cloud that covers the land. In days to come, O Gog, I will bring you against my lands, so that the nations may know me when I show myself holy through you before their eyes” ( 38:15–16 ).
These verses summarize what was said earlier in the chapter that the attack will come when Israel will be living in safety, that the invaders will come from the far north, that they will be riding on horses, that they will be numerous like a cloud, and that God will bring them against the people of Israel so that by their destruction He can show His own holiness and power.
Ezekiel 38:17–23. God reminded the invaders of what was predicted “in former days by [His] servants the prophets of Israel” (v. 17 ). The specifics of this prophecy had not been previously mentioned, but many chapters in the prophets deal with the nations around Israel and God bringing judgment upon them. Accordingly, what was about to be revealed is in keeping with God’s previous prophecies.
God declared His reaction to the attack against Israel: “When Gog attacks the land of Israel, my hot anger will be aroused, declares the Sovereign LORD. In my zeal and fiery wrath I declared that at that time there shall be a great earthquake in the land of Israel” (vv. 18–19 ).
The remarkable aspect of this prophecy is that the Scriptures do not reveal any opposing army attacking the invaders. Rather, it will be a time when God Himself by supernatural actions destroys the army. The first step will be a great earthquake in the land of Israel. The effect of this earthquake will be felt by all of God’s creatures on earth, “the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, the beasts of the field, every creature that moves along the ground, and all the people on the face of the earth will tremble at my presence. The mountains will be overturned, the cliffs will crumble and every wall will fall to the ground” (v. 20 ).
The second great judgment that God will bring on the invaders will be that they will fight among themselves: “I will summon a sword against Gog on all my mountains, declares the Sovereign LORD. Every man’s sword will be against his brother” (v. 21 ). Because of the disruption brought about by the earthquake and the fact that the army will be composed of various peoples coming from various nations, it is easy to understand how through misunderstanding they can start fighting among themselves, thinking that the others are a defending people.
The next form of judgment will be by plague and bloodshed (v. 22 ). In addition to their being destroyed by the sword, they will experience a plague, a means God has often used to attack the enemies of Israel (cf. Isa. 37:36 ).
The following judgment speaks of “torrents of rain, hailstones and burning sulfur on him and on his troops and on the many nations with him” ( Ezek. 38:22 ). The floods caused by torrents of rain would obviously hinder an invading army and cause more confusion in communications, which would properly account for the fact that they will be fighting one another. The hailstones also being supernatural may be destructive of human life. The burning sulfur that will fall on them will be a reminder of how God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. The nature of these judgments demonstrates to all that God will fight the invading army and pour His judgment on them. This is brought out in the closing verse of the chapter: “And so I will show my greatness and my holiness, and I will make myself known in the sight of many nations. Then they will know that I am the LORD” (v. 23 ).
Ezekiel 39:1–6. In repeating aspects of the prophecy of invaders’ destruction, God noted again that the invasion of the land will be caused by His bringing them into this conflict: “I will turn you around and drag you along. I will bring you from the far north and send you against the mountains of Israel” (v. 2 ). The geographic origination of the invasion is again said to be “the far north” (v. 2 ).
God further declared, “Then I will strike your bow from your left hand and make your arrows drop from your right hand” (v. 3 ). Earlier He had mentioned other weapons, but this passage for the first time mentions bows and arrows, which were standard weapons in the time Ezekiel lived. Though bows and arrows are usually characterized as primitive weapons, they actually have played a part in modern warfare and were used extensively, for instance, in the war in Vietnam. Because an arrow going through the air does not give away the location of the one who shot the arrow, it therefore was good for use in jungle situations. No final answer can be given why primitive weapons are specified. Though the outcome of the battle was clearly prophesied, Scripture does not offer any explanation why the weapons described are primitive.
Because of the various judgments of God mentioned earlier, He declared that the invading army will fall on the mountains of Israel (v. 4 ). God stated, “I will give you as food to all kinds of carrion birds and to the wild animals. You will fall in the open field, for I have spoken, declares the Sovereign LORD” (vv. 4–5 ). From these Scriptures, it is clear that the entire invading army will be wiped out. In the King James Version, Ezekiel 39:2 was translated, “And I will turn thee back, and leave but the sixth part of thee.” This translation is inaccurate, and from the New International Version, it is clear that the entire invading force will be wiped out as indicated in the expression, “All your troops and the nations with you” (v. 4 ).
In addition to wiping out the army that will invade Israel, a judgment of fire will also be inflicted on Magog and “those who live in safety in the coastlands” (v. 6 ), indicating that a special judgment will be visited also on the land from which the Russian army troops come.
Ezekiel 39:7–8. The purpose of the destruction of the armies will be to give notice to the nations that they will no longer be able to profane the holy name of the Lord (v. 7 ). God reaffirms the certainty and literalness of this event, declaring, “It is coming! It will surely take place” (v. 8 ).
Ezekiel 39:9–10. The extent of the destruction is indicated by the amount of weapons that will be accumulated from the victory over the invading army. They will be used for fuel and include “the small and large shields, the bows and arrows, the war clubs and spears. For seven years they will use them for fuel. They will not need to gather wood from the fields or cut it from the forests, because they will use the weapons for fuel. And they will plunder those who plundered them and loot those who looted them,’ declares the Sovereign LORD” (vv. 9–10 ).
The theory that these weapons are simply figurative and not representing real weapons of wood is countered by the fact that they will be used for fuel, indicating that the weapons will actually be as described. Also, the fuel will be of such a large amount that they will be able to fuel their fires for seven years.
The figure of seven years introduces some problems as it affects the location of this war in the end-time events, because it pictures Israel at peace and in safety ( 38:8; 39:6 ). The burning of the fuel is not a prophetic event but only a statement of the amount of debris. A number of expositors have located this war in the first half of the last seven years leading up to the second coming. The first half of the seven years will be a period of peace because of the covenant entered into between Israel and the Gentile ruler of that period ( Dan. 9:27 ). The problem of the fuel lasting seven years, however, is not a real prophetic problem, because even after the Lord returns, they will still need fuel for fires in the millennial kingdom as life goes on. Accordingly, the seven-year figure should not be considered an obstacle to placing the war somewhere in the middle of the last seven years with the possibility that it may occur earlier in the seven-year period and justify the approximate figure of seven years.
Ezekiel 39:11–16. The thousands of soldiers killed in the war are described as requiring seven months to bury them in order to cleanse the land (vv. 11–13 ). After the seven months there still will be other bodies located, and according to the prophecy some people will be permanently employed to search out the dead and bury them (vv. 14–16 ).
Ezekiel 39:17–20. Immediately after the battle, before the burial takes place, God will invite the birds and wild animals to feast on the dead bodies. God pointed out how the dead will include riders, some of whom were important people, and also their horses (vv. 17–20 ).
Ezekiel 39:21–24. The judgment on the invaders is designed to display the power of God (v. 21 ). God had previously judged the people of Israel because of their unfaithfulness and many of them had died (vv. 23–24 ).
The Continual Burnt Offering (John 4:24)
By H.A. Ironside - 1941
August 6John 4:24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” ESV
In considering the subject of worship, the highest exercise of which the spirit of man is capable, it is important to remember that there is a great difference between the way it is presented in the two Testaments. In former dispensations God was hidden in large measure. His wisdom and His providence were displayed in creation. His love was seen in His care of those who confided in Him. His grace was declared by the prophets as something yet to be revealed. Consequently there was no immediate access into the presence of God. The veil was unrent. His word to Israel was, “Do not draw near this place” (Exodus 3:5); “Worship from afar” (24:1). But since the advent of Christ, all is changed. Grace and truth are now revealed. The veil is rent. The way into the holiest is now made clear. In spirit every believer is invited to “draw near… in full assurance of faith” (Hebrews 10:19-22). The worship of the new creation is based upon the finished work of our blessed Lord. In spirit we enter the immediate presence of the Father in full consciousness of our sonship. Worship is far more than prayer, or the enjoyment of helpful ministry. It is the spirit’s adoring occupation with God Himself, not merely in gratitude for His gifts, but because of what He is. It is this that the Father seeks. Worship is lowered as we become occupied with the externals even of Christianity. It reaches its highest point as our spirits are absorbed in contemplation of the matchless perfections of the eternal God, in the light of the cross and the empty tomb.
Exodus 3:5 Then he said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.”
Exodus 24:1 Then he said to Moses, “Come up to the LORD, you and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, and worship from afar.
Hebrews 10:19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. ESV
Father, we Thy children, bless Thee
For Thy love on us bestowed;
Source of blessing, we confess Thee
Now, our Father and our God.
Wondrous was Thy love in giving
Jesus for our sins to die!
Wondrous was His grace in leaving,
For our sakes, the heavens on high!
--- Samuel P. Tregelles
The Continual Burnt Offering: Daily Meditations on the Word of God
Christian Hypocrisy Undermines Reasonability of Christian Faith
By Josh McDowell and Sean McDowellChristian hypocrisy has done massive damage to the Christian faith. According to Guinness, the challenge of hypocrisy is second only to the problem of suffering and evil, and is one of the main reasons people duck the challenge of the gospel. (Fool's Talk: Recovering the Art of Christian Persuasion, 190) Hypocrisy is such a massive challenge, says Guinness, because Christians are called to be God’s witnesses to the world (Isa. 43:10; John 3:28): “In other words, before we are asked to preach, proclaim or try to persuade people of the claims of Jesus and his Father, we are asked simply to be witnesses for him—to provide an honest and factual account of what we have seen and heard objectively, and what we ourselves have experienced (‘Once I was blind, but now I can see’)—and to live lives that support what we say.” (Fool's Talk: Recovering the Art of Christian Persuasion, 188)
It is tempting for Christians to respond by pointing out the hypocrisy in other people and worldviews. For instance, the voices of tolerance and inclusiveness are often remarkably intolerant and noninclusive of people with traditional values. Such hypocrisy should be rightly pointed out. But this doesn’t get Christians off the hook. After all, James said, “Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (James 1:22). Christians are called to a higher standard. Whether we like it or not, people will judge the truthfulness of Christianity by the lives of its adherents.
As with the charge that the church has caused injustice in the world, Christians should first look inside and see if there is any merit to this claim. Have we been hypocritical in any way? Have our lives betrayed our principles? Have we contributed to this narrative? Rather than blame others, we need to take an honest look inside, identify our own hypocrisy, repent of it, and then admit our shortcomings.
As for the claim itself, it is an example of a “genetic fallacy,” which is a claim that is dismissed because of some perceived fault in its origin (its genesis). Guinness explains,
There is an important difference between the source of a truth claim and the standard by which it should be assessed. It is therefore wrong to reject a claim just because of the character and condition of its source. . . . The issue is always truth, and truth is not a matter of where someone is “coming from” or how oddly or shabbily they have behaved in the past before making the claim. . . . If the Christian faith is true, it would still be true even if no one believed it, or if all who did were hypocrites; and if it is false, would still be false even if everyone believed it and there was no apparent hypocrisy in their behavior. (Fool's Talk: Recovering the Art of Christian Persuasion, 196)If you are upset about hypocrisy in the church, then you are in good company — Jesus felt the same way. Jesus criticized the Pharisees for their religious hypocrisy, calling them blind guides, snakes, and even killers of the prophets (Matt. 23). He condemned them for not practicing what they preached. If hypocrisy troubles you, then you’re on the side of Jesus.
What does hypocrisy tell us about Christianity? Scholars and teachers Clinton Arnold and Jeff Arnold explain:
When we go to church or spend time with Christians, many of us go in with the expectation that we won’t find anything we don’t like, including hypocrites. These people have been fixed by Jesus already, right? It doesn’t take long to become disappointed if that’s what we expect. But maybe this expectation is off. If you walked into a hospital, would you be surprised if you found sick people everywhere? What if some of them were really sick? This is much closer to how we should approach the church and Christians in general. We are not perfect; in fact, we’re all still very sick. But we are getting better. It’s easy to forget that we all came to the church at different points in life; many people come from broken lives that are now in the process of healing, and most of us are more sick than we realize. We should not be surprised to find people in different states of mending. It would make more sense to compare a person to how they were before they became a Christian than to compare them to perfection. The church is not a place for perfect people, it’s a place for broken people slowly being made whole by Jesus. If we find ourselves surprised when we see sin in the church, we should rethink our expectations. (Short Answers to Big Questions about God, the Bible, and Christianity, 101–102)
Joslin "Josh" McDowell (born August 17, 1939) is an evangelical apologist and evangelist. He is the author or co-author of over 150 books. His book Evidence That Demands a Verdict was ranked 13th in Christianity Today's list of most influential evangelical books published after World War II. Other well-known titles are More Than a Carpenter, A Ready Defense and Right from Wrong.Josh McDowell Books | Go to Books Page
By Robert Jeffress 2023
Is there a more daunting word in the Christian vocabulary than Christlikeness? Can you imagine a more ambitious goal? Think about it: at a young boy’s first peewee basketball practice, the coach doesn’t hand him a ball and say, “Let’s see some Jordanlikeness.” The first time a young girl steps onto a tennis court, the instructor doesn’t hand her a racket and say, “From now on, when people look at you, they should see Serena Williams.” An elementary school teacher doesn’t hand back a student’s very first essay and say, “I expected more Twainlikeness out of you.”
Yet what happens when we put our faith in Christ? We’re told that Jesus is the only Son of God. He came to earth to do what we could not do for ourselves. He lived a sinless life. He never once gave in to temptation. He dedicated Himself completely to God’s will. He used Scripture to drive away Satan. He demonstrated sacrificial love, the likes of which have never been seen before or since. His was the most important life in human history. Oh, and by the way, when people look at you, they should see Him.
What does that mean? As we study this tenth core belief of Christianity, we’ll discover that Christlikeness is intimately tied to our relationship with God, the work of the Holy Spirit, and the way we view the world. We’ll also discover that Christlikeness is not as far beyond our reach as it may seem. In fact, with God’s help, it’s well within our grasp.
Pursuing God’s Will
What is God’s will for our lives? The answer to that question is the holy grail, so to speak, of our existence. After all, once we know God’s definitive will for us, we’ll be able to spot every signpost and every trail marker on our walk with Christ. We’ll be able to march confidently through this life, fairly certain of where we’re going. Or so the thinking goes. So we pray fervently for God to reveal His will to us and wait for His grand revelation. If we’re not careful, we may become frozen in place, afraid to make the wrong move, while we wait for His yellow-brick road to become apparent to us.
However, God has already revealed His will for us. It’s there, for the whole world to see, in Romans 8:28–29.
Romans 8:28–29 (NASB95) 28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren;
Let’s start with verse 28: “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good.” Those thirteen words are an optimist’s delight. They seem to imply that no matter how horrible something is that happens in your life, somewhere there’s something good in it. And if you just look hard enough or wait long enough, you’ll see the silver lining in the cloud.
What’s more, these words seem to offer an insurance policy for believers. If God causes all things to work together for good, then surely that means that if we take the wrong road in life, God will turn it into an incredible journey. Or if we bungle an attempt to witness to someone or to model our faith, God will turn our clumsiness into something special. As long as there’s a modicum of effort involved, whatever we do will turn out for the best.
If, in fact, that’s what Paul meant by those thirteen words. But it’s not.
There are some things that happen to us that are so tragic, so scarring, that to suggest good can come from them almost minimizes our suffering and our efforts to heal. That’s not what Paul was promising in Romans 8:28. To get to the heart of the matter, we have to examine the verse in its entirety: “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”
Paul’s point was that God is using everything that happens to you — the good, the bad, and the ugly — to accomplish His purpose in your life. And what is that purpose? This is going to surprise some of you. God’s purpose for your life is not that you have a satisfying marriage. God’s purpose for your life is not that you have a successful career or an impressive bank account. God’s purpose for your life is not that you be healed from every physical disease. No. God’s purpose for your life is found in verse 29: “For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren.”
God loved Jesus so much that He said, in so many words, “I don’t want to have just one Son. I’d love to have many children — men and women who resemble the Son I love in the things they love, the way they act, and the thoughts they have.”
God’s plan for you is not just to save you, to rescue your soul from hell, but to transform you, to chisel in you the perfect image of His Son. And Paul was saying that everything in your life is working together for that one purpose: to make you just like Jesus. To make you love the things Jesus loved, to do the things Jesus did, to act the way Jesus acted in every situation. Every success as well as every sadness, every triumph as well as every tragedy, is working together for that one purpose.
In my own life, I’ve found it’s not the easy things that tend to make me more like Jesus. It’s those hard things, those sad things, those things that defy our human understanding that God uses to chisel away anything un-Christlike in my life.
The process by which God conforms us to the image of His Son is known as sanctification, and it’s a lifetime work. Your relationship with God doesn’t reach its full potential the moment you’re saved. God saved you to begin the sanctification process in you. Paul described it this way: “He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:6).
The question that arises is this: Is sanctification, our becoming like Jesus, God’s responsibility or our responsibility? Some people embrace the “Let go and let God” view of the process. They say, “Just as you can’t become a Christian through human effort, you can’t live as a Christian through human effort. So just let go and let God take care of it.” However, certain passages of Scripture seem to contradict that thinking. And they all come from the letters of Paul.
In Galatians 5:16, he said, “Walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.” In Ephesians 4:22–24, he said, “In reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.” And in Colossians 3:8, he said, “But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth.”
Look at his message in these passages. You are the one who must lay aside your old nature. You are the one who must lay aside anger, malice, and wrath. You are the one who’s responsible for walking in the Spirit. You are the one who’s responsible for putting on the new self. In other words, don’t wait for God to do these things for you.
Other people embrace the “If it’s going to be, it’s up to me” approach to sanctification. This is the pull - yourself - up - by - your - own - spiritual - bootstraps mindset that says if you just read your Bible and pray enough, you’ll eventually become like Jesus Christ. But that approach won’t work either. Jesus Himself said so in John 15:5: “Apart from Me you can do nothing.”
That leaves only the middle ground. Sanctification, the process of becoming like Jesus, is a cooperative effort between God and us. God supplies the power; we supply the effort. Without God, we cannot. Without us, God will not.
The apostle Peter described this joint effort in 2 Peter 1:3: “His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.” God has given us everything we need to be Christlike. And we access that power through His Holy Spirit.
Working with the Holy Spirit
In our study of God the Holy Spirit, we learned that the Holy Spirit dwells in every believer. The purpose of His indwelling is to transform us — to make us like Christ. And given the opportunity, that’s exactly what He does. But He will not do it independently of us or against our will.
The Holy Spirit dwells in us, but He occupies only those areas that we surrender to His control. That act of surrendering is the key to Christlikeness. The more of our lives we choose to give over to the Holy Spirit’s control, the more people will see Christ in us.
However, we must understand that while surrender is a choice, it’s not a once - and - for - all decision. Every day we face dozens of situations in which we must decide whether we will surrender to the Holy Spirit or grab the reins of our lives.
For example, let’s say you’re browsing online when an ad for an adult website pops up. The images in the ad catch your eye, as they’re intended to do. At that moment, you have a choice. Your curiosity is telling you to click on the ad and look at what you know you shouldn’t. But the Spirit is saying, Shut it down right now. Get up and walk away. In that split second, you have a decision to make. Are you going to be controlled by your lust, or are you going to be controlled by the Holy Spirit?
Shortly after you’ve made that decision, you’ll undoubtedly be faced with another. The process of surrendering, of working toward Christlikeness, never ends. And we won’t always make the decision to surrender. The apostle Paul, the greatest missionary the world has ever known, testified to that fact. Look at his words in Romans 7:18–19: “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want.”
We can all identify with Paul’s conundrum. We want to do the right thing, yet we find ourselves unable to do so. We say, “I’ll never do that again,” only to find ourselves doing it thirty minutes later. The only day we’ll ever be completely free from our struggle with sin will be the day of our death.
The good news is that the struggle gets easier the more often we choose to be controlled by the Holy Spirit. Think of it as a habit we develop. The more often we say yes to the Spirit and no to sin, the easier it becomes the next time to say yes to the Spirit and no to sin.
What Does the Holy Spirit Do in Our Lives?
People who develop the habit of walking with the Spirit find that there are four things the Holy Spirit gives us when He has control of our lives.
Power in Times of Temptation
First, the Holy Spirit gives us power in times of temptation. He helps us understand that because we’ve been freed from the power of sin, we need to act accordingly.
According to 1 Peter 3:18, the Holy Spirit has made us alive in Christ. The same power of God that reached down and lifted Jesus Christ out of the grave is working in our lives right now to free us from the power of sin. To claim that power, we need to present our bodies to God every day.
That’s what Paul was talking about in Romans 6:12–13: “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.” In other words, don’t let sin have the final say in your life. Considering this new power you have in Christ, start acting in a way that’s consistent with that truth.
Stop filling your eyes with pornographic images from movies and internet sites. Instead, start filling your eyes with the truth that comes from God’s Word.
Stop using your tongue to criticize and tear down other people. Instead, start using your words to encourage and build up others.
Stop allowing your feet to take you places you know you shouldn’t go. Instead, present your feet to God to take you to share the gospel with people.
Stop allowing your mind to be controlled by anger and fear. Instead, allow it to be filled with the peace that comes from the Holy Spirit.
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
2/1/2016 True Reformation
Awakening is at the very heart of the Christian faith, and it is the reason we are Christians. Awakening is the powerful work of our sovereign and gracious God. When He awakens us, He doesn’t simply awaken us from sleep, but from death. Awakening is the glorious work of regeneration, revival, and reformation. When God awakens us, He regenerates our hearts, gives us the gift of new birth, and makes us alive. He says to us, “Live!” (Ezek. 16:6). The Holy Spirit invades, conquers, and persuades us. He rips out our stubborn, self-trusting hearts of stone and replaces our dead hearts with new, living hearts—hearts that are made willing and able to believe; hearts that are soft and pliable in the hands of our Father, united and lovingly enslaved to Christ, and indwelt by the Holy Spirit.
When God awakens, He always brings revival, whether it is the revival of a single soul, the revival of a family, the revival of a community, or the revival of a nation. When God brings revival, He always brings deep and convicting repentance that leads to a life of faith, repentance, and obedience. When God awakens, He always brings true and lasting reformation—reformation of hearts, lives, homes, and churches. However, we cannot schedule awakening, and we should not attempt to devise a superficial, formulaic scheme to bring about awakening. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said, “A revival never needs to be advertised; it always advertises itself.” Awakening happens only when God ordains it. He brings about awakening according to His sovereign plan. He brings about awakening where He wants, when He wants, and to whom He wants, all according to His good pleasure.
Nevertheless, just as God ordains awakening, He ordains the means of awakening. God not only sovereignly ordains the ends of all things, He ordains the means of all ends as well. And the means that God has ordained to bring about awakening are the ordinary means He has already ordained for our regular weekly worship and daily growth in grace. The Word, prayer, and the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper are the ordinary means of grace God has given us. These are the means through which the Holy Spirit works to bring true conversion, true revival, and true reformation. God’s awakening power is not activated by our schemes and tactics, but by His Spirit and His ordinary means of awakening. And we must trust Him to do precisely what He pleases to do according to His sovereign wisdom, resting in the promise that the light of His countenance shines upon us as we live before His face, coram Deo.
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Dr. Burk Parsons (@BurkParsons) is editor of Tabletalk magazine, senior pastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., a visiting lecturer at Reformed Theological Seminary, and a Ligonier Ministries teaching fellow. He is editor of John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, and Doxology.
Ligonier coram Deo (definition)
by Bill Federer
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
Where the self-interest sleeps
and the real interest awakens
--- Oswald Chambers
He that does good for good's sake
seeks neither paradise nor reward,
but he is sure of both in the end.
--- William Penn
Fill me with gladness from above,
Hold me by strength divine;
Lord, let the glow of your great love
Through my whole being shine.
Revelation is God's gracious self-disclosure in which he lovingly forfeits his own personal privacy so that his sinful creatures might know him.
--- Carl F.H. Henry
I am always very glad that my slanderers should tell a trifling lie about me rather than the whole terrible truth.
--- Mother Teresa
... from here, there and everywhere
Thanks to Meir Yona
Containing The Interval Of About One Year. From Vespasian's Coming To Subdue The Jews To The Taking Of Gamala.
Vespasian Is Sent Into Syria By Nero In Order To Make War With The Jews.
1. When Nero was informed of the Romans' ill success in Judea, a concealed consternation and terror, as is usual in such cases, fell upon him; although he openly looked very big, and was very angry, and said that what had happened was rather owing to the negligence of the commander, than to any valor of the enemy: and as he thought it fit for him, who bare the burden of the whole empire, to despise such misfortunes, he now pretended so to do, and to have a soul superior to all such sad accidents whatsoever. Yet did the disturbance that was in his soul plainly appear by the solicitude he was in [how to recover his affairs again].
2. And as he was deliberating to whom he should commit the care of the East, now it was in so great a commotion, and who might be best able to punish the Jews for their rebellion, and might prevent the same distemper from seizing upon the neighboring nations also,—he found no one but Vespasian equal to the task, and able to undergo the great burden of so mighty a war, seeing he was growing an old man already in the camp, and from his youth had been exercised in warlike exploits: he was also a man that had long ago pacified the west, and made it subject to the Romans, when it had been put into disorder by the Germans; he had also recovered to them Britain by his arms, which had been little known before 1 whereby he procured to his father Claudius to have a triumph bestowed on him without any sweat or labor of his own.
3. So Nero esteemed these circumstances as favorable omens, and saw that Vespasian's age gave him sure experience, and great skill, and that he had his sons as hostages for his fidelity to himself, and that the flourishing age they were in would make them fit instruments under their father's prudence. Perhaps also there was some interposition of Providence, which was paving the way for Vespasian's being himself emperor afterwards. Upon the whole, he sent this man to take upon him the command of the armies that were in Syria; but this not without great encomiums and flattering compellations, such as necessity required, and such as might mollify him into complaisance. So Vespasian sent his son Titus from Achaia, where he had been with Nero, to Alexandria, to bring back with him from thence the fifth and the tenth legions, while he himself, when he had passed over the Hellespont, came by land into Syria, where he gathered together the Roman forces, with a considerable number of auxiliaries from the kings in that neighborhood.
The War of the Jews: The History of the Destruction of Jerusalem (complete edition, 7 books)
by D.H. Stern
I’ll be killed if I go out in the street!”
by Frank W. Boreham
It was in New Zealand, and I was attending my first Conference. I had only a month or two earlier entered the Christian ministry. I dreaded the Assembly of my grave and reverend seniors. With becoming modesty, I stole quietly into the hall and occupied a back seat. From this welcome seclusion, however, I was rudely summoned to receive the right hand of fellowship from the President. Then I once more plunged into the outer darkness of oblivion and obscurity. Here I remained until once again I was electrified at the sound of my own name. It seemed that the sorrows of dissension had overtaken a tiny church in a remote bush district. One of the oldest and most revered members, the father of a very large family and the leader of the little brotherhood, had intimated his intention of withdrawing from fellowship and of joining another denomination. This formidable secession had thrown the little congregation into helpless confusion, and an appeal was made to the courts of the denomination. The letter was read; and the secretary stated briefly and succinctly the facts of the situation. And then, to my amazement, he closed by moving that Mr. William Forbury and myself be appointed a deputation to visit the district, to advise the church, and to report to Conference. Mr. Forbury, he explained, was a father in Israel. His grey hairs commanded reverence; whilst his ripe experience and sound judgement would be invaluable to the small and troubled community. So far, so good. His reasoning seemed irresistible. But he went on to say that he had included my name because I was an absolute stranger. I knew nothing of the internal disputes that had rent the church. My very freshness would give me a position of impartiality that older men could not claim. Moreover, he argued, the visit to a bush congregation, and the insight into its peculiar difficulties, would be a useful experience for me. I felt that I could not decently decline; but I confidently expected that the proposal would be challenged and probably rejected. To my astonishment, however, it was seconded and carried. And nothing remained but to arrange with Mr. Forbury the date of our delegation.
The day came, and we set out. It took the train just four hours to convey us to the lonely station from which we emerged upon a wilderness of green bush and a maze of muddy tracks. Mr. Forbury had visited the district frequently, and knew it well. We called upon several settlers in the course of the afternoon, taking dinner with one, and afternoon tea with another. And then we proceeded to the home of the seceder. The place seemed alive with young people. The house swarmed with children.
'How are you, John?' inquired my companion.
'Ah, William, glad to see you; how are you?'
They made an interesting study, these two old men. Their forms were bent with long years of hard and honourable toil. Their faces were rugged and weatherbeaten, wrinkled with age, and furrowed with care. They had come out together from the Homeland years and years ago. They had borne each other's burdens, and shared each other's confidences, through all the days of their pilgrimage. Their thoughts of each other were mingled with all the memories of their courtships, their weddings, and their earlier struggles. A thousand tender and sacred associations were interwoven, in the mind of each, with the name of the other. When fortune had smiled, they had delighted in each other's prosperity. In times of shadow, each had hastened to the other's side. They had walked together, talked together, laughed together, wept together, and—very, very often—prayed together. They had been as David and Jonathan, and the soul of the one was knit to the soul of the other. Hundreds of times, before the one had come to settle in this new district, they had walked to the house of God in company. And now a matter of doctrine had intervened. And, with such men, a matter of doctrine is a matter of conscience. And a matter of conscience is the most stubborn of all obstacles to overcome. I looked into their stern, expressive faces, and I saw that they were no triflers. A fad had no charm for either of them. They looked into each other's faces, and each read the truth. The breach was irreparable.
We sat in the great farm kitchen until tea-time. I felt it was no business of mine to broach the affairs that had brought us. Several times I thought that Mr. Forbury was about to touch the matter. But each time it was adroitly avoided, and the conversation swerved off in another direction. Once or twice I felt half inclined to precipitate a discussion. Indeed, I was in the act of doing so when our hostess brought in the tea. A snowy cloth, home-made scones, delicious oat-cake, abundance of cream—how tempting it all was! And how unattractive ecclesiastical controversy in comparison! We sat there in the twilight for what seemed like an age, talking of everything under the sun. Of everything, that is to say, save one thing only. And there brooded heavily over our spirits the consciousness that we were avoiding the one and only subject on which we were all really and deeply thinking.
After tea came family worship. I was invited to conduct it, and did so. After reading a psalm from the old farm Bible, we all kneeled together, the flickering flames of the great log-fire flinging strange shadows on the whitened wall and rafters as we rose and bowed ourselves. I caught myself attempting, even in prayer, to make obscure but fitting reference to the special circumstances that had brought us together. But the reticence of my companion was contagious. It was like a bridle on my tongue. The sadness of it all haunted me, and paralysed my speech; and I swerved off again at every threatened allusion. We sat on for awhile, they on either side of the roomy fireplace, and I between them, whilst the good woman and her daughters washed up the tea-things. The clatter of the dishes, and the babel of many voices, made it impossible for us to speak freely on the subject nearest our hearts. At length we rose to go. I noticed, on the part of my two aged companions, a peculiar reluctance to separate. Each longed, yet dreaded, to speak. There was evidently so much to be said, and yet speech seemed so hopeless.
At last our friend said that he would walk a few steps with us. We said good-bye to the great household and set off into the night.
I shall never forget that walk! It was a clear, frosty evening. The moonlight was radiant. Every twig was tipped with silver. The smallest object could be seen distinctly. I watched the rabbits as they popped timidly in and out of the great gorse hedgerows. A hare went scurrying across the field. I felt all at once that I was an intruder. What right had I to be in the company of these two aged brethren in the very crisis of their lifelong friendship? No Conference on earth could vest me with authority to invade this holy ground! I made an excuse, and hurried on, walking some distance in front of them. But the night was so still that, even at that distance, had a word been uttered I must have heard it. I could hear the clatter of hoofs on the hard road two miles ahead. I could hear the dogs barking at a farmhouse twice as far away. I could hear a rabbit squealing in a trap on the fringe of the bush far behind us. But no word did I hear. For none was uttered. Side by side they walked on and on in perfect silence. I once paused and allowed them to approach. They were crying like children. Stern old Puritans! They were built of the stuff that martyrs are made of. Either would have died a hundred deaths rather than have been false to conscience, or to truth, or to the other. Either would have died a hundred deaths to save the other from one. Neither could be coaxed or cowed into betraying one jot or tittle of his heart's best treasure. And each knew, whilst he trembled for himself, that all this was true of the other as well. Side by side they walked for miles in that pale and silvery moonlight. Not one word was spoken. Grief had paralysed their vocal powers; and their eyes were streaming with another eloquence. They wrung each other's hands at length, and parted without even saying good-night!
At the next Conference it was the junior member of the deputation who presented the report. He simply stated that the delegation had visited the district without having been able to reconcile the differences that had arisen in the little congregation. The Assembly formally adopted the report, and the deputation was thanked for its services. It seemed a very futile business. And yet one member of that deputation has always felt that life was strangely enriched by the happenings of that memorable night. It puts iron into the blood to spend an hour with men to whom the claim of conscience is supreme, and who love truth with so deathless an affection that the purest and noblest of other loves cannot dethrone it.
Mushrooms on the Moor
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
At that day ye shall ask in My name. --- John 16:26.
We are too much given to thinking of the Cross as something we have to get through; we get through it only in order to get into it. The Cross stands for one thing only for us—a complete and entire and absolute identification with the Lord Jesus Christ, and there is nothing in which this identification is realized more than in prayer.
“Your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask Him.” Then why ask? The idea of prayer is not in order to get answers from God; prayer is perfect and complete oneness with God. If we pray because we want answers, we will get huffed with God. The answers come every time, but not always in the way we expect, and our spiritual huff shows a refusal to identify ourselves with Our Lord in prayer. We are not here to prove God answers prayer; we are here to be living monuments of God’s grace.
“I say not that I will pray the Father for you: for the Father Himself loveth you.” Have you reached such an intimacy with God that the Lord Jesus Christ’s life of prayer is the only explanation of your life of prayer? Has Our Lord’s vicarious life become your vital life? “At that day” you will be so identified with Jesus that there will be no distinction.
When prayer seems to be unanswered, beware of trying to fix the blame on someone else. That is always a snare of Satan. You will find there is a reason which is a deep instruction to you, not to anyone else.
My Utmost for His Highest
the Poetry of RS Thomas
You ask me what it was like?
I lived, thought, felt the temptation
Of spirit to take matter
As my invention, but bruised my mind
On the facts: the old stubbornness
Of rock, the rough bark of a tree,
The body of her I would make my own
And could not,
And yet they ceased;
With the closing of my eyes they became
As nothing. Each day I had to begin
Their assembly, as though it were I
Who contrived them. The air was contentment
Of spirit, a glass to renew
One's illusions, Christen me, christen me,
The stone cried. Instead I bequeathed
It these words, foreseeing the forming
Of the rainbow of your brushed eyes
After the storm in my flesh.
On November 19, 1863, thousands gathered on the site of the Battle of Gettysburg in Pennsylvania. A portion of the field was being dedicated as a cemetery for those who had died in what was the turning point of the Civil War.
As we learn in Garry Wills’s masterful book Lincoln at Gettysburg, the program for the day included musical selections, a prayer, and a benediction. The president of the United States was asked to make a few “dedicatory remarks.” Edward Everett was to deliver the major speech of the day, the Gettysburg Address. Everett had a distinguished career: minister, professor, congressman, senator, ambassador, secretary of state, vice presidential candidate, president of Harvard University. He had the reputation as the greatest orator of his day. Everett was asked in September to prepare a speech for a date one month later. He replied that he would need almost two months to prepare.
Everett began his oration with these words: “Standing beneath this serene sky, overlooking these broad fields now reposing from the labors of the waning year, the mighty Alleghenies dimly towering before us, the graves of our brethren beneath our feet, it is with hesitation that I raise my poor voice to break the eloquent silence of God and Nature.” Everett’s speech took two hours. One interesting footnote: Everett had a bladder problem, and required a tent near the site of the speech so that he could relieve himself just before and after his long talk.
The president’s remarks were very brief—only 272 words. There are no photographs of him delivering the speech because, as the story goes, he was finished before the photographers had a chance to set up their cameras. Lincoln, of course, began with words that became immortal, taking their place as the greatest speech in American history: “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”
A postscript: Everett later wrote to Lincoln, “I should be glad if I could flatter myself that I came as near to the central idea of the occasion in two hours as you did in two minutes.” To which Lincoln responded, “… you could not have been excused to make a short address, nor I a long one. I am pleased to know that in your judgment, the little I did say was not entirely a failure.…”
Yom Kippur lasts an entire day, and the traditional Jew spends a good part of those twenty-four hours in the synagogue. Many a worshiper has asked (probably at the point when hunger and fatigue simultaneously set in), “Why do I have to sit here so long? Why can’t we do all this in a couple of hours?”
Becoming a better person—a goal of Yom Kippur—isn’t something that happens overnight. It can’t even happen after a twenty-four hour period of introspection. Still, there is a great deal to be said for focusing on the theme of self-improvement one entire day each year. It can force us to dig deeper inside ourselves, to think more creatively, to be more self-reflective and evaluative.
Similarly, there is something positive to be said for sticking to a value, a vision, or a project over the long term. It grows on us. We learn a little more about it, and ourselves, over time. And we don’t necessarily end with what we started with.
The Hebrew word לְהַאֲרִיךְ/l’ha’arikh, “to prolong,” does not necessarily mean “to be long-winded.” In our case, it means something more like “to be long-willed.” In a day and age when quick fixes and instantaneous therapies are popular, we have to remember the long term. It may not be easier, but it is often more successful and more rewarding overall.
Searching for Meaning in Midrash: Lessons for Everyday Living
My lover is mine and I am his. --- Song of Songs 2:16.
This marriage union with Christ is the most noble and excellent union. The Essential Works of John Flavel
There is a closer union in this holy marriage than there can be in any other. In other marriages, two make one flesh, but Christ and the believer make one spirit. “He who unites himself with the Lord is one with him in spirit” (1 Cor. 6:17). The joy that flows from the mystic union is inexpressible and glorious (1 Peter 1:8).
This union with Christ never ceases. Other marriages are soon at an end. Death cuts asunder the marriage knot, but this conjugal union is eternal. You who are once Christ’s spouse will never again be a widow. “I will betroth you to me forever” (Hos. 2:19).
In this life there is only the contract. The glorious completing and solemnizing of the marriage is reserved for heaven. There is the wedding supper of the Lamb
(Rev. 19:9). “And so we will be with the Lord forever”
(1 Thess. 4:17). So death merely begins our marriage with Christ.
Have we chosen Christ to set our love on, and is this choice founded on knowledge? Have we consented to the match? It is not enough that Christ is willing to have us, but are we willing to have him? God does not so force salvation on us that we shall have Christ whether we want to or not. We must consent to have him. Many approve of Christ but do not give their consent. And this consent must be pure and genuine. We consent to have him for his own worth and excellence.
Have we taken Christ? Faith is the bond of the union. Christ is joined to us by his Spirit, and we are joined to him by faith. Faith ties the marriage knot.
Have we given ourselves to Christ? Thus the spouse in the text says, “I am his,” as if she had said, “All I have is for the use and service of Christ.” Have we made a surrender? Have we given up our names and wills to Christ? When the Devil solicits by a temptation, do we say, “We are not our own, we are Christ’s; our tongues are his, we must not defile them with oaths; our bodies are his temple, we must not pollute them with sin”? If it is so, it is a sign that the Holy Spirit has produced this blessed union between Christ and us.
--- Thomas Watson
Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
Death in the Catacombs August 6
The leaders of the early church included two men named Sixtus. The first served as bishop of Rome from about 117 to 127. Sixtus II occupied the same office in 257–258.
The latter rose to the position during the unfortunate reign of Emperor Valerian when the empire was ravaged by plagues, droughts, earthquakes, tornadoes, and tidal waves. Valerian was initially tolerant toward Christians, but as natural disasters rocked his realm, he superstitiously began to blame the church. Edicts were issued against bishops and priests, and decrees forbade the gathering of Christians for worship. Churches were closed to the living Christians and cemeteries were closed to the dead ones.
The followers of Christ, however, were not daunted, and within a year Valerian realized his edicts were failing. In July, 258 he ordered bishops, priests, and deacons executed. He confiscated church property and denied civil privileges to believers. Members of the royal court who espoused Christianity were made slaves on imperial estates. One prominent church leader was tied to a bull and driven up and down the streets until his brains were dashed out.
Sixtus II had become bishop of Rome just as Valerian was issuing his orders. He created a small chapel in the catacombs, and there he met secretly with his faithful flock. One day as he taught the people, imperial soldiers burst in and seized him. He was rushed before a judge, condemned, and taken back to the catacombs where, on August 6, 258, he was put to death in his episcopal chair. Several of his deacons also perished.
Three weeks later in North Africa, Bishop Cyprian of Carthage was brought before another imperial judge. When challenged, he declared, “I am a Christian bishop. I know no gods but the only true God.”
“Have you made up your mind to that?” asked the Roman.
“A good mind,” replied Cyprian, “cannot alter.” He was soon escorted to a natural amphitheater where his head was severed. In many parts of the empire, the persecution of 258–259 was the bloodiest the church had yet endured.
Be brave when you face your enemies. Your courage will show them that they are going to be destroyed, and it will show you that you will be saved.
--- Philippians 1:28
On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - August 6
“Watchman, what of the night?” --- Isaiah 21:11.
What enemies are abroad? Errors are a numerous horde, and new ones appear every hour: against what heresy am I to be on my guard? Sins creep from their lurking places when the darkness reigns; I must myself mount the watch-tower, and watch unto prayer. Our heavenly Protector foresees all the attacks which are about to be made upon us, and when as yet the evil designed us is but in the desire of Satan, he prays for us that our faith fail not, when we are sifted as wheat. Continue O gracious Watchman, to forewarn us of our foes, and for Zion’s sake hold not thy peace.
“Watchman, what of the night?” What weather is coming for the Church? Are the clouds lowering, or is it all clear and fair overhead? We must care for the Church of God with anxious love; and now that Popery and infidelity are both threatening, let us observe the signs of the times and prepare for conflict.
“Watchman, what of the night?” What stars are visible? What precious promises suit our present case? You sound the alarm, give us the consolation also. Christ, the polestar, is ever fixed in his place, and all the stars are secure in the right hand of their Lord.
But watchman, when comes the Morning? The Bridegroom tarries. Are there no signs of his coming forth as the Sun of Righteousness? Has not the Morning star arisen as the pledge of day? When will the day dawn, and the shadows flee away? O Jesus, if thou come not in person to thy waiting Church this day, yet come in Spirit to my sighing heart, and make it sing for joy.
“Now all the earth is bright and glad
With the fresh morn;
But all my heart is cold, and dark and sad:
Sun of the soul, let me behold thy dawn!
Come, Jesus, Lord,
O quickly come, according to thy word.”
Evening - August 6
“Let the whole earth be filled with his glory; Amen, and Amen.” --- Psalm 72:19.
This is a large petition. To intercede for a whole city needs a stretch of faith, and there are times when a prayer for one man is enough to stagger us. But how far-reaching was the psalmist’s dying intercession! How comprehensive! How sublime! “Let the whole earth be filled with his glory.” It doth not exempt a single country however crushed by the foot of superstition; it doth not exclude a single nation however barbarous. For the cannibal as well as for the civilized, for all climes and races this prayer is uttered: the whole circle of the earth it encompasses, and omits no son of Adam. We must be up and doing for our Master, or we cannot honestly offer such a prayer. The petition is not asked with a sincere heart unless we endeavour, as God shall help us, to extend the kingdom of our Master. Are there not some who neglect both to plead and to labour? Reader, is it your prayer? Turn your eyes to Calvary. Behold the Lord of Life nailed to a cross, with the thorn-crown about his brow, with bleeding head, and hands, and feet. What! can you look upon this miracle of miracles, the death of the Son of God, without feeling within your bosom a marvellous adoration that language never can express? And when you feel the blood applied to your conscience, and know that he has blotted out your sins, you are not a man unless you start from your knees and cry, “Let the whole earth be filled with his glory; Amen, and Amen.” Can you bow before the Crucified in loving homage, and not wish to see your Monarch master of the world? Out on you if you can pretend to love your Prince, and desire not to see him the universal ruler. Your piety is worthless unless it leads you to wish that the same mercy which has been extended to you may bless the whole world. Lord, it is harvest-time, put in thy sickle and reap.
Morning and Evening
I WOULD BE LIKE JESUS
James Rowe, 1865–1933
For those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brothers. (Romans 8:29)
I may not understand, Lord, but one day I shall see
Thy loving hand was taking pains to fashion me like Thee.
There is much about the word predestined that is difficult to understand. One very obvious lesson that can be learned, however, is that God planned ahead of time for His children to be like His Son. The Scriptures teach that Christ has left us an example, and that we should seek to imitate Him and follow in His steps (Galatians 5:1; 1 Peter 2:21). Like our Lord, we have been called to have the spirit of a servant, spending and being spent, meeting the needs of others. But we cannot develop a Christ-like life merely on the basis of religious activity or even an accumulation of biblical knowledge, as important as knowledge and sound doctrine are to Christian living. Rather, spiritual maturity—Christ-like living—is the result of an implicit obedience to God’s will for our lives, even as our Lord was always obedient to the will of His Father. This awareness of God’s purposes is made possible as the Holy Spirit reveals the truth to us through the Scriptures.
Nothing demonstrates the truthfulness of our verbal witness for Christ more than a life in which the very character of Jesus is clearly evident. This hymn has been used to help Christian people in this spiritual desire and development since it was first written by an American Gospel musician, James Rowe, and published in the Make Christ King Hymnal in 1912.
Earthly pleasures vainly call me—I would be like Jesus; nothing worldly shall enthrall me—I would be like Jesus:
He has broken ev’ry fetter—I would be like Jesus; that my soul may serve Him better—I would be like Jesus:
All the way from earth to glory—I would be like Jesus; telling o’er and o’er the story—I would be like Jesus:
That in heaven He may meet me, I would be like Jesus; that His words “Well done” may greet me, I would be like Jesus:
Refrain: Be like Jesus—this my song—in the home and in the throng, be like Jesus all day long! I would be like Jesus.
For Today: 2 Corinthians 3:8; Galatians 4:19; Ephesians 2:10; Philippians 2:1-11; 1 Peter 2:21
“Great oaks from little acorns grow—and character from deeds you sow.” Earnestly seek to bring Christ-like attitudes and actions into every area of life. Sing as you go ---
Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
DISCOURSE I - ON THE EXISTENCE OF GOD
III. No creature could make the world. No creature can create another. If it creates of nothing, it is then omnipotent and so not a creature. If it makes something of matter unfit for that which is produced out of it, then the inquiry will be, Who was the cause of the matter? and so we must arrive to some uncreated being, the cause of all. Whatsoever gives being to any other must be the highest being, and must possess all the perfections of that which it gives being to. What visible creature is there which possesses the perfections of the whole world? If therefore an invisible creature made the world, the same inquiries will return whence that creature had its being? for he could not make himself. If any creature did create the world, he must do it by the strength and virtue of another, which first gave him being, and this is God. For whatsoever hath its existence and virtue of acting from another, is not God. If it hath its virtue from another, it is then a second cause, and so supposeth a first cause. It must have some cause of itself, or be eternally existent. If eternally existent, it is not a second cause, but God; if not eternally existent, we must come to something at length which was the cause of it, or else be bewildered without being able to give an account of anything. We must come at last to an infinite, eternal, independent Being, that was the first cause of this structure and fabric wherein we and all creatures dwell. The Scripture proclaims this aloud,
“I am the Lord and there is none else: I form the light, and I create darkness.” Man, the noblest creature, cannot of himself make a man, the chiefest part of the world. If our parents only, without a superior power, made our bodies or souls, they would know the frame of them; as he that makes a lock knows the wards of it; he that makes any curious piece of arras, knows how he sets the various colors together, and how many threads went to each division in the web; he that makes a watch, having the idea of the whole work in his mind, knows the motions of it, and the reason of those motions. But both parents and children are equally ignorant of the nature of their souls and bodies, and of the reason of their motions. God only, that had the supreme hand in forming us, in whose “book all our members are written, which in continuance were fashioned,” knows what we all are ignorant of. If man hath in an ordinary course of generation his being chiefly from a higher cause than his parents, the world then certainly had its being from some infinitely wise intelligent Being, which is God. If it were, as some fancy, made by an assembly of atoms, there must be some infinite intelligent cause that made them, some cause that separated them, some cause that mingled them together for the piling up so comely a structure as the world. It is the most absurd thing to think they should meet together by hazard, and rank themselves in that order we see, without a higher and a wise agent. So that no creature could make the world. For supposing any creature was formed before this visible world, and might have a hand in disposing things, yet he must have a cause of himself, and must act by the virtue and strength of another, and this is God.
IV. From hence it follows, that there is a first cause of things, which we call God. There must be something supreme in the order of nature, something which is greater than all, which hath nothing beyond it or above it, otherwise we must run in infinitum. We see not a river, but we conclude a fountain; a watch, but we conclude an artificer. As all number begins from unity, so all the multitude of things in the world begins from some unity, oneness as the principle of it. It is natural to arise from a view of those things, to the conception of a nature more perfect than any. As from heat mixed with cold, and light mixed with darkness, men conceive and arise in their understandings to an intense heat and a pure light; and from a corporeal or bodily substance joined with an incorporeal, (as man is an earthly body and a spiritual soul, we ascend to a conception of a substance pure incorporeal and spiritual: so from a multitude of things in the word, reason leads us to one choice being above all. And since in all natures in the world, we still find a superior nature; the nature of one beast, above the nature of another; the nature of man above the nature of beasts; and some invisible nature, the worker of strange effects in the air and earth, which cannot be ascribed to any visible cause, we must suppose some nature above all those, of unconceivable perfection.
Every skeptic, one that doubts whether there be anything real or no in the world, that counts everything an appearance, must necessarily own a first cause. They cannot reasonably doubt, but that there is some first cause which makes the things appear so to them. They cannot be the cause of their own appearance. For as nothing can have a being from itself, so nothing can appear by itself and its own force. Nothing can be and not be at the same time. But that which is not and yet seems to be; if it be the cause why it seems to be what it is not, it may be said to be and not to be. But certainly such persons must think themselves to exist. If they do not, they cannot think; and if they do exist, they must have some cause of that existence. So that which way soever we turn ourselves, we must in reason own a first cause of the world. Well then might the Psalmist term an atheist a fool, that disowns a God against his own reason. Without owning a God as the first cause of the world, no man can give any tolerable or satisfactory account of the world to his own reason. And this first cause,
1. Must necessarily exist. It is necessary that He by whom all things are, should be before all things, and nothing before him. And if nothing be before him, he comes not from any other; and then he always was, and without beginning. He is from himself; not that he once was not, but because he hath not his existence from another, and therefore of necessity he did exist from all eternity. Nothing can make itself, or bring itself into being; therefore there must be some being which hath no cause, that depends upon no other, never was produced by any other, but was what he is from eternity, and cannot be otherwise; and is not what he is by will, but nature, necessarily existing, and always existing without any capacity or possibility ever not to be.
2. Must be infinitely perfect. Since man knows he is an imperfect being, he must suppose the perfections he wants are seated in some other being which hath limited him, and upon which he depends. Whatsoever we conceive of excellency or perfection, must be in God. For we can conceive no perfection but what God hath given us a power to conceive. And he that gave us a power to conceive a transcendent perfection above whatever we saw or heard of, hath much more in himself; else he could not give us such a conception.
Secondly, As the production of the world, so the harmony of all the parts of it declare the being and wisdom of a God. Without the acknowledging God, the atheist can give no account of those things. The multitude, elegancy, variety, and beauty of all things are steps whereby to ascend to one fountain and original of them. Is it not a folly to deny the being of a wise agent, who sparkles in the beauty and motions of the heavens, rides upon the wings of the wind, and is writ upon the flowers and fruits of plants? As the cause is known by the effects, so the wisdom of the cause is known by the elegancy of the work, the proportion of the parts to one another. Who can imagine the world could be rashly made, and without consultation, which, in every part of it, is so artificially framed? No work of art springs up of its own accord. The world is framed by an excellent art, and, therefore, made by some skilful artist. As we hear not a melodious instrument, but we conclude there is a musician that touches it, as well as some skilful hand that framed and disposed it for those lessons; and no man that hears the pleasant sound of a lute but will fix his thoughts, not upon the instrument itself, but upon the skill of the artist that made it, and the art of the musician that strikes it, though he should not see the first, when he saw the lute, nor see the other, when he hears the harmony: so a rational creature confines not his thoughts to his sense when he sees the sun in its glory, and the moon walking in its brightness; but riseth up in a contemplation and admiration of that Infinite Spirit that composed, and filled them with such sweetness. This appears,
1. In the linking contrary qualities together. All things are compounded of the elements. Those are endued with contrary qualities, dryness and moisture, heat and cold. These would always be contending with and infesting one another’s rights, till the contest ended in the destruction of one or both. Where fire is predominant, it would suck up the water; where water is prevalent, it would quench the fire. The heat would wholly expel the cold, or the cold overpower the heat, yet we see them chained and linked one within another in every body upon the earth, and rendering mutual offices for the benefit of that body wherein they are seated, and all conspiring together in their particular quarrels for the public interest of the body. How could those contraries, that of themselves observe no order, that are always preying upon one another, jointly accord together of themselves, for one common end, if they were not linked in a common band, and reduced to that order by some incomprehensible wisdom and power, which keeps a hand upon them, orders their motions and directs their events, and makes them friendly pass into one another’s natures? Confusion had been the result of the discord and diversity of their natures; no composition could have been of those conflicting qualities for the frame of any body, nor any harmony arose from so many jarring strings, if they had not been reduced into concord by one that is supreme Lord over them, and knows how to dispose their varieties and enmities for the public good. If a man should see a large city or country, consisting of great multitudes of men, of different tempers, full of frauds, and factions, and animosities in their natures against one another, yet living together in good order and peace, without oppressing and invading one another, and joining together for the public good, he would presently conclude there were some excellent governor, who tempered them by his wisdom, and reserved the public peace, though he had never yet beheld him with his eye. It is as necessary to conclude a God, who moderates the contrarieties in the world, as to conclude a wise prince who overrules the contrary dispositions in a state, making every one to keep his own bounds and confines. Things that are contrary to one another subsist in an admirable order.
2. In the subserviency of one thing to another. All the members of living creatures are curiously fitted for the service of one another, destined to a particular end, and endued with a virtue to attain that end, and so distinctly placed, that one is no hindrance to the other in its operations. Is not this more admirable than to be the work of chance, which is incapable to settle such an order, and fix particular and general ends, causing an exact correspondency of all the parts with one another, and every part to conspire together for one common end? One thing is fitted for another. The eye is fitted for the sun, and the sun fitted for the eye. Several sorts of food are fitted for several creatures, and those creatures fitted with organs for the partaking that food.
(1.) Subserviency of heavenly bodies. The sun, the heart of the world, is not for itself, but for the good of the world, as the heart of man is for the good of the body. How conveniently is the sun placed, at a distance from the earth, and the upper heavens, to enlighten the stars above, and enliven the earth below! If it were either higher or lower, one part would want its influences. It is not in the higher parts of the heavens; the earth, then, which lives and fructifies by its influence would have been exposed to a perpetual winter and chillness, unable to have produced anything for the sustenance of man or beast. If seated lower, the earth had been parched up, the world made uninhabitable, and long since had been consumed to ashes by the strength of its heat. Consider the motion, as well as the situation of the sun. Had it stood still, one part of the world had been cherished by its beams, and the other left in a desolate widowhood, in a disconsolate darkness. Besides, the earth would have had no shelter from its perpendicular beams striking perpetually, and without any remission, upon it. The same incommodities would have followed upon its fixedness as upon its too great nearness. By a constant day, the beauty of the stars had been obscured, the knowledge of their motions been prevented, and a considerable part of the glorious wisdom of the Creator, in those choice “works of his finders,” had been veiled from our eyes. It moves in a fixed line, visits all parts of the earth, scatters in the day its refreshing blessings in every creek of the earth, and removes the mask from the other beauties of heaven in the night, which sparkle out to the glory of the Creator. It spreads its light, warms the earth, cherisheth the seeds, excites the spirit in the earth, and brings fruit to maturity. View also the air, the vast, extent between heaven and earth, which serves for a water-course, a cistern for water, to bedew the face of the sun-burnt earth, to satisfy the desolate ground, and to cause the ‘bud of the tender herb to spring forth.’ Could chance appoint the clouds of the air to interpose as fans between the scorching heat of the sun, and the faint bodies of the creatures? Can that be the ‘father of the rain, or beget the drops of dew?’ Could anything so blind settle those ordinances of heaven for the preservation of creatures on the earth? Can this either bring or stay the bottles of heaven, when the ‘dust grows into hardness, and the clouds cleave fast together?’
(2.) Subserviency of the lower world, the earth, and sea, which was created to be inhabited, (Isa. 45:18.) The sea affords water to the rivers, the rivers, like so many veins, are spread through the whole body of the earth, to refresh and enable it to bring forth fruit for the sustenance of man and beast, (Ps. 104:10, 11.) “He sends the springs into the valleys, which run among the hills; they give drink to every beast of the field; the wild asses quench their thirst. He causes the grass to grow for the cattle, and the herb for the service of man, that he may bring forth food out of the earth.” (ver. 14.) The trees are provided for shades against the extremity of heat, a refuge for the panting beasts, an “habitation for birds,” wherein to make their nests (ver. 17), and a basket for their provision. How are the valleys and mountains of the earth disposed for the pleasure and profit of man! Every year are the fields covered with harvests for the nourishing the creatures; no part is baren, but beneficial to man. The mountains that are not clothed with grass for his food, are set with stones to make him an habitation; they have their peculiar services of metals and minerals, for the conveniency and comfort, and benefit of man. Things which are not fit for his food, are medicines for his cure, under some painful sickness. Where the earth brings not forth corn, it brings forth roots for the service of other creatures. Wood abounds more in those countries where the cold is stronger than in others. Can this be the result of chance, or not rather of an Infinite Wisdom? Consider the usefulness of the sea, for the supply of rivers to refresh the earth: “Which go up by the mountains and down by the valleys into the place God hath founded for them” (Ps. 104:8): a store-house for fish, for the nourishment of other creatures, a shop of medicines for cure, and pearls for ornament: the band that ties remote nations together, by giving opportunity of passage to, and commerce with, one another. How should that natural inclination of the sea to cover the earth, submit to this subserviency to the creatures?
Who hath pounded in this fluid mass of water in certain limits, and confined it to its own channel, for the accommodation of such creatures, who, by its common law, can only be upon the earth? Naturally the earth was covered with the deep as with a garment; the waters stood above the mountains. “Who set a bound that they might not pass over,” that they return not again to cover the earth? Was it blind chance or an Infinite Power, that “shut up the sea with doors, and made thick darkness a swaddling band for it, and said, Hitherto shall thou come and no farther, and here shall thy proud waves be stayed?” All things are so ordered, that they are not propter se, but propter aliud. What advantage accrues to the sun by its unwearied rolling about the world? Doth it increase the perfection of its nature by all its circuits? No; but it serves the inferior world, it impregnates things by its heat. Not the most abject thing but hath its end and use. There is a straight connection: the earth could not bring forth fruit without the heavens; the heavens could not water the earth without vapors from it.
(3.) All this subserviency of creatures centres in man. Other creatures are served by those things, as well as ourselves, and they are provided for their nourishment and refreshment, as well as ours; yet, both they, and all creatures meet in man, as lines in their centres. Things that have no life or sense, are made for those that have both life and sense; and those that have life and sense, are made for those that are endued with reason. When the Psalmist admiringly considers the heavens, moon and stars, he intimates man to be the end for which they were created (Ps. 8:3, 4): “What is man, that thou art mindful of him?” He expresseth more particularly the dominion that man hath “over the beasts of the field, the fowl of the air, and whatsoever passes through the paths of the sea” (ver. 6–8); and concludes from thence, the “excellency of God’s name in all the earth.” All things in the world, one way or other, centre in an usefulness for man; some to feed him, some to clothe him, some to delight him, others to instruct him, some to exercise his wit, and others his strength. Since man did not make them, he did not also order them for his own use. If they conspire to serve him who never made them, they direct man to acknowledge another, who is the joint Creator both of the lord and the servants under his dominion; and, therefore, as the inferior natures are ordered by an invisible hand for the good of man, so the nature of man is, by the same hand, ordered to acknowledge the existence and the glory of the Creator of him. This visible order man knows he did not constitute; he did not settle those creatures in subserviency to himself; they were placed in that order before he had any acquaintance with them, or existence of himself; which is a question God puts to Job, to consider of (Job 38:4): “Where wast thou when I laid the foundation of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding.” All is ordered for man’s use; the heavens answer to the earth, as a roof to a floor, both composing a delightful habitation for man; vapors ascend from the earth, and the heaven concocts them, and returns them back in welcome showers for the supplying of the earth. The light of the sun descends to beautify the earth, and employs its heat to midwife its fruits, and this for the good of the community, whereof man is the head; and though all creatures have distinct natures, and must act for particular ends, according to the law of their creation, yet there is a joint combination for the good of the whole, as the common end; just as all the rivers in the world, from what part soever they come, whether north or south, fall into the sea, for the supply of that mass of waters, which loudly proclaims some infinitely wise nature, who made those things in so exact an harmony. “As in a clock, the hammer which strikes the bell leads us to the next wheel, that to another, the little wheel to a greater, whence it derives its motion, this at last to the spring, which acquaints us that there was some artist that framed them in this subordination to one another for this orderly motion.”
(4.) This order or subserviency is regular and uniform; everything is determined to its particular nature. The sun and moon day and night, months and years, determine the seasons, never are defective in coming back to their station and place; they wander not from their roads, shock not against one another, nor hinder one another in the functions assigned them. From a small grain or seed, a tree springs, with body, root, bark, leaves, fruit of the same shape, figure, smell, taste; that there should be as many parts in one, as in all of the same kind, and no more; and that in the womb of a sensitive creature should be formed one of the same kind, with all the due members, and no more; and the creature that produceth it knows not how it is formed, or how it is perfected. If we say this is nature, this nature is an intelligent being; if not, how can it direct all causes to such uniform ends? if it be intelligent, this nature must be the same we call God, “who ordered every herb to yield seed, and every fruit tree to yield fruit after its kind, and also every beast, and every creeping thing after its kind.” (Gen. 1:11, 12, 24.) And everything is determined to its particular season; the sap riseth from the root at its appointed time, enlivening and clothing the branches with a new garment at such a time of the sun’s returning, not wholly hindered by any accidental coldness of the weather, it being often colder at its return, than it was at the sun’s departure. All things have their seasons of flourishing, budding, blossoming, bringing forth fruit; they ripen in their seasons, cast their leaves at the same time, throw off their old clothes, and in the spring appear with new garments, but still in the same fashion. The winds and the rain have their seasons, and seem to be administered by laws for the profit of man. No satisfactory cause of those things can be ascribed to the earth, the sea, or the air, or stars. “Can any understand the spreading of his clouds, or the noise of his tabernacle?” (Job 38:29.) The natural reason of those things cannot be demonstrated, without recourse to an infinite and intelligent being; nothing can be rendered capable of the direction of those things but a God.
This regularity in plants and animals is in all nations. The heavens have the same motion in all parts of the world; all men have the same law of nature in their mind; all creatures are stamped with the same law of creation. In all parts the same creatures serve for the same use; and though there be different creatures in India and Europe, yet they have the same subordination, the same subserviency to one another, and ultimately to man; which shows that there is a God, and but one God, who tunes all those different strings to the same notes in all places. Is it nature merely conducts these natural causes in due measure to their proper effects, without interfering with one another? Can mere nature be the cause of those musical proportions of time? You may as well conceive a lute to sound its own strings without the hand of an artist; a city well governed without a governor; an army keep its stations without a general, as imagine so exact an order without an orderer. Would any man, when he hears a clock strike, by fit intervals, the hour of the day, imagine this regularity in it without the direction of one that had understanding to manage it?
He would not only regard the motion of the clock, but commend the diligence of the clockkeeper.
(5.) This order and subserviency is constant. Children change the customs and manners of their fathers; magistrates change the laws they have received from their ancestors, and enact new ones in their room: but in the world all things consist as they were created at the beginning; the law of nature in the creatures hath met with no change. Who can behold the sun rising in the morning, the moon shining in the night, increasing and decreasing in its due spaces, the stars in their regular motions night after night, for all ages, and yet deny a President over them? And this motion of the heavenly bodies, being contrary to the nature of other creatures, who move in order to rest, must be from some higher cause. But those, ever since the settling in their places, have been perpetually rounding the world. What nature, but one powerful and intelligent, could give that perpetual motion to the sun, which being bigger than the earth a hundred sixty-six times, runs many thousand miles with a mighty swiftness in the space of an hour, with an unwearied diligence per forming its daily task, and, as a strong man, rejoicing to run its race, for above five thousand years together, without intermission, but in the time of Joshua? It is not nature’s sun, but God’s sun, which he ‘makes to rise upon the just and unjust.’ So a plant receives its nourishment from the earth, sends forth the juice to every branch, forms a bud which spreads it into a blossom and flower; the leaves of this drop off, and leave a fruit of the same color and taste, every year, which, being ripened by the sun, leaves seeds behind it for the propagation of its like, which contains in the nature of it the same kind of buds, blossoms, fruit, which were before; and being nourished in the womb of the earth, and quickened by the power of the sun, discovers itself at length, in all the progresses and motions which its predecessor did. Thus in all ages, in all places, every year it performs the same task, spins out fruit of the same color, taste, virtue, to refresh the several creatures for which they are provided. This settled state of things comes from that God who laid the “foundations of the earth,” that it should “not be removed” forever; and set “ordinances for them” to act by a stated law; according to which they move as if they understood themselves to have made a covenant with their Creator.
The Existence and Attributes of God, Volume 7 of 50 Greatest Christian Classics, 2 Volumes in 1
Martin Luther | (1483-1546)
Sect. CIX. — BUT as to myself, as I said before, I never aimed at any kind of invented interpretation. Nor did I ever speak thus: ‘Stretch forth thine hand; that is, grace shall stretch it forth.’ All these things, are the Diatribe’s own inventions Concerning me, to the furtherance of its own cause. What I said was this: — that there is no contradiction in the words of the Scripture, nor any need of an invented interpretation to clear up a difficulty. But that the assertors of “Free-will” willfully stumbled upon plain ground, and dream of contradictions where there are none.
For example: There is no contradiction in these Scriptures, “If a man purify himself,” and, “God worketh all in all.” Nor is it necessary to say, in order to explain this difficulty, God does something and man does something. Because, the former Scripture is conditional, which neither affirms or denies any work or power in man, but simply shews what work or power there ought to be in man. There is nothing figurative here; nothing that requires an invented interpretation; the words are plain, the sense is plain; that is, if you do not add conclusions and corruptions, after the manner of the Diatribe: for then, the sense would not be plain: not, however, by its own fault, but by the fault of the corruptor.
But the latter Scripture, “God worketh all in all,” (1 Cor. xii. 6), is an indicative passage; declaring, that all works and all power are of God. How then do these two passages, the one of which says nothing of the power of man, and the other of which attributes all to God, contradict each other, and not rather sweetly harmonize. But the Diatribe is so drowned, suffocated in, and corrupted with, that sense of the carnal interpretation, ‘that impossibilities are commanded in vain,’ that it has no power over itself; but as soon as it hears an imperative or conditional word, it immediately tacks to it its indicative conclusions: — a certain thing is commanded: therefore, we are able to do it, and do do it, or the command is ridiculous.
On this side it bursts forth and boasts of its complete victory: as though it held it as a settled point, that these conclusions, as soon as hatched in thought, were established as firmly as the Divine Authority. And hence, it pronounces with all confidence, that in some places of the Scripture all is attributed to man: and that, therefore, there is a contradiction that requires interpretation. But it does not see, that all this is the figment of its own brain, no where confirmed by one iota of Scripture. And not only so, but that it is of such a nature, that if it were admitted, it would confute no one more directly than itself: because, if it proved any thing, it would prove that “Free-will” can do all things: whereas, it undertook to prove the directly contrary.
The Bondage of the Will or Christian Classics Ethereal Library