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Deuteronomy 3 - 4

Deuteronomy 3

The Defeat of King Og

Deuteronomy 3:1  “Then we turned and went up the way to Bashan. And Og the king of Bashan came out against us, he and all his people, to battle at Edrei. 2 But the LORD said to me, ‘Do not fear him, for I have given him and all his people and his land into your hand. And you shall do to him as you did to Sihon the king of the Amorites, who lived at Heshbon.’ 3 So the LORD our God gave into our hand Og also, the king of Bashan, and all his people, and we struck him down until he had no survivor left. 4 And we took all his cities at that time—there was not a city that we did not take from them—sixty cities, the whole region of Argob, the kingdom of Og in Bashan. 5 All these were cities fortified with high walls, gates, and bars, besides very many unwalled villages. 6 And we devoted them to destruction, as we did to Sihon the king of Heshbon, devoting to destruction every city, men, women, and children. 7 But all the livestock and the spoil of the cities we took as our plunder. 8 So we took the land at that time out of the hand of the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, from the Valley of the Arnon to Mount Hermon 9 (the Sidonians call Hermon Sirion, while the Amorites call it Senir), 10 all the cities of the tableland and all Gilead and all Bashan, as far as Salecah and Edrei, cities of the kingdom of Og in Bashan. 11 (For only Og the king of Bashan was left of the remnant of the Rephaim. Behold, his bed was a bed of iron. Is it not in Rabbah of the Ammonites? Nine cubits was its length, and four cubits its breadth, according to the common cubit.)

12 “When we took possession of this land at that time, I gave to the Reubenites and the Gadites the territory beginning at Aroer, which is on the edge of the Valley of the Arnon, and half the hill country of Gilead with its cities. 13 The rest of Gilead, and all Bashan, the kingdom of Og, that is, all the region of Argob, I gave to the half-tribe of Manasseh. (All that portion of Bashan is called the land of Rephaim. 14 Jair the Manassite took all the region of Argob, that is, Bashan, as far as the border of the Geshurites and the Maacathites, and called the villages after his own name, Havvoth-jair, as it is to this day.) 15 To Machir I gave Gilead, 16 and to the Reubenites and the Gadites I gave the territory from Gilead as far as the Valley of the Arnon, with the middle of the valley as a border, as far over as the river Jabbok, the border of the Ammonites; 17 the Arabah also, with the Jordan as the border, from Chinnereth as far as the Sea of the Arabah, the Salt Sea, under the slopes of Pisgah on the east.

18 “And I commanded you at that time, saying, ‘The LORD your God has given you this land to possess. All your men of valor shall cross over armed before your brothers, the people of Israel. 19 Only your wives, your little ones, and your livestock (I know that you have much livestock) shall remain in the cities that I have given you, 20 until the LORD gives rest to your brothers, as to you, and they also occupy the land that the LORD your God gives them beyond the Jordan. Then each of you may return to his possession which I have given you.’ 21 And I commanded Joshua at that time, ‘Your eyes have seen all that the LORD your God has done to these two kings. So will the LORD do to all the kingdoms into which you are crossing. 22 You shall not fear them, for it is the LORD your God who fights for you.’

Moses Forbidden to Enter the Land

23 “And I pleaded with the LORD at that time, saying, 24 ‘O Lord GOD, you have only begun to show your servant your greatness and your mighty hand. For what god is there in heaven or on earth who can do such works and mighty acts as yours? 25 Please let me go over and see the good land beyond the Jordan, that good hill country and Lebanon.’ 26 But the LORD was angry with me because of you and would not listen to me. And the LORD said to me, ‘Enough from you; do not speak to me of this matter again. 27 Go up to the top of Pisgah and lift up your eyes westward and northward and southward and eastward, and look at it with your eyes, for you shall not go over this Jordan. 28 But charge Joshua, and encourage and strengthen him, for he shall go over at the head of this people, and he shall put them in possession of the land that you shall see.’ 29 So we remained in the valley opposite Beth-peor.

Deuteronomy 4

Moses Commands Obedience

Deuteronomy 4:1  “And now, O Israel, listen to the statutes and the rules that I am teaching you, and do them, that you may live, and go in and take possession of the land that the LORD, the God of your fathers, is giving you. 2 You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God that I command you. 3 Your eyes have seen what the LORD did at Baal-peor, for the LORD your God destroyed from among you all the men who followed the Baal of Peor. 4 But you who held fast to the LORD your God are all alive today. 5 See, I have taught you statutes and rules, as the LORD my God commanded me, that you should do them in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. 6 Keep them and do them, for that will be your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’ 7 For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as the LORD our God is to us, whenever we call upon him? 8 And what great nation is there, that has statutes and rules so righteous as all this law that I set before you today?

9 “Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children’s children— 10 how on the day that you stood before the LORD your God at Horeb, the LORD said to me, ‘Gather the people to me, that I may let them hear my words, so that they may learn to fear me all the days that they live on the earth, and that they may teach their children so.’ 11 And you came near and stood at the foot of the mountain, while the mountain burned with fire to the heart of heaven, wrapped in darkness, cloud, and gloom. 12 Then the LORD spoke to you out of the midst of the fire. You heard the sound of words, but saw no form; there was only a voice. 13 And he declared to you his covenant, which he commanded you to perform, that is, the Ten Commandments, and he wrote them on two tablets of stone. 14 And the LORD commanded me at that time to teach you statutes and rules, that you might do them in the land that you are going over to possess.

Idolatry Forbidden

15 “Therefore watch yourselves very carefully. Since you saw no form on the day that the LORD spoke to you at Horeb out of the midst of the fire, 16 beware lest you act corruptly by making a carved image for yourselves, in the form of any figure, the likeness of male or female, 17 the likeness of any animal that is on the earth, the likeness of any winged bird that flies in the air, 18 the likeness of anything that creeps on the ground, the likeness of any fish that is in the water under the earth. 19 And beware lest you raise your eyes to heaven, and when you see the sun and the moon and the stars, all the host of heaven, you be drawn away and bow down to them and serve them, things that the LORD your God has allotted to all the peoples under the whole heaven. 20 But the LORD has taken you and brought you out of the iron furnace, out of Egypt, to be a people of his own inheritance, as you are this day. 21 Furthermore, the LORD was angry with me because of you, and he swore that I should not cross the Jordan, and that I should not enter the good land that the LORD your God is giving you for an inheritance. 22 For I must die in this land; I must not go over the Jordan. But you shall go over and take possession of that good land. 23 Take care, lest you forget the covenant of the LORD your God, which he made with you, and make a carved image, the form of anything that the LORD your God has forbidden you. 24 For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.

25 “When you father children and children’s children, and have grown old in the land, if you act corruptly by making a carved image in the form of anything, and by doing what is evil in the sight of the LORD your God, so as to provoke him to anger, 26 I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that you will soon utterly perish from the land that you are going over the Jordan to possess. You will not live long in it, but will be utterly destroyed. 27 And the LORD will scatter you among the peoples, and you will be left few in number among the nations where the LORD will drive you. 28 And there you will serve gods of wood and stone, the work of human hands, that neither see, nor hear, nor eat, nor smell. 29 But from there you will seek the LORD your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul. 30 When you are in tribulation, and all these things come upon you in the latter days, you will return to the LORD your God and obey his voice. 31 For the LORD your God is a merciful God. He will not leave you or destroy you or forget the covenant with your fathers that he swore to them.

The LORD Alone Is God

32 “For ask now of the days that are past, which were before you, since the day that God created man on the earth, and ask from one end of heaven to the other, whether such a great thing as this has ever happened or was ever heard of. 33 Did any people ever hear the voice of a god speaking out of the midst of the fire, as you have heard, and still live? 34 Or has any god ever attempted to go and take a nation for himself from the midst of another nation, by trials, by signs, by wonders, and by war, by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, and by great deeds of terror, all of which the LORD your God did for you in Egypt before your eyes? 35 To you it was shown, that you might know that the LORD is God; there is no other besides him. 36 Out of heaven he let you hear his voice, that he might discipline you. And on earth he let you see his great fire, and you heard his words out of the midst of the fire. 37 And because he loved your fathers and chose their offspring after them and brought you out of Egypt with his own presence, by his great power, 38 driving out before you nations greater and mightier than you, to bring you in, to give you their land for an inheritance, as it is this day, 39 know therefore today, and lay it to your heart, that the LORD is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other. 40 Therefore you shall keep his statutes and his commandments, which I command you today, that it may go well with you and with your children after you, and that you may prolong your days in the land that the LORD your God is giving you for all time.”

Cities of Refuge

41 Then Moses set apart three cities in the east beyond the Jordan, 42 that the manslayer might flee there, anyone who kills his neighbor unintentionally, without being at enmity with him in time past; he may flee to one of these cities and save his life: 43 Bezer in the wilderness on the tableland for the Reubenites, Ramoth in Gilead for the Gadites, and Golan in Bashan for the Manassites.

Introduction to the Law

44 This is the law that Moses set before the people of Israel. 45 These are the testimonies, the statutes, and the rules, which Moses spoke to the people of Israel when they came out of Egypt, 46 beyond the Jordan in the valley opposite Beth-peor, in the land of Sihon the king of the Amorites, who lived at Heshbon, whom Moses and the people of Israel defeated when they came out of Egypt. 47 And they took possession of his land and the land of Og, the king of Bashan, the two kings of the Amorites, who lived to the east beyond the Jordan; 48 from Aroer, which is on the edge of the Valley of the Arnon, as far as Mount Sirion (that is, Hermon), 49 together with all the Arabah on the east side of the Jordan as far as the Sea of the Arabah, under the slopes of Pisgah.

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The Reasonable, Evidential Nature of Christian Faith

By J. Warner Wallace 2/23/2018

     Skeptics sometimes portray Christians as both “unreasonable” and “unreasoning”. The Christian culture only exacerbates the problem when it advocates for a definition of “faith” removed from evidence. Is true faith blind? How are true believers to respond to doubt? What is the relationship between faith and reason? Richard Dawkins once said:

     “Many of us saw religion as harmless nonsense. Beliefs might lack all supporting evidence but, we thought, if people needed a crutch for consolation, where’s the harm? September 11th changed all that.

     This view of Christian belief is common among skeptics and believers alike. Critics think Christians accept truth claims without any evidential support and many Christians embrace the claims of Christianity unaware of the strong evidence supporting our worldview. Dawkins is correct when he argues against forming beliefs without evidence. People who accept truth claims without any examination or need for evidence are prone to believing myths and making bad decisions.

     Christians Are Called to A Reasonable Faith | Christians, however, are not called to make decisions without good evidence. The God of the Bible does not call his children to obey blindly. The Gospels are themselves an important form of direct evidence; the testimony of eyewitnesses who observed the life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus. That’s why the scriptures repeatedly call us to have a reasoned belief in Christ, and not to resort to the behavior of unreasoning animals:

     Jude 4, 10 | For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ…But these men revile the things which they do not understand; and the things which they know by instinct, like unreasoning animals, by these things they are destroyed.

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James "Jim" Warner Wallace (born June 16, 1961) is an American homicide detective and Christian apologist. Wallace is a Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview and an Adjunct Professor of Apologetics at Biola University in La Mirada, California. He has authored several books, including Cold-Case Christianity, God’s Crime Scene, and Forensic Faith, in which he applies principles of cold case homicide investigation to apologetic concerns such as the existence of God and the reliability of the Gospels.

The Institutes of the Christian Religion

Translated by Henry Beveridge

     11. I am aware it seems unaccountable to some how faith is attributed to the reprobate, seeing that it is declared by Paul to be one of the fruits of election; [284] and yet the difficulty is easily solved: for though none are enlightened into faith, and truly feel the efficacy of the Gospel, with the exception of those who are fore-ordained to salvation, yet experience shows that the reprobate are sometimes affected in a way so similar to the elect, that even in their own judgment there is no difference between them. Hence it is not strange, that by the Apostle a taste of heavenly gifts, and by Christ himself a temporary faith, is ascribed to them. Not that they truly perceive the power of spiritual grace and the sure light of faith; but the Lord, the better to convict them, and leave them without excuse, instills into their minds such a sense of his goodness as can be felt without the Spirit of adoption. Should it be objected, that believers have no stronger testimony to assure them of their adoption, I answer, that though there is a great resemblance and affinity between the elect of God and those who are impressed for a time with a fading faith, yet the elect alone have that full assurance which is extolled by Paul, and by which they are enabled to cry, Abba, Father. Therefore, as God regenerates the elect only for ever by incorruptible seed, as the seed of life once sown in their hearts never perishes, so he effectually seals in them the grace of his adoption, that it may be sure and steadfast. But in this there is nothing to prevent an inferior operation of the Spirit from taking its course in the reprobate. Meanwhile, believers are taught to examine themselves carefully and humbly, lest carnal security creep in and take the place of assurance of faith. We may add, that the reprobate never have any other than a confused sense of grace, laying hold of the shadow rather than the substance, because the Spirit properly seals the forgiveness of sins in the elect only, applying it by special faith to their use. Still it is correctly said, that the reprobate believe God to be propitious to them, inasmuch as they accept the gift of reconciliation, though confusedly and without due discernment; not that they are partakers of the same faith or regeneration with the children of God; but because, under a covering of hypocrisy, they seem to have a principle of faith in common with them. Nor do I even deny that God illumines their minds to this extent, that they recognize his grace; but that conviction he distinguishes from the peculiar testimony which he gives to his elect in this respect, that the reprobate never attain to the full result or to fruition. When he shows himself propitious to them, it is not as if he had truly rescued them from death, and taken them under his protection. He only gives them a manifestation of his present mercy. [285] In the elect alone he implants the living root of faith, so that they persevere even to the end. Thus we dispose of the objection, that if God truly displays his grace, it must endure for ever. There is nothing inconsistent in this with the fact of his enlightening some with a present sense of grace, which afterwards proves evanescent.

12. Although faith is a knowledge of the divine favor towards us, and a full persuasion of its truth, it is not strange that the sense of the divine love, which though akin to faith differs much from it, vanishes in those who are temporarily impressed. The will of God is, I confess, immutable, and his truth is always consistent with itself; but I deny that the reprobate ever advance so far as to penetrate to that secret revelation which Scripture reserves for the elect only. I therefore deny that they either understand his will considered as immutable, or steadily embrace his truth, inasmuch as they rest satisfied with an evanescent impression; just as a tree not planted deep enough may take root, but will in process of time wither away, though it may for several years not only put forth leaves and flowers, but produce fruit. In short, as by the revolt of the first man, the image of God could be effaced from his mind and soul, so there is nothing strange in His shedding some rays of grace on the reprobate, and afterwards allowing these to be extinguished. There is nothing to prevent His giving some a slight knowledge of his Gospel, and imbuing others thoroughly. Meanwhile, we must remember that however feeble and slender the faith of the elect may be, yet as the Spirit of God is to them a sure earnest and seal of their adoption, the impression once engraven can never be effaced from their hearts, whereas the light which glimmers in the reprobate is afterwards quenched. [286] Nor can it be said that the Spirit therefore deceives, because he does not quicken the seed which lies in their hearts so as to make it ever remain incorruptible as in the elect. I go farther: seeing it is evident, from the doctrine of Scripture and from daily experience, that the reprobate are occasionally impressed with a sense of divine grace, some desire of mutual love must necessarily be excited in their hearts. Thus for a time a pious affection prevailed in Saul, disposing him to love God. Knowing that he was treated with paternal kindness, he was in some degree attracted by it. But as the reprobate have no rooted conviction of the paternal love of God, so they do not in return yield the love of sons, but are led by a kind of mercenary affection. The Spirit of love was given to Christ alone, for the express purpose of conferring this Spirit upon his members; and there can be no doubt that the following words of Paul apply to the elect only: "The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts, by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us," (Rom. 5:5); namely, the love which begets that confidence in prayer to which I have above adverted. On the other hand, we see that God is mysteriously offended with his children, though he ceases not to love them. He certainly hates them not, but he alarms them with a sense of his anger, that he may humble the pride of the flesh, arouse them from lethargy, and urge them to repentance. Hence they, at the same instant, feel that he is angry with them or their sins, and also propitious to their persons. It is not from fictitious dread that they deprecate his anger, and yet they retake themselves to him with tranquil confidence. It hence appears that the faith of some, though not true faith, is not mere pretence. They are borne along by some sudden impulse of zeal, and erroneously impose upon themselves, sloth undoubtedly preventing them from examining their hearts with due care. Such probably was the case of those whom John describes as believing on Christ; but of whom he says, "Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men, and needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man," (John 2:24, 25). Were it not true that many fall away from the common faith (I call it common, because there is a great resemblance between temporary and living, everduring faith), Christ would not have said to his disciples, "If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free," (John 8:31, 32). He is addressing those who had embraced his doctrine, and urging them to progress in the faith, lest by their sluggishness they extinguish the light which they have received. Accordingly, Paul claims faith as the peculiar privilege of the elect, intimating that many, from not being properly rooted, fall away (Tit. 1:1). In the same way, in Matthew, our Savior says, "Every plant which my heavenly Father has not planted shall be rooted up," (Mt. 16:13). Some who are not ashamed to insult God and man are more grossly false. Against this class of men, who profane the faith by impious and lying pretence, James inveighs (James 2:14). Nor would Paul require the faith of believers to be unfeigned (1 Tim. 1:5), were there not many who presumptuously arrogate to themselves what they have not, deceiving others, and sometimes even themselves, with empty show. Hence he compares a good conscience to the ark in which faith is preserved, because many, by falling away, have in regard to it made shipwreck.

13. It is necessary to attend to the ambiguous meaning of the term: for faith is often equivalent in meaning to sound doctrine, as in the passage which we lately quoted, and in the same epistle where Paul enjoins the deacons to hold "the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience;" in like manner, when he denounces the defection of certain from the faith. The meaning again is the same, when he says that Timothy had been brought up in the faith; and in like manner, when he says that profane babblings and oppositions of science, falsely so called, lead many away from the faith. Such persons he elsewhere calls reprobate as to the faith. On the other hand, when he enjoins Titus, "Rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith;" [287] by soundness he means purity of doctrine, which is easily corrupted, and degenerates through the fickleness of men. And indeed, since in Christ, as possessed by faith, are "hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge," (Col. 1:2, 3), the term faith is justly extended to the whole sum of heavenly doctrine, from which it cannot be separated. On the other hand, it is sometimes confined to a particular object, as when Matthew says of those who let down the paralytic through the roof, that Jesus saw their faith (Mt. 9:2); and Jesus himself exclaims in regard to the centurion, "I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel," (Mt. 8:10). Now, it is probable that the centurion was thinking only of the cure of his son, by whom his whole soul was engrossed; [288] but because he is satisfied with the simple answer and assurance of Christ, and does not request his bodily presence, this circumstance calls forth the eulogium on his faith. And we have lately shown how Paul uses the term faith for the gift of miracles--a gift possessed by persons who were neither regenerated by the Spirit of God, nor sincerely reverenced him. In another passage, he uses faith for the doctrine by which we are instructed in the faith. For when he says, that "that which is in part shall be done away," (1 Cor. 13:10), there can be no doubt that reference is made to the ministry of the Church, which is necessary in our present imperfect state; in these forms of expression the analogy is obvious. But when the name of faith is improperly transferred to a false profession or lying assumption, the catachresis ought not to seem harsher than when the fear of God is used for vicious and perverse worship; as when it is repeatedly said in sacred history, that the foreign nations which had been transported to Samaria and the neighbouring districts, feared false gods and the God of Israel: in other words, confounded heaven with earth. But we have now been inquiring what the faith is, which distinguishes the children of God from unbelievers, the faith by which we invoke God the Father, by which we pass from death unto life, and by which Christ our eternal salvation and life dwells in us. Its power and nature have, I trust, been briefly and clearly explained.

14. Let us now again go over the parts of the definition separately: I should think that, after a careful examination of them, no doubt will remain. By knowledge we do not mean comprehension, such as that which we have of things falling under human sense. For that knowledge is so much superior, that the human mind must far surpass and go beyond itself in order to reach it. Nor even when it has reached it does it comprehend what it feels, but persuaded of what it comprehends not, it understands more from mere certainty of persuasion than it could discern of any human matter by its own capacity. Hence it is elegantly described by Paul as ability "to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge," (Eph. 3:18, 19). His object was to intimate, that what our mind embraces by faith is every way infinite, that this kind of knowledge far surpasses all understanding. But because the "mystery which has been hid from ages and from generations" is now "made manifest to the saints," (Col. 1:26), faith is, for good reason, occasionally termed in Scripture understanding (Col. 2:2); and knowledge, as by John (1 John 3:2), when he declares that believers know themselves to be the sons of God. And certainly they do know, but rather as confirmed by a belief of the divine veracity than taught by any demonstration of reason. This is also indicated by Paul when he says, that "whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord: (For we walk by faith, not by sight)," (2 Cor. 5:6, 7) thus showing, that what we understand by faith is yet distant from us and escapes our view. Hence we conclude that the knowledge of faith consists more of certainty than discernment.

15. We add, that it is sure and firm, the better to express strength and constancy of persuasion. For as faith is not contented with a dubious and fickle opinion, so neither is it contented with an obscure and ill-defined conception. The certainty which it requires must be full and decisive, as is usual in regard to matters ascertained and proved. So deeply rooted in our hearts is unbelief, so prone are we to it, that while all confess with the lips that God is faithful, no man ever believes it without an arduous struggle. Especially when brought to the test, [289] we by our wavering betray the vice which lurked within. Nor is it without cause that the Holy Spirit bears such distinguished testimony to the authority of God, in order that it may cure the disease of which I have spoken, and induce us to give full credit to the divine promises: "The words of the Lord" (says David, Ps. 12:6) "are pure words, as silver tried in a furnace of earth purified seven times:" "The word of the Lord is tried: he is a buckler to all those that trust in him," (Ps. 18:30). And Solomon declares the same thing almost in the same words, "Every word of God is pure," (Prov. 30:5). But further quotation is superfluous, as the 119th Psalm is almost wholly occupied with this subject. Certainly, whenever God thus recommends his word, he indirectly rebukes our unbelief, the purport of all that is said being to eradicate perverse doubt from our hearts. There are very many also who form such an idea of the divine mercy as yields them very little comfort. For they are harassed by miserable anxiety while they doubt whether God will be merciful to them. They think, indeed, that they are most fully persuaded of the divine mercy, but they confine it within too narrow limits. The idea they entertain is, that this mercy is great and abundant, is shed upon many, is offered and ready to be bestowed upon all; but that it is uncertain whether it will reach to them individually, or rather whether they can reach to it. Thus their knowledge stopping short leaves them only mid-way; not so much confirming and tranquilizing the mind as harassing it with doubt and disquietude. Very different is that feeling of full assurance (plerophori'a) which the Scriptures uniformly attribute to faith--an assurance which leaves no doubt that the goodness of God is clearly offered to us. This assurance we cannot have without truly perceiving its sweetness, and experiencing it in ourselves. Hence from faith the Apostle deduces confidence, and from confidence boldness. His words are, "In whom (Christ) we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him," (Eph. 3:12) thus undoubtedly showing that our faith is not true unless it enables us to appear calmly in the presence of God. Such boldness springs only from confidence in the divine favor and salvation. So true is this, that the term faith is often used as equivalent to confidence.

16. The principal hinge on which faith turns is this: We must not suppose that any promises of mercy which the Lord offers are only true out of us, and not at all in us: we should rather make them ours by inwardly embracing them. In this way only is engendered that confidence which he elsewhere terms peace (Rom. 5:1); though perhaps he rather means to make peace follow from it. This is the security which quiets and calms the conscience in the view of the judgment of God, and without which it is necessarily vexed and almost torn with tumultuous dread, unless when it happens to slumber for a moment, forgetful both of God and of itself. And verily it is but for a moment. It never long enjoys that miserable obliviousness, for the memory of the divine judgment, ever and anon recurring, stings it to the quick. In one word, he only is a true believer who, firmly persuaded that God is reconciled, and is a kind Father to him, hopes everything from his kindness, who, trusting to the promises of the divine favor, with undoubting confidence anticipates salvation; as the Apostle shows in these words, "We are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end," (Heb. 3:14). He thus holds, that none hope well in the Lord save those who confidently glory in being the heirs of the heavenly kingdom. No man, I say, is a believer but he who, trusting to the security of his salvation, confidently triumphs over the devil and death, as we are taught by the noble exclamation of Paul, "I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord," (Rom. 8:38). In like manner, the same Apostle does not consider that the eyes of our understanding are enlightened unless we know what is the hope of the eternal inheritance to which we are called (Eph. 1:18). Thus he uniformly intimates throughout his writings, that the goodness of God is not properly comprehended when security does not follow as its fruit.

     Christian Classics Ethereal Library / Public Domain

     Institutes of the Christian Religion

The Stone and the Snake

By John Piper 2/25/2017

My Father bade me come, and said,
“Ask me for what you need. And spread
Before me all your heart. Seek me
For ev’ry true desire, and see
If I will ever fail to love
You perfectly with treasures of
My boundless store, my heart. And keep
On knocking. Though I do not sleep,
I have my reasons for delay,
And I delight to hear you pray.
If you should need an anchor for your boat,
But, lured by hunger, ask for bread,
I’ll mark your need, and lest you seaward float,
Give you a heavy stone instead.
Or if you need to drain a viper’s fang,
A healing antidote to make,
But ask for useless fish to ease the pang,
I will discern, and give the snake.
O precious child, think not, because
I meet your needs with love by laws
Beyond your grasp: It is in vain
For you to pray, as if the gain
Of snake and stone were no reply
To your desire. Dear Child, your cry
Does open treasuries, and shake
The heavens. I bid you come and take
These keys, and all my store unlock,
My heart. To ask, and seek, and knock.”

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      (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

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12 | Wellhausen’s Reconstruction of Hebrew History in the Priestly Period
Introduction: Wellhausen’s Reconstruction (Priestly Period) (cont)

By Gleason Archer Jr.

      8. Elements in the Jewish ritual and temple service which figured very prominently in the post-exilic period receive no mention whatsoever in this allegedly priest-inspired document, P. Thus, we find no reference whatsoever to (1) the Levitical guild of temple singers; (2) the scribes, of which Ezra himself was the acknowledged leader; (3) the temple servants known as the Nethinim; (4) the employment of musical instruments. It is impossible to explain how a professional priestly group, manufacturing a spurious law of Moses for the purpose of justifying and enforcing their claims to special authority, could have failed to include Mosaic sanctions for any of these items. Nor, for that matter, is it explicable how J and E and D could have failed to mention items (1), (3), and (4), if they were in fact composed later than the reign of Solomon (970–931 B.C.), under whom the temple singers, Nethinim, and musical instruments were intimately involved in the temple cultus. It is therefore difficult to account for this astonishing silence about matters of peculiarly priestly interest, except upon the basis that P was in fact composed before Solomon’s time.

      9. In this connection it ought to be pointed out that the holy city of Jerusalem is never mentioned in the Mosaic legislation. There is a reference to Melchizedek, king of Salem, in  Gen. 14; Mount Moriah is named as the scene of Isaac’s near-sacrifice; and “the mountain of thine inheritance” is a phrase appearing in  Ex. 15:17. But never once is Jerusalem referred to as such in the Torah. How is it possible that after five hundred years of existence as the religious and political capital of the Jewish commonwealth, the assorted contributors to document P neglected to include any slightest sanction for the holy city? Not even by later interpolations (such as apparently crept into the Samaritan text of the Torah to establish the sanctity of their holy Mount Gerizim) were Zion and Jerusalem certified as the uniquely acceptable place in which to offer sacrifice according to either P or J or E. Even  Deuteronomy leaves the “place Jehovah shall choose” ( 12:5, 14; 16:16 ) altogether anonymous, though it would have been very easy for a seventh-century author to insert at least the name of Jerusalem, even if he hesitated to disturb the illusion of Mosaic origin by specifying its future importance. A large number of other Palestinian cities are referred to by name in document D, but never Jerusalem.

      10. Lastly it should be pointed out that one of the most frequent and characteristic titles of God employed by the post-exilic prophets and authors is never once found in the entire Pentateuch. This title is Jehovah of Hosts (Yahweh Ṣebāʾôt), which occurs sixty-seven times in  Isaiah (in sixty-six chapters), eighty-three times in  Jeremiah (in fifty-two chapters), thirteen times in  Haggai (in two chapters), fifty-one times in  Zechariah (fourteen chapters), and twenty-five times in  Malachi (three or four chapters). This indicates a mounting frequency or popularity for this title culminating in the three post-exilic prophets:  Haggai (6.5 times per chapter),  Zechariah (3.5 times per chapter), and  Malachi (6 to 8 times per chapter). It is well-nigh impossible to explain how Yahweh Ṣebāʾôt could fail to appear in document P, if in fact it was composed after the exile. (While it is true that  Ezekiel does not use this title either, the Documentary Theory attributes strong  Ezekiel influence only to H, i.e.,  Lev. 17–26, and dates the rest of P as arising between 550 and 450 B.C.) No other title for God approaches the frequency with which this one was used by the very prophets in whose generation this Priestly Code was supposedly being composed. (At the same time it should be recognized that the narrative authors,  Ezra and  Nehemiah, do not employ this expression except in  Chronicles. For some reason it was not much used by the Jews dwelling in Babylonia.) It occurred eleven times in  1 and  2 Samuel, six times in  Kings, but not once in the entire Pentateuch. The most natural inference to draw from these data is that Yahweh Ṣebāʾôt did not come into vogue as a title for God until after the period of the  Judges, and that P, along with J, E, and D, was composed before the age of the  Judges began.

     A Survey of Old Testament Introduction

Read The Psalms In "1" Year

Psalm 25

Teach Me Your Paths
25 Of David.

11 For your name’s sake, O LORD,
pardon my guilt, for it is great.
12 Who is the man who fears the LORD?
Him will he instruct in the way that he should choose.
13 His soul shall abide in well-being,
and his offspring shall inherit the land.
14 The friendship of the LORD is for those who fear him,
and he makes known to them his covenant.
15 My eyes are ever toward the LORD,
for he will pluck my feet out of the net.
16 Turn to me and be gracious to me,
for I am lonely and afflicted.
17 The troubles of my heart are enlarged;
bring me out of my distresses.
18 Consider my affliction and my trouble,
and forgive all my sins.

ESV Study Bible

Exodus 11:1 – 12:20; Luke 14; Job 29; 1 Corinthians 15

By Don Carson 2/28/2018

     The Crushing plagues have followed their ordained sequence. Repeatedly, Pharaoh hardened his heart; yet, however culpable this man was, God sovereignly moved behind the scenes, actually warning Pharaoh, implicitly inviting repentance. For instance, through Moses God had already said to Pharaoh, “I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth. You still set yourself against my people and will not let them go” (9:16-17). Yet now Pharaoh’s patience entirely collapses. He warns Moses that he is not to appear in the court again: “The day you see my face you will die” (10:28).

     So the stage is set for the last plague, the greatest and worst of all. After the previous nine disasters, one would think that Moses’ description of what would happen (Ex. 11) would prompt Pharaoh to hesitate. But he refuses to listen (11:9); and all this occurs, God says “so that my wonders may be multiplied in Egypt” (11:9).

     In Exodus 11 – 12 there is yet another almost incidental description of God’s sovereign provision. Exodus 11 tells us, almost parenthetically, that “the LORD made the Egyptians favorably disposed toward the people” (11:3). This is followed in Exodus 12 by the description of the Egyptians urging the Israelites to leave the country (12:33). One can understand the rationale: how many more plagues like this last one could they endure? At the same time, the Israelites ask for clothing and silver and gold. “The LORD had made the Egyptians favorably disposed toward the people, and they gave them what they asked for; so they plundered the Egyptians” (12:36).

     Psychologically, it is easy enough, after the event, to explain all this. In addition to the fear the Israelites now incited among the Egyptians, perhaps guilt was also operating: who knows? “We owe them something.” Psychologically, of course, one could have concocted a quite different scenario: in a fit of rage, the Egyptians massacre the people whose leader and whose God have brought such devastating slaughter among them.

     In reality, however, the ultimate reason why things turn out this way is because of the powerful hand of God: the Lord himself made the Egyptians favorably disposed toward the people.

nbsp;    This is the element that is often overlooked by sociologists and others who treat all of culture like a closed system. They forget that God may intervene, and turn the hearts and minds of the people. Massive revival that transforms the value systems of the West is now virtually inconceivable to those enamored with closed systems. But if God graciously intervenes and makes the people “favorably disposed” to the preaching of the Gospel….

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Don Carson is research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, and co-founder (with Tim Keller) of The Gospel Coalition. He has authored numerous books, and recently edited The Enduring Authority of the Christian Scriptures (Eerdmans, 2016).

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When I Glory in My Shame

By Tim Challies 2/25/2017

     There is nothing my dog won’t do for food. There is no command she won’t obey when we are looking, and no rule she won’t break when we are looking away, if only she can get a bit of food in her belly. I guess it is hard to fault her since, as a Lab, every gene in her body drives her to gorge herself. It’s like Paul was writing about her and her breed when he said, ” Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things” (Philippians 3:19). Food is her idol, her god, the thing that will motivate her to do anything or everything.

     The thing that validates me is the thing I worship, the thing that momentarily takes the place of God in my life.

     I am no dog, but I, too, am hard-wired for something—for validation. Just as a dog will lie down or roll over or beg or bark on command to get a sausage—doesn’t she realize how pathetic she looks?—, there is not much I won’t do to receive validation, to have others affirm my self-worth according to my criteria. I want to feel special about myself, I want to feel big and important. And when I look for what makes me feel good about myself, I inevitably find my idols. The thing that validates me is the thing I worship, the thing that momentarily takes the place of God in my life.

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     Tim Challies: I am a Christian, a husband to Aileen and a father to three children aged 10 to 16. I worship and serve as an elder at Grace Fellowship Church in Toronto, Ontario. I am a book reviewer, co-founder of Cruciform Press.

     I began my web site in 2002 and have been writing there daily since 2003. It is my place to think out loud and in public while also sharing some of the interesting things I’ve discovered in my online travels.

     Tim Challies is founding blogger of Challies.com and a pastor at Grace Fellowship Church in Toronto. You can follow him on Twitter @Challies. He began his web site in 2002 and has been writing there daily since 2003. It is his place to think out loud and in public while also sharing some of the interesting things he discovers in his online travels.

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By James Orr 1907

An important part of our argument remains, viz., to show the untenableness of the rival critical explanation of those institutions for which a post-exilian date is claimed. The institutions in any case are there in post-exilian times, and have to be explained. If the account which the Old Testament itself gives of them is not the true one, how did they originate? On this constructive side, as palpably as anywhere else, the critical theory breaks down. We begin, as a chief example, with the  Ezekiel theory of the origin of the Levitical order, then shall pass to the consideration of feasts and other institutions.

1. A chief part of the argument on institutions relates to the fundamental question — already so often referred to — of the distinction of priests and Levites. That distinction, in the view of the critics, did not exist when  Deuteronomy was composed in the reign of Josiah: it is a prominent feature in the Priests’ Code. How was the transition effected? The answer given to this — hinted at by Graf, developed by Kuenen and Wellhausen, and now a cardinal article of faith in all sections of the school — is, through the degradation of the idolatrous priests, i.e., the “disestablished priests” of the high places, on the lines sketched by  Ezekiel in chap.  44:4 ff. In Kuenen’s view the man who is not prepared to accept this explanation is only deserving of pity. Wellhausen indicates his estimate of the importance of the contention in the remark: “The position of the Levites is the Achilles heel of the Priestly Code.” We agree, in the sense that it is the most vulnerable part in the new scheme.

The  Ezekiel theory of the critics is bound up with so many subsidiary hypotheses, and involves so many question - begging assumptions, that it is not easy to disentangle it in its simplicity. Its corner-stone, e.g., is the assumption that the Levites for whom provision is made in  Deut. 18:6, 7 are “the disestablished priests” of the bamoth — an assumption which we regard as baseless. When we turn to  Ezekiel 44:4 ff. itself, what we find is that the prophet denounces the house of Israel for having permitted strangers, uncircumcised in heart and flesh, to perform the subordinate services of the sanctuary (vers.  7, 8 ); that he forbids this to be done in the future (ver.  9 ); that he degrades to the rank of servants in the sanctuary those priests who had turned aside, and had caused the people to turn aside, to idolatry (vers.  10–14 ); and finally, that he confines the priesthood in his new temple to the sons of Zadok, who alone had remained faithful (vers.  15, 16 ). There is certainly in these verses degradation of priests to that lower rank of service which the Priestly Code assigns to the Levites; but this is very far from proving that we have here the origin of the order of the Levites, or from explaining the representation of the Priestly Code, which diverges as widely as it is possible to do from the lines of  Ezekiel’s ordinance. There are admittedly difficulties in the interpretation of  Ezekiel’s vision; but the difficulties in the way of accepting this reading of its meaning are to our mind insurmountable.

(1) That the temple service prior to the exile was in a deplorable condition — that both in and out of the temple the priesthood had largely fallen into abominable idolatries — all indications show. Irregularities abounded, and the prophet is sufficient witness that the place which the law gives to the Levites had been mostly usurped by uncircumcised strangers. But the first point evidently which claims notice here is, that this very ministry of the uncircumcised the prophet denounces as an iniquity, a violation of God’s covenant, and the setting up by the people of keepers of His charge in His sanctuary for themselves (vers.  7, 8 ). This ministry, therefore, was not, in his view, a lawful thing, but a breach of law, an abomination like the idolatry itself. What, then, in the prophet’s mind, was the lawful order? who, prior to the degradation of the idolatrous priests, were the lawful keepers of the charge of the sanctuary? Not the priests themselves, for the services in question were subordinate ministries — the very ministries ascribed elsewhere to the Levites (ver.  11; cf.  Num. 18:3, 4 ). Is not the inference very plain, though the critics generally ignore it, that, in  Ezekiel’s view, there did already exist a law on this subject, which in practice had been wantonly violated? It can hardly be mistaken that the only properly official classes recognised by the prophet in the service of the temple are Levitical, and that these are distinguished into a higher and a lower class — the keepers of the charge of the house (chap.  40:45 ), and the keepers of the charge of the altar (ver.  46 ). The unfaithful priests are punished by being degraded to the lower rank.

(2) The next point to be borne in mind is, that this programme of  Ezekiel was, and remained, a purely ideal one. It was probably never intended to have literal realisation; it was at least never actually put in force at the return, or at any earlier time. The degradation it depicts was never historically carried out; therefore could not affect the state of things subsisting after the exile. Scholars have indeed pleased themselves with pictures of “vehement struggles” (adumbrated in the story of Korah) on the part of  Ezekiel’s degraded priests to regain their lost privileges; but these “struggles” exist nowhere, so far as we know, but in the critics’ own imaginations, for there is no trace in history that any such degradation ever took place. On the other hand, we have seen that the distinction of priests and Levites was already known, and universally recognised, at the time of the return from exile. The Books of  Ezra and  Nehemiah assume it, but in no sense create it. If, therefore, this distinction was not made by  Ezekiel’s law directly, as little can it have been called forth by the Priests’ Code founded on that law, for the Code did not make its appearance till  Ezra’s time, long after. It follows, in agreement with what has been said, that it can only be understood as an inheritance from pre-exilian times.

(3) Still more decisive, perhaps, is the fact that the Code, when it did come, by no means corresponded with  Ezekiel’s picture, on which it is presumed to be based, but in many respects stood in direct contradiction with  Ezekiel. There is, as already said, nothing in the Code to suggest “disestablished priests,” degradation as a punishment, substitution for uncircumcised strangers, or any of the other ideas of  Ezek. 44. On the contrary, the Levites are represented as set apart by Jehovah Himself in the wilderness for His peculiar service, and their position from the first is one of privilege and honour. Again, in the Code, the priests are not “sons of Zadok” only (a vital point in  Ezekiel ), but the “sons of Aaron” generally.  Ezekiel can be conceived of as having modelled his picture on the basis of the Code by limiting the priestly dignity to the Zadokites; the Code can never be explained as a construction from his ideas.

(4) Yet, apparently, this Code, so discrepant with  Ezekiel, harmonised with the people’s own recollections and traditions, since we find that they unhesitatingly received it. This simple fact, that, according to the history, the provisions of the Code were received without questioning by priests, Levites, and people alike, is of itself sufficient to overthrow the theory that the distinction was a new one due to the initiative of  Ezekiel. How possibly could such a thing as the critics suppose ever have happened? Had the Zadokites nothing to say about the loss of the exclusive position given them by  Ezekiel? Were the Levites content that certain families of their number — the non-Zadokite Aaronites — should have the priestly prerogatives which  Ezekiel had denied them, while others had not? If the records do not deceive us, both priests and Levites knew something of their own past. They had many links with that past by genealogies and otherwise. If the Levites or their fathers had been disestablished priests of high places, they must have been perfectly aware of the fact. Yet the Levites assent to have a position given to them which agrees neither with their own recollections, nor with the rights of priesthood alleged to be accorded to them in  Deuteronomy, nor with the degradation theory of  Ezekiel — which is thus condemned on every side as unhistorical. That such a patent make-believe should have succeeded is on the face of it incredible. Even had priests and Levites been willing to acquiesce in the new mock status, the people on whom the fresh and heavy tithe - burdens fell would not have been likely to do so. The longer, in fact, the theory is pondered, the more untenable it must appear.

     The Problem of the Old Testament

‘An Unlikely Ally’: What a Secular Atheist Is Teaching Christian Leaders

By Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra 2/28/2018

     Last month, Jonathan Haidt—professor of social psychology at New York University’s Stern School of Business, ethnically Jewish, politically left-leaning, and religiously atheist—stood on the main stage of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU) conference.

     “I was born to be the sort of person who is opposed to your mission,” he told about 1,200 college leaders.

     “Within two years of my bar mitzvah, I started calling myself an atheist. And not just an atheist, but one of those atheists that sees religion—Christianity especially—as the opponent, as the enemy, because they believe creationism and we scientists believe in evolution.”

     Several things changed his mind, Haidt said. Not to convert to Christianity—he’s still an atheist—but to drop his hostility toward it.

     “I got my first teaching position at the University of Virginia,” he told the CCCU. UVA draws students from all over the country, but especially from the western and southern parts of the state.

     “I had never met evangelical Christians, growing up in New York and going to Ivy League schools,” Haidt said. (He received a BA from Yale University and a PhD from the UVA, then did postdoctoral work at the University of Chicago.) “Of course they were there, but they weren’t as ‘out’ as they were at UVA.”

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Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra is senior writer for The Gospel Coalition and contributing editor at Christianity Today. She earned her master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University.

The Pilgrim's Progress From This World To That Which Is To Come;
Delivered Under The Similitude Of A Dream (Part 2)

By John Bunyan 1678


     Now when they had eaten and drank, and had chatted a little longer, their guide said to them, The day wears away; if you think good, let us prepare to be going. So they got up to go, and the little boys went before; But Christiana forgot to take her bottle of spirits with her, so she sent her little boy back to fetch it. Then said Mercy, I think this is a losing place: here Christian lost his roll, and here Christiana left her bottle behind her. Sir, what is the cause of this? So their guide made answer, and said, The cause is sleep, or forgetfulness: some sleep when they should keep awake, and some forget when they should remember; and this is the very cause why often, at the resting-places, some pilgrims in some things come off losers. Pilgrims should watch, and remember what they have already received, under their greatest enjoyments; but for want of doing so, oftentimes their rejoicing ends in tears, and their sunshine in a cloud: witness the story of Christian at this place.

     When they were come to the place where Mistrust and Timorous met Christian, to persuade him to go back for fear of the lions, they perceived as it were a stage, and before it, towards the road, a broad plate with a copy of verses written thereon, and underneath the reason of raising up that stage in that place rendered. The verses were,

“Let him that sees this stage, take heed
Unto his heart and tongue;
Lest, if he do not, here he speed
As some have long agone.”

     The words underneath the verses were, “This stage was built to punish those upon, who, through timorousness or mistrust, shall be afraid to go further on pilgrimage. Also, on this stage both Mistrust and Timorous were burned through the tongue with a hot iron, for endeavoring to hinder Christian on his journey.”

     Then said Mercy, This is much like to the saying of the Beloved: “What shall be given unto thee, or what shall be done unto thee, thou false tongue? Sharp arrows of the mighty, with coals of juniper.

Psalm 120:3-4 What shall be given to you,
and what more shall be done to you,
you deceitful tongue?
4 A warrior’s sharp arrows,
with glowing coals of the broom tree!

     So they went on till they came within sight of the lions. Now Mr. Great-Heart was a strong man, so he was not afraid of a lion: But yet when they were come up to the place where the lions were, the boys, that went before, were now glad to cringe behind, for they were afraid of the lions; so they stepped back, and went behind. At this their guide smiled, and said, How now, my boys; do you love to go before when no danger doth approach, and love to come behind so soon as the lions appear?

     Now, as they went on, Mr. Great-heart drew his sword, with intent to make a way for the pilgrims in spite of the lions. Then there appeared one that, it seems, had taken upon him to back the lions; and he said to the pilgrims’ guide, What is the cause of your coming hither? Now the name of that man was Grim, or Bloody-man because of his slaying of pilgrims; and he was of the race of the giants.

     GREAT. Then said the pilgrims’ guide, These women and children are going on pilgrimage, and this is the way they must go; and go it they shall, in spite of thee and the lions.

     GRIM. This is not their way, neither shall they go therein. I am come forth to withstand them, and to that end will back the lions.

     Now, to say the truth, by reason of the fierceness of the lions, and of the grim carriage of him that did back them, this way had of late lain much unoccupied, and was almost grown over with grass.

     CHR. Then said Christiana, Though the highways have been unoccupied heretofore, and though the travellers have been made in times past to walk through by-paths, it must not be so now I am risen, now I am risen a mother in Israel.

Judges 5:6-7 “In the days of Shamgar, son of Anath,
in the days of Jael, the highways were abandoned,
and travelers kept to the byways.
7 The villagers ceased in Israel;
they ceased to be until I arose;
I, Deborah, arose as a mother in Israel.

     GRIM. Then he swore by the lions that it should; and therefore bid them turn aside, for they should not have passage there.

     But Great-Heart their guide made first his approach unto Grim, and laid so heavily on him with his sword that he forced him to retreat.

     GRIM. Then said he that attempted to back the lions, Will you slay me upon mine own ground?

     GREAT. It is the King’s highway that we are in, and in this way it is that thou hast placed the lions; but these women, and these children, though weak, shall hold on their way in spite of thy lions. And with that he gave him again a downright blow, and brought him upon his knees. With this blow also he broke his helmet, and with the next he cut off an arm. Then did the giant roar so hideously that his voice frightened the women, and yet they were glad to see him lie sprawling upon the ground. Now the lions were chained, and so of themselves could do nothing. Wherefore, when old Grim, that intended to back them, was dead, Mr. Great-Heart said to the pilgrims, Come now, and follow me, and no hurt shall happen to you from the lions. They therefore went on, but the women trembled as they passed by them; the boys also looked as if they would die; but they all got by without further hurt.

     Now, when they were within sight of the Porter’s lodge, they soon came up unto it; but they made the more haste after this to go thither, because it is dangerous traveling there in the night. So when they were come to the gate, the guide knocked, and the Porter cried, Who is there? But as soon as the guide had said, It is I, he knew his voice, and came down, for the guide had oft before that come thither as a conductor of pilgrims. When he was come down, he opened the gate; and seeing the guide standing just before it, (for he saw not the women, for they were behind him,) he said unto him, How now, Mr. Great-Heart, what is your business here so late at night? I have brought, said he, some pilgrims hither, where, by my Lord’s commandment, they must lodge: I had been here some time ago, had I not been opposed by the giant that did use to back the lions. But I, after a long and tedious combat with him, have cut him off, and have brought the pilgrims hither in safety.

     POR. Will you not go in, and stay till morning?

     GREAT. No, I will return to my Lord to-night.

     CHR. O, sir, I know not how to be willing you should leave us in our pilgrimage: you have been so faithful and loving to us, you have fought so stoutly for us, you have been so hearty in counselling of us, that I shall never forget your favor towards us.

     MER. Then said Mercy, O that we might have thy company to our journey’s end! How can such poor women as we hold out in a way so full of troubles as this way is, without a friend and defender?

     JAMES. Then said James, the youngest of the boys, Pray, sir, be persuaded to go with us, and help us, because we are so weak, and the way so dangerous as it is.

     GREAT. I am at my Lord’s commandment; if he shall allot me to be your guide quite through, I will willingly wait upon you. But here you failed at first; for when he bid me come thus far with you, then you should have begged me of him to have gone quite through with you, and he would have granted your request. However, at present I must withdraw; and so, good Christiana, Mercy, and my brave children, adieu.

     Then the Porter, Mr. Watchful, asked Christiana of her country, and of her kindred. And she said, I came from the city of Destruction. I am a widow woman, and my husband is dead, his name was Christian, the pilgrim. How! said the Porter, was he your husband? Yes, said she, and these are his children and this, pointing to Mercy, is one of my town’s-women. Then the Porter rang his bell, as at such times he is wont, and there come to the door one of the damsels, whose name was Humble-Mind; and to her the Porter said, Go tell it within, that Christiana, the wife of Christian, and her children, are come hither on pilgrimage. She went in, therefore, and told it. But oh, what noise for gladness was there within when the damsel did but drop that out of her mouth!

     So they came with haste to the Porter, for Christana stood still at the door. Then some of the most grave said unto her, Come in, Christiana, come in, thou wife of that good man; come in, thou blessed woman, come in, with all that are with thee. So she went in, and they followed her that were her children and companions. Now when they were gone in, they were had into a large room, where they were bidden to sit down: so they sat down, and the chief of the house were called to see and welcome the guests. Then they came in, and understanding who they were, did salute each other with a kiss, and said, Welcome, ye vessels of the grace of God; welcome to us, your friends. Now, because it was somewhat late, and because the pilgrims were weary with their journey, and also made faint with the sight of the fight, and of the terrible lions, they desired, as soon as might be, to prepare to go to rest. Nay, said those of the family, refresh yourselves first with a morsel of meat; for they had prepared for them a lamb, with the accustomed sauce belonging thereto,

Exod. 12:21 Then Moses called all the elders of Israel and said to them, “Go and select lambs for yourselves according to your clans, and kill the Passover lamb.   ESV

John 1:29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!   ESV

for the Porter had heard before of their coming, and had told it to them within. So when they had supped, and ended their prayer with a psalm, they desired they might go to rest.

     But let us, said Christiana, if we may be so bold as to choose, be in that chamber that was my husband’s when he was here; so they had them up thither, and they all lay in a room. When they were at rest, Christiana and Mercy entered into discourse about things that were convenient.

     CHR. Little did I think once, when my husband went on pilgrimage, that I should ever have followed him.

     MER. And you as little thought of lying in his bed, and in his chamber to rest, as you do now.

     CHR. And much less did I ever think of seeing his face with comfort, and of worshiping the Lord the King with him; and yet now I believe I shall.

     MER. Hark, don’t you hear a noise?

     CHR. Yes, it is, as I believe, a noise of music, for joy that we are here.

     MER. Wonderful! Music in the house, music in the heart, and music also in heaven, for joy that we are here! Thus they talked a while, and then betook themselves to sleep.

     So in the morning when they were awake, Christiana said to Mercy, What was the matter that you did laugh in your sleep to-night? I suppose you were in a dream.

     MER. So I was, and a sweet dream it was; but are you sure I laughed?

     CHR. Yes, you laughed heartily; but prithee, Mercy, tell me thy dream.

     Pilgrim's Progress (Illustrated): Updated, Modern English. More than 100 Illustrations.

The Continual Burnt Offering

By H.A. Ironside - 1941

February 28

2 Samuel 23:4  he dawns on them like the morning light,
like the sun shining forth on a cloudless morning,
like rain that makes grass to sprout from the earth.

     In such language David, in his last words, portrayed the coming to reign of “a righteous ruler over men, a ruler in the fear of God,” who is to spring from his house in due time and set up the kingdom which will never be destroyed. We are waiting still for His glorious advent. He came once in lowly grace to bring in redemption. He will come again to bring in the promised glory. What a relief it will be, after the long centuries of man’s misrule when the Lord Jesus shall show in His own times who is that blessed and only Potentate, King of kings and Lord of lords!

Lamb of God, Thou soon in glory
Wilt to this sad world return,
All Thy foes shall quake before Thee,
All that now despise Thee mourn.
Then shall we at Thine appearing
With Thee in Thy kingdom reign;
Thine the praise and Thine the glory,
Lamb of God for sinners slain.
--- J. G. Deck

The Continual Burnt Offering: Daily Meditations on the Word of God

  • Worship God Desires
  • .. Desires 2
  • .. Desires 3

     Devotionals, notes, poetry and more

UCB The Word For Today
     Secrets of self-control (1)
     2/28/2018    Bob Gass

     ‘A man’s temptation is due to the pull of his own inward desires.’

James 1:14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. ESV

     For the next few days let’s look at how to develop self-control. Here’s the first step: accept responsibility for your lack of self-control. Admit your problem. ‘A man’s temptation is due to the pull of his own inward desires, which can be enormously attractive.’ The main reason you do things – is because you like to! When you know something’s bad for you but you still do it, it’s because you want to. Sometimes we try to ignore the problem of self-control or deny it: ‘What problem? I don’t have a problem,’ or ‘It’s just the way I am,’ or ‘Everybody else is doing it.’ Sometimes we blame others: ‘If I just had different parents,’ or ‘The devil made me do it.’ As long as you waste your energy making excuses, you can’t make progress. James points out that we like to take the path of least resistance, and giving in to temptation is usually the easiest course. The starting point for developing self-control is to face what God has already said in His Word: ‘Everyone who sins is a slave to sin’ (John 8:34 NIV 2011 Edition). Do you want more self-control? Then admit you have a problem, and be specific about it: ‘I have this problem. This is where I need help.’ You may have a problem with food, drink, drugs, words, your temper, money, exercise, sex, TV, clothes, time – all these areas need self-control. So today get down on your knees and talk to God about the problem, believing that with His help you’ll be able to solve it.

Leviticus 26-27
Mark 2

UCB The Word For Today

American Minute
     by Bill Federer

     A member of the Continental Congress, Richard Stockton was a signer of the Declaration of Independence and a justice on the New Jersey Supreme Court. Stockton, California, was named for his son who was the Naval officer who captured California in 1846. Richard Stockton, who died on this day, February 28, 1781, wrote in his Will: “As my children… may… be… impressed with the last words of their father, I think proper here, not only to subscribe to the… Christian religion… but also in the heart of a father’s affection, to charge… them to remember ‘that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.’ ”

American Minute

A Testament Of Devotion
     Thomas R. Kelly

      The sense of Presence! I have spoken of it as stealing on one unawares. It is recorded of John Wilhelm Rowntree that as he left a great physician's office, where he had just been told that his advancing blindness could not be stayed, he stood by some railings for a few moments to collect himself when he "suddenly felt the love of God wrap him about as though a visible presence enfolded him and a joy filled him such as he had never known before." An amazing timeliness of the Invading Love, as the Everlasting stole about him in his sorrow. I cannot report such a timeliness of visitation, but only unpredictable arrivals and fadings-out. But without doubt it is given to many of richer experience to find the comfort of the Eternal is watchfully given at their crises in time.

     In the immediate experience of the Presence, the Now is no mere nodal point between the past and the future. It is the seat and region of the Divine Presence itself. No longer is the ribbon spread out with equal vividness before one, for the past matters less and the future matters less, for the Now contains all that is needed for the absolute satisfaction of our deepest cravings. Why want, and yearn, and struggle, when the Now contains all one could ever wish for, and more? The present Now is not something from which we hurriedly escape, toward what is hoped will be a better future. Instead of anxiety lest the future never yield all we have hoped, lest we fail to contribute our full stint before the shadows of the evening fall upon our lives, we only breathe a quiet prayer to the Now and say, "Stay, thou art so sweet." Instead of anxiety lest our past, our past defects, our long-standing deficiencies blight our well-intentioned future efforts, all our past sense of weakness falls away and we stand erect, in this holy Now, joyous, serene, assured, unafraid. Between the relinquished past and the untrodden future stands this holy Now, whose bulk has swelled to cosmic size, for within the Now is the dwelling place of God Himself. In the Now we are at home at last. The fretful winds of time are stilled, the nostalgic longings of this heaven­ born earth-traveler come to rest. For the one-dimensional ribbon of time has loosed its hold. It has by no means disappeared. We live within time, within the one-dimensional ribbon. But every time-now is found to be a continuance of an Eternal Now, and in the Eternal Now receives a new evaluation. We have not merely rediscovered time; we have found in this holy immediacy of the Now the root and source of time itself. For it is the Eternal who is the mother of our holy Now, nay, is our Now, and time is, as Plato said, merely its moving image.

     The sense of Presence is as if two beings were joined in one single configuration, and the center of gravity is not in us but in that Other. As two bodies, closely attached together and whirling in the air, are predominantly determined by the heavier body, so does the sense of Presence carry within it a sense of our lives being in large part guided, dynamically moved from beyond our usual selves. Instead of being the active, hurrying church worker and the anxious, careful planner of shrewd moves toward the good life, we become pliant creatures, less brittle, less obstinately rational. The energizing, dynamic center is not in us but in the Divine Presence in which we share. Religion is not our concern; it is God's concern. The sooner we stop thinking we are the energetic operators of religion and discover that God is at work, as the Aggressor, the Invader, the Initiator, so much the sooner do we discover that our task is to call men to be still and know, listen, hearken in quiet invitation to the subtle promptings of the Divine. Our task is to encourage others first to let go, to cease striving, to give over this fevered effort of the self­sufficient religionist trying to please an external deity. Count on God knocking on the doors of time. God is the Seeker, and not we alone; He is anxious to swell out our time-news into an Eternal Now by filling them with a sense of Presence. I am persuaded that religious people do not with sufficient seriousness count on God as an active factor in the affairs of the world. "Behold, I stand at the door and knock," but too many well-intentioned people are so preoccupied with the clatter of effort to do something for God that they don't hear Him asking that He might do something through them. We may admire the heaven­ scaling desires of the tower-builders on the Plain of Shinar, but they would have done better to listen and not drown out the call from heaven with the clang of the mason's trowel and the creaking of the scaffolding.

A Testament of Devotion

Lean Into God
     Compiled by Rick Adams

We have been silent witnesses of evil deeds;
we have been drenched by many storms;
we have learnt the arts of equivocation and pretense;
experience has made us suspicious of others
and kept us from being truthful and open;
intolerable conflicts have worn us down
and even made us cynical.
Are we still of any use?
What we shall need is not geniuses,
or cynics, or misanthropes, or clever tacticians,
but plain, honest, and straightforward men.

Will our inward power of resistance be strong enough,
and our honesty with ourselves remorseless enough,
for us to find our way back to simplicity and straightforwardness?
--- Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Men come and go; leaders, teachers, thinkers speak and work for a season, and then fall silent and impotent. He abides. They die, but He lives. They are lights kindled, and, therefore, sooner or later quenched; but He is the true light from which they draw all their brightness, and He shines for evermore.
--- Alexander MacLaren

In the love of money and in the wisdom of this world, business is proposed, then the urgency of affairs push forward, and the mind cannot in this state discern the good and perfect will of God concerning us. The love of God is manifested in graciously calling us to come out of that which stands in confusion; but if we bow not in the name of Jesus, if we give not up those prospects of gain which in the wisdom of this world are open before us, but say in our hearts, "I must needs go on; and in going on I hope to keep as near the purity of truth as the business before me will admit of," the mind remains entangled and the shining of the light of life into the soul is obstructed.
--- John Woolman 1772

... from here, there and everywhere

Journal of John Woolman 2/28
     University of Virginia Library 1994

     1757, 1758. Considerations on the Payment of a Tax laid for Carrying on the War against the Indians -- Meetings of the Committee of the Yearly Meeting at Philadelphia -- Some Notes on Thomas a Kempis and John Huss -- The present Circumstances of Friends in Pennsylvania and New Jersey very Different from those of our Predecessors -- The Drafting of the Militia in New Jersey to serve in the Army, with some Observations on the State of the Members of our Society at that time -- Visit to Friends in Pennsylvania, accompanied by Benjamin Jones -- Proceedings at the Monthly, Quarterly, and Yearly Meetings in Philadelphia, respecting those who keep Slaves.

     A FEW years past, money being made current in our province for carrying on wars, and to be called in again by taxes laid on the inhabitants, my mind was often affected with the thoughts of paying such taxes; and I believe it right for me to preserve a memorandum concerning it. I was told that Friends in England frequently paid taxes, when the money was applied to such purposes. I had conversation with several noted Friends on the subject, who all favored the payment of such taxes; some of them I preferred before myself, and this made me easier for a time; yet there was in the depth of my mind a scruple which I never could get over; and at certain times I was greatly distressed on that account.

     I believed that there were some upright-hearted men who paid such taxes, yet could not see that their example was a sufficient reason for me to do so, while I believe that the spirit of truth required of me, as an individual, to suffer patiently the distress of goods, rather than pay actively.

     To refuse the active payment of a tax which our Society generally paid was exceedingly disagreeable; but to do a thing contrary to my conscience appeared yet more dreadful. When this exercise came upon me, I knew of none under the like difficulty; and in my distress I besought the Lord to enable me to give up all that so I might follow him wheresoever he was pleased to lead me. Under this exercise I went to our Yearly Meeting at Philadelphia in the year 1755; at which a committee was appointed of some from each Quarterly Meeting, to correspond with the meeting for sufferers in London; and another to visit our Monthly and Quarterly Meetings. After their appointment, before the last adjournment of the meeting, it was agreed that these two committees should meet together in Friends' school-house in the city, to consider some things in which the cause of truth was concerned. They accordingly had a weighty conference in the fear of the Lord; at which time I perceived there were many Friends under a scruple like that before mentioned.

     As scrupling to pay a tax on account of the application hath seldom been heard of heretofore, even amongst men of integrity, who have steadily borne their testimony against outward wars in their time, I may therefore note some things which have occurred to my mind, as I have been inwardly exercised on that account. From the steady opposition which faithful Friends in early times made to wrong things then approved, they were hated and persecuted by men living in the spirit of this world, and suffering with firmness, they were made a blessing to the church, and the work prospered. It equally concerns men in every age to take heed to their own spirits; and in comparing their situation with ours, to me it appears that there was less danger of their being infected with the spirit of this world, in paying such taxes, than is the case with us now. They had little or no share in civil government, and many of them declared that they were, through the power of God, separated from the spirit in which wars were, and being afflicted by the rulers on account of their testimony, there was less likelihood of their uniting in spirit with them in things inconsistent with the purity of truth. We, from the first settlement of this land, have known little or no troubles of that sort. The profession of our predecessors was for a time accounted reproachful, but at length their uprightness being understood by the rulers, and their innocent sufferings moving them, our way of worship was tolerated, and many of our members in these colonies became active in civil government. Being thus tried with favor and prosperity, this world appeared inviting; our minds have been turned to the improvement of our country, to merchandise and the sciences, amongst which are many things useful, if followed in pure wisdom; but in our present condition I believe it will not be denied that a carnal mind is gaining upon us. Some of our members, who are officers in civil government, are in one case or other, called upon in their respective stations to assist in things relative to the wars; but being in doubt whether to act or to crave to be excused from their office, if they see their brethren united in the payment of a tax to carry on the said wars, may think their case not much different, and so might quench the tender movings of the Holy Spirit in their minds. Thus, by small degrees, we might approach so near to fighting that the distinction would be little else than the name of a peaceable people.

     It requires great self-denial and resignation of ourselves to God, to attain that state wherein we can freely cease from fighting when wrongfully invaded, if, by our fighting, there were a probability of overcoming the invaders. Whoever rightly attains to it does in some degree feel that spirit in which our Redeemer gave his life for us; and through Divine goodness many of our predecessors, and many now living, have learned this blessed lesson; but many others, having their religion chiefly by education, and not being enough acquainted with that cross which crucifies to the world, do manifest a temper distinguishable from that of an entire trust in God. In calmly considering these things, it hath not appeared strange to me that an exercise hath now fallen upon some, which, with respect to the outward means, is different from what was known to many of those who went before us.

     Sometime after the Yearly Meeting, the said committees met at Philadelphia, and, by adjournments, continued sitting several days. The calamities of war were now increasing; the frontier inhabitants of Pennsylvania were frequently surprised; some were slain, and many taken captive by the Indians; and while these committees sat, the corpse of one so slain was brought in a wagon, and taken through the streets of the city in his bloody garments, to alarm the people and rouse them to war.

     Friends thus met were not all of one mind in relation to the tax, which, to those who scrupled it, made the way more difficult. To refuse an active payment at such a time might be construed into an act of disloyalty, and appeared likely to displease the rulers, not only here but in England; still there was a scruple so fixed on the minds of many Friends that nothing moved it. It was a conference the most weighty that ever I was at, and the hearts of many were bowed in reverence before the Most High. Some Friends of the said committees who appeared easy to pay the tax, after several adjournments, withdrew; others of them continued till the last. At length an epistle of tender love and caution to Friends in Pennsylvania was drawn up, and being read several times and corrected, was signed by such as were free to sign it, and afterward sent to the Monthly and Quarterly Meetings.

John Woolman's Journal

Proverbs 11:16-17
     by D.H. Stern

16     A gracious woman obtains honor;
aggressive men obtain wealth.

17     A man who is kind does himself good,
but the cruel does harm to himself.

Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
My Utmost For The Highest
     A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers

                Do ye now believe?

     By this we believe … Jesus answered, Do ye now believe? --- John 16:30–31.

     ‘Now we believe.’ Jesus says—‘Do you? The time is coming when you will leave Me alone.’ Many a Christian worker has left Jesus Christ alone and gone into work from a sense of duty, or from a sense of need arising out of his own particular discernment. The reason for this is the absence of the resurrection life of Jesus. The soul has got out of intimate contact with God by leaning to its own religious understanding. There is no sin in it, and no punishment attached to it; but when the soul realizes how he has hindered his understanding of Jesus Christ, and produced for himself perplexities and sorrows and difficulties, it is with shame and contrition he has to come back.

     We need to rely on the resurrection life of Jesus much deeper down, to get into the habit of steadily referring everything back to Him; instead of this we make our commonsense decisions and ask God to bless them. He cannot, it is not in His domain, it is severed from reality. If we do a thing from a sense of duty, we are putting up a standard in competition with Jesus Christ. We become a ‘superior person,’ and say—‘Now in this matter I must do this and that.’ We have put our sense of duty on the throne instead of the resurrection life of Jesus. We are not told to walk in the light of conscience or of a sense of duty, but to walk in the light as God is in the light. When we do anything from a sense of duty, we can back it up by argument; when we do anything in obedience to the Lord, there is no argument possible; that is why a saint can be easily ridiculed.

My Utmost for His Highest

     the Poetry of R.S. Thomas


And this was a civilization
That came to nothing--he spurned with his toe
The slave-coloured dust. We breathed it in
Thankfully, oxygen to our culture.

Somebody found a curved bone
In the ruins. A king's probably,
He said. Impertinent courtiers
We eyed it, the dropped kerchief of time.

H'm: Poems by R. S. Thomas

Teacher's Commentary
     Moses, the Man Part 2 of 2

     Don’t neglect prayer (Ex. 32). When Moses was on Mount Sinai receiving instruction from God, Israel was busy down in the valley. Under pressure from the people, Aaron had weakly given in, and actually made a golden calf for them to worship!

     God told Moses what had happened, and invited intercession with these words: “Now leave Me alone, so that My anger may burn against them.… Then I will make you into a great nation”. (Exodus 32:10) God expressed His commitment to judge sin, and offered Moses an even greater place in history than he now fills! What did Moses do?

     Moses prayed.

     The striking prayer is recorded in verses (Exodus 32:11–14). Moses called on God to glorify Himself by remembering His covenant promises to Abraham. Moses was looking to God and seeking His glory. He wanted to see God glorified in His people, and to this end he prayed for them.

     God did respond to Moses’ prayer. The guilty individuals would die, but the nation would live.

     Yet when Moses returned to camp, and saw for himself what the people were doing, his “anger burned and he threw the tablets out of his hands, breaking them to pieces” (Exodus 32:19). When Moses saw what God had seen he reacted just as God did, with anger!

     An angry Moses could never have prayed with the same concern as had Moses on that Mount.

     This too teaches us. In our lives we will see much which might appropriately anger or disgust us. Yet on the mountain, when Moses’ eyes were fixed on God, he prayed. We too are to keep our eyes on God and to pray, and not to keep our eyes on the sins of others. The New Testament says it. “For man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires” (James 1:20). Keeping close to the Lord, we will be protected, as Moses was, from an anger which might keep us from helping others. By keeping close to the Lord, we will also rely on Him, and express our concern for others in intercessory prayer.

     A faithful life (Num.—Deut.). Moses led Israel for 40 years. And 38 of those years were spent leading a doomed generation through the wilderness—waiting. Two incidents selected from Exodus have helped us sense something of the lesson Moses learned of ministry’s burdens. The Book of Numbers helps us realize that leaders bear limited responsibility.

     In many ways, Moses seems to have been a failure. He failed to bring Israel into the land. He saw the generation that left Egypt wander aimlessly in the desert and, one by one, die. In all that time Moses saw little change in their responsiveness to God or to himself. Was Moses to blame?

     In Numbers 13 and 14 we read of Moses and the people hearing the report of spies about the strength of the Canaanites. In terror the people refused to obey God’s command to enter the land. The Bible tells us that “Moses and Aaron fell facedown in front of the whole Israelite assembly gathered there.” In horror they, with Joshua and Caleb, begged the people to listen to God.

     But the people would not.

     In Deuteronomy we read of Moses leading a new generation to a similar point of decision. Moses did not choose for this new generation. He could not. The people had to choose for themselves. And this time they chose to trust and to obey.

     There are limits to the responsibility of leaders. These limits are imposed by the very freedom God Himself gives all men to turn to Him, or to turn away. Moses’ ministry could bring Israel to the point of decision. Moses performed this ministry well. But Moses could not decide for them. One generation turned from God. And one generation turned to God. It was their own choice.

     It was not through Moses’ failure that the first generation turned away. Nor was it by Moses’ skill and success that the second turned to the Lord.

     The point, of course, is simple. Moses was called to be faithful to God and to fulfill his commission. He was not called to “succeed” or to “fail.” And so the New Testament commendation of Moses focuses not on what Moses accomplished, but on his faithfulness. “Moses … faithfully discharged his duty in the household of God” (Heb. 3:2, PH). It was Moses’ faithfulness to his task which counted with God all along.

     It’s the same for us today. Where there is faithfulness, failure does not bring blame. And it should not bring a sense of guilt! Where faithfulness is, success does not bring glory. Our responsibility is limited. We are called merely to bring others to the place where they can freely choose.

The Teacher's Commentary

Swimming In The Sea of Talmud
     TEXT / Shabbat 31a

     In citing a text from the Babylonian Talmud, the masekhet, or tractate (defined above as one of the sixty-three topical subsections of the Talmud) is listed, followed by a page number. The two-sided leaf of a folio page (one of the 5,400+ oversized pages of the traditional Vilna printing of the Babylonian Talmud) is numbered only on the front, which is called side “a.” The second side of the page is referred to as side “b.” For example, Shabbat 31a refers to the tractate Shabbat, the first side of the oversized folio page numbered 31.

     Another story of a non-Jew who came before Shammai. He said to him: “Convert me on the condition that you teach me the entire Torah while I stand on one foot.” He [Shammai] pushed him away with the builder’s measuring rod that was in his hand. He [the non-Jew] came before Hillel who converted him. He [Hillel] said to him: “What you hate, do not do to your friend. That is the whole Torah. The rest is commentary. Go and learn!”

     We have chosen short, self-contained texts that the reader can, with some effort, comprehend and even master. It should be understood, however, that in the Talmud these units are found as part of longer sugyot, or sections. Many modern scholars believe that the editors of the Talmud often joined together several independent and separate units, creating the appearance of long, complex discussions and debates.

    The reader is cautioned that a first, casual reading of a talmudic text may leave you puzzled and confused. Talmudic style is extremely terse and elliptical. It is often difficult even to figure out who exactly is speaking. We have attempted to translate the text as genuinely as possible so as to capture the authentic words and thoughts of the Talmud, cryptic as they sometimes may be. Occasionally, for the sake of clarity, we have added a word or phrase in brackets.


     Earlier in the Gemara, we read: Our Rabbis taught: “A person should always be as humble as Hillel and not as strict as Shammai.” (Shabbat 30b) Later, the Gemara adds: Shammai’s strictness could drive us out of the world; Hillel’s humility brought us under the wings of the Divine Presence. (Shabbat 31a)

     Hillel and Shammai were the two great leaders of the Jewish people in Israel in the first century B.C.E. They were known for their very different personalities and philosophies. Our section is one of a series of stories that accentuate these differences.

     Shammai seems to have taken the non-Jew’s challenge as impertinence, having no patience for those who exhibited disrespect for him or for his tradition. Hillel, on the other hand, saw the challenge as an opportunity. He interpreted the non-Jew’s question as a sincere request to learn about the essence of Judaism in “twenty-five words or less,” as we might say today.

     Hillel’s answer is a variation of the “Golden Rule” found in the Christian Bible. We should remember that Hillel lived some fifty years before Jesus. Both men probably based their saying on a verse in the Bible: “Love your fellow as yourself” (
Leviticus 19:18).

     In the Context section, we attempt to explain the Gemara, providing background information about the individuals and the issues that are mentioned. We show how the particular text we have chosen fits into the overall discussion of the tractate. We offer elucidation of the texts so that the reader can fill in the gaps and better understand not only what the Rabbis said, but also what it was that they meant.

     In the Marginal Notes, there is additional material that helps to explain and bring a focus to the Gemara. These notes are often quotations from the Bible or from sections of rabbinic literature other than the one being studied. This approach follows that of Rashi (Rabbi Shlomo Itzḥaki, 1040–1105) whose brief explanations are printed in the margins of the traditional Talmud text and are indispensable to understanding the Gemara.

Swimming in the Sea of Talmud: Lessons for Everyday Living

The Imitation Of Christ
     Thomas A Kempis

     Book Two / The Interior Life

     The Third Chapter / Goodness And Peace in Man

     FIRST keep peace with yourself; then you will be able to bring peace to others. A peaceful man does more good than a learned man. Whereas a passionate man turns even good to evil and is quick to believe evil, the peaceful man, being good himself, turns all things to good.

     The man who is at perfect ease is never suspicious, but the disturbed and discontented spirit is upset by many a suspicion. He neither rests himself nor permits others to do so. He often says what ought not to be said and leaves undone what ought to be done. He is concerned with the duties of others but neglects his own.

     Direct your zeal, therefore, first upon yourself; then you may with justice exercise it upon those about you. You are well versed in coloring your own actions with excuses which you will not accept from others, though it would be more just to accuse yourself and excuse your brother. If you wish men to bear with you, you must bear with them. Behold, how far you are from true charity and humility which does not know how to be angry with anyone, or to be indignant save only against self!

     It is no great thing to associate with the good and gentle, for such association is naturally pleasing. Everyone enjoys a peaceful life and prefers persons of congenial habits. But to be able to live at peace with harsh and perverse men, or with the undisciplined and those who irritate us, is a great grace, a praiseworthy and manly thing.

     Some people live at peace with themselves and with their fellow men, but others are never at peace with themselves nor do they bring it to anyone else. These latter are a burden to everyone, but they are more of a burden to themselves. A few, finally, live at peace with themselves and try to restore it to others.

     Now, all our peace in this miserable life is found in humbly enduring suffering rather than in being free from it. He who knows best how to suffer will enjoy the greater peace, because he is the conqueror of himself, the master of the world, a friend of Christ, and an heir of heaven.

The Imitation Of Christ

Take Heart
     February 28

     As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him.
--- Psalm 103:13.

     There is a sentiment that is accepted by many Christians that God puts us to much sorrow, wisely and for our good, while his own heart is callous to our suffering, because he foresees the good that will come out of it. (C. H. Spurgeon, “God’s Fatherly Pity, ” sermon 1,650 in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit series, preached on Thursday evening March 2, 1882, at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington; downloaded from Fire and Ice: Puritan and Reformed Sermons, at http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/WCarson/.) An analogy might in that case be suggested between God and a skillful surgeon, who cuts to remove a cancer from the flesh. The surgeon would be too intent on the success of the operation to bestow much sympathy on the sufferings that will effect a permanent cure.

     But I pray you not to think that it is exactly so with God. Of course, in a higher scale, he has all the wisdom of the physician, and he does view our afflictions in light of that hereafter when he will heal all our diseases and give us beauty instead of ashes, gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. Still he does not steel his heart to the present trouble of his people, but, “As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him.”

     The surgeon can look at the patient, while causing pain, with the intrepidity of one whose nerves cannot easily be shaken. But a father must leave the room, he cannot bear it; the mother cannot look on—they are carried away with the immediate distress. And so it is with God; even though his wisdom and foreknowledge enable him to see the end as well as the beginning, yet like a father feeling compassion for his children, so the Lord feels compassion for those who fear him. [The verse] is in the present tense and carries the idea of continuity: at this very moment he has compassion on those who fear him. Though he knows your trials will work for your good, yet he has compassion on you. Though he knows that there is sin in you, which may require discipline, yet he has compassion on you. Though he can hear the songs and glees that will ultimately come of your present sighs and griefs, yet still he has compassion on your groans and wails, for “he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to the children of men” (Lam. 3:33). In all our distresses and present griefs he takes his share; he has compassion for us as a father has compassion for his children.
--- C. H. Spurgeon

  31     For the Lord will not
  reject forever.
  32     Although he causes grief, he will have compassion
  according to the abundance of his steadfast love;
  33     for he does not willingly afflict
  or grieve anyone. --- Lamentations 3:31-33
. (New Revised Standard Version. 1989)

Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers

On This Day   February 28
     Opening China

     James Morrison, an agriculturist from Scotland, married an English girl, Hannah Nicholson, and had eight children. The youngest, Robert, born in 1782, was a plodder. His schoolmaster uncle viewed him as an average student with a high degree of determination.

     He became a Christian at age 15 and joined a praying society that met every Monday night in his father’s workshop. Robert spent weekends studying the Bible, applying his brand of determination to Christian growth. He redoubled his academic disciplines, moving his bed to a corner in his father’s workshop so he could study in solitude through late evenings. He later wrote, “The happiest abode (so far as the house goes) was my father’s workshop, swept clean by my own hands of a Saturday evening, and dedicated to prayer and meditation on Sunday. There was my bed, and there was my study.”

     By 1801 he felt he could only be happy by entering the ministry, and in preparation, he began taking Latin. As it turned out he discovered a gift for languages, and he began thinking about missionary service. His mother, hearing of it, was alarmed. She wasn’t well, and felt she couldn’t part from him. Robert agreed to stay by her side as long as she lived.

     She died the next year, and on November 24, 1802 Robert applied for admission at a preachers’ college in London. Two years later he sought duty with the London Missionary Society. His father’s protests broke his heart but not his determination. He pursued further training, then boarded ship and sailed from Britain on February 28, 1807, becoming the first Protestant missionary to China.

     His plodding, viselike determination served him as well in China as it had in England, for he witnessed no breakthroughs for seven years. Finally he baptized his first convert. He persevered another 18 years, encountering staggering difficulties and seeing fewer than a dozen others follow Christ. At his death there were only three native Christians in the entire Chinese Empire.

     But he opened the door, and today there are millions.

     Such a large crowd of witnesses is all around us! So we must get rid of everything that slows us down, especially the sin that just won’t let go. And we must be determined to run the race that is ahead of us. We must keep our eyes on Jesus, who leads us and makes our faith complete.
--- Hebrews 12:1,2a.

On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes

Morning and Evening
     Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON

          Morning - February 28

     “My expectation is from him.” --- Psalm 62:5.

     It is the believer’s privilege to use this language. If he is looking for aught from the world, it is a poor “expectation” indeed. But if he looks to God for the supply of his wants, whether in temporal or spiritual blessings, his “expectation” will not be a vain one. Constantly he may draw from the bank of faith, and get his need supplied out of the riches of God’s lovingkindness. This I know, I had rather have God for my banker than all the Rothschilds. My Lord never fails to honour his promises; and when we bring them to his throne, he never sends them back unanswered. Therefore I will wait only at his door, for he ever opens it with the hand of munificent grace. At this hour I will try him anew. But we have “expectations” beyond this life. We shall die soon; and then our “expectation is from him.” Do we not expect that when we lie upon the bed of sickness he will send angels to carry us to his bosom? We believe that when the pulse is faint, and the heart heaves heavily, some angelic messenger shall stand and look with loving eyes upon us, and whisper, “Sister spirit, come away!” As we approach the heavenly gate, we expect to hear the welcome invitation, “Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” We are expecting harps of gold and crowns of glory; we are hoping soon to be amongst the multitude of shining ones before the throne; we are looking forward and longing for the time when we shall be like our glorious Lord—for “We shall see him as he is.” Then if these be thine “expectations,” O my soul, live for God; live with the desire and resolve to glorify him from whom cometh all thy supplies, and of whose grace in thy election, redemption, and calling, it is that thou hast any “expectation” of coming glory.

          Evening - February 28

     “The barrel of meal wasted not, neither did the cruse of oil fail, according to the word of the Lord, which he spake by Elijah.” --- 1 Kings 17:16.

     See the faithfulness of divine love. You observe that this woman had daily necessities. She had herself and her son to feed in a time of famine; and now, in addition, the prophet Elijah was to be fed too. But though the need was threefold, yet the supply of meal wasted not, for she had a constant supply. Each day she made calls upon the barrel, but yet each day it remained the same. You, dear reader, have daily necessities, and because they come so frequently, you are apt to fear that the barrel of meal will one day be empty, and the cruse of oil will fail you. Rest assured that, according to the Word of God, this shall not be the case. Each day, though it bring its trouble, shall bring its help; and though you should live to outnumber the years of Methuselah, and though your needs should be as many as the sands of the seashore, yet shall God’s grace and mercy last through all your necessities, and you shall never know a real lack. For three long years, in this widow’s days, the heavens never saw a cloud, and the stars never wept a holy tear of dew upon the wicked earth: famine, and desolation, and death, made the land a howling wilderness, but this woman never was hungry, but always joyful in abundance. So shall it be with you. You shall see the sinner’s hope perish, for he trusts his native strength; you shall see the proud Pharisee’s confidence totter, for he builds his hope upon the sand; you shall see even your own schemes blasted and withered, but you yourself shall find that your place of defence shall be the munition of rocks: “Your bread shall be given you, and your water shall be sure.” Better have God for your guardian, than the Bank of England for your possession. You might spend the wealth of the Indies, but the infinite riches of God you can never exhaust.

Morning and Evening

Amazing Grace
     February 28


     Words and Music by Lelia N. Morris, 1862–1929

     The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they stay fresh and green, proclaiming, “The Lord is upright; He is my Rock, and there is not wickedness in Him.” (Psalm 92:12–15)

     For the believer, growing older should mean a greater awareness of God’s love and fellowship as well as a time of greater usefulness in Christian service. The golden years can and should be the most fruitful time of life. A lifetime of companionship with God should result in a mellow and gracious Christ-like spirit. Because there are fewer demands and pressures for life’s necessities, the older Christian should have opportunities for effective ministry that he never before attempted.

     There is nothing more tragic, however, than to see a professing Christian become disgruntled and self-centered in later years. It is true that we simply bring into full bloom the traits that were begun in our early years. If we wish to have positive and productive attitudes in our senior years, we must begin to develop these traits while we are still young.

     Author and composer Mrs. Lelia Morris was an active worker in the Methodist church. She continued to write gospel songs during the last 15 years of her life, even after going blind in her early fifties. “Sweeter as the Years Go By” was written during the early years of her blindness. It is said that during this difficult time in her life, Mrs. Morris used a 28-foot long blackboard with music lines on it to help her hymn writing. In all, Lelia Morris wrote more than 1,000 hymn texts, as well as many of the tunes. Her handicap never deterred her from being effective and productive for God. Even in blindness she found her Lord sweeter as the years went by.

     Of Jesus’ love that sought me, when I was lost in sin; of wondrous grace that brought me back to His fold again; of heights and depths of mercy, far deeper than the sea, and higher than the heavens, my theme shall ever be.
     He trod in old Judea life’s pathway long ago; the people thronged about Him His saving grace to know; He healed the broken hearted, and caused the blind to see; and still His great heart yearneth in love for even me.
     ’Twas wondrous love which led Him for us to suffer loss—to bear without a murmur the anguish of the cross; with saints redeemed in glory let us our voices raise, till heaven and earth re-echo with our Redeemer’s praise.
     Refrain: Sweeter as the years go by, sweeter as the years go by; richer, fuller, deeper, Jesus’ love is sweeter, sweeter as the years go by.

     For Today: Psalm 92:12, 14; Proverbs 16:31; John 15:10, 11.

     Seek out a respected elderly person. Learn his secret for a contented and useful life with God. Keep this musical message upon your lips ---

Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions

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  If you want to understand the different views on the Lord's return this is excellent!!

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     ==============================      ==============================

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