Exodus 19 - 21
Israel at Mount SinaiExodus 19:1 On the third new moon after the people of Israel had gone out of the land of Egypt, on that day they came into the wilderness of Sinai. 2 They set out from Rephidim and came into the wilderness of Sinai, and they encamped in the wilderness. There Israel encamped before the mountain, 3 while Moses went up to God. The LORD called to him out of the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the people of Israel: 4 ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. 5 Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; 6 and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.”
7 So Moses came and called the elders of the people and set before them all these words that the LORD had commanded him. 8 All the people answered together and said, “All that the LORD has spoken we will do.” And Moses reported the words of the people to the LORD. 9 And the LORD said to Moses, “Behold, I am coming to you in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with you, and may also believe you forever.”
When Moses told the words of the people to the LORD, 10 the LORD said to Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their garments 11 and be ready for the third day. For on the third day the LORD will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. 12 And you shall set limits for the people all around, saying, ‘Take care not to go up into the mountain or touch the edge of it. Whoever touches the mountain shall be put to death. 13 No hand shall touch him, but he shall be stoned or shot; whether beast or man, he shall not live.’ When the trumpet sounds a long blast, they shall come up to the mountain.” 14 So Moses went down from the mountain to the people and consecrated the people; and they washed their garments. 15 And he said to the people, “Be ready for the third day; do not go near a woman.”
16 On the morning of the third day there were thunders and lightnings and a thick cloud on the mountain and a very loud trumpet blast, so that all the people in the camp trembled. 17 Then Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they took their stand at the foot of the mountain. 18 Now Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke because the LORD had descended on it in fire. The smoke of it went up like the smoke of a kiln, and the whole mountain trembled greatly. 19 And as the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him in thunder. 20 The LORD came down on Mount Sinai, to the top of the mountain. And the LORD called Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up.
21 And the LORD said to Moses, “Go down and warn the people, lest they break through to the LORD to look and many of them perish. 22 Also let the priests who come near to the LORD consecrate themselves, lest the LORD break out against them.” 23 And Moses said to the LORD, “The people cannot come up to Mount Sinai, for you yourself warned us, saying, ‘Set limits around the mountain and consecrate it.’ ” 24 And the LORD said to him, “Go down, and come up bringing Aaron with you. But do not let the priests and the people break through to come up to the LORD, lest he break out against them.” 25 So Moses went down to the people and told them.
The Ten CommandmentsExodus 20:1 And God spoke all these words, saying,
2 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.
3 “You shall have no other gods before me.
4 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.
7 “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.
8 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. 11 For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
12 “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.
13 “You shall not murder.
14 “You shall not commit adultery.
15 “You shall not steal.
16 “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.”
18 Now when all the people saw the thunder and the flashes of lightning and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking, the people were afraid and trembled, and they stood far off 19 and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die.” 20 Moses said to the people, “Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin.” 21 The people stood far off, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was.
Laws About Altars22 And the LORD said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the people of Israel: ‘You have seen for yourselves that I have talked with you from heaven. 23 You shall not make gods of silver to be with me, nor shall you make for yourselves gods of gold. 24 An altar of earth you shall make for me and sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and your peace offerings, your sheep and your oxen. In every place where I cause my name to be remembered I will come to you and bless you. 25 If you make me an altar of stone, you shall not build it of hewn stones, for if you wield your tool on it you profane it. 26 And you shall not go up by steps to my altar, that your nakedness be not exposed on it.’
Laws About SlavesExodus 21:1 “Now these are the rules that you shall set before them. 2 When you buy a Hebrew slave, he shall serve six years, and in the seventh he shall go out free, for nothing. 3 If he comes in single, he shall go out single; if he comes in married, then his wife shall go out with him. 4 If his master gives him a wife and she bears him sons or daughters, the wife and her children shall be her master’s, and he shall go out alone. 5 But if the slave plainly says, ‘I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free,’ 6 then his master shall bring him to God, and he shall bring him to the door or the doorpost. And his master shall bore his ear through with an awl, and he shall be his slave forever.
7 “When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she shall not go out as the male slaves do. 8 If she does not please her master, who has designated her for himself, then he shall let her be redeemed. He shall have no right to sell her to a foreign people, since he has broken faith with her. 9 If he designates her for his son, he shall deal with her as with a daughter. 10 If he takes another wife to himself, he shall not diminish her food, her clothing, or her marital rights. 11 And if he does not do these three things for her, she shall go out for nothing, without payment of money.
12 “Whoever strikes a man so that he dies shall be put to death. 13 But if he did not lie in wait for him, but God let him fall into his hand, then I will appoint for you a place to which he may flee. 14 But if a man willfully attacks another to kill him by cunning, you shall take him from my altar, that he may die.
15 “Whoever strikes his father or his mother shall be put to death.
16 “Whoever steals a man and sells him, and anyone found in possession of him, shall be put to death.
17 “Whoever curses his father or his mother shall be put to death.
18 “When men quarrel and one strikes the other with a stone or with his fist and the man does not die but takes to his bed, 19 then if the man rises again and walks outdoors with his staff, he who struck him shall be clear; only he shall pay for the loss of his time, and shall have him thoroughly healed.
20 “When a man strikes his slave, male or female, with a rod and the slave dies under his hand, he shall be avenged. 21 But if the slave survives a day or two, he is not to be avenged, for the slave is his money.
22 “When men strive together and hit a pregnant woman, so that her children come out, but there is no harm, the one who hit her shall surely be fined, as the woman’s husband shall impose on him, and he shall pay as the judges determine. 23 But if there is harm, then you shall pay life for life, 24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25 burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.
26 “When a man strikes the eye of his slave, male or female, and destroys it, he shall let the slave go free because of his eye. 27 If he knocks out the tooth of his slave, male or female, he shall let the slave go free because of his tooth.
28 “When an ox gores a man or a woman to death, the ox shall be stoned, and its flesh shall not be eaten, but the owner of the ox shall not be liable. 29 But if the ox has been accustomed to gore in the past, and its owner has been warned but has not kept it in, and it kills a man or a woman, the ox shall be stoned, and its owner also shall be put to death. 30 If a ransom is imposed on him, then he shall give for the redemption of his life whatever is imposed on him. 31 If it gores a man’s son or daughter, he shall be dealt with according to this same rule. 32 If the ox gores a slave, male or female, the owner shall give to their master thirty shekels of silver, and the ox shall be stoned.
Laws About Restitution33 “When a man opens a pit, or when a man digs a pit and does not cover it, and an ox or a donkey falls into it, 34 the owner of the pit shall make restoration. He shall give money to its owner, and the dead beast shall be his.
35 “When one man’s ox butts another’s, so that it dies, then they shall sell the live ox and share its price, and the dead beast also they shall share. 36 Or if it is known that the ox has been accustomed to gore in the past, and its owner has not kept it in, he shall repay ox for ox, and the dead beast shall be his.
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What I'm Reading
Seven Important Differences Between Angels and Demons
By J. Warner Wallace 1/22/2018
A recent study revealed 63% of young Americans (age 18-29) believe in demon possession. Even though fewer people in this age group claim any affiliation to organized religion, their belief in demons is actually increasing. While there are good reasons to believe in the existence of angelic beings (even apart from what the Bible teaches), the clearest description of angels and demons comes directly from the Biblical text. We’ve been examining the nature of angels in recent posts, but given the increasing cultural interest in demons, it might be wise to understand them more deeply. While angelic beings were originally were created to love God, demons have rejected him entirely. In many ways the story of angelic beings parallels our own experiences as humans. Demons rebelled against God in a manner similar to those of us who have also rebelled. Angels worship and honor their Creator and choose continually to help reunite all of creation to Him, but demons reject God and endeavor daily to oppose the spiritual understanding and development of humans (Ephesians 6:12). Angels and demons are the same kind of being; they share the same powers we’ve already described. The behavior of demons, therefore, can be contrasted with the behavior of angels:
Angels Appear Human / Demons Inhabit Humans | While angels appear in human form to demonstrate their empathy and love for us, demons enter human bodies to take on the form of those they are attacking:
Matthew 17:14-18 | When they came to the crowd, a man approached Jesus and knelt before him. “Lord, have mercy on my son,” he said. “He has seizures and is suffering greatly. He often falls into the fire or into the water. I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him.” “O unbelieving and perverse generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me.” Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of the boy, and he was healed from that moment.
Angels Herald the Savior / Demons Shriek the Savior | While angels announce the Savior in love and expectation, demons scream his name in fear, provoking fear in those non-believers who may be watching:
Mark 3:11-12 | Whenever the evil spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, “You are the Son of God.”
James "Jim" Warner Wallace (born June 16, 1961) is an American homicide detective and Christian apologist. Wallace is a Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview and an Adjunct Professor of Apologetics at Biola University in La Mirada, California. He has authored several books, including Cold-Case Christianity, God’s Crime Scene, and Forensic Faith, in which he applies principles of cold case homicide investigation to apologetic concerns such as the existence of God and the reliability of the Gospels.
In Christ Alone (Calvin)
By John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion
When we see salvation whole—its every single part
is found in Christ,
we must beware lest we derive the smallest drop
from somewhere else.
If we seek salvation,
the very name of Jesus
that he possesses it.
If other Spirit-given gifts are sought—in his anointing they are found;
strength—in his reign; and purity—in his conception;
tenderness—expressed in his nativity,
in which he was made like us in all respects, that he might feel our pain:
Redemption when we seek it, is in his passion found;
acquittal—in his condemnation lies;
and freedom from the curse—in his cross is known.
If satisfaction for our sins we seek—we’ll find it in his sacrifice.
There’s cleansing in his blood.
And if it’s reconciliation that we need, for it he entered Hades;
if mortification of our flesh—then in his tomb it’s laid.
And newness of our life—his resurrection brings and immortality as well come also with that gift.
And if we long to find that heaven’s kingdom’s our inheritance,
His entry there secures it now
with our protection, safety too, and blessings that abound
—all flowing from his kingly reign.
The sum of all for those who seek such treasure-trove of blessings,
These blessings of all kinds, is this:
from nowhere else than him can they be drawn;
For they are ours in Christ alone.
Donkeys, Alexander and Christ
By Andrew Wilson | 1/18/2017
About a year ago, I was teaching on the doctrine of Scripture when I suddenly realised that I didn't understand the book of Zechariah. At all. So I bought a series of teaching sessions on Zechariah 9-14 by Peter Leithart and James Jordan, and I've been slowly working through it with the text in front of me. It has been a fascinating journey into one of the trickiest parts of Scripture, and it has been full of intriguing suggestions. One of the most striking ones is the idea that the famous prophecy of Zechariah 9, in which a king enters Jerusalem on a donkey, refers in the first instance to Alexander the Great, who then serves as a sort of type of Christ. The burden of the word of the Lord is against the land of Hadrach Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
The central idea is that if the oracle of Zechariah 9:1-8 is taken to be about Alexander, as it usually is, then it would seem natural to read the well-known triumphal entry prophecy as referring to him as well. Conversely, if 9:9-10 is about Jesus, then it would seem that we should also take 9:1-8 that way, which leaves us either shoehorning in completely unknown events to make things fit, or spiritualising a section that seems for all the world to be about real nations and real battles. The opening oracle is as follows:
and Damascus is its resting-place.
For the Lord has an eye on mankind
and on all the tribes of Israel,
2 and on Hamath also, which borders on it,
Tyre and Sidon, though they are very wise.
3 Tyre has built herself a rampart
and heaped up silver like dust,
and fine gold like the mud of the streets.
4 But behold, the Lord will strip her of her possessions
and strike down her power on the sea,
and she shall be devoured by fire.
5 Ashkelon shall see it, and be afraid;
Gaza too, and shall writhe in anguish;
Ekron also, because its hopes are confounded.
The king shall perish from Gaza;
Ashkelon shall be uninhabited;
6 a mixed people shall dwell in Ashdod,
and I will cut off the pride of Philistia.
7 I will take away its blood from its mouth,
and its abominations from between its teeth;
it too shall be a remnant for our God;
it shall be like a clan in Judah,
and Ekron shall be like the Jebusites.
8 Then I will encamp at my house as a guard,
so that none shall march to and fro;
no oppressor shall again march over them,
for now I see with my own eyes.
Then, with no break other than the one we insert in our Bibles, comes this:
Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your king is coming to you;
righteous and having salvation is he,
humble and mounted on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
10 I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim
and the war horse from Jerusalem;
and the battle bow shall be cut off,
and he shall speak peace to the nations;
his rule shall be from sea to sea,
and from the River to the ends of the earth.
The burden of the word of the Lord is against the land of Hadrach
Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
Andrew is Teaching Pastor at King's Church London, and has theology degrees from Cambridge (MA), London School of Theology (MTh), and King's College London (PhD). He is a columnist for Christianity Today, and has written several books, including the upcoming Echoes of Exodus (Crossway, 2018) and Spirit and Sacrament: An Invitation to Eucharismatic Worship (Zondervan, 2018). Andrew is married to Rachel and they have three children: Zeke, Anna and Samuel. Views he expresses here are his own, and do not represent those of Newfrontiers or any particular church.
The Problem Of The Old Testament
By James Orr 1907
VI. FIDELITY OF NARRATIVES TO PATRIARCHAL CONDITIONS
One of the most pronounced internal signatures of the truth of the patriarchal history is undoubtedly found in its primitive character, and its simplicity of ideas and worship, as compared with later stages of revelation.
1. This appears on the surface in the fact that the patriarchal history moves in primitive conditions, and keeps true to these throughout. The patriarchs have a character of their own, and are not modelled after the pattern of heroes, and prophets, and warriors of a later time. They live their own free life under the open heaven, moving from place to place, building their altars, and calling on the name of Jehovah. Their thoughts, hopes, interests, outlook into the future, are all relatively simple. They are untroubled by the problems and mental conflicts of later times, —the problems met with in Job, for instance, or in some of the Psalms, —even their temptations, as in the command to sacrifice Isaac, are those of a primitive age. It is generally agreed, therefore, that it would not be possible to assign a late date to the narratives in Genesis on the ground of that book alone. Many critics, no doubt, think otherwise, and fancy they can see in the narratives in question reflections of almost the whole political history of Israel, —the revolt of Moab, the contempt for the wild Arabs on the south-west border, the subjection and revolt of Edom, the Syrian wars, the prosperity and pride of the Northern Kingdom, etc. But it may safely be affirmed that most of these supposed mirrorings of later conditions are imaginary. Gunkel recently has cogently argued that the narratives in Genesis —“legends” as he calls them —are far more distinguished by contrast to the later period than by resemblance. With one exception, that of the revolt of Edom (regarded by him as a later addition), he can find no trace of reflection of political events after 900 B.C., and the narratives themselves he takes to be much older —completed by the time of the Judges. He points out that there is no trace of the sanctuary at Jerusalem, of the kingdom of Saul, of the conflict of Saul with David, of the kingdom in its united form under David and Solomon, of the division and wars of the separate kingdoms, of the frightful Syrian wars, etc. As little, he argues, is there any trace of the later conflicts of the prophets against image-worship, Asherahs, maççebas (pillars), high places; the worship of the patriarchs, on the contrary, is naïve and free, and betrays no sense of the existence of these bitter contests. Gunkel’s own theory of the origin of the patriarchal stories is, we grant, as untenable as any which he criticises; but he is surely right, at any rate, in his defence of their relative antiquity.
2. We observe next, in partial anticipation of subsequent discussion, that the religious ideas, and forms of worship, in the patriarchal history, are those which suit an early stage of revelation, and would not be in place later. The patriarchs worship one God —there is no trace of any other in Genesis —but their worship is of the simplest order: prayer and sacrifice. There are no temples or fixed sanctuaries. The only ceremonial rite is circumcision; the one suggestion of Levitical prescriptions is in the distinction of clean and unclean animals, and this is found in J, not in P. The form of revelation is not, as in the prophetic age, internal, but is predominatingly objective —by dream, vision, theophany, or through the Mal’ach, or “Angel of Jehovah.” This last mode of revelation is one deserving of special attention. The doctrine of angels generally is undeveloped in these earlier books. The critics note it as a mark of P that he does not introduce angels; but even in J and E angels are brought in very sparingly. In E they are only introduced twice, and then collectively — in Jacob’s dream at Bethel, and again at Mahanaim, when “the angels of God” — “God’s host” —met him. J mentions “angels,” in forms of men, at the destruction of Sodom. The apparent exception to this reticence, the appearances of the “Angel of Jehovah,” or “Angel of God,” is really a striking confirmation of our argument. For this form of revelation is one almost peculiar to the earlier periods — patriarchal and Mosaic — and stands by itself. “The Angel of Jehovah” is not an ordinary angel, like those in the above passages, but is a peculiar manifestation of Jehovah in the creaturely sphere, for purposes of revelation. Jehovah’s name is in him; he is distinct from Jehovah, yet again mysteriously identified with Him; in address his name is interchanged with that of Jehovah; he is worshipped as Jehovah. How came so remarkable a conception to be there in this early age, and how came it to be confined to this age? It is certainly no creation of the prophetic mind, and can only be explained as the tradition of a well-known form of revelation of the older time.
3. The idea of God Himself in these narratives is appropriate to that early age, and is readily distinguishable from the more developed conceptions of later epochs of revelation. Without discussing at present the divine names as the basis of a theory of documents, we can at least say that the names of God proper to the patriarchal history—El. Elohim, El Elyōn, El Shaddai—are those which represent God under the most general forms of His being and manifestation, and in this respect stand in contrast with the name Jehovah, as, in its fullest significance, the covenant-name of the God of Israel. El, the most generic of all, is the only name that enters into the composition of proper names in Genesis. It corresponds with the Babylonian Ilu, but is not ordinarily used without some predicative designation —El Elyōn (God Most High), El Olam (God Everlasting), etc. Elohim, a plural form with a singular sense, is peculiar to Israel, and is likewise general in signification. It denotes God as the God of creation and providence. El Shaddai, again, marks a distinct stage in patriarchal revelation, but seems still, like the two former names, to be connected with the idea of power. The fuller manifestation of the divine attributes implied in, or to be historically connected with, the name Jehovah, lay yet in the future. It is true that in the sections of Genesis ascribed by criticism to J the name Jehovah is carried back into the days of the patriarchs —is put even into the mouth of Eve. Even there, however, careful observation of the phenomena will suggest that while, in the view of the narrator, the name Jehovah was not unknown in earlier times, it is used by him sparingly and with discrimination in comparison with other designations—often is used simply proleptically. Its absence in proper names is a testimony to this discrimination in its use.
The ideas of the divine attributes suggested by these names, though high, are yet in many respects undeveloped, relatively to later stages of revelation. What later Scripture means by the holiness, righteousness, wrath against sin, condescending grace, and covenant-keeping faithfulness of God, is, indeed, everywhere implied. God is the Judge of all the earth, doing right. He accepts and saves the righteous, and overwhelms a sinful world, or sinful cities, like Sodom and Gomorrah, with His judgments. Yet the terms “holy,” “righteousness,” “wrath,” “love,” are not yet found. The word “holy” first appears in connection with the revelations at the Exodus. Schultz, in his Old Testament Theology, speaks of “the impression of the terrible God of the Semites” in earlier times, and says “the ancient Hebrews, too, tremble before a mysterious wrath of God.” He strangely forgets that, on his own hypothesis, the passages he cites in proof are all from the very latest parts of the Pentateuch — from P. The Book of Genesis has no mention of the “wrath,” any more than of the “holiness,” of God —a fact the more striking that the writers are familiar with these ideas in Exodus. But the limits of the earlier revelation are in the former book carefully preserved.
4. As it is with the idea of God, so, we observe lastly, it is with the ethical conceptions of the patriarchs. These again, as already seen, are relatively high, yet fall short in many respects of the ethical standards of the period of the prophets. Abraham marries his half-sister; Jacob marries two sisters, Leah and Rachel; the custom is recognised of the childless wife giving a handmaid as concubine to the husband for the purpose of obtaining children by her —a custom now so singularly attested by the provisions of the Code of Hammurabi as belonging to that age. The conduct of the daughters of Lot in Genesis 19:30 ff., and that of Judah in Genesis 38, shock our moral sense, but are in keeping with the degrading offer made by Lot of his daughters to the men of Sodom. The patriarchs Abraham and Isaac fail in a due sense of the sin involved in their conduct about their wives. With all the religious and ethical elevation we must ascribe to the patriarchs, therefore, Kuenen is not borne out in his formerly-quoted remark that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are pictured as “not inferior to the prophets of the eighth century B.C., in pureness of religious insight and inward spiritual piety.”
When we advance to Exodus, we are conscious of a great progress. The writers are, on the theory, the same, and the history is the continuation of the preceding. Yet everything is on a changed and grander scale. The ideas are deeper; the scene is larger and more imposing; the forces at work are more titanic; the issues are more tremendous. The hour has come for Jehovah to fulfil His promises to the fathers. The instrument is prepared; the yoke of bondage is to be broken; the people are to be led forth to breathe the air of liberty in the desert, and, as redeemed, to make voluntary dedication of themselves to their Deliverer. With this access of religious enthusiasm, and unparalleled experience of divine grace, goes of necessity an immense uplifting both in the religious ideas and in the standard of ethical obligation. The people have now given them “statutes and judgments” which are to serve as the norm of moral conduct. The ideal set before them is nothing less than the holiness of Jehovah Himself. They are to be a “holy” people to Him, and are to prove their fidelity by obedience to His voice. The scenes in this great drama are depicted with a realism and fresco -like vividness of colouring which irresistibly suggest that the narratives were written under the recent impression of the events which they record: when, at least, the vividness of that impression had not yet faded from the memory and heart of the nation. The strands of the story may be multiple, —that is yet to be inquired into, —but we cannot admit that they are diverse. Moses and Aaron are the central figures in the history, but, as in the case of the patriarchal narratives, the portraits of the two are the same in J, E, P, D alike. It is one and the same Moses, with one and the same Aaron beside him, who appears in all the so-called “sources,” and mediates, under God, the freedom and covenant-organisation of the nation.
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 12The Faithful Have Vanished
12 To The Choirmaster: According To The Sheminith. A Psalm Of David
1 Save, O LORD, for the godly one is gone;
for the faithful have vanished from among the children of man.
2 Everyone utters lies to his neighbor;
with flattering lips and a double heart they speak.
3 May the LORD cut off all flattering lips,
the tongue that makes great boasts,
4 those who say, “With our tongue we will prevail,
our lips are with us; who is master over us?”
5 “Because the poor are plundered, because the needy groan,
I will now arise,” says the LORD;
“I will place him in the safety for which he longs.”
6 The words of the LORD are pure words,
like silver refined in a furnace on the ground,
purified seven times.
7 You, O LORD, will keep them;
you will guard us from this generation forever.
8 On every side the wicked prowl,
as vileness is exalted among the children of man.
Why Being "Blessed" is Better than Being "Happy"
By Sean McDowell 1/19/17
Our culture is obsessed with happiness. From the movies we watch, the purchases we make, and our obsessive use of technology and social media, it is clear that many people today live for happiness.
You might be thinking, “So what? Isn’t happiness a good thing?” Well, that depends on what is meant by happiness. In his book Happiness Is a Serious Problem: A Human Nature Repair Manual, Dennis Prager argues that the common definition of happiness today is H = nF. In other words, happiness is equivalent to the number (n) of fun (F) experiences we can accumulate in a lifetime. The more fun experiences, the happier we are. To be happy is to feel good and have fun.
Prager explains, “Most people believe that happiness and fun are virtually identical. Ask them, for example, to imagine a scene of happy people. Most people will immediately conjure up a picture of people having fun (e.g. laughing, playing games, drinking at a party).”
Pleasure is certainly not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, God designed us as embodied beings to experience remarkable pleasure. But can pleasure-seeking in itself ultimately bring a meaningful life?
The Futility of a Pleasure-Seeking Life
King Solomon, who had all the pleasures the world could possibly offer, wrote millennia ago about the emptiness that comes from seeking pleasure as the purpose of life:
I said in my heart, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure; enjoy yourself.” But behold, this also was vanity. I said of laughter, “It is mad,” and of pleasure, “What use is it?” I searched with my heart how to cheer my body with wine…till I might see what was good for the children of man to do under heaven during the few days of their life…So I became great and surpassed all who were before me in Jerusalem…And whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I kept my heart from no pleasure, for my heart found pleasure in all my toil, and this was my reward for all my toil. Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun (Ecclesiastes 2:1-3, 9-11).
In his book Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment, Martin Seligman notes that there was a tenfold increase in depression among Baby Boomers over any previous generation. Why? According to his analysis, it is because Boomers were the first generation to focus on their own pleasure as the goal of life. According to Seligman, lasting happiness occurs when people outgrow their obsessive concern with personal feelings and live for something beyond themselves.
The paradox of happiness is that if we seek it, we won’t find it. True happiness comes when we stop focusing our own feelings, and lovingly seek the best for others. This is (partly) why Jesus said, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Seek yourself first, and your life will be empty. Seek God first, and you will have a meaningful life filled with genuine happiness — whether you feel good or not.
The Bible has a different view of the goal of human life. Rather than living for happiness (understood as having certain feelings and experiences), Scripture teaches that the goal of life is to love God and love other people (Mark 12:28-34). When we do love God, and seek His glory, we are “blessed” regardless of how we feel.
Consider Psalms 1, which opens the book with these words: “Blessed is the man.” If you read Psalm 1 closely, you will notice that it is not about feelings, but about being right with God. The “blessed man” is not the one who has amassed endless material gain, has a fun job, has become a YouTube star, or accumulated endless fun experiences. Rather, the blessed man is the one who “delights in the law of the Lord, and on His law he meditates day and night” (v. 2).
The Psalmist compares the blessed man, who prospers in all he does, to a healthy tree, planted by streams of water (v. 3). But the wicked man is driven away by the wind and ultimately perishes (v. 4-5). In his commentary on Psalms, The Expositor's Bible Commentary (Vol 5) Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs Willem VanGemeren explains what blessedness means in this passage:
The formula “Blessed is the man” evokes joy and gratitude, as man may live in fellowship with his God. Blessedness is not deserved; it is a gift of God. God declares sinners to be righteous and freely grants them newness of life in which he protects them from the full effects of the world under judgment (Gen 3:15–19). Outside of God’s blessing, man is “cursed” and ultimately leads a meaningless life (Eccl 1:2). The word “happy” is a good rendition of “blessed,” provided one keeps in mind that the condition of “bliss” is not merely a feeling. Even when the righteous do not feel happy, they are still considered “blessed” from God’s perspective. He bestows this gift on them. Neither negative feelings nor adverse conditions can take his blessing away.
Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, a best-selling author of over 18 books, an internationally recognized speaker, a part-time high school teacher, and the Resident Scholar for Summit, California. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell and his blog: seanmcdowell.org.Books By Sean McDowell
Sean McDowell Books:
Is God Just a Human Invention? And Seventeen Other Questions Raised by the New Atheists
A New Kind of Apologist: *Adopting Fresh Strategies *Addressing the Latest Issues *Engaging the Culture
The Beauty of Intolerance: Setting a Generation Free to Know Truth and Love
Same-Sex Marriage: A Thoughtful Approach to God's Design for Marriage (Thoughtful Response)
ETHIX: Being Bold in a Whatever World
By Don Carson 3/9/2018
The Ten Commandments (Ex. 20) were once learned by every child at school in the Western world. They established deeply ingrained principles of right and wrong that contributed to the shaping of Western civilization. They were not viewed as ten recommendations, optional niceties for polite people. Even many of those who did not believe that they were given by God himself (“God spoke all these words,” 20:1) nevertheless viewed them as the highest brief summary of the kind of private and public morality needed for the good ordering of society.
Their importance is now fast dissipating in the West. Even many church members cannot recite more than three or four of them. It is unthinkable that a thoughtful Christian would not memorize them.
Yet it is the setting in which they were first given that calls forth this meditation. The Ten Commandments were given by God through Moses to the Israelites in the third month after their rescue from Egypt. Four observations:
(1) The Ten Commandments are, in the first place, the high point of the covenant mediated by Moses (cf. 19:5), delivered by God at Sinai (Horeb). The rest of the covenant makes little sense without them; the Ten Commandments themselves are buttressed by the rest of the covenantal stipulations. However enduring, they are not merely abstract principles, but are cast in the concrete terms of that culture: e.g., the prohibition to covet your neighbor’s ox or donkey.
(2) The Ten Commandments are introduced by a reminder that God redeemed this community from slavery: “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery” (20:2). They are his people not only because of Creation, not only because of the covenant with Abraham, but because God rescued them from Egypt.
(3) God delivered the Ten Commandments in a terrifying display of power. In an age before nuclear holocaust, the most frightening experience of power was nature unleashed. Here, the violence of the storm, the shaking of the earth, the lightning, the noise, the smoke (19:16-19; 20:18) not only solemnized the event, but taught the people reverent fear (20:19-29). The fear of the Lord is not only the beginning of wisdom (Prov. 1:7), but also keeps people from sinning (Ex. 20:20). God wants them to know he had rescued them; he also wants them to know he is not a domesticated deity happily dispensing tribal blessings. He is not only a good God, but a terrifying, awesome God.
(4) Since God is so terrifying, the people themselves insist that Moses should mediate between him and them (20:18-19). And this prepares the way for another, final, Mediator (Deut. 18:15-18).
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Don Carson is research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, and co-founder (with Tim Keller) of The Gospel Coalition. He has authored numerous books, and recently edited The Enduring Authority of the Christian Scriptures (Eerdmans, 2016). Don Carson Books | Go to Books Page
Tests of Canonicity
By Gleason Archer Jr.
First we may consider certain inadequate tests which have been proposed in recent times.
1. J. G. Eichhorn (1780) considered age to be the test for canonicity. All books believed to have been composed after Malachi’s time were excluded from consideration. But this theory does not account for the numerous older works like the Book of Jashar ( Josh. 10:13; 2 Sam. 1:18) and the Book of the Wars of Jehovah ( Num. 21:14) which were not accounted authoritative.
2. E Hitzig (ca. 1850) made the Hebrew language the Jewish test of canonicity. But this does not explain why Ecclesiasticus, Tobit, and 1 Maccabees were rejected even though they were composed in Hebrew. It also raises questions as to the acceptability of the Aramaic chapters of Daniel and Ezra.
3. G. Wildeboer makes conformity to the Torah the test of canonicity for the later books. But later on in his discussion he introduces many other criteria which render this worthless: (a) canoncial books had to be written in Hebrew or Aramaic; and they either had to (b) treat ancient history (like Ruth or Chronicles ), or (c) speak of the establishment of a new order of things ( Ezra, Nehemiah ), or (d) be assigned to a famous person of ancient times, such as Solomon, Samuel, Daniel, or (perhaps) Job, or (e) be in complete harmony with the national sentiment of people and scribes ( Esther ). Here indeed we have a bewildering profusion of tests. As for Wildeboer’s original criterion, how can we be sure that the Words of Nathan the prophet (referred to in 2 Chron. 9:29 ) or Isaiah’s Acts of Uzziah ( 2 Chron. 26:22 ) or Jeremiah’s Lamentation for Josiah ( 2 Chron. 35:25 ) were not in conformity to the Torah, at least as much so as their other words or writings which have been preserved in the canon? As for (e), many of the pseudepigraphical works, like Enoch, Lamech and the Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs, the Testament of Adam, and several others, were assigned to famous men of old, and it is not absolutely certain that none of them was originally composed in Aramaic (if not in Hebrew).
The only true test of canonicity which remains is the testimony of God the Holy Spirit to the authority of His own Word. This testimony found a response of recognition, faith, and submission in the hearts of God’s people who walked in covenant fellowship with Him. As E. J. Young puts it, “To these and other proposed criteria we must reply with a negative. The canonical books of the Old Testament were divinely revealed and their authors were holy men who spoke as they were borne of the Holy Ghost. In His good providence God brought it about that His people should recognize and receive His Word. How He planted this conviction in their hearts with respect to the identity of His Word we may not be able fully to understand or explain. We may, however, follow our Lord, who placed the imprimatur of His infallible authority upon the books of the Old Testament.”
We may go further than this and point out that in the nature of the case we could hardly expect any other valid criteria than this. If canonicity is a quality somehow imparted to the books of Scripture by any kind of human decision, as Liberal scholars unquestioningly assume (and as even the Roman Church implies by her self-contradictory affirmation: “The Church is the mother of the Scripture”), then perhaps a set of mechanical tests could be set up to determine which writings to accept as authoritative and which to reject. But if, on the other hand, a sovereign God has taken the initiative in revelation and in the production of an inspired record of that revelation through human agents, it must simply be a matter of recognition of the quality already inherent by divine act in the books so inspired. When a child recognizes his own parent from a multitude of other adults at some public gathering, he does not impart any new quality of parenthood by such an act; he simply recognizes a relationship which already exists. So also with lists of authoritative books drawn up by ecclesiastical synods or councils. They did not impart canonicity to a single page of Scripture; they simply acknowledged the divine inspiration of religious documents which were inherently canonical from the time they were first composed, and formally rejected other books for which canonicity had been falsely claimed.
Liberal Theories as to the Origin of the Canon
The foregoing survey has furnished a proper basis on which to evaluate the standard higher critical account of the evolution of the Hebrew canon. Those who do not take seriously the Bible’s own claim to be the uniquely inspired revelation of God’s will must necessarily cast about for some more rationalistic, down-to-earth explanation of the origin of these books. Because of antisupernaturalistic presuppositions, they must be true to their own philosophical principles in rejecting all biblical data which testify to direct revelation from God. For example, the Pentateuch affirms with great frequency, “Jehovah said unto Moses, ‘Speak unto the children of Israel and say unto them—’ ” But scholars who do not believe that God could ever speak personally and intelligibly to Moses (or any other man) must reject all such biblical statements as legendary. The notice that Moses wrote out a copy of the Torah and laid it up before the ark of the covenant ( Deut. 31:9, 26 ) must be ruled out of court. The same is true of the numerous references to a written law of Moses in Joshua (e.g., 1:8, and also 8:32, which affirms that Joshua had the Torah inscribed on stone stelae for public convenience). Only those references to a reading of the Torah which accord with rationalist presuppositions are to be taken as historical. The Development Hypothesis (cf. chaps. 11 and 12) and the Documentary Theory of the Pentateuch are explained in detail further on, but for the present a brief summary of the critical theory of the canon must suffice.
Liberal scholarship explains the threefold division of the Hebrew canon (i.e., Torah, Prophets, and Kethûbɩ̂m) as resulting from three separate stages in the composition of the various books themselves. That is to say, the Torah arose in successive accretions starting at 850 B.C. (the earliest written document), combined with a later document between 750 and 650; then in 621, at the time of Josiah’s reform, Deuteronomy became the first unit of the Pentateuch to achieve canonicity, being formally accepted by both king and people ( 2 Kings 23 ). During the Babylonian Exile (587–539 B.C.), the ritual and priestly sections were written up by Levitical authors under the inspiration of Ezekiel, and their activity continued down to the time of Ezra (who was one of their number). Nehemiah 8:1–8 contains a record of the first public reading of the entire Torah as “the book of the Law of Moses” (some parts of which had been just newly finished — according to the Documentarians— and all of which was at least five hundred years later than the death of Moses). Ezra’s public was somehow convinced that these five books of mixed and spurious parentage were indeed the product of Moses’ pen and contained the authoritative Word of God. Thus they imparted canonization to the first division of the Old Testament, the Torah, in 444 B.C.
So far as the second division, the Prophets, is concerned, these were gradually assembled into an authoritative list between 300 and 200 B.C. It could not have been much earlier than that, because (according to higher critical theory) certain parts of Isaiah, Joel, Zechariah and others were not written until the third century B.C. (Some scholars, like Duhm, insisted that certain portions of Isaiah were not composed until the second or first century B.C.) Hence the second division achieved canonical status under unknown circumstances at a place unknown at a time unknown, but approximately 200 B.C.20
As for the third division, the Kethûbɩ̂m or writings, they were not collected (and most of them were not even written) until well after the collection of the prophets had begun. Since Daniel, on grounds of literary criticism, was composed around 168 B.C., the Kethubim could not have been assembled much before 150 B.C., since a couple of decades at least were necessary for a book to achieve canonical stature. Preliminary or tentative canonization of this third group of books was doubtless achieved between 150 and 100 B.C., but final ratification was deferred until the hypothetical Council of Janmia in A.D. 90.
Such is the usual account of the formation of circles today. Granted their presuppositions and critical methodology, it is perhaps reasonable enough. If, however, their datings of portions of the Old Testament which they have assigned to post-fifth-century times can be shown to be ill founded (as the succeeding chapters attempt to do), then this whole theory of the canon must be abandoned in favor of that account which is presented by the Scripture itself. The biblical authors indicate very clearly, whenever the matter comes up that the various books of the Bible were canonical from the moment of their inception, by virtue of the divine authority (“Thus saith the Lord”) behind them, and the books received immediate recognition and acceptance by the faithful as soon as they were made aware of the writings.
As to the Torah, we are told in Deut. 31:9 that an authoritative copy of it was laid up before the ark not long before Moses’ death in 1405 B.C. We are not told anywhere at what time the three sections of the prophets (Former Prophets, Major Prophets, and Minor Prophets) were assembled into a single main division. If Malachi was the latest book in this group, canonization of the whole could hardly have taken place until about 400 B.C. The criterion for what books belonged to the prophets may have been their authorship. They were all composed by the authoritative interpreters of the law who belonged to the prophetic order (according to Deut. 18 ), and either transmitted their messages directly from God, or else composed an account of Israel’s history according to God’s perspective ( Judges, Samuel, and Kings ).
As for the third division, the Writings, it is obvious that all inspired books which did not belong to either of the first two groups were put here. All they had in common was that they were not composed by human authors who belonged to the prophetic order. Thus Daniel’s memoirs were assigned to the Kethubim by the later rabbis because he was a civil servant and did not belong to the prophetic order. It is true that he like David and Solomon possessed a prophetic gift, but none of these were formerly anointed as prophets of Jehovah. The same nonprophetic status characterized the unnamed authors of Job and Esther, as well as Governor Nehemiah and Ezra the scribe. (We have already seen that Lamentations, which was the composition of Jeremiah, originally was included among the prophets.) But there can be no question of time sequence, so far as the second and third groups are concerned. Much of the material of the Kethubim was written before the earliest of the writing prophets. The units of each division were formed more or less contemporaneously, and they were assigned later to each group, the prophets and the writings, on the basis of authorship. While we have no actual notice as to who composed Joshua, Judges, Samuel, or Kings, the viewpoint of the authors — as even Liberal critics are swift to agree — is consistently a prophetic one.
Memucan and Haman
Son of Hammedatha; chief minister of King Ahasuerus (Esth.iii.1-2). As his name indicates, Haman was a descendant of Agag, the king of the Amalekites. On account of his attempt to exterminate the Jews in the kingdom of Ahasuerus, he is frequently called "the persecutor of the Jews" (Esth. iii. 10; viii. 1; ix. 10, 24). His machinations against the Jews and his downfall are remembered during the Feast of Purim. Filled with annoyance because Mordecai did not bow before him, Haman resolved upon the extermination of the Jews throughout the whole kingdom. He drew lots to determine the day of the massacre, and the lot fell on the 13th of Adar (Esth. iii. 4-7). He offered the king ten thousand talents of silver for permission to do with the Jews as he pleased. The permission was granted, and he accordingly despatched letters to all parts of the Persian kingdom to massacre the Jews on the 13th of Adar (iii. 8-15). His intrigues, however, were baffled by Esther. In order to throw him off his guard she invited him to a banquet to which she had also asked the king. Haman, looking upon this as an indication of special favor, in his pride went so far as to prepare a gallows whereon to hang Mordecai (v. 14). But in that night a sudden change occurred in Haman's fortunes. His own answer to the king's question what should be done to him whom the king delighted to honor, which Haman supposed referred to himself, obliged Haman to lead Mordecai, his mortal enemy, clad in royal garments and seated on the king's horse, through the streets of Shushan and to proclaim: "Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delighteth to honor" (vi. 9). Afterward, while Haman was again drinking with the king at a banquet prepared by Esther, the latter exposed to the king Haman's plot. The king, filled with anger, ordered his officers to hang Haman on the very gallows which he had prepared for Mordecai (vii. 9). Ahasuerus bestowed upon Esther Haman's house (viii. 1); the ten sons of Haman were executed on the 13th of Adar and then hanged.
Haman is identified by the Talmudists with Memucan, the last of the seven princes "which saw the king's face" (Esth. i. 14), giving to "Memucan" the signification of "prepared for punishment" (Targ. to Esth.; Meg. 12b). Haman was a direct descendant of Agag in the sixteenth generation and consequently an Amalekite (Targ. Sheni; Josephus, "Ant." xi. 6, § 5). The Septuagint, however, gives for "ha-Agagi" ὅ Μακεδόν in Esth. ix. 24, while in the preceding instances no translation whatever is given. Having attempted to exterminate the Jews of Persia, and rendering himself thereby their worst enemy, Haman naturally became the center of many Talmudic legends. Being at one time in extreme want, he sold himself as a slave to Mordecai (Meg. 15a). He was a barber at Kefar Ḳarẓum for the space of twenty-two years (ib. 16a). Haman had an idolatrous image embroidered on his garments, so that those who bowed to him at command of the king bowed also to the image (Esth. R. vii.).
Haman was also an astrologer, and when he was about to fix the time for the massacre of the Jews he first cast lots to ascertain which was the most auspicious day of the week for that purpose. Each day, however, proved to be under some influence favorable to the Jews. He then sought to fix the month, but found that the same was true of each month; thus, Nisan was favorable to the Jews because of the Passover sacrifice; Iyyar, because of the small Passover. But when he arrived at Adar he found that its zodiacal sign was Pisces, and he said, "Now I shall be able to swallow them as fish which swallow one another" (Esth. R. vii.; Targ. Sheni iii.). Haman had 365 counselors, but the advice of none was so good as that of his wife, Zeresh. She it was especially that induced Haman to build a gallows for Mordecai, assuring him that this was the only way in which he would be able to prevail over his enemy, for hitherto the just had always been rescued from every other kind of death. As God foresaw that Haman himself would be hanged on the gallows He asked which tree would volunteer to serve as the instrument of death. Each tree, declaring that it was used for some holy purpose, objected to being soiled by the unclean body of Haman. Only the thorn-tree could find no excuse, and therefore offered itself for a gallows (Esth. R. ix.; Midr. Abba Gorion vii., ed. Buber, Wilna, 1886; in Targum Sheni this is narrated somewhat differently).
Emil G. Hirsch, M. Seligsohn, Solomon Schechter
The Pilgrim's Progress From This World To That Which Is To Come;
Delivered Under The Similitude Of A Dream
By John Bunyan 1678
THE FIRST STAGEPLI. Well said; and what else?
CHR. There are crowns of glory to be given us; and garments that will make us shine like the sun in the firmament of heaven.
2 Tim. 4:8 Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing. ESV
Rev. 22:5 And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever. ESV
Matt. 13:43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear. ESV
PLI. This is very pleasant; and what else?
CHR. There shall be no more crying, nor sorrow; for he that is owner of the place will wipe all tears from our eyes.
Isa. 25:8 He will swallow up death forever;
and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces,
and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth,
for the LORD has spoken. ESV
Rev 7:16-17 They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore;
the sun shall not strike them,
nor any scorching heat.
17 For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd,
and he will guide them to springs of living water,
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” ESV
PLI. And what company shall we have there?
CHR. There we shall be with seraphims and cherubims,
Isaiah 6:2 Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. ESV
1 Thess. 4:16-17 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. ESV
Rev. 5:11 Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, ESV
creatures that will dazzle your eyes to look on them. There also you shall meet with thousands and ten thousands that have gone before us to that place; none of them are hurtful, but loving and holy; every one walking in the sight of God, and standing in his presence with acceptance for ever. In a word, there we shall see the elders with their golden crowns,
Rev. 4:4 Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and seated on the thrones were twenty-four elders, clothed in white garments, with golden crowns on their heads. ESV
there we shall see the holy virgins with their golden harps,
Rev. 14:1–5 1 Then I looked, and behold, on Mount Zion stood the Lamb, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads. 2 And I heard a voice from heaven like the roar of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder. The voice I heard was like the sound of harpists playing on their harps, 3 and they were singing a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and before the elders. No one could learn that song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth. 4 It is these who have not defiled themselves with women, for they are virgins. It is these who follow the Lamb wherever he goes. These have been redeemed from mankind as firstfruits for God and the Lamb, 5 and in their mouth no lie was found, for they are blameless. ESV
there we shall see men, that by the world were cut in pieces, burnt in flames, eaten of beasts, drowned in the seas, for the love they bare to the Lord of the place,
John 12:25 Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. ESV
all well, and clothed with immortality as with a garment.
2 Cor. 5:2 2 For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, ESV
PLI. The hearing of this is enough to ravish one’s heart. But are these things to be enjoyed? How shall we get to be sharers thereof?
CHR. The Lord, the governor of the country, hath recorded that in this book,
Isaiah 55:1 “Come, everyone who thirsts,
come to the waters;
and he who has no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without price.
2 Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
and your labor for that which does not satisfy?
Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good,
and delight yourselves in rich food. ESV
John 7:37 On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. ESV
Rev. 21:6 And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. ESV
Rev 22:17 The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price. ESV
the substance of which is, if we be truly willing to have it, he will bestow it upon us freely.
PLI. Well, my good companion, glad am I to hear of these things: come on, let us mend our pace.
CHR. I cannot go as fast as I would, by reason of this burden that is on my back.
Now I saw in my dream, that just as they had ended this talk, they drew nigh to a very miry slough that was in the midst of the plain: and they being heedless, did both fall suddenly into the bog. The name of the slough was Despond. Here, therefore, they wallowed for a time, being grievously bedaubed with the dirt; and Christian, because of the burden that was on his back, began to sink in the mire.
PLI. Then said Pliable, Ah, neighbor Christian, where are you now?
CHR. Truly, said Christian, I do not know.
PLI. At this Pliable began to be offended, and angrily said to his fellow, Is this the happiness you have told me all this while of? If we have such ill speed at our first setting out, what may we expect between this and our journey’s end? May I get out again with my life, you shall possess the brave country alone for me. And with that he gave a desperate struggle or two, and got out of the mire on that side of the slough which was next to his own house: so away he went, and Christian saw him no more.
Wherefore Christian was left to tumble in the Slough of Despond alone; but still he endeavored to struggle to that side of the slough that was farthest from his own house, and next to the wicket-gate; the which he did, but could not get out because of the burden that was upon his back: but I beheld in my dream, that a man came to him, whose name was Help, and asked him what he did there.
CHR. Sir, said Christian, I was bid to go this way by a man called Evangelist, who directed me also to yonder gate, that I might escape the wrath to come. And as I was going thither, I fell in here.
HELP. But why did not you look for the steps?
CHR. Fear followed me so hard that I fled the next way, and fell in.
HELP. Then, said he, Give me thine hand: so he gave him his hand, and he drew him out,
Psalm 40:2 He drew me up from the pit of destruction,
out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
making my steps secure. ESV
Then I stepped to him that plucked him out, and said, “Sir, wherefore, since over this place is the way from the city of Destruction to yonder gate, is it, that this plat is not mended, that poor travellers might go thither with more security?” And he said unto me, “This miry slough is such a place as cannot be mended: it is the descent whither the scum and filth that attends conviction for sin doth continually run, and therefore it is called the Slough of Despond; for still, as the sinner is awakened about his lost condition, there arise in his soul many fears and doubts, and discouraging apprehensions, which all of them get together, and settle in this place: and this is the reason of the badness of this ground.
“It is not the pleasure of the King that this place should remain so bad.
Isa. 35:3 Strengthen the weak hands,
and make firm the feeble knees.
4 Say to those who have an anxious heart,
“Be strong; fear not!
Behold, your God
will come with vengeance,
with the recompense of God.
He will come and save you.” ESV
“True, there are, by the direction of the Lawgiver, certain good and substantial steps, placed even through the very midst of this slough; but at such time as this place doth much spew out its filth, as it doth against change of weather, these steps are hardly seen; or if they be, men, through the dizziness of their heads, step beside, and then they are bemired to purpose, notwithstanding the steps be there: but the ground is good when they are once got in at the gate.”
1 Sam. 12:23 Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by ceasing to pray for you, and I will instruct you in the good and the right way. ESV
Now I saw in my dream, that by this time Pliable was got home to his house. So his neighbors came to visit him; and some of them called him wise man for coming back, and some called him fool for hazarding himself with Christian: others again did mock at his cowardliness, saying, “Surely, since you began to venture, I would not have been so base as to have given out for a few difficulties:” so Pliable sat sneaking among them. But at last he got more confidence, and then they all turned their tales, and began to deride poor Christian behind his back. And thus much concerning Pliable.
Now as Christian was walking solitary by himself, he espied one afar off come crossing over the field to meet him; and their hap was to meet just as they were crossing the way of each other. The gentleman’s name that met him was Mr. Worldly Wiseman: he dwelt in the town of Carnal Policy, a very great town, and also hard by from whence Christian came. This man then, meeting with Christian, and having some inkling of him, (for Christian’s setting forth from the city of Destruction was much noised abroad, not only in the town where he dwelt, but also it began to be the town-talk in some other places) — Mr. Worldly Wiseman, therefore, having some guess of him, by beholding his laborious going, by observing his sighs and groans, and the like, began thus to enter into some talk with Christian.
WORLD. How now, good fellow, whither away after this burdened manner?
CHR. A burdened manner indeed, as ever I think poor creature had! And whereas you ask me, Whither away? I tell you, sir, I am going to yonder wicket-gate before me; for there, as I am informed, I shall be put into a way to be rid of my heavy burden.
WORLD. Hast thou a wife and children?
CHR. Yes; but I am so laden with this burden, that I cannot take that pleasure in them as formerly: methinks I am as if I had none.
1 Cor. 7:29 This is what I mean, brothers: the appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none, ESV
WORLD. Wilt thou hearken to me, if I give thee counsel?
CHR. If it be good, I will; for I stand in need of good counsel.
WORLD. I would advise thee, then, that thou with all speed get thyself rid of thy burden; for thou wilt never be settled in thy mind till then: nor canst thou enjoy the benefits of the blessings which God hath bestowed upon thee till then.
CHR. That is that which I seek for, even to be rid of this heavy burden: but get it off myself I cannot, nor is there any man in our country that can take it off my shoulders; therefore am I going this way, as I told you, that I may be rid of my burden.
WORLD. Who bid thee go this way to be rid of thy burden?
CHR. A man that appeared to me to be a very great and honorable person: his name, as I remember, is Evangelist.
WORLD. I be shrewd him for his counsel! there is not a more dangerous and troublesome way in the world than is that into which he hath directed thee; and that thou shalt find, if thou wilt be ruled by his counsel. Thou hast met with something, as I perceive, already; for I see the dirt of the Slough of Despond is upon thee: but that slough is the beginning of the sorrows that do attend those that go on in that way. Hear me; I am older than thou: thou art like to meet with, in the way which thou goest, wearisomeness, painfulness, hunger, perils, nakedness, sword, lions, dragons, darkness, and, in a word, death, and what not. These things are certainly true, having been confirmed by many testimonies. And should a man so carelessly cast away himself, by giving heed to a stranger?
CHR. Why, sir, this burden on my back is more terrible to me than are all these things which you have mentioned: nay, methinks I care not what I meet with in the way, if so be I can also meet with deliverance from my burden.
WORLD. How camest thou by thy burden at first?
CHR. By reading this book in my hand.
WORLD. I thought so; and it has happened unto thee as to other weak men, who, meddling with things too high for them, do suddenly fall into thy distractions; which distractions do not only unman men, as thine I perceive have done thee, but they run them upon desperate ventures, to obtain they know not what.
CHR. I know what I would obtain; it is ease from my heavy burden.
WORLD. But why wilt thou seek for ease this way, seeing so many dangers attend it? especially since (hadst thou but patience to hear me) I could direct thee to the obtaining of what thou desirest, without the dangers that thou in this way wilt run thyself into. Yea, and the remedy is at hand. Besides, I will add, that instead of those dangers, thou shalt meet with much safety, friendship, and content.
CHR. Sir, I pray open this secret to me.
WORLD. Why, in yonder village (the village is named Morality) there dwells a gentleman whose name is Legality, a very judicious man, and a man of a very good name, that has skill to help men off with such burdens as thine is from their shoulders; yea to my knowledge, he hath done a great deal of good this way; aye, and besides, he hath skill to cure those that are somewhat crazed in their wits with their burdens. To him, as I said, thou mayest go, and be helped presently. His house is not quite a mile from this place; and if he should not be at home himself, he hath a pretty young man to his son, whose name is Civility, that can do it (to speak on) as well as the old gentleman himself: there, I say, thou mayest be eased of thy burden; and if thou art not minded to go back to thy former habitation, (as indeed I would not wish thee,) thou mayest send for thy wife and children to this village, where there are houses now standing empty, one of which thou mayest have at a reasonable rate: provision is there also cheap and good; and that which will make thy life the more happy is, to be sure there thou shalt live by honest neighbors, in credit and good fashion.
Pilgrim's Progress (Illustrated): Updated, Modern English. More than 100 Illustrations.
The Continual Burnt Offering
By H.A. Ironside - 1941
Numbers 23:19 God is not man, that he should lie,
or a son of man, that he should change his mind.
Has he said, and will he not do it?
Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it? ESV
1 Samuel 15:29 And also the Glory of Israel will not lie or have regret, for he is not a man, that he should have regret.”
Psalm 89:35 Once for all I have sworn by my holiness;Malachi 3:6 “For I the LORD do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.
I will not lie to David.
Habakkuk 2:3 For still the vision awaits its appointed time;
it hastens to the end—it will not lie.
If it seems slow, wait for it;
it will surely come; it will not delay.
Luke 21:33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
Romans 11:29 For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.
Titus 1:12 One of the Cretans, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.”
Hebrews 6:18 so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us.
James 1:17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. ESV
The world may pass and perish—
Thou, God, wilt not remove.
No hatred of all devils
Can part me from Thy love:
No hungering nor thirsting,
No poverty nor care,
No wrath of mighty princes
Can reach my shelter there.
No angel and no devil.
No throne, no power, nor might;
No love, no tribulation,
No danger, fear, nor fight;
No height, no depth, no creature
That has been, nor can be,
Can drive me from Thy bosom,
Can sever me from Thee.
--- Paul Gerhardt
The Institutes of the Christian Religion
Translated by Henry Beveridge
23. In the first place, we must consider what an oath is. An oath,
then, is calling God to witness that what we say is true. Execrations
being manifestly insulting to God, are unworthy of being classed among
oaths. That an oath, when duly taken, is a species of divine worship,
appears from many passages of Scripture, as when Isaiah prophesies of
the admission of the Assyrians and Egyptians to a participation in the
covenant, he says, "In that day shall five cities in the land of Egypt
speak the language of Canaan, and swear to the Lord of hosts," (Isaiah
19:18). Swearing by the name of the Lord here means, that they will
make a profession of religion. In like manner, speaking of the
extension of the Redeemer's kingdom, it is said, "He who blesseth
himself in the earth shall bless himself in the God of truth: and he
that sweareth in the earth shall swear by the God of truth," (Isaiah
65:16). In Jeremiah it is said, "If they will diligently learn the ways
of my people, to swear by my name, The Lord liveth; as they taught my
people to swear by Baal; then shall they be built in the midst of my
people," (Jer. 12:16). By appealing to the name of the Lord, and
calling him to witness, we are justly said to declare our own religious
veneration of him. For we thus acknowledge that he is eternal and
unchangeable truth, inasmuch as we not only call upon him, in
preference to others, as a fit witness to the truth, but as its only
assertor, able to bring hidden things to light, a discerner of the
hearts. When human testimony fails, we appeal to God as witness,
especially when the matter to be proved lies hid in the conscience. For
which reason, the Lord is grievously offended with those who swear by
strange gods, and construes such swearing as a proof of open revolt,
"Thy children have forsaken me, and sworn by them that are no gods,"
(Jer. 5:7). The heinousness of the offence is declared by the
punishment denounced against it, "I will cut off them that swear by the
Lord, and that swear by Malcham," (Zeph. 1:4, 5).
24. Understanding that the Lord would have our oaths to be a species of divine worship, we must be the more careful that they do not, instead of worship, contain insult, or contempt, and vilification. It is no slight insult to swear by him and do it falsely: hence in the Law this is termed profanation (Lev. 19:12). For if God is robbed of his truth, what is it that remains? Without truth he could not be God. But assuredly he is robbed of his truth, when he is made the approver and attester of what is false. Hence, when Joshua is endeavouring to make Achan confess the truth, he says, "My son, give, I pray thee, glory to the Lord God of Israel," (Joshua 7:19); intimating, that grievous dishonour is done to God when men swear by him falsely. And no wonder; for, as far as in them lies, his sacred name is in a manner branded with falsehood. That this mode of expression was common among the Jews whenever any one was called upon to take an oath, is evident from a similar obtestation used by the Pharisees, as given in John (John 9:24); Scripture reminds us of the caution which we ought to use by employing such expressions as the following:--"As the Lord liveth;" "God do so and more also;" "I call God for a record upon my soul."  Such expressions intimate, that we cannot call God to witness our statement, without imprecating his vengeance for perjury if it is false.
25. The name of God is vulgarised and vilified when used in oaths, which, though true, are superfluous. This, too, is to take his name in vain. Wherefore, it is not sufficient to abstain from perjury, unless we, at the same time, remember that an oath is not appointed or allowed for passion or pleasure, but for necessity; and that, therefore, a licentious use is made of it by him who uses it on any other than necessary occasions. Moreover, no case of necessity can be pretended, unless where some purpose of religion or charity is to be served. In this matter, great sin is committed in the present day--sin the more intolerable in this, that its frequency has made it cease to be regarded as a fault, though it certainly is not accounted trivial before the judgment-seat of God. The name of God is everywhere profaned by introducing it indiscriminately in frivolous discourse; and the evil is disregarded, because it has been long and audaciously persisted in with impunity. The commandment of the Lord, however, stands; the penalty also stands, and will one day receive effect. Special vengeance will be executed on those who have taken the name of God in vain. Another form of violation is exhibited, when, with manifest impiety, we, in our oaths, substitute the holy servants of God for God himself,  thus conferring upon them the glory of his Godhead. It is not without cause the Lord has, by a special commandment, required us to swear by his name, and, by a special prohibition, forbidden us to swear by other gods.  The Apostle gives a clear attestation to the same effect, when he says, that "men verily swear by the greater;" but that "when God made promise to Abraham, because he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself;" (Heb. 6:16, 13).
26. The Anabaptists, not content with this moderate use of oaths, condemn all, without exception, on the ground of our Saviour's general prohibition, "I say unto you, Swear not at all:" "Let your speech be Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil," (Mt. 5:34; James 5:12). In this way, they inconsiderately make a stumbling-stone of Christ, setting him in opposition to the Father, as if he had descended into the world to annul his decrees. In the Law, the Almighty not only permits an oath as a thing that is lawful (this were amply sufficient), but, in a case of necessity, actually commands it (Exod. 22:11). Christ again declares, that he and his Father are one; that he only delivers what was commanded of his Father; that his doctrine is not his own, but his that sent him (John 10:18, 30; 7:16). What then? Will they make God contradict himself, by approving and commanding at one time, what he afterwards prohibits and condemns? But as there is some difficulty in what our Saviour says on the subject of swearing, it may be proper to consider it a little. Here, however, we shall never arrive at the true meaning, unless we attend to the design of Christ, and the subject of which he is treating. His purpose was, neither to relax nor to curtail the Law, but to restore the true and genuine meaning, which had been greatly corrupted by the false glosses of the Scribes and Pharisees. If we attend to this we shall not suppose that Christ condemned all oaths but those only which transgressed the rule of the Law. It is evident, from the oaths themselves, that the people were accustomed to think it enough if they avoided perjury, whereas the Law prohibits not perjury merely, but also vain and superfluous oaths. Therefore our Lord, who is the best interpreter of the Law, reminds them that there is a sin not only in perjury, but in swearing. How in swearing? Namely, by swearing vainly. Those oaths, however, which are authorised by the Law, he leaves safe and free. Those who condemn oaths think their argument invincible when they fasten on the expression, not at all. The expression applies not to the word swear, but to the subjoined forms of oaths. For part of the error consisted in their supposing, that when they swore by the heaven and the earth, they did not touch the name of God. The Lord, therefore, after cutting off the principal source of prevarication, deprives them of all subterfuges, warning them against supposing that they escape guilt by suppressing the name of God, and appealing to heaven and earth. For it ought here to be observed in passing, that although the name of God is not expressed, yet men swear by him in using indirect forms, as when they swear by the light of life, by the bread they eat, by their baptism, or any other pledges of the divine liberality towards them. Some erroneously suppose that our Saviour, in that passage, rebukes superstition, by forbidding men to swear by heaven and earth, and Jerusalem. He rather refutes the sophistical subtilty of those who thought it nothing vainly to utter indirect oaths, imagining that they thus spared the holy name of God, whereas that name is inscribed on each of his mercies. The case is different, when any mortal living or dead, or an angel, is substituted in the place of God, as in the vile form devised by flattery in heathen nations, "By the life or genius of the king"; for, in this case, the false apotheosis obscures and impairs the glory of the one God. But when nothing else is intended than to confirm what is said by an appeal to the holy name of God, although it is done indirectly, yet his majesty is insulted by all frivolous oaths. Christ strips this abuse of every vain pretext when he says "Swear not at all". To the same effect is the passage in which James uses the words of our Saviour above quoted (James 5:12). For this rash swearing has always prevailed in the world, notwithstanding that it is a profanation of the name of God. If you refer the words, "not at all", to the act itself, as if every oath, without exception, were unlawful, what will be the use of the explanation which immediately follows--Neither by heaven, neither by the earth, &c.? These words make it clear, that the object in view was to meet the cavils by which the Jews thought they could extenuate their fault.
27. Every person of sound judgment must now see that in that passage our Lord merely condemned those oaths which were forbidden by the Law. For he who in his life exhibited a model of the perfection which he taught, did not object to oaths whenever the occasion required them; and the disciples, who doubtless in all things obeyed their Master, followed the same rule. Who will dare to say that Paul would have sworn (Rom. 1:9; 2 Cor. 1:23) if an oath had been altogether forbidden? But when the occasion calls for it, he adjures without any scruple, and sometimes even imprecates. The question, however, is not yet disposed of. For some think that the only oaths exempted from the prohibition are public oaths, such as those which are administered to us by the magistrate, or independent states employ in ratifying treaties, or the people take when they swear allegiance to their sovereign, or the soldier in the case of the military oath, and others of a similar description. To this class they refer (and justly) those protestations in the writings of Paul, which assert the dignity of the Gospel; since the Apostles, in discharging their office, were not private individuals, but the public servants of God. I certainly deny not that such oaths are the safest because they are most strongly supported by passages of Scripture. The magistrate is enjoined, in a doubtful matter, to put the witness upon oath; and he in his turn to answer upon oath; and an Apostle says, that in this way there is an end of all strife (Heb. 6:16). In this commandment, both parties are fully approved. Nay, we may observe, that among the ancient heathens a public and solemn oath was held in great reverence, while those common oaths which were indiscriminately used were in little or no estimation, as if they thought that, in regard to them, the Deity did not interpose. Private oaths used soberly, sacredly, and reverently, on necessary occasions, it were perilous to condemn, supported as they are by reason and example. For if private individuals are permitted, in a grave and serious matter, to appeal to God as a judge, much more may they appeal to him as a witness. Your brother charges you with perfidy. You, as bound by the duties of charity, labour to clear yourself from the charge. He will on no account be satisfied. If, through his obstinate malice, your good name is brought into jeopardy, you can appeal, without offence, to the judgment of God, that he may in time manifest your innocence. If the terms are weighed, it will be found that it is a less matter to call upon him to be witness; and I therefore see not how it can be called unlawful to do so. And there is no want of examples. If it is pretended that the oath which Abraham and Isaac made with Abimelech was of a public nature, that by which Jacob and Laban bound themselves in mutual league was private. Boaz, though a private man, confirmed his promise of marriage to Ruth in the same way. Obadiah, too, a just man, and one that feared God, though a private individual, in seeking to persuade Elijah, asseverates with an oath.  I hold, therefore, that there is no better rule than so to regulate our oaths that they shall neither be rash, frivolous, promiscuous, nor passionate, but be made to serve a just necessity; in other words, to vindicate the glory of God, or promote the edification of a brother.
This is the end of the Commandment.
Christian Classics Ethereal Library / Public Domain
Institutes of the Christian Religion
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
By Richard S. Adams
I hear people mention baggage, demons or a cloud to refer to things that haunt them. Maybe that is too strong. I will settle on the word bother, not bother like a fly bothers you, but more like bother the way a hornet can bother you. A fly seldom makes you stop what you are doing, but for me, a hornet can make me decide to go up the stairs now, or take out the trash later, or move to a different spot, right now. I simply cannot ignore a hornet.
I have a personal hornet, cloud, whatever you may want to call it. All too frequently it flies in, probably from hell, to buzz over me, haunt me and block the exits where I try to escape.
It comes when I start to think of the future, what will happen to my bride when I am gone and she is older. Lily cleans people’s houses. It is hard, physical work and as she nears 64 it is more and more demanding. God has blessed her with many clients, all by word of mouth. Lily has to turn people away because she just can't take care of all the folks who want her services. She is proof that there is still a demand for excellence when you can find it. God has blessed her with clients who not only appreciate her work ethic, but they really like her too.
Lily always tells me God is faithful and reminds me how God has watched over us. I agree, God has been very faithful to us. Old age brings few prospects. We are still learning what total dependence, day by day, on God looks like.
That hornet’s battle plan is always the same. The goal is to keep me looking at the world we live in through my own eyes. Options appear non-existent, but God's provision can be in various ways. Our Ford Fusion continues to plug along with very few issues as it approaches 130,000 miles. I often kid Lily that it will last for forty years. God is no respecter of persons and the sandals on the feet of the ancient Israelites did not wear out as they wandered in the desert for 40 years.
Deuteronomy 8:2-10 And you shall remember the whole way that the LORD your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not. 3 And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. 4 Your clothing did not wear out on you and your foot did not swell these forty years. 5 Know then in your heart that, as a man disciplines his son, the LORD your God disciplines you. 6 So you shall keep the commandments of the LORD your God by walking in his ways and by fearing him. 7 For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing out in the valleys and hills, 8 a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey, 9 a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing, a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper. 10 And you shall eat and be full, and you shall bless the LORD your God for the good land he has given you. ESV
Lily and the Bible constantly remind me this world will pass away. Until it does, we need to see it through our ears, according to God's Word, and not according to our eyes, because God’s Word is true and real. The invisible has more substance than everything we see.
Richard S. Adams | Lover of Christ, husband of Lily, father of four, grandfather of eleven, Masters in Divinity and Certificate in Spiritual Direction. On staff at George Fox Evangelical Seminary 1/2009 to 7/2018.
Don’t just read it, do it (2)
1/24/2018 Bob Gass
‘The Holy Spirit…will teach you…and will remind you of everything I have said.’
(Jn 14:26) But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. ESV
Jesus ended His Sermon on the Mount with a striking story that addresses the gap between knowing and doing: ‘Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock’ (Matthew 7:24 NIV 2011 Edition). The problem is, we find it easier to be smart than to be good. You don’t need to know more about the Bible until you put into practice what you already know. John Ortberg says that when he taught tennis, unskilled novices would agonise over which racket to buy – whether to use nylon or gut strings, whether to string them up at sixty-five or seventy pounds. The problem was, they couldn’t even hit the ball. Instead of debating the minutiae, they simply needed to practise. But a word of caution here: you don’t become a ‘doer of the word’ by drawing on your own strength and willpower. The Holy Spirit who dwells within you is referred to in Scripture as ‘the paraclete’. The word means ‘one who comes alongside to help’. When you decide to do what’s right, the Holy Spirit within you empowers you to do it. When a situation arises, He will prompt you as to what you should do. Jesus promised, ‘The Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.’ You ask, ‘But what if I don’t get it right?’ He will work with you, giving you opportunities until you do get it right.
by Bill Federer
James Madison’s strong position of defending religious freedom began when, as a youth, he stood with his father outside a jail in the village of Orange and listened to several Baptists preach from their cell windows, having been imprisoned for their religious opinions. Madison wrote of his disapproval of this practice to a friend named William Bradford, on this day, January 24, 1774, stating: “There are at this [time] in the adjacent [Culpepper] County not less than 5 or 6 well meaning men in [jail] for publishing their religious sentiments which in the main are very orthodox.”American Minute
Thomas R. Kelly
Nine days before his death, he wrote me a letter which he sent to Portugal by clipper. In it he described the last piece of writing he was to do. "Spent last week (vacation) writing in bare hope of publication, on practical procedure and conduct of the self in living by, and oriented toward, the Light within, both in private devotion and in public reaction to the world of men and events, seeing them in and through the Light . . . Read one at Pendle Hill last Sunday." These three chapters of rare grace and suggestiveness form the opening chapters of this little collection.
He died very suddenly of a heart attack on January 17, 1941 at the age of forty-seven years. His friend, E. Merrill Root, wrote to Lael Kelly from Earlham College, "I cannot tell you adequately, and yet 1 think you know, how much I loved Tom. He was my great friend and comrade here; there was no one else who entered the inner circle of the heart, or shared the heights of the soul. He was the perfect friend, whether we shared the gay sunlight of humor, or ascended the peaks of highest vision together. I had especially marvelled to see how he grew always in insight and power, and rejoiced at the light he brought me and all men. He was a great strength to me. The thought of him was always a beatitude, a great light, a wind of courage."
A neighbor in Maine who had watched with admiration Thomas Kelly's skill with carpenters' tools, and who looked forward to his evening visits, wrote simply, "I will find it very difficult to realize that he will not wander over with his lantern next summer and tarry with us for a while to bless and cheer us."
Gerald Heard, who had never met Thomas Kelly but who had been moved by his devotional writing, wrote to a mutual friend at the news of Thomas Kelly's death, "I was filled with a kind of joy when I read of Thomas Kelly. It was formerly the custom of the Winston Salem Community of Moravians in North Carolina to announce the passing of a member by the playing of three chorales by the church band from the top of the church tower. So I feel I want to sing when I hear of such men emerging. I know it is an outward loss to us – though even directly we may gain more than we lose by their joining the more active side of the communion of saints-but - I keep on feeling what it must be for a man as good as he to be able to push aside this fussy veil of the body and look unblinking at the Light, never again, maybe, to be distracted, unintentional, unaware, always concentrated."
These devotional essays are gathered here without any of the cutting or clipping or the critical revision which Thomas Kelly would certainly have given them had he lived. They are all written on the same theme and often develop an identical aspect, but always with some fresh illumination. Few can resist feeling the power of the current that is in this stream. They are in very truth a testament of devotion.
April 10, 1941.
DOUGLAS V. STEERE
A Testament of Devotion
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
The chief end of man
is to glorify God
and enjoy Him forever.
--- Westminster Catechism
All God’s men are ordinary men
by the matter He has given them.
--- Oswald Chambers
I’m not going to die, honey. I'm going home like a shooting star.
--- Nineteenth-century abolitionist Sojourner Truth
That which the people called Quakers lay down as a main fundamental in religion is this— That God, through Christ, hath placed a principle in every man, to inform him of his duty, and to enable him to do it; and that those that live up to this principle are the people of God, and those that live in disobedience to it, are not God’s people, whatever name they may bear, or profession they may make of religion. This is their ancient, first, and standing testimony: with this they began, and this they bore, and do bear to the world.
--- William Penn, 1644-1718 ... from here, there and everywhere
by D.H. Stern
her mouth is smoother than oil;
4 but in the end she is as bitter as wormwood,
sharp as a double-edged sword.
5 Her feet go down to death,
her steps lead straight to Sh’ol;
6 she doesn’t walk the level path of life—
her course wanders all over, but she doesn’t know it.
7 So now, children, listen to me;
don’t turn away from what I am saying:
8 distance your way from her,
stay far from the door of her house;
9 so that you won’t give your vigor to others
and your years to someone who is cruel,
10 so strangers won’t be filled with your strength
and what you worked for go to a foreign house.
11 Then, when your flesh and bones have shrunk,
at the end of your life, you would moan,
12 “How I hated discipline!
My whole being despised reproof,
13 I ignored what my teachers said,
I didn’t listen to my instructors.
14 I took part in almost every kind of evil,
and the whole community knew it.”
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
My Utmost for His Highest
The overmastering direction
I have appeared unto thee for this purpose. --- Acts 26:16.
The vision Paul had on the road to Damascus was no passing emotion, but a vision that had very clear and emphatic directions for him, and he says—“I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision.” Our Lord said, in effect, to Paul—‘Your whole life is to be overmastered by Me; you are to have no end, no aim, and no purpose but Mine.’ ‘I have chosen him.’
When we are born again we all have visions, if we are spiritual at all, of what Jesus wants us to be, and the great thing is to learn not to be disobedient to the vision, not to say that it cannot be attained. It is not sufficient to know that God has redeemed the world, and to know that the Holy Spirit can make all that Jesus did effectual in me; I must have the basis of a personal relationship to Him. Paul was not given a message or a doctrine to proclaim, he was brought into a vivid, personal, overmastering relationship to Jesus Christ. Verse 16 is immensely commanding—“to make thee a minister and a witness.” There is nothing there apart from the personal relationship. Paul was devoted to a Person not to a cause. He was absolutely Jesus Christ’s; he saw nothing else; he lived for nothing else. “For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.”
the Poetry of R.S. Thomas
It appears before us,
wringing its dry hands,
quoting from Nietzsche's book,
Sing us, we say,
more sunlit occasions;
the child by the still pool
It remains unconsoled
in its dust-storm of tears,
remembering the Crusades,
the tortures, the purges.
But time passes by;
it commits adultery
with it to father the cause
of its continued weeping.
Sometimes we tend to idealize Bible people. We forget that, while they were giants in many ways, they were also all too human. In fact, before we look at the faith of a man like Abraham, we need to realize that he was, like all believers, far from perfect!
We have an early indication of Abram’s flaws in Genesis 12. Abram had been called by God to go to a land which the Lord Himself chose. He had obeyed in an act that required real faith. But once in the land, Abram’s faith was shaken by a famine. Rather than trust God or wait for further direction, he went to Egypt. There he continued to show lack of trust by getting Sarah to tell a half-truth about their relationship, to deny she was his wife. Fear that he might be killed outweighed his commitment to his wife! Even when she was taken in Pharaoh’s household, Abram did not reveal their relationship. Instead he profited in silence from the favor extended to the supposed brother!
Abraham’s tendency to rely on his wits rather than on God also is shown in the events leading up to the birth of Ishmael. Some 10 years passed while Abraham waited for God to send the son He had promised. Finally Sarah began urging him to take her maid as a secondary wife. Even though this was a custom of the land, it took Sarah’s nagging to make him take action. He “hearkened to [obeyed] the voice of Sarai” (16:2, KJV). Perhaps Abram thought he would “help” God keep His promises! Perhaps he felt that 86 was just too old to wait any longer. In any case Abram did not consult God. He simply went ahead, without direction, relying on his own plan to fulfill God’s purposes. Self reliance and self-effort took the place of trust in God.
And then, how stunning. Abraham repeated the sin he did in Egypt! Again Abraham misrepresented Sarah as only his sister, and she was placed in the harem of a king named Abimelech. God protected Sarah even though her husband was not willing to, and before Abimelech came to her God spoke to him in a vision. Abimelech, fearful at the divine visit, complained to Abraham that he might have led the king into unknowing sin! Abram’s reply was weak (20:11–12). Abraham was worried, afraid that the people of the foreign land they visited might not fear God, and thus might kill him for Sarah. Abraham feared for his life—but not for his wife!
Abraham apparently had not stopped to think that though a particular people might not know God, God knew them! There was no place that Abraham could go to be beyond the protection of the Lord. Yet, even after an earlier rebuke in Egypt, Abraham repeated the same sin and let fear and selfishness control his choices.
No, the Abraham we meet on the pages of the Bible is no idealized man. He is a man we need to see both as weak, and as a willful sinner.
The Teacher's Commentary
Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?
--- Luke 15:4.
If you look into that shepherd’s face, there is no trace of anger. (Spurgeon's Sermons on Soulwinning (C.H. Spurgeon Sermon Outline Series)) It is all love and nothing else but love, before he finds and until he finds [the lost sheep], and you may be sure that careful tenderness will be in full action after he has found it.
And mark, for a shepherd there is no giving up. The sun has risen, and the sun has set, but as long as the shepherd can see and the sheep is still alive, he will pursue it until he finds it. He is impelled onward by irresistible love, and he must continue his weary search until he finds it. It was precisely so with our Lord Jesus Christ. When he came after you and after me, we ran from him, but he pursued us; we hid from him, but he discovered us.
He would not be turned away. The Lord Jesus has in hundreds and thousands of cases pursued sinners with unflagging mercy until he has found them. We are now his forever and ever, for he who has found us will never lose us. Blessed be his name.
If ever you are seeking the conversion of any, follow up until you find them. Do not be discouraged. Put up with a great many rebuffs and rebukes. Whisper to yourself, “I might well have put the Great Shepherd off from caring for me, and yet he was not turned aside. If he persevered with me even to the death, I may well persevere as long as I live in seeking and finding this soul.” Persevere with loving entreaties! Until you bury your unsaved ones, do not consider them dead.
Live or die, or work or suffer, whether the time is short or long or the way is smooth or rough, let each one of you be bound to seek a soul until you find it. You will find it then, even as Christ found you.
--- C. H. Spurgeon
Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
My God, why … ? is not an unknown prayer among Christians—Why did she contract cancer? Why was I fired? Why does God seem to forget us? Yet Jesus, having uttered My God, why … ? on the cross, then whispered, It is finished, signaling not only the end of his suffering, but the completion of his work.
Irene Ferrel graduated from the Bible Institute of Los Angeles with a burden for overseas missions. She found her place in the Congo (Zaire), where for 10 years she taught school, shared Christ, and worked in a dispensary in the Kwilu bush.
In 1964, Communist rebels mounted guerrilla raids to overthrow the government. Missionaries in the Kwilu Province were threatened. Irene and her co-worker Ruth Hege decided to evacuate from their station. A helicopter was ordered, and on January 24, 1964, the two prepared to leave.
They packed essential belongings then gathered their Congolese workers for a final time of worship, Irene playing the organ. The final songs died down, the last prayers were offered, and the women began anticipating the chopper’s arrival. When it didn’t come, they decided to retire and rise early to await it the next day.
Shortly after midnight, young, intoxicated rebels attacked. The youngsters, some barely teenagers, were smoking hemp, smashing windows, and screaming for blood. Storming the house, they dragged the women from their beds and danced around them in wild circles in the moonlight. One youth shot an arrow into Irene’s neck. With her last ounce of strength she pulled it out, whispering, “I am finished,” and died.
Ruth Hege, also struck by arrows, pretended to be dead, not even moving when one of the rebels jerked out a handful of her hair. Only after the attackers finally ran into the forest could Ruth crawl to safety.
Many other Christians perished during the 1960s Congolese turmoil, including both Protestant and Catholic missionaries. It was a killing time. Why was the helicopter late? Why do God’s servants sometimes perish? We’ll understand someday.
Till then we trust, knowing his kindness never fails.
I tell myself, “I am finished! I can’t count on the LORD to do anything for me.” Just thinking of my troubles and my lonely wandering makes me miserable. That’s all I ever think about, and I am depressed. Then I remember something that fills me with hope. The LORD’s kindness never fails.
--- Lamentations 3:18-22.
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - January 24
“Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler.”
--- Psalm 91:3.
God delivers his people from the snare of the fowler in two senses. From, and out of. First, he delivers them from the snare—does not let them enter it; and secondly, if they should be caught therein, he delivers them out of it. The first promise is the most precious to some; the second is the best to others.
“He shall deliver thee from the snare.” How? Trouble is often the means whereby God delivers us. God knows that our backsliding will soon end in our destruction, and he in mercy sends the rod. We say, “Lord, why is this?” not knowing that our trouble has been the means of delivering us from far greater evil. Many have been thus saved from ruin by their sorrows and their crosses; these have frightened the birds from the net. At other times, God keeps his people from the snare of the fowler by giving them great spiritual strength, so that when they are tempted to do evil they say, “How can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” But what a blessed thing it is that if the believer shall, in an evil hour, come into the net, yet God will bring him out of it! O backslider, be cast down, but do not despair. Wanderer though thou hast been, hear what thy Redeemer saith—“Return, O backsliding children; I will have mercy upon you.” But you say you cannot return, for you are a captive. Then listen to the promise—“Surely he shall deliver thee out of the snare of the fowler.” Thou shalt yet be brought out of all evil into which thou hast fallen, and though thou shalt never cease to repent of thy ways, yet he that hath loved thee will not cast thee away; he will receive thee, and give thee joy and gladness, that the bones which he has broken may rejoice. No bird of paradise shall die in the fowler’s net.
Evening - January 24
“Martha was cumbered about much serving.” --- Luke 10:40.
Her fault was not that she served: the condition of a servant well becomes every Christian. “I serve,” should be the motto of all the princes of the royal family of heaven. Nor was it her fault that she had “much serving.” We cannot do too much. Let us do all that we possibly can; let head, and heart, and hands, be engaged in the Master’s service. It was no fault of hers that she was busy preparing a feast for the Master. Happy Martha, to have an opportunity of entertaining so blessed a guest; and happy, too, to have the spirit to throw her whole soul so heartily into the engagement. Her fault was that she grew “cumbered with much serving,” so that she forgot him, and only remembered the service. She allowed service to override communion, and so presented one duty stained with the blood of another. We ought to be Martha and Mary in one: we should do much service, and have much communion at the same time. For this we need great grace. It is easier to serve than to commune. Joshua never grew weary in fighting with the Amalekites; but Moses, on the top of the mountain in prayer, needed two helpers to sustain his hands. The more spiritual the exercise, the sooner we tire in it. The choicest fruits are the hardest to rear: the most heavenly graces are the most difficult to cultivate. Beloved, while we do not neglect external things, which are good enough in themselves, we ought also to see to it that we enjoy living, personal fellowship with Jesus. See to it that sitting at the Saviour’s feet is not neglected, even though it be under the specious pretext of doing him service. The first thing for our soul’s health, the first thing for his glory, and the first thing for our own usefulness, is to keep ourselves in perpetual communion with the Lord Jesus, and to see that the vital spirituality of our religion is maintained over and above everything else in the world.
FROM GREENLAND’S ICY MOUNTAINS
Reginald Heber, 1783–1826
Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into His harvest field.” (Matthew 9:37, 38)
We hear many missionary sermons in our churches, but not often do we sing such a beautifully worded and challenging missionary hymn as this one, which was quickly and spontaneously written by Reginald Heber. These well-chosen words and ideas inspire us to spread the blessings of salvation to all people and nations until our Lord “in bliss returns to reign.”
Heber was a minister in the Anglican church in England. With his keen interest in world missions, he did much through his writings and influence to promote the missionary activity that greatly increased during his lifetime.
In the summer of 1819, Heber was asked by his father-in-law if he knew a worthy hymn that could be used at a missionary service the next Sunday. Reginald went at once to his study for a few minutes of quiet meditation and soon returned with the first stanzas of this text. His family was very pleased with it. Heber, however, feeling the hymn was still incomplete, returned to his study and completed the triumphant final verse.
Five years later the tune was composed specifically for Heber’s text by the noted American educator and church musician, Lowell Mason. It is said that Mason composed this tune with a great sense of inspiration.
Today, Reginald Heber is ranked as one of the foremost 19th century English hymnists, having written 57 well-known hymns, including “Holy, Holy, Holy.” As a result of his zeal for missions, he became an Anglican bishop to Calcutta, India, but died there at the age of 43. Notice how large is the Lord’s harvest field.
From Greenland’s icy mountains, from India’s coral strand, where Afric’s sunny fountains roll down their golden sand, from many an ancient river, from many a palmy plain, they call us to deliver their land from error’s chain.
Shall we, whose souls are lighted with wisdom from on high, shall we to men benighted the lamp of life deny? Salvation! O salvation! The joyful sound proclaim till earth’s remotest nation has learned Messiah’s name.
Waft, waft, ye winds, His story, and you, ye waters, roll, till like a sea of glory it spreads from pole to pole; till o’er our ransomed nature the Lamb for sinners slain, Redeemer, King, Creator, in bliss returns to reign.
For Today: Matthew 28:19, 20; Mark 16:15; John 4:35; Acts 1:8.
Pray especially for some foreign missionary in your church, that the truth of this musical message might become a greater reality in today’s world ---
Craig R. Koester |
Pittsburgh Theological Seminary
Joseph D. Small |
Pittsburgh Theological Seminary
02-10-1999 | Jon Courson
Ten Commandments: Introduction
02-14-1999 | Jon Courson
02-17-1999 | Jon Courson
Ten Commandments: No Other Gods
02-21-1999 | Jon Courson
No Graven Images
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03-03-1999 | Jon Courson
Honor His Name
03-07-1999 | Jon Courson
03-10-1999 | Jon Courson
Remember The Sabbath
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03-17-1999 | Jon Courson
Honor Father And Mother
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Do Not Murder 1
03-17-1999 | Jon Courson
Do Not Murder 2
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Jon Courson | Jon Courson
Brett Meador | Athey Creek
Exodus 20:1-3 Pt 1
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Exodus 20:4-6 Pt 2
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Exodus 19, 20:1-21
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Exodus 20:7 Pt 3
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Exodus 20:18-26, 21:1-6
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Exodus 20:8-11 Pt 4
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Exodus 20:12 Pt 5
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Exodus 20:13 Pt 6
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Exodus 20:14 Pt 7
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Exodus 20:15 Pt 8
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Exodus 20:16 Pt 9
s2-052 | 11-16-2014
Exodus 20:17 Pt 10
s2-053 | 11-23-2014