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Genesis  43 - 45

Genesis 43

Joseph’s Brothers Return to Egypt

Genesis 43:1     Now the famine was severe in the land. 2 And when they had eaten the grain that they had brought from Egypt, their father said to them, “Go again, buy us a little food.” 3 But Judah said to him, “The man solemnly warned us, saying, ‘You shall not see my face unless your brother is with you.’ 4 If you will send our brother with us, we will go down and buy you food. 5 But if you will not send him, we will not go down, for the man said to us, ‘You shall not see my face, unless your brother is with you.’ ” 6 Israel said, “Why did you treat me so badly as to tell the man that you had another brother?” 7 They replied, “The man questioned us carefully about ourselves and our kindred, saying, ‘Is your father still alive? Do you have another brother?’ What we told him was in answer to these questions. Could we in any way know that he would say, ‘Bring your brother down’?” 8 And Judah said to Israel his father, “Send the boy with me, and we will arise and go, that we may live and not die, both we and you and also our little ones. 9 I will be a pledge of his safety. From my hand you shall require him. If I do not bring him back to you and set him before you, then let me bear the blame forever. 10 If we had not delayed, we would now have returned twice.”

11 Then their father Israel said to them, “If it must be so, then do this: take some of the choice fruits of the land in your bags, and carry a present down to the man, a little balm and a little honey, gum, myrrh, pistachio nuts, and almonds. 12 Take double the money with you. Carry back with you the money that was returned in the mouth of your sacks. Perhaps it was an oversight. 13 Take also your brother, and arise, go again to the man. 14 May God Almighty grant you mercy before the man, and may he send back your other brother and Benjamin. And as for me, if I am bereaved of my children, I am bereaved.”

15 So the men took this present, and they took double the money with them, and Benjamin. They arose and went down to Egypt and stood before Joseph.

16 When Joseph saw Benjamin with them, he said to the steward of his house, “Bring the men into the house, and slaughter an animal and make ready, for the men are to dine with me at noon.” 17 The man did as Joseph told him and brought the men to Joseph’s house. 18 And the men were afraid because they were brought to Joseph’s house, and they said, “It is because of the money, which was replaced in our sacks the first time, that we are brought in, so that he may assault us and fall upon us to make us servants and seize our donkeys.” 19 So they went up to the steward of Joseph’s house and spoke with him at the door of the house, 20 and said, “Oh, my lord, we came down the first time to buy food. 21 And when we came to the lodging place we opened our sacks, and there was each man’s money in the mouth of his sack, our money in full weight. So we have brought it again with us, 22 and we have brought other money down with us to buy food. We do not know who put our money in our sacks.” 23 He replied, “Peace to you, do not be afraid. Your God and the God of your father has put treasure in your sacks for you. I received your money.” Then he brought Simeon out to them. 24 And when the man had brought the men into Joseph’s house and given them water, and they had washed their feet, and when he had given their donkeys fodder, 25 they prepared the present for Joseph’s coming at noon, for they heard that they should eat bread there.

26 When Joseph came home, they brought into the house to him the present that they had with them and bowed down to him to the ground. 27 And he inquired about their welfare and said, “Is your father well, the old man of whom you spoke? Is he still alive?” 28 They said, “Your servant our father is well; he is still alive.” And they bowed their heads and prostrated themselves. 29 And he lifted up his eyes and saw his brother Benjamin, his mother’s son, and said, “Is this your youngest brother, of whom you spoke to me? God be gracious to you, my son!” 30 Then Joseph hurried out, for his compassion grew warm for his brother, and he sought a place to weep. And he entered his chamber and wept there. 31 Then he washed his face and came out. And controlling himself he said, “Serve the food.” 32 They served him by himself, and them by themselves, and the Egyptians who ate with him by themselves, because the Egyptians could not eat with the Hebrews, for that is an abomination to the Egyptians. 33 And they sat before him, the firstborn according to his birthright and the youngest according to his youth. And the men looked at one another in amazement. 34 Portions were taken to them from Joseph’s table, but Benjamin’s portion was five times as much as any of theirs. And they drank and were merry with him.

Genesis 44

Joseph Tests His Brothers

Genesis 44:1     Then he commanded the steward of his house, “Fill the men’s sacks with food, as much as they can carry, and put each man’s money in the mouth of his sack, 2 and put my cup, the silver cup, in the mouth of the sack of the youngest, with his money for the grain.” And he did as Joseph told him.

3 As soon as the morning was light, the men were sent away with their donkeys. 4 They had gone only a short distance from the city. Now Joseph said to his steward, “Up, follow after the men, and when you overtake them, say to them, ‘Why have you repaid evil for good? 5 Is it not from this that my lord drinks, and by this that he practices divination? You have done evil in doing this.’ ”

6 When he overtook them, he spoke to them these words. 7 They said to him, “Why does my lord speak such words as these? Far be it from your servants to do such a thing! 8 Behold, the money that we found in the mouths of our sacks we brought back to you from the land of Canaan. How then could we steal silver or gold from your lord’s house? 9 Whichever of your servants is found with it shall die, and we also will be my lord’s servants.” 10 He said, “Let it be as you say: he who is found with it shall be my servant, and the rest of you shall be innocent.” 11 Then each man quickly lowered his sack to the ground, and each man opened his sack. 12 And he searched, beginning with the eldest and ending with the youngest. And the cup was found in Benjamin’s sack. 13 Then they tore their clothes, and every man loaded his donkey, and they returned to the city.

14 When Judah and his brothers came to Joseph’s house, he was still there. They fell before him to the ground. 15 Joseph said to them, “What deed is this that you have done? Do you not know that a man like me can indeed practice divination?” 16 And Judah said, “What shall we say to my lord? What shall we speak? Or how can we clear ourselves? God has found out the guilt of your servants; behold, we are my lord’s servants, both we and he also in whose hand the cup has been found.” 17 But he said, “Far be it from me that I should do so! Only the man in whose hand the cup was found shall be my servant. But as for you, go up in peace to your father.”

18 Then Judah went up to him and said, “Oh, my lord, please let your servant speak a word in my lord’s ears, and let not your anger burn against your servant, for you are like Pharaoh himself. 19 My lord asked his servants, saying, ‘Have you a father, or a brother?’ 20 And we said to my lord, ‘We have a father, an old man, and a young brother, the child of his old age. His brother is dead, and he alone is left of his mother’s children, and his father loves him.’ 21 Then you said to your servants, ‘Bring him down to me, that I may set my eyes on him.’ 22 We said to my lord, ‘The boy cannot leave his father, for if he should leave his father, his father would die.’ 23 Then you said to your servants, ‘Unless your youngest brother comes down with you, you shall not see my face again.’

24 “When we went back to your servant my father, we told him the words of my lord. 25 And when our father said, ‘Go again, buy us a little food,’ 26 we said, ‘We cannot go down. If our youngest brother goes with us, then we will go down. For we cannot see the man’s face unless our youngest brother is with us.’ 27 Then your servant my father said to us, ‘You know that my wife bore me two sons. 28 One left me, and I said, “Surely he has been torn to pieces,” and I have never seen him since. 29 If you take this one also from me, and harm happens to him, you will bring down my gray hairs in evil to Sheol.’

30 “Now therefore, as soon as I come to your servant my father, and the boy is not with us, then, as his life is bound up in the boy’s life, 31 as soon as he sees that the boy is not with us, he will die, and your servants will bring down the gray hairs of your servant our father with sorrow to Sheol. 32 For your servant became a pledge of safety for the boy to my father, saying, ‘If I do not bring him back to you, then I shall bear the blame before my father all my life.’ 33 Now therefore, please let your servant remain instead of the boy as a servant to my lord, and let the boy go back with his brothers. 34 For how can I go back to my father if the boy is not with me? I fear to see the evil that would find my father.”

Genesis 45

Joseph Provides for His Brothers and Family

Genesis 45:1     Then Joseph could not control himself before all those who stood by him. He cried, “Make everyone go out from me.” So no one stayed with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers. 2 And he wept aloud, so that the Egyptians heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard it. 3 And Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph! Is my father still alive?” But his brothers could not answer him, for they were dismayed at his presence.

4 So Joseph said to his brothers, “Come near to me, please.” And they came near. And he said, “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. 5 And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. 6 For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are yet five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. 7 And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. 8 So it was not you who sent me here, but God. He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt. 9 Hurry and go up to my father and say to him, ‘Thus says your son Joseph, God has made me lord of all Egypt. Come down to me; do not tarry. 10 You shall dwell in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near me, you and your children and your children’s children, and your flocks, your herds, and all that you have. 11 There I will provide for you, for there are yet five years of famine to come, so that you and your household, and all that you have, do not come to poverty.’ 12 And now your eyes see, and the eyes of my brother Benjamin see, that it is my mouth that speaks to you. 13 You must tell my father of all my honor in Egypt, and of all that you have seen. Hurry and bring my father down here.” 14 Then he fell upon his brother Benjamin’s neck and wept, and Benjamin wept upon his neck. 15 And he kissed all his brothers and wept upon them. After that his brothers talked with him.

16 When the report was heard in Pharaoh’s house, “Joseph’s brothers have come,” it pleased Pharaoh and his servants. 17 And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Say to your brothers, ‘Do this: load your beasts and go back to the land of Canaan, 18 and take your father and your households, and come to me, and I will give you the best of the land of Egypt, and you shall eat the fat of the land.’ 19 And you, Joseph, are commanded to say, ‘Do this: take wagons from the land of Egypt for your little ones and for your wives, and bring your father, and come. 20 Have no concern for your goods, for the best of all the land of Egypt is yours.’ ”

21 The sons of Israel did so: and Joseph gave them wagons, according to the command of Pharaoh, and gave them provisions for the journey. 22 To each and all of them he gave a change of clothes, but to Benjamin he gave three hundred shekels of silver and five changes of clothes. 23 To his father he sent as follows: ten donkeys loaded with the good things of Egypt, and ten female donkeys loaded with grain, bread, and provision for his father on the journey. 24 Then he sent his brothers away, and as they departed, he said to them, “Do not quarrel on the way.”

25 So they went up out of Egypt and came to the land of Canaan to their father Jacob. 26 And they told him, “Joseph is still alive, and he is ruler over all the land of Egypt.” And his heart became numb, for he did not believe them. 27 But when they told him all the words of Joseph, which he had said to them, and when he saw the wagons that Joseph had sent to carry him, the spirit of their father Jacob revived. 28 And Israel said, “It is enough; Joseph my son is still alive. I will go and see him before I die.”

ESV Study Bible

What I'm Reading

Why Are The Jews Chosen?

By David Novak 4/2010

     One way anti-Jewish sentiment has been interpreted is simply as a quid pro quo. Gentile animosity, in this view, does to the Jews what the Jews have done, or at least would like to do, to Gentiles—because we Jews present ourselves as the chosen people. In the seventeenth century, Baruch Spinoza suggested that the Jews made the Gentiles hate them by claiming to be God’s people and setting themselves apart by their practice of circumcision—the bodily sign of God’s covenantal election. In 1938, immediately after the Nazi pogroms of Kristallnacht, George Bernard Shaw wondered why the Jews were complaining so loudly; after all, wasn’t this what the chosen people did to the Canaanites in the process of conquering the promised land?

     In this view of Jewish chosenness—given its clearest expression, after the Holocaust, in George Steiner’s 1999 novel The Portage to San Cristóbal of A.H.—envy of the Jews’ claim made the Nazis do two things. The first was to accuse the Jews not only of having invented their chosenness but also of having invented the God who chose them. As Steiner’s Hitler asks, “Was there ever a crueler invention, a contrivance more calculated to harrow human existence, than that of an omnipotent, all-seeing, yet invisible, impalatable, inconceivable God?” And the second was to argue that, because there can be only one chosen people, it must be either the Jews or (in this case) the Germans. One must extinguish the other from the face of the earth. There is no possible middle ground, no possible compromise.

     There are Jews today who seem to hold this view, even if they do not like to ascribe it, as Steiner does, to Hitler. They have concluded that if the affirmation of chosenness by God is the cause of near extinction, Jews must root that affirmation out entirely. And for some Jews, this denial of election means denial of God—a denial that fits, unfortunately, with the atheistic agenda of some of the more radical Jewish secularists, who think they can build a thoroughly secular Judaism. The denial lives at a primal, emotional level: “Since God’s choice of us Jews has led to death and destruction, we now unchoose Him!” This is the dead-god atheism of Nietzsche rather than the there-never-was-a-god atheism of Feuerbach.

     I remember this myth being thrown in my face little more than ten years after the Holocaust, when, as a Jewish teenager, I was confronted in our Chicago high school by another Jewish student—Sam, who screamed at me for wanting “to be chosen by that god,” after most of his family in Europe was murdered in Auschwitz. Compared to Sam’s anger, the occasional taunts from Gentile classmates were mild. And ever since that afternoon in 1956, I have tried to think of what I should, or could, have said in response.

     Along the way, I also have found that Sam is legion.

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David Novak, a member of the First Things editorial and advisory board, is the J. Richard and Dorothy Shiff Professor of Jewish Studies at the University of Toronto.

Terror and trust: Responding to fear with faith

By Trillia Newbell 1/11/17

     On January 6, travelers gathered around the baggage claim of the Fort Lauderdale airport awaiting their luggage and not knowing that their lives were to be taken or changed forever. Esteban Santiago had a sinister plan, one that callously ignored the value of the lives of those people. A security guard and Iraq veteran, he opened gunfire, killing five individuals and injuring many others.

     It’s yet another event of unimaginable carnage at the hands of one of our own. Families have been destroyed, and the rest of us are left to pray and fight against fear. Flying leaves many in fear, but I imagine it never once crossed their minds that entering the baggage claim area might mean they would never exit.

     I don’t know the type of terror they experienced. I’ve never experienced someone ambushing me or been in close proximity to the sudden loss of life by the hands of another. I imagine those who survived this tragedy must struggle with something like post traumatic shock. It would be difficult not to fear public places. They are also grieving the loss of loved ones, friends, and—in one case—grandparents. Many were affected by one man’s evil act. Tragic events like this one make us aware of our need for faith in these troubling days.

     The Bible says there’s nothing new under the sun. Although this particular case has yet to be officially named “an act of terror,” I will use the term “terror,” not as a political or distinction of the law, but rather because Santiago’s actions indeed caused terror. Terror has been a part of our world since Genesis 3. But what’s new is our nearly instantaneous awareness of such events due to breaking news and information from the Internet.

     Awareness can be a gift and a curse. If we dwell on the evil of this world, we run into the danger of mourning as a people without hope. But because we have the hope of the gospel and the hope of a new heaven and earth, we can instead learn about these hard stories in order to comfort the mourning or fearful around us, prepare our own hearts for the possibility of terror and also to pray. Each year brings with it stories of terror and destruction. There’s never been a year that has been perfect since that dreadful day sin came into the world. So, how are we to respond to these facts?

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     Trillia Newbell's writings on issues of faith, family, and diversity have been published in the Knoxville News-Sentinel, Desiring God, True Woman, Christianity Today, The Gospel Coalition, and more. She has spoken at numerous conferences, churches, women’s retreats, colleges and seminaries, including True Woman, The Gospel Coalition Women’s conference, Southeastern Theological Seminary, and more. She currently is the Director of Community Outreach for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission for the Southern Baptist Convention. Newbell was the Lead Editor of Karis, the women’s channel for the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (2013-2015). In November 2011, she launched a Christian women’s blog-style e-zine, Women of God Magazine, where she was the managing editor. Her greatest love besides God is her family. She is married to her best friend and love, Thern. They reside with their two children near Nashville, TN.

Trillia Newbell Books:

Pro-Nicene Theology: Theology and Economy in Scripture

By Fred Sanders 12/15/2016

     In Lewis Ayres’s latest post in this series, he showed the use that Greek patristic theologians made of the terms theologia and oikonomia. The fathers reached for this pair of terms to make the crucial distinction between God’s own eternal nature, on the one hand, and God’s actions toward creation, on the other hand. The distinction is a biblical one, but we cannot discern it in Scripture simply by looking for the words themselves; we must look at broader phenomena of the biblical witness.

     The ability to make such a distinction is crucial for Christian doctrine, and not just for the purpose of keeping God and the world hermetically sealed off from each other to achieve conceptual tidiness. On the contrary, the more we want to affirm that God is intimately involved with creation and covenantally committed to human salvation, the more we will find this distinction necessary. No doubt this is why the pair of terms came into its own in the fourth century. In sending his Son, God took such direct divine action in the world that it became absolutely necessary to reach clarity about whether the Son was God or a creature, and so the pro-Nicenes learned to speak of Christ kata theologia and kata oikonomia. Unless we can distinguish God’s eternal being from his free action, we will always be in danger of the Arianizing error of taking the Son’s condescension to be definitive of his nature.

     To trace the exegetical warrant for this distinction, it is not enough to take up the New Testament and look through it for occurrences of the Greek words theologia and oikonomia. For one thing, the first term in the pair simply does not occur in the New Testament, and even if we were willing to compound it from its parts (ta logia tou theou, Rom 3:2; Heb 5:12, etc.), it would not refer to deity as such (as it does in the patristic usage) but to the word of, or about, deity. And if we then cast about for another word or phrase in the New Testament that did refer to deity (perhaps theotetos, or pleroma tes theotetos from Col 2:9), we would be getting further off the scent of our quarry. What we want is not the particular words, or functional substitutes for the words taken in and of themselves, but the distinction marked by their pairing. If we go looking for the exegetical warrant for the patristic distinction between theologia and oikonomia, what we are asking is whether the Bible itself makes the judgment that God is one thing and his works are another, even in Christ. We want to know if Scripture teaches us to think of a relationship between the reality of God’s own being and the entire scope of God’s gracious actions toward creation.

     If Scripture does so, what we are glimpsing in the pairing of theologia and oikonomia is an astonishing doctrinal vista. Our attention is drawn to the fact that the transcendent God, in all his mystery and ineffability, stands behind the central actions of salvation history, and that these actions of salvation history, if grasped as a single differentiated whole with an inner integrity binding its integrated parts, is a free and gracious manifestation of God. The relationship limned by the theologia-oikonomia distinction is too comprehensive to be just one of the many things made known in the Bible. It points to the central theme of all of Scripture: that God is with us to be our salvation in the work of Christ and the Spirit, and that we know the true God by knowing the Son and the Spirit sent by the Father.

     Is it helpful to ask what particular words the Bible itself uses when it wants to indicate this relation? Should we ransack the Scriptures in search of a term that means “God in himself” and see if it is brought into significant relationship to a term meaning “the entire history of salvation?” Alert readers could certainly be urged to keep an eye out for such formulations; a major claim like the one we are describing must show up in numerous particular forms in Scripture, in addition to being a kind of mega-claim that suffuses the whole. But the vastness of the topic tends to produce an unmanageably wide variety of forms of speech. Among the terms we would have to include are terms like “all that the prophets have spoken,” “the full counsel of God,” and a host of less conspicuous terms like “your law.” When Moses asks to see God’s glory, God permits him instead to see his passing by: this would make an awkward set of terms to try to use in theological communication, but the theologia-oikonomia judgment itself is concealed here in narrative idiom. But who could ever be sure they had put their finger on all of the ways that the Bible alludes to the presence and perfection of God? Is it going too far to say that every instance of divine self-naming in Scripture underlines the identity of God in himself, or that the frequent distinctions between “heaven and earth” draws attention to the difference we are describing, or that the way Paul belabors the word “all” (consider Colossians 1:16-20) is a way of summarizing the entire scope of reality that stands over against Christ as God?

(Col 1:16–20) 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. ESV

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Fred Sanders is Professor of Theology at Biola University's Torrey Honors Institute. He has an MDiv from Asbury Theological Seminary and PhD from Graduate Theological Union. He is the co-editor of Christology, Ancient and Modern: Explorations in Constructive Dogmatics (Los Angeles Theology Conference Series).

Fred Sanders Books:

Historicity Of Pontius Pilate, Governor Of Judaea.

By James Bishop 8/11/15

(Mt 27:13) 13 Then Pilate said to him, “Do you not hear how many things they testify against you?” ESV

     Pontius Pilate plays a significant role in the New Testament gospel accounts. He was the governor of the Roman province of Judaea (26 – 36 AD), and was the person who took charge over the trial of Jesus and who subsequently ordered his crucifixion. But what of his historicity and what can we know about him?

     Right off the bat our historical evidence is very convincing. We have textual evidence of his activities and existence from our four biographical gospels (Mark, Matthew, Luke, John), and Roman historian Cornelius Tacitus (The Annals: The Reigns of Tiberius, Claudius, and Nero (Oxford World's Classics)). Tacitus tells us that: “Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus.” Jewish-Roman historian Josephus Flavius also chronicles an episode involving Pilate. According to Flavius he spent money from the Temple on an aqueduct he wanted to build. He also ordered his troops attack and silence the Jewish opposition (Antiquities of the Jews). Another crucial text comes from Jewish philosopher The Works of Philo: Complete and Unabridged, New Updated Edition. He tells us that Pilate had a “furious temper,” and was “relentless[ness].” (On The Embassy of Gauis Book XXXVIII 299–305).

     What is important is that these sources are very early. For instance, Pilate was governor from 26 – 36 AD, and our sources date very close to this time. For example, Mark (70 AD), Luke (80 – 85 AD), Matthew (80 – 85 AD), John (90 AD), Antiquities (96 AD), and Annals (116 AD). These textual sources all fall within a 100 year time gap after Pilate’s life. For an analogy, compare these sources with our earliest source for the Buddha, the epic poem Aśvaghoṣa, that comes in around 500 years after his existence! Furthermore, I could not find the date of Philo’s biography ‘On The Embassy of Gauis’ (On the Embassy to Gaius) despite looking through several sources. Nevertheless, theologian and historian Peter Harris sketches out what we can know about Jesus and Pilate from the gospels: “It is therefore possible to provide an outline of the information the Gospels commonly furnish as follows: Christ is sent by the Jewish High Council to Pilate for trial on the mendacious charge of lèse majesté. Pilate interrogates Christ, finds him not guilty and tries to persuade the crowd that he should be released. The crowd adamantly refuses, so Pilate, to pacify them, has Christ flogged and then crucified (Matthew 27:11-26; Mark 15:2-15; Luke 23:2-3, 18-25; John 18:29-19:16).”

     Beyond our gospel texts, and other primary materials, there are later sources mentioning Pilate, such as by the bishop Eusebius (living 260 – 340 AD), 10th century Arabic Christian writer Agapius of Hierapolis, as well as the Acts of Pontius Pilate. The Acts of Pilate, referred to by Justin Martyr in AD 150 and by Tertullian around 200 AD, is claimed to record miracles of Jesus, however this document was never found. There is a slightly earlier text than these, although it is highly legendary: the Gnostic Gospel of Peter (150–200 AD). Peter (who never actually wrote this text as it is a forgery and falsely attributed to him as its author, also known as pseudepigrapha) also adds a highly colourful, legendary composition of Jesus, and his empty tomb episode. Harris summarizes these sources as “unsubstantiated legends and [hold] no objective accounts.”

     However, despite being legendary, and mostly without value, it is important to note that these textual sources were all written with the assumption that Pilate existed, thus his existence was never disputed by any ancient writer throughout history. When we add our other primary textual sources (as noted above) to the pile it is beyond doubt that Pilate existed, and that we can actually know details about him.

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     James is a graduate from Vega School of Brand Leadership specialising in Multimedia Design and Brand Communications. He is currently enrolled at Cornerstone Institute studying Theology and majoring in Psychology. His theological interests encompass comparative religion and the links between science and religion.

Read The Psalms In "1" Year

Psalm 8

How Majestic Is Your Name
8 To The Choirmaster: According To The Gittith. A Psalm Of David.

5 Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
and crowned him with glory and honor.
6 You have given him dominion over the works of your hands;
you have put all things under his feet,
7 all sheep and oxen,
and also the beasts of the field,
8 the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea,
whatever passes along the paths of the seas.

9 O LORD, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!

ESV Reformation Study

Pontius Pilate - Have the Gospels Got it Right?

By Peter Harris

     Are the Gospels Accurate in Their Presentation of Pontius Pilate?

     Of course, no one knows what Pilate looked like and Giotto’s painting is the consequence of an artist’s imagination filling that gap. What is of greater importance than Pilate’s physical appearance to the Christian apologist defending the historical status of the Gospels is that the Gospels’ accounts of how Pilate and the Jerusalem mob behaved at Christ’s trial are consistent with each other and conform to what is known extra-biblically regarding Roman justice and the turbulent relationship that existed between Pilate and his resentful imperial subjects. Moreover, it is possible to demonstrate that the Gospels’ congruous testimony regarding Pilate’s existence is supported by the testimony of the available archaeological evidence as well as of extra-biblical written sources whose writers, if anything, were hostile to Christianity and had no reason to aid its survival. That Pilate can be shown to have lived is part of the broader project of demonstrating that the Gospel narratives speak of historical personages and therefore cannot be treated, on that point at least, as layers of myth. With regards to the specific details of Pilate’s broader career and character, something is known, though not with complete certitude. The details of Pilate’s life after he was deposed as procurator in AD 36 are, however, putative, for at this point the historian runs into an obfuscating wall of subjective narratives.

     The Synoptic Gospels and the Johannine Gospel are consistent in their presentation of Pilate and the events in which he was caught up and failed to control. However, the Synoptics devote less textual space to Pilate than John’s Gospel where Pilate is depicted through John’s characteristically long dialogues in arguably the most sympathetic of the Gospels’ presentments. Twice Pilate is recorded as interrogating Christ: the first time his tone appears sarcastic and condescending, particularly when he attempts to catch Christ out with the question, what is truth? (John 18:38). The second interview shows Pilate afraid and genuinely curious, for he has heard from Christ’s accusers that Christ claims to be the Son of God (19:8). When he presents Christ to the crowd, he describes Christ as their king with perhaps genuine conviction (19:14). It is conceivable that John is hinting that Pilate saw in Christ something unusual that the Sanhedrin and their allies could not, or would not, but which his polytheistic and syncretistic Roman mind could not quite understand. It is Christ’s innocence coupled with the sense of Christ’s uniqueness that accounts for the procurator’s repeated, but vain, attempts to exonerate this most exceptional of prisoners and his benign assent to Joseph of Arimathea’s request to give Christ a decent burial rather than leave his body to decompose on the cross (John 19:12; Matthew 27:57-58; Mark 15:43-46; Luke 23:50-54).

     However, the differences between the Synoptic Gospels and John’s Gospel’s account of Pilate’s actions are nuances of focus and style rather than contradictions. It is therefore possible to provide an outline of the information the Gospels commonly furnish as follows: Christ is sent by the Jewish High Council to Pilate for trial on the mendacious charge of lèse majesté. Pilate interrogates Christ, finds him not guilty and tries to persuade the crowd that he should be released. The crowd adamantly refuses, so Pilate, to pacify them, has Christ flogged and then crucified (Matthew 27:11-26; Mark 15:2-15; Luke 23:2-3, 18-25; John 18:29-19:16).

     Both Matthew and John give Pilate the title of governor or hēgēmon which is used to refer to the Roman procurators (Matthew 27:11; John 18:28). Historians inform us that a governor or procurator’s role was to govern a conquered region on behalf of the Emperor. To do so, the procurator possessed the powers of full imperium which meant that he possessed criminal and jurisdictional authority, military power and the authority to raise taxes to ensure that revenue from the province flowed back to the imperial coffers. As supreme magistrate for the region, he alone held the prerogative of passing the death sentence. The Gospels’ accounts of the Sanhedrin’s sending Christ to Pilate to secure his execution and the demands made directly to Pilate by the mob for Christ’s execution are therefore consistent with historical knowledge (Matthew 27:20; Mark 15:11-15; Luke 23:13-23; John 18:31).[4] Military experience would have constituted an important part of Pilate’s curriculum vitae, for procurators were appointed to turbulent provinces. Judea was certainly such a province as the Jews were renowned for their strong sense of divine destiny and therefore were deeply resentful of foreign occupation. Nationalists and their renegade prophets capable of stirring up revolution and the banditry endemic to the countryside made wise, firm government necessary – something of which not all the governors sent by Rome were capable. Within such a context of violent nationalism, the charge made against Christ to Pilate that he had incited rebellion against Rome was, as the Sanhedrin well knew, a dangerous and effective one, and again accords with what historians know of first century Palestine (Luke 23:13,14).

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     Peter Harris is a history graduate who is completing a taught PhD in Christian apologetics and theology at Trinity Theological Seminary in the United States and is starting a research PhD in the history of the First World War.

‘Silence’ Movie Lead Andrew Garfield Prepared for Role by Finding Jesus

By Megan Briggs 1/13/2017

     In preparation for his role as Sebastian Rodrigues in the movie Silence, Andrew Garfield practiced the spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius. While his goal was simply to prepare for an acting role, he ended up finding Jesus and “falling in love” with him.

     Garfield told America Magazine, “I felt so bad for [Jesus] and angry on his behalf when I finally did meet him, because everyone has given him such a bad name… And he has been used for so many dark things.”

     It’s a little ironic that a film ( from the book Silence: A Novel (Picador Classics) ) portraying Jesuit priests losing their faith in the face of persecution in Japan would be the catalyst for Garfield’s newfound relationship with Jesus. Yet, it was the practice of meditating on Scripture and praying that eventually led Garfield to acknowledge Jesus’ presence in his life.

     Garfield described the exercises of St. Ignatius as a “transformational process where you do the imaginative, meditative prayers with the life of Jesus, where you place yourself in each [New Testament] scene, much like being an actor.”

     In addition to the exercises of Ignatius, Garfield went on a week-long silent retreat with actor Adam Driver (who also had a role in the movie Silence). He was mentored by a Jesuit priest, Father James Martin, who trained him as if he were going to become a priest.

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     Megan Briggs is a writer and editor for ChurchLeaders.com. Her experience in ministry, an extensive amount of which was garnered overseas, gives her a unique perspective on the global church. She has the longsuffering and altruistic nature of foreign friends and missionaries to humbly thank for this experience. Megan is passionate about seeking and proclaiming the truth. When she’s not writing, Megan likes to explore God’s magnificent creation.

Should We Pray the Imprecatory Psalms?

William Ross 03-17-2015

     In light of the recent execution of 21 Christians and capture of hundreds more in Syria, perhaps it’s time to ask, “Should we be praying the imprecatory  Psalms against ISIS?” Written in the theocratic context of Israel, when God himself had a throne on earth, these  Psalms (e.g.,  Ps. 58; 69; 109 ) invoke God’s judgment upon Israel’s enemies in terrifying terms (see  Ps. 58:8 ). While we profess that all Scripture is profitable ( 2 Tim. 3:16 ), we must carefully consider the ways in which that is true of these  Psalms.

     After all, we were once enemies of God ( Col. 1:21-22 ), but are now redeemed and called to love our neighbors ( Luke 10:27 ) and pray for our persecutors ( Matt. 5:44; Rom. 12:14 ). May we identify an enemy for divine destruction as the imprecatory  Psalms do? Can we do so in specific terms or only general ones? Are we not to expect persecution in this age and turn the other cheek ( Mark 13:13; Luke 21:17; Matt. 5:39 ) as we wait for Christ’s return ( 2 Cor. 1:5; Col. 1:24 )? These are complex questions.

     I want to explore how Scripture supports praying the imprecatory  Psalms in a personalized way, provided we exhibit a specific attitude. To pray for God to execute his righteous judgment upon evildoers is permissible and in certain ways even useful for believers. My aim here is also, in part, to provide Christians with a biblical account of the impulse we may feel to wish God’s destruction upon persecutors of our brothers and sisters in Christ.

The Psalter and Hermeneutics

     Three brief points on the use of the imprecatory  Psalms in prayer are in order. First, we should guard against overemphasizing the place of these  Psalms in the Christian life. The church is not undertaking the conquest of Canaan. Our mission rather is to care for souls as we take the gospel to all nations ( Matt. 28:19-20 ). We aim to expand and feed the flock, not to eradicate anything that isn’t a sheep. That is the difference between the gospel and Sharia. Praying the imprecatory  Psalms can be useful when done with this caution in mind.

     Secondly, we must recognize that the majority of the Psalter is non-violent. The instances where a psalmist speaks positively of violence are rare indeed. Wherever we do find imprecation in Scripture, it is not triumphalistic or gloating. Instead, it issues from a position of weakness and victimization ( Ps. 35:7; 69:1-3; 109:22-25 ). Imprecation recognizes God as the sole source of deliverance and righteous judgment ( Ps. 59:5; 40:13; 109:27 ). The only one laughing at the wicked is God himself ( Ps. 2:4; 37:13; 59:8 ). Praying the imprecatory  Psalms, then, can be useful when it acknowledges our impotence and participation in the persecuted body of Christ.

     Thirdly, when we pray the imprecatory  Psalms, we do not expect that God will send “the hornet” to exterminate ISIS as he did the Canaanites ( Josh. 24:12; Exod. 23:28 ). On the other hand, we are not necessarily asking God to execute the final judgment that will only come at Christ’s return, either. While that judgment is foreshadowed in these  Psalms —and in the conquest more generally — God can and does intervene in creation as he upholds it. In that sense, he may arrange for the downfall of specific evildoers according to his will even before Christ’s return. God hears and answers the prayers of his people in a variety of ways. On those grounds, the imprecatory  Psalms may be directed at specific evildoers as an expression of our desire for God’s Kingdom on earth today ( Luke 18:6-8 ).

God’s Sovereignty and Our Finitude

     Now, two points on applying the imprecatory  Psalms.

     First, we must recognize God’s sovereignty in acting out his own justice on evil. To be sure, until that judgment, Jesus commands us to love our enemies, to pray for them, even to bless them ( Luke 6:27-28; Rom. 12:20; 1 Pet. 3:9 ). Jesus spoke more about love than bearing the sword ( Matt. 10:34-35; Luke 12:51-53 ). In similar fashion, Paul instructed Christians to “bless and do not curse” our persecutors ( Rom. 12:14 ).

     But this instruction does not prohibit calling evil what it is, and desiring that God deal with it promptly and specifically. We see this most clearly in  Revelation 6:9-10 where the heavenly martyrs call out for justice and vengeance. Theirs is an intensely personal concern: they ask God to avenge “our blood upon those who dwell on earth.” It is important to note that while the heavenly martyrs are issuing a personalized imprecation, it is nevertheless divinely mediated. Their imprecation is qualified by the sovereignty and agency of God himself to answer their prayer.

     Second, we must distinguish between cursing our personal enemies ourselves ( Col. 3:8 ) and calling upon God to curse his enemies. This distinction is evident in  Romans 12:14. While Paul instructs us not to curse others, he does not prohibit asking God to pour out his justice. The distinction is subtle but important. In the former we condemn men on our own terms and make ourselves gods; in the latter we beseech the King and recognize his holiness and our finitude.

     In that sense, when making specific imprecation, we must always balance “Father, save the lost!” with “Father, pour out your wrath upon evil!” The contingency that holds together these two ideas properly submits to God’s sovereignty — his justice and mercy — without assuming that only one of the two options will bring him glory. Paul does not shy away from personal imprecation as he puts this principle to use in  1 Corinthians 16:22: “If anyone has no love for the Lord, then let him be accursed!” (cf.  Gal. 1:8-9 ). As Christians redeemed by Christ, we can simultaneously recognize the forgiveness of our own sin and the fact that sin itself grounds our appeal for God’s judgment.

No Light Matter

     None of this counsel implies that praying imprecatory  Psalms is a light matter. Far from it. As others have pointed out, some consider it a spiritual “nuclear option.”

     Nevertheless, “there is a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace” ( Eccl. 3:8 ). Lord willing, his justice will be meted out, and ISIS and similar perversions of the truth will be snuffed out swiftly and completely. But we may have only seen the beginning of this evil.  While it is a terrible thing to desire God’s judgment to fall upon unrepentant creatures, it is worse still for evil to go unpunished.  For that reason, I pray that Christians will exercise wisdom in their intercession for the persecuted church. As we do so, let us always recognize our own pardon from sin as creatures loved by God, and magnify the sovereignty and justice of the King of heaven and earth.

     William Ross is a doctoral candidate in Old Testament at the University of Cambridge, where his research focuses on the book of Judges. He recently co-authored the Interpretive Lexicon of New Testament Greek (Zondervan, 2014), and blogs regularly at williamaross.wordpress.com. You can follow him on Twitter.

Where Is God in the 'Silence'?

By Dr. William Brown 1/13/17

     Many years ago, I read Shushaku Endo’s novel Silence: A Novel (Picador Classics).” Endo tells the story of two young Portuguese priests who travel to Japan to discover what happened to their mentor, who disappeared during widespread persecution. What they encounter strips them spiritually bare and plunges them into a world of suffering, denial, and despair.

     At the time, “Silence” was disturbing for me. I could not disassociate myself from the story. The Christ I knew and loved was not hidden. He was there, front and center, silent to the suffering of his most passionate children. But in “Silence,” the heroes who placed their lives on the line were filled with doubt and fear. They cried out to God. Where was He? Why was He silent?

     When I finished the book, I threw it across the room. I had to read this book as a seminary assignment and when I finished I did the same thing, lol. The story, as told by Endo, would be absurd, if it were not true. When missionaries arrived in Japan in the mid-16th century, Christianity quickly flourished, with estimates of 300,000 Japanese believers. Almost immediately, local edicts were passed to rid the country of the foreign religion. The Tokugawa shogunate banned Christianity in 1620 and the church went underground. The brutal persecutions continued until the populace was essentially cleansed of Christians.

     Martin Scorsese’s film version of “Silence,” almost three decades in the making, closely follows Endo’s book. Father Sebastiao Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) and Father Francisco Garrpe (Adam Driver) convince their superior to allow them to travel to Japan to discover the truth about their mentor, Father Cristavao Ferreira (Liam Neeson). Rumor has it that he apostatized—denied his faith in Christ—and is no longer serving as a priest. In fact, it is said he has taken a Japanese wife.

     The men are concerned the rumors about his apostasy could damage the belief of many in Portugal, where Ferreira was well-known for his courage and conviction. Naively, Rodrigues and Garrpe think they can uncover the mystery of Ferreira’s fate. If the rumors are true, the two priests could restore Ferreira to faith, or at least mitigate the damage by serving in his stead.

     Leaving the comfortable security of Europe, they arrive in Japan and are plunged into a world of horror. They are met by a small group of believers who hide them from the eyes of those who could report them. The two set about ministering to the Christians, but eventually news of their presence makes its way to the inquisitors. Soon, the Christians they serve are faced with torment and execution.

     The brutality of the persecutions is difficult to watch. Many episodes of torture in the film may rightly be considered redundant, but Scorsese’s passion for the original source is relentless and he conveys it faithfully. The religious environment is pitiless. Anyone found in possession of even the smallest religious trinket is suspect and forced to publicly admit his or her rejection of Christianity by placing a foot on an icon of Christ. If the person refuses, torture and death await.

     The two priests split up and are ultimately captured by the inquisitors. Rodrigues, thinking that he would vindicate his faith by martyrdom, discovers the chief inquisitor never intended to kill him. “We learned from our mistakes,” he tells Rodrigues. “Killing priests only makes them stronger.” When Rodrigues claims the victims around him “didn’t die for nothing,” the inquisitor replies, “No, they died for you.”

     The agony of Rodrigues’s guilt and uncertainty are difficult to bear as he realizes he alone has the power to stop the suffering of others. All he must do is put his foot on the face of Christ.

     Andrew Garfield plays the lead character with surprising depth. His boyish looks and soft voice contrast with the stark suffering and pain he endures, intensifying the sense of despair.

     The outstanding key portrayals of the chief inquisitor (played with almost humorous eccentricity by Issei Ogata) and the constantly confessing Kichijiro (Yôsuke Kubozuka) solidly anchor the film in a believable Japanese culture. The visuals are sometimes mesmerizing, with the South China Sea coast of Japan providing a stunning backdrop for many of the early scenes.

     Scorsese’s passion for Endo’s book makes the film lengthy (two hours and 41 minutes). But he is not giving us a film for popular entertainment. The film has a captivating, almost arthouse cinema atmosphere. Liam Neeson revealed the reverence that accompanied the filming by noting the sets were always quiet even with as many as a hundred crew members actively filming a scene.

     Some critics have complained there was no comforting resolution to all the suffering moviegoers must endure. But that is the point of the story. Scorsese desired to capture the central message of Endo’s work: “It is this painful, paradoxical passage—from certainty to doubt to loneliness to communion—that Endo understands so well, and renders so clearly, carefully and beautifully in Silence.”

     At the end of the book and movie, Christ speaks to Rodrigues: “I understand your pain and your suffering. It is for that reason I am here.” Rodrigues replies, “Lord, I resented your silence.” Christ responds, “I was not silent. I suffered beside you.”

     Endo’s understanding of God comes from a culture grown in the soil of Buddhism, where the first noble truth is “Life is Suffering.” The Buddhist concept of suffering is meant to convey the experience of life in the material world: “dissatisfaction, impermanence and imperfection.” To a culture steeped in this basic belief, the Western Christian refrain, “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life” rings hollow. Instead, Endo’s understanding of God and the message of Christ is “Life is suffering. God came and suffered with us and for us.”

     These points make Scorsese’s “Silence” the antithesis of most contemporary films of faith which tend to follow a “we have problems, God intervenes, problems solved” boilerplate. While this can provide comfort for some, the reality for many Christians around the world is God does not seem to intervene at all. We hear echoes of David’s cry, “How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide you face from me?” (Psalm 13:1) God’s silence can be unsettling and frightening.

     Interestingly, Endo’s first title was not “Silence” but “The Scent of the Sunshine (Hinata no Nioi).” “I did not write a book about the Silence of God,“ he said. “I wrote a book about the voice of God speaking through suffering and silence.”

     “Silence” forces us to think about the quality and even reality of our own faith. Most of us have lived our faith in a world of comfort. Imagine living in a culture where you are forced to watch others suffer unless you deny Christ. How would you respond? Is it really a test of faith to place your foot on a picture of Christ to stop the torture and murder of fellow believers? What if it was your family?

     Peter’s denial of Christ to a young woman seems rather tame compared to the horrific choices Rodrigues faced. We sometimes forget that our faith was forged in the fires of such defeats. “On the night He was betrayed” is how Paul describes the evening of the Last Supper.

     Betrayals and denials are difficult to observe, let alone accept. I think this is why I threw the book across the room. I wanted the book to portray courage and victory, or at least defiance and sacrifice.

     The next day I retrieved the book and dismissively replaced it on the shelf. But I was unable to dismiss the images, the sorrow and, yes, even the hope. I have since read all of Endo’s novels that have been translated into English. Not one of them disappoints. And like them, Scorsese’s masterpiece will cultivate substantive discussions about faith and faithfulness to Christ in our fallen world and renew our hope in His promises.

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     Dr. William Brown is the national director of the Colson Fellows Program and senior fellow of worldview at the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview. A respected leader in Christian higher education, he is former president of Bryan College and Cedarville University.

The Continual Burnt Offering

By H.A. Ironside - 1941

January 15
Leviticus 7:8 And the priest who offers any man’s burnt offering shall have for himself the skin of the burnt offering that he has offered.   ESV

     The priest stood in the place of the Israelite who came to the altar with his burnt offering, all of which went up to God, being consumed in the fire of the altar. But the skin was given to the priest. He was to be dressed in the fleece of the offered victim. God, as it were, wrapped him up in the covering provided by the one who died. It is an Old Testament picture of the New Testament truth that all believers are made the righteousness of God in Christ.

Complete in Thee! No work of mine
May take, O Lord, the place of Thine!
Thy blood has pardon bought for me,
And I am now complete in Thee.
--- A. R. Wolfe

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

The Problem Of The Old Testament

By James Orr 1907

It is possible, however, we believe, on the premises of the critical theory itself, to show that this “teleology” in the history of Israel is not an invented or manipulated thing,—an element which does not inhere naturally in the facts, but a conception unhistorically imported into them,—and to furnish strong reasons for belief in the essential trustworthiness of the narratives. This we shall now attempt to do. We confine attention to the Pentateuch, or Hexateuch, in which most will admit that the crucial part of the problem lies, and limit ourselves, at this stage, to absolutely essential outlines and most general agreements. The full discussion of particular points involved in the theory belongs to later chapters.

We take, then, the history of things that lies before us in our present Pentateuch, and ask what, on the critical theory, is the origin of this book. Setting aside Deuteronomy, commonly assumed to be a composition of the age of Josiah, we have, on the currently-accepted view, three main strands of narrative in the Pentateuch, of which one—the Priestly Writing (P)—is understood, in its present form, and principal contents, to date from the time of the exile, or after. It furnishes the “framework” of the Book of Genesis, and contains, in the middle books, the Levitical legislation, to which the slender thread of narrative and genealogy in the earlier part serves as introduction. It is not supposed to be an independent historical source, but in its narratives—so Wellhausen thinks—presupposes and runs parallel to the other and earlier history books, J and E, by that time united into one. Nothing is lost, therefore, by meanwhile leaving this P portion aside, and confining ourselves to the two older writings. The theory regarding these, in brief, is, that they were originally separate, probably independent productions, extending, with inclusion of the Book of Joshua, to the conquest of Canaan, but latterly were combined with each other into something like the form in which we now find them in the Pentateuch. They are allowed to be works extremely similar in character, and largely parallel in contents; but are marked, the one by the use of the divine name Jehovah, the other by the use of the divine name Elohim (God). Hence the designations J and E applied to them respectively. One of these histories (J) is commonly thought to have originated in the Southern Kingdom of Judah; the other (E) in the Northern Kingdom of Israel. How far they were the fixing of mere oral tradition, or how far they rested on older written material, is a moot question, to which different answers are given. It is further a point in dispute which of these assumed narratives, J or E, is the earlier; but it is agreed that, in the words of Dr. Driver, “both belong to the golden period of Hebrew literature.” The stylistic and other differences between them are slight; whereas both present a strong contrast to P, which is distinguished by marked peculiarities of style and method.

What are the dates of these books? On the current view, we may say roughly, not later in their independent form than the ninth and eighth centuries, or from 850 to 750 B.C.; in combination a century or two later. Dr. Driver may be usefully quoted on this point. “On the relative date of E and J,” he says, “the opinions of critics differ. Dillmann, Kittel, and Riehm assign the priority to E, placing him 900–850 B.C., and J c. 750 (Dillmann), 830–800 (Kittel), or c. 850 (Riehm). Wellhausen, Kuenen, and Stade, on the other hand, assign the priority to J, placing him 850–800 B.C., and E c. 750 B.C.” In a footnote to the first of these sentences, he adds: “So most previous critics, as Nöldeke (J c. 900), Schrader (E 975–950; J 825–800), Kayser (c. 800), Reuss (J 850–800; E ‘perhaps still earlier’).” And in a second note: “H. Schultz, O.T. Theology, i. pp. 66 ff. (J to the reign of Solomon: E 850–800).”

Accepting provisionally this account of the documents, we proceed to inquire what inferences may be deduced from it as to the trustworthiness of the history.

1. And, first, we invite the attention of the reader to the important fact, that, according to the dates given, these writings antecede the age of written prophecy, and embody the traditions which the Israelitish people possessed of its history prior to that age. We do not ask at present whether this tradition was oral, or was already in any degree written. It was there, and these writings are the literary depository of it, in somewhat the same way as the Synoptic Gospels are the records of the oral teaching about Christ in the apostolic age. It is customary to speak of J and E as the reduction to writing of the popular legends of the Israelites about their own past. Be it so: the essential point is that they are at least not histories invented or doctored by prophets in the interests of a later theory of the religious development. The more naïve the consciousness they exhibit, the less can they be regarded as the products of reflective manipulation. In any case they antecede the period of written prophecy. They cannot, therefore, as regards their general character, be reasonably assumed to be influenced, modified, or transformed, by the ideas of that period. Their authors—the unknown J and E—we are entitled to suppose, put faithfully down the tradition as they found it in circulation among their people. They might select according to predilection from the material furnished to them, but they did not consciously falsify or invent. It is a contradiction, in one breath to speak of these writers as giving literary form to the current traditions of their nation, and in another to represent them as elaborating and transforming the narratives to make them the vehicles of the ideas of an age which, on the hypothesis, had not yet come.

It could be wished that critical writers showed themselves a little clearer here as to the implications of their own admissions as to the dates of these J and E narratives. Two representations cross and mingle continually in their pages: one, that the writers of these narratives were simple “collectors of legends,” as Grimm might collect the folktales of Germany; the other, that they were consummate literary artists, altering, embellishing, and idealising their material at pleasure: one, that the narrators are “pre-prophetic,” that is, antecede the age of the great writing prophets, when, we are told, “ethical monotheism” was first introduced; the other, that they were prophetic narrators, instinct with the prophetic spirit, dominated by prophetic ideas, and adepts in recasting their narratives to make them express these ideas. Manifestly the critics cannot have it both ways: on the one hand holding the low views of Wellhausen, Kuenen, and Stade, on the state of people and prophets in “pre-prophetic” Israel, and regarding “pure Jahvism” as the “creation” of Amos and Hosea; and on the other, picturing the ninth and eighth centuries as already penetrated with lofty prophetic ideas, bringing to the birth, and giving exquisite expression to, the elevated conceptions which we find in Genesis and Exodus—writing histories “from the standpoint of redemption.” A choice must be made, and either the books be brought down to an age when prophetic ideas were in the ascendant, which involves the abandonment of the given dates, or the contention be surrendered that these higher ideas first entered with Amos and Hosea. The natural course would seem to be to regard the writings as, indeed, “pre-prophetic” in the sense of anteceding written prophecy, but at the same time as faithfully recording the ancient tradition, in which prophetic ideas were already present.

2. The fact thus conceded of the “pre-prophetic” character of the narratives yields several weighty results.

(1) We deduce from it, first, as just said, that the internal unity and teleological character so conspicuous in these narratives formed an integral part of the tradition, and was not put into it by later prophetic manipulation. It was part of the tradition as early as the ninth century, when at least one of these narratives took written shape. If here, again, anyone is content to think of what he finds in the J and E histories as answering to the idea of loose, popular legend, he must be allowed to retain his opinion, but we cannot share it. Legend does not usually assume this character of depth, coherence, developing purpose; does not embody ideas, transactions, promises, such as we find in these narratives,—the protevangelium, for instance, the call of Abraham, the covenants, the revelations at the Exodus,—containing in them the germs of a long future. If these things are there in a “pre-prophetic” narrative, they clearly formed part of the original tradition, and were not put there by a later prophetic hand.

(2) We deduce, next, that this tradition, at the time of its being written down by J and E, must already have assumed a quite developed and settled form. When we look at the range of this J and E history in the Pentateuchal books—at its rich content, at its well-developed biographies, with their wealth of characterisation, finished dialogue, connection with specified localities and situations, at its articulated unity from beginning to close, it seems clear as day that it is no floating, Protean legend we have to deal with, but a legend—if the critic will have it so—already firmly fixed in outline and in the bulk of its contents, already clothed with flesh and blood, already as definite in substance, if not in form, as a written narrative itself could be. The loose way in which many speak of J and E giving literary shape to floating, popular legends, as one might write down countryside fairy tales, shows that they have never clearly apprehended what kind of history this in the JE narrative is, or what it is needful to presuppose as the condition of such a history being there to write. If the ideas in these writings were elaborated in any early prophetic workshop, how profoundly spiritual, how deep-seeing, the minds in that workshop must have been! How explain the presence, or prevalence, of such ideas in the age of Elijah and Elisha, on Wellhausen’s theory of the religious development and of the state of the prophetic orders?

(3) There is a yet weightier consideration—one based directly on the critical hypothesis—which we do not see how anyone can easily get over. It is the fact that, on this theory, we have not one only, but two histories of early times to reckon with. Here, as the critics tell us, are two lengthy and practically independent histories, one emanating from the South, the other from the North, at a time when (on the hypothesis) the kingdoms were already divided, and separate in interests. Both cover the same ground, and give the history of the people for the same period. But now comes the startling thing about them, that, while two in authorship, place of writing, and perhaps tendency, these histories are, in nearly every other respect, almost identical. The substance of the narrative is the same, or varies only in trifling details. They record the same incidents, follow nearly the same order, tell their story in almost the same language. They are parallel narratives in the fullest sense. The proof of this lies in the fact that, on the critical view, these narratives have subsequently been combined, and in the union, not only is sometimes the section of one, sometimes the section of another, taken into the record, but in many chapters the two narratives are blended line by line, clause by clause, with such minuteness, somewhat after the fashion of a Harmony of the Gospels, or are so completely fused together, that the keen-scented critics often declare themselves baffled to separate them, and differ widely in their attempts to do so. The reader has only to examine the analysis offered of such chapters as Gen. 27; 28; 30; 37, to be convinced of the truth of what we state.

So striking a class of phenomena naturally suggests the question whether we are really dealing with two documents at all. Keeping, however, meanwhile to the critical hypothesis as given, we ask—What follows from it? Two things very plainly. In the first place, such phenomena put an effective check on any theorist who would contend that the J and E writers did not, as we have supposed, faithfully reproduce the tradition, but wrought it up artistically in a new form of their own, as Shakespeare might work up the old stories of Macbeth or King Lear, or Tennyson the legends of King Arthur. If that were admissible for one writer, it plainly would not be admissible for two, working independently. The fact that two writers—one Northern, the other Southern—give the same cycle of stories in much the same way, is proof that both are reproducing, not inventing. But, second, it proves also the truth of what has been said above of the fixed character of the tradition. Here, ex hypothesi, we have two writers setting down the traditions current in their respective localities and circles; and these, when compared, are found to be, in the words of Klostermann, “throughout parallel.” The slight discrepancies that are alleged are quite outweighed by the substantial agreement. Criticism, therefore, if its division of these documents could be trusted, would furnish us with a powerful corroboration of the genuineness and fixed character of the tradition at a period not later than the ninth century B.C. It would give us two witnesses instead of one.

     The Problem of the Old Testament

The Polyglots

By Gleason Archer Jr.

     A word should be said about the great polyglots which began to appear about the time of the Reformation. The polyglots were elaborate and expensive printed editions in which the Hebrew text and all of the available ancient versions were printed in parallel columns.

     1. The Complutensian Polyglot was the earliest (so named from Complutum, or Alcala, in Spain, where it was prepared). It came out under the auspices of Cardinal Ximenes and was published under the papal sanction in 1522 (although it had already been run off the press in 1514–1517). The Old Testament portion appeared in the first of its six volumes.

     2. The Antwerp Polyglot (under the patronage of Philip II of Spain) came out in 1569–1572 in eight volumes. It added to the contents of the Complutensian Polyglot the Targum of Jonathan on the prophets and also a Targum on the Hagiographa.

     3. The Paris Polyglot, which appeared in 1645, followed the text of the Antwerp Edition, but added also the Samaritan Pentateuch and Samaritan Aramaic Version, the Peshitta, and an Arabic version.

     4. The London Polyglot added to all of this the Itala, an Ethiopic version of Psalms and Song of Solomon, and the Apocrypha (in Greek, Latin, Syriac, and Arabic), the Targum of Psuedo-Jonathan on the Pentateuch, and even a Persian version. It was edited in six volumes by Bishop Brian Walton in 1656–1657.

     A Survey of Old Testament Introduction

The Institutes of the Christian Religion

Translated by Henry Beveridge

     CHAPTER 6.


The parts of this chapter are, I. The excellence of the doctrine of Christ the Redeemer--a doctrine always entertained by the Church, sec. 1. II. Christ, the Mediator in both dispensations, was offered to the faith of the pious Israelites and people of old, as is plain from the institution of sacrifice, the calling of Abraham's family, and the elevation of David and his posterity, sec. 2. III. Hence the consolation, strength, hope, and confidence of the godly under the Law, Christ being offered to them in various ways by their heavenly Father.


1. The knowledge of God the Creator of no avail without faith in Christ the Redeemer. First reason. Second reason strengthened by the testimony of an Apostle. Conclusion. This doctrine entertained by the children of God in all ages from the beginning of the world. Error of throwing open heaven to the heathen, who know nothing of Christ. The pretexts for this refuted by passages of Scripture.

2. God never was propitious to the ancient Israelites without Christ the Mediator. First reason founded on the institution of sacrifice. Second reason founded on the calling of Abraham. Third reason founded on the elevation of David's family to regal dignity, and confirmed by striking passages of Scripture.

3. Christ the solace ever promised to the afflicted; the banner of faith and hope always erected. This confirmed by various passages of Scripture.

4. The Jews taught to have respect to Christ. This teaching sanctioned by our Saviour himself. The common saying, that God is the object of faith, requires to be explained and modified. Conclusion of this discussion concerning Christ. No saving knowledge of God in the heathen.

1. The whole human race having been undone in the person of Adam, the excellence and dignity of our origin, as already described, is so far from availing us, that it rather turns to our greater disgrace, until God, who does not acknowledge man when defiled and corrupted by sin as his own work, appear as a Redeemer in the person of his only begotten Son. Since our fall from life unto death, all that knowledge of God the Creator, of which we have discoursed, would be useless, were it not followed up by faith, holding forth God to us as a Father in Christ. The natural course undoubtedly was, that the fabric of the world should be a school in which we might learn piety, and from it pass to eternal life and perfect felicity. But after looking at the perfection beheld wherever we turn our eye, above and below, we are met by the divine malediction, which, while it involves innocent creatures in our fault, of necessity fills our own souls with despair. For although God is still pleased in many ways to manifest his paternal favour towards us, we cannot, from a mere survey of the world, infer that he is a Father. Conscience urging us within, and showing that sin is a just ground for our being forsaken, will not allow us to think that God accounts or treats us as sons. In addition to this are our sloth and ingratitude. Our minds are so blinded that they cannot perceive the truth, and all our senses are so corrupt that we wickedly rob God of his glory. Wherefore, we must conclude with Paul, "After that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe," (1 Cor. 1:21). By the "wisdom of God," he designates this magnificent theatre of heaven and earth replenished with numberless wonders, the wise contemplation of which should have enabled us to know God. But this we do with little profit; and, therefore, he invites us to faith in Christ,--faith which, by a semblance of foolishness, disgusts the unbeliever. Therefore, although the preaching of the cross is not in accordance with human wisdom, we must, however, humbly embrace it if we would return to God our Maker, from whom we are estranged, that he may again become our Father. It is certain that after the fall of our first parent, no knowledge of God without a Mediator was effectual to salvation. Christ speaks not of his own age merely, but embraces all ages, when he says "This is life eternal that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent," (John 17:3). The more shameful therefore is the presumption of those who throw heaven open to the unbelieving and profane, in the absence of that grace which Scripture uniformly describes as the only door by which we enter into life. Should any confine our Saviour's words to the period subsequent to the promulgation of the Gospel, the refutation is at hand; since on a ground common to all ages and nations, it is declared, that those who are estranged from God, and as such, are under the curse, the children of wrath, cannot be pleasing to God until they are reconciled. To this we may add the answer which our Saviour gave to the Samaritan woman "Ye worship ye know not what; we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews," (John 4:22). By these words, he both charges every Gentile religion with falsehood, and assigns the reason--viz. that under the Law the Redeemer was promised to the chosen people only, and that, consequently, no worship was ever pleasing to God in which respect was not had to Christ. Hence also Paul affirms, that all the Gentiles were "without God," and deprived of the hope of life. Now, since John teaches that there was life in Christ from the beginning, and that the whole world had lost it (John 1:4), it is necessary to return to that fountain; And, accordingly, Christ declares that inasmuch as he is a propitiator, he is life. And, indeed, the inheritance of heaven belongs to none but the sons of God (John 15:6). Now, it were most incongruous to give the place and rank of sons to any who have not been engrafted into the body of the only begotten Son. And John distinctly testifies that those become the sons of God who believe in his name. But as it is not my intention at present formally to discuss the subject of faith in Christ, it is enough to have thus touched on it in passing.

2. Hence it is that God never showed himself propitious to his ancient people, nor gave them any hope of grace without a Mediator. I say nothing of the sacrifices of the Law, by which believers were plainly and openly taught that salvation was not to be found anywhere but in the expiation which Christ alone completed. All I maintain is that the prosperous and happy state of the Church was always founded in the person of Christ. For although God embraced the whole posterity of Abraham in his covenant, yet Paul properly argues (Gal. 3:16), that Christ was truly the seed in which all the nations of the earth were to be blessed, since we know that all who were born of Abraham, according to the flesh, were not accounted the seed. To omit Ishmael and others, how came it that of the two sons of Isaac, the twin brothers, Esau and Jacob, while yet in the womb, the one was chosen and the other rejected? Nay, how came it that the first-born was rejected, and the younger alone admitted? Moreover, how happens it that the majority are rejected? It is plain, therefore, that the seed of Abraham is considered chiefly in one head, and that the promised salvation is not attained without coming to Christ, whose office it is to gather together those which were scattered abroad. Thus the primary adoption of the chosen people depended on the grace of the Mediator. Although it is not expressed in very distinct terms in Moses, it, however, appears to have been commonly known to all the godly. For before a king was appointed over the Israelites, Hannah, the mother of Samuel, describing the happiness of the righteous, speaks thus in her song, "He shall give strength unto his king, and exalt the horn of his anointed;" meaning by these words, that God would bless his Church. To this corresponds the prediction, which is afterwards added, "I will raise me up a faithful priest, and he shall walk before mine anointed for ever," (1 Sam. 2:10, 35). And there can be no doubt that our heavenly Father intended that a living image of Christ should be seen in David and his posterity. Accordingly, exhorting the righteous to fear Him, he bids them "Kiss the Son," (Psalm 2:12). Corresponding to this is the passage in the Gospel, "He that honoureth not the Son, honoureth not the Father," (John 5:23). Therefore, though the kingdom was broken up by the revolt of the ten tribes, yet the covenant which God had made in David and his successors behaved to stand, as is also declared by his Prophets, "Howbeit I will not take the whole kingdom out of his hand: but I will make him prince all the days of his life for David my servant's sake," (1 Kings 11:34). The same thing is repeated a second and third time. It is also expressly said, "I will for this afflict the seed of David, but not for ever," (1 Kings 11:39). Some time afterwards it was said, "Nevertheless, for David's sake did the Lord his God give him a lamp in Jerusalem, to set up his son after him, and to establish Jerusalem," (1 Kings 15:4). And when matters were bordering on destruction, it was again said, "Yet the Lord would not destroy Judah for David his servant's sake, as he had promised to give him alway a light, and to his children," (2 Kings 8:19).

The sum of the whole comes to this--David, all others being excluded, was chosen to be the person in whom the good pleasure of the Lord should dwell; as it is said elsewhere, "He forsook the tabernacle of Shiloh;" "Moreover, he refused the tabernacle of Joseph, and chose not the tribe of Ephraim;" "But chose the tribe of Judah, the mount Zion which he loved;" "He chose David also his servant, and took him from the sheep folds: from following the ewes great with young he brought him to feed Jacob his people, and Israel his inheritance," (Ps. 78:60, 67, 70, 71). In fine, God, in thus preserving his Church, intended that its security and salvation should depend on Christ as its head. Accordingly, David exclaims, "The Lord is their strength, and he is the saving strength of his anointed;" and then prays "Save thy people, and bless thine inheritance;" intimating, that the safety of the Church was indissolubly connected with the government of Christ. In the same sense he elsewhere says, "Save, Lord: let the king hear us when we call," (Ps. 20:9). These words plainly teach that believers, in applying for the help of God, had their sole confidence in this--that they were under the unseen government of the King. This may be inferred from another psalm, "Save now, I beseech thee O Lord: Blessed be he that cometh in the name of the Lord," (Ps. 118:25, 26). Here it is obvious that believers are invited to Christ, in the assurance that they will be safe when entirely in his hand. To the same effect is another prayer, in which the whole Church implores the divine mercy "Let thy hand be upon the Man of thy right hand, upon the Son of man, whom thou madest strong (or best fitted) for thyself," (Ps. 80:17). For though the author of the psalm laments the dispersion of the whole nations he prays for its revival in him who is sole Head. After the people were led away into captivity, the land laid waste, and matters to appearance desperate, Jeremiah, lamenting the calamity of the Church, especially complains, that by the destruction of the kingdom the hope of believers was cut off; "The breath of our nostrils, the anointed of the Lord, was taken in their pits, of whom we said, Under his shadow we shall live among the heathen," (Lam. 4:20). From all this it is abundantly plain, that as the Lord cannot be propitious to the human race without a Mediator, Christ was always held forth to the holy Fathers under the Law as the object of their faith.

     Christian Classics Ethereal Library / Public Domain

     Institutes of the Christian Religion

  • Free Will?
  • God Has More For You
  • The Hebrew Republic

Jeffrey Tlumak   Vanderbilt University


#2 Joshua Fredenburg   Biola University


#3 Bernard Avishai   Vanderbilt University


     Devotionals, notes, poetry and more

UCB The Word For Today
     Give God your ‘firstfruits’
     1/15/2018    Bob Gass

     ‘Honour the LORD with…the firstfruits of all your increase.’

(Pr 3:9) 9  Honor the LORD with your wealth
and with the firstfruits of all your produce;

     Solomon writes: ‘Honour the LORD with your possessions, and with the firstfruits of all your increase; so your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will overflow with new wine’ (vv. 9-10 NKJV). The people who heard these words lived off their land and their livestock. Whenever they reaped a harvest or birthed new cattle, they’d take the first sheaf or the firstborn calf to the temple and offer it to the Lord. These were called ‘firstfruits’. By doing this they acknowledged that ‘everything I have comes from God, and belongs to God. And everything I’ll need for the future depends upon God’s goodness to me’. There’s not a more important money management principle you’ll ever hear than this: give God your ‘firstfruits’, not your leftovers! Businessman Arthur DeMoss was a spiritual giant and benefactor who gave millions to God’s work and left behind a foundation to carry on his legacy. Mr DeMoss said that to be successful you should give God the first dime out of every dollar, the first hour out of every day, and the first day out of every week. You ask, ‘Does that mean God won’t love me if I don’t tithe?’ No; you can’t do anything to earn God’s love. However, giving our tithe willingly demonstrates our obedience and love for God.

Genesis 31-32
Matthew 9:18-38

UCB The Word For Today

Scripture - Inspired
     January 15, 2016

     It helps, in all this, to remind ourselves constantly what the Bible is given to us for. One of the most famous statements of “inspiration” in the Bible itself puts it like this: “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16–17 ). Equipped for every good work; there’s the point. The Bible is breathed out by God (the word for “inspired” in this case is theopneustos—literally, “God-breathed”) so that it can fashion and form God’s people to do his work in the world. --- N. T. Wright

     Theologians speak of inspiration as the mysterious process by which God worked through the authors of Scripture to produce inerrant and divinely authoritative writings. Inspiration is a mystery because Scripture doesn't explain specifically how it occurred. The only glimpse we have is from 2 Peter: "Know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God" (1:20-21).

     "Interpretation" speaks of origin. Scripture didn't originate on the human level but with the Holy Spirit, who "moved" upon the authors to write it (v. 21). "Moved" is the translation of a nautical term that describes the effects of wind upon a ship as it blows against its sails and moves it through the water. Similarly, the Spirit moved on the Biblical writers to produce the Word of God in the language of men.

     The human authors of Scripture knew they were writing God's Word, and they did so with confidence and authority. Often they cited or alluded to one another as authoritative agents of divine revelation (e.g., 2 Peter 3:15-16).

     On a personal level, inspiration guarantees that what Scripture says, God says. It's His counsel to you; so you can study and obey it with full assurance that it is true and will never lead you astray.

     For further study, consider this: Often the New Testament affirms the inspiration of the Old Testament by attributing Old Testament quotations to God Himself. For example, compare these Old Testament passages with their New Testament counterparts: Genesis 2:24 with Matthew 19:4-5; Psalm 2:1-2 with Acts 4:25-26; Isaiah 55:3 with Acts 13:34; Psalm 16:10 with Acts 13:35; Psalm 95:7-11 with Hebrews 3:7-11. How might you respond to someone who says that the Bible is merely the words of devout religious men?

     Adapted from Drawing Near: Daily Readings for a Deeper Faith

Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense

American Minute
     by Bill Federer

     Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. was born this day, January 15, 1929. A Baptist minister, like his father and grandfather, he pastored Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, and Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, before forming the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Reverend King wrote: “I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers…. I stand in the middle of two opposing forces… One is a force of complacency…. the other force is one of bitterness and hatred… expressed in… Elijah Muhammad’s Muslim movement…. I have tried to stand between these two forces… for there is the more excellent way of love.”

American Minute

A Testament Of Devotion
     Thomas R. Kelly

     A son, Richard Kelly had been born in Hawaii in February 1936. In March of that year Thomas Kelly was invited to join the philosophy department at Haverford College, to replace D. Elton Trueblood who had been called to be chaplain and Professor of the Philosophy of Religion at Stanford University. The offer was attractive. Thomas Kelly did not conceal his high opinion of Haverford College as he wrote Professor A. L. Gillett that “They go in for training young men of exceptionally promising ability and intellect … Their standards are high, blisteringly high."

     In spite of its cutting short his plan of Eastern studies, he accepted. For all of Hawaii's glorying in its climate, it had brought him nothing but miserable health. This was not new to him, for in the last years at Earlham he had paid the toll of his strenuous application. In the winter of 1933-34 he suffered severe attacks of kidney stones, and in January 1935 he was stricken with a siege of severe nervous exhaustion. During the whole late winter and spring of 1935, he got out of bed only to go to his classes and returned at once to rest again. Hawaii was to have restored him, but instead he developed an ugly sinus condition that necessitated an operation and he wrote to Professor A.L. Gillett about "being engaged in supporting the doctor. He has already well-nigh X-rayed me into the relief lines and heaven only knows what it will be in the long run."

A Testament of Devotion

Lean Into God
     Compilation by RickAdams7

Hunting God
is a great adventure.
--- Marie DeFloris

I imagined I was secure and I knew nothing of the eternal judgment passed on me in heaven, until I saw that the eternal Son of God took mercy on me, stepped forward and offered himself on my behalf in the same judgment. Ah, it does not become me still to play and remain secure when such earnestness is behind those sufferings.
--- Saint Bernard
Prayer is not overcoming God's reluctance,
but laying hold of His willingness.
--- Martin Luther
We can say 'Peace on Earth,' we can sing about it, preach about it or pray about it, but if we have not internalized the mythology to make it happen inside us, then it will not be.
--- Betty Shabazz

... from here, there and everywhere

Proverbs 3:21-24
     by D.H. Stern

21     My son, don’t let these slip from your sight;
preserve common sense and discretion;
22     they will be life for your being
and grace for your neck.
23     Then you will walk your way securely,
without hurting your foot.
24     When you lie down, you will not be afraid;
when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.

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 you walk in white?

     Buried with Him … that … even so we also should walk in newness of life. ---
Romans 6:4.

     No one enters into the experience of entire sanctification without going through a ‘white funeral’—the burial of the old life. If there has never been this crisis of death, sanctification is nothing more than a vision. There must be a ‘white funeral,’ a death that has only one resurrection — a resurrection into the life of Jesus Christ. Nothing can upset such a life; it is one with God for one purpose, to be a witness to Him.

     Have you come to your last days really? You have come to them often in sentiment, but have you come to them really? You cannot go to your funeral in excitement, or die in excitement. Death means that you stop being. Do you agree with God that you stop being the striving, earnest kind of Christian you have been? We skirt the cemetery and all the time refuse to go to death. It is not striving to go to death, it is dying — “baptized into His death.”

     Have you had your ‘white funeral,’ or are you sacredly playing the fool with your soul? Is there a place in your life marked as the last day, a place to which the memory goes back with a chastened and extraordinarily grateful remembrance — ‘Yes, it was then, at that “white funeral,” that I made an agreement with God’?

     “This is the will of God, even your sanctification.” When you realize what the will of God is, you will enter into sanctification as naturally as can be. Are you willing to go through that ‘white funeral’ now? Do you agree with Him that this is your last day on earth? The moment of agreement depends upon you.

My Utmost for His Highest

     the Poetry of RS Thomas


We agreed
  it was terrible.
  One with a gift
  of words multiplied
  comparisons, as when two
  mirrors reflect one another.
  It remained unique.
  Sometimes awaking
  in moonlight, I imagined
  it chemically composed.
  But beyond was the dark
  seeping from it as from a spilt mind.
  Was it a nervous system
  with stars firing
  at the synapses? It had no
  place, yet the thought came
  that if it should move
  we would burn or freeze.
  The scientists breach
  themselves with their Caesarian
  births, and we blame them for it.
  What shall we do
  with the knowledge growing
  into a tree that to shelter
  under is to be lightning struck?

The Poems of R.S. Thomas

Take Heart
     January 15

     [Nothing] will… separate us from the love of God. --- Romans 8:38.

     In his enumeration of things that might dim the love of God to us, the apostle mentions things present. (Highways of the Heart (Morrison Classic Sermon Series, The) ) By things present he means the events and trials of the present day. The task in which we are presently engaged, the duties of the common day, the multitude of things we must get through before bed—these are apt to blind us to the great realities and to separate us from the love of God in Christ.

     That separating power arises from the exceeding nearness of things present. Things that are very near command our vision and often lead to erroneous perspective. Each day brings its round of present duties. They absorb us, commanding every energy and, so doing, may blind us. In busy lives where near things tyrannize, we all require moments of withdrawal. To halt a moment and just to say, “God loves me,” to halt a moment and say, “God is here,” is a secret to mastering the separating power of things present.

     Another element in that separating power is the difficulty of understanding present things. It is always easier to understand yesterday than to grasp the meaning of today. We begin to understand our past, its trials, its disappointments, and its illnesses, but such things are very hard to understand in their actual moment, and it is that, the difficulty of reading love in the dark characters of present things, which constitutes their separating power.

     Another element of the separating power is found in the distraction of things present. “Life isn’t a little bundle of big things: it’s a big bundle of little things.” What things escape us in our unending busyness! Peace and joy and self-control and the serenity that ought to mark the Christian. And sometimes that is lost which to lose is the tragedy of tragedies—the sense and certainty of love divine.

     Of spiritual victory over present things, the one perfect example is our Lord. Never doubting the love of God in his darkest hour, through broken days, through never-ending calls, when there was not leisure so much as to eat, he mastered the separating power of things present. Do not forget he did all that for us. His victories were all achieved for us. In a deep sense we do not win our victories—we appropriate the victories of Christ.
--- George H. Morrison

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

On This Day   January 15
     God’s Handwriting

     Missionaries Dick and Margaret Hillis found themselves caught in China during the Japanese invasion. The couple lived with their two children in the inland town of Shenkiu. The village was tense with fear, for every day brought terrifying reports of the Japanese advance. At the worst possible time, Dick developed appendicitis, and he knew his life depended on making the long journey by ricksha to the hospital. On January 15, 1941, with deep foreboding, Margaret watched him leave.

     Soon the Chinese colonel came with news. The enemy was near and townspeople must evacuate. Margaret shivered, knowing that one-year-old Johnny and two-month-old Margaret Anne would never survive as refugees. So she stayed put. Early next Morning she tore the page from the wall calendar and read the new day’s Scripture. It was
Psalm 56:3 — What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee.

     The town emptied during the day, and next Morning Margaret arose, feeling abandoned. The new verse on the calendar was
Psalm 9:10 — Thou, Lord, hast not forsaken them that seek thee.

     The next Morning she arose to distant sounds of gunfire and worried about food for her children. The calendar verse was
Genesis 50:21 — I will nourish you and your little ones. An old woman suddenly popped in with a pail of steaming goat’s milk, and another straggler arrived with a basket of eggs.

     Through the day, sounds of warfare grew louder, and during the night Margaret prayed for deliverance. The next Morning she tore the page from the calendar to read
Psalm 56:9 — When I cry unto Thee, then shall my enemies turn back. The battle was looming closer, and Margaret didn’t go to bed that night. Invasion seemed imminent. But the next Morning, all was quiet. Suddenly, villagers began returning to their homes, and the colonel knocked on her door. For some reason, he told her, the Japanese had withdrawn their troops. No one could understand it, but the danger had passed. They were safe.

     Margaret glanced at her wall calendar and felt she had been reading the handwriting of God.

     When I pray, LORD God, my enemies will retreat, because I know for certain that you are with me. I praise your promises! I trust and am not afraid. No one can harm me.
Psalm 56:9-11.

On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes
Morning and Evening
     Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON

          Morning - January 15

     “Do as thou hast said." --- 2 Samuel 7:25.

     God’s promises were never meant to be thrown aside as waste paper; he intended that they should be used. God’s gold is not miser’s money, but is minted to be traded with. Nothing pleases our Lord better than to see his promises put in circulation; he loves to see his children bring them up to him, and say, “Lord, do as thou hast said.” We glorify God when we plead his promises. Do you think that God will be any the poorer for giving you the riches he has promised? Do you dream that he will be any the less holy for giving holiness to you? Do you imagine he will be any the less pure for washing you from your sins? He has said “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” Faith lays hold upon the promise of pardon, and it does not delay, saying, “This is a precious promise, I wonder if it be true?” but it goes straight to the throne with it, and pleads, “Lord, here is the promise, ‘Do as thou hast said.’ ” Our Lord replies, “Be it unto thee even as thou wilt.” When a Christian grasps a promise, if he does not take it to God, he dishonours him; but when he hastens to the throne of grace, and cries, “Lord, I have nothing to recommend me but this, ‘Thou hast said it;’ ” then his desire shall be granted. Our heavenly Banker delights to cash his own notes. Never let the promise rust. Draw the word of promise out of its scabbard, and use it with holy violence. Think not that God will be troubled by your importunately reminding him of his promises. He loves to hear the loud outcries of needy souls. It is his delight to bestow favours. He is more ready to hear than you are to ask. The sun is not weary of shining, nor the fountain of flowing. It is God’s nature to keep his promises; therefore go at once to the throne with “Do as thou hast said.”

          Evening - January 15

     “But I give myself unto prayer.” --- Psalm 109:4.

     Lying tongues were busy against the reputation of David, but he did not defend himself; he moved the case into a higher court, and pleaded before the great King himself. Prayer is the safest method of replying to words of hatred. The Psalmist prayed in no cold-hearted manner, he gave himself to the exercise—threw his whole soul and heart into it—straining every sinew and muscle, as Jacob did when wrestling with the angel. Thus, and thus only, shall any of us speed at the throne of grace. As a shadow has no power because there is no substance in it, even so that supplication, in which a man’s proper self is not thoroughly present in agonizing earnestness and vehement desire, is utterly ineffectual, for it lacks that which would give it force. “Fervent prayer,” says an old divine, “like a cannon planted at the gates of heaven, makes them fly open.” The common fault with the most of us is our readiness to yield to distractions. Our thoughts go roving hither and thither, and we make little progress towards our desired end. Like quicksilver our mind will not hold together, but rolls off this way and that. How great an evil this is! It injures us, and what is worse, it insults our God. What should we think of a petitioner, if, while having an audience with a prince, he should be playing with a feather or catching a fly?

     Continuance and perseverance are intended in the expression of our text. David did not cry once, and then relapse into silence; his holy clamour was continued till it brought down the blessing. Prayer must not be our chance work, but our daily business, our habit and vocation. As artists give themselves to their models, and poets to their classical pursuits, so must we addict ourselves to prayer. We must be immersed in prayer as in our element, and so pray without ceasing. Lord, teach us so to pray that we may be more and more prevalent in supplication.

Morning and Evening
Amazing Grace
     January 15


     Words and Music by George A. Young, 19th century

     You guide me with Your counsel, and afterward You will take me into glory. Whom have I in heaven but You? And being with You, I desire nothing on earth. (Psalm 73:24, 25 KJV)

     The more clearly we see the sovereignty of God and depend on His providential care, the less perplexed we will be by life’s calamities.

     He does not lead me year by year, nor even day by day;
     But step by step my path unfolds; my Lord directs the way.
--- Unknown

     The author and composer of “God Leads Us Along” was an obscure preacher and carpenter who spent a lifetime humbly serving God in small rural areas. Often the salary was meager and life was difficult for his family. Through it all, however, George Young and his wife never wavered in their loyalty to God and His service.

     The story is told that after much struggle and effort, the George Young family was finally able to move into their own small home, which they had built themselves. Their joy seemed complete. But then, while Young was away holding meetings in another area, hoodlums who disliked the preacher’s Gospel message set fire to the house, leaving nothing but a heap of ashes. It is thought that out of that tragic experience, George Young completed this hymn, which reaffirms so well the words of Job 35:10: “God my Maker, who gives songs in the night.” The words of this hymn have since been a source of great comfort and encouragement to countless numbers of God’s people as they experienced the “night” times of their lives:

     In shady, green pastures, so rich and so sweet, God leads His dear children along; where the water’s cool flow bathes the weary one’s feet, God leads His dear children along.
     Sometimes on the mount where the sun shines so bright, God leads His dear children along; sometimes in the valley, in the darkest of night, God leads His dear children along.
     Tho sorrows befall us and Satan oppose, God leads His dear children along; thru grace we can conquer, defeat all our foes, God leads His dear children along.
     Chorus: Some thru the waters, some thru the flood, some thru the fire, but all thru the blood; some thru great sorrow, but God gives a song, in the night season and all the day long.

     For Today: Deuteronomy 1:30, 33; Joshua 3:4; Isaiah 58:11; Matthew 6:34.

     Determine for this day and for this new year to trust God more fully—regardless of the circumstances that may come your way. Sing this musical truth as a helpful reminder ---

Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
     Alistair Begg

Pt 1

Pt 2

Pt 3

     Alistair Begg

Pt 1

Pt 2

Genesis 43-45
     Dr. Andy Woods


Video to come, God willing, at future date


Video to come, God willing, at future date


Video to come, God willing, at future date


Video to come, God willing, at future date


Video to come, God willing, at future date


Video to come, God willing, at future date


Video to come, God willing, at future date


Video to come, God willing, at future date


Video to come, God willing, at future date


Video to come, God willing, at future date

Dr. Andrew Woods of Sugar Land Bible Church
Genesis 43-45
     Jon Courson

Genesis 45:26-28
The Wagons Are Coming
Jon Courson

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Genesis 43-44
Jon Courson

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Genesis 45
Jon Courson

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Genesis 43-48
Jon Courson

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Jon Courson

Genesis 43-45
     Skip Heitzig

Genesis 43:1-44:17
Calvary Chapel NM

Genesis 44:18-45:28
Calvary Chapel NM

Skip Heitzig | Calvary Chapel NM

Genesis 43-45
     Paul LeBoutillier

Genesis 44-45
Joseph Tests His Brothers
10-17-2012 | Paul LeBoutillier

Paul LeBoutillier | Calvary Chapel Ontario, Oregon

Genesis 43-45
     Brett Meador | Athey Creek

Joseph's Revelation Genesis 45:1-8
s2-028 | 5-25-2014

Genesis 43:1-45:24
m2-027 | 5-28-2014

Genesis 47:8-10, 45:25-28
The Ultimate Pessimists
2-029 | 6-01-2014

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