Cain and AbelGenesis 4 1 Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have gotten a man with the help of the LORD.” 2 And again, she bore his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a worker of the ground. 3 In the course of time Cain brought to the LORD an offering of the fruit of the ground, 4 and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and his offering, 5 but for Cain and his offering he had no regard.
One reason (as the Jews say) why God accepted not the offering of Cain was, because he brought the meanest, not the best of the fruit; and therefore, it is said, only that he brought of the “fruit” of the ground, not the first of the fruit, or the best of the fruit, as Abel, who brought the “firstling” of his flock, and the fat thereof. The Existence and Attributes of GodSo Cain was very angry, and his face fell. 6 The LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? 7 If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it.”
8 Cain spoke to Abel his brother. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him. 9 Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” 10 And the LORD said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground. 11 And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. 12 When you work the ground, it shall no longer yield to you its strength. You shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth.” 13 Cain said to the LORD, “My punishment is greater than I can bear. 14 Behold, you have driven me today away from the ground, and from your face I shall be hidden. I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.” 15 Then the LORD said to him, “Not so! If anyone kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.” And the LORD put a mark on Cain, lest any who found him should attack him. 16 Then Cain went away from the presence of the LORD and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden.
Not to worship him with our spirits,
is against his law of creation:
not to worship him at all,
is against his act of creation;
not to worship him in truth,
not to worship him at all,
whereby we render ourselves worse than the worms in the earth,
or a toad in a ditch. The Existence and Attributes of God
“Adah and Zillah, hear my voice;
you wives of Lamech, listen to what I say:
I have killed a man for wounding me,
a young man for striking me.
24 If Cain’s revenge is sevenfold,
then Lamech’s is seventy-sevenfold.”
Adam’s Descendants to Noah
Genesis 5 1 This is the book of the generations of Adam. When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. 2 Male and female he created them, and he blessed them and named them Man when they were created. 3 When Adam had lived 130 years, he fathered a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth. 4 The days of Adam after he fathered Seth were 800 years; and he had other sons and daughters. 5 Thus all the days that Adam lived were 930 years, and he died.
6 When Seth had lived 105 years, he fathered Enosh. 7 Seth lived after he fathered Enosh 807 years and had other sons and daughters. 8 Thus all the days of Seth were 912 years, and he died.
9 When Enosh had lived 90 years, he fathered Kenan. 10 Enosh lived after he fathered Kenan 815 years and had other sons and daughters. 11 Thus all the days of Enosh were 905 years, and he died.
12 When Kenan had lived 70 years, he fathered Mahalalel. 13 Kenan lived after he fathered Mahalalel 840 years and had other sons and daughters. 14 Thus all the days of Kenan were 910 years, and he died.
15 When Mahalalel had lived 65 years, he fathered Jared. 16 Mahalalel lived after he fathered Jared 830 years and had other sons and daughters. 17 Thus all the days of Mahalalel were 895 years, and he died.
18 When Jared had lived 162 years, he fathered Enoch. 19 Jared lived after he fathered Enoch 800 years and had other sons and daughters. 20 Thus all the days of Jared were 962 years, and he died.
21 When Enoch had lived 65 years, he fathered Methuselah. 22 Enoch walked with God after he fathered Methuselah 300 years and had other sons and daughters. 23 Thus all the days of Enoch were 365 years. 24 Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him.
25 When Methuselah had lived 187 years, he fathered Lamech. 26 Methuselah lived after he fathered Lamech 782 years and had other sons and daughters. 27 Thus all the days of Methuselah were 969 years, and he died.
28 When Lamech had lived 182 years, he fathered a son 29 and called his name Noah, saying, “Out of the ground that the LORD has cursed, this one shall bring us relief from our work and from the painful toil of our hands.” 30 Lamech lived after he fathered Noah 595 years and had other sons and daughters. 31 Thus all the days of Lamech were 777 years, and he died.
32 After Noah was 500 years old, Noah fathered Shem, Ham, and Japheth.
Increasing Corruption on Earth
Genesis 6 1 When man began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them, 2 the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose. 3 Then the LORD said, “My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.” 4 The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown.
5 The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. 6 And the LORD regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. 7 So the LORD said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.” 8 But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD.
Noah and the Flood9 These are the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God. 10 And Noah had three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth. 11 Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. 12 And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth. 13 And God said to Noah, “I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them. Behold, I will destroy them with the earth. 14 Make yourself an ark of gopher wood. Make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and out with pitch. 15 This is how you are to make it: the length of the ark 300 cubits, its breadth 50 cubits, and its height 30 cubits. 16 Make a roof for the ark, and finish it to a cubit above, and set the door of the ark in its side. Make it with lower, second, and third decks. 17 For behold, I will bring a flood of waters upon the earth to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life under heaven. Everything that is on the earth shall die. 18 But I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall come into the ark, you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you. 19 And of every living thing of all flesh, you shall bring two of every sort into the ark to keep them alive with you. They shall be male and female. 20 Of the birds according to their kinds, and of the animals according to their kinds, of every creeping thing of the ground, according to its kind, two of every sort shall come in to you to keep them alive. 21 Also take with you every sort of food that is eaten, and store it up. It shall serve as food for you and for them.” 22 Noah did this; he did all that God commanded him.
Genesis 7Genesis 7 1 Then the LORD said to Noah, “Go into the ark, you and all your household, for I have seen that you are righteous before me in this generation. 2 Take with you seven pairs of all clean animals, the male and his mate, and a pair of the animals that are not clean, the male and his mate, 3 and seven pairs of the birds of the heavens also, male and female, to keep their offspring alive on the face of all the earth. 4 For in seven days I will send rain on the earth forty days and forty nights, and every living thing that I have made I will blot out from the face of the ground.” 5 And Noah did all that the LORD had commanded him.
According to rabbinic tradition, the reason for the seven-day delay was to allow for the seven days of mourning for Methuselah, who had just died. At any rate, the rain was to continue for forty days and forty nights once it began.
In Hebrew, Methuselah may mean ‘man of the spear, or more likely ‘ when he dies, it shall be sent.’ If this is true, his name was given to him prophetically. ‘It shall be sent’ was a prophecy of the Flood, as Methuselah’s father, who was also functioning as a prophet according to Jude 14–15, gave him this name. Indeed, according to the chronology of Genesis, the very year Methuselah died was when the Flood came.
The Book of Genesis
6 Noah was six hundred years old when the flood of waters came upon the earth. 7 And Noah and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives with him went into the ark to escape the waters of the flood. 8 Of clean animals, and of animals that are not clean, and of birds, and of everything that creeps on the ground, 9 two and two, male and female, went into the ark with Noah, as God had commanded Noah. 10 And after seven days the waters of the flood came upon the earth.
11 In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the windows of the heavens were opened. 12 And rain fell upon the earth forty days and forty nights. 13 On the very same day Noah and his sons, Shem and Ham and Japheth, and Noah’s wife and the three wives of his sons with them entered the ark, 14 they and every beast, according to its kind, and all the livestock according to their kinds, and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth, according to its kind, and every bird, according to its kind, every winged creature. 15 They went into the ark with Noah, two and two of all flesh in which there was the breath of life. 16 And those that entered, male and female of all flesh, went in as God had commanded him. And the LORD shut him in.
17 The flood continued forty days on the earth. The waters increased and bore up the ark, and it rose high above the earth. 18 The waters prevailed and increased greatly on the earth, and the ark floated on the face of the waters. 19 And the waters prevailed so mightily on the earth that all the high mountains under the whole heaven were covered. 20 The waters prevailed above the mountains, covering them fifteen cubits deep. 21 And all flesh died that moved on the earth, birds, livestock, beasts, all swarming creatures that swarm on the earth, and all mankind. 22 Everything on the dry land in whose nostrils was the breath of life died. 23 He blotted out every living thing that was on the face of the ground, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens. They were blotted out from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those who were with him in the ark. 24 And the waters prevailed on the earth 150 days.
ESV Study Bible
What I'm Reading
What Wendell Berry Gets Wrong
By Rod Dreher 12/28/2016
Here’s a truth-telling essay from (the excellent magazine) Plough Quarterly by writer Tamara Hill Murphy — a fan of Wendell Berry, but one who is bothered by what Berry chooses to omit from his fiction. Excerpts:
The dissonance with Berry occurs when I consider other family tales buried under the agrarian beauty. These are stories of shattered relationships, addiction, job loss, abandonment, mental illness, and unspoken violations that seem to separate my kinfolk from the clans in Port William. In Berry’s fictional village, readers occasionally witness felonies, infidelity, drunken brawls, and tragic deaths, but all of them seem to be told in a dusky, warming light.
The pleasure I experience reading a novel set in idyllic Port William, before war, agribusiness, and corporate industrialism pillage the town, turns quickly from a nostalgic glow to an ugly flame. I agree with the author’s animosity toward institutional and human greed, but I’m troubled by the apparent evils he chooses to overlook. Berry seems to cast mercy on certain kinds of frailties and judgment on others. As a loyal reader, this double standard agitates me: I become a mad reader of the Mad Farmer.
Berry’s body of work lauds an unadulterated ecosphere. How does he reconcile glossing over (or at least hiding from his reader’s view) the ugly dysfunctions that often prosper alongside the natural beauty of such villages and pasturelands? The stories I grew up hearing and observing provide an alternative cast of characters to the Port William community. I’ve seen firsthand not only the ornery nature of such characters but also the ingrown thinking that sometimes flourishes in out-of-sight locales. For example, there’s the good country farmer I watched with my own eyes fist-beat his son. They seemed to keep their farm by the mad farmer’s standards, but that did not make them good. I tiptoe around extended family members who fought their whole lives like Jayber Crow to avoid answering to “the man across the desk,” yet leave a trail of fractured relationships in their wake.
Rod Dreher Books:
- 1 Crunchy Cons: How Birkenstocked Burkeans, gun-loving organic gardeners, evangelical free-range farmers, hip homeschooling mamas, right-wing nature ... America (or at least the Republican Party)
- 2 How Dante Can Save Your Life: The Life-Changing Wisdom of History's Greatest Poem
- 3 The Little Way of Ruthie Leming: A Southern Girl, a Small Town, and the Secret of a Good Life
- 4 The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation
Are we celebrating Jesus’ birth at the wrong time?
By Ian Paul 12/29/2016
One of the problems about the development of traditions around Christmas is that people writing hymns or plays set Jesus’ birth in their own world rather than in what we know of the first century. In particular, many assume that Jesus was born in winter, since Christmas is celebrated in winter in the northern hemisphere. (It would be interesting to see some genuinely antipodeal hymns: ‘In the deep midwinter’ would become ‘In the height of summer’…)
It is fairly widely recognised that the celebration of Christmas was not determined by the historical date of Jesus’ birth, but by the displacement of pagan winter celebrations by Christian evangelists. So can we know when in the year Jesus was born?
The first clue comes in noting the relation between the birth of Jesus and John the Baptist.
(Lk 1:26–27) 26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. ESV
If Mary conceived soon after this, and assuming that Mary and Elizabeth both went to term, then Jesus was born five to six months after John. (Notice that the visit of Gabriel was in the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy.)
The second clue comes in noting when John’s father, Zechariah, was serving his term as priest in the temple. Zechariah belonged to the priestly division of Abijah (Luke 1.5) and we know when this division served from 1 Chronicles 24.7–19
Ian Paul is a theologian, writer and speaker. Associate Minister at St Nic’s, Nottingham and Honorary Lecturer at the University of Nottingham. Mac user and chocoholic.
Silence is beautiful, unsettling, and one of the finest religious movies ever made
By Alissa Wilkinson 1/14/2017
Martin Scorsese’s film keenly understands Shūsaku Endō’s novel and challenges believer and nonbeliever alike.
Shūsaku Endō’s novel Silence (first published in Japanese in 1966 as Chinmoku, then translated into English in 1969) is slippery and troubling, a book that refuses to behave. It flatters no reader; it refuses to comfort anyone. In telling the story of Portuguese priests and persecuted Christians in Japan, it navigates the tension between missionary and colonizer, East and West, Christianity and Buddhism and political ideology, but refuses to land on definitive answers.
Martin Scorsese’s long-gestating film Silence is based on Endō’s novel, which he read shortly after his 1988 film Last Temptation of Christ was protested and condemned by the Catholic Church and other conservative Christians 28 years ago. It’s almost impossible to capture the nuances of a novel like Endō’s for the screen; Masahiro Shinoda tried in 1971, and Endō reportedly hated the ending. But Scorsese comes about as close as one can imagine, and the results are challenging for both the faithful and the skeptic.
The struggle for faith in a world marked by suffering and God’s silence is present in every frame of Silence. The answers in Scorsese’s film, as in Endō’s novel, are found not in words, but in the spaces between them.
Silence is a story of persecution in a Japan seeking to expel foreigners
4 Reasons Spurgeon Died Poor
By Christian George 5/11/16
Charles Spurgeon could have been one of the richest millionaires in London.
Instead, he died poor.
Unlike his contemporary pastors in London, Spurgeon did not leave millions of pounds to his family after his death. Susannah told a Baptist newspaper her husband only left £2,000 (Nottingham Evening Post, March 31, 1892).
This number is staggering compared to how much money Spurgeon actually earned. In fact, one of the most overlooked aspects of Spurgeon’s ministry is his personal finances.
Let’s see where Spurgeon’s wallet takes us.
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 2The Reign of the LORD’s Anointed
2:1 Why do the nations rage
and the peoples plot in vain?
2 The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers take counsel together,
against the LORD and against his Anointed, saying,
3 “Let us burst their bonds apart
and cast away their cords from us.”
4 He who sits in the heavens laughs;
the Lord holds them in derision.
5 Then he will speak to them in his wrath,
and terrify them in his fury, saying,
6 “As for me, I have set my King
on Zion, my holy hill.”
Digital Heroin is killing your relationship with your kids
By Naomi Schaefer Riley 12/31/16
Kids are more likely to snuggle when adults are reading real books to them than when they are reading tablets.
This is the result of a new, albeit small, study from some British psychologists published in Frontiers in Psychology. Researchers at the University of Sussex compared how 24 children and their mothers shared storybooks versus stories on electronic readers and found that among the former there was “a significant increase in the warmth of the parent/child interactions: more laughter, more smiling, more shows of affection.”
These are the kind of stories that make parents feel guilty. And they make us want to rethink our families’ relationship to technology. We know that our phones and tablets are taking away valuable time from our families. We know that they’re making our children more distracted from their schoolwork and their social interactions. We know that they’re killing dinner time and keeping us from focusing on our children and our spouses. And now it turns out that they’re making our children less likely to cuddle with us?
Fortunately, it’s that time of year when we can at least make a good faith effort to turn things around. So this year, let’s resolve to change the way we use technology and the way our children do.
It’s important to note that many Silicon Valley execs seriously curtail their own kids’ screen time. In 2010, Steve Jobs told The New York Times that his own children hadn’t tried his latest invention, the iPad.
- 1 The New Trail of Tears: How Washington Is Destroying American Indians
- 2 Be the Parent, Please: Stop Banning Seesaws and Start Banning Snapchat: Strategies for Solving the Real Parenting Problems (Virtues: Strategies for Solving the Real Parenting Problems)
- 3 'Til Faith Do Us Part: How Interfaith Marriage is Transforming America
Resolutions Are Not Enough / Habits of Grace for a New Year
By David Mathis 12/31/16
New Year’s resolutions can be an important first step, but they are a far cry from real, lasting change.
The ringing in of a new year brings with it the possibility of a fresh start, or at least a fresh reminder to turn the page on some (or many) ways we’d like to grow and mature in the next season of life. But haven’t we all tried this enough times by now to know how futile mere resolves are if not accompanied by more?
Whether it’s eating and exercise, or Bible-reading and prayer, the God-created mechanism we call “habit” is vital for seeing our earnest resolutions through to enjoyable realities. If we really are resolved to see our hopes for 2017 become life-enriching habits, we will do well to keep several basic truths in mind at the outset of a new year.
1. Focus on a Few, Not Many. | Better than big emotional, private resolves about the many things you want to “fix” about your life is dialing in just one or two realistic, and really important, resolves with a concrete plan and specific accountability. The excitement of a new year, and ease with which we can desire change, often leads us to bite off way more than we can chew for a new year.
It’s much better to focus on just a couple new habits — even better, just one. And if you’re going to narrow it to just one (or maybe a couple or three), you might as well make it count. Identify something important that will give your new-habit-forming particular focus, even while this one resolve will reap benefits in other areas of your life. Soul-strengthening “habits of grace” are precisely this. Going deeper in God’s word, prayer, or your local church will produce an invaluable harvest.
David Mathis (@davidcmathis) is executive editor for desiringGod.org, pastor at Cities Church in Minneapolis/Saint Paul, and adjunct professor for Bethlehem College & Seminary. He is a husband, father of four, and author of Habits of Grace: Enjoying Jesus through the Spiritual Disciplines.
Major Theological Interpretations of Prophecy
By John F. Walvoord
Amillennial interpretations. Within orthodox interpretations of the Bible the most prominent theological interpretation of prophecy since the fourth century of the Christian era has been amillennial or nonmillennial. Beginning with Augustine, the amillennial interpretation held that there would be no literal future thousand-year reign of Christ on earth, but that the millennium referred to the present age or possibly the last thousand years of the present age. Because this did not provide a literal interpretation of millennial passages, it has been designated as amillennial since the nineteenth century.
The amillennial interpretation within the limits of orthodox theology has had various explanations of fulfillment of the millennial prophecies. The most popular, the Augustinian interpretation, relates the millennium in the present age as a spiritual kingdom ruling in the hearts of Christians or embodied in the progress of the gospel in the church.
Amillenarians of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries have offered varied interpretations, some holding that the millennium is fulfilled in the time between the death and resurrection of a Christian. Some in the twentieth century hold that the millennium will be fulfilled in the new heaven and the new earth as described in Revelation 21–22. Some amillenarians have also suggested that the millennial passages are conditional and will not be fulfilled due to the departure of Israel from the faith. Still others suggest that the kingdom of earth was fulfilled in the reign of Solomon who controlled the land promised to Abraham ( Gen. 15:18 ).
Within twentieth-century amillennialism the neoorthodox interpretation of Scripture may also be considered. This view considers the kingdom being fulfilled now in the experience of individual Christians. Generally speaking, neoorthodox scholars hold that God directly communicates to Christians supernaturally, but the Bible is not considered in itself an infallible record of revelation.
Liberal theologians also are amillennial in the sense that they do not believe any future millennium will ever take place.
Postmillennial Interpretation. Beginning with Daniel Whitby in the eighteenth century, an interpretation of prophecy became popular that held specifically that the millennium would be the last one thousand years of the present age. Adherents of this view believed the gospel would triumph to such an extent in the world that the whole world would be Christianized, lol, how's this working out??!! bringing in a golden age that would correspond to the millennial kingdom. Like amillennialism, it places the second coming of Christ at the end of the millennium. Postmillennialism in its original form attempted a more literal interpretation of the millennium than was followed by the later postmillenarians of the twentieth century.
In the twentieth century, however, postmillennialism, influenced by evolution, became less biblical and adopted the concept of spiritual progress over a long period of time as in a general way bringing in a golden age. These postmillenarians, however, are not considered orthodox. As a theological movement, postmillennialism largely died in the first part of the twentieth century, but small groups have attempted to revive it in current theological discussion. Good luck with that.
Premillennial Interpretation. From the first century, Bible scholars have held that the second coming of Christ will be premillennial, that is, the second coming will be followed by a thousand years of Christ’s literal reign on earth. This was a predominant view of the early church as witnessed by the early church fathers. By the third century, however, the Alexandria school of theology, bringing in sweeping allegorical interpretation of Scripture, succeeded in displacing the premillennial view.
In the last few centuries, however, premillennialism has been revived by biblical scholars and now is held by many who are orthodox in other respects. Unlike amillennialism and postmillennialism, the premillennial interpretation has no liberal adherents as it builds on the concept that the Bible is the Word of God and that prophecies are to be interpreted in their normal literal sense.
The premillennial view has much to commend it, as it has the same principles of interpretation regarding prophecy as is normal in other areas of theological interpretation. The premillennial view is generally adopted in the interpretation of prophecy in this work. The fact that so many prophecies have already been literally fulfilled lends support for the expectation that prophecies yet to be fulfilled will have the same literal fulfillment.
Entertainment and Worship
By Joe Thorn 7/01/2017
In every church and every generation of Christians, there is the potential to lose our focus on the things that are most important (Heb. 2:1). We must constantly remind ourselves and re-center our churches lest we find ourselves trusting in something other than the gospel of God and the Word of God.
One of the more dangerous drifts happening in our local churches today is within our corporate worship. In many churches there is a de-emphasis on the means of grace (Scripture, prayer, and the sacraments or ordinances), and a reliance on entertainment. Some try to balance the two in the name of reaching more people with the gospel, but there is an inescapable danger in overvaluing entertainment and implementing it in corporate worship.
This is not a new phenomenon. The nineteenth-century pastor Charles Spurgeon said, “The devil has seldom done a cleverer thing than hinting to the church that part of their mission is to provide entertainment for the people, with a view to winning them.” It may not be new, but it is increasingly popular, especially in light of our entertainment-driven culture. We see this in secular songs played by worship bands to wow the crowd. It’s hard to miss the value of amusement in the comedy-full but theology-empty preaching of many pulpits. Many of us have felt it in elaborate performances for the congregation to observe, but not to participate in. For some, Sunday morning more closely resembles a variety show than an offering made to God. The danger in bringing entertainment into gathered worship lies in the aim of entertainment and its work against the aim of worship.
I am not suggesting that church should be boring or that every church should have identical worship services, as if there is only one appropriate form in which to worship the Lord. Corporate worship from church to church varies in many ways. The styles, music, and liturgies developed in particular contexts and traditions lead to different flavors in worship. The church of Jesus Christ is made up of people, and therefore congregations, from every tribe, tongue, and nation, and this means diversity from church to church. This is often a good thing, something we can celebrate, as long as the church’s worship is ordered according to the parameters of Scripture and offered by faith.
The encroachment of entertainment into our worship is not a matter of style but of substance. Entertainment is a good thing, but its purpose is the refreshment of the mind and body, not the transformation of the mind or the edification of the spirit. The danger of entertainment in worship is not about which musical instruments are permitted or what era of hymns the church should sing. The danger is found in what the church is aiming at. Entertainment has a different aim than worship. Entertainment is something offered to people for their amusement. Yet worship has a different focus and produces a different result.
The focus of worship is God, not man, which immediately pits it against entertainment. We offer ourselves to the Lord individually and collectively on Sunday morning. The church ascribes honor to God in the reading, preaching, singing, and praying of His Word. True worship is inherently God-centered and God-directed. What is done when the church is gathered is to be done according to God’s will and for His pleasure. This stands in opposition to entertainment, which is a spiritually powerless work directed at the people.
While worship is to be directed at God, it simultaneously offers much more than entertainment can ever deliver. As the church draws near to God, the Lord draws near to us, and we receive grace. Grace — regenerating grace, renewing grace, reviving grace — is offered to the congregation through the means of grace. The result of worshiping God in spirit and truth is transformation. Entertainment cannot lead to edification. Entertainment can stir the emotions, but God uses the means of grace to change our affections. Entertainment might draw a crowd or captivate a congregation, but only the means of grace will draw people to Christ and conform them to His image.
The beauty of worship is that it is infinitely more powerful than entertainment. Entertainment seeks to replicate drama and awe. But the grace of God in worship unveils the deepest drama in the world and produces authentic awe in the light of the revelation of God.
True worship may be painful one moment and joyful the next, as we encounter God’s law and gospel, confessing our sins and resting in the pardon we have in Jesus Christ. What is more dramatic than condemned sinners being forgiven by a holy God? Than slaves’ being set free by the Savior? What is more thrilling than the Son of God’s standing in the place of the ungodly to save them from God’s wrath? The church doesn’t need a performance of any kind to aid us in worship. We need the Word of God read and preached, prayed and sung, for in this we exalt and experience our triune God.
Entertainment has its place and serves a good, if earthly, purpose. Our local churches will do well to be careful of drifting toward it in an effort to draw or address the needs of sinful men and women. The Scripture is what God uses to penetrate the soul and change the heart. May we give ourselves to worship the Lord in spirit and truth, rather than mere emotion and amusement.
Dealing with Disappointment
By Deepak Reju 7/01/2017
I sat across from a husband who expressed disillusionment about his spouse and his marriage. I’ll spare you the details, but essentially he said: “I need this. She’s not giving it to me. I’m unhappy. Why won’t she give it to me?” What you are missing, that I can’t give you in my writing, is the dejection in his voice.
You’ve been there, haven’t you? Something doesn’t go as expected. You’re frustrated. Your family, job, friendships, marriage, church — they’re not what you hoped for. How do you as a Christian deal with disappointment?
START WITH THE HEARTDisappointment often reveals what your heart is really worshiping (Matt. 6:21; Luke 6:43–47). It exposes you. If your son made a bad decision, are you sad because of his foolish decision, or because it shows he’s not living up to your expectations? If you desire more intimacy with your spouse, but he or she doesn’t reciprocate, are you dissatisfied because of your spouse’s “no,” or because you feel entitled to more intimacy? If your boss doesn’t give you the promotion, are you frustrated because you worked hard for the pay raise, or because you fear failure?
When you deal with disappointment, it’s too easy to focus on the circumstances around you and cast blame on others rather than looking at the battle in your own heart. Think for a moment about the last time you were disappointed (Prov. 13:12). Was the bulk of your thinking and energy focused on the wrong done, the unhelpful circumstances, or your own heart? The natural tendency of sin is to blame others and not to deal honestly with our own hearts (Matt. 7:3–5). Ask God to help you know the selfish tendencies of your own heart.
THINGS WON’T GO AS YOU EXPECTWhy do things not go as we expect? In one word — sin. Sin corrupts everything in our world and leaves us sad, confused, regretful, and disenchanted. Hollywood, best-selling books, television commercials, and Disney all work against us to feed our desires and give us unrealistic, idealistic expectations. If you naively expect things to go well and downplay the power of the sinful flesh, you’re not being realistic about sin. You are likely to be disappointed. But if you demonstrate “sober judgment” (Rom. 12:3) — a humble perspective on yourself, a realistic view of your sin — you’re less prone to be disappointed.
Our lives run into the real world, with real problems, real frustrations, and real heartache, and we acknowledge what we knew all along — sin ruins everything (3:23). The Spirit is working powerfully within you, but your flesh is doing everything it can to undermine your life (Gal. 5:16–18).
TURN TO CHRISTWhat do you do when you are disappointed? Hold a pity party? Mope about it? Complain? Get angry? Muddle through confusion? Turn in on yourself? Manipulate? Withdraw? Fix the problem? Make the problem go away? None of these are Christian responses.
The smartest thing a Christian can do is turn to Christ and start with a few simple words: “Help.” “Jesus, I can’t deal with this on my own.” “I need You.” Where you turn with your disappointment is key. Do you turn to Christ, or do you sort through this on your own? Do you turn to Christ, or do you cast the blame on your circumstances? Do you turn to Christ or do you blame Him? Do you think that since He’s sovereign, everything that doesn’t work out for you is His fault? Dear Christian, don’t you see that your disappointment and brokenness could be clearing away the clutter of your life that’s keeping you from seeing Christ? Turn to Christ and give your disappointment to Him.
I said to the husband who was disappointed in his wife and his marriage, “At the point where you are most disappointed, where you are most hurting, where you are most confused, you need to let Christ meet you right there.” Are you struggling because your hopes, dreams, and expectations have not worked out? Run to the cross (2 Cor. 5:15–21). Let Christ comfort you and offer a kind of satisfaction that can only be found in Him. In the shadow of the cross, your disappointment can be honestly dealt with.
LOOK TO HEAVENA father’s son confessed he is gay, and all of the father’s dreams for his son have now vanished. A young couple has another knock-down, drag-out fight. Their conflict is akin to nuclear war, and in the aftermath, they are riddled with pain and confusion. A single woman is thirty-six. She longs for marriage and hates that she’s still single. In each of these cases, disappointment is daily knocking at the door.
As long as we live on this side of glory, sin will make a mess of things. Unfortunately, when things go wrong, our vantage point can be narrowed to the tiny kingdom of ourselves, and we can’t see beyond our disappointment. We get fixated on the horizontal (anger, pain, confusion, disappointment) and lose sight of the vertical — our relationship with God.
But God says: “Dear child, look up and see, it’s not always going to be this way. One day, sin and pain will be no more.” When you’re disappointed, you need to look up, beyond the confines of your circumstances, and remember heaven (Ps. 73:24–26). Don’t lose sight of eternity. In heaven, there will be no more disappointment because you’ll get to be with God. What a glorious place that will be. Dr. Deepak Reju is pastor of biblical counseling and family ministry at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. He’s author of The Pastor and Counseling and She’s Got the Wrong Guy.
The Continual Burnt Offering
By H.A. Ironside - 1941
January 2Genesis 1:3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. ESV
Plato said, “The radiant light is the shadow of God.” But David exclaims, “Who cover Yourself with light as with a garment” (Psalm 104:2), The declaration of the New Testament is, “God is light and in Him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). It was His own brightness that, at His own command, illumined the darkness of that primeval earth. And the miracle of that first day of earth’s recall from chaos and gloom pictures His present grace to the sin-darkened souls of men. For we are told that “It is…God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6). He is the vessel to display that light throughout all the ages to come. Of the heavenly city it is written, “The glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is it’s light” (Revelation 21:23). It was from His face that the light shone of old, and He is still the light of the world.
Psalm 104:2 covering yourself with light as with a garment,
stretching out the heavens like a tent. ESV
2 Corinthians 4:6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. ESV
Revelation 21:23 And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. ESV
God in mercy sent His Son
To a world by sin undone;
Jesus Christ was crucified—
‘Twas for sinners Jesus died.
Sin and death no more shall reign,
Jesus died and lives again!
In the glory’s highest height—
See Him, God’s supreme delight.
All who in His name believe,
Everlasting life receive;
Lord of all is Jesus now,
Ev’ry knee to Him must bow.
Oh, the glory of the grace
Shining in the Saviour’s face,
Telling sinners from above,
“God is light,” and “God is love.”
—H. K. Burlingham
Inerrancy of the Original Autographs
By Gleason Archer Jr.
We must next ask ourselves the question, What kind of record is this Book going to be? One containing errors of various kinds, or one free from all error? If this written revelation contains mistakes, then it can hardly fulfill its intended purpose: to convey to man in a reliable way the will of God for his salvation. Why is this so? Because a demonstrated mistake in one part gives rise to the possibility that there may be mistakes in other parts of the Bible. If the Bible turns out to be a mixture of truth and error, then it becomes a book like any other.
No doubt, there is truth in every other religious document known to man—the Koran, the Vedas, the Upanishads, the Analects, the Iliad, and the Odyssey—even though this truth may coexist with an abundance of error. What is to be done with books of this sort, books containing both truth and error? There is only one thing that can be done, and that is to subject them to the critical faculty of the human reason. Within proper limits, to be sure, the reasoning powers of man have a legitimate and necessary function in weighing the evidences presented by these documents, to see whether they are consistent with divine origin. Here it is a question of recognizing the identity of a purported revelation as to whether it is the Word of God. Human reason is competent to pass upon these evidences, applying the rule of self-contradiction and the other canons of logic, in order to determine whether the data of the texts themselves square with the claims of divine origin. (It has already been pointed out in footnote 3 that only the Bible, as opposed to other religious documents, contains decisive evidences of divine inspiration and authority.)
But it is a very different thing for human reason to attempt to pass judgment upon divine revelation ( 2 Tim 3:16 ) as such, to determine its truth or falsity. For such judgments to be valid, they must proceed from a Judge who possesses a knowledge of metaphysical truth which is superior to that of the revelation itself. In other words, man must know more about God and the soul and spiritual values than the Bible itself knows, if he is to pass valid judgment on the truth of the Bible. But this is obviously not the case, as pointed out previously, and therefore man is totally dependent on divine revelation for this all-important knowledge. For this reason, if that revelation is to come in a usable and reliable form, not dependent on man’s fallible judgment, it must come in an inerrant form. Otherwise it would depend ultimately on the authority of man for its validation, and, therefore, could not serve its purpose as a trustworthy disclosure of divine truth.
16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,
Textual Transmission not Necessarily Infallible
At this point we must make a distinction. Inerrancy (freedom from all error) is necessary only for the original manuscripts (autographs) of the biblical books. They must have been free from all mistakes, or else they could not have been truly inspired by the God of truth in whom is no darkness at all. ( 1 John 1:5 ) God could never have inspired a human author of Scripture to write anything erroneous or false. (5) To say that God could not use fallible man as an instrument of His infallible truth is as illogical as to insist that an artist can never produce a valid painting because his brush is capable of slipping.
But what about the text of the Bible as we now possess it? Is that text necessarily free from all mistakes of every kind? Not when it comes to copyists’ errors, for we certainly do find discrepancies among the handwritten copies that have been preserved to us, even those which come from the earliest centuries. Some slips of the pen may have crept into the first copies made from the original manuscripts, and additional errors of a transmissional type could have found their way into the copies of copies. It is almost unavoidable that this should have been the case. No one alive can sit down and copy out the text of an entire book without a mistake of any kind. (Those who doubt this statement are invited to try it themselves!) It would take nothing short of a miracle to insure the inerrancy of a copy of an original manuscript.
Granted, then, that errors have crept into our texts as we now have them, how can they serve as a reliable medium for disclosing God’s will? Are we not right back with the problem of books containing both truth and error? Not at all, for there is a great difference between a document which was wrong at the start and a document which was right at the start but was miscopied. One may read a letter from his friend or relative and find in it such common slips as of for or, or and for an, or led for lead and yet by a simple process of correction in the light of the context, he may easily arrive at the true sense intended by the writer. Only if the errors which have gotten into the copies are so serious as to pervert the sense altogether does the message fail in accurate communication. But if the letter came from a correspondent who was confused, mistaken, or deceitful, then the errors and misinformation it contains are beyond remedy and the reader is injured thereby.
We must answer this question with another: What essential difference is there between a fallible human record and a fallible human speaker? If the written words of men could be accepted into Scripture even though erroneous and mistaken, does it not follow that their spoken words could also be so accepted? Who can suppose that everything that Moses or Isaiah or Malachi spoke was free from all error? Was it not when they were uttering the Word of the Lord that their utterance was infallible? As God employed their oral communications to reveal His truth, safe-guarding them from error until they were recorded in written form, so also God could take erroneous human archives and guide the human author to avoid all their errors and record only what was in fact true. Whatever Scripture asserts to have been historically true, regardless of the intermediate source of the information, must be understood as trustworthy and reliable. It makes no essential difference whether the source was written or oral, whether it came from a fallible human hand or a fallible human mouth; in either case the Holy Spirit eliminated mistakes and insured the inscripturation only of truth. All the discrepancies which have come down to us in the Received Text of the Hebrew Scriptures are perfectly well accounted for by errors in later textual transmission. There is no need to resort to a theory of mistakes copied out in the original autographs, and to do so endangers the authoritativeness of Scripture as a whole.
1 John 1:5 (ESV)
5 This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.
A Survey of Old Testament Introduction
The Problem Of The Old Testament
By James Orr 1907
THE thanks of the author are due, in the first place, to the Trustees of Lake Forest College, and to the adjudicators acting on their behalf, who, in their generosity, have awarded to this book the munificent prize at their disposal from the Bross Fund. It is right, however, to say, that, although the present volume has been so fortunate as to obtain the Bross Prize, it was not for the Bross Prize, or with thought or knowledge of the same, that the book was written. But for a long-standing promise to the English publishers, it is doubtful if it ever would have been written at all. The book was sent to press in the beginning of this year, and the delay in its publication has been due principally to the afterthought of submitting it in proof to the judgment of the Bross Prize arbiters. The author is deeply sensible of the courtesy of the publishers in so readily meeting his wishes in this matter at inconvenience to themselves.
The book in one sense is not new, but represents, as will probably be evident from its perusal, the gathering up of thought, reading, and formation of opinion on its subject, going as far back as the days of the old Colenso and Samuel Davidson controversies, and of the appearance of Graf’s work in 1866, when the author’s interest in these questions was first thoroughly aroused—an interest which has never since flagged. Much water had flowed under the bridge in the interval, and the author entered on the task of putting his book into shape with many misgivings. Still, now that the work is done, and apart altogether from the material reward which has so unexpectedly come to him, he does not regret having undertaken it. The time is past when the discussion of Old Testament questions can be left wholly to professional experts, who represent one, but only one, of the many points of view necessary to be taken into account in considering this subject. The conclusions of the critics, of whom personally the author would speak only with respect, force themselves on everyone’s attention, and it is a matter, no longer of choice, but of necessity, to pay regard to their opinions. Especially for one engaged in the teaching of theology, in whatever department, it is absolutely indispensable to possess some acquaintance with the methods and results of Old Testament study, and to try to come to some understanding with himself in regard to the theories of Old Testament religion and literature which he finds prevailing around him. The judgment of such an one may not be of the highest value; but, if it is his own, and has been reached at the cost of prolonged thought and study, the expression of it, and the exhibition of the grounds on which it rests, may not be without help to others working their way through similar perplexities.
The standpoint of the present book can be readily understood from a survey of the Table of Contents, or from reading the sketch of its scope at the close of the first chapter. Those who expect to find in it a wholesale denunciation of critics and of everything that savours of criticism will be disappointed. The author is not of the opinion that much good is accomplished by the violent and indiscriminating assaults on the critics sometimes indulged in by very excellent men. The case which the critics present must be met in a calm, temperate, and scholarly way, if it is to be dealt with to the satisfaction of thoughtful Christian people. On the other hand, those who come to the book expecting to find in it agreement with the methods and results of the reigning critical schools will probably be not less disappointed. The author has here no option. With the best will in the world to accept whatever new light criticism may have to throw on the structure and meaning of the Old Testament, he has to confess that his study of the critical developments—now for over thirty years—has increasingly convinced him that, while Biblical students are indebted to the critics, and to Old Testament science generally, for valuable help, the Graf-Wellhausen hypothesis now in the ascendant is, neither in its methods nor in its results, entitled to the unqualified confidence often claimed for it. He is persuaded, on the contrary, that it rests on erroneous fundamental principles, is eaten through with subjectivity, and must, if carried out to its logical issues—to which, happily, very many do not carry it—prove subversive of our Christian faith, and of such belief in, and use of, the Bible as alone can meet the needs of the living Church. Only, if this is to be shown, it must, as far as one’s knowledge enables him to do it, be done thoroughly, and with due regard for all really critically-ascertained facts.
Being designed specially for an English-reading public, the book is purposely cast in a form as little technical as the nature of the subject permits. Hebrew words and minute philological discussions are, as a rule, avoided, and where English translations of foreign books exist, references are usually made to these. The customary form of the divine name, “Jehovah,” is retained; but in quotations authors have been allowed to use their own various spellings of the name. If, throughout, a seemingly disproportionate space is given to German writers, this is simply due to the fact that at least nine-tenths of the “Higher-Critical” theories now in vogue had their origin and elaboration in Germany, and in Britain and America are largely of the nature of importations. One early learns that, if these theories are to be dealt with satisfactorily, it can only be by going at first hand to the sources—tapping the stream, as it were, at the fountain-head. At the same time the Indexes will show that representative writers of English-speaking countries, of different schools, have by no means been overlooked.
In so immense a field, it is hardly necessary to say that no attempt whatever is made at a complete or exhaustive treatment of Old Testament questions. That would have been impossible in the space, even had the author possessed the knowledge or ability qualifying him to undertake it. Some aspects of the Old Testament—the Wisdom Literature, for example—have had to be left altogether untouched. The idea has been, as far as practicable, to concentrate attention on really crucial points, and to make these the pivots on which the discussion of other questions turns (see Appendix to first chapter). In handling so large a mass of material, and copying and re-copying so many references, it is inevitable that, with the utmost care, slips and mistakes should occur. The author can only hope that these will not prove in any case to be of such magnitude as seriously to affect the main argument.
Since the book went to press in the spring, no small amount of literature has appeared to which it would be interesting to refer. Allusion may here only be made to the appearance of a valuable work by Professor W. Lotz, of Erlangen, entitled Das Alte Testament und die Wissenschaft, with which, in parts, the treatment in these pages may be compared. It would be endless to specify articles and pamphlets. Professor James Robertson, of Glasgow, has contributed to the May and June numbers of the periodical Good Words two interesting papers on “The Beginnings of Hebrew History and Religion”; and Professor R. D. Wilson, of Princeton, has completed in July and October his valuable articles on “Royal Titles” in the Princeton Theological Review. The October article is specially devoted to the statements of Dr. Driver on the use of royal titles in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah. Three papers by Professors Driver and Kirkpatrick on The Higher Criticism have been published, aiming at the removal of misconceptions. In his Biblische Theologie des Alten Testaments Stade has re-stated his views on the religion of Israel in more systematic form.
With these remarks, the book must be left to its own mission. The author entertains no over-sanguine expectations as to its effect on general conviction, but he is not without hope that it may at least rouse to reflection some who have given too easy an assent to current theories, simply because they are the theories of the hour. He has no wish to be ultra-dogmatic on any point. Time may not justify all his conclusions; but he has the strong persuasion that, when the day for summing-up comes—if p xviii ever such arrives—the positions into which men’s minds will be disposed to settle will be found much nearer those advocated in these pages than they will be to those of the advanced Wellhausen school. The future will show.
The volume, it will be observed, has been amply fitted with Tables of Contents, Indexes, and cross-references in footnotes. These should make the task of consulting its pages comparatively easy, and should lighten somewhat the impression of abstruseness created by certain of its chapters. The author’s thanks are specially due to the Rev. J. M. Wilson, B.D., Highbury, London, and to George Hunter, Esq., Glasgow, for valuable aid in the correction of the proofs.
GLASGOW, October 1905.
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
This year get out of your comfort zone (2)
1/2/2018 Bob Gass
‘Be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid…[of] them!’
(Dt 31:6) 6 Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” ESV
Incredible though it may seem, when Israel encountered difficulties in the wilderness, they wanted to return to their old life of slavery in Egypt. The security of the known was less threatening to them than the challenges of the unknown. So the Lord said to them, not once, but twice, ‘Be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid…[of] them…the LORD your God will…go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor [forsake] you.’ Why did He say that? Because it’s in taking action that you overcome your fear! When you challenge your fears, you master them. When you wrestle with your problems, they lose their grip on you. When you dare to confront the things that scare you, you open the door to the future. A wise man once said, ‘Take the bull by the horns until you have him screaming for mercy.’ Almost without exception every man and woman in the Bible whom God called to do great things felt inadequate, and told Him so. And how did God respond to them? ‘I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand’ (Isaiah 41:10 NLT). Author John Mason writes: ‘The desire for safety stands against every great and virtuous dream. Security, many times, is the first step towards stagnation. Boldness in vision is the first, second, and third most important thing. If you dare nothing, you should expect nothing.’ So whatever opportunity or obstacle you’re facing today, factor God in. With Him on your side, what you have is always greater than whatever you lack.
UCB The Word For Today
January 2, 2016
I try to walk as often as I can. A park is close at hand and walking through trees, by a river and around a duck pond where I see ducks, nutrias, squirrels, occasionally egrets, blue herons and geese makes for a nice walk. People are always walking dogs from the shelter across the street. . I consider myself blessed to have such a beautiful place to walk … and the health to walk.
I like to walk and pray. I’ve noticed as I get older that thoughts can sometimes be lost as quickly as they come. Focusing on the Lord’s Prayer in a lectio divina style throughout the day helps me center.
... a passion for justice, or at least a sense that things ought to be sorted out, is simply part of being human and living in the world.
by Bill Federer
Today is Betsy Ross Day. She was born January 1, 1752 to a Quaker family in Philadelphia, the 8th of 17 children. She apprenticed as a seamstress, where she fell in love with an upholsterer named John Ross, son of an Episcopal rector and nephew of George Ross, who signed the Declaration of Independence. As Quakers forbade interdenominational marriage, John and Betsy eloped. They attended Christ’s Church and their pew was next to George Washington’s. During the Revolution, John died when a munitions depot he was guarding blew up. Shortly after General Washington asked Betsy Ross to sew the American Flag.American Minute
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
If every attribute of the Deity were a distinct member, holiness would be the soul to animate them. Without holiness His patience would be an indulgence to sin, His mercy a fondness, His wrath a madness, His power a tyranny, His wisdom an unworthy subtlety.Holiness gives decorum to them all.
--- Stephen Charnock
We must learn to regard people
less in the light of what they do or omit to do,
and more in the light of what they suffer.
--- Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in.
Aim at earth and you get neither.
--- C.S. Lewis
Christians are like the several flowers in a garden that have each of them the dew of heaven, which, being shaken with the wind, they let fall at each other's roots, whereby they are jointly nourished, and become nourishers of each other.
--- John Bunyan
The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt.
--- Bertrand Russell
... from here, there and everywhere
by D.H. Stern
but fools despise wisdom and discipline.
8 My son, heed the discipline of your father,
and do not abandon the teaching of your mother;
9 they will be a garland to grace your head,
a medal of honor for your neck.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
refers to Michah 5:1-2
Matthew 2:6 ‘And you, Beit-Lechem
in the land of Y’hudah,
are by no means the least
among the rulers of Y’hudah;
for from you will come a Ruler
who will shepherd my people Isra’el.’ ”
But you, Beit-Lechem near Efrat,
so small among the clans of Y’hudah,
out of you will come forth to me
the future ruler of Isra’el,
whose origins are far in the past,
back in ancient times.
2(3) Therefore he will give up [Isra’el]
only until she who is in labor gives birth.
Then the rest of his kinsmen
will return to the people of Isra’el.
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
My Utmost for His Highest
Will you go out without knowing?
He went out, not knowing whither he went.
--- Hebrews 11:8.
Have you been ‘out’ in this way? If so, there is no logical statement possible when anyone asks you what you are doing. One of the difficulties in Christian work is this question—‘What do you expect to do?’ You do not know what you are going to do; the only thing you know is that God knows what He is doing. Continually revise your attitude towards God and see if it is a going out of everything, trusting in God entirely. It is this attitude that keeps you in perpetual wonder—you do not know what God is going to do next. Each Morning you wake it is to be a ‘going out,’ building in confidence on God. “Take no thought for your life, … nor yet for your body”—take no thought for the things for which you did take thought before you ‘went out.’
Have you been asking God what He is going to do? He will never tell you. God does not tell you what He is going to do; He reveals to you Who He is. Do you believe in a miracle-working God, and will you go out in surrender to him until you are not surprised an atom at anything He does?
Suppose God is the God you know Him to be when you are nearest to Him, what an impertinence worry is! Let the attitude of the life be a continual ‘going out’ in dependence upon God, and your life will have an ineffable charm about it which is a satisfaction to Jesus. You have to learn to go out of convictions, out of creeds, out of experiences, until, so far as your faith is concerned, there is nothing between yourself and God.
the Poetry of R.S. Thomas
But behind the flower
is that other flower
which is ageless, the idea
of the flower, the one
we smell when we imagine
it, that as often
as it is picked blossoms
again, that has the perfection
of all flowers, the purity
without the fragility.
a part of the plan
for humanity to have
flowers about it? They are many
and beautiful, with faces
that are a reminder of those
of our own children,
though they come painlessly
from the bulb's womb. We trouble
them as we go by, so they hang
their heads at our unreal
If flowers had minds,
would they not think they were the colour
eternity is, a window that gives
on a still view the hurrying
people must come to and stare at and pass by?
The JPS Torah Commentary
The story of Creation, or cosmology, that opens the Book of Genesis differs from all other such accounts that were current among the peoples of the ancient world. Its lack of interest in the realm of heaven and its economy of words in depicting primeval chaos are highly uncharacteristic of this genre of literature. The descriptions in Genesis deal solely with what lies beneath the celestial realm, and still the narration is marked by compactness, solemnity, and dignity.
There is abundant evidence that other cosmologies once existed in Israel. Scattered allusions to be found in the prophetic, poetic, and wisdom literature of the Bible testify to a popular belief that prior to the onset of the creative process the powers of watery chaos had to be subdued by God. These mythical beings are variously designated Yam (Sea), Nahar (River), Leviathan (Coiled One), Rahab (Arrogant One), and Tannin (Dragon). There is no consensus in these fragments regarding the ultimate fate of these creatures. One version has them utterly destroyed by God; in another, the chaotic forces, personalized as monsters, are put under restraint by His power.
These myths about a cosmic battle at the beginning of time appear in the Bible in fragmentary form, and the several allusions have to be pieced together to produce some kind of coherent unity. Still, the fact that these myths appear in literary compositions in ancient Israel indicates clearly that they had achieved wide currency over a long period of time. They have survived in the Bible solely as obscure, picturesque metaphors and exclusively in the language of poetry. Never are these creatures accorded divine attributes, nor is there anywhere a suggestion that their struggle against God could in any way have posed a challenge to His sovereign rule.
There is abundant evidence that other cosmologies once existed in Israel. Scattered allusions to be found in the prophetic, poetic, and wisdom literature of the Bible testify to a popular belief that prior to the onset of the creative process the powers of watery chaos had to be subdued by God. These mythical beings are variously designated Yam (Sea), Nahar (River), Leviathan (Coiled One), Rahab (Arrogant One), and Tannin (Dragon). There is no consensus in these fragments regarding the ultimate fate of these creatures. One version has them utterly destroyed by God; in another, the chaotic forces, personalized as monsters, are put under restraint by His power.
This is of particular significance in light of the fact that one of the inherent characteristics of all other ancient Near Eastern cosmologies is the internecine strife of the gods. Polytheistic accounts of creation always begin with the predominance of the divinized powers of nature and then describe in detail a titanic struggle between the opposing forces. They inevitably regard the achievement of world order as the outgrowth of an overwhelming exhibition of power on the part of one god who then manages to impose his will upon all other gods.
The early Israelite creation myths, with all their color and drama, must have been particularly attractive to the masses. But none became the regnant version. It was the austere account set forth in the first chapter of Genesis that won unrivaled authority. At first it could only have been the intellectual elite in ancient Israel, most likely the priestly and scholarly circles, who could have been capable of realizing and appreciating the compact forms of symbolization found in Genesis. It is they who would have cherished and nurtured this version until its symbols finally exerted a decisive impact upon the religious consciousness of the entire people of Israel.
The mystery of divine creativity is, of course, ultimately unknowable. The Genesis narrative does not seek to make intelligible what is beyond human ken. To draw upon human language to explain that which is outside any model of human experience is inevitably to confront the inescapable limitations of any attempt to give verbal expression to this subject. For this reason alone, the narrative in its external form must reflect the time and place of its composition. Thus it directs us to take account of the characteristic modes of literary expression current in ancient Israel. It forces us to realize that a literalistic approach to the text must inevitably confuse idiom with idea, symbol with reality. The result would be to obscure the enduring meaning of that text.
The biblical Creation narrative is a document of faith. It is a quest for meaning and a statement of a religious position. It enunciates the fundamental postulates of the religion of Israel, the central ideas and concepts that animate the whole of biblical literature. Its quintessential teaching is that the universe is wholly the purposeful product of divine intelligence, that is, of the one self-sufficient, self-existing God, who is a transcendent Being outside of nature and who is sovereign over space and time.
This credo finds reiterated expression in the narrative in a number of ways, the first of which is the literary framework. The opening and closing lines epitomize the central idea: “God created.” Then there is the literary structure, which presents the creative process with bilateral symmetry. The systematic progression from chaos to cosmos unfolds in an orderly and harmonious manner through a series of six successive and equal units of time. The series is divided into two parallel groups, each of which comprises four creative acts performed in three days. The third day in each group is distinguished by two productions. In each group the movement is from heaven to terrestrial water to dry land. Moreover, the arrangement is such that each creation in the first group furnishes the resource that is to be utilized by the corresponding creature in the second group. The chart below illustrates the schematization.
The principle of order, deliberation, and direction is further inculcated by means of the progression from inorganic matter to the lowest forms of organic life to four categories of living creatures: fish and fowl, reptiles, the higher animals, and finally humankind. In addition, the entire narrative adheres to a uniform literary pattern. Each of the literary units begins with a declaration formula, “God said,” followed by a command, a statement recording its fulfillment, a notice of divine approbation, and a closing formula, “There was Evening and there was Morning,” with the accompanying numbered day.
Finally, the Narrator employs the device of number symbolism, the heptad, to emphasize the basic idea of design, completion, and perfection. The opening proclamation contains seven words; the description of primal chaos is set forth in twice seven words; the narrative’s seven literary units feature seven times the formula for the effectuation of the divine will and the statement of divine approval; and the six days of creation culminate in the climactic seventh.
This seven-day typology is widely attested in the ancient world. As early as the twenty-second century B.C.E., King Gudea of Lagash, in southern Mesopotamia, dedicated a temple with a seven-day feast. The literatures of Mesopotamia and Ugarit are replete with examples of seven-day units of time. Most common is a state of affairs that lasts for six days with a climactic change taking place on the seventh. While the Creation narrative conforms to this literary convention, it is unique in that a different action occurs each day, with no activity at all on the seventh.
The JPS Torah Commentary
Genesis is a book about origins: the origins of humankind, the origins of Israel, and the origins of the unique relationship between God and a particular people.
The fifty chapters of Genesis divide into three main subject units, presented chronologically: a description of Creation (1:1–2:3); the emergence, development, and degeneration of the human race (2:4–11:26); and (in the bulk of the book) the account of the lives of the founding fathers of the people of Israel (11:27–50:26). In its entirety the book claims to cover a time span of 2,309 years, a figure that is computed from the data found in the narratives and the genealogies in the traditional Hebrew text. It offers a rapid sketch of 1,948 years of universal human history, from Adam to the birth of Abraham, with the remaining 361 years to the death of Joseph comprising the bulk of the work. Put otherwise: Nearly 80 percent of the contents of Genesis is devoted to about 17 percent of the time span that is covered.
You made both summer and winter. --- Psalm 74:17.
It is easy to believe that God made the summertime. (Highways of the Heart (Morrison Classic Sermon Series, The) ) Beauty is everywhere. The singing of the birds, the warmth of the sun, the amazing prodigality of life—these draw our hearts to the Giver of them all and make it easy to say, “You made summer.” With winter it is different. It is not so easy to see the love of God there. There is a great deal of suffering in winter, for both the animals and for people. It may therefore aid the faith of some who are tempted to doubt the love of God in winter if I suggest some of winter’s spiritual services.
One service of winter is to deepen our appreciation of the summer. We would be blind if summer were perpetual. We must feel the grip of winter, before we fully appreciate the summer. It is not the one who lives in bonnie Scotland who feels most deeply how beautiful Scotland is. It is the exile, yearning for the mountains and the glens. It is not the one with unbroken health who feels most deeply the value of health. That is realized when health is shattered.
Another service of winter is the larger demands it makes on the will. In summer it is comparatively easy to get out of bed at the appointed hour, for the earth is warm, the birds are singing, the light streams through open windows. But in winter, to fling the covers off and get up when it is dark and cold—that calls for a certain resolution, an instant demand on the will. Winter—when life is difficult and it takes some doing even to get up—is God’s tonic for his children’s will. Summer is languid; winter makes us resolute. We have to do things when we don’t feel like doing them.
Another service of winter is to intensify the thought of home. The thought of home is sweetest and richest and most beautiful in the dark and cold of winter. We talk in the same breath of hearth and home, and it is in winter that the hearth is glowing. Now think of everything we and the nation owe to home. Home is the basis of national morality.
[A final] service of winter is how it stirs our hearts to charity. It unseals the springs of pity. It moves us with compassion for the destitute, and to be moved so is very Christlike.
Such thoughts as these in icy days, when we are tempted to doubt the love of God, make it easier to say with David, “You made… winter.”
--- George H. Morrison
Famous or Faithful?
“Not many of you came from important families,” Paul told the Corinthians. Not many, perhaps, but some—like the one born three centuries after Christ in a wealthy Christian home in Caesarea of Cappadocia (Turkey). His parents named him Basil, meaning Kingly. They sent him to the finest schools in Constantinople and Athens, and Basil graduated with honors. He thought highly of himself and returned home dreaming of becoming great in public life. But his sister, who led him to faith in Christ, counseled humility. “It’s better to be faithful before God,” she insisted, “than famous before men.”
Basil craved a quiet life of study, prayer, and writing. He settled along the bank of the Iris River on the family estate, preaching to and helping the poor. But his stature was already so great that Emperor Julian the Apostate, though a fierce opponent of Christianity, tried to recruit him as advisor. Basil declined.
But he couldn’t refuse the appeal of his own bishop, Eusebius, who warned that the church faced both imperial attacks from without and dangerous heresy from within. Basil left his quiet retreat to spend the rest of his life in public ministry. He championed orthodoxy, preaching and writing brilliant messages on the nature of Jesus Christ and the composition of the Trinity.
In 370, Basil succeeded Eusebius and proved himself a gifted bishop who organized the ministries of the church. Using his own fortune, Basil founded a hospital, perhaps the first in Christian history, for the care of lepers. He was a kind man, often personally treating the diseased. Basil’s complex of churches, schools, hospitals, hostels, monasteries, and almshouses outside Caesarea became a town within itself called Basiliad. His rules for monks and monasteries are used to this day in the Greek church.
Worn out before his fiftieth year, Basil died on January 1, 379. News spread like wildfire the next day, and he was mourned deeply. He is remembered every January 2, which is designated in Western tradition as the Feast Day of St. Basil the Great.
Everyone should be humble toward everyone else. The Scriptures say, “God opposes proud people, but he helps everyone who is humble.” Be humble in the presence of God’s mighty power, and he will honor you when the time comes.
--- 1 Peter 5:5,6.
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - January 2
“Continue in prayer.” --- Colossians 4:2.
It is interesting to remark how large a portion of Sacred Writ is occupied with the subject of prayer, either in furnishing examples, enforcing precepts, or pronouncing promises. We scarcely open the Bible before we read, “Then began men to call upon the name of the Lord;” and just as we are about to close the volume, the “Amen” of an earnest supplication meets our ear. Instances are plentiful. Here we find a wrestling Jacob—there a Daniel who prayed three times a day—and a David who with all his heart called upon his God. On the mountain we see Elias; in the dungeon Paul and Silas. We have multitudes of commands, and myriads of promises. What does this teach us, but the sacred importance and necessity of prayer? We may be certain that whatever God has made prominent in his Word, he intended to be conspicuous in our lives. If he has said much about prayer, it is because he knows we have much need of it. So deep are our necessities, that until we are in heaven we must not cease to pray. Dost thou want nothing? Then, I fear thou dost not know thy poverty. Hast thou no mercy to ask of God? Then, may the Lord’s mercy show thee thy misery! A prayerless soul is a Christless soul. Prayer is the lisping of the believing infant, the shout of the fighting believer, the requiem of the dying saint falling asleep in Jesus. It is the breath, the watchword, the comfort, the strength, the honour of a Christian. If thou be a child of God, thou wilt seek thy Father’s face, and live in thy Father’s love. Pray that this year thou mayst be holy, humble, zealous, and patient; have closer communion with Christ, and enter oftener into the banqueting-house of his love. Pray that thou mayst be an example and a blessing unto others, and that thou mayst live more to the glory of thy Master. The motto for this year must be, “Continue in prayer.”
Evening - January 2
“Let the people renew their strength.” --- Isaiah 41:1.
All things on earth need to be renewed. No created thing continueth by itself. “Thou renewest the face of the year,” was the Psalmist’s utterance. Even the trees, which wear not themselves with care, nor shorten their lives with labour, must drink of the rain of heaven and suck from the hidden treasures of the soil. The cedars of Lebanon, which God has planted, only live because day by day they are full of sap fresh drawn from the earth. Neither can man’s life be sustained without renewal from God. As it is necessary to repair the waste of the body by the frequent meal, so we must repair the waste of the soul by feeding upon the Book of God, or by listening to the preached Word, or by the soul-fattening table of the ordinances. How depressed are our graces when means are neglected! What poor starvelings some saints are who live without the diligent use of the Word of God and secret prayer! If our piety can live without God it is not of divine creating; it is but a dream; for if God had begotten it, it would wait upon him as the flowers wait upon the dew. Without constant restoration we are not ready for the perpetual assaults of hell, or the stern afflictions of heaven, or even for the strifes within. When the whirlwind shall be loosed, woe to the tree that hath not sucked up fresh sap, and grasped the rock with many intertwisted roots. When tempests arise, woe to the mariners that have not strengthened their mast, nor cast their anchor, nor sought the haven. If we suffer the good to grow weaker, the evil will surely gather strength and struggle desperately for the mastery over us; and so, perhaps, a painful desolation, and a lamentable disgrace may follow. Let us draw near to the footstool of divine mercy in humble entreaty, and we shall realize the fulfilment of the promise, “They that wait on the Lord shall renew their strength.”
O JESUS, I HAVE PROMISED
John E. Bode, 1816–1874
God is not unjust; He will not forget your work and the love you have shown Him as you have helped His people and continue to help them … show this same diligence to the very end, in order to make your hope sure. (Hebrews 6:10, 11)
I asked the New Year for some motto sweet,
Some rule of life by which to guide my feet.
I asked and paused; it answered soft and low,
“God’s will to know.”
The beginning of the new year is usually a time for reflecting on and evaluating the past as well as for setting serious goals for the future. Because it is so easy to get caught up in a blur of daily sameness, special days and events are important in life. We need these highlights for our growth and development.
“O Jesus, I Have Promised” was written by an English clergyman on such a special day. It was penned especially for a confirmation service in which John Bode’s own daughter and two sons were making their life’s vows of commitment to God and His service. He told his three children: “I have written a hymn containing all the important truths I want you to remember when you are fully confirmed.”
Without doubt, the three children of John Bode never forgot that confirmation service and their father’s concern for them as they sang these words throughout their lives:
O Jesus, I have promised to serve Thee to the end; be Thou forever near me, my Master and my Friend: I shall not fear the battle if Thou art by my side, nor wander from the pathway if Thou wilt be my guide.
O let me feel Thee near me—the world is ever near; I see the sights that dazzle, the tempting sounds I hear: My foes are ever near me, around me and within; but Jesus, draw Thou nearer, and shield my soul from sin.O Jesus, Thou hast promised to all who follow Thee, that where Thou art in glory, there shall Thy servant be; and, Jesus, I have promised to serve Thee to the end; O give me grace to follow, my Master and my Friend.
Do you need to stop today and do some reflecting and evaluating?
For Today: Ecclesiastes 5:5; John 12:26; Romans 12:11; Colossians 3:24; Revelation 14:13
Think seriously about ways in which your spiritual life can be deepened and developed during this coming year. Why not begin even now?
Dr. Andrew Woods
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