Genesis 16 - 18
Sarai and HagarGenesis 16:1 Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. She had a female Egyptian servant whose name was Hagar. 2 And Sarai said to Abram, “Behold now, the LORD has prevented me from bearing children. Go in to my servant; it may be that I shall obtain children by her.” And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai. 3 So, after Abram had lived ten years in the land of Canaan, Sarai, Abram’s wife, took Hagar the Egyptian, her servant, and gave her to Abram her husband as a wife. 4 And he went in to Hagar, and she conceived. And when she saw that she had conceived, she looked with contempt on her mistress. 5 And Sarai said to Abram, “May the wrong done to me be on you! I gave my servant to your embrace, and when she saw that she had conceived, she looked on me with contempt. May the LORD judge between you and me!” 6 But Abram said to Sarai, “Behold, your servant is in your power; do to her as you please.” Then Sarai dealt harshly with her, and she fled from her.
7 The angel of the LORD found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, the spring on the way to Shur. 8 And he said, “Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?” She said, “I am fleeing from my mistress Sarai.” 9 The angel of the LORD said to her, “Return to your mistress and submit to her.” 10 The angel of the LORD also said to her, “I will surely multiply your offspring so that they cannot be numbered for multitude.” 11 And the angel of the LORD said to her,
“Behold, you are pregnant
and shall bear a son.
You shall call his name Ishmael,
because the LORD has listened to your affliction.
12 He shall be a wild donkey of a man,
his hand against everyone
and everyone’s hand against him,
and he shall dwell over against all his kinsmen.”
15 And Hagar bore Abram a son, and Abram called the name of his son, whom Hagar bore, Ishmael. 16 Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore Ishmael to Abram.
Abraham and the Covenant of CircumcisionGenesis 17:1 When Abram was ninety-nine years old the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless, 2 that I may make my covenant between me and you, and may multiply you greatly.” 3 Then Abram fell on his face. And God said to him, 4 “Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. 5 No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. 6 I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you. 7 And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. 8 And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God.”
9 And God said to Abraham, “As for you, you shall keep my covenant, you and your offspring after you throughout their generations. 10 This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your offspring after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised. 11 You shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you. 12 He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised. Every male throughout your generations, whether born in your house or bought with your money from any foreigner who is not of your offspring, 13 both he who is born in your house and he who is bought with your money, shall surely be circumcised. So shall my covenant be in your flesh an everlasting covenant. 14 Any uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin shall be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.”
Isaac’s Birth Promised15 And God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. 16 I will bless her, and moreover, I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall become nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.” 17 Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed and said to himself, “Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?” 18 And Abraham said to God, “Oh that Ishmael might live before you!” 19 God said, “No, but Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him. 20 As for Ishmael, I have heard you; behold, I have blessed him and will make him fruitful and multiply him greatly. He shall father twelve princes, and I will make him into a great nation. 21 But I will establish my covenant with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this time next year.”
22 When he had finished talking with him, God went up from Abraham. 23 Then Abraham took Ishmael his son and all those born in his house or bought with his money, every male among the men of Abraham’s house, and he circumcised the flesh of their foreskins that very day, as God had said to him. 24 Abraham was ninety-nine years old when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin. 25 And Ishmael his son was thirteen years old when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin. 26 That very day Abraham and his son Ishmael were circumcised. 27 And all the men of his house, those born in the house and those bought with money from a foreigner, were circumcised with him.
Genesis 18Genesis 18:1 And the LORD appeared to him by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the door of his tent in the heat of the day. 2 He lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, three men were standing in front of him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them and bowed himself to the earth 3 and said, “O Lord, if I have found favor in your sight, do not pass by your servant. 4 Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree, 5 while I bring a morsel of bread, that you may refresh yourselves, and after that you may pass on—since you have come to your servant.” So they said, “Do as you have said.” 6 And Abraham went quickly into the tent to Sarah and said, “Quick! Three seahs of fine flour! Knead it, and make cakes.” 7 And Abraham ran to the herd and took a calf, tender and good, and gave it to a young man, who prepared it quickly. 8 Then he took curds and milk and the calf that he had prepared, and set it before them. And he stood by them under the tree while they ate.
9 They said to him, “Where is Sarah your wife?” And he said, “She is in the tent.” 10 The LORD said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife shall have a son.” And Sarah was listening at the tent door behind him. 11 Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in years. The way of women had ceased to be with Sarah. 12 So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I am worn out, and my lord is old, shall I have pleasure?” 13 The LORD said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’ 14 Is anything too hard for the LORD? At the appointed time I will return to you, about this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son.” 15 But Sarah denied it, saying, “I did not laugh,” for she was afraid. He said, “No, but you did laugh.”
16 Then the men set out from there, and they looked down toward Sodom. And Abraham went with them to set them on their way. 17 The LORD said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, 18 seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? 19 For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice, so that the LORD may bring to Abraham what he has promised him.” 20 Then the LORD said, “Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great and their sin is very grave, 21 I will go down to see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry that has come to me. And if not, I will know.”
Abraham Intercedes for Sodom22 So the men turned from there and went toward Sodom, but Abraham still stood before the LORD. 23 Then Abraham drew near and said, “Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? 24 Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city. Will you then sweep away the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous who are in it? 25 Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” 26 And the LORD said, “If I find at Sodom fifty righteous in the city, I will spare the whole place for their sake.”
27 Abraham answered and said, “Behold, I have undertaken to speak to the Lord, I who am but dust and ashes. 28 Suppose five of the fifty righteous are lacking. Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five?” And he said, “I will not destroy it if I find forty-five there.” 29 Again he spoke to him and said, “Suppose forty are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of forty I will not do it.” 30 Then he said, “Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak. Suppose thirty are found there.” He answered, “I will not do it, if I find thirty there.” 31 He said, “Behold, I have undertaken to speak to the Lord. Suppose twenty are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of twenty I will not destroy it.” 32 Then he said, “Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak again but this once. Suppose ten are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of ten I will not destroy it.” 33 And the LORD went his way, when he had finished speaking to Abraham, and Abraham returned to his place.
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The Infallible Proof of Fulfilled Prophecy
By Gleason Archer Jr.
There is in holy Scripture a form of evidence which is discoverable in no other religious document known to man; that is the phenomenon of prediction and fulfillment according to an ordered plan followed by a God who is sovereign over history. No one could suppose that he would enjoy accuracy in fulfilling the predictions he might make concerning the future. Occasional human predictions might come to pass, but in the Scripture we have many hundreds of predictions which are revealed by God and which are later fulfilled in events of subsequent history.
None of us can be sure of what will happen to ourselves, or those in our immediate environment within the next twenty-four hours. Those who have attempted to predict future events have often been disappointed. In view of man’s inability to foretell the future with any high degree of accuracy one is forced to the conclusion that the kind of fulfillments that are found in Scripture could only come from God Himself.
Isaiah 46:10 (ESV)
10 declaring the end from the beginning
and from ancient times things not yet done,
saying, ‘My counsel shall stand,
and I will accomplish all my purpose,’
No scholar yet has been able to explain how Isaiah 53 could have described so accurately what was to be the suffering of our Lord on Good Friday as the New Testament records. Similarly, the prediction of Isa. 49:6 was given at a time when Israel had suffered major defeats and losses through the oppression of her enemies and it was highly questionable whether any knowledge of the Hebrew religion would even be retained in future generations by any people. But Isa. 49:6 records the promise of God that the Servant of the Lord would bring to pass not only the regathering of the scattered people of Israel to their native land, but also that He would be a light unto the Gentiles unto the ends of the earth. Very clearly this refers to the events that followed the resurrection of Christ and the launching of the missionary enterprise that ultimately compelled even the empire of Rome to surrender to the Lordship of the Redeemer they had crucified. From there the message of the Gospel has gone out to every continent in the world so that there are large numbers of people who have been brought into a saving relationship to God through the proclamation of His atoning grace as promised in Isa. 49. There is no possible way to explain this kind of fulfillment on the basis of mere human literary activity or speculation. For further detail and examples of fulfillments the reader is encouraged to consult The panel immediately below.A Survey of Old Testament Introduction
Prediction and Fulfillment as Proof of Divine Inspiration
By Gleason Archer Jr.
As was pointed out in the panel above, the presence of predictions uttered by God, according to the Biblical record, furnishes an infallible proof of the divine inspiration of the Scriptures themselves. The previous announcement of events which are to occur in the future is admittedly beyond the ability of any human being, except as he has received that prediction from the Lord Himself. The test of fulfilled prophecy is clearly set forth in Deut. 18:20–22: “But the prophet who shall speak a word presumptuously in My name which I have not commanded him to speak, or which he shall speak in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die. And you may say in your heart, ‘How shall we know the word which LORD has not spoken?’ When a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the thing does not come about or come true, that is the thing which the LORD has not spoken.”
The frequent occurrence of prophecy in the Holy Scriptures is unique among all the purported scriptures of non-Christian religions. False and unfulfilled predictions abound even among deviant Christian sects, such as the Seventh Day Adventists, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and the Mormons (if they can be classed as Christian at all, in view of their polytheism). The dates these groups have set for the return of Christ and the advent of the Tribulation or the Kingdom of God on earth have completely failed every time. But even in Old Testament times there were false prophets like Hananiah, whom Jeremiah sternly denounced for predicting the defeat of Nebuchadnezzar and the restoration of the holy vessels he had taken from the temple of Yahweh (Jer. 28:2–4). In reply the true prophet, Jeremiah, predicted that not only would Hananiah’s prediction prove utterly false, but that he himself would die within the current year—which he did.
Throughout the pages of the Old Testament, approximately, 200 Scripture texts (not individual verses) are predictive, many of which explicitly foretell with astounding accuracy major events such as the fall of the Northern Kingdom to Assyria in 722 B.C., the fall of Jerusalem and deportation of the Jews under Nebuchadnezzar in 586 B.C., and most prominently, the coming of Messiah, along with details of His life, ministry, death, and resurrection. Psalm 22 and Isa. 53 graphically detail the events and effects of Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary with a clarity that surpasses even the gospel narratives in intensity, pathos, and descriptive detail.
The accuracy and specificity of biblical prophecy is uncompromisingly unique and breathes with the evidence of divine revelation recorded in the written oracles of the Old Testament. 1 Kings 13:2 prophecies that Josiah, from the lineage of David, would arise to obliterate the idolatrous worship Jeroboam I had instituted in Bethel. Three hundred years later, as recorded in 2 Kings 23:15–16, King Josiah of Judah fulfilled this prophecy explicitly, even to the matter of burning of human bones upon that altar, in order to totally wipe out every matter of trace of idolatry from the land.
A very comprehensive collection and analysis of nearly 600 topics of prediction in Holy Scripture has been assembled by J. Barton Payne in his 754-page volume, Encyclopedia of Biblical Prophecy (ISBN-13 : 978-0060664763, ISBN: 1725286769), which pertain to the era of the Old Testament and of the New Testament as well, up to the present century. (He lists 127 more topics of predictions pertaining to the Last Days and the Millennial Kingdom.) This immense body of evidence renders all claim to uninspired human origin of the Bible totally absurd. Such a denial amounts to a hide-bound fideism unworthy of any scholar who claims to be an intelligent thinker. There is no possibility of explaining away 600 topics of fulfilled prophecies as within the competence of uninspired human authorship.
The evidence of fulfilled prophecy lies not only in the realm of historical accuracy, but also in volume. According to J. Barton Payne, 8,352 verses of the Bible are predictive; a total of 27 percent of the entire Bible. Of the total Old Testament Scripture texts that are predictive, 70 percent find fulfillment within the confines of the biblical narrative itself. The 30 percent that remain unfulfilled are primarily eschatological in nature, i.e., the second coming of Christ, the Millennial Kingdom, and the consummation of the Church Age. Virtually no prophetic utterance recorded in Scripture pertaining to any event through to the advent of the Church in New Testament narrative has failed to be fulfilled. Biblical prophecy is precise, explicit, and accurate with a record of proven fulfillment that stands as its own testimony of conclusive evidence as to the veracity of Scripture.
Those who wish to examine this evidence are invited to examine Encyclopedia of Biblical Prophecy. But for the purposes of this excursus it will be sufficient to set forth a few striking examples. Some of these prophecies were fulfilled before the completion of the Old Testament canon, and therefore they may conceivably be explained away as vaticinia ex eventu (prophecies invented after they had already been fulfilled). To treat them in this way betrays more of fideistic closed-mindedness than of truly objective scholarship. It is most significant that there are prophecies both in the Old Testament and the New Testament which were not fulfilled until a period after the composition of all 66 books of the Bible had been completed.
But before discussing individual predictions, a few general observations are in order. Although there are many specific events foretold, ranging over a broad field of interest and concern, involving not only the fate of individual actors upon the stage of history, but also the fortunes of cities, nations and empires, yet through them all there appears to be a unitary master plan. This is no hodgepodge of isolated events, such as students of Nostradamus attempt to identify with later events or the fortunes of various scoundrels or leaders, but what we find in Holy Scripture is a concatenated series of developments relating to heroes of the faith and leaders of the people of God. In other words, there is a marvelously crafted program of redemption, beginning with the first promise of the Messiah in Gen. 3:15 and concluding with the complete triumph of the divine-human Redeemer in the ultimate Millennial Kingdom and the union of heaven and earth in the last two chapters of the Apocalypse. The final proclamation of victory in Revelation 22:13 is: “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” In other words, the Bible sets forth the drama of human redemption and the total defeat of the Prince of Evil and all his works. We must take note of the fact that the Almighty Creator has a master plan moving inexorably towards a predetermined goal, to the glory of the divine Redeemer whose sacrificial death and glorious resurrection brought about the fulfillment of the purpose of the Triune God in creating the human race.
1. Genesis 3:15 contains the first indication of this plan, as God affirms to the Satanic serpent: “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed. He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise Him on the heel.” Obviously this Messianic descendant of Eve will suffer injury at Satan’s hand, but a bruised heel is capable of healing, whereas a bruised or crushed skull is an injury of fatal consequence. This means that Jesus Christ will be the final victor over all the forces of evil, and the earth will become completely subject to His rule.
2. Genesis 15:13–16 sets forth God’s plan to produce a great and numerous race of believers from a man like Abraham whose wife proved to be incapable of pregnancy until the age of ninety. Not only did he have a son by her, but that son engendered a nation as numerous as the stars in heaven. “And God said to Abram, ‘Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, where they will be enslaved and oppressed four hundred years. But I will also judge the nation whom they will serve, and afterward they will come out with many possessions. And as for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried at a good old age. Then in the fourth generation they will return here.’ ” The fulfillment of these promises is unfolded step by step in the remainder of the Pentateuch. The people among whom the descendants of Abraham are to multiply turns out to be Egypt, where their initial acceptance under Joseph turned into degrading oppression under a new dynasty (probably Hyksos) who had no regard for him. This slavery went on for four centuries (for Abram the interval between his birth and the birth of his son was a hundred years) until finally they were be enabled by God’s providence to return to the Promised Land.
3. Leviticus 26:44 contains the prediction that after the descendants of Abraham have taken possession of the Holy Land, they will fall into such spiritual defection and apostasy that God will have to consign them to the severe discipline of the Babylonian Exile, which occurred between 605 and 536 B.C. But in their humiliating captivity they will repent of their disobedience and unbelief and will be allowed to return to their native land in Canaan. Leviticus 26:44 reads: “Yet in spite of this, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not reject them, nor will I so abhor them as to destroy them, breaking My covenant with them, for I am Yahweh their God.”
This same warning appears again in Deut. 28:36: “Yahweh will bring you and your king whom you shall set over you, to a nation which neither you nor your fathers have known, and there you shall serve other gods, wood and stone.” Further on in this same chapter at Deut 28:49 we read: “Yahweh will bring against you a nation from afar, from the end of the earth, as the eagle swoops down, a nation whose language you shall not understand.” It becomes apparent that this passage predicts a second captivity or exile from Palestine, ( Palestine is an anti-Semitic name for the ancient Philistines. The land is Judea-Samaria) for the invaders in this case come from a region remote from the Middle East, speaking a language not at all Semitic (as was the language of Babylon) and having an eagle for their military symbol. This strongly suggests the Roman invasion and the dreadful events of the First Revolt (A.D. 67–70). Quite decisive for this identification is verse 68: ‘And Yahweh will bring you back to Egypt in ships, by the way about which I spoke to you, ‘You will never see it again!’ And there you shall be offered for sale to your enemies as male and female slaves, but there will be no buyer.” Josephus records that (Wars 6.9) when Titus finally stormed Jerusalem in A.D. 70, he had the 97,000 survivors dragged down to Joppa and put aboard cargo ships, to be sold in Alexandria, Egypt (which was the largest slave market in the Roman Empire) in order to be offered at bargain prices to whoever wanted to buy them. But such an enormous number of slaves proved to be a glut on the market, and so finally there were no bidders left to purchase them. All of the details of this prediction point so strongly to the events of A.D. 70 as to make any other interpretation incapable of successful defense. It should be noticed that this fulfillment could not have been a mere vaticinium ex eventu, for this would postpone the composition of Deuteronomy until the late first century A.D., and we have many fragments of Deuteronomy preserved in the Qumran caves dating from the second century B.C. or earlier.
4. Isaiah 13:19 reads: “And Babylon, the beauty of kingdoms, the glory of the Chaldeans’ pride, will be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah.” Isaiah 13:20 continues: “It will never be inhabited or lived in from generation to generation; nor will the Arab pitch his tent there, nor will shepherds make their flocks lie down there.” Note that at the time this prophecy was written down by Isaiah in the early seventh century B.C., Babylon was the most wealthy and prosperous city of the ancient world. If any capital in all of the Middle East had a prospect of indefinite survival, surely Babylon would seem the most likely of them all. Isaiah’s prediction must have seemed just as absurd as if some pundit of our present century would predict that Manhattan, New York, would some day become a deserted wasteland without a building still standing. And yet the time came when Babylon was not only conquered and overthrown by foreign enemies, but even became uninhabitable because of the extreme salinization of its surrounding farmlands after more than two millennia of irrigation from the saltbearing waters of the Euphrates. It was later avoided as a site accursed by Allah after the Muslim conquest.
The reference to Arab shepherds is highly significant in this passage, especially in view of the fact that there were no Arabs at all in this Mesopotamian region until the eighth century A.D. Here again the resort to vaticinium ex eventu proves to be untenable. For many centuries the location of Babylon was largely conjectural, and its tell known as Birs Nemroud. Not until the 19th century and the extensive excavation carried on by Koldewey was it confirmed as the true location of the ancient megalopolis, and even to this day it remains without any residential population, apart from the tourist-trap motivation of the Hussein regime, somewhat like the ghost towns of our Far West.
5. Isaiah 52:13–15; 53:1–12. This celebrated passage concerning the suffering, death and resurrection of the Servant of the Lord, composed during the reign of King Manasseh, sets forth the role and experience of Jesus of Nazareth with amazing accuracy. Isaiah 52:13–15 predicts both the amazing exaltation of Christ and His equally amazing humiliation in terms anticipatory of Phil. 2:6–11; Isaiah 53:1 foretells the incredulity of the Jewish public towards Jesus after He began His three years of preaching ministry. Isaiah 53:2 predicts the humble circumstances of His birth and childhood rearing up in Nazareth of Galilee. Isaiah 53:3 indicates that His countrymen would despise and reject Him, and that he would be a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief. Isaiah 53:4–5 affirms that He would be smitten and pierced for the sins of His people, rather than for any wickedness of His own. Isaiah 53:6 declares that all mankind has gone astray in sin, but that the Servant of the Lord would suffer death in their place and on their behalf. Isaiah 53:7 foretells His refusal to speak up in His own defense when He would be unjustly accused in court—a court procedure conducted with injustice and oppression. Isaiah 53:9 predicts that He would be buried in a rich man’s tomb, and Isaiah 53:10 states that His death would serve as a guilt-offering (asham) that would atone for the sins of mankind, and indicates that after His death He would behold His spiritual offspring, His disciples, and that He would “prolong His days”—a statement that unmistakably implies His resurrection after death and His fellowship with His believers on earth after He had risen from the dead. ( It should be noted that the Hebrew idiom יַאֲרִיךְ יָמים (Yaʿrɩḵ yāmɩ̂m) always in the Old Testament refers to life on earth prior to death and burial. For this reason this prediction of prolonging days must refer to Messiah’s post-resurrection ministry on earth 40 days prior to his ascension to heaven. ) Isaiah 53:12 proclaims His final triumph over the forces of evil as the blessed result of His substitutionary atonement and His intercession for all those who repent and put their trust in Him. Every one of these predictions is clearly pointed out in the New Testament record.
Skeptical critics are completely unable to come up with any other candidate as the fulfiller of this prophetic portrait of the Servant of Yahweh. Hezekiah, Josiah, and Isaiah himself, have all been proposed, but none of them even approaches the fulfillment of all these specifications. Most unsatisfactory of all is the suggestion that Israel itself is the fulfillment of Isa. 53. For nowhere in Isaiah or any of the prophets of Israel is there the slightest intimation that the Hebrew nation, or any more spiritual segment of it, has maintained the absolute sinlessness predicated of the Servant in Isaiah 53:9. On the contrary the prophets all unite in indicting their countrymen as inexcusably guilty sinners deserving of God’s judgment. Even apart from that, no one has ever explained how, if the Servant is really the nation Israel, it could be said to have borne the punishment and death of Israel in the place of Israel instead of Israel! Such an argument borders on total irrationality.
6. Daniel 9:25–26 records the angelic revelation that there is going to be a word or decree granted by the king (the Persian king, that is) to authorize the rebuilding of post-exilic Jerusalem. A span of 69 heptads of years will intervene between that decree and the appearance of Messiah the Prince. Since the decree of Cyrus issued in 537 B.C. pertained only to the successful rebuilding of the Temple rather than the walls of the city, it could hardly be the intended terminus a quo. Some have supposed that the permission granted to Nehemiah by Artaxerxes I which resulted in the rebuilding of the city walls must be the correct starting-point for the 483 years, but Nehemiah 1:3–4 clearly indicates that an earlier attempt had already been made to rebuild the walls and gates of Jerusalem. However it appears that some hostile forces had burned up and broken down the structures which had been attempted. Therefore upon hearing these tidings from Hanani, Nehemiah was grievously disappointed, and prayed that God would intervene on his behalf and on behalf of the Holy City. This leaves only the return of Ezra in the seventh year of Artaxerxes (or 457 B.C.) as the correct terminus. Ezra 9:9 clearly refers to such a royal permission, for there Ezra prays about the boon granted by “the kings of Persia.… to give us a wall in Judah and Jerusalem.” It is fair to assume that the same hostile neighboring nations which later threatened Nehemiah himself were responsible for the violence done to Ezra’s earlier building efforts. If this was indeed what happened (as the evidence strongly suggest) this means that the 69 heptads should be reckoned from 457 B.C. This means that 457 subtracted from 483 comes out to A.D. 26. But since we actually gain a year when moving from 1 B.C. to A.D. 1, it really come out to A.D. 27. This means that Messiah the Prince would begin his ministry in A.D. 27, or three years before before A.D. 30 when Jesus was crucified. How can we explain this amazingly accurate prediction? Certainly not on the basis of vaticinium ex eventu!
No other explanation will account for this pattern of prediction and fulfillment except authentic revelation by God Himself as the Lord of history and providence. It is logically impossible to explain the Bible as a book of mere human composition. To reject such an overwhelming body of evidence as this and to hold to a theory of mere human authorship is to forsake all reason and logic in the interests of fideistic subjectivism, scarcely worthy of honest scholarship.
This Ancient Hebrew Discovery is About to Rewrite History as We Know it
By Tsivya Fox 12/30/16
“And Pharaoh called Yosef’s name Zaphenath-paneah; and he gave him to wife Asenath the daughter of Poti-phera priest of On. And Yosef went out over the land of Egypt.” Genesis 41:45 (The Israel Bible™)
After years of intense study, Dr. Douglas Petrovich has gathered sufficient evidence to claim that the ancient Israelites took Egyptian hieroglyphics and transformed it into a writing system of 22 alphabetic letters which correspond to the widely recognized Hebrew alphabet used today.
Archaeologist, epigrapher and professor of ancient Egyptian studies at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Canada, Dr. Petrovich used Hebrew and the Bible to translate inscriptions found on 18 ancient stone slabs. His findings have truly rocked Bible critics to the core.
“Judaism has always believed that ‘God looked into the Hebrew Bible and created the world’ making Hebrew the oldest known language,” noted Roni Segal, academic adviser for The Israel Institute of Biblical Studies, an online language academy specializing in Biblical Hebrew, to Breaking Israel News. “However, to find an archaeologist making a similar claim is fascinating.
It is generally accepted that hieroglyphics are one of the oldest forms of written communication. Following Petrovich’s study of the inscribed Egyptian stone slabs, he asserted that the writings are actually an early form of Hebrew. He believes that the stones recall the Bible’s descriptions about the Israelites living in Egypt and concludes that they transformed Egyptian hieroglyphics into Hebrew more than 3,800 years ago.
Why Is Repentance Important?
By Mike Mobley
Repentance isn’t one of those popular topics to discuss for most people. In fact, a lot of followers of Christ (me included) often push this subject to the back of the line behind other current trending ones. I think it has a lot to do with the fact that we don’t want to offend people or “judge” them. Are we more concerned with how we might offend others or if we are offending God? Are we really loving others if we are content as they continue to sin? Why is repentance important?
All throughout the Bible we see people being called to repentance. God, Jesus, Paul, the Prophets, etc. all were involved in clearly communicating to others to repent. Repentance is not just believing in God (even the demons believe, James 2:19), but rather as we believe and make a decision to trust and follow Christ, we will repent (turn from) our old ways. We will begin to live as new creations and let the old pass away (2 Corinthians 5:17). If repentance is not involved in the life of a believer, then that person is not a believer. It’s impossible to decide to follow Christ and not turn from old sinful ways.
(2 Pe 3:9) The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. ESV
God’s desire is that we all would reach repentance. He’s not slow. He does not delay. He knows exactly what He’s doing and His character more and more in the Bible reveals just how much He loves us. He is patient towards all of us and shows His great mercy as we continue to fall short each day.
“God hasn’t held off lighting the match for eternal fire because He finds our sins tolerable but rather because He is patient in giving sinners an opportunity for repentance before the burning begins.” – Mark Driscoll, A Call To Resurgence
Being Too Hard On Repentance | You may have experienced this scene for yourself, but imagine a bullhorn and someone in your face screaming, REPENT. Well, that sure is one way of preaching repentance to others, but probably won’t be the most effective way.
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 4Answer Me When I Call
4 To The Choirmaster: With Stringed Instruments. A Psalm Of David.
1 Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness!
You have given me relief when I was in distress.
Be gracious to me and hear my prayer!
2 O men, how long shall my honor be turned into shame?
How long will you love vain words and seek after lies? Selah
3 But know that the LORD has set apart the godly for himself;
the LORD hears when I call to him.
4 Be angry, and do not sin;
ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. Selah
5 Offer right sacrifices,
and put your trust in the LORD.
The Miracle That Saves the World
By Michael Sacasas 1/2/2017
“Hannah Arendt is preeminently the theorist of beginnings,” according to Margaret Canovan in her Introduction to Arendt’s The Human Condition. “Reflections on the human capacity to start something new pervade her thinking,” she adds.
I’ve been thinking about this theme in Arendt’s work, particularly as the old year faded and the new one approached. Arendt spoke of birth and death, natality and morality, as the “most general condition of human existence.” Whereas most Western philosophy had taken its point of departure from the fact of our mortality, Arendt made a point of emphasizing natality, the possibility of new beginnings.
“The most heartening message of The Human Condition, 2nd Edition,” Canovan writes,
is its reminder of human natality and the miracle of beginning. In sharp contrast to Heidegger’s stress on our mortality, Arendt argues that faith and hope in human affairs come from the fact that new people are continually coming into the world, each of them unique, each capable of new initiatives that may interrupt or divert the chains of events set in motion by previous actions.”
This is, indeed, a heartening message. One that we need to take to heart in these our own darkening days. Below are a three key paragraphs in which Arendt develops her understanding of the importance of natality in human affairs.
Hannah Arendt Books by Hannah Arendt:
The Origins of Totalitarianism
Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil (Penguin Classics)
The Human Condition, 2nd Edition
Crises of the Republic: Lying in Politics; Civil Disobedience; On Violence; Thoughts on Politics and Revolution
The Life of the Mind (Combined 2 Volumes in 1) (Vols 1&2)
On Revolution (Penguin Classics)
Between Past and Future (Penguin Classics)
How to Stop Praying the Same Old Things
By Don Whitney 2015
It doesn’t take long before rote prayers fragment your attention span and freeze your heart.
Editor's note: We are told in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 to "pray without ceasing." The problem for many of us is that prayer can become a boring exercise of, in the words of Don Whitney, "praying the same old things about the same old things." In this article Whitney describes how praying through Scripture can revolutionize your prayer life and lift it from the rut of mindless repetition.
"Empty phrases" are ruinous in any area of spirituality, but especially in prayer. Jesus warned, "But when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words" ( Matthew 6:7 ).
Such "empty phrases" can result from insincerity or repetition. That is, we might pray meaningless, vacuous words because either our hearts or minds are far away.
One of the reasons Jesus prohibited the mindless repetition of prayers is because that's exactly the way we're prone to pray. Although I don't recite intentionally memorized prayers, my own tendency is to pray basically the same old things about the same old things. And it doesn't take long before such prayers fragment the attention span and freeze the heart of prayer.
The problem is not our praying about the same old things, for Jesus taught us (in Luke 11:5-13 and 18:1-8 ) to pray with persistence for good things. Our problem is in always praying about them with the same ritualistic, heartless expressions.
In my experience, the almost unfailing solution to this problem is to pray through a passage of Scripture — particularly one of the Psalms — instead of making up my prayer as I go. Praying in this way is simply taking the words of Scripture and using them as my own words or as prompters for what I say to God.
For example, if I prayed through Psalm 27, I would begin by reading verse 1, “The Lord is my light and my salvation.” Then I would pray something like,
Thank you, Lord, that you are my light. Thank you for giving me the light to see my need for Jesus and your forgiveness. Please light my way so that I will know which way to go in the big decision that is before me today. And thank you especially that you are my salvation. You saved me; I didn’t save myself. And now I ask you to save my children also, as well those at work with whom I’ve shared the gospel.
When I have nothing else to say, instead of my mind wandering, I have a place to go — the rest of verse 1. “Whom shall I fear?” Then I might pray along these lines: I thank you that I do not have to fear anyone because You are my Father. But I confess that I have been fearful about ______.
I would continue in this way, praying about whatever is prompted verse by verse, until either I complete the Psalm or run out of time.
Praying through a passage of Scripture was the uncomplicated method that transformed the daily experience of one of the most famous men of prayer in history. George Müller said,
Formerly when I rose, I began to pray as soon as possible, and generally spent all my time till breakfast in prayer . . . What was the result? . . . Often, after having suffered much from wandering of mind for the first ten minutes, or quarter of an hour, or even half an hour, I only then began really to pray.
I scarcely ever suffer now in this way. For my heart being nourished by the truth, being brought into experimental [that is, experiential] fellowship with God, I speak to my Father . . . about the things that He has brought before me in His precious Word.
Both Jesus (in Matthew 27:46 ) and His followers in the book of Acts ( 4:24-26 ) prayed words from the Psalms (from Psalm 22:1, and Psalm 146:6 and Psalm 2:1-2 respectively). Why not you?
Although you’ll pray about “the same old things,” you’ll do so in brand new ways. You’ll also find yourself praying about things you never thought to pray — things that are on the heart of God.
You’ll concentrate better, and begin to experience prayer as a real conversation with a real Person. For the Bible really is God speaking to you, and now all you have to do is simply respond to what He says.
Other Books by Roger Steer:
J. Hudson Taylor: A Man In Christ (Missionary Life Stories)
George Müller: Delighted in God (History Maker)
Jesus Rising in the East: The Extraordinary Story of the Church in Modern China (Christianity Today Essentials Book 3)
Guarding the Holy Fire: The Evangelicalism of John R.W. Stott, J.I. Packer, and Alister McGrath
Letter to an Influential Atheist by Roger Steer (2003-07-01)
Don Whitney has been Professor of Biblical Spirituality and Associate Dean at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY since 2005. Biography
Donald S. Whitney Books:
- 1 Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life
- 2 Praying the Bible
- 3 Family Worship
- 4 Ten Questions to Diagnose Your Spiritual Health
- 5 How Can I Be Sure I'm a Christian?: What the Bible Says About Assurance of Salvation (LifeChange)
- 6 Spiritual Disciplines within the Church: Participating Fully in the Body of Christ
- 7 Simplify Your Spiritual Life: Spiritual Disciplines for the Overwhelmed
- 8 The Call to Ministry
- 9 A God Entranced Vision of All Things: The Legacy of Jonathan Edwards
- 10 Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life/Ten Questions to Diagnose Your Spiritual Health
- 11 10 Questions to Diagnose Your Spiritual Health [10 QUES TO DIAGNOSE YOUR S -OS]
- 12 The Pure Flame of Devotion: The History of Christian Spirituality
- 13 Finding God in Solitude: The Personal Piety of Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) and Its Influence on His Pastoral Ministry (American University Studies)
- 14 Onward, Christian Soldiers: Protestants Affirm the Church (Reformation Theology Series)
- 15 By Donald S. Whitney - Family Worship: In the Bible, in History & in Your Home (1905-07-13) [Paperback]
Hagar at the Fountain (Spurgeon)
Charles Haddon Spurgeon November 8, 1885
Scripture: Genesis 16:13-14
From: Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Volume 31
You know the story of Hagar. I am not going to deal with the allegorical meaning of it: that would be apart from our subject this morning. I shall speak of the incident simply as it stands, and even then I shall not use it strictly as a case of sure conversion, for I am not certain that it was such. I suppose Hagar to have been an Egyptian woman, probably one of the maid-servants who were given by the King of Egypt to Abram at that unhappy time when Abram’s faith failed him, and he went down into Egypt, and requested Sarai to conceal the fact that she was his wife. Sin, whenever it is committed by the child of God, is sure to involve him in sorrow. In the long run, the result of any false dealing comes home to the believer; and it does so in very unexpected ways. Hagar became the special maid of Sarai. God had promised to Abram that he should have a son, and that thus he should be the father of nations: that blessing did not appear likely to come to him. for there were no children born to Sarai, nor did there seem to be the possibility of any. Husband and wife were both old and well stricken in years. No special mention had been made of Sarai in the promise as it then stood; and therefore it was not clear to Abram but what some other might be the mother of the expected seed; and when, in her unbelief, Sarai proposed that her maid should become his secondary wife, Abram hearkened to her. According to the custom of the times, and of oriental nations, this act was right enough; but as it was not really right in itself, and showed littleness of faith on Abram’s part, sorrow soon came of it. Hagar began to behave herself proudly towards her mistress, and her mistress finding herself despised, complained to Abram, and began also to behave harshly towards her. The wrong clement would not work in Abram’s family; it might do very well for the Canaanites around him; but in a house where God was feared, it was an evil principle, and could not work for peace or holiness. Hagar’s high Egyptian spirit, finding herself likely to be famous in the house, would not brook the rule of her mistress, nor could Sarai, the quiet, but queenly matron, put up with the insults of her slave. The mistress became hard and harsh to her handmaid. Wrought into a frenzy, Hagar flies from the tent, and makes the best of her, way on the road to Egypt, whence she originally came. But what could a lone woman do in her condition, all alone in the wilderness?
Wearied with her journey, she spies a fountain, and she sits there. It was the likeliest place for any passing traveller to find her, and she sits her down there in her proud despair. Perhaps they will send for her; Abram may repent his yielding to Sarai, and send for her; she will wait there; and if nothing comes to her help, she will die rather than return. She does not appear at that time to have lifted up her heart in prayer to God. She had lived in a godly household; but possibly, as she thought herself ill-treated, she had conceived a dislike towards the God of her mistress; such harsh treatment as she had received was not likely to incline her towards the religion of those from whom she had fled: she was godless and hopeless. Do you not see her crouching at the fountain, half mad with pride and vexation, and at the same time stricken with a sullen despair? She knows not what she is to do, neither does any way of hope open before her. Alas, poor Hagar!
But although there was no prayer of hers for God to hear, another voice spake in his ear. The angel who suddenly appeared to her said, “The Lord hath heard thy affliction.” That is a very beautiful sentence. Thou hast not prayed: thou hast been wilful, reckless, and at last despairing, and therefore thou hast not cried unto the Lord. But thy deep sorrow has cried to him. Thou art oppressed, and the Lord has undertaken for thee. Thou art suffering heavily, and God, the All-pitiful, has heard thy affliction. Grief has an eloquent voice when mercy is the listener. Woe has a plea which goodness cannot resist. Though sorrow and woe ought to be attended with prayer, yet even when supplication is not offered, the heart of God is moved by misery itself. In Hagar’s case, the Lord heard her affliction: he looked forth from his glory upon that lone Egyptian woman who was in the deepest distress in which a woman could well be placed, and he came speedily to her help.
We have not much difficulty in deciding who the angel was that appeared to her. We are sure that this Angel of the Lord was that great messenger of the covenant who was afterwards to appear in actual flesh and blood, but who many a time before he was born at Bethlehem anticipated his descent to earth, and visited it in human form. His delights were ever with the sons of men; and so when there was a message to be brought to men, that blessed One, the Second Person of the divine Unity condescended to be the bearer of it. In the present instance I discern foreshadowings of the Son of man; I perceive sure traces of the Christ who in a later age would dwell among mankind. Read a little before the text, and you will find it written, The angel of the Lord “found her”; it is the deed of the good Shepherd to find a lost sheep. I see before me that Son of man who came to seek and to save that which was lost. Surely this is that great Shepherd of the sheep who goeth after his sheep until he find it! He had come far into the waste after her, and he rested not until he found her. Great gladness filled his heart, as when a merchantman findeth a pearl of great price. I see high joy in the countenance of this angel of Jehovah. We read in verse seven, “The angel of the Lord found her by a fountain of water.” Significant place! Can you forget how, when that blessed One was here in flesh and blood, he found another woman at the well. “Jesus being wearied, sat thus on the well. There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water. Jesus saith unto her, Give me to drink.” Does not this story of Hagar read like a rehearsal of that Samaritan incident? “He found her by a fountain of water.”
This fountain is further said to be “in the wilderness.” Note that. Remember those words of his when he actually became incarnate: “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost until he find it?” Again we read, “He found him in a desert land, and in the waste howling wilderness.” This wonderful appearance of the Christ before he actually assumed our flesh, has a likeness to his actual incarnation of the most delightful kind. Tis he; we are sure it is he. All the tones of the voice and the modes of the speech are his. That this angel of the Lord was God we also know, for our text says, “She called the name of Jehovah that spake unto her, Thou God seest me.” The all-seeing God had veiled himself in that angelic form. That Divine One, whom we adore as the Son of God and the Son of man, condescended to be the messenger of mercy to a poor slave-woman, who had run away from her mistress. None but God would thus have condescended. The world had no pity in those days for slaves of any kind, much less for those who had left their master’s house. Here the Lord of love found a noble opportunity for revealing his gracious nature to a forlorn one. No eye pitied her, and no hand brought her deliverance; “Now will I arise, saith the Lord.” The angel found her, and it is of that finding, and of what came of it, that I am going to speak this morning. May the Holy Spirit cause the word to be with power.
I. In speaking of Hagar, I shall first dwell for a little upon HER REMARKABLE EXPERIENCE. I pray that to some daughter of sorrow the like experience may come. May your case be mirrored in that of Hagar, as when one seeth his face in a looking-glass.
Observe that Hagar had outlawed herself. No doubt she had much to put up with; but she had been insolent and provoking to her mistress, and at last she had in her impatience deliberately quitted the house of Abraham, and left the abode of the chosen family. Whatever that house may have been, it was the best place then upon the earth; it was almost the only spot under heaven where the Lord God was known. You might have said of Abraham’s family, “Ye are of God, little children, and the whole world lieth in the wicked one.” She, an Egyptian, once benighted by the superstitious worship of her country, had enjoyed the light of the knowledge of the true God for a while; and now she had turned her back on it. She could not but have marked Abraham’s high character and sincere devotion. She must have seen his true and real faith in God, and the way in which he endeavoured to order his household aright. Whatever faults she may have perceived there, whatever errors she may have suffered from, she could not but have noticed that there was a great difference between Abraham’s tent and the abodes of Egypt. Now she quits her place of privilege, she renounces the high hopes which surrounded her, and in her fierce passion she rushes she cares not whither. The untamable spirit which afterwards showed itself in her son Ishmael raged in her bosom. So, too, have we met with those who have deliberately left the ways of God and the people of God, and all semblance of goodness, because they have thought themselves badly used. They have happened to suffer somewhat, and in the bitterness of their spirit they have resolved to stand no more of it. They vow that they will have nothing to do with God, or with his people; they will turn their backs upon everything that is religious, and they will mix with the world in its most ungodly form. They do not, indeed, care what becomes of them: they would flee from the presence of God himself if they could. Friends, relatives, good men, and the circle of blessing they would quit, and roam in a wilderness, hoping to be forgotten. Now their hand is against every man, and every man’s hand is against them, and in their high spirit they are prepared to defy the universe to subdue them.
While she was there, in the moment of her desperation, she was found by the angel. He had come on purpose to seek her out and find her, and he had not failed in his search, as, indeed, he never does. This was the last thing she thought of. She may have hoped to have been found by some merchants going towards Egypt, or to be picked up by certain of the wandering gipsies of the wilderness, but she had not thought that God himself would come after her. What was there about her that Jehovah should come out of his place to seek her? Yet he came in unexpected grace, as he is wont to do. He remembered the low estate of his handmaiden, and because his mercy endureth for ever, he found her by the fountain in the wilderness.
When the angel of the Lord found Hagar, he dealt graciously with her. Indeed this was the object of his finding her; he came in pity, not in wrath. His first act was to awaken conviction within her. He said to her, “Hagar, Sarai’s maid, whence earnest thou? and whither wilt thou go?” This language is singularly like the Lord Jesus Christ’s mode of address. The name of the person is mentioned. This forcibly brings to my mind the speech of Our Lord when he said unto the woman, “Mary”; and she turned herself, and said unto him, “Rabboni.” He says, “Hagar, Sarai’s maid”: his word is a personal word, and she cannot mistake it. Is not this the Lord’s way in other cases? Has he not said, “I have called thee by thy name”? He adds her description, and reminds her that whatever else she might be, she was “Sarai’s maid.” How surprised she must have been! She had never seen the august personage before, but evidently he had seen her before, and knew all about her, for his words searched her through and through.
Then, further to bring her to her right senses, the angel asks her, with touching pathos of tone,—“whence camest thou?” What hast thou left behind thee? What hast thou given up? All thy hopes lie in Abraham’s tent, and thou hast left the place. For thee there is a high destiny, and thou art flying from it. Thou art, after all, a favoured woman, and thou knowest it not; thou art flying away from that which will be thy blessedness! This is the question of the Holy Spirit to every runaway rebel. O wandering sinner, what art thou quitting? In fleeing from goodness, and God, and hope, and grace, dost thou know what thou art leaving?
Again, he asks her, “Whither wilt thou go?” Her crouching form is before him; she lifts up her eyes, all red with tears, and she weeps anew as he says, “And whither wilt thou go?” “Wilt thou go into the wilderness further, and die there of thirst and hunger? Wilt thou go down into Egypt, back to all the cruelties of that benighted land? Whither wilt thou go?” It is thus the Lord meets runaway sinners that are bent upon their own destruction, and he calls to them by name, and says, “Whence earnest thou? What art thou leaving? What art thou losing? What art thou rejecting? What art thou turning thy back upon? And whither wilt thou go? What can be the end of such a life as thine? Whither can it carry thee but to destruction? Whither wilt thou go by this course of desperate sin? Canst thou face the Eternal, and the judgment-seat, and the curse that withers the ungodly? Whence camest thou? and whither wilt thou go?” It is thus, I say, that the covenant Angel met with many of us, when he aroused our consciences and made us pause in our headlong rush of sin. Some of us heard the warning voice long years ago, and we can never forget it: the call rings in the chambers of our memory even now. It is thus that the Lord met with some of you a short time since; and you are at this moment filled with gratitude for the interposition. I believe that this morning the Lord will thus meet with some who are in this congregation, whom I know not, but whom he knows right well; for his eye is resting on them now, and his voice is speaking to them through my voice. Like as he said of old, “Hagar, Sarai’s maid, whence earnest thou? and whither wilt thou go?” so doth he speak at this hour, and ask you why you are bent upon destroying your own souls.
This wrought in her mind conviction, after a certain sort; and where the Son of God spiritually speaks to the heart, a deep and piercing conviction is felt: his word lays sin bare and open, and makes the guilty conscience feel that nothing is hidden from God, but that all things are naked and open to the eyes of him with whom we have to do. As when the butcher hangs up the body of a beast, and with a stroke lays bare the heart and inwards of the creature, so with a single word the Angel of the covenant reveals the heart of Hagar. Thus also the convincing Spirit deals with the sinner, and lays him bare even to the backbone, till all the secrets of his soul are revealed, and he cries, “Thou God seest me.” The Word of the Lord, by revealing the thoughts and intents of the heart, proves its own divine origin to him who feels its operation, and thus God himself is made known as speaking by the Word.
When he had thus wrought conviction in her, the angel who had found Hagar next gave her an exhortation. He said to her, “Return unto thy mistress, and submit thyself under her hands.” A hard message, as it seemed to her in her pride, no doubt. “Return,” however hard the way; “Submit thyself,” however humiliating the deed. Hagar is not spared; the angel puts his words very plainly. If it were kindness to say, “Return,” it is still greater kindness to say severely, but truthfully, “Return to thy mistress.” Mark, not to thy master only, but “to thy mistress.” He says also, “Submit thyself under her hands,” to show that the submission must be entire and absolute. Put thyself back into thy right place, and then grace can deal with thee. When the covenant Angel deals with any man or woman among us, he will say, “Return, return, return. Repent, and be converted. Turn ye; turn ye, why will ye die?” The gospel does not spare the sinner the pangs of repentance. It calls him to sorrow after a godly sort. You must abhor your sin, and flee from it, or your sin will be your ruin. You must so repent of your sin as to make such restitution as may be possible. You must replace stolen goods, and recall false words. You must humble yourself wherein you have been insolent; you must bow yourself down before God, and submit to man also, so far as you have wronged him. God the Holy Spirit, when he deals with a proud, unrighteous heart, lays justice to the line and righteousness to the plummet, and sweeps away as with hail every refuge of lies. He cries, “Return! Submit!” and puts the matter so closely home that there is no misunderstanding it. He bids the man confess, and forsake his sin; and gives him no hope of mercy, unless he will do so. God has not met with you, friend, if you go on in your sin. God in mercy has not met with you if sin remains sweet to you, and repentance is unknown to your heart. You must go back to the place from whence you came, and you must submit yourself, or nothing will go right with you.
When the angel of the Lord had thus spoken with Hagar, calling her by her name, and working conviction in her heart, and pointing out her duty, he then added rich promises— promises which to her mind must have been very unexpected and consoling. She was a runaway slave girl, but he says to her, “I will multiply thy seed exceedingly, that it shall not be numbered for multitude, and thou shalt bear a son, and shalt call his name Ishmael.” That name signifies, “God heareth me,” because the Lord had heard her affliction. The angel went on to tell her what this child should be who would be the joy of her heart. Little does a sinner know what blessings are in store for him, if he repents and submits to the Lord’s will. He is come to the borders of the wilderness of death, but God intends to bring him back to peace, and joy, and happiness. Oh, did the proud sinner know what God’s grace will do for him, he would break his heart to think he had been so rebellious! Oh, did the obstinate know what a place there is at the Father’s board and in the Father’s heart for the returning prodigal, and how much he is still beloved, notwithstanding all his naughtiness, he would quicken his footsteps, and wish to have wings upon his heels, that he might fly back to his Father’s house and his Father’s bosom! O soul, I do pray that Jesus Christ may find thee out this morning, and say to thee, “Return unto me, for I have blotted out thy sins like a cloud, and like a thick cloud thine iniquities. Return unto me, for I have loved thee with an everlasting love; therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.”
So you see, Hagar’s experience was a very remarkable one, although by no means peculiar to herself. Blessed be God, it has happened to tens of thousands, that where sin abounded, grace did much more abound. When they have run away, and outlawed themselves, grace has followed them, grace has convicted them, grace has admonished them, and grace has made large promises to them. Their proud heart has yielded, and their spirit has become gentle as that of a little child, as Hagar’s spirit was, and they have returned to the great Father’s house, and submitted themselves, and rich blessings have become theirs. Is it not written, “If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land”? Though Hagar had banished herself away from the house of divine favour, yet the Lord devised means for restoring her, and she was restored. Thus much on her remarkable experience.
II. Now, I want you to notice HER DEVOUT ACKNOWLEDGMENT. When that which we have described happened to her, she acknowledged the living God. My text says, “She called the name of the Lord that spake unto her, Thou God seest me.” She spake to him that spake to her: after this fashion do we all begin our communion with God. Oh, when God speaks to you, you will soon find a tongue to speak to him. I do not mean when I speak to you in his name; for what am I? You ought to hear us if we truly speak for God, since it is of his kindness that he sends his servants to speak to you: but if the covenant Angel comes himself, and if he speaks to the heart, then he unstops the deaf ear, and looses the dumb tongue. Men soon speak to Christ when Christ speaks to them. Did you but know the power of the Almighty word of grace, you would understand that as darkness gave place to light when he said, “Let there be light,” so do men’s hearts quit their sin when Jesus speaks to them in tones of effectual grace. Hagar knew no speaking to God till God spake with her; but after he had spoken to her there was no silence.
What did she say? She acknowledged him to be God. “She called the name of the Lord that spake to her, Thou God seest me.” It is one thing to believe there is a God, but it is quite another thing to know it by coming into personal contact with him. They give you books to prove that there is a God— ail well and good; be convinced by them. They tell you to walk abroad and see God in his works. Do so. You cannot better employ yourselves; for God is everywhere. His breath perfumes the flowers, and his pencil paints them. But you will not learn God in this fashion, if you use this method by itself. To go from nature up to nature’s God is a long step for broken legs: we are so mangled by our fall that we never take that step without divine help. But, oh, if the Lord meets with you! If he reveals his own self to your heart! What assurance! What certainty! Think not I am talking now of things that are not: I speak what I have myself felt. God has met with some of us as surely as ever one spirit has met with another. Men have so spoken to us at times, that we can never forget their speech; but never has human voice come with such force as that of the Lord of hosts, the accents of whose words we shall hear as long as memory holds her place and reason sits on her throne. We may forget the word of father, mother, wife, or friend, but not the voice of the God of love. “When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, Lord, will I seek.” None doubt the existence of God when God has come into contact with their spirit. When we have felt his power and tasted his love, and known his overwhelming influence, then have we said, “Jehovah, he is the God,” and we have bowed in solemn worship before him. I do not know that Hagar had ever thought of God before; but she discerns him now and speaks wisely. No doubt she had heard of Jehovah, for she had joined in the devotions of Abrahams family; but now for the first time in her life she recognizes in deed and of a truth that the Lord lives for her, and therefore she speaks to him, and calls him, “The God that sees.”
Observe, dear friends, that she acknowledged his observant love. She could not help acknowledging it, for it flashed before her eyes. I do not think when she said, “Thou God seest me,” that she meant merely that God is omniscient and therefore that he saw her; but she meant this, “Thou seest me, with a special observation. Thou seest me with eyes of tender concern and loving care. Thou knowest me in my adversity.” She felt in her inmost soul that eyes of thoughtful love were fixed on her. “Hagar, Sarai’s maid,” knew that she was specially under watchful care. Those holy eyes had noticed all her sin, which had been brought to her remembrance; those eyes had seen her duty, which she was now willing to resume; those eyes had spied out the promise for her, which promise had brought a warm comfort to her poor, chill spirit. “Oh,” said she, “what a God thou art— the God who sees, who knows, who considers, and thinks of me!” Now she has a God, not in theory, but in fact. You that only know God as one who made the heavens and earth, do not indeed know him at all. He must be personally a God to you, or he will not be your God at all. To us the true God is the God who seeth us. Doth not his law begin, “I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage”? His special care is the mark by which we know him. It was so in Hagar’s case; God’s watchful care towards her made him real to her. She knew that he must be God; she could not doubt it, for she had been so strangely found out by him. In the extremity of her lost estate, when she had gone to the uttermost of sin and sorrow, he had found her out, and so she calls him, “the God that sees me.”
In the presence of that God she felt overpowered and ready to yield. She was so overwhelmed, that no rebellion remained within her. She girds her garments about her, and she makes the best of her way home to the tent of Sarai. Her mistress is hard; but sin is harder. She will go back and bear the reproach and rebuke, for she has a promise hidden in her heart to sustain her; she shall yet be the glad mother of a father of nations who shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren. She returns surrounded with God. Bathed in the sense of the divine oversight, she resigns herself to her work. Though Abram should not encourage her, and Sarai should not acknowledge her, yet the Lord’s eye would be upon her, and God’s favour was preparing great things for her. Her heart was light within her, because of the divine favour, and in that spirit she was subdued unto the will of God. That is what I want to happen to many a poor soul this morning in a still fuller and more spiritual sense. Pray, you people of God, that it may be so. If you are here this morning, Mistress Sarah, let me put in a gentle word for your poor maid. If she does come back to you, do not treat her harshly again; do not drive her away again; but receive the runaway and make the best of her. Let the past be buried. Say, “If an angel has appeared to thee, and taught thee to know the Lord, I will gladly receive thee, and show the kindness of God unto thee.”
III. Let me now call to your notice THE MANIFEST AMAZEMENT of this woman; for in her glad surprise she uttered a sentence which runs as follows: “Have I also here looked after him that seeth me?” This is a sentence very hard to be understood; not because it is hard to make out a meaning, but because it is so full of meaning. It reads like an oracle. Expositors will tell you that as many senses may be given to this sentence as there are words in it; and each one of these senses will bear a measure of decent defence. I shall not go into them all, but I think I see clearly that she was amazed that God should care for her. “Thou God seest me. Have I also here looked after him that seeth me?” Does he see me? Do I see him? If I had loved God when I was in Sarai’s tent, I could have understood his following me here; if I had sought him when I was with Abram, and had known my master’s God in Canaan, I could have understood that he should remember me now: but I was a wild Egyptian; I would not bow my knee to Jehovah; no, I had no wish nor thought for the living God; yet hath he looked after me, the slave girl, for whom nobody cared! He hath spoken to me concerning things to come.” Brethren, it is a great wonder to me this day that ever my God should think of me. Brothers, sisters, do you not share that feeling, each one for yourself? Do you not say, “Why me, my Lord? Why me”? Sit still in holy wonder, and adore and bless the Lord.
I think her next amazement was that she should have been such a long time without ever thinking of him who had thought so much of her. She says, “Have I also here looked unto him that seeth me?” “What! Have I been these years with Abraham, and heard about the God who has been looking at me in love, and have I never glanced a thought to him?” Her ungodliness astounds her. Brother, when you are brought to God it will strike you as though a dart went through your flesh, that you should so long have done despite to God and heavenly things. Then will you say, “Have I forgotten Christ? Have I forgotten God? Has he had designs of love to me, and purposes of grace for me, and yet have I rebelled against him? Did he die for me, and did I refuse to live for him? Did he bleed his life away on the cross for me, and have I been all these years thoughtless and careless of him?” It will stagger you; you will feel ready to sink into the dust when you once feel the folly and meanness of your course. You can bluster, you can be proud and careless, when you know not God; but when you once fully meet with him, you will be ready to bite your tongues to think you could have lived so long in ignorance and neglect of your God. Hagar was evidently startled as she remembered that she had never up till that time looked to the observing One.
But next, she is amazed still more to think that at last she does look unto God. In effect she cries, “What! Has it come to this? Have I also here looked after him that seeth me? Is Hagar at last converted? When I had bread to eat I never looked after God, and now that I have come into this wilderness, do I seek and find him? No creature can hear my call, and do I now call upon my Creator? I am alone, alone, alone; there is nothing here but this well, and lo! the angel of Jehovah has found me and spoken with me, and now in this wild place I for the first time look after the Lord who has looked after me. Is this the place, the spot of ground, where I must needs close in with my Maker and know that there is a God, and believe his promise, and begin to live in expectation of its fulfilment?” It might well astound her. Perhaps somebody has come into this service this very day, almost driven to desperation: you have acted so wrongly— I cannot tell how wrongly— and now you are smarting from the consequences of your foolishness. If God is meeting with you this morning you will cry out in astonishment, “What! Have I come hither to find God? Have I come into this miserable condition that I might be driven to look after him? This is surprising grace!” An old man in the country was a gracious father, and brought up his children in the fear of the Lord; but his son while yet a youth must needs see life in London, and therefore he came to the great city, and plunged into all sorts of sin. He cared nothing for the Sabbath, but even felt glad to escape from the weariness of the meeting-house to which he had been taken from his infancy. It was no design of his ever to find God, but God found him in the most unlikely of all the places in the world, namely, in a low play-house. A scene occurred in which a mutinous sailor was to be hanged, and asking for a glass of spirits he was represented as drinking his own health in the words— “Here’s to my immortal soul.” “Immortal soul,” thought the foolish youth, “Immortal soul.” He had almost forgotten that he had an immortal soul. It was a shot fired at the centre of the target: it struck him home; he was ready to drop: he sought the open air and a place wherein to weep. The next Sabbath morning found the young scapegrace at a prayer-meeting, seeking his father’s God, and before long he found peace through the blood of Jesus, and began preaching the gospel which lie had so grievously abused. God knows how to get at the heart of sinners. Remember Colonel Gardiner about to commit a foul offence; he made an assignation, and reached the spot an hour too soon, and while he waited he saw, or thought he saw, his Saviour, and heard a voice accusing him of ingratitude. He fled the place of his temptation, sought for pardon, and became eminent as a saint. What a surprise it must be to rebels to be thus seized in the arms of grace and transformed into friends of the King! I ask God that such a surprise may await some who are here to-day. May you also enquire in amazement, “Have I here also looked after him that seeth me?”
One other surprise Hagar had, and that was the surprise to think that she was alive. It was the common conviction of that age that no man could see God and live. She knew that she had seen him in angelic form, and she marvelled that she found herself alive and able to look up with hope. The awakened sinner, when he is met with by the God of grace wonders that he has not been cut down as a cumberer of the ground. If the Lord had met with me in a way of vengeance, and caused me to wither away from the root like the fruitless fig-tree, I could not have wondered; but to bless me in infinite compassion is a wonder indeed. If he had sentenced me to depart to the lowest hell I could not have complained; but to meet me in love, to pardon, relieve, and save me— this is a miracle of grace. Does the Lord say, ‘I receive thee to my heart, and I intend to bless thee henceforth and for ever’? Then does he act like a God. Who but he would speak thus? His grace awakens an amazement which is not soon forgotten or easily expressed. The soul cries in surprise and delight—
“Depth of mercy, can there be
Mercy still reserved for me?
Can my God his wrath forbear?
Me, the chief of sinners, spare?
I have long withstood his grace,
Long provoked him to his face.
Tell it unto sinners, tell,
I am, I am out of hell!”
IV. My time has fled, or I should have asked you to notice HER HUMBLE WORSHIP. Her humble worship was expressed by her using an expressive name for the angel of the Lord. She worshipped God heartily and intelligently, according to her knowledge. She did not use the first word that came to hand, but she spake fitly, thoughtfully, and well. She knew that the Lord was the seeing God, for he had seen her; and so she worshipped him under that title, “Thou God seest me.” We cannot worship “The Unknown God”; at least, such worship lacks eyes and light, and is fitter for owls and bats than for man.
Yet be it observed that she worshipped beyond her knowledge, according to her apprehension; for she said, “Have I here also looked after him?” as if she knew that she had not fully seen the Lord, but had only looked at him as he retreated from her. Like Moses, in a later day, she had only beheld the back parts of God, the skirts of his garments; his face she had not seen. The Hebrew has that force. Hagar felt there was much more of God than she had seen, and in that belief she worshipped and adored with lowliest reverence.
Her worship was wonderfully personal. It is not “God sees,” but “Thou God seest me”; and it is not, “Has God looked after his creature?” but “Have I here also looked after him that seeth me?” True religion is always personal, but it becomes wonderfully so when a man is specially arrested by sovereign grace; for then he adores as if he were the only man in the universe, and beholds God as if no other eye throughout all the ages had ever beheld him. Oh, it is wonderful to feel alone with the Lord, while the Lord is searching you through and through.
Remark again, that her worship proved itself deeply true, for it was followed by immediate practical obedience to the command of the Lord. Obedience is the best of worship. She returned unto her mistress, and was subject unto her. Oh for grace this morning, if God meets with us, not to tarry a single minute in rebellion, but to return at once to subjection to the Lord! Oh, to cry with Thomas, “My Lord and my God,” and then to live henceforth as in his sight! It were well to keep the finger for ever in the print of the nails, that we might never lose our fellowship with Jesus, nor our joy in the great Father, nor our subjection to the ever-blessed Spirit of all grace.
V. We will conclude by glancing for an instant at the well which became THE SUGGESTIVE MEMORIAL of this special manifestation and singular experience. That well— we do not know what it had been called before — but that Beer, or well, was henceforth called Beer-lahai-roi, or the well of him that liveth and seeth. Will we not all at this time drink of that well? It was a very happy thought to attach a holy name to a well, so that every traveler might learn of God as he refreshed himself. When a person comes to drink at certain fountains, he reads, “Drink, gentle traveller, drink and pray.” The inscription is most suitable. It is fit that men should pray when they receive so precious a refreshment as pure water. It was specially meet that travellers should henceforth and for ever pray at a spot where the Lord himself had been, and had called to himself a wanderer who had felt compelled to cry, “God lives, and God sees.”
Brethren, there is a God, and we know it. He is not an abstraction far away; but he is a reality, and sees and observes, and takes care of men and women. Many of us have proved this to be a fact. Now, next time you eat, worship him that lives and sees; next time you drink, worship him that lives and sees. Let our tables and our wells remind us of him who removes our hunger and quenches our thirst.
Better still, let this very name of God— “the living and the seeing One” — be as a well of water to you, for the comfort of your hearts. By this may your griefs be assuaged. Mother is dead!” What a loss is the death of a mother to many a girl, and to many a young man! “Mother is dead” is the token of temptation without defence. Such a stay and holdfast mother often is, that when she is gone Satan gets a dire advantage over a young soul. Yet if mother be gone, the Lord lives, and all the gentleness and kindness of a mother are treasured up in him. God lives: think of that, and be comforted. This well is never dry. Your father is dead, or your dear, kind brother is dead, and you are left alone to bear the buffetings of a cruel world. Never mind. Let not your heart fail you. Do not run away. God lives and sees. He in whom is all fatherhood, and all friendship, and all kindness, still stands near you watching for your good. Come and drink at this well. The waters are cool and clear. Drink, and live. Did I hear you cry out in anguish, “Nobody cares for me”? Do you say, “Nobody knows me in this terrible city. Here I am in this great London as much deserted as Robinson Crusoe on his lone island”? I know what you mean. London is worse than a wilderness to many: a man may lay himself down and ide in these streets, and nobody will care for him. The millions will pass him by; not for want of kindness, but from want of thought. There is no such horrible wilderness as a wilderness of men. Yet, take comfort: the living God sees thee! He seeth not as man seeth, with a mere gaze of cold notice; but his heart goes with his eye. You have not prayed yet, but he hears your affliction. Oh, begin to pray, and he will speedily deliver! Spread your case before him, and he will regard your petition. I would encourage you to get alone, if you are in sorrow and sin, and tell it all out before God, and see if he does not deliver you. Some of us have gone to him in plights as terrible as yours, and we have ordered our cases before him, and lie has answered us. We can truly say, “He hath delivered us”; and therefore encourage you to seek his face in like manner. May the Lord bring you to seek him at once, for his great love’s sake, and then to him shall be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
C.H. Spurgeon Books | Go to Books Page
The Continual Burnt Offering
By H.A. Ironside - 1941
January 5Genesis 15:6 And he believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness. ESV
In three different New Testament books our attention is directed to this pivotal experience in the life of Abraham. In the simplicity of faith, he laid hold of the promise regarding the Seed through whom all the world was to be blessed. That Seed, as we are told in Galatians, was Christ. So, believing in Christ, the patriarch Abraham was justified. And in exactly the same way believers are justified today. To be justified is to be reckoned righteous. Justification is the sentence of the judge in favor of the prisoner. God justifies the ungodly, freeing them from every charge of guilt when they put their trust in the Savior He has provided. He was delivered up to death for our offences and was raised again for, or because of, our complete justification. When God imputes righteousness, He blots out forever the record of sin and gives the believer a completely new standing before His face. This is true of all who are accepted in the Beloved.
A rock that stands forever,
Is Christ my Righteousness;
And there I stand unfearing
In everlasting bliss.
No earthly thing is needful
To this my life from heaven,
And naught of love is worthy
Save that which Christ has given.
--- Paul Gerhardt
The Problem Of The Old Testament
By James Orr 1907
IV. ATTITUDE OF CRITICISM TO “REVELATION”
A little may be said before closing this chapter on a line of remark sometimes met with, to the effect that the contrast we have sought to indicate between the believing and the “modern” ways of regarding the Old Testament is, after all, less important than it seems. Partly, it may be urged, we have unduly narrowed the scope of the words “revelation” and “supernatural”; partly, we have not done justice to the high views of God and of His providential government which even rationalistic critics allow that the prophets of Israel ultimately attained. Professor W. R. Smith, in his lectures on The Prophets of Israel, may be taken as representing this latter standpoint. Referring to that “large and thoughtful school of theologians” which yet “refuses to believe that God’s dealings with Israel in the times before Christ can be distinguished under the special name of revelation from His providential guidance of other nations,” he observes that “in one point of view this departure from the usual doctrine of Christians is perhaps less fundamental than it seems at first sight to be.” He goes on: “For, as a matter of fact, it is not and cannot be denied that the prophets found for themselves and their nation a knowledge of God, and not a mere speculative knowledge, but a practical fellowship of faith with Him, which the seekers after truth among the Gentiles never attained to.” The idea seems to be that, these high views of God and of religion in the prophets being acknowledged to be there, it is not necessary to burden the argument with too curious questions as to how they got to be there,—whether by supernatural revelation, or in the way in which spiritual truth is grasped by thinkers of other nations. Enough that we now have them.
This appears to us, however, to be very fallacious reasoning; the more that Professor Smith admits that behind “there appears to lie a substantial and practical difference of view between the common faith of the Churches and the views of the modern school,” and proceeds to give very cogent reasons for assuming a more direct and special revelation. Not only, on the view described, is the prophet’s own consciousness of the source of his message denied, and the higher character of his knowledge of God left without adequate explanation; but the results in the two cases are not the same. The ideas of the prophets on God, on the naturalistic hypothesis, cannot be allowed, at best, to rise higher than man is capable of attaining by the reflection of his own mind on his natural and providential environment, i.e., to certain general truths about God’s existence, unity, ethical character, and universal providence. Even this, it might be shown, assumes much more than the premises of the system will warrant, and, like the “natural religion” of the eighteenth century Deism, implies an unacknowledged debt to revelation. In any case it does not yield an authoritative revelation of God’s purpose, and saving will for man, derived immediately from Himself: it lacks, even in what it does yield, in certitude; and in both respects falls short of what is demanded by the full Christian faith. It is further apparent that on such a view justice cannot be done to the earlier stages of the religion of Israel. The temptation of the critic who proceeds on these lines—if, indeed, he has any alternative—is to lower the character of the religion to suit the conditions of its hypothetical development; to give a mean view of its origin and early manifestations; and to contend against the recognition of a divine redemptive purpose manifesting itself from the first in its history.
With respect to the usage of the words “revelation” and “supernatural,” we have gladly acknowledged that there are few scholars of the present day—among serious investigators probably none—who would deny that Israel had a unique vocation, or would refuse to recognise, in some degree, a “providential guidance” in its history. Thus Duhm makes the quite general statement that, objectively regarded, there is no alternative to “the necessity of accepting a providential guidance in the actual stages of the development of religion.” Most, however, in recent years go further, and freely use the word “revelation” to express the peculiarity of Israel’s religion. Thus Gunkel, one of the most radical of critics, says: “The conviction remains irrefragable that, in the course of the Israelitish religion, the power of the living God reveals itself”; and elsewhere: “Israel is, and remains, the people of revelation.” When the matter is inquired into, however, it is found that the term “revelation” is here used in a sense which does not in reality cover more than Kuenen’s “natural development,” or Duhm’s “providential guidance.” That which, on the human side, is natural psychological development, is, on the divine side, interpreted as God’s revelation of Himself to man.
Whichever formula is employed, the advocates of this type of theory find themselves in an obvious difficulty. God’s “guidance” is recognised, but the guidance is of so faulty a character that it results in a set of ideas as to a supernatural government of the world, and supernatural dealings of God with Israel, wholly alien to the actual state of the facts as the critics represent it. If “revelation” is affirmed, the revelation is held to be compatible with an abundance of error and illusion, and results, again, on the part of the prophets, in a total misreading of the past history of the nation, and in views of God, His purpose, and living relations with men, which, if true, would cut the ground from under the rationalistic theory. The elements, in either case, which the critics permit themselves to extract from the prophetic teaching do not, as said, rise above a vague theism, and the announcement of an ethical ideal. “Revelation,” in the specific, supernatural sense, is not, and cannot be, admitted on this view, either in the process or in the goal. Not in the process, for there is nothing there, confessedly, transcending natural conditions; and not in the goal, for Jesus, with all these writers, while reverenced as the highest type—for us the pattern—of spiritual religion, is nothing more: least of all is He the Son of God incarnate. Our distinction between natural and supernatural in the history of Israel, therefore, remains. Even with regard to those—and they are many—who do in some form admit “supernatural” revelation, it cannot be too constantly borne in mind that it is not any and every kind of admission of the supernatural which satisfies the Christian demand. It is Christ Himself in the full revelation of His glory as the only-begotten Son who is the touchstone and measure of the supernatural for faith; and only that view of revelation in Israel is adequate which finds its necessary culmination in His Person and redemption.
It is now proper that a sketch should be given of the general course to be followed in the discussions in the succeeding chapters.
First, a brief preliminary survey will be taken of the witness which the Old Testament itself bears, in its structure, and in the uniqueness of its history and religion, to its own authority and inspiration as the record of God’s revelation to His ancient people (Chap. II.). Thus far critical questions are held over.
The next four chapters will be devoted to the consideration of the question—How far is this view which the Old Testament gives of itself affected by the results of modern criticism? At this stage the ordinary analysis of the Hexateuch (JE, D, P) will be provisionally accepted, and the aim will be to show that, even on this basis, the essential outlines of the patriarchal and Mosaic history (Chaps. III., IV.), and the outstanding facts of the religion and institutions of the Old Testament (Chaps. V., VI.), are not sensibly affected,—that they are not, and cannot be, overturned. The way being thus cleared for consideration of the critical hypothesis on its own merits, the four succeeding chapters are occupied with a somewhat careful examination of that hypothesis in its fundamental positions and several parts. In this examination attention is concentrated on the points which are thought to be most crucial. These chapters (VII.–X.) set forth the reasons which prevent us yielding our assent to the current critical hypothesis, except under conditions which essentially transform its character and bearings. The chapters may, if the reader likes, be viewed as setting forth our “sceptical doubts” on that hypothesis, though in many respects they are really more than doubts. It is sought to be shown how precarious and arbitrary are many of the grounds on which the critical hypothesis rests, and how strong are the reasons for challenging its principal postulates, and some of what are regarded as its most “settled” results. This is argued particularly in respect of:
1. The alleged distinction of the documents J and E, and the dates assigned to these (Chap. VII.).
2. The origin of Deuteronomy in the age of Josiah or Manasseh (Chap. VIII.).
3. The post-exilian origin of the so-called Priestly Code (Chaps. IX., X.). Chap. IX. deals with the Code and Chap. X. with the document.
The question of the divine names is discussed in Chap. VII.
With respect to the Priestly writing (P), it is contended that, whilst it is distinct in stylistic character from JE, there is no evidence of P ever having existed as an independent document; that, on the contrary, it stands in the closest relations with the other elements in the narrative, and is most appropriately regarded as (at least in Genesis) the “framework” in which the JE narrative is set, with slight working over of the latter. Reasons are given for carrying back both books and legislation to a much earlier date than the critical hypothesis allows, and for recognising in both a substantially Mosaic basis.
A glance is taken at the later historical books in an Appendix to Chap. X.
The conclusions reached in the preceding discussions receive corroboration in a chapter on the bearings of Archæology on the Old Testament (Chap. XI.).
A closing chapter deals with the age of the Psalter, the reality of predictive prophecy, and the progressiveness of divine revelation (Chap. XII.).
The Problem of the Old Testament
The Birth of Cain and Abel
By John F. Walvoord
Genesis 4:1–15. In keeping with the prophecy that Eve would bear children, Cain and Abel were born (vv. 1–2 ). When they were grown, “Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil” (v. 2 ). Cain brought an offering to the Lord of the fruits of the soil (v. 3 ), but “Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock” (v. 4 ).
God rejected the offering of Cain and accepted the offering of Abel (v. 5 ). Though Scripture does not indicate the reason for this, Scripture emphasizes that a bloody sacrifice is necessary for the forgiveness of sins ( Heb. 9:22 ). It may also be that Cain did not bring his offering in the proper spirit. God may have given instruction concerning offerings that Cain had ignored.
The Curse on Cain
Because God rejected his offering, Cain attacked Abel and murdered him ( Gen. 4:8 ). As a result, God prophesied a curse on him, stating, “When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth” (v. 12 ). This prophecy was fulfilled when Cain left his home in Eden and established a civilization to the east (v. 16 ).
PROPHECY RELATED TO THE DAYS OF NOAH | The Prediction of the Flood
Genesis 6:1–22. Because of the wickedness of the human race, God declared His purpose to destroy them: “I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth — men and animals, and creatures that move along the ground, and birds of the air — for I am grieved that I have made them” (v. 7 ).
Of all the people on earth, apparently Noah and his family were the only ones who found favor with God (vv. 8–10 ). God revealed to Noah His purpose to destroy the human race: “I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth” (v. 13 ). After describing the major dimensions of the ark that Noah was instructed to build, God added, “I am going to bring floodwaters on the earth to destroy all life under the heavens, every creature that has the breath of life in it. Everything on earth will perish” (v. 17 ).
In obedience to God, Noah directed the animals into the ark (vv. 19–20 ). Noah was instructed to provide food for them in the ark (v. 21 ), and to bring his wife, his sons, and their wives also into the ark (v. 18 ).
Genesis 7:1–24. God further revealed that seven days after the ark was finished the flood would come (vv. 1–4 ). Scriptures record the fulfillment of the coming flood by which every living person on the face of the earth was destroyed except for Noah and his family (vv. 21–23 ).
God’s Covenant with Noah
Genesis 8:1–9:17. After the flood subsided and Noah and his family were able to leave the ark, according to Genesis 8:20, “Then Noah built an altar to the LORD and, taking some of all the clean animals and clean birds, he sacrificed burnt offerings on it.” The Lord was pleased with Noah’s offering and prophesied, “Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done. As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease” (vv. 21–22 ).
Additional details concerning the covenant with Noah were given in 9:1–17. As part of God’s prophetic program for Noah and his family, for the first time mankind was given permission to eat meat, but not the blood. For the first time capital punishment was established as an essential ingredient in the concept of government. According to verse 6, “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man.” In addition to emphasizing provisions of the covenant (v. 13 ), God said, “Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth” (vv. 15–16 ).
Genesis 9:18–29. Because Ham, Noah’s son, the father of Canaan, treated Noah with disrespect (vv. 20–24 ), Noah delivered a prophecy concerning his descendants: “When Noah awoke from his wine and found out what his youngest son had done to him, he said, ‘Cursed be Canaan! The lowest of slaves will he be to his brothers.’ He also said, ‘Blessed be the LORD, the God of Shem! May Canaan be the slave of Shem. May God extend the territory of Japheth; may Japheth live in the tents of Shem, and may Canaan be his slave’” (vv. 24–27 ). This was fulfilled in history ( 10:1–32 ).
The Failure of Man under the Covenant with Noah
Genesis 11:1–9. Symbolic of their rejection of God, those who were living in the Babylonian area said to each other, “‘Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.’ They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. Then they said, ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth’” (vv. 3–4 ).
God judged this effort and confused their language so that they could not understand each other (v. 7 ). The stage was now set for God’s tremendous revelation to Abram.
The Institutes of the Christian Religion
Translated by Henry Beveridge
9. With this view, likewise the prayers of the saints correspond. Thus Solomon prays that the Lord may "incline our hearts unto him, to walk in his ways, and keep his commandments" (1 Kings 8:58); intimating that
our heart is perverse, and naturally indulges in rebellion against the
Divine law, until it be turned. Again, it is said in the Psalms,
"Incline my heart unto thy testimonies," (Ps. 119:36). For we should
always note the antithesis between the rebellious movement of the
heart, and the correction by which it is subdued to obedience. David
feeling for the time that he was deprived of directing grace, prays,
"Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within
me," (Ps. 51:10). Is not this an acknowledgment that all the parts of
the heart are full of impurity, and that the soul has received a twist,
which has turned it from straight to crooked? And then, in describing
the cleansing, which he earnestly demands as a thing to be created by
God, does he not ascribe the work entirely to Him? If it is objected,
that the prayer itself is a symptom of a pious and holy affection, it
is easy to reply, that although David had already in some measure
repented, he was here contrasting the sad fall which he had experienced
with his former state. Therefore, speaking in the person of a man
alienated from God, he properly prays for the blessings which God
bestows upon his elect in regeneration. Accordingly, like one dead, he
desires to be created anew, so as to become, instead of a slave of
Satan, an instrument of the Holy Spirit. Strange and monstrous are the
longings of our pride. There is nothing which the Lord enjoins more
strictly than the religious observance of his Sabbath, in other words
resting from our works; but in nothing do we show greater reluctance
than to renounce our own works, and give due place to the works of God.
Did not arrogance stand in the way, we could not overlook the clear
testimony which Christ has borne to the efficacy of his grace. "I,"
said he, "am the true vine, and my Father is the husband man." "As the
branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no
more can ye, except ye abide in me," (John 15:1, 4). If we can no more
bear fruit of ourselves than a vine can bud when rooted up and deprived
of moisture, there is no longer any room to ask what the aptitude of
our nature is for good. There is no ambiguity in the conclusion, "For
without me ye can do nothing." He says not that we are too weak to
suffice for ourselves; but, by reducing us to nothing, he excludes the
idea of our possessing any, even the least ability. If, when engrafted
into Christ, we bear fruit like the vine, which draws its vegetative
power from the moisture of the ground, and the dew of heaven, and the
fostering warmth of the sun, I see nothing in a good work, which we can
call our own, without trenching upon what is due to God. It is vain to
have recourse to the frivolous cavil, that the sap and the power of
producing are already contained in the vine, and that, therefore,
instead of deriving everything from the earth or the original root, it
contributes something of its own. Our Saviour's words simply mean, that
when separated from him, we are nothing but dry, useless wood, because,
when so separated, we have no power to do good, as he elsewhere says,
"Every plant which my heavenly Father has not planted, shall be rooted
up," (Mt. 15:13). Accordingly, in the passage already quoted from the
Apostle Paul, he attributes the whole operation to God, "It is God
which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure,"
(Phil. 2:13). The first part of a good work is the will, the second is
vigorous effort in the doing of it.  God is the author of both. It
is, therefore, robbery from God to arrogate anything to ourselves,
either in the will or the act. Were it said that God gives assistance
to a weak will, something might be left us; but when it is said that he
makes the will, every thing good in it is placed without us. Moreover,
since even a good will is still weighed down by the burden of the
flesh, and prevented from rising, it is added, that, to meet the
difficulties of the contest, God supplies the persevering effort until
the effect is obtained. Indeed, the Apostle could not otherwise have
said, as he elsewhere does, that "it is the same God which worketh all
in all," (1 Cor. 12:6); words comprehending, as we have already
observed (sec. 6), the whole course of the spiritual life. For which
reason, David, after praying, "Teach me thy way, O Lord, I will walk in
thy truths" adds, "unite my heart to fear thy name," (Ps. 86:11); by
these words intimating, that even those who are well-affected are
liable to so many distractions that they easily become vain, and fall
away, if not strengthened to persevere. And hence, in another passage,
after praying, "Order my steps in thy word," he requests that strength
also may be given him to carry on the war, "Let not any iniquity have
dominion over me," (Ps. 119:133). In this way, the Lord both begins and
perfects the good work in us, so that it is due to Him, first, that the
will conceives a love of rectitude, is inclined to desire, is moved and
stimulated to pursue it; secondly, that this choice, desire, and
endeavour fail not, but are carried forward to effect; and, lastly,
that we go on without interruption, and persevere even to the end.
10. This movement of the will is not of that description which was for many ages taught and believed--viz. a movement which thereafter leaves us the choice to obey or resist it, but one which affects us efficaciously. We must, therefore, repudiate the oft-repeated sentiment of Chrysostom, "Whom he draws, he draws willingly;" insinuating that the Lord only stretches out his hand, and waits to see whether we will be pleased to take his aid. We grant that, as man was originally constituted, he could incline to either side, but since he has taught us by his example how miserable a thing free will is if God works not in us to will and to do, of what use to us were grace imparted in such scanty measure? Nay, by our own ingratitude, we obscure and impair divine grace. The Apostle's doctrine is not, that the grace of a good will is offered to us if we will accept of it, but that God himself is pleased so to work in us as to guide, turn, and govern our heart by his Spirit, and reign in it as his own possession. Ezekiel promises that a new spirit will be given to the elect, not merely that they may be able to walk in his precepts, but that they may really walk in them (Ezek. 11:19; 36:27). And the only meaning which can be given to our Saviour's words, "Every man, therefore, that has heard and learned of the Father, cometh unto me," (John 6:45), is, that the grace of God is effectual in itself. This Augustine maintains in his book De Prædestinatione Sancta. This grace is not bestowed on all promiscuously, according to the common brocard (of Occam, if I mistake not), that it is not denied to any one who does what in him lies. Men are indeed to be taught that the favour of God is offered, without exception, to all who ask it; but since those only begin to ask whom heaven by grace inspires, even this minute portion of praise must not be withheld from him. It is the privilege of the elect to be regenerated by the Spirit of God, and then placed under his guidance and government. Wherefore Augustine justly derides some who arrogate to themselves a certain power of willing, as well as censures others who imagine that that which is a special evidence of gratuitous election is given to all (August. de Verbis Apost. Serm. 21). He says, "Nature is common to all, but not grace;" and he calls it a showy acuteness "which shines by mere vanity, when that which God bestows, on whom he will is attributed generally to all." Elsewhere he says, "How came you? By believing. Fear, lest by arrogating to yourself the merit of finding the right way, you perish from the right way. I came, you say, by free choice, came by my own will. Why do you boast? Would you know that even this was given you? Hear Christ exclaiming, No man comets unto me, except the Father which has sent me draw him.' " And from the words of John (6:44), he infers it to be an incontrovertible fact, that the hearts of believers are so effectually governed from above, that they follow with undeviating affection. "Whosoever is born of God does not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him" (I John 3:9). That intermediate movement which the sophists imagine, a movement which every one is free to obey or to reject, is obviously excluded by the doctrine of effectual perseverance. 
11. As to perseverance, it would undoubtedly have been regarded as the gratuitous gift of God, had not the very pernicious error prevailed, that it is bestowed in proportion to human merit, according to the reception which each individual gives to the first grace. This having given rise to the idea that it was entirely in our own power to receive or reject the offered grace of God, that idea is no sooner exploded than the error founded on it must fall. The error, indeed, is twofold. For, besides teaching that our gratitude for the first grace and our legitimate use of it is rewarded by subsequent supplies of grace, its abettors add that, after this, grace does not operate alone, but only co-operates with ourselves. As to the former, we must hold that the Lord, while he daily enriches his servants, and loads them with new gifts of his grace, because he approves of and takes pleasure in the work which he has begun, finds that in them which he may follow up with larger measures of grace. To this effect are the sentences, "To him that has shall be given." "Well done, good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things," (Mt. 25:21, 23, 29; Luke 19:17, 26). But here two precautions are necessary. It must not be said that the legitimate use of the first grace is rewarded by subsequent measures of grace, as if man rendered the grace of God effectual by his own industry, nor must it be thought that there is any such remuneration as to make it cease to be the gratuitous grace of God. I admit, then, that believers may expect as a blessing from God, that the better the use they make of previous, the larger the supplies they will receive of future grace; but I say that even this use is of the Lord, and that this remuneration is bestowed freely of mere good will. The trite distinction of operating and co-operating grace is employed no less sinistrously than unhappily. Augustine, indeed, used it, but softened it by a suitable definition--viz. that God, by co-operating, perfects what he begins by operating,--that both graces are the same, but obtain different names from the different manner in which they produce their effects. Whence it follows, that he does not make an apportionment between God and man, as if a proper movement on the part of each produced a mutual concurrence. All he does is to mark a multiplication of grace. To this effect, accordingly, he elsewhere says, that in man good will precedes many gifts from God; but among these gifts is this good will itself. (August. Enchiridion ad Laurent. cap. 32). Whence it follows, that nothing is left for the will to arrogate as its own. This Paul has expressly stated. For, after saying, "It is God which worketh in you both to will and to do," he immediately adds, "of his good pleasure," (Phil. 2:13); indicating by this expression, that the blessing is gratuitous. As to the common saying, that after we have given admission to the first grace, our efforts co-operate with subsequent grace, this is my answer:--If it is meant that after we are once subdued by the power of the Lord to the obedience of righteousness, we proceed voluntarily, and are inclined to follow the movement of grace, I have nothing to object. For it is most certain, that where the grace of God reigns, there is also this readiness to obey. And whence this readiness, but just that the Spirit of God being everywhere consistent with himself, after first begetting a principle of obedience, cherishes and strengthens it for perseverance? If, again, it is meant that man is able of himself to be a fellow-labourer with the grace of God, I hold it to be a most pestilential delusion.
Institutes of the Christian Religion
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
Keys to Bible study (2)
1/5/2018 Bob Gass
‘Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law.’
(Ps 119:18) 18 Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law. ESV
Here are some helpful keys to getting more out of your Bible study time: 1) Ask questions. The more questions you ask, the more you’ll get out of it. Who was this written to? What was the situation the writer was facing? What was the main message the author was trying to get through to them? As you ask these questions you’ll begin to discover things you’ve overlooked or never seen before. The psalmist was a meditator and an in-depth studier of God’s Word. That’s why he prayed, ‘Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law.’ 2) Write down the answers. The purpose of asking questions is to get answers. Dawson Trotman, founder of the Navigators, used to say, ‘Thoughts disentangle themselves as they pass through the lips and fingertips.’ So have your notebook handy and write down the nuggets of truth God gives you. If you don’t, you’ll lose them. 3) Don’t just discover it, do it! Evangelist D.L. Moody said, ‘The Bible was not given to increase our knowledge but to change our lives.’ James wrote, ‘Do not merely listen to the word…Do what it says’ (James 1:22 NIV 2011 Edition). Ask yourself, ‘What attitudes do I need to change? What do I need to stop doing, or start doing? What do I need to believe, or stop believing? What relationships do I need to work on? What ministry should I be having to others?’ Don’t go to your Bible with the attitude of finding some truth nobody’s ever seen before, or something to impress others with. Find out what God is saying to you.
UCB The Word For Today
January 5, 2016
We finally got to leave for home about 11:30 this morning. We had to creep down Parrett Mtn. Rd. about 5 mph, but we made it. Earl and Peggy were very warm and friendly as they extended to us the greatest hospitality, but it was great to get home. Lily missed a couple of days of work so we will have to be careful, but right now we’re just glad to be home.
When I think about how much God loves us it breaks my heart that I am not more appreciative. I tell God several times a day that I love Him. I thank God for my bride, (His daughter), my family and the health we all enjoy. I am grateful that we all walk in health. I am blessed. I know I am blessed so why am I occasionally overwhelmed by the darkness and discouragement within me?
The next few hours were tragic and brutal. Jesus wrestled in prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, with the darkness which he felt caving in upon him while he waited for arrest. The chief priests did what one might have expected: carried out a quick, quasi-legal procedure—enough to frame a charge of seditious talk against the Temple and ultimately of blasphemy. This could be conveniently translated, for the benefit of the Roman governor, into a charge of sedition against Rome. The Roman governor was weak and indecisive; the priests, manipulative. Jesus went to his death on a charge of which he was innocent—actual rebellion against Rome—but of which most of his contemporaries were guilty, at least in intention. Barabbas, a rebel leader, went free in his stead. A centurion, looking up at his thousandth victim, saw and heard something he hadn’t expected and muttered that maybe this man was God’s Son after all. The meaning of the story is found in every detail, as well as in the broad narrative. The pain and tears of all the years were met together on Calvary. The sorrow of heaven joined with the anguish of earth; the forgiving love stored up in God’s future was poured out into the present; the voices that echo in a million human hearts, crying for justice, longing for spirituality, eager for relationship, yearning for beauty, drew themselves together into a final scream of desolation.
Nothing in all the history of paganism comes anywhere near this combination of event, intention, and meaning. Nothing in Judaism had prepared for it, except in puzzling, shadowy prophecy. The death of Jesus of Nazareth as the king of the Jews, the bearer of Israel’s destiny, the fulfillment of God’s promises to his people of old, is either the most stupid, senseless waste and misunderstanding the world has ever seen, or it is the fulcrum around which world history turns.
Christianity is based on the belief that it was and is the latter.
by Bill Federer
Raised by an elderly white couple after his mother was kidnapped following the Civil War, he began school in Neosho, Missouri, and graduated from Iowa State College of Agriculture. Booker T. Washington recruited him to teach at Tuskegee Institute, where he introduced hundred of uses for the peanut, soybean and sweet potato, revolutionizing the South’s economy. His name was George Washington Carver, and he died this day, January 5, 1943. Turning down offers to work for Henry Ford and Thomas Edison, George Washington Carver said: “My purpose alone must be God’s purpose - to increase the welfare and happiness of His people.”American Minute
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
In Israel, in order to be a realist
you must believe in miracles.
--- Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion
In a CBS-TV interview
True godliness does not turn men out of the world,
but enables them to live better in it
and excites their endeavors to mend it.
--- William Penn
Slander is worse than cannibalism.
--- John Chrysostom
We are experiencing a reality based on a thin veneer of lies and illusions. A world where greed is our God and wisdom is sin, where division is key and unity is fantasy, where the ego-driven cleverness of the mind is praised, rather than the intelligence of the heart.
--- Bill Hicks
... from here, there and everywhere
by D.H. Stern
and store my commands inside you,
2 paying attention to wisdom
inclining your mind toward understanding—
3 yes, if you will call for insight
and raise your voice for discernment,
4 if you seek it as you would silver
and search for it as for hidden treasure—
5 then you will understand the fear of ADONAI
and find knowledge of God.
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 afterwards of the life of power
Whither I go, thou canst not follow Me now; but thou shalt follow Me afterwards. --- John 13:36.
“And when He had spoken this, He saith unto him, Follow Me.” Three years before, Jesus had said—“Follow Me,” and Peter had followed easily, the fascination of Jesus was upon him, he did not need the Holy Spirit to help him to do it. Then he came to the place where he denied Jesus, and his heart broke. Then he received the Holy Spirit, and now Jesus says again—“Follow Me.” There is no figure in front now saving the Lord Jesus Christ. The first “Follow Me” had nothing mystical in it, it was an external following; now it is a following in internal martyrdom (cf. John 21:18).
Between these times Peter had denied Jesus with oaths and curses, he had come to the end of himself and all his self-sufficiency; there was not one strand of himself he would ever rely upon again, and in his destitution he was in a fit condition to receive an impartation from the risen Lord. “He breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost.” No matter what changes God has wrought in you, never rely upon them, build only on a Person, the Lord Jesus Christ, and on the Spirit He gives.
All our vows and resolutions end in denial because we have no power to carry them out. When we have come to the end of ourselves, not in imagination but really, we are able to receive the Holy Spirit. “Receive ye the Holy Ghost”—the idea is that of invasion. There is only one lodestar in the life now, the Lord Jesus Christ.
the Poetry of R.S. Thomas
The old men ask
for more time, while the young
waste it. And the philosopher
smiles, knowing there is none
there. But the hero stands
sword drawn at the looking-glass
of his mind, aiming at that
anonymous face over his shoulder.
Sermon On The Mount
In this particular study of Matthew 5 we focus on the Beatitudes—a series of “blessed are” or “happy are” statements. The issues explored by Jesus deal with the basic values which human beings adopt and live by. Jesus’ point is that the values of this world do not lead to blessing. Instead blessing comes through living by values which the world despises, but which God holds dear.
Blessed. Both Old and New Testaments speak of the “blessed.” In the Old Testament, and especially the Psalms, the “blessed are” statements describe qualities in a person which bring him or her God’s blessing. Here in Matthew the Greek word is makarios, which means “happy.” Is there a difference? Yes. The Old Testament describes blessings that will come to the godly person, and emphasizes material goods. Jesus focused on the present state of persons who adopt values and attitudes which permit them to know, now, the inner touch of God in their present lives.
Matthew tells us that, after Jesus’ baptism, “Jesus began to preach, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near’ ” (4:17). Book after book has been written exploring Jesus’ “kingdom” emphasis, puzzling over the exact thrust of all His words.
God as King over all. All agree that the Bible pictures God as King over all His creation. In this sense God is sovereign, marking out the course of cultures and the process of the ages. In a universal sense, everything and all times are to be viewed as God’s kingdom: a realm over which He exercises control.
It is also true that the Old Testament brings another focus to God’s kingly rule. God in a special way rules over Israel: He is Israel’s true King (Deut. 33:5; 1 Sam. 12:12), and Israel is His kingdom (1 Chron. 17:14; 28:5). In a distinctive sense, God involved Himself in the control and direction of Israel’s destiny.
When we read in the New Testament that Christ is “Head over everything for the church, which is His body” (Eph. 1:22–23), we have a parallel to the Old Testament emphasis. The rule of God extends over all—but finds special focus in His concern for His own.
God’s future reign. A reading of the Old Testament makes it plain that there is more involved in talk of a kingdom than God’s overarching rule. God promised through the prophets that a day would come when He will set up an everlasting kingdom on earth, and personally rule from Zion (Isa. 24:23; Micah 4:6; Zech. 14:9–17). Daniel and Isaiah added their descriptions: the King will be God, and yet of David’s line. When the Messiah comes, the rule of God will find visible and overwhelming expression as God openly exercises His once-hidden power.
It was this kingdom the Jews expected and yearned for. And it was this kingdom which is described in the prophecies which Matthew relates to Jesus.
So we can hardly doubt what Jesus’ listeners pictured in their minds when Jesus announced the good news that the kingdom was at hand. His listeners were sure He meant the eschatological expression of the rule of God. They thought “kingdom of heaven” must mean God’s revelation of His power and goodness through Messiah’s righteous, endless rule.
Near? It is here that many hesitate. Jesus said that the kingdom of heaven was “near.” Yet, 2,000 years have fled since that announcement, and the visible earthly kingdom Jesus’ hearers expected has not come. So some have stepped back, and denied the Old Testament vision. They have tried to make the “kingdom of heaven” simply another affirmation that God is in charge, after all.
But why then did Jesus say that the kingdom was finally “near”? Why the urgency? Why, if God has always exercised that kind of rule? Clearly some other aspect of the kingdom than God’s universal rule must be drawing near.
Particularly significant is the Greek word translated “near.” It can mean “at hand,” or “has arrived.” Was Jesus’ announcement of the kingdom an affirmation that in His own coming, God’s kingly action was already breaking in uniquely on time and space?
Usually we think of “kingdom” as a place. The “kingdom of Liechtenstein” is geographically defined: a tiny bit of land. Certainly the Old Testament picture of God’s ultimate kingdom does involve a place: Palestine is the center from which the Messiah will rule, and the whole earth will be His kingdom’s limitless extent. However, in rabbinic literature, kingdom emphasis is not on a place but on action! “The kingdom of heaven” speaks of that divine action which breaks into our universe and marks out events as God’s accomplishment.
No wonder Jesus taught His disciples to pray and say:
Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. --- Matthew 6:10
Jesus’ disciples, then and now, are to look to God to act on earth just as He acts in heaven itself, to bring His will to pass.
On the other hand, Jesus also was announcing that the kingdom had arrived! In the personal presence of Jesus on earth, God had acted to take a hand in human affairs. In Jesus, God was already bringing to humankind His final gift of deliverance, and dominion.
The Teacher's Commentary
Dr. Scot McKnight
How do we apply Jesus' moral expectations? In particular, how do we apply the kinds of moral demands of Jesus we find in the Sermon on the Mount? We should be marked by a righteousness that (greatly surpasses the righteousness of the Pharisees and teachers of the law (Matthew 5:20); we should avoid anger because Jesus teaches that anger is murderous (5:21-22); married folk should avoid lusting after others sexually because Jesus teaches that lust is adulterous (5:27-30); and we should, apart from the one singular exception in sexual infidelity, neither divorce nor remarry (5:31-32). To put all of this in one attractive container, we should be "perfect ... as your heavenly Father is perfect" (5:48). Even the disciples wondered if words like these were too much to handle; when Jesus said something similar sometime later, his best followers blurted out: "It is better nor to marry!" (19:10).
How do we apply words like those in the Sermon on the Mount today? Let's look at the different approaches in the history of the church to just one saying in this sermon: "Be perfect" (Matthew 5:48). What have we done with this statement of Jesus?
Sorne say Jesus is exaggerating, raising the standard higher than we can achieve, but if we strive for it we'll do better than we are now.
Others say that "being perfect" is what our moral life will be like in the eternal kingdom, and Jesus is teaching the final and eternal ethic God designs for us.
Still others suggest that "being perfect" forces us to look inside to our heart of hearts to see our sinfulness.
Yet others think Jesus means exactly what he says: he expects us to be perfect.
One more; some think "perfect" actually means "whole" or "mature," so that being whole and mature is what Jesus really wants.
We will probably not agree on how to read the word "perfect" in Matthew 5:48, but I hope this little section gets us to think harder about how we are reading the Bible. We are not trying to resolve all these issues. Instead, we are intent on demonstrating that we apply some of what Jesus says and we choose not to apply other things Jesus has said. In other words, there is some adopting and adapting involved even with the sayings of Jesus. If there are two choices --totally literal or discerning a pattern -- most of us will choose the latter every time.
By now I hope you are a bit unnerved about what I have said. This Chapter is intended to provoke in order to get you to think together about how you are actually reading the Bible. Some of you may want to turn back to a much more literal, take-it-all-or-nothing approach, but I'm guessing most of you are now becoming aware that you do in fact adopt and adapt. What we must now discover is this: What principles do we use to adopt and adapt the Bible?
What about the name?
The name Theophilus occurs frequently from the third century B.C. on for both Jews and Greeks. It is clear that the etymology of the name was not forgotten when the name was given.
“a friend of God”; Cadbury, “Preface of Luke,” 507
The many attempts at identifying Theophilus, either under that name, or assuming it is a pseudonym, are pure speculation. A symbolic significance for the name cannot be entirely ruled out. Much about Luke-Acts would well suit Cornelius-like readers.
The priests were divided into twenty-four courses, each of which provided in turn priestly service in the temple for one week, twice in the year. The earlier pre-exilic divisions (1 Chr 24:7–18) were apparently reconstituted out of the four divisions that returned from exile (Ezra 2:36–39; 10:18–22). The word Luke uses for these courses is found in the LXX (The Septuagint, Greek translation of the OT) of 1 Chr 23:6 and is also found in a first-century-b.c.
A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 3rd Edition
The division of Abijah is the eighth of the courses (special dignities were attached to the first of the courses [Zahn, 63 n 52], but there is no reason to think beyond that of a ranking of the courses). Goulder and Sanderson  17) note that the following course in 1 Chr 24:10 is that of Jeshua (=Jesus).
Hail, O favored one, the Lord is with you! --- Luke 1:28.
My mail carrier, driving his stubby white
Truck, trimmed in blue and red, wingless
commissioned by the civil service
Daily delivers the Gospel every Advent.
This Gabriel, uniformed in gabardine,
of his dazzling original,
Under the burden of greetings is stoical
But prompt: annunciations
at ten each Morning.
One or two or three a day at first;
By the second week momentum’s up,
My mail box is stuffed, each card stamped
With the glory at a cost
of only twenty-five cents,
(Bringing the news that God is here with us)
First class, personally hand addressed.
Some time later the brook dried up. --- 1 Kings 17:7.
The failure of the waters was meant, first, to deepen the prophet [Elijah’s] sense of kinship. (The Weaving of Glory (Morrison Classic Sermon Series, The) ) He was drawn into a new communion with Israel in the very hour that Cherith ceased to flow. There had been no rain, and the whole land was parched—and all the time, in the little vale of Cherith, the coolness and murmuring of the stream. It was very comfortable, and it was very happy, but it is not thus that Jehovah makes his prophets. What people have got to suffer they must suffer. What people have to endure they must endure. And so, that he might be a brother among brothers and feel his kinship with his suffering nation, some time later the brook dried up.
That is still the secret of the failing brook—not because God is angry; it is because our Father wants us to be a family. One touch of nature makes us all akin, even if it is only a touch of common thirst, and there is many a brook that the Almighty dries so that we may cease from our pride and realize our kinship. There is no sympathy so deep and strong as the sympathy that springs out of a common suffering. Exclude a person from what others have to bear and you exclude him or her from the family heritage.
There are things, then, that it is hard to lose, but in God’s sight it may be good to lose them. We grow more loving, more sympathetic, and more kind; life is fuller and richer and warmer than it once was. We were very superior and exclusive once, and the common people were odiously common—but some time later the brook dried up.
--- George H. Morrison
As the church grew institutionally during its first centuries, those flooding through its doors were not always of high caliber. In reaction, a number of Christians withdrew to a life of poverty, chastity, and separation. Monastic forms developed, and sometimes rivalry arose among monks concerning self-denial. Simeon seems to have won the contest.
He was born about 390 to a shepherd’s family in Cilicia. He kept flocks as a boy, but when thirteen he was moved by listening to the Beatitudes. He left home to join a cloister but was soon dismissed because of his acts of self-torture. Simeon moved to the Syrian desert and lived with an iron chain on his feet before having himself buried up to the neck for several months.
When crowds flocked to view his acts of perceived holiness, Simeon determined to escape the distractions by living atop a pillar. His first column was six feet high, but soon he built higher ones until his permanent abode towered sixty feet above ground.
The tiny perch wouldn’t allow for comfort, but a railing and a rope kept Simeon from falling while asleep. Disciples took his food and removed his waste by ladder. The rope eventually became embedded in his flesh, rotted, and teemed with worms. When worms fell from his sores, Simeon would pick them up and replace them, saying, “Eat what God has given you.”
Simeon lived atop his pole for thirty years, exposed to blistering heat, driving rain, and chilling frost. But if his motive was crowd avoidance, he failed. Huge numbers came to gawk at him, and Simeon preached to them daily, stressing the importance of prayer, selflessness, and justice. He settled disputes between neighbors and persuaded lenders to reduce their interest.
He was likened to a candle on a candlestick.
He died at age 69, but his example created a fashion of pillar hermits lasting over a thousand years. His name has been remembered throughout church history on January 5—in western tradition the Feast Day of Saint Simeon Stylites.
You would have to leave this world to get away from everyone who is immoral or greedy or who cheats or worships idols.
--- 1 Corinthians 5:10.
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - January 5
“And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.” --- Genesis 1:4.
Light might well be good since it sprang from that fiat of goodness, “Let there be light.” We who enjoy it should be more grateful for it than we are, and see more of God in it and by it. Light physical is said by Solomon to be sweet, but Gospel light is infinitely more precious, for it reveals eternal things, and ministers to our immortal natures. When the Holy Spirit gives us spiritual light, and opens our eyes to behold the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, we behold sin in its true colours, and ourselves in our real position; we see the Most Holy God as he reveals himself, the plan of mercy as he propounds it, and the world to come as the Word describes it. Spiritual light has many beams and prismatic colours, but whether they be knowledge, joy, holiness, or life, all are divinely good. If the light received be thus good, what must the essential light be, and how glorious must be the place where he reveals himself. O Lord, since light is so good, give us more of it, and more of thyself, the true light.
No sooner is there a good thing in the world, than a division is necessary. Light and darkness have no communion; God has divided them, let us not confound them. Sons of light must not have fellowship with deeds, doctrines, or deceits of darkness. The children of the day must be sober, honest, and bold in their Lord’s work, leaving the works of darkness to those who shall dwell in it for ever. Our Churches should by discipline divide the light from the darkness, and we should by our distinct separation from the world do the same. In judgment, in action, in hearing, in teaching, in association, we must discern between the precious and the vile, and maintain the great distinction which the Lord made upon the world’s first day. O Lord Jesus, be thou our light throughout the whole of this day, for thy light is the light of men.
Evening - January 5
“And God saw the light.” --- Genesis 1:4.
This Morning we noticed the goodness of the light, and the Lord’s dividing it from the darkness, we now note the special eye which the Lord had for the light. “God saw the light”—he looked at it with complacency, gazed upon it with pleasure, saw that it “was good.” If the Lord has given you light, dear reader, he looks on that light with peculiar interest; for not only is it dear to him as his own handiwork, but because it is like himself, for “He is light.” Pleasant it is to the believer to know that God’s eye is thus tenderly observant of that work of grace which he has begun. He never loses sight of the treasure which he has placed in our earthen vessels. Sometimes we cannot see the light, but God always sees the light, and that is much better than our seeing it. Better for the judge to see my innocence than for me to think I see it. It is very comfortable for me to know that I am one of God’s people—but whether I know it or not, if the Lord knows it, I am still safe. This is the foundation, “The Lord knoweth them that are his.” You may be sighing and groaning because of inbred sin, and mourning over your darkness, yet the Lord sees “light” in your heart, for he has put it there, and all the cloudiness and gloom of your soul cannot conceal your light from his gracious eye. You may have sunk low in despondency, and even despair; but if your soul has any longing towards Christ, and if you are seeking to rest in his finished work, God sees the “light.” He not only sees it, but he also preserves it in you. “I, the Lord, do keep it.” This is a precious thought to those who, after anxious watching and guarding of themselves, feel their own powerlessness to do so. The light thus preserved by his grace, he will one day develop into the splendour of noonday, and the fulness of glory. The light within is the dawn of the eternal day.
HOW FIRM A FOUNDATION
1787 “K”—in Rippon’s Selection of Hymns,
So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” (Hebrews 13:6).
A believer’s stability for this life, as well as his confidence for eternity, rests solely on the written promises of God’s Word. The direction of the living God for our lives is very definite. It is found in a firm foundation—the written revelation: “Thus saith the Lord.”
In the first stanza the sure foundation of the Christian faith is established as being the Word of God. This challenging question is posed: What more can God do than provide His very Word as a completed revelation of Himself to man? The succeeding verses personalize precious promises from His Word:
Verse Two—Isaiah 41:10—“Fear thou not, for I am with thee, be not dismayed, for I am thy God …”
Verse Three—Isaiah 43:2—“When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee …”
Verse Four—2 Corinthians 12:9—“My grace is sufficient for thee; for my strength is made perfect in weakness …”
Verse Five—Hebrews 13:5—“I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee …”
The authorship of the text has always been a mystery to hymnologists. Its first appearance was in 1787 in Selection of Hymns, published by Dr. John Rippon, pastor of the Carter’s Lane Baptist Church in London. He was one of the most popular and influential dissenting ministers of his time.
How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord, is laid for your faith in His excellent Word! What more can He say than to you He hath said—To you, who for refuge to Jesus have fled?
“Fear not, I am with thee—O be not dismayed, for I am thy God, I will still give thee aid; I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand, upheld by my gracious, omnipotent hand.
“When thru the deep waters I call thee to go, the rivers of woe shall not thee overflow; for I will be with thee thy troubles to bless, and sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.
“When thru fiery trials thy pathway shall lie, My grace, all-sufficient, shall be thy supply; the flame shall not hurt thee—I only design thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine.
“The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose, I will not, I will not desert to his foes; that soul, tho all hell should endeavor to shake, I’ll never—no, never—no, never forsake.”
For Today: Deuteronomy 31:6, 8; Psalm 36:1; Psalm 118:6, 7; Hebrews 13:5, 6.
Plant your feet firmly on the “thus saith the Lords” and live life confidently in that strength. Carry this musical message with you ---
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