Isaiah 45 - 48
Cyrus, God’s Instrument
Isaiah 45:1 Thus says the LORD to his anointed, to Cyrus,
whose right hand I have grasped,
to subdue nations before him
and to loose the belts of kings,
to open doors before him
that gates may not be closed:
2 “I will go before you
and level the exalted places,
I will break in pieces the doors of bronze
and cut through the bars of iron,
3 I will give you the treasures of darkness
and the hoards in secret places,
that you may know that it is I, the LORD,
the God of Israel, who call you by your name.
4 For the sake of my servant Jacob,
and Israel my chosen,
I call you by your name,
I name you, though you do not know me.
5 I am the LORD, and there is no other,
besides me there is no God;
I equip you, though you do not know me,
6 that people may know, from the rising of the sun
and from the west, that there is none besides me;
I am the LORD, and there is no other.
7 I form light and create darkness;
I make well-being and create calamity;
I am the LORD, who does all these things.
8 “Shower, O heavens, from above,
and let the clouds rain down righteousness;
let the earth open, that salvation and righteousness may bear fruit;
let the earth cause them both to sprout;
I the LORD have created it.
9 “Woe to him who strives with him who formed him,
a pot among earthen pots!
Does the clay say to him who forms it, ‘What are you making?’
or ‘Your work has no handles’?
10 Woe to him who says to a father, ‘What are you begetting?’
or to a woman, ‘With what are you in labor?’ ”
11 Thus says the LORD,
the Holy One of Israel, and the one who formed him:
“Ask me of things to come;
will you command me concerning my children and the work of my hands?
12 I made the earth
and created man on it;
it was my hands that stretched out the heavens,
and I commanded all their host.
13 I have stirred him up in righteousness,
and I will make all his ways level;
he shall build my city
and set my exiles free,
not for price or reward,”
says the LORD of hosts.
The LORD, the Only Savior
14 Thus says the LORD:
“The wealth of Egypt and the merchandise of Cush,
and the Sabeans, men of stature,
shall come over to you and be yours;
they shall follow you;
they shall come over in chains and bow down to you.
They will plead with you, saying:
‘Surely God is in you, and there is no other,
no god besides him.’ ”
15 Truly, you are a God who hides himself,
O God of Israel, the Savior.
16 All of them are put to shame and confounded;
the makers of idols go in confusion together.
17 But Israel is saved by the LORD
with everlasting salvation;
you shall not be put to shame or confounded
to all eternity.
18 For thus says the LORD,
who created the heavens
(he is God!),
who formed the earth and made it
(he established it;
he did not create it empty,
he formed it to be inhabited!):
“I am the LORD, and there is no other.
19 I did not speak in secret,
in a land of darkness;
I did not say to the offspring of Jacob,
‘Seek me in vain.’
I the LORD speak the truth;
I declare what is right.
20 “Assemble yourselves and come;
draw near together,
you survivors of the nations!
They have no knowledge
who carry about their wooden idols,
and keep on praying to a god
that cannot save.
21 Declare and present your case;
let them take counsel together!
Who told this long ago?
Who declared it of old?
Was it not I, the LORD?
And there is no other god besides me,
a righteous God and a Savior;
there is none besides me.
22 “Turn to me and be saved,
all the ends of the earth!
For I am God, and there is no other.
23 By myself I have sworn;
from my mouth has gone out in righteousness
a word that shall not return:
‘To me every knee shall bow,
every tongue shall swear allegiance.’
24 “Only in the LORD, it shall be said of me,
are righteousness and strength;
to him shall come and be ashamed
all who were incensed against him.
25 In the LORD all the offspring of Israel
shall be justified and shall glory.”
The Idols of Babylon and the One True God
Isaiah 46:1 Bel bows down; Nebo stoops;
their idols are on beasts and livestock;
these things you carry are borne
as burdens on weary beasts.
2 They stoop; they bow down together;
they cannot save the burden,
but themselves go into captivity.
3 “Listen to me, O house of Jacob,
all the remnant of the house of Israel,
who have been borne by me from before your birth,
carried from the womb;
4 even to your old age I am he,
and to gray hairs I will carry you.
I have made, and I will bear;
I will carry and will save.
5 “To whom will you liken me and make me equal,
and compare me, that we may be alike?
6 Those who lavish gold from the purse,
and weigh out silver in the scales,
hire a goldsmith, and he makes it into a god;
then they fall down and worship!
7 They lift it to their shoulders, they carry it,
they set it in its place, and it stands there;
it cannot move from its place.
If one cries to it, it does not answer
or save him from his trouble.
8 “Remember this and stand firm,
recall it to mind, you transgressors,
9 remember the former things of old;
for I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is none like me,
10 declaring the end from the beginning
and from ancient times things not yet done,
saying, ‘My counsel shall stand,
and I will accomplish all my purpose,’
11 calling a bird of prey from the east,
the man of my counsel from a far country.
I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass;
I have purposed, and I will do it.
12 “Listen to me, you stubborn of heart,
you who are far from righteousness:
13 I bring near my righteousness; it is not far off,
and my salvation will not delay;
I will put salvation in Zion,
for Israel my glory.”
The Humiliation of Babylon
Isaiah 47:1 1 Come down and sit in the dust,
O virgin daughter of Babylon;
sit on the ground without a throne,
O daughter of the Chaldeans!
For you shall no more be called
tender and delicate.
2 Take the millstones and grind flour,
put off your veil,
strip off your robe, uncover your legs,
pass through the rivers.
3 Your nakedness shall be uncovered,
and your disgrace shall be seen.
I will take vengeance,
and I will spare no one.
4 Our Redeemer—the LORD of hosts is his name—
is the Holy One of Israel.
5 Sit in silence, and go into darkness,
O daughter of the Chaldeans;
for you shall no more be called
the mistress of kingdoms.
6 I was angry with my people;
I profaned my heritage;
I gave them into your hand;
you showed them no mercy;
on the aged you made your yoke exceedingly heavy.
7 You said, “I shall be mistress forever,”
so that you did not lay these things to heart
or remember their end.
8 Now therefore hear this, you lover of pleasures,
who sit securely,
who say in your heart,
“I am, and there is no one besides me;
I shall not sit as a widow
or know the loss of children”:
9 These two things shall come to you
in a moment, in one day;
the loss of children and widowhood
shall come upon you in full measure,
in spite of your many sorceries
and the great power of your enchantments.
10 You felt secure in your wickedness;
you said, “No one sees me”;
your wisdom and your knowledge led you astray,
and you said in your heart,
“I am, and there is no one besides me.”
11 But evil shall come upon you,
which you will not know how to charm away;
disaster shall fall upon you,
for which you will not be able to atone;
and ruin shall come upon you suddenly,
of which you know nothing.
12 Stand fast in your enchantments
and your many sorceries,
with which you have labored from your youth;
perhaps you may be able to succeed;
perhaps you may inspire terror.
13 You are wearied with your many counsels;
let them stand forth and save you,
those who divide the heavens,
who gaze at the stars,
who at the new moons make known
what shall come upon you.
14 Behold, they are like stubble;
the fire consumes them;
they cannot deliver themselves
from the power of the flame.
No coal for warming oneself is this,
no fire to sit before!
15 Such to you are those with whom you have labored,
who have done business with you from your youth;
they wander about, each in his own direction;
there is no one to save you.
In You Do I Take Refuge
A Shiggaion of David, which he sang to the Lord concerning the words of Cush, a Benjaminite.
Isaiah 48:1 Hear this, O house of Jacob,
who are called by the name of Israel,
and who came from the waters of Judah,
who swear by the name of the LORD
and confess the God of Israel,
but not in truth or right.
2 For they call themselves after the holy city,
and stay themselves on the God of Israel;
the LORD of hosts is his name.
3 “The former things I declared of old;
they went out from my mouth, and I announced them;
then suddenly I did them, and they came to pass.
4 Because I know that you are obstinate,
and your neck is an iron sinew
and your forehead brass,
5 I declared them to you from of old,
before they came to pass I announced them to you,
lest you should say, ‘My idol did them,
my carved image and my metal image commanded them.’
6 “You have heard; now see all this;
and will you not declare it?
From this time forth I announce to you new things,
hidden things that you have not known.
7 They are created now, not long ago;
before today you have never heard of them,
lest you should say, ‘Behold, I knew them.’
8 You have never heard, you have never known,
from of old your ear has not been opened.
For I knew that you would surely deal treacherously,
and that from before birth you were called a rebel.
9 “For my name’s sake I defer my anger;
for the sake of my praise I restrain it for you,
that I may not cut you off.
10 Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver;
I have tried you in the furnace of affliction.
11 For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it,
for how should my name be profaned?
My glory I will not give to another.
The LORD’s Call to Israel
12 “Listen to me, O Jacob,
and Israel, whom I called!
I am he; I am the first,
and I am the last.
13 My hand laid the foundation of the earth,
and my right hand spread out the heavens;
when I call to them,
they stand forth together.
14 “Assemble, all of you, and listen!
Who among them has declared these things?
The LORD loves him;
he shall perform his purpose on Babylon,
and his arm shall be against the Chaldeans.
15 I, even I, have spoken and called him;
I have brought him, and he will prosper in his way.
16 Draw near to me, hear this:
from the beginning I have not spoken in secret,
from the time it came to be I have been there.”
And now the Lord GOD has sent me, and his Spirit.
17 Thus says the LORD,
your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel:
“I am the LORD your God,
who teaches you to profit,
who leads you in the way you should go.
18 Oh that you had paid attention to my commandments!
Then your peace would have been like a river,
and your righteousness like the waves of the sea;
19 your offspring would have been like the sand,
and your descendants like its grains;
their name would never be cut off
or destroyed from before me.”
20 Go out from Babylon, flee from Chaldea,
declare this with a shout of joy, proclaim it,
send it out to the end of the earth;
say, “The LORD has redeemed his servant Jacob!”
21 They did not thirst when he led them through the deserts;
he made water flow for them from the rock;
he split the rock and the water gushed out.
22 “There is no peace,” says the LORD, “for the wicked.”
What I'm Reading
CHAP. I.—THE SALUTATION. PRAISE OF THE CORINTHIANS BEFORE THE BREAKING FORTH OF SCHISM AMONG THEM.
THE Church of God which sojourns at Rome, to the Church of God sojourning at Corinth, to them that are called and sanctified by the will of God, through our Lord Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, from Almighty God through Jesus Christ, be multiplied.
Owing, dear brethren, to the sudden and successive calamitous events which have happened to ourselves, we feel that we have been somewhat tardy in turning our attention to the points respecting which you consulted us; and especially to that shameful and detestable sedition, utterly abhorrent to the elect of God, which a few rash and self-confident persons have kindled to such a pitch of frenzy, that your venerable and illustrious name, worthy to be universally loved, has suffered grievous injury. 3 (Literally, “is greatly blasphemed.”) For who ever dwelt even for a short time among you, and did not find your faith to be as fruitful of virtue as it was firmly established? 4 (Literally, “did not prove your all-virtuous and firm faith.”) Who did not admire the sobriety and moderation of your godliness in Christ? Who did not proclaim the magnificence of your habitual hospitality? And who did not rejoice over your perfect and well-grounded knowledge? For ye did all things without respect of persons, and walked in the commandments of God, being obedient to those who had the rule over you, and giving all fitting honour to the presbyters among you. Ye enjoined young men to be of a sober and serious mind; ye instructed your wives to do all things with a blameless, becoming, and pure conscience, loving their husbands as in duty bound; and ye taught them that, living in the rule of obedience, they should manage their household affairs becomingly, and be in every respect marked by discretion.
CHAP. II.—PRAISE OF THE CORINTHIANS CONTINUED.
Moreover, ye were all distinguished by humility, and were in no respect puffed up with pride, but yielded obedience rather than extorted it, (Eph. 5:21; 1 Pet. 5:5) and were more willing to give than to receive. (Acts 20:35) Content with the provision which God had made for you, and carefully attending to His words, ye were inwardly filled with His doctrine, and His sufferings were before your eyes. Thus a profound and abundant peace was given to you all, and ye had an insatiable desire for doing good, while a full outpouring of the Holy Spirit was upon you all. Full of holy designs, ye did, with true earnestness of mind and a godly confidence, stretch forth your hands to God Almighty, beseeching Him to be merciful unto you, if ye had been guilty of any involuntary transgression. Day and night ye were anxious for the whole brotherhood, (1 Pet. 2:17) that the number of God’s elect might be saved with mercy and a good conscience. Ye were sincere and uncorrupted, and forgetful of injuries between one another. Every kind of faction and schism was abominable in your sight. Ye mourned over the transgressions of your neighbours: their deficiencies you deemed your own. Ye never grudged any act of kindness, being “ready to every good work.” (Tit. 3:1) Adorned by a thoroughly virtuous and religious life, ye did all things in the fear of God. The commandments and ordinances of the Lord were written upon the tablets of your hearts. (Prov. 7:3)
CHAP. III.—THE SAD STATE OF THE CORINTHIAN CHURCH AFTER SEDITION AROSE IN IT FROM ENVY AND EMULATION.
Every kind of honour and happiness was bestowed upon you, and then was fulfilled that which is written, “My beloved did eat and drink, and was enlarged and became fat, and kicked.” (Deut. 32:15) Hence flowed emulation and envy, strife and sedition, persecution and disorder, war and captivity. So the worthless rose up against the honoured, those of no reputation against such as were renowned, the foolish against the wise, the young against those advanced in years. For this reason righteousness and peace are now far departed from you, inasmuch as every one abandons the fear of God, and is become blind in His faith, neither walks in the ordinances of His appointment, nor acts a part becoming a Christian, (Literally, “Christ;” comp. 2 Cor. 1:21, Eph. 4:20) but walks after his own wicked lusts, resuming the practice of an unrighteous and ungodly envy, by which death itself entered into the world.
CHAP. IV.—MANY EVILS HAVE ALREADY FLOWED FROM THIS SOURCE IN ANCIENT TIMES.
For thus it is written: “And it came to pass after certain days, that Cain brought of the fruits of the earth a sacrifice unto God; and Abel also brought of the firstlings of his sheep, and of the fat thereof. And God had respect to Abel and to his offerings, but Cain and his sacrifices He did not regard. And Cain was deeply grieved, and his countenance fell. And God said to Cain, Why art thou grieved, and why is thy countenance fallen? If thou offerest rightly, but dost not divide rightly, hast thou not sinned? Be at peace: thine offering returns to thyself, and thou shalt again possess it. And Cain said to Abel his brother, Let us go into the field. And it came to pass, while they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him.” (Gen. 4:3–8. The writer here, as always, follows the reading of the Septuagint, which in this passage both alters and adds to the Hebrew text. We have given the rendering approved by the best critics; but some prefer to translate, as in our English version, “unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.” See, for an ancient explanation of the passage, Irenæus, Adv. Hær., iv. 18, 3.) Ye see, brethren, how envy and jealousy led to the murder of a brother. Through envy, also, our father Jacob fled from the face of Esau his brother. (Gen. 27:41) Envy made Joseph be persecuted unto death, and to come into bondage. (Gen. 37) Envy compelled Moses to flee from the face of Pharaoh king of Egypt, when he heard these words from his fellow-countryman, “Who made thee a judge or a ruler over us? wilt thou kill me, as thou didst kill the Egyptian yesterday?” (Ex. 2:14) On account of envy, Aaron and Miriam had to make their abode without the camp. (Num. 12:14, 15. [In our copies of the Septuagint this is not affirmed of Aaron.]) Envy brought down Dathan and Abiram alive to Hades, through the sedition which they excited against God’s servant Moses. (Num. 16:33) Through envy, David underwent the hatred not only of foreigners, but was also persecuted by Saul king of Israel. (1 Kings 18:8)
CHAP. V.—NO LESS EVILS HAVE ARISEN FROM THE SAME SOURCE IN THE MOST RECENT TIMES. THE MARTYRDOM OF PETER AND PAUL.
But not to dwell upon ancient examples, let us come to the most recent spiritual heroes. Let us take the noble examples furnished in our own generation. Through envy and jealousy, the greatest and most righteous pillars [of the Church] have been persecuted and put to death. Let us set before our eyes the illustrious apostles. Peter, through unrighteous envy, endured not one or two, but numerous labours; and when he had at length suffered martyrdom, departed to the place of glory due to him. Owing to envy, Paul also obtained the reward of patient endurance, after being seven times thrown into captivity, (Seven imprisonments of St. Paul are not referred to in Scripture) compelled to flee, and stoned. After preaching both in the east and west, he gained the illustrious reputation due to his faith, having taught righteousness to the whole world, and come to the extreme limit of the west, and suffered martyrdom under the prefects. (hat is, under Tigellinus and Sabinus, in the last year of the Emperor Nero; but some think Helius and Polycletus referred to; and others, both here and in the preceding sentence, regard the words as denoting simply the witness borne by Peter and Paul to the truth of the gospel before the rulers of the earth.) Thus was he removed from the world, and went into the holy place, having proved himself a striking example of patience.
CHAP. VI.—CONTINUATION. SEVERAL OTHER MARTYRS.
To these men who spent their lives in the practice of holiness, there is to be added a great multitude of the elect, who, having through envy endured many indignities and tortures, furnished us with a most excellent example. Through envy, those women, the Danaids (Some suppose these to have been the names of two eminent female martyrs under Nero; others regard the clause as an interpolation. (Many ingenious conjectures might be cited; but see Jacobson’s valuable note, Patres Apostol., vol. i. p. 30.) and Dircæ, being persecuted, after they had suffered terrible and unspeakable torments, finished the course of their faith with stedfastness, and though weak in body, received a noble reward. Envy has alienated wives from their husbands, and changed that saying of our father Adam, “This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh.” (Gen. 2:23) Envy and strife have overthrown great cities and rooted up mighty nations.
CHAP. VII.—AN EXHORTATION TO REPENTANCE.
These things, beloved, we write unto you, not merely to admonish you of your duty, but also to remind ourselves. For we are struggling on the same arena, and the same conflict is assigned to both of us. Wherefore let us give up vain and fruitless cares, and approach to the glorious and venerable rule of our holy calling. Let us attend to what is good, pleasing, and acceptable in the sight of Him who formed us. Let us look stedfastly to the blood of Christ, and see how precious that blood is to God, which, having been shed for our salvation, has set the grace of repentance before the whole world. Let us turn to every age that has passed, and learn that, from generation to generation, the Lord has granted a place of repentance to all such as would be converted unto Him. Noah preached repentance, and as many as listened to him were saved. (Gen. 7; 1 Pet. 3:20; 2 Pet. 2:5) Jonah proclaimed destruction to the Ninevites; (Jonah 3) but they, repenting of their sins, propitiated God by prayer, and obtained salvation, although they were aliens [to the covenant] of God.
CHAP. VIII.—CONTINUATION RESPECTING REPENTANCE.
The ministers of the grace of God have, by the Holy Spirit, spoken of repentance; and the Lord of all things has himself declared with an oath regarding it, “As I live, saith the Lord, I desire not the death of the sinner, but rather his repentance;” (Ezek. 33:11) adding, moreover, this gracious declaration, “Repent, O house of Israel, of your iniquity. (Ezek. 18:30) Say to the children of My people, Though your sins reach from earth to heaven, and though they be redder (Isa. 1:18) than scarlet, and blacker than sackcloth, yet if ye turn to Me with your whole heart, and say, Father! I will listen to you, as to a holy (These words are not found in Scripture, though they are quoted again by Clem. Alex. (Pædag., i. 10) as from Ezekiel.) people.” And in another place He speaks thus: “Wash you, and become clean; put away the wickedness of your souls from before mine eyes; cease from your evil ways, and learn to do well; seek out judgment, deliver the oppressed, judge the fatherless, and see that justice is done to the widow; and come, and let us reason together. He declares, Though your sins be like crimson, I will make them white as snow; though they be like scarlet, I will whiten them like wool. And if ye be willing and obey Me, ye shall eat the good of the land; but if ye refuse, and will not hearken unto Me, the sword shall devour you, for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken these things.” (Isa. 1:16–20) Desiring, therefore, that all His beloved should be partakers of repentance, He has, by His almighty will, established [these declarations].
CHAP. IX.—EXAMPLES OF THE SAINTS.
Wherefore, let us yield obedience to His excellent and glorious will; and imploring His mercy and loving-kindness, while we forsake all fruitless labours, and strife, and envy, which leads to death, let us turn and have recourse to His compassions. Let us stedfastly contemplate those who have perfectly ministered to His excellent glory. Let us take (for instance) Enoch, who, being found righteous in obedience, was translated, and death was never known to happen to him. (Gen. 5:24; Heb. 11:5. Literally, “and his death was not found.”) Noah, being found faithful, preached regeneration to the world through his ministry; and the Lord saved by him the animals which, with one accord, entered into the ark.
CHAP. X.—CONTINUATION OF THE ABOVE.
Abraham, styled “the friend,” (Isa. 41:8; 2 Chron. 20:7; Judith 8:19; James 2:23) was found faithful, inasmuch as he rendered obedience to the words of God. He, in the exercise of obedience, went out from his own country, and from his kindred, and from his father’s house, in order that, by forsaking a small territory, and a weak family, and an insignificant house, he might inherit the promises of God. For God said to him, “Get thee out from thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, into the land which I shall show thee. And I will make thee a great nation, and will bless thee, and make thy name great, and thou shall be blessed. And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse them that curse thee; and in thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed.” (Gen. 12:1–3) And again, on his departing from Lot, God said to him, “Lift up thine eyes, and look from the place where thou now art, northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward; for all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever. And I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth, [so that] if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed also be numbered.” (Gen. 13:14–16) And again [the Scripture] saith, “God brought forth Abram, and spake unto him, Look up now to heaven, and count the stars if thou be able to number them; so shall thy seed be. And Abram believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness.” (Gen. 15:5, 6; Rom. 4:3) On account of his faith and hospitality, a son was given him in his old age; and in the exercise of obedience, he offered him as a sacrifice to God on one of the mountains which He showed him. (Gen. 21:22; Heb. 11:17)
Clement of Rome, “The First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians,” in The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885)
The Gospel of Reality
By Gene Edward Veith 2/1/2009
Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are not enough for many denizens of the twenty-first century. In their search for a more palatable Jesus, novelists such as Dan Brown of The Da Vinci Code, feminist theologians such as Elaine Pagels, and their acolytes in the media and pop culture are turning to the apocryphal gospels of the early heretics. These are alleged to contain a valid, alternative version of early Christianity, one that can support today’s feminism and moral permissiveness. But comparing the New Testament Gospels to those written centuries later only confirms that these writings are works of history.
Do you remember the furor over the recent discovery of an ancient manuscript entitled The Lost Gospel of Judas Iscariot: A New Look at Betrayer and Betrayed ? The media reported that the document presented Judas as a good guy who turned Jesus over only because Jesus told him to. The reports implied that the church had gotten it wrong over all these centuries, that Judas was no sinister betrayer but a leading disciple to whom Jesus imparted special knowledge. The media coverage indicated that we would now have to re-evaluate our knowledge of Jesus. The translation became a best-seller and National Geographic, which was behind the publication of the text, made a TV documentary on the subject.
But have you heard the rest of the story? The media that hyped The Gospel of Judas has not been as vigilant in reporting how scholars have been shooting down all of these claims, to the point of accusing the National Geographic of “scholarly malpractice.” The Chronicle of Higher Education, though, has shown how genuine scholarship got hijacked by media sensationalism, pop-culture superficiality, and commercial temptations.
The media left out the little detail that the manuscript had Judas not turning in Jesus at His request to atone for the sins of the world; rather, Judas was bent on sacrificing Jesus to a demon named Saklas. So much for this being an alternative Christian tradition.
But the biggest problem was that the manuscript was dishonestly translated. What the National Geographic translated as “spirit” (with Judas being described as the “13th spirit”) should be rendered as “demon” (with Judas being the “13th demon”). The best-seller said that Judas has been “set apart for the holy generation.” It should read “set apart from the holy generation.” Perhaps the most flagrant mistranslation was leaving out a negative, saying that Judas “would ascend to the holy generation.” The manuscript actually says that Judas “would not ascend to the holy generation.”
The National Geographic translators rendered the text so that it read the opposite of what it actually said. Apparently, even the Gnostic heretics who wrote this document did not think much of Judas.
But in today’s religious climate, anything Gnostic has a special appeal. The Gnostics believed that the material world is an illusion and that the spirit is all that counts. Thus, the body and what you do with your body has no significance. For today’s theologians, this means that whether you are a man or a woman makes no difference; such physical details of the body have no bearing on spiritual issues. Thus, we have the Hollywood starlets, notorious for their promiscuity and substance abuse, going on about how “spiritual” they are.
Far from being a legitimate strain of Christianity — before, allegedly, patriarchal churchmen declared it a heresy so that they could oppress women and construct orthodox Christianity as a way to impose their power — Gnosticism is more like the opposite of Christianity.
The actual Gospels underscore the difference. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are realistic histories. They are not written in poetry — as were the mythic accounts of Homer and Virgil — but in prose, a style used for history. As C.S. Lewis has observed, if the Gospels are fictional, that would be a miracle in itself, since that kind of realistic prose fiction would not be invented for sixteen centuries. The Gnostic Gospels, by contrast — such as the gospels of Mary Magdalene, Philip, and Judas — are mostly philosophical dialogues modeled after those of Plato. Furthermore, the biblical Gospels draw from the actual, physical world — mangers, weddings, lilies of the field — that the Gnostics rejected.
The canonical Gospels present a common picture of Jesus. His personality, though unlike any imaginative creation, is recognizable and consistent throughout them all, even the very differently written gospel of John. The picture that emerges from the Gnostic Gospels is very different. In addition to the jargon-ridden philosophical mysticism of the dialogs, we have the petulant child of the Infant Narratives who zaps bullies with his super powers.
The resurrection accounts of the Gospels are especially telling. Their narratives seem disjointed. But look at them closely. They come from the point-of-view of particular individuals, so that we see through the eyes of Mary Magdalene, Peter, the walkers to Emmaus. That is to say, the narratives are eyewitness accounts.
Jesus — whose risen body eats fish, bears its scars, and can be touched — is the incarnate Son of God who died by torture and rose again to save us from our sins. That is a historical fact. The false Gospels, and the novels and scholarship that supports them, are pure fiction.
Dr. Gene Edward Veith is provost emeritus and professor of literature emeritus at Patrick Henry College and director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Ind.
Gene Edward Veith Books | Go to Books Page
By John Walvoord
The Restoration of Israel
Ezekiel 39:25–29. In this section God announced the restoration of Israel as was predicted in many other passages in the Old Testament. God declared, “I will now bring Jacob back from captivity and will have compassion on all the people of Israel, and I will be zealous for my holy name. They will forget their shame and all the unfaithfulness they showed toward me when they lived in safety in their land with no one to make them afraid” (vv. 25–26 ). This prediction of restoration is just as literal as the prediction of the battle, and both will take place in the future.
God, having previously predicted His judgments on Israel, here made a special point of how they will be gathered completely from the various foreign lands from which they were scattered. This was described in Ezekiel 38. Now God makes a specific and sweeping prediction: “When I have brought them back from the nations and have gathered them from the countries of their enemies, I will show myself holy through them in the sight of many nations. Then they will know that I am the LORD their God, for though I sent them into exile among the nations, I will gather them to their own land, not leaving any behind. I will no longer hide my face from them, for I will pour out my Spirit on the house of Israel, declares the Sovereign LORD” ( 39:27–29 ). Not only will God restore Israel to the land, but He also promised to gather all of His people from their scattered positions and bring them back to the land. This will occur in the opening period of the millennial kingdom. It will not be an option to the children of Israel, but they will be commanded to come to their Promised Land. This is a sweeping and dramatic prediction, and it supports the doctrine of a glorious future for Israel in the millennium.
Earlier in Ezekiel 20:33–38, God had declared His purpose to regather Israel but will purge the rebels or the unsaved so that only righteous Israel will be allowed to possess her ancient land. An important point in biblical interpretation is to treat these prophecies in the literal sense as are the other prophecies that have been fulfilled. If so, it requires the second coming of Christ to be before the thousand-year reign of Christ or the premillennial return of the Lord.
The Millennial Temple
Ezekiel 40:1–43:27. Beginning in Ezekiel 40, the specifications for the millennial temple and its system of worship are described. Scholars have differed over the question whether these prophecies should be taken literally or in some figurative sense. Some suggest the plans were for a temple to replace Solomon’s, which had been destroyed. But no such temple was built. Others find it a symbolic picture of the church ( How can it be the church when the church did not exist at the time of Ezekiel? The Church is in a different dispensation. ) but leave unanswered why such specific details were revealed. Further, those who adopt the figurative interpretation have not agreed as to the meaning of this temple. Inasmuch as the specifications are very specific and imply a literal temple and inasmuch as having a temple in the millennium would coincide with a period of joy and peace and worship of the Lord, it would seem best to consider this temple a literal temple, though problems of interpretation remain.
Ezekiel recorded how the Lord in a vision took him to a high mountain where he was introduced to a man who seemed to be made of bronze. The man said to him, “Son of man, look with your eyes and hear with your ears and pay attention to everything I am going to show you, for that is why you have been brought here. Tell the house of Israel everything you see” ( 40:4 ).
In the introduction of the millennial temple and its worship in the millennium, Ezekiel was continuing his discussion of the restoration of Israel spiritually, which was incorporated in the predictions of Ezekiel 33–39. In the first four chapters of the section concerning the temple ( 40–43 ) the new temple was described as the center of worship. This was followed by revealing the characteristics of worship in chapters 44–46 and the final division of the land for Israel in chapters 47–48.
As the detailed picture of the temple was unfolded, it was obvious that it could not be interpreted as a plan for the temple built by the returning exiles from Babylon. The temple they built was totally different in its structure. Also, it is unexplainable if you take this in a symbolic sense because the details given were not necessary for a symbolic temple. Accordingly, those who believe in interpreting prophecy in a literal sense believe this will be an actual temple that will be built in the millennial kingdom. There may be a previous temple built on different specifications in the period of the great tribulation before the second coming, as a sacrificial system of offerings was restored and then stopped by the political developments, but it will not be the temple that is described here in Ezekiel.
Before considering the details of the temple, the question may be fairly asked: Why is the millennial temple revealed with so many details? The answer seems to be that it will be the symbol of God’s presence with His people as He promised to be with them at the time of the millennium. As stated earlier in 37:26–27, God declared, “I will establish them and increase their numbers, and I will put my sanctuary among them forever. My dwelling place will be with them; I will be their God, and they will be my people. Then the nations will know that I the LORD make Israel holy, when my sanctuary is among them forever.”
The sanctuary in their midst will also be an assurance of God’s presence in their midst as God will indwell the millennial temple much as He did the temple of God and the tabernacle before it. The glory of God had left Solomon’s temple as described in Ezekiel 8–11. The restoration of Israel as a nation will feature God’s presence reentering a temple and being with His people visibly. In keeping with the promise of the new covenant ( 37:26 ), the temple will be the visible evidence of God’s presence. Such a large temple is in keeping with the other promises of God’s presence and blessing in the millennial kingdom and Israel’s restoration to their land.
Though the details of the construction of the temple are not in themselves of prophetic significance, putting these details together involves a description of a building that has never been built in the past and that will be the centerpiece of God’s plan for the kingdom when Christ returns. Its size far exceeds anything that was known in previous temples.
As described in Ezekiel 40:5–42:20, the outer dimensions of the temple complex will form a square 875 feet (500 cubits) across and in length. The temple will face east as did the tabernacle and the temples of Solomon and of the exile. The south, east, and north sides will have an outer wall. Thirty rooms are also built on the second and third levels. The temple itself projects from inside the western wall of the temple complex toward the east, and except on the western wall, it has outer courts on three sides — south, east, and north, 175 feet wide. The rooms inside the temple area are assigned to their respective uses, including the temple proper in the center with an inner court in front of it extending to the east. The details, while not prophetic in themselves, together give a tremendous vision of the central place of worship in the millennial kingdom.
Ezekiel, who recorded this vision of the temple, was given what amounted to a tour, which prompted the detailed description. He was led by an angel described as “a man whose appearance was like bronze” ( 40:3 ).
The measuring rod used by the angel was six cubits long (v. 5 ), with a rod being approximately twenty-one inches in length. The total measuring rod therefore was about ten feet six inches. Ezekiel entered through the eastern gate (v. 6 ); there was also one gate on the south and one on the north, corresponding to the gates of the outer court. Solomon’s temple had a gate only on the east.
As Ezekiel comprehended what He was seeing, he was informed concerning the measurements that were mentioned in the Scriptures. After the outer court was measured, Ezekiel recorded that the angel measured the inner court (vv. 28–37 ). Each of the gates had tables set up on either side of the entrance for the purpose of slaughtering the sacrifices, with eight tables, four on each side, being available in each of the three gates.
One of the exegetical problems of Ezekiel’s temple is the fact that sacrifices will be offered in the millennium. This has often been considered a contradiction of the fact that Christ is the one sacrifice that takes away sin inasmuch as His sacrifice caused the Mosaic law of sacrifices to be abolished. Why then is the sacrificial system predicted here?
Though some have attempted to explain this by symbolic explanation, actually, the explanation of a literal interpretation is quite clear. It should be observed that the sacrifices in the Old Testament did not take away sin. They were prophetic, looking forward to the death of Christ, who was the final sacrifice. In the millennium, apparently, sacrifices will also be offered, though somewhat different from those required under the Mosaic law, but this time the sacrifices will be memorial, much as the Lord’s Supper is a memorial in the church age for the death of Christ. ( When we celebrate the Lord's Supper we do not sacrifice an animal as will be done in the Millenial reign. I don't know. I believe it is required because the Bible says so. I just don't understand. )
Though it is objectionable to some to have animal sacrifices in the millennial scene, actually, they will be needed there because the very ideal circumstances in which millennial saints will live will tend to cause people to gloss over the awfulness of sin and the need for bloody sacrifice. The sacrifices offered will therefore be a reminder that only by the shedding of blood, and more specifically the blood of Christ, can sin be taken away. Ezekiel was not alone in referring to a sacrificial system in the millennium (cf. Isa. 56:7; 66:20–23; Jer. 33:18; Zech. 14:16–21; Mal. 3:3–4 ). The prophets therefore seem to be united in referring to literal sacrifices in connection with a literal temple in the millennium.
It is natural that a future sacrificial system in the millennium should raise objections. Bloody sacrifices are offensive to modern culture. Their use in the Mosaic covenant and before was, however, ordered by God Himself as a typical religious rite that pointed to Christ. Any attempt to spiritualize the temple as well as the millennial sacrifices runs into major difficulties with the details revealed, as no satisfactory explanation can be offered that accounts for the details of the prophetic revelation. If bloody sacrifices were proper as typical illustrations of redemption in the Old Testament, they are also proper as a memorial to the death of Christ.
Two rooms were mentioned specifically ( Ezek. 40:44 ) that were designated for the use of priests (vv. 44–46 ).
The angel also measured the Most Holy Place and also the inner sanctuary, into which Ezekiel could not enter. Various other details are mentioned concerning the Most Holy Place, the interior, and the rear buildings ( 41:1–26 ).
The Unholy Pursuit of God in Moby Dick
By R.C. Sproul 8/1/2011
It seems that every time a writer picks up a pen or turns on his word processor to compose a literary work of fiction, deep in his bosom resides the hope that somehow he will create the Great American Novel. Too late. That feat has already been accomplished and is as far out of reach for new novelists as is Joe DiMaggio’s fifty-six-game hitting streak or Pete Rose’s record of cumulative career hits for a rookie baseball player. The Great American Novel was written more than a hundred and fifty years ago by Herman Melville. This novel, the one that has been unsurpassed by any other, is Moby Dick.
My personal copy of Moby Dick is a leather-bound collector’s edition produced by Easton Press under the rubric “The Hundred Greatest Books Ever Written.”
Note that the claim here is not that Moby Dick is one of the hundred greatest books written in English, but rather that it is one of the hundred greatest books written in any language.
Its greatness may be seen not in its sometimes cumbersome literary structure or its excursions into technicalia about the nature and function of whales (cetology). No, its greatness is found in its unparalleled theological symbolism. This symbolism is sprinkled abundantly throughout the novel, particularly in the identities of certain individuals who are assigned biblical names. Among the characters are Ahab, Ishmael, and Elijah, and the names Jeroboam and Rachel (“who was seeking her lost children”) are given to two of the ships in the story.
In a personal letter to Nathaniel Hawthorne upon completing this novel, Melville said, “I have written an evil book.” What is it about the book that Melville considered evil? I think the answer to that question lies in the meaning of the central symbolic character of the novel, Moby Dick, the great white whale.
Melville experts and scholars come to different conclusions about the meaning of the great white whale. Many see this brutish animal as evil because it had inflicted great personal damage on Ahab in an earlier encounter. Ahab lost his leg, which was replaced by the bone of a lesser whale. Some argue that Moby Dick is Melville’s symbol of the incarnation of evil itself. Certainly this is the view of the whale held by Captain Ahab himself. Ahab is driven by a monomaniacal hatred for this creature, this brute that left him permanently damaged both in body and soul. He cries out, “He heaps me,” indicating the depth of the hatred and fury he feels toward this beast. Some have accepted Ahab’s view that the whale is a monstrous evil as that of Melville himself.
Other scholars have been convinced that the whale is not a symbol of evil but the symbol of God Himself. In this interpretation, Ahab’s pursuit of the whale is not a righteous pursuit of God but natural man’s futile attempt in his hatred of God to destroy the omnipotent deity. I favor this second view. It was the view held by one of my college professors—one of the five leading Melville scholars in the world at the time I studied under him. My senior philosophy research paper in college was titled “The Existential Implications of Melville’s Moby Dick.” In that paper, which I cannot reproduce in this brief article, I tried to set forth the theological structure of the narrative.
I believe that the greatest chapter ever written in the English language is the chapter of Moby Dick titled “The Whiteness of the Whale.” Here we gain an insight into the profound symbolism that Melville employs in his novel. He explores how whiteness is used in history, in religion, and in nature. The terms he uses to describe the appearance of whiteness in these areas include elusive, ghastly, and transcendent horror, as well as sweet, honorable, and pure. All of these are descriptive terms that are symbolized in one way or another by the presence of whiteness. In this chapter Melville writes,
But not yet have we solved the incantation of this whiteness, and learned why it appeals with such power to the soul; and more strange and far more portentous—why, as we have seen, it is at once the most meaning symbol of spiritual things, nay, the very veil of the Christian’s Deity; and yet should be as it is, the intensifying agent in things the most appalling to mankind. Is it that by its indefiniteness it shadows forth the heartless voids and immensities of the universe, and thus stabs us from behind with the thought of annihilation, when beholding the white depths of the milky way? Or is it, that as in essence whiteness is not so much a colour as the visible absence of colour; and at the same time the concrete of all colours; is it for these reasons that there is such a dumb blankness, full of meaning, in a wide landscape of snows—a colourless, all-colour of atheism from which we shrink?
He then concludes the chapter with these words: “And of all these things, the albino whale was the symbol. Wonder ye then at the fiery hunt?”
If the whale embodies everything that is symbolized by whiteness—that which is terrifying; that which is pure; that which is excellent; that which is horrible and ghastly; that which is mysterious and incomprehensible—does he not embody those traits that are found in the fullness of the perfections in the being of God Himself?
Who can survive the pursuit of such a being if the pursuit is driven by hostility? Only those who have experienced the sweetness of reconciling grace can look at the overwhelming power, sovereignty, and immutability of a transcendent God and find there peace rather than a drive for vengeance. Read Moby Dick, and then read it again.
R.C. Sproul Books:
- 1 The Consequences of Ideas: Understanding the Concepts that Shaped Our World
- 2 The Holiness of God
- 3 Chosen by God
- 4 Essential Truths of the Christian Faith
- 5 What Is Reformed Theology?: Understanding the Basics
- 6 Knowing Scripture
- 7 The Donkey Who Carried a King
- 8 Defending Your Faith: An Introduction to Apologetics
- 9 Be Still, My Soul: Embracing God's Purpose and Provision in Suffering
- 10 Romans
- 11 Everyone's A Theologian
- 12 John (St. Andrew's Expositional Commentary)
- 13 Classic Teachings on the Nature of God: The Holiness of God; Chosen by God; Pleasing God—Three Books in One
- 14 The Priest with Dirty Clothes
- 15 Are We Together? A Protestant Analyzes Roman Catholicism
- 16 The Work of Christ: What the Events of Jesus' Life Mean for You
- 17 The Barber Who Wanted to Pray
- 18 God's Love: How the Infinite God Cares for His Children (Classic Theology)
- 19 The Prince's Poison Cup
- 20 Mark: St. Andrews Expositional Commentary
- 21 The Mystery of the Holy Spirit
- 22 Does Prayer Change Things? (Crucial Questions (Reformation Trust))
- 23 The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version Hardcover w/Maps
- 24 Now, That's a Good Question!
- 25 The Intimate Marriage: A Practical Guide to Building a Great Marriage (R. C. Sproul Library)
- 26 O Love That Will Not Let Me Go: Facing Death with Courageous Confidence in God
- 27 The Prayer of the Lord
- 28 After Darkness, Light: Distinctives of Reformed Theology: Essays in Honor of R. C. Sproul
- 29 The Last Days according to Jesus: When Did Jesus Say He Would Return?
- 30 The Lightlings
- 31 Who Is the Holy Spirit? (Crucial Questions (Reformation Trust))
- 32 Classical Apologetics
- 33 Surprised by Suffering: The Role of Pain and Death in The Christian Life
- 34 Faith Alone: The Evangelical Doctrine of Justification
- 35 What is the Trinity? (Crucial Questions (Reformation Trust))
- 36 The King Without a Shadow
- 37 Reason to Believe: A Response to Common Objections to Christianity
- 38 Unseen Realities: Heaven, Hell, Angels and Demons
- 39 Ultimate Issues (R. C. Sproul Library)
- 40 Can I Be Sure I'm Saved? (Crucial Questions (Reformation Trust))
- 41 How Should I Think about Money? (Crucial Questions)
- 42 What is Repentance? (Crucial Questions (Reformation Trust))
- 43 Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus: Experiencing the Peace and Promise of Christmas
- 44 Does God Control Everything? (Crucial Questions (Reformation Trust))
- 45 Feed My Sheep: A Passionate Plea for Preaching
- 46 Can I Know God's Will? (Crucial Questions (Reformation Trust))
- 47 Getting the Gospel Right: The Tie That Binds Evangelicals Together
- 48 Who Is Jesus? (Crucial Questions (Reformation Trust))
- 49 Can I Trust the Bible? (Crucial Questions (Reformation Trust))
- 50 Holy Bible: New Geneva Study Bible, New King James Version
- 51 Sola Scriptura: The Protestant Position on the Bible
- 52 What is Baptism? (Crucial Questions (Reformation Trust))
- 53 A Walk With God: Luke
- 54 Cómo defender su fe (Una Introduccion a La Apologetica) (Spanish Edition)
- 55 Saved from What?
- 56 What Is Faith? (Crucial Questions (Reformation Trust))
- 57 Lifeviews
- 58 What Does It Mean to Be Born Again? (Crucial Questions (Reformation Trust))
- 59 Grace Unknown: The Heart of Reformed Theology
- 60 The Invisible Hand: Do All Things Really Work for Good? (R. C. Sproul Library)
- 61 Can I Have Joy in My Life? (Crucial Questions (Reformation Trust))
- 62 By R. C. Sproul - Knowing Scripture (First) (1/26/09)
Direction in Times of Confusion
By Robert Jeffress 2023
Second, the Holy Spirit offers us direction in times of confusion. Jesus said, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me” (John 10:27). In matters of Christlikeness, there is no ambiguity. Jesus clearly communicates the direction He would have us go. Sometimes He speaks to us through His Word. Sometimes He speaks to us through prayer. Sometimes He speaks to us through the wise counsel of other believers. We need only to pay attention to His voice.
That’s easier said than done in our noisy culture! So we must be proactive in our communication with the Lord. Dive deep into Scripture, and wrestle with passages you don’t understand. Commit verses to memory. Continually look for ways to apply God’s Word wisely in your life.
I encourage you to set aside the best part of your day, the time when you’re sharpest and most alert, for prayer. “Draw near with confidence to the throne of grace” (Heb. 4:16) as you ask for God’s will to be done. Tell Him your needs, your fears, your confusion, your temptations, your anger, and your sadness. And when you’ve exhausted your speech in prayer, listen intently to your heavenly Father, ready to take note of the things He brings to your attention.
Then take time to nurture relationships with other believers. Foster a spirit of honesty in those relationships by “speaking the truth in love” to one another (Eph. 4:15). Make the well-being of these people a priority in your life, as they do the same for you. And consider the counsel of your fellow believers, especially when they’re saying things you may not want to hear.
Courage in Times of Opportunity
Third, the Holy Spirit offers us courage in times of opportunity. We see that courage illustrated in the life of the first Christian martyr. In Acts 6–7, the enemies of Christianity targeted Stephen, one of the leaders of the early church, for persecution. They made false accusations against him and then dragged him before the Sanhedrin. Knowing that the men he faced were looking for an excuse to put him to death, Stephen launched into an epic sermon that doubled as an indictment of the Jewish religious leaders. Stephen traced God’s faithfulness and Israel’s unfaithfulness throughout the nation’s history. He concluded by pointing out how the religious leaders themselves had broken the law and killed God’s Chosen One.
The Holy Spirit gave Stephen the courage to speak boldly when the opportunity presented itself. In a frenzy, the religious leaders drove Stephen out of the city and stoned him to death. And as his life slowly ebbed away, the Holy Spirit gave Stephen the courage to forgive those who were killing him.
The passage in Acts doesn’t tell us exactly how the Holy Spirit’s infusion of courage into Stephen affected the people who witnessed it. But it does note that one of those witnesses was a young man named Saul — who later became the apostle Paul.
Comfort in Times of Stress
Fourth, the Holy Spirit allows us to experience comfort in times of stress. When a phone call comes in the middle of the night to inform you there’s been an accident. When your doctor tells you the report is not good. When your employer tells you your services are no longer needed. When your mate tells you he or she no longer loves you. When bombshells explode in your life, you have a choice as a Christian. You can be filled with anger and fear, or you can allow the peace of God that passes all human comprehension to take control of your life.
Power in times of temptation. Direction in times of confusion. Courage in times of opportunity. Comfort in times of stress. These are just some of the benefits of being controlled by the Holy Spirit.
Staying Heavenly Minded in Our Earthly Surroundings
In his letter to the believers in Colossae, Paul wrote, “Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth” (Col. 3:1–2).
God has placed believers in a difficult, though not impossible, situation. He asks us to be citizens of two worlds at the same time. Our citizenship is in heaven (Phil. 3:20), yet we are on earth to fulfill God’s will.
This predicament is so unusual that it merited a special prayer by Jesus on our behalf: “I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world” (John 17:14–18).
Twice in His prayer Jesus declared that His followers are not of this world. Yet twice He also declared that God’s plan is not to take Christians out of this world but to send them into the world. Therein lies the tension. How can Christians live in this world, with its responsibilities and temptations, without loving this world and being conformed to its values?
That’s where Paul’s instruction in Colossians 3 to be heavenly minded comes into play. To be heavenly minded means to conform our daily affections, attitudes, and actions to the image of Christ. In other words, it means loving what Jesus loves, thinking as Jesus thinks, and behaving in every situation as Jesus would behave.
Allow me to frame this discussion with an experience from my own life. Being called as pastor of my first church, First Baptist Church of Eastland, Texas, was one of the happiest and most satisfying experiences of my life. For the previous seven years, I had served as youth minister under Dr. W. A. Criswell at First Baptist Dallas. Although I really enjoyed my work in Dallas, I always knew God had a different calling for me as a pastor.
After the Eastland church voted, and we announced our decision to accept the church’s call, my wife and I immediately placed our membership in our new church. We spent hours in a receiving line hugging, laughing, and crying with our new members. When we returned to our motel that evening, we were so excited about our new assignment we could barely sleep.
However, I still had responsibilities to fulfill at my former church. So the next morning we drove back to Dallas, ready to finish our work there. The following six weeks was one of the strangest periods of my life. I was living in two worlds. My work was at the church in Dallas, but my membership and future were at the church in Eastland.
I can honestly tell you that I enjoyed those last six weeks of work in Dallas more than I had the previous seven years of ministry there. The fact that I would soon be leaving removed all the stress from my job. I could do what I felt was right and say what I thought was true without any fear of the consequences. After all, I was leaving. What could they do to me?
By the same token, the fact that I would soon be leaving also gave me a fresh desire for excellence in my work as a minister. Something about being called by the Eastland church as pastor made me realize the seriousness of my vocation. So I also experienced a renewed zeal in my work that began those final weeks in Dallas and carried over to my ministry in Eastland.
Living as citizens of heaven while still residents of earth should give believers the same sense of liberation and motivation — liberation from the stress of this life, since our time here is limited, and motivation to develop the attitudes and characteristics we will carry into eternity. More to the point of the tenth core belief of Christianity, these attitudes and characteristics are the very essence of Christlikeness.
Jesus’s life was marked by compassion. The motivation for many of His miracles was His deep concern for the suffering of others. We see Jesus’s compassion in Mark 1:40–41: “A leper came to Jesus, beseeching Him and falling on his knees before Him, and saying, ‘If You are willing, You can make me clean.’ Moved with compassion, Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, ‘I am willing; be cleansed.’”
And Matthew 9:36 says this about Jesus: “Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd.”
Two of Jesus’s best-known parables taught the importance of compassion. In the story of the prodigal son, the father is a picture of God, patiently waiting for the return of his wayward child. Notice the father’s initial reaction upon seeing his son: “While [the son] was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him” (Luke 15:20).
In the parable of the good Samaritan, Jesus contrasted the indifference of the religious leaders toward an injured man with the compassion shown by a foreigner. The Samaritan, unlike the religious leaders of the day, was genuinely concerned with people’s needs. “But a Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion, and came to him and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn and took care of him” (Luke 10:33–34).
Consider the people in your family, among your friends, in your office, and in your church who have specific needs that you’re capable of meeting. Maybe it’s a need for money, clothing, or food. Or maybe it’s a need for attention, an encouraging word, or a sympathetic ear. When you’re heavenly minded, you will mirror the compassion demonstrated by Jesus — a compassion that made itself known through positive action.
To act kindly toward others means to deal with them from the perspective of grace, not law. It means giving people what they need rather than what they deserve. The life of Christ illustrated the quality of kindness. Fortunately, Christ gave us not what we deserved but what we needed. Out of kindness, He gave His life for us. Paul said, “But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:4–5).
Paul urged believers to pass on to one another what we have been given. “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you” (Eph. 4:32).
Consider the opportunities you have to show kindness instead of harshness to others. If you’re an employer, perhaps one of your employees made a mistake that cost your company money. Justice might say the employee should be terminated. Kindness would suggest a different course of action. If you’re a parent of a teenager, suppose your child wrecks your car. Justice might say the child should be grounded for six weeks. Kindness opens the door to alternative responses.
Being like Christ doesn’t mean that we never act firmly. It means that our first choice — our preferred choice — will always be to deal kindly with others.
Is there any group of people more popular or more acclaimed in Scripture than the humble? Consider just a few examples:
• “When pride comes, then comes dishonor, but with the humble is wisdom” (Prov. 11:2).
• “Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted” (Matt. 23:12).
• “Clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (1 Pet. 5:5).
For all its popularity and acclaim, however, humility is often misunderstood. Humility is an attitude that views our accomplishments and our failures from God’s perspective. One of the quirks of human nature is that we have a difficult time maintaining a balanced view of ourselves. We usually gravitate to one of two extremes: “I’m so wonderful; how could God ever get along without me?” or “I’m just a lowly worm who can’t do anything.”
Scripture urges a more balanced view. “For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith” (Rom. 12:3). In practical terms, humble people exhibit four characteristics.
First, humble people are willing to give other people credit for success. A humble person has no trouble sharing the spotlight with others. He realizes that whatever success he enjoys in life is a collaborative effort. A wise executive will give credit to her management team for a profitable year. A wise pastor will give credit to his people for their efforts in building a growing church.
The bottom line of humility is realizing that every good thing in our lives, ultimately, is the result of God’s graciousness to us. In 1 Corinthians 4:7, Paul asked some interesting questions: “What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?” Your possessions, your children, your position, and your appearance are gifts from God. Such a realization is a powerful antidote to pride.
Second, humble people refuse to hold on to their rights. When we understand that every good thing in life comes from God, we will stop doggedly clinging to our rights. We will be more interested in accomplishing God’s purpose than fulfilling our own agenda. Jesus Christ is the supreme example of one who was willing to give up His divine rights to accomplish God’s purpose.
Third, humble people resist the need to always be right. After Paul’s admonition in Romans 12 to have a proper perspective of ourselves, he discussed spiritual gifts. As we have seen, the Holy Spirit gives each Christian a spiritual gift — a unique passion and power to further His kingdom. Some have the gift of teaching, others have the gift of mercy, still others have the gift of giving, and so on. With those differing gifts come differing perspectives.
A couple once came to see me about their teenage son, who was running with the wrong crowd, skipping school, and habitually breaking his curfew. The father had the spiritual gift of prophecy. His solution was to throw his son out of the house. The mother had the spiritual gift of mercy. She argued for a more tempered and loving approach to their son’s rebellion. Who was right? Both were. The boy needed to be firmly disciplined, but the discipline needed to be administered in a loving, restorative way.
Rather than trying to force other people to see things your way, learn to appreciate their unique spiritual gifts and perspectives. A humble person realizes that he or she does not have a corner on the truth. He or she appreciates and respects the differing gifts and perspectives of others.
Fourth, humble people demonstrate an interest in serving others. If we’re honest, most of us would admit that we tend to value other people in proportion to how they can serve us. We select a mate we think will meet our physical and emotional needs. We hire employees who will help us fulfill our vocational goals. We choose churches that will meet our spiritual needs.
Yet Jesus had a different view of people. As far as He was concerned, people were not to be used but rather served. Referring to Himself, He said, “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve” (Matt. 20:28).
Take a moment to consider what a remarkable statement that is. Jesus created us (Col. 1:16). He pursued the most ambitious and worthy goal of all: to reconcile the world to Himself. Therefore, He had every right to view us as instruments to accomplish His purpose. Yet He did not create us to meet His objectives. He came to fulfill our needs! As His followers, we’re called to adopt that same attitude toward other people.
Right From Wrong
By S. Michael Houdmann
Every human being is created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27; James 3:9). Part of what it means to be in God’s image is that we have a conscience that instinctively recognizes good and evil and tells right from wrong. Every civilized culture in the world has adopted similar standards for its people based on this inherent understanding of good and evil. Murder, theft, and deceit are universally understood to be wrong. Sometimes depravity overrides that knowledge, and a people group chooses to value evil rather than forbid it, as in the case of infanticide practiced by the heathen nations surrounding Israel (Leviticus 18:21; 2 Kings 23:10).
Genesis 1:27 So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them. ESV
Leviticus 18:21 You shall not give any of your children to offer them to Molech, and so profane the name of your God:
I am the LORD. ESV
2 Kings 23:10 And he defiled Topheth, which is in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, that no one might burn his son or his daughter as an offering to Molech. ESV
Due to our sin nature, we tend to excuse the evil in ourselves (Romans 5:12; Proverbs 20:20; Jeremiah 2:35). A continual pattern of excusing evil leads to a hardening of the conscience. Romans 1:28 gives God’s response to those who persist in evil: “Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done.” There is a point at which God lets go. Those who insist on keeping their sin can now sin boldly and suffer no pangs of conscience. They believe they have transcended conscience and outsmarted God. But their judgment will come when they stand before Christ (Hebrews 9:27; Malachi 3:5).
Romans 5:12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned— ESV
Proverbs 20:20 If one curses his father or his mother,
his lamp will be put out in utter darkness. ESV
Jeremiah 2:35 you say, ‘I am innocent;
surely his anger has turned from me.’
Behold, I will bring you to judgment
for saying, ‘I have not sinned.’ ESV
Hebrews 9:27 And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, ESV
Malachi 3:5 “Then I will draw near to you for judgment. I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired worker in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, against those who thrust aside the sojourner, and do not fear me, says the LORD of hosts. ESV
As darkness is defined by the absence of light, sin is defined by the absence of goodness (James 4:17). Since God is the very embodiment of good (Psalm 86:5; 119:68), anything contrary to His nature is evil (Romans 3:23). We learn to distinguish good from evil by getting to know God. His Word is the foundation for understanding Him (Psalm 1:1–2; 119:160; John 17:17).The closer we draw to the holiness of God, the worse sin appears (Isaiah 6:1, 5). A t-shirt may appear white against a black wall. But when you place that shirt on newly fallen snow, it appears quite dingy. Similarly, our attempts at goodness look quite dingy when placed next to the holiness of God. As we enter His presence, we start to notice how self-centered our thoughts and actions are. We see our own greed, covetousness, lust, and deceit for the evils that they are. It is only in God’s light that we begin to see ourselves clearly.
James 4:17 So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin. ESV
Psalm 86:5 For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving,
abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you. ESV
Psalm 119:68 You are good and do good;
teach me your statutes. ESV
Psalm 1:1–2 Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
2 but his delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates day and night. ESV
Psalm 119:160 The sum of your word is truth,
and every one of your righteous rules endures forever. ESV
Isaiah 6:1, 5 In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one called to another and said: ESV
“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory!” ESV
We also learn to distinguish between right and wrong by knowing the Word. It is the Bible, after all, that delineates what is sinful and what is not. The author of Hebrews speaks of those who are immature in their faith, who can only digest spiritual “milk”—the most basic principles of God’s Word (Hebrews 5:13). In contrast to the “babes” in Christ are the spiritually mature, “who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil” (Hebrews 5:14). Note that a Christian’s spiritual senses are strengthened through “constant use” of the Word. The ability to tell right from wrong, to distinguish between Christ’s doctrine and man’s, comes by studying and applying God’s Word.
Hebrews 5:13 for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. ESV
Hebrews 5:14 But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. ESV
God’s Word is filled with examples of those who did right and those who did wrong. Those examples are there for us to learn what God is like and what He desires from us (1 Corinthians 10:11). Micah 6:8 gives a brief summary of God’s desire for every person: “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Malachi 3:18 makes it even clearer. God says, “And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not.” Here the Lord is equating righteousness with serving Him. If good is defined as serving God, then evil is rejecting God and refusing to serve Him. Regardless of how philanthropic a person may appear to others, his good works amount to little if they are done for selfish reasons. If we make it our goal to seek God and honor Him in everything we do (1 Corinthians 10:31), we will understand right and wrong and know that our life choices are pleasing to Him (Jeremiah 29:13; 1 Peter 3:12; Psalm 106:3). 1 Corinthians 10:11 Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. ESV
Micah 6:8 He has told you, O man, what is good;
and what does the LORD require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God? ESV
1 Corinthians 10:31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. ESV
Jeremiah 29:13 You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. ESV
1 Peter 3:12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
and his ears are open to their prayer.
But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” ESV
Psalm 106:3 3 Blessed are they who observe justice,
who do righteousness at all times! ESV
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 84My Soul Longs for the Courts of the LORD
84 To The Choirmaster: According To The Gittith. A Psalm Of The Sons Of Korah.
1 How lovely is your dwelling place,
O LORD of hosts!
2 My soul longs, yes, faints
for the courts of the LORD;
my heart and flesh sing for joy
to the living God.
3 Even the sparrow finds a home,
and the swallow a nest for herself,
where she may lay her young,
at your altars, O LORD of hosts,
my King and my God.
4 Blessed are those who dwell in your house,
ever singing your praise! Selah
5 Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
in whose heart are the highways to Zion.
6 As they go through the Valley of Baca
they make it a place of springs;
the early rain also covers it with pools.
7 They go from strength to strength;
each one appears before God in Zion.
Where Is Your Hope?
By Marva Dawn 9/1/2011
The story is told that a financially comfortable North American went to visit a mission church that was located in the village dump in a city in Africa. Wondering, he shadowed the pastor for much of the day until he finally burst out and said, “Where is your hope?” He could find no tools with which the pastor could work, no materials with which he could build, no food that he could pass on to the poverty-stricken people. “Where is your hope?”
To the man’s utter astonishment, the local pastor responded with an enormous smile and brilliantly bright eyes. “My hope is Jesus Christ,” he confidently asserted, and he went on the rest of the day showing how that could be the case.
Like the visitor, most of us living in North America can’t imagine how the African pastor could find hope in the terrible situation in which he worked. In fact, his location seems dangerous to the extreme. All sorts of diseases are rampant in a dump. People can get cut by the glass shards lying hidden there. Infections follow soon after. How can anyone find hope in such a situation?
That is why we have to pay careful attention to the pastor’s language. He didn’t say that he found hope in that situation. Rather, he lived so joyfully because his hope was Jesus Christ.
I’ve been writing and thinking about the nature of hope these days because at the moment there are so many disasters all over the United States. Monstrous tornadoes, torrential floods throughout the Mississippi basin, and now, starting in Montana because of the historic amounts of melted snow, severe droughts in other parts of the country — all these make for an enormous number of people displaced and homeless.
Our natural tendency in the United States is to turn first to our human abilities to fix things. We begin planning how to solve the problems, assembling the materials we need, calling in the builders that the jobs require, and organizing the kinds of projects that can take care of the gargantuan needs.
The only problem is that the mess is too massive. A collection of little jobs will not restore the thousands of homes, cars, and fields that have been devastated. The ruination in many sections of the country will necessitate a complete overhaul.
One of the really good things that has come out of this multiplication of crises is that more and more people are winding up thankful to have their lives. They are discovering, in the losses of their homes and all their possessions, that what matters most is to still be alive.
Oh, how I wish we could take them one step further. Over the last few decades, so many people in the United States have become Christians in name only. How I pray that more of those who lose everything and are grateful for their lives will also recognize from whom their lives came and seek a relationship with God. Could we get to the heart of the faith of that African pastor and be able to say, “My hope is Jesus Christ”?
The difference in meaning is colossal. If we simply hope for a newly rebuilt home, we can run into all sorts of troubles that hinder our ambitions. Then, if truth be honestly told, we won’t be completely satisfied very long with the home that we have anyway.
If our hopes are to restore certain valued possessions, we will discover the same truth. Nothing will ever mean as much to us as it once did. We will find ourselves chasing after the wind. Verily, the prophet in Ecclesiastes told us rightly: “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity (1:2b).”
No matter what our hopes are — if they are human hopes — we will wind up dissatisfied in some direction or another. The only hope that can ultimately fulfill our desires is Jesus Christ.
The pastor in Africa was jubilant about his faith because he knew that Jesus Christ was just what he needed. Our problem here in North America is that we have too many other things. We start to rely on our abilities, our skills, our ingenuity — and that is only a quick step to relying on our possessions, our “stuff,” our money, our investments. It seems to be only within the range of a few special “holy” people to be able to depend entirely on Jesus Christ for everything.
Why does it have to be this way? Could it instead be imaginable that we in wealthier countries could give up our pretensions? Would it be a possibility that we could give up our confidence in ourselves, in our own abilities, and in our own “stuff” so that we could put our trust in the only One who is worthy to have our hope, even more to be our hope?
Might it really be possible for us to learn to depend entirely on Jesus Christ?
- 1 Truly the Community: Romans 12 and How to Be the Church
- 2 Keeping the Sabbath Wholly: Ceasing, Resting, Embracing, Feasting
- 3 Reaching Out Without Dumbing Down: A Theology of Worship for This Urgent Time
- 4 The Sense of the Call: A Sabbath Way of Life for Those Who Serve God, the Church, and the World
- 5 A Royal Waste of Time: The Splendor of Worshiping God and Being Church for the World
- 6 The Unnecessary Pastor: Rediscovering the Call
- 7 Being Well When We're Ill: Wholeness and Hope in Spite of Infirmity (Living Well)
- 8 Sexual Character: Beyond Technique to Intimacy
- 9 Powers, Weakness, and the Tabernacling of God
- 10 In the Beginning, GOD: Creation, Culture, and the Spiritual Life
- 11 Unfettered Hope: A Call to Faithful Living in an Affluent Society
- 12 Joy in Divine Wisdom: Practices of Discernment from Other Cultures and Christian Traditions
- 13 I'm Lonely, Lord, How Long: Meditations on the Psalms
- 14 Is It a Lost Cause?: Having the Heart of God for the Church's Children
- 15 Morning by Morning: Daily Meditations from the Writings of Marva J. Dawn
- 16 How Shall We Worship? (Vital Questions)
- 17 Talking the Walk: Letting Christian Language Live Again
- 18 To Walk and Not Faint: A Month of Meditations on Isaiah 40
- 19 Joy in Our Weakness: A Gift of Hope from the Book of Revelation
- 20 My Soul Waits: Solace for the Lonely in the Psalms
- 21 Truly the Community: Romans 12 and How to Be the Church
- 22 Being Well When We're Ill: Wholeness and Hope in Spite of Infirmity (Living Well) by Marva J. Dawn (2008-04-01)
- 23 To Walk And Not Fain
- 24 Unfettered Hope: A Call to Faithful Living in an Affluent Society by Marva J. Dawn (2003-03-31)
- 25 POWERS, WEAKNESS, AN"
- 26 To walk and not faint
The Continual Burnt Offering (John 5:24)
By H.A. Ironside - 1941
August 7John 5:24 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.ESV
There is perhaps no clearer word in all the Bible than this as to how one may know he has eternal life. Note the five great pillars on which assurance rests. First, “He who hears My word.” Have you heard God’s voice in the Word? Has it spoken to your inner ear—the ear of your soul? Second, “And believes in Him who sent Me.” To believe on Him is to trust in Him. Do you confide in God as the One who sent His Son to die for you? Third, “Has everlasting life.” Note there is no “perhaps” here. All who believe have God’s great gift of life eternal Fourth, “Shall not come into judgment.” All that our sins deserved was borne by Jesus, so no believer will ever have to meet God in judgment about the guilt of the past. Fifth, “Has passed from death into life.” All who have thus come to God as revealed in Christ are born again.
Verily, verily, I say unto you,
Verily, verily, message ever new,
He that believeth on the Son, ‘tis true,
Hath everlasting life.
The Continual Burnt Offering: Daily Meditations on the Word of God
Evidence that Scripture is Divine
By Adrian Rogers 2006
Many people question who the author of the Bible is and wonder if the Bible is really the Word of God. I want to give you five reasons to affirm that the Bible is God's Word.
First, I believe the Bible is the Word of God because of its scientific accuracy. The Truth of the Word of God tells us that God “hangeth the earth upon nothing” (Job 26:7). How did Job know that the earth hung in space before the age of modern astronomy and space travel? The Holy Spirit told him. The scientists of Isaiah’s day didn’t know the topography of the earth, but Isaiah said, “It is [God] that sitteth upon the circle of the earth” (Isaiah 40:22). The word for “circle” here means a globe or sphere. How did Isaiah know that God says upon the circle of the earth? By divine inspiration.
Job 26:7 (NASB95) 7 “He stretches out the north over empty space
And hangs the earth on nothing.
Isaiah 40:22 (NASB95) 22 It is He who sits above the circle of the earth,
And its inhabitants are like grasshoppers,
Who stretches out the heavens like a curtain
And spreads them out like a tent to dwell in.
Secondly, the Bible is affirmed through historical accuracy. Do you remember the story about the handwriting on the wall that is found in the fifth chapter of Daniel? Belshazzar hosted a feast with a thousand of his lords and ladies. Suddenly, a gruesome hand appeared out of nowhere and began to write on a wall. The king was disturbed and asked for someone to interpret the writing. Daniel was found and gave the interpretation. After the interpretation, “Then commanded Belshazzar, and they clothed Daniel with scarlet, and put a chain of gold about his neck, and made a proclamation concerning him, that he should be the third ruler in the kingdom.” (Daniel 5:29). Basing their opinion on Babylonian records, the historians claim this never happened. According to the records, the last king of Babylon was not Belshazzar, but a man named Nabonidas. And so, they said, the Bible is in error. There wasn’t a record of a king named Belshazzar. Well, the spades of archeologists continued to do their work. In 1853, an inscription was found on a cornerstone of a temple built by Nabonidas, to the god Ur, which read: “May I, Nabonidas, king of Babylon, not sin against thee. And may reverence for thee dwell in the heart of Belshazzar, my first-born favorite son.” From other inscriptions, it was learned that Belshazzar and Nabonidas were co-regents. Nabonidas traveled while Belshazzar stayed home to run the kingdom. Now that we know that Belshazzar and Nabonidas were co-regents, it makes sense that Belshazzar would say that Daniel would be the third ruler. What a marvelous nugget of truth tucked away in the Word of God!
Third, from Genesis to Revelation, the Bible reads as one book. And there is incredible unity to the Bible. The Bible is one book, and yet it is made up of 66 books, was written by at least 40 different authors over a period of about 1600 years, in 13 different countries and on three different continents. It was written in at least three different languages by people in all professions. The Bible forms one beautiful temple of truth that does not contradict itself theologically, morally, ethically, doctrinally, scientifically, historically, or in any other way.
Fourth, did you know the Bible is the only book in the world that has accurate prophecy? When you read the prophecies of the Bible, you simply have to stand back in awe. There are over 300 precise prophecies that deal with the Lord Jesus Christ in the Old Testament that are fulfilled in the New Testament. To say that these are fulfilled by chance is an astronomical impossibility.
Finally, the Bible is not a book for the times, but the Book of the ages. First Peter 1:25 says: “But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the Word which by the gospel is preached unto you.” No book has ever had as much opposition as the Bible. Men have laughed at it, scorned it, burned it, ridiculed it, and made laws against it. But the Word of God has survived. And it is applicable today as much as it was yesterday and will be tomorrow.
It’s so majestically deep that scholars could swim and never touch the bottom. Yet so wonderfully shallow that a little child could come and get a drink of water without fear of drowning. That is God’s precious, holy Word. The Word of God. Know it. Believe it. It is True.
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
3/1/2016 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
A man who is intimate with God
will never be intimidated by men.
--- Greg Simas
The aspect of the cross in discipleship is lost altogether in the present-day view of following Jesus. The cross is looked upon as something beautiful and simple instead of a stern heroism. Our Lord never said it was easy to be a Christian; He warned men that they would have to face a variety of hardships, which He termed bearing the cross.
--- Oswald Chambers
Approved Unto God
Joy is the flag which is flown from the castle of the heart when the King is in residence there.
The Old Testament may be likened to a chamber richly furnished but dimly lighted; the introduction of light brings into it nothing which was not in it before; but it brings out into clearer view much of what is in it but was only dimly or even not at all perceived before. . . . Thus the Old Testament revelation of God is not corrected by the fuller revelation which follows it, but is only perfected, extended and enlarged.
--- B. B. Warfield Biblical Doctrines (New York: Oxford University Press, 1929), 141–42.
Knowing God without knowing our own wretchedness makes for pride. Knowing our own wretchedness without knowing God makes for despair. Knowing Jesus Christ strikes the balance because he shows us both God and our own wretchedness.
--- Blaise Pascal Pensées (Dover Thrift Editions)
... from here, there and everywhere
Thanks to Meir Yona
A Great Slaughter About Ascalon. Vespasian Comes To Ptolemais.
1. Now the Jews, after they had beaten Cestius, were so much elevated with their unexpected success, that they could not govern their zeal, but, like people blown up into a flame by their good fortune, carried the war to remoter places. Accordingly, they presently got together a great multitude of all their most hardy soldiers, and marched away for Ascalon. This is an ancient city that is distant from Jerusalem five hundred and twenty furlongs, and was always an enemy to the Jews; on which account they determined to make their first effort against it, and to make their approaches to it as near as possible. This excursion was led on by three men, who were the chief of them all, both for strength and sagacity; Niger, called the Persite, Silas of Babylon, and besides them John the Essene. Now Ascalon was strongly walled about, but had almost no assistance to be relied on [near them], for the garrison consisted of one cohort of footmen, and one troop of horsemen, whose captain was Antonius.
2. These Jews, therefore, out of their anger, marched faster than ordinary, and, as if they had come but a little way, approached very near the city, and were come even to it; but Antonius, who was not unapprized of the attack they were going to make upon the city, drew out his horsemen beforehand, and being neither daunted at the multitude, nor at the courage of the enemy, received their first attacks with great bravery; and when they crowded to the very walls, he beat them off. Now the Jews were unskillful in war, but were to fight with those who were skillful therein; they were footmen to fight with horsemen; they were in disorder, to fight those that were united together; they were poorly armed, to fight those that were completely so; they were to fight more by their rage than by sober counsel, and were exposed to soldiers that were exactly obedient; and did every thing they were bidden upon the least intimation. So they were easily beaten; for as soon as ever their first ranks were once in disorder, they were put to flight by the enemy's cavalry, and those of them that came behind such as crowded to the wall fell upon their own party's weapons, and became one another's enemies; and this so long till they were all forced to give way to the attacks of the horsemen, and were dispersed all the plain over, which plain was wide, and all fit for the horsemen; which circumstance was very commodious for the Romans, and occasioned the slaughter of the greatest number of the Jews; for such as ran away, they could overrun them, and make them turn back; and when they had brought them back after their flight, and driven them together, they ran them through, and slew a vast number of them, insomuch that others encompassed others of them, and drove them before them whithersoever they turned themselves, and slew them easily with their arrows; and the great number there were of the Jews seemed a solitude to themselves, by reason of the distress they were in, while the Romans had such good success with their small number, that they seemed to themselves to be the greater multitude. And as the former strove zealously under their misfortunes, out of the shame of a sudden flight, and hopes of the change in their success, so did the latter feel no weariness by reason of their good fortune; insomuch that the fight lasted till the Evening, till ten thousand men of the Jews' side lay dead, with two of their generals, John and Silas, and the greater part of the remainder were wounded, with Niger, their remaining general, who fled away together to a small city of Idumea, called Sallis. Some few also of the Romans were wounded in this battle.
3. Yet were not the spirits of the Jews broken by so great a calamity, but the losses they had sustained rather quickened their resolution for other attempts; for, overlooking the dead bodies which lay under their feet, they were enticed by their former glorious actions to venture on a second destruction; so when they had lain still so little a while that their wounds were not yet thoroughly cured, they got together all their forces, and came with greater fury, and in much greater numbers, to Ascalon. But their former ill fortune followed them, as the consequence of their unskilfulness, and other deficiencies in war; for Antonius laid ambushes for them in the passages they were to go through, where they fell into snares unexpectedly, and where they were encompassed about with horsemen, before they could form themselves into a regular body for fighting, and were above eight thousand of them slain; so all the rest of them ran away, and with them Niger, who still did a great many bold exploits in his flight. However, they were driven along together by the enemy, who pressed hard upon them, into a certain strong tower belonging to a village called Bezedeh However, Antonius and his party, that they might neither spend any considerable time about this tower, which was hard to be taken, nor suffer their commander, and the most courageous man of them all, to escape from them, they set the wall on fire; and as the tower was burning, the Romans went away rejoicing, as taking it for granted that Niger was destroyed; but he leaped out of the tower into a subterraneous cave, in the innermost part of it, and was preserved; and on the third day afterward he spake out of the ground to those that with great lamentation were searching for him, in order to give him a decent funeral; and when he was come out, he filled all the Jews with an unexpected joy, as though he were preserved by God's providence to be their commander for the time to come.
4. And now Vespasian took along with him his army from Antioch, [which is the metropolis of Syria, and without dispute deserves the place of the third city in the habitable earth that was under the Roman empire, 2 both in magnitude, and other marks of prosperity,] where he found king Agrippa, with all his forces, waiting for his coming, and marched to Ptolemais. At this city also the inhabitants of Sepphoris of Galilee met him, who were for peace with the Romans. These citizens had beforehand taken care of their own safety, and being sensible of the power of the Romans, they had been with Cestius Gallus before Vespasian came, and had given their faith to him, and received the security of his right hand, and had received a Roman garrison; and at this time withal they received Vespasian, the Roman general, very kindly, and readily promised that they would assist him against their own countrymen. Now the general delivered them, at their desire, as many horsemen and footmen as he thought sufficient to oppose the incursions of the Jews, if they should come against them. And indeed the danger of losing Sepphoris would be no small one, in this war that was now beginning, seeing it was the largest city of Galilee, and built in a place by nature very strong, and might be a security of the whole nation's [fidelity to the Romans].
The War of the Jews: The History of the Destruction of Jerusalem (complete edition, 7 books)
by D.H. Stern
the man with whom ADONAI is angry falls into it.
by Frank W. Boreham
Tramp! tramp! tramp! tramp! It was like the regular and rhythmic beat of a great machine. File after file, column after column, I watched the troops pass by. Tramp! tramp! tramp! tramp! On they went, and on, and on; all in perfect time and step; tramp! tramp! tramp! tramp! It reminded me of that haunting passage that tells us that 'all these men of war that could keep rank came with a perfect heart to make David king over all Israel.' They could keep rank! It is a suggestive record. There is more in it than appears on the surface. They could keep rank! Right! Left! Right! Left! Tramp! tramp! tramp! tramp! All these men of war that could keep rank came with a perfect heart to make David king over all Israel.
Half the art of life lies in learning to keep step. It is a great thing—a very great thing—to be able to get on with other people. Let me indulge in a little autobiography. I once had a most extraordinary experience, an experience so altogether amazing that all subsequent experiences appear like the veriest commonplaces in comparison. The fact is, I was born. Such a thing had never happened to me before, and I was utterly bewildered. I did not know what to make of it. My first impression was that I was all alone and that I had the solar system all to myself. Like Robinson Crusoe, I fancied myself monarch of all I surveyed. But then, like Robinson Crusoe, I discovered a footprint, and found that the planet on which I had been so mysteriously cast was inhabited.. There were two of us—myself and The Other Fellow.
As soon as I could devise means of locomotion, I set out, like Robinson Crusoe, to find out what The Other Fellow was like. I had a kind of instinct that sooner or later I should have to fight him. I found that he differed from me in one essential particular. He had hundreds of millions of heads; I had but one. He had hundreds of millions of feet; hundreds of millions of hands; hundreds of millions of ears and eyes; I had but two. But for all that, it never occurred to me that he was greater than I. Myself always appeared to me to be vastly more important than The Other Fellow. It was nothing to me that he starved so long as I had plenty of food. It was nothing to me that he shivered so long as I was wrapped up snugly. I do not remember that it ever once crossed my mind in the first six months of my existence that it would be a bad thing if he died, with all his hundreds of millions of heads, and left me all alone upon the planet. I was first, and he was nowhere. I was everything, and he was nothing. Why, dear me, I must have cut my first teeth before it occurred to me that there was room on the planet for both of us; and I must have cut my wisdom teeth before I discovered that the world was on the whole more interesting to me because of his presence on it. And since then I have spent some pains, in a blundering, unskilful kind of a way, in trying to make myself tolerable to him. And the longer I live the more clearly I see that, although he is an odd fellow at times, he is very quick to respond to and reciprocate such advances. He is discovering, as I am, that walking in step has a pleasure peculiar to itself.
I said a moment ago that half the air of life lies in learning to keep step. Conversely, half the tragedy of life consists in our failure so to do. Here are Mr. and Mrs. Cardew. All lovers of Mark Rutherford know them well. They were both of them really excellent people; a minister and his wife; deeply attached to one another; and yet as wretched as wretched could be. How are you going to account for it? It is vastly important just because it is so common. Domestic difficulties rarely arise out of downright wickedness. Husband and wife may be as free from all outward fault as poor Mr. and Mrs. Cardew. Mark Rutherford thinks that Mr. Cardew was chiefly to blame, and his verdict is probably just. A man takes a considerably longer stride than a woman; but, for all that, it is still possible, even in these days of hobble skirts, for man and maid to walk in step, as all true lovers know. But it can only be managed by his moderating his ungainly stride to her more modest one, and, perhaps, by her unconsciously lengthening her step under the invigorating influence of his support. Which is a parable. Mark Rutherford says that 'Mr. Cardew had not learned the art of being happy with his wife; he did not know that happiness is an art; he rather did everything he could do to make the relationship intolerable. He demanded payment in coin stamped from his own mint, and if bullion and jewels had been poured before him he would have taken no heed of them. He did not take into account that what his wife said and what she felt might not be the same; that persons who have no great command over language are obliged to make one word do duty for a dozen; and that, if his wife was defective at one point, there were in her whole regions of unexplored excellence, of faculties never encouraged, and an affection to which he offered no response.' There is more philosophy in the cunning way in which those happy lovers in the lane accommodate their strides to the comfort of each other than we have been accustomed to suspect. It is done very easily; it is done almost unconsciously; but they must be very careful to go on doing it long after they have left the leafy old lane behind them.
I do not mean to suggest that husbands and wives are sinners above all people on the face of the earth. By no means. Is there a club, a society, an office, or a church in the wide, wide world that does not shelter a most excellent individual whose one and only fault is that he cannot get on with anybody else? That is, of course, my way of putting it. It is not his. He would say that nobody else can get on with him. Which again takes our minds back to the troops. A raw Scotch lad joined the expeditionary force, and on the first parade day his mother and sister came proudly down to see him march. Jock, sad to say, was out of step. At least that is my way of putting it. But it is not the only way. 'Look, mother!' said his fond sister, 'look, they're a' oot o' step but our Jock!' It is not for me to decide whether Jock is right or whether the others are. But since the others are all in step with each other, I am afraid the presumptive evidence is rather heavily against Jock. And Jock is well known to all of us. Nobody likes him, and nobody knows why they don't like him. In many respects he is a paragon of goodness. He loves his church, or he would not have stuck to it year in and year out as he has done. He is not self-assertive; he is quite willing to efface his own personality and be invisible. He is generous to a fault. Nobody is more eager to do anything for the general good. And yet nobody likes him. The only thing against him is that he has never disciplined himself to get on with other people. He has never tried to accommodate himself to their stride. He can't keep rank. They're a' oot o' step but our Jock! Poor Jock!
I know that out of all this a serious problem emerges. The problem is this: why should Jock destroy his own personality in order to render himself an exact replica of every other man in the regiment? Is individuality an evil thing that must be wiped out and obliterated? The answer to this objection is that Jock is not asked to sacrifice his personality; he is asked to sacrifice his angularity. The ideal of British discipline is, not to turn men into machines, but to preserve individuality and initiative; and yet, at the same time, to make each man of as great value to his comrades as is by any means possible. In the church we do the same. Brown means well, but he is all gush. You ask him to do a thing. 'Oh, certainly, with the greatest pleasure in the world!' But you have an awkward feeling that he will undertake a thousand other duties in the same airy way, and that the chances of his doing the work, and doing it well, are not rosy. Smith, on the other hand, is cautious. He, too, means well; but he is unduly scared of promising more than he can creditably fulfil; and, as a matter of fact, this bogy frightens him out of doing as much as he might and should. Now here you have Brown running and Smith crawling. You know perfectly well that Brown will exhaust himself quite prematurely, and that Smith will never get there. And between Brown's excited scamper and Smith's exasperating crawl the main host jogs along at a medium pace. Now Brown's personality is a delightful thing. You can't help loving him. His willingness is charming, and his enthusiasm contagious. And Smith's steady persistence and extreme conscientiousness are most admirable. They do us all good. But if, whilst preserving and developing their personalities, we could strip them of their angularities, and get them to walk in step at one steady and regular pace—tramp! tramp! tramp! tramp!—we should surely stand a better chance of making David king over all Israel!
It is all a matter of discipline. The ploughman comes up from the country with a long ungainly stride. The city man, accustomed to crowded pavements, comes with a short and mincing step. They are drilled for a fortnight side by side, and away they go. Right! Left! Right! Left! Tramp! tramp! tramp! tramp! The harmony is perfect. Jock must submit himself to the same rigid process of training. He may be firmly convinced that the stride of the regiment is too short or too long. But if, on that ground, he adopts a different one, nobody but his gentle and admiring little sister will believe that he is right and they are wrong. Jock's isolated attitude invariably reflects upon himself. 'The whole regiment is out of step!' he declares, drawing attention to his different stride. That is too often the trouble with Jock. 'The members of our Church do not read the Bible!' he says. It may be sadly true; but it sounds, put in that way, like a claim that he is the one conscientious and regular Bible-reader among them. 'The members of our Church do not pray!' he exclaims sadly. It may be that a call to prayer is urgently needed; but poor Jock puts the thing in such a light that it appears to be a claim on his part that he alone knows the way to the Throne of Grace. 'Among the faithless faithful only he!' 'The members of our Church are not spiritually-minded!' he bemoans; but somehow, said as he says it, it sounds suspiciously like an echo of little Jack Horner's 'What a good boy am I!'
In the correspondence of Elizabeth Fry there occurs a very striking and suggestive passage. When Mrs. Fry began to meet with great success in her work among the English prisons, some of the Quakers feared that her triumphs would engender pride in her own soul and destroy her spirituality. At last the thing became nauseous and intolerable, and she wrote, 'The prudent fears that the good have for me try me more than most things, and I find that it calls for Christian forbearance not to be a little put out by them. I am confident that we often see the Martha spirit of criticism enter in, even about spiritual things. O Lord, enable us to keep our ranks in righteousness!'
Tramp! tramp! tramp! tramp!
'And Enoch walked with God.'
'And Noah walked with God.'
'And Abraham walked with God.'
'And Moses walked with God.'
Tramp! tramp! tramp! tramp!
'All these men of war that could keep rank came with a perfect heart to make David king over all Israel.'
'O Lord, enable us to keep our ranks in righteousness!'
Mushrooms on the Moor
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
Prayer in the Father’s house
Wist ye not that I must be in My Father’s house?
--- Luke 2:49 (R.V.).
Our Lord’s childhood was not immature manhood: our Lord’s childhood is an eternal fact. Am I a holy innocent child of God by identification with my Lord and Saviour? Do I look upon life as being in my Father’s house? Is the Son of God living in His Father’s house in me?
The abiding Reality is God, and His order comes through the moments. Am I always in contact with Reality, or do I only pray when things have gone wrong, when there is a disturbance in the moments of my life? I have to learn to identify myself with my Lord in holy communion in ways some of us have not begun to learn as yet. “I must be about My Father’s business,”—live the moments in My Father’s house.
Narrow it down to your individual circumstances—are you so identified with the Lord’s life that you are simply a child of God, continually talking to Him and realizing that all things come from His hands? Is the Eternal Child in you living in the Father’s house? Are the graces of His ministering life working out through you in your home, in your business, in your domestic circle? Have you been wondering why you are going through the things you are? It is not that you have to go through them, it is because of the relation into which the Son of God has come in His Father’s providence in your particular sainthood. Let Him have His way, keep in perfect union with Him.
The vicarious life of your Lord is to become your vital simple life; the way He worked and lived among men must be the way He lives in you.
My Utmost for His Highest
the Poetry of RS Thomas
Mostly it was wars
With their justification
Of the surrender of values
For which they fought. Between
Them they laid their plans
For the next, exempted
From compact by the machine's
Was out of date; wisdom consisted
In a revision of the strict code
Of the spirit. To keep moving
Was best; to bring the arrival
Nearer departure; to synchronize
The applause, as the public images
Stepped on and off the stationary
Aircraft. The labour of the years
Was over; the children were heirs
To an instant existence. They fed the machine
Their questions, knowing the answers
Already, unable to apply them.
Honor your healer even before you need him!
BIBLE TEXT / Exodus 14:10–15 / As Pharaoh drew near, the Israelites caught sight of the Egyptians advancing upon them. Greatly frightened, the Israelites cried out to the Lord. And they said to Moses, “Was it for want of graves in Egypt that you brought us to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us, taking us out of Egypt? Is this not the very thing we told you in Egypt, saying, ‘Let us be, and we will serve the Egyptians, for it is better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness’?” But Moses said to the people, “Have no fear! Stand by and witness the deliverance which the Lord will work for you today; for the Egyptians whom you see today you will never see again. The Lord will battle for you; you hold your peace.”
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Why do you cry out to Me? Tell the Israelites to go forward.…”
MIDRASH TEXT / Exodus Rabbah 21, 7 / Why do you cry out to Me? Thus it is written, “Did you pray before your trouble came?” (Job 36:19, authors’ translation). Why is this so? Rabbi Elazar ben Pedat said, “As the maxim says, ‘Honor your healer even before you need him!’ ” And Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish says, “Prepare your prayer before Your Creator so that you won’t have adversaries above.”
CONTEXT / In the story of the Israelites fleeing Egypt, there is an interesting juxtaposition of verses. Moses tells the Israelites to “Have no fear! Stand by and witness the deliverance which the Lord will work for you today.” In other words, God will save you. God, on the other hand, simply tells Moses and the Israelites, “Why do you cry out to Me? Tell the Israelites to go forward.…” In other words, “Save yourselves. If you put more distance between yourselves and the Egyptians, then the crisis will be averted.”
The Rabbis see Moses as calling out to God too soon. There is no real need for divine assistance; they have the answer in their hands. And the Rabbis quote a verse from Job to prove their point. Elihu, one of Job’s friends, attempts to put Job’s suffering into perspective, asking him, “Did you pray before your trouble came?” This is the same as Moses, who prayed too soon. The Rabbis ask, Why is this so? Why did Moses take it upon himself to pray before it was really necessary? Rabbi Elazar ben Pedat quotes a maxim that says ‘Honor your healer even before you need him!” Similarly, Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish extends the analogy: “Prepare your prayer before Your Creator so that you won’t have adversaries above.”
In the liturgy, God is often called רוֹפֵא/rofeh, “healer.” In the weekday Amidah, recited three times daily, we address God as “the healer (רוֹפֵא/rofeh) of the sick of Israel.” Thus, the advice of Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish, to be prepared before God, flows directly from that of Rabbi Elazar ben Pedat. Rabbi Elazar says to show respect to your healer; Rabbi Shimon expands this to say that we should respect the “Divine Doctor,” whose aid and support we will someday need.
Searching for Meaning in Midrash: Lessons for Everyday Living
This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. --- Ephesians 5:32.
Saints are married, united to Christ, who is the best husband, “outstanding among ten thousand” (Song 5:10). The Essential Works of John Flavel
Christ is a husband who cannot be paralleled
for tender care. The spouse cannot be as considerate of her own soul as Christ is considerate of her. If she wanders out of the way, he guides her. If she stumbles, he holds her hand. If she falls, he raises her. If she is sad, he comforts her with promises.
for ardent affection. No husband loves like Christ. He has given real demonstrations of his love to his spouse. He has sent her a love letter—his Word—and he has given her a love token—his Spirit.
Christ loves more than any other husband:
He puts richer clothes on his bride. “He has clothed me with garments of salvation… a robe of righteousness” (Isa. 61:10). [Because of] this robe, God looks on us as if we had not sinned and we are reputed righteous—as righteous as Christ, “so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21).
He gives his bride not only his golden garments but his image. Christ imparts “the splendor of his holiness” (Ps. 29:2). “The splendor I had given you made your beauty perfect” (Ezek. 16:14). Christ never thinks he has loved his spouse enough till he can see his own face in her.
Christ discharges those debts that no other husband can. Our sins are the worst debts we owe. If all the angels contributed money, they could not pay one of these debts, but Christ frees us from these. He says to justice what Paul said concerning Onesimus: “If he has done you any wrong or owes you anything, charge it to me” (Philem. 18).
Christ has suffered more for his spouse than any husband ever did for a wife. He suffered poverty and scandal. He who crowned the heavens with stars was himself crowned with thorns. He was regardless of his life; he leaped into the sea of his Father’s wrath to save his spouse from drowning.
Christ’s love does not end with his life. He loves his spouse forever. Well may the apostle call it “this love that surpasses knowledge” (Eph. 3:19).
--- Thomas Watson
Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
A Bathroom, a Leg, and $1.50 August 7
What would you expect from a baby whose father abandoned her at birth, and whose mother died when she was three? Taken in by impoverished neighbors, Eleanor Chestnut was an unhappy child, lonely and hungry for a mother’s love. She didn’t get it. Nor was she offered much of an education. But she was stubborn; and when she discovered a school where she could earn her way through both the academy and college, she enrolled and did just that. She developed a yen for medicine. While in school she also joined a Presbyterian church and acquired a corresponding interest in missions.
In 1888 Eleanor entered Woman’s Medical College in Chicago, where she completed the programs for both doctors and nurses while living in an attic and eating mostly oatmeal. Following that—a stint at Moody Bible Institute.
On August 7, 1893 Eleanor was appointed a medical missionary and assigned to south China. Her work there was complicated by a poor grasp of the language and by impoverished conditions, and she continually found herself in arduous straits. On one occasion she became responsible for a demented patient who had ruined his brain with opium. “He thinks he is continually being pursued by demons,” she wrote a friend. “I have no place for him but my study. He is sometimes violent and has to be carefully watched. So I am sitting here on guard now.”
But her affection for the people of Lien-chou was boundless. She used her own bathroom as an operating room, and once used skin from her own leg as a graft for a coolie whose own leg was healing poorly following surgery. She established a women’s hospital in Lien-chou, living on $1.50 a month so the rest of her salary could be used to buy bricks.
She served China selflessly for ten years, then on October 29, 1905, her missions compound was attacked by an anti-foreign mob. Eleanor might have escaped had she not returned to aid her colleagues. Her final act of service was ripping a piece from her dress to bind a child’s wound.
Then Jesus asked, “Which one of these three people was a real neighbor to the man who was beaten up by robbers?” The teacher answered, “The one who showed pity.” Jesus said, “Go and do the same!”
--- Luke 10:36,37.
On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - August 7
“The upright love thee” --- Song of Solomon 1:4.
Believers love Jesus with a deeper affection then they dare to give to any other being. They would sooner lose father and mother than part with Christ. They hold all earthly comforts with a loose hand, but they carry him fast locked in their bosoms. They voluntarily deny themselves for his sake, but they are not to be driven to deny him. It is scant love which the fire of persecution can dry up; the true believer’s love is a deeper stream than this. Men have laboured to divide the faithful from their Master, but their attempts have been fruitless in every age. Neither crowns of honour, nor frowns of anger, have untied this more than Gordian knot. This is no every-day attachment which the world’s power may at length dissolve. Neither man nor devil have found a key which opens this lock. Never has the craft of Satan been more at fault than when he has exercised it in seeking to rend in sunder this union of two divinely welded hearts. It is written, and nothing can blot out the sentence, “The upright love thee.” The intensity of the love of the upright, however, is not so much to be judged by what it appears as by what the upright long for. It is our daily lament that we cannot love enough. Would that our hearts were capable of holding more, and reaching further. Like Samuel Rutherford, we sigh and cry, “Oh, for as much love as would go round about the earth, and over heaven—yea, the heaven of heavens, and ten thousand worlds—that I might let all out upon fair, fair, only fair Christ.” Alas! our longest reach is but a span of love, and our affection is but as a drop of a bucket compared with his deserts. Measure our love by our intentions, and it is high indeed; ’tis thus, we trust, our Lord doth judge of it. Oh, that we could give all the love in all hearts in one great mass, a gathering together of all loves to him who is altogether lovely!
Evening - August 7
“Satan hindered us.” --- 1 Thessalonians 2:18.
Since the first hour in which goodness came into conflict with evil, it has never ceased to be true in spiritual experience, that Satan hinders us. From all points of the compass, all along the line of battle, in the vanguard and in the rear, at the dawn of day and in the midnight hour, Satan hinders us. If we toil in the field, he seeks to break the ploughshare; if we build the wall, he labours to cast down the stones; if we would serve God in suffering or in conflict—everywhere Satan hinders us. He hinders us when we are first coming to Jesus Christ. Fierce conflicts we had with Satan when we first looked to the cross and lived. Now that we are saved, he endeavours to hinder the completeness of our personal character. You may be congratulating yourself, “I have hitherto walked consistently; no man can challenge my integrity.” Beware of boasting, for your virtue will yet be tried; Satan will direct his engines against that very virtue for which you are the most famous. If you have been hitherto a firm believer, your faith will ere long be attacked; if you have been meek as Moses, expect to be tempted to speak unadvisedly with your lips. The birds will peck at your ripest fruit, and the wild boar will dash his tusks at your choicest vines. Satan is sure to hinder us when we are earnest in prayer. He checks our importunity, and weakens our faith in order that, if possible, we may miss the blessing. Nor is Satan less vigilant in obstructing Christian effort. There was never a revival of religion without a revival of his opposition. As soon as Ezra and Nehemiah begin to labour, Sanballat and Tobiah are stirred up to hinder them. What then? We are not alarmed because Satan hindereth us, for it is a proof that we are on the Lord’s side, and are doing the Lord’s work, and in his strength we shall win the victory, and triumph over our adversary.
Morning and Evening
I WANT A PRINCIPLE WITHIN
Charles Wesley, 1707–1788
So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man. (Acts 24:16)
Order my footsteps by Thy Word,
And make my heart sincere;
Let sin have no dominion, Lord,
But keep my conscience clear.
The Bible has much to say about the importance of a Christian having a strong “inner man” (Ephesians 3:16). For instance the word conscience appears more than 30 times throughout the New Testament. The conscience has been described as the “rudder of the soul” or the believer’s “principle within.” One of the prime responsibilities of Christian living is to keep the conscience clear as to the things of God so that we might live worthy lives before our fellowmen. But the conscience must be continually enlightened and developed by an exposure to God’s Word if it is to serve as a reliable guide for our lives. A conscience that is allowed to become hardened and insensitive to sin will ultimately lead to spiritual and moral disaster. We must allow God to develop our consciences and then our consciences are able to develop us.
Charles Wesley was very strong in his teaching about the necessity of an enlightened conscience for believers. Part of the Wesleyan concept for the doctrine of holiness was that God’s people should be so sensitive to sin that eventually they would be able to live without known sin in their lives.
This song text first appeared in the 1749 edition of Wesley’s Hymns and Sacred Poems, with the title “For a Tender Conscience.” These words are still a worthy goal for our daily living:
I want a principle within of watchful, Godly fear, a sensibility of sin, a pain to feel it near. Help me the first approach to feel of pride or wrong desire, to catch the wand’ring of my will and quench the Spirit’s fire.
From Thee that I no more may stray, no more Thy goodness grieve, grant me the filial awe, I pray, the tender conscience give. Quick as the apple of an eye, O God, my conscience make! Awake my soul when sin is nigh and keep it still awake.
Almighty God of truth and love, to me Thy pow’r impart; the burden from my soul remove, the hardness from my heart. O may the least omission pain my reawakened soul, and drive me to that grace again which makes the wounded whole.
For Today: Acts 23:1; Romans 2:15; Ephesians 1:4; 2 Timothy 1:8, 9
Ask God to give you a greater sensitivity to those attitudes and actions that could harden the response of your conscience. Carry this musical prayer with you ---
Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
DISCOURSE I - ON THE EXISTENCE OF GOD
3. Add to this union of contrary qualities, and the subserviency of one thing to another, the admirable variety and diversity of things in the world. What variety of metals, living creatures, plants! what variety and distinction in the shape of their leaves, flowers, smell, resulting from them! Who can number up the several sorts of beasts on the earth, birds in the air, fish in the sea? How various are their motions! Some creep, some go, some fly, some swim; and in all this variety each creature hath organs or members, fitted for their peculiar motion. If you consider the multitude of stars, which shine like jewels in the heavens, their different magnitudes, or the variety of colors in the flowers and tapestry of the earth, you could no more conclude they made themselves, or were made by chance, than you can imagine a piece of arras, with a diversity of figures and colors, either wove itself, or were knit together by hazard.
How delicious is the sap of the vine, when turned into wine, above that of a crab! Both have the same womb of earth to conceive them, both agree in the nature of wood and twigs, as channels to con it into fruit. What is that which makes the one so sweet, the other so sour, or makes that sweet which was a few weeks before unpleasantly sharp? Is it the earth? No: they both have the same soil; the branches may touch each other; the strings of their roots may, under ground, entwine about one another. Is it the sun? both have the same beams. Why is not the taste and color of the one as gratifying as the other? Is it the root? the taste of that is far different from that of the fruit it bears. Why do they not, when they have the same soil, the same sun, and stand near one another, borrow something from one another’s natures? No reason can be rendered, but that there is a God of infinite wisdom hath determined this variety, and bound up the nature of each creature within itself. “Everything follows the law of its creation; and it is worthy observation, that the Creator of them hath not given that power to animals, which arise from different species, to propagate the like to themselves; as mules, that arise from different species. No reason can be rendered of this, but the fixed determination of the Creator, that those species which were created by him should not be lost in those mixtures which are contrary to the law of the creation? This cannot possibly be ascribed to that which is commonly called nature, but unto the God of nature, who will not have his creatures exceed their bounds or come short of them.
Now since among those varieties there are some things better than other, yet all are good in their kind, and partake of goodness, there must be something better and more excellent than all those, from whom they derive that goodness, which inheres in their nature and is communicated by them to others: and this excellent Being must inherit, in an eminent way in his own nature, the goodness of all those varieties, since they made not themselves, but were made by another. All that goodness which is scattered in those varieties must be infinitely concentered in that nature, which distributed those various perfections to them (Ps. 104:9): “He that planted the ear, shall not he hear; he that formed the eye, shall not he see; he that teacheth man knowledge, shall not he know?” The Creator is greater than the creature, and whatsoever is in his effects, is but an impression of some excellenty in himself: there is, therefore, some chief fountain of goodness whence all those various goodnesses in the world do flow.
From all this it follows, if there be an order, and harmony, there must be an Orderer: one that “made the earth by his power, established the world by his wisdom, and stretched out the heavens by his discretion” (Jer. 10:12). Order being the effect, cannot be the cause of itself: order is the disposition of things to an end, and is not intelligent, but implies an intelligent Orderer; and, therefore, it is as certain that there is a God, as it is certain there is order in the world. Order is an effect of reason and counsel; this reason and counsel must have its residence in some being before this order was fixed: the things ordered are always distinct from that reason and counsel whereby they are ordered, and also after it, as the effect is after the cause. No man begins a piece of work but he hath the model of it in his own mind: no man builds a house, or makes a watch, but he hath the idea or copy of it in his own head. This beautiful world bespeaks an idea of it, or a model: since there is such a magnificent wisdom in the make of each creature, and the proportion of one creature to another, this model must be before the world, as the pattern is always before the thing that is wrought by it. This, therefore, must be in some intelligent and wise agent, and this is God. Since the reason of those things exceed the reason and all the art of man, who can ascribe them to any inferior cause? Chance it could not be; the motions of chance are not constant, and at set seasons, as the motions of creatures are. That which is by chance is contingent, this is necessary; uniformity can never be the birth of chance. Who can imagine that all the parts of a watch can meet together and put themselves in order and motion by chance? “Nor can it be nature only, which indeed is a disposition of second causes. If nature hath not an understanding, it cannot work such effects. If nature therefore uses counsel to begin a thing, reason to dispose it, art to effect it, virtue to complete it, and power to govern it, why should it be called nature rather than God” Nothing so sure as that which hath an end to which it tends, hath a cause by which it is ordered to that end. Since therefore all things are ordered in subserviency to the good of man, they are so ordered by Him that made both man and them; and man must acknowledge the wisdom and goodness of his Creator, and act in subserviency to his glory, as other creatures act in subserviency to his good. Sensible objects were not made only to gratify the sense of man, but to hand something to his mind as he is a rational creature: to discover God to him as an object of love and desire to be enjoyed. If this be not the effect of it, the order of the creature, as to such an one, is in vain, and falls short of its true end.
To conclude this: As when a man comes into a palace, built according to the exactest rule of art, and with an unexceptionable conveniency for the inhabitants, he would acknowledge both the being and skill of the builder; so whosoever shall observe the disposition of all the parts of the world, their connection, comeliness, the variety of seasons, the swarms of different creatures, and the mutual offices they render to one another, cannot conclude less, than that it was contrived by an infinite skill, effected by infinite power, and governed by infinite wisdom. None can imagine a ship to be orderly conducted without a pilot; nor the parts of the world to perform their several functions without a wise guide; considering the members of the body cannot perform theirs, without the active presence of the soul. The atheist, then, is a fool to deny that which every creature in his constitution asserts, and thereby renders himself unable to give a satisfactory account of that constant uniformity in the motions of the creatures.
Thirdly, As the production and harmony, so particular creatures, pursuing and attaining their ends, manifest that there is a God. All particular creatures have natural instincts, which move them for some end. The intending of an end is a property of a rational creature; since the lower creatures cannot challenge that title, they must act by the understanding and direction of another; and since man cannot challenge the honor of inspiring the creatures with such instincts, it must be ascribed to some nature infinitely above any creature in understanding. No creature doth determine itself. Why do the fruits and grain of the earth nourish us, when the earth which instrumentally gives them that fitness, cannot nourish us, but because their several ends are determined by one higher than the world?
1. Several creatures have several natures. How soon will all creatures, as soon as they see the light, move to that whereby they must live, and make use of the natural arms God hath given their kind, for their defence, before they are grown to any maturity to afford them that defence! The Scripture makes the appetite of infants to their milk a foundation of the divine glory, (Ps. 8:3), “Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength” that is, matter of praise and acknowledgment of God, in the natural appetite they have to their milk and their relish of it. All creatures have a natural affection to their young ones; all young ones by a natural instinct, move to, and receive the nourishment that is proper for them; some are their own physicians, as well as their own caterers, and naturally discern what preserves them in life, and what restores them when sick. The swallow flies to its celandine, and the toad hastens to its plantain. Can we behold the spider’s nets, or silkworm’s web, the bee’s closets, or the ant’s granaries, without acknowledging a higher being than a creature who hath planted that genius in them? The consideration of the nature of several creatures God commended to Job, (chap. 39, where he discourseth to Job of the natural instincts of the goat, the ostrich, horse, and eagle, &c.) to persuade him to the acknowledgment and admiration of God, and humiliation of himself. The spider, as if it understood the art of weaving, fits its web both for its own habitation, and a net to catch its prey. The bee builds a cell which serves for chambers to reside in, and a repository for its provision. Birds are observed to build their nests with a clammy matter without, for the firmer duration of it, and with a soft moss and down within, for the conveniency and warmth of their young. “The stork knows his appointed time,” (Jer. 8:7),
(Je 8:7) 7 Even the stork in the heavens
knows her times,
and the turtledove, swallow, and crane
keep the time of their coming,
but my people know not
the rules of the LORD.
and the swallows observe the time of their coming; they go an return according to the seasons of the year; this they gain not by consideration, it descends to them with their nature; they neither gain nor increase it by rational deductions. It is not in vain to speak of these. How little do we improve by meditation those objects which daily offer themselves to our view, full of instructions for us! And our Saviour sends his disciples to spell God in the lilies. It is observed also, that the creatures offensive to man go single; if they went by troops, they would bring destruction upon man and beast; this is the nature of them, for the preservation of others.
2. They know not their end. They have a law in their natures, but have no rational understanding, either of the end to which they are appointed, or the means fit to attain it; they naturally do what they do, and move by no counsel of their own, but by a law impressed by some higher hand upon their natures. What plant knows why it strikes its root into the earth? doth it understand what storms it is to contest with? Or why it shoots up its branches towards heaven? doth it know it needs the droppings of the clouds to preserve itself, and make it fruitful? These are acts of understanding; the root is downward to preserve its own standing, the branches upward to preserve other creatures; this understanding is not in the creature itself, but originally in another. Thunders and tempests know not why they are sent; yet by the direction of a mighty hand, they are instruments of justice upon a wicked world. Rational creatures that act for some end, and know the end they aim at, yet know not the manner of the natural motion of the members to it. When we intend to look upon a thing, we take no counsel about the natural motion of our eyes, we know not all the principles of their operations, or how that dull matter whereof our bodies are composed, is subject to the order of our minds. We are not of counsel with our stomachs about the concoction of our meat, or the distribution of the nourishing juice to the several parts of the body. Neither the mother nor the foetus sit in council how the formation should be made in the womb. We know no more than a plant knows what stature it is of, and what medicinal virtue its fruit hath for the good of man; yet all those natural operations are perfectly directed to their proper end, by an higher wisdom than any human understanding is able to conceive, since they exceed the ability of an inanimate or fleshly nature, yea, and the wisdom of a man. Do we not often see reasonable creatures acting for one end, and perfecting a higher than what they aimed at or could suspect? When Joseph’s brethren sold him for a slave, their end was to be rid of an informer; but the action issued in preparing him to be the preserver of them and their families. Cyrus’s end was to be a conqueror, but the action ended in being the Jews’ deliverer (Prov. 16:9).
(Pr 16:9) 9 The heart of man plans his way,
but the LORD establishes his steps.
“A man’s heart deviseth his way, but the Lord directs his steps.”
3. Therefore there is some superior understanding and nature which so acts them. That which acts for an end unknown to itself, depends upon some overruling wisdom that knows that end. Who should direct them in all those ends, but He that bestowed a being upon them for those ends; who knows what is convenient for their life, security and propagation of their natures? An exact knowledge is necessary both of what is agreeable to them, and the means whereby they must attain it, which, since it is not inherent in them, is in that wise God, who puts those instincts into them, and governs them in the exercise of them to such ends. Any man that sees a dart flung, knows it cannot hit the mark without the skill and strength of an archer; or he that sees the hand of a dial pointing to the hours successively, knows that the dial is ignorant of its own end, and is disposed and directed in that motion by another. All creatures ignorant of their own natures, could not universally in the whole kind, and in every climate and country, without any difference in the whole world, tend to a certain end, if some overruling wisdom did not preside over the world and guide them: and if the creatures have a Conductor, they have a Creator; all things are “turned round about by his counsel, that they may do whatsoever he commands them, upon the face of the world in the earth.” So that in this respect the folly of atheism appears. Without the owning a God, no account can given of those actions of creatures, that are an imitation of reason. To say the bees, &c. are rational, is to equal them to man: nay, make them his superiors, since they do more by nature than the wisest man can do by art: it is their own counsel whereby they act, or another’s; if it be their own, they are reasonable creatures; if by another’s, it is not mere nature that is necessary; then other creatures would not be without the same skill, there would be no difference among them. If nature be restrained by another, it hath a superior; if not, it is a free agent; it is an understanding Being that directs them; and then it is something superior to all creatures in the world; and by this, therefore, we may ascend to the acknowledgment of the necessity of a God.
Fourthly. Add to the production and order of the world and the creatures acting for their end, the preservation of them. Nothing can depend upon itself in its preservation, no more than it could in its being. If the order of the world was not fixed by itself, the preservation of that order cannot be continued by itself. Though the matter of the world after creation cannot return to that nothing whence it was fetched, without the power of God that made it, (because the same power is as requisite to reduce a thing to nothing as to raise a thing from nothing,) yet without the actual exerting of a power that made the creatures, they would fall into confusion. Those contesting qualities which are in every part of it, could not have preserved, but would have consumed, and extinguished one another, and reduced the world to that confused chaos, wherein it was before the Spirit moved upon the waters: as contrary parts could not have met together in one form, unless there had been one that had conjoined them; so they could not have kept together after their conjunction unless the same hand had preserved them. Natural contrarieties cannot be reconciled. It is as great power to keep discords knit, as at first to link them. Who would doubt but that an army made up of several nations and humors, would fall into a civil war and sheathe their swords in one another’s bowels, if they were not under the management of some wise general; or a ship dash against the rocks without the skill of a pilot? As the body hath neither life nor motion without the active presence of the soul, which distributes to every part the virtue of acting, sets every one in the exercise of its proper function, and resides in every part; so there is some powerful cause which doth the like in the world, that rules and tempers it. There is need of the same power and action to preserve a thing, as there was at first to make it. When we consider that we are preserved, and know that we could not preserve ourselves, we must necessarily run to some first cause which doth preserve us. All works of art depend upon nature, and are preserved while they are kept by the force of nature, as a statue depends upon the matter whereof it is made, whether stone or brass; this nature, therefore, must have some superior by whose influx it is preserved. Since, therefore, we see a stable order in the things of the world, that they conspire together for the good and beauty of the universe; that they depend upon one another; there must be some principle upon which they do depend; something to which the first link of the chain is fastened, which himself depends upon no superior, but wholly rests in his own essence and being. It is the title of God to be the “Preserver of man and beast.” The Psalmist elegantly describeth it, (Psalm 104:24, &c.) “The earth is full of his riches: all wait upon him, that he may give them their meat in due season.
When he opens his hand, he fills them with good; when he hides his face they are troubled; if he take away their breath, they die, and return to dust. He sends forth his Spirit, and they are created, and renews the face of the earth. The glory of the Lord shall endure forever; and the Lord shall rejoice in his works.” Upon the consideration of all which, the Psalmist (ver. 34) takes a pleasure in the meditation of God as the cause and manager of all those things; which issues into a joy in God, and a praising of him. And why should not the consideration of the power and wisdom of God in the creatures produce the same effect in the hearts of us, if he be our God? Or, as some render it, “My meditation shall be sweet,” or acceptable to him, whereby I find matter of praise in the things of the world, and offer it to the Creator of it.
The Existence and Attributes of God, Volume 7 of 50 Greatest Christian Classics, 2 Volumes in 1
Martin Luther | (1483-1546)
Sect. CX. — IN the same way also it so continually repeats this: — “If man do nothing, there is no place for merit, and where there is no place for merit, there can be no place either for punishment or for reward.” —
Here again, it does not see, that by these carnal arguments, it refutes itself more directly than it refutes us. For what do these conclusions prove, but that all merit is in the power of “Free-will?” And then, where is any room for grace? Moreover, supposing “Free-will” to merit a certain little, and grace the rest, why does “Free-will” receive the whole reward? Or, shall we suppose it to receive but a certain small portion of reward? Then, if there be a place for merit, in order that there might be a place for reward, the merit must be as great as the reward.
But why do I thus lose both words and time upon a thing of nought? For, even supposing the whole were established at which the Diatribe is aiming, and that merit is partly the work of man, and partly the work of God; yet it cannot define that work itself, what it is, of what kind it is, or how far it is to extend; therefore, its disputation is about nothing at all. Since, therefore, it cannot prove any one thing which it asserts, nor establish its interpretation nor contradiction, nor bring forward a passage that attributes all to man; and since all are the phantoms of its own cogitation, Paul’s similitude of the “potter” and the “clay,” stands unshaken and invincible — that it is not according to our “Free-will,” what kind of vessels we are made. And as to the exhortations of Paul, “If a man purify himself from these,” and the like, they are certain models, according to which, we ought to be formed; but they are not proofs of our working power, or of our desire. Suffice it to have spoken thus upon these points, the HARDENING OF PHARAOH, the CASE OF ESAU, and the SIMILITUDE OF THE POTTER.
The Bondage of the Will or Christian Classics Ethereal Library
Brett Meador | Athey Creek
The Lord Sees All
The Gospel Isaiah
Isaiah 44:18-Isaiah 47
Isaiah 48 and 49