When Brothers Dwell in Unity
A SONG OF ASCENTS. OF DAVID.
1 Behold, how good and pleasant it is
when brothers dwell in unity!
2 It is like the precious oil on the head,
running down on the beard,
on the beard of Aaron,
running down on the collar of his robes!
3 It is like the dew of Hermon,
which falls on the mountains of Zion!
For there the LORD has commanded the blessing,
Come, Bless the LORD
A SONG OF ASCENTS.
Psalm 134 1 Come, bless the LORD, all you servants of the LORD,
who stand by night in the house of the LORD!
2 Lift up your hands to the holy place
and bless the LORD!
3 May the LORD bless you from Zion,
he who made heaven and earth!
Your Name, O LORD, Endures Forever
Praise the LORD!
Psalm 135 1 Praise the name of the LORD,
give praise, O servants of the LORD,
2 who stand in the house of the LORD,
in the courts of the house of our God!
3 Praise the LORD, for the LORD is good;
sing to his name, for it is pleasant!
4 For the LORD has chosen Jacob for himself,
Israel as his own possession.
5 For I know that the LORD is great,
and that our Lord is above all gods.
6 Whatever the LORD pleases, he does,
in heaven and on earth,
in the seas and all deeps.
7 He it is who makes the clouds rise at the end of the earth,
who makes lightnings for the rain
and brings forth the wind from his storehouses.
8 He it was who struck down the firstborn of Egypt,
both of man and of beast;
9 who in your midst, O Egypt,
sent signs and wonders
against Pharaoh and all his servants;
10 who struck down many nations
and killed mighty kings,
11 Sihon, king of the Amorites,
and Og, king of Bashan,
and all the kingdoms of Canaan,
12 and gave their land as a heritage,
a heritage to his people Israel.
13 Your name, O LORD, endures forever,
your renown, O LORD, throughout all ages.
14 For the LORD will vindicate his people
and have compassion on his servants.
15 The idols of the nations are silver and gold,
the work of human hands.
16 They have mouths, but do not speak;
they have eyes, but do not see;
17 they have ears, but do not hear,
nor is there any breath in their mouths.
18 Those who make them become like them,
so do all who trust in them.
19 O house of Israel, bless the LORD!
O house of Aaron, bless the LORD!
20 O house of Levi, bless the LORD!
You who fear the LORD, bless the LORD!
21 Blessed be the LORD from Zion,
he who dwells in Jerusalem!
Praise the LORD!
His Steadfast Love Endures Forever
Psalm 136 1 Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever.
2 Give thanks to the God of gods,
for his steadfast love endures forever.
3 Give thanks to the Lord of lords,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
4 to him who alone does great wonders,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
5 to him who by understanding made the heavens,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
6 to him who spread out the earth above the waters,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
7 to him who made the great lights,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
8 the sun to rule over the day,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
9 the moon and stars to rule over the night,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
10 to him who struck down the firstborn of Egypt,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
11 and brought Israel out from among them,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
12 with a strong hand and an outstretched arm,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
13 to him who divided the Red Sea in two,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
14 and made Israel pass through the midst of it,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
15 but overthrew Pharaoh and his host in the Red Sea,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
16 to him who led his people through the wilderness,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
17 to him who struck down great kings,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
18 and killed mighty kings,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
19 Sihon, king of the Amorites,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
20 and Og, king of Bashan,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
21 and gave their land as a heritage,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
22 a heritage to Israel his servant,
for his steadfast love endures forever.
23 It is he who remembered us in our low estate,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
24 and rescued us from our foes,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
25 he who gives food to all flesh,
for his steadfast love endures forever.
26 Give thanks to the God of heaven,
for his steadfast love endures forever.
How Shall We Sing the LORD’s Song?
Psalm 137 1 By the waters of Babylon,
there we sat down and wept,
when we remembered Zion.
2 On the willows there
we hung up our lyres.
3 For there our captors
required of us songs,
and our tormentors, mirth, saying,
“Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”
4 How shall we sing the LORD’s song
in a foreign land?
5 If I forget you, O Jerusalem,
let my right hand forget its skill!
6 Let my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth,
if I do not remember you,
if I do not set Jerusalem
above my highest joy!
7 Remember, O LORD, against the Edomites
the day of Jerusalem,
how they said, “Lay it bare, lay it bare,
down to its foundations!”
8 O daughter of Babylon, doomed to be destroyed,
blessed shall he be who repays you
with what you have done to us!
9 Blessed shall he be who takes your little ones
and dashes them against the rock!
Give Thanks to the LORD
Psalm 138 1 I give you thanks, O LORD, with my whole heart;
before the gods I sing your praise;
2 I bow down toward your holy temple
and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness,
for you have exalted above all things
your name and your word.
3 On the day I called, you answered me;
my strength of soul you increased.
4 All the kings of the earth shall give you thanks, O LORD,
for they have heard the words of your mouth,
5 and they shall sing of the ways of the LORD,
for great is the glory of the LORD.
6 For though the LORD is high, he regards the lowly,
but the haughty he knows from afar.
7 Though I walk in the midst of trouble,
you preserve my life;
you stretch out your hand against the wrath of my enemies,
and your right hand delivers me.
8 The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me;
your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever.
Do not forsake the work of your hands.
Search Me, O God, and Know My Heart
To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David.
Psalm 139 1 O Lord, you have searched me and known me!
2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.
3 You search out my path and my lying down
and are acquainted with all my ways.
4 Even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.
5 You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is high; I cannot attain it.
7 Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?
8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
9 If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
10 even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light about me be night,”
12 even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is bright as the day,
for darkness is as light with you.
13 For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother's womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
18 If I would count them, they are more than the sand.
I awake, and I am still with you.
19 Oh that you would slay the wicked, O God!
O men of blood, depart from me!
20 They speak against you with malicious intent;
your enemies take your name in vain.
21 Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord?
And do I not loathe those who rise up against you?
22 I hate them with complete hatred;
I count them my enemies.
23 Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
24 And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting!
What I'm Reading
Compromising Truth and Practice
By Walter Chantry 4/1/2010
Just before Jesus was taken up into heaven He told His disciples: “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). Witnessing about who Jesus is and what He taught was to be cross-cultural. As His disciples faced new social and cultural changes, they were expected to hold fast to truth and righteousness so as to be bright lights of His kingdom all over the world.
Today, rapid changes are taking place throughout the world in which we must carry out the Great Commission. The world continues to be marked by men who are “lovers of themselves,” “lovers of money,” or “lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God” (2 Tim. 3). These tendencies of fallen human nature constantly discover new ways to manifest themselves in each society of the earth. There remains a critical need for Jesus’ witnesses to be counter-cultural where sin abounds.
So rapid are societal changes in America that few are even aware of the radical pressures brought to bear on Christians and their churches. In the last fifty years, even the sense of belonging to a community has largely disappeared. The attractiveness of rural areas draws Christians to want to raise their families where lovely homes can be built near fields and streams. But jobs are to be found in places sometimes hours away from such homes. At the same time, a “satisfactory” church may be found that requires an hour or more of commuting in a different direction from the workplace.
Since there has often been inadequate planning ahead for these consequences, there are far fewer believers who can attend the worship services of the church on a regular basis. To do so would simply demand more hours on the road than there would be in the assembly of the saints. Churches cancel prayer meetings because today it is impractical for most to attend. Thus, instead of two or three sessions of being taught the Word of God, the number is reduced to once per week. This is at a time when we stand in need of more preaching, not less. All the while children are being trained by experience and parental example that to see the church for an hour or so per week is normal.
Some will supplement their spiritual diets by listening to favorite preacher(s) on CDs, iPods, or online. Their exchange of ideas with other believers is frequently on blogs or via other faceless computerized contacts. These habits are sometimes replacing the “assembling of themselves together” (Heb. 10:25) as Scripture commands. But electronic transmissions cannot duplicate the Holy Spirit’s presence in a congregation of saints. Additionally, there is a withdrawal from important aspects of pastoral care and exhortations.
Such isolation and lack of witness in one’s community was not commonplace fifty years ago. It is more difficult to be witnesses with a life spent in a home that is little more than a bedroom and a computer room with perhaps a one-family school room, while at the same time spending countless hours along the highway commuting here and there.
Another change, of which many are unaware while it presses in upon us, is the immense variety of teachings within evangelical circles. Because various doctrines are taught by Christians, it is often thought that it is of little consequence which set of doctrines we believe. Desiring unity among the shrinking number of Christians in our nation, we do not wish to discuss conflicting teachings among “us.” It is too satisfying to swell our numbers by being very inclusive. With this laissez faire attitude, the very doctrines we have claimed to hold precious have often been given up.
Roman Catholicism has long claimed to follow other authorities in addition to the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. Contrastingly, Protestantism in the days of the Reformation planted a flag inscribed with “Scripture alone.” It is essential to the very nature of our Protestant heritage that every article of Christian faith and behavior must be established on the basis of the teaching of Scripture. First Timothy 3:17 teaches that Scripture makes men of God “complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” This foundation stone of Protestant thought was courageously confessed by Martin Luther in the famous words: “My conscience is captive to the Word of God.” Today, however, If numerous charismatic Christians hold to sources of revelation other than the Bible, yet profess to be Protestants or even Reformed Protestants, many embrace them as though “Scripture alone” were a non-essential element of our theology.
Another theology, developed centuries after the Reformation, is “dispensationalism.” During their grapplings with Rome in the sixteenth century, the Reformers insisted that salvation comes to fallen sinners by faith alone in Christ alone. With the advent of dispensationalism, some evangelicals began to teach that at other times throughout history a different way of salvation was offered, one that was based upon works and not focused on Christ. Many today even teach that the Jews may be saved without either faith in Christ or baptism into His church. Only for Gentiles is the way of salvation by faith alone in Christ alone. Yet again there is acquiescence with those who hold such teachings and call themselves Reformed or Protestant even though these teachings are alien to the Reformation. Is this issue a minor difference to put aside so that we may have wider Christian fellowship and cooperation?
We begin to ask just what the defining principles of the Reformed tradition are. What are the vital issues to which we witness?
The churches are not only losing their witness by adapting to newer trends among “evangelicals.” They are also morphing into conformity with the world. Nothing less than church order is being restructured to please the ever-more insistent voice of feminism. But the apostle said, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man” (1 Tim. 2:12). Large “Reformed” denominations are now making women “deacons,” as did liberals years ago. When these changes have occurred within churches in the past, the next thing to follow has always been the acceptance of women as elders.
When secular attitudes mean so much to the Reformed church in Europe and North America, those with positive attitudes toward homosexuality will begin to pressure the church as well. The pattern is to first fall silent on Genesis 19, Romans 1, and 1 Corinthians 6. After all, there is still so much of the Bible to teach, so why not drop the notes sounded there? Will there be a witness to homosexuals for good? Or will there be a cowering before the demand of our society over this issue also?
There is constant change within and around the churches. Huge shifts occurred between the years 1875–1930, as liberalism swallowed large sections of once Reformed churches. From 1950 to the present time came a revived teaching of Scripture alone, Christ alone, faith alone, grace alone, and the glory of God alone. Will this remain our stand? Already concessions are being made.
What will the future hold? Will we be witnesses? How much of Jesus’ person, work and teaching is vital to us? To our church?
“If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (John 15:18–19). And sometimes the churches too will despise our stand.
Rev. Walter J. Chantry served as pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Carlisle, Pa., for thirty-nine years. Following that he edited The Banner of Truth magazine for almost seven years.
Walter Chantry Books:
The Times, They are a-Changing
By R.C. Sproul 4/1/2010
One of the oldest mysteries of theoretical thought is the question: What is time?
Immanuel Kant defined time and space as “pure intuitions.” We see time as inextricably related to matter and motion. Without matter and space [matter and motion], we have no way to measure the passing of time. Time, it seems, is always in motion. It can never be stopped.
Historically, we have measured the passing of time with various material objects: the sundial, which displays the movement of shadows across its face; the sand pouring through the hourglass; the hands moved by gears within a watch and the minute and hour hands moving around a circle of numbers. I think of staring at a large wall clock and watching the sweeping motion of the second hand. I look at twelve on the dial and wait for the second hand to pass it. My eyes glance below to the number six, and I know that the second hand has not reached it yet, but as the hand sweeps towards the bottom of the face, I get the sensation of time moving so swiftly toward the future at number six. Then, instantly, the second hand is past it, and what a moment ago was future now lies in the past. Sometimes when I experiment with such exercises, I want to call for the clock to stop. But it will not stop — it cannot stop. As the axiom declares, “Time marches on.”
Everything in creation is subject to time. Everything in creation is mutable. Everything in creation goes through the process of generation and decay. God and God alone is eternal and immutable. God and God alone escapes the relentless onslaught of time.
We not only measure moments in time, but we measure periods that take place in terms of ages, eras, and epochs. In our own generation, we have seen various transitions of the human cultures in which we find ourselves situated, hurled against the backdrop of time (as Martin Heidegger indicated in his epic book Being and Time (Harper Perennial Modern Thought)). We say that times are changing. That doesn’t mean that time itself changes. There are still sixty seconds in a minute, sixty minutes in an hour, twenty-four hours in a day. But cultures are constantly shifting in their patterns, in their values, and in their commitments. In my life I have witnessed dramatic changes to the culture in which I find myself. I can think of where I was and what I was doing when I heard of the announcement of the death of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. I remember where I was and what I was doing when I heard the news on the radio of the United States testing its first atomic bomb (before Hiroshima and Nagasaki). I remember where I was and what I was doing at the end of World War II, the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the Russian launch of Sputnik into space, and the news of man’s first walk on the moon. But what I remember perhaps more than anything is an entire decade — the decade of the 1960s — in which the United States of America went through an unbloody revolution that changed the culture so dramatically that people who lived before that decade feel like aliens in a culture dominated by a post-1960s worldview. The revolution of the ’60s spelled the end of idealism and ushered in several radical changes in the culture, including the sexual revolution. The sanctity of marriage was more explicitly undermined. Clean, wholesome speech in the public sphere became increasingly rare. The sanctity of life with respect to the unborn underwent attack legislatively, and moral relativism became the norm in our culture.
With this moral relativism came technological advances that also altered our daily lives. The knowledge explosion rocked by the advent and proliferation of the use of the computer has brought a new culture of people who live more or less “online.” This relativisitic culture brought with it a culture of eros and heightened addiction to pornography, as well as a culture of drugs with the subsequent invasion of addiction and suicide.
The times in which we live are times that are exceedingly challenging to the church of Jesus Christ. The great tragedy of the church in the post-1960s revolution is that the face of the church has changed along with the face of the secular culture. In a fatal pursuit of relevance, the church has often become merely an echo of the secular culture in which it lives, having a desperate desire to be “with it” and acceptable to the contemporary world. The church itself has adopted the very relativism it seeks to overcome. What is demanded by times such as ours is a church that addresses the temporal while at the same time remaining tethered to the eternal — a church that speaks, comforts, and heals all things mortal and secular without itself abandoning the eternal and the holy. The church must always face the question of whether its commitment is to sanctity or profanity. We need churches filled with Christians who are not enslaved by the culture, churches that seek more than anything to please God and His only begotten Son, rather than to attract the applause of dying men and women. Where is that church? That is the church Christ established. That is the church whose mission is to minister redemption to a dying world, and that is the church we are called to be. God help us and our culture if our ears become deaf to that call.
Robert Charles Sproul, 2/13/1939 – 12/14/2017 was an American theologian, author, and ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America. Dr. R.C. Sproul was founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries, an international Christian education and discipleship organization located near Orlando, Fla. He was also copastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., chancellor of Reformation Bible College, and executive editor of Tabletalk magazine. Dr. Sproul has contributed dozens of articles to national evangelical publications, has spoken at conferences, churches, and schools around the world, and has written more than one hundred books. He also served as general editor of the Reformation Study Bible.R.C. Sproul Books | Go to Books Page
The Bravest & Newest World
By Andrew Davis 4/1/2010
As human imagination conceives of the future, it tends to envisage either dreams or nightmares. The dreams live in the hearts of idealists who suppose that human ingenuity is sufficient to craft a perfect world. The nightmares torment the minds of realists, who express their fears in doomsday scenarios they think are inescapable. Christians, however, have been called by God to an infinitely higher future reality, a hope better than any dream — the new heavens and new earth — coupled with a bravery that acknowledges the journey to that perfect world will be bloody and terrifying.
Since the time that humanity was banished from the garden of Eden, we have longed to return to, or at least to craft, a perfect world of our own making. Human pride drove the building of the Tower of Babel, enabled by a technological breakthrough in engineering materials — the discovery that thoroughly baked ceramics were superior to carved stone in building lofty structures. God’s assessment of human potential is striking: “Nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them” (Gen. 11:6). But God interfered by confusing language and slowing down the process of social engineering.
Since then, history has been a long journey of human pride, power, and technology seeking to craft a perfect world apart from God. By the beginning of the twentieth century, utopian dreams soared to astonishing heights of optimism. H.G. Wells, undaunted by the carnage of World War I, wrote Men Like Gods (Dover Thrift Editions) in 1923. He describes a utopian parallel universe in which socialism, science, and education had eradicated all evils. In 1932, Aldous Huxley responded with a pessimistic parody entitled Brave New World. In it, he gave a frightening vision of a world where technology and hedonistic nihilism crafted a meaningless existence of pleasure. His brave new world was a nightmare.
Nowadays, Christians are facing a world that changes at a dizzying pace. The 9-11 attacks resulted in the instantaneous implosion of two of the tallest buildings in the world. The last quarter of 2008 saw the almost instantaneous eradication of years of pension investments in a stock market plunge. Meanwhile, the laboratories of the world keep churning out both technological marvels and ethical nightmares: wireless internet devices and freakish genetic laboratory experiments. Christians look out over a very uncertain future, driven by forces that are hard to understand and harder to predict. How should Christians contemplate the future?
The starting point for us is Scripture’s revelation of God’s sovereign power in orchestrating a plan for a future world of unspeakable glory. Though humanity can craft technological marvels rising from the plains of Babel, God had to descend a long distance from His heavenly throne to inspect their handiwork. God rules, His power is infinite, and He is still committed to interfering in human history, restraining evil, and accomplishing His plan.
And how glorious is that plan? Human hearts would never have crafted it and can’t even conceive of it properly, but God has revealed it to us by His Spirit (1 Cor. 2:9–10). That plan is for the bravest and newest world possible. It will be the bravest possible world because it will be founded on the incomparable courage of Jesus Christ in drinking the cup of God’s wrath for its inhabitants. And none but the brave will enter that new world, for the cowardly will be weeded out (Rev. 21:8), and only those who overcome the world by faith will be granted the right to enter. No bravery will be required to live there, yet it will be a world achieved through the greatest acts of bravery in history. The book of Revelation makes it plain that it is a journey of tribulation, even of bloody martyrdom, that leads to the perfect world, and the willingness of the saints to count their sufferings as not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in them brings the greatest glory to God.
And it will also be the newest world possible, for God says, “Behold, I am making all things new” (Rev. 21:5), so it is called the new heavens and new earth. It will be a new world to explore, a world where there will be no more death, mourning, crying and pain, for the old order of things will have passed away. The worship will be new, as the inhabitants of the place will sing a new song that cannot be taught on earth (14:3). Their dwelling place will be new — the New Jerusalem — shining with sights and technologies presently unimaginable. And their vision of the glories of God will be constantly renewed, for the redeemed will never tire of gazing at His face.
Christians should saturate their hearts with these promises, while girding themselves with bravery for the road ahead. It is a road filled with changes, but those changes are ordained and managed by the sovereign wisdom of God. The unbelieving imagination looks inward to study human ingenuity and wickedness, and then it looks ahead to utopian dreams or dystopian nightmares. The Christian heart looks upward to the God of the Bible, and then it looks ahead with bravery at the earthly journey still remaining, and with hope at the new world coming.
Dr. Andrew M. Davis is pastor of First Baptist Church in Durham, North Carolina, and adjunct professor of historical theology at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is the author of An Infinite Journey: Growing toward Christlikeness by Dr. Andrew M. Davis (2014-01-10).
Too Good to Be True?
By Robert Strimple 4/1/2010
In 1935 I was baptized and then raised in one of the largest “mainline” Protestant denominations. But by age twelve I was so disappointed with the pastors sent to us, all preaching the old liberalism so popular in those years, that I asked my parents if I could transfer to the local Orthodox Presbyterian Church. I went with their blessing, and the Lord soon blessed me with deepening biblical faith.
As we survey the American scene today, the mainline churches, rather than returning at last to the biblical faith and embracing the gospel, have merely tried one suggestion after another of “how to attract new members” and subsequently have seen their membership shrink every year. And what is even sadder to me, the term evangelical now seems to have lost all meaning. The newly “emergent” churches continue to call themselves evangelical, but to my amazement have adopted a “cultural relevance” theology that shares much in common with the old liberalism of a century ago.
Most evangelical churches, of course, would still claim to hold to the biblical gospel. But rather than preaching that gospel with joy in its full riches and in the power of the Holy Spirit, too many assume their hearers’ acceptance of that gospel and preach sermons on more “practical” matters such as how to be better spouses, parents, money-managers, and so on. And the sad irony is that without a firm foundation in the fundamentals of our Christian faith, the hearers of such sermons are not achieving even those practical goals.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, if our churches are to be truly joyful and God-glorifying, growing in both faith and numbers, the gospel must not be assumed, it must be preached and believed (see Rom. 10:13–15). And you, the sheep for whom the Shepherd died, must insist through your elected officers that the gospel not be assumed but preached in your church.
We have all seen the frightening polls. The most recent one I saw said that those professing themselves to be Christians numbered 75 percent of those who reached adulthood in the 1950s (my generation), 35 percent of the next generation (my children’s), and, this ongoing study projected, will number just 15 percent of the generation now reaching adulthood (my grandchildren’s). This study concluded: “Church-raised eighteen-year-olds are rejecting their faith at an alarming rate.” How are they to be reached and retained? The gospel must be preached to them in the power of the Spirit.
Why is it that so-called “practical” sermon topics have replaced the gospel? May I suggest this: Marshall McLuhan, Canadian communications guru of the 1960s — he of “the medium is the message” fame — declared that “the church’s problem is that the Gospel is Good News in a world in which bad news is news.” But not only is the Bible’s message good news, it is miraculous, seemingly beyond-our-imagination good news! And let’s face it, such news is harder to believe than ordinary, everyday news about how to improve relations with your neighbor. Yes, the gospel can seem to be almost too good to believe. But we must believe, because God’s Word is true and attested by many evidences (Heb. 2:3–4).
I would invite you to read again the marvelous narrative of John 11:17–45. The question that our Lord addressed to Martha, He addresses now to us by His Spirit: “Do you believe this?” (v. 26). May the Spirit enable each of us to answer as Martha did: “Yes, Lord; I believe.”
How discerning is Martha’s reply? Jesus has made an unthinkable assertion — unthinkable on the lips of anyone but God Himself: “I am the resurrection and the life” (v. 25). He then asks her: “Do you believe this?” And Martha answers, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming … .” Martha correctly viewed the resurrection as the great coming saving act of God. She knew that the resurrection would take place “on the last day” (v. 24). But now the further truth dawns upon her that here before her stands the one who is Himself the great final saving act of God — and He has already come! Here is the one promised to come into the world and usher in a new world, a new age. Resurrection, the gift of life — this is the Messiah’s work. “Yes, Lord, I believe that life is available now, in you,” Martha says in effect, “for you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one promised to come into the world.”
But we have more than Jesus’ authoritative testimony concerning His life-giving power. We also have the authoritative sign that He worked. “Lazarus, come out!” Jesus called out, and he who had died did in fact come out (vv. 43–44). Jesus exercised resurrection power. And thus He manifested Himself in deed as well as in word as the true and final Savior, the Christ, the Son of God.
Albert Camus, the French existentialist atheist novelist so popular with college students in my day, has his hero in The Plague say at one point: “Salvation is much too big a word for me. I don’t aim so high.” But it is not too high or wonderful for Jesus! The good news of eternal resurrection life in Jesus is not too good to be true. Our Lord Himself says: “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (vv. 25–26).
Dr. Robert B. Strimple is president emeritus and professor emeritus of systematic theology at Westminster California.
Robert Strimple Books:
He Who Has Ears…
By Scott Anderson 4/1/2010
Everyone loves a story. Whether young or old, we all enjoy hearing, reading, or seeing a good story unfold.
Stories are remarkably powerful things. They stir-up our imaginations and excite our affections. They instruct us and inspire us. They intoxicate and influence us. They linger with us, often becoming more precious and poignant and powerful over time.
In seminary, every pastor-in-training learns about the mysterious homiletical power of story and illustrations. How many times has a church congregation snapped back to attention during a sermon because the preacher began recounting a story or explaining his point with a descriptive, sensory-filled illustration? And why do good preachers do this? Because the human heart is spring-loaded to respond to stories and illustrations. Many times, long after the spoken words are forgotten, we can still call to remembrance the main point of a sermon because of the wise and effective employment of a good story.
During His earthly teaching ministry, the Lord Jesus, who was the master teacher and preacher, often used stories and illustrations as He instructed the crowds of people who flocked to hear Him. Most scholars refer to these types of stories as “parables.” There are about fifty different parables of Christ recorded in the Gospels. In fact, about one-third of all of Jesus’ recorded sayings are parables. This would seem to imply something very interesting: telling stories was one of Jesus’ favorite methods for “proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God” (Luke 8:1) and speaking forth “the words of eternal life” (John 6:68).
The word parable communicates the idea of placing one thing by the side of another, and from this meaning you can easily figure out how they work: simple terms are used to convey a profound truth. In the ministry of Christ, parables are simple stories taken from the familiar world in which Jesus lived, and they are told to relate an unfamiliar spiritual truth. The common, mundane, and everyday are used to elucidate the uncommon, profound, and otherworldly. One person has said that a parable is “an earthly story with a heavenly message.” And while the parables of Christ are not strict allegories (in which every minor detail is symbolic of something else), they are brief, simple illustrations that usually address one problem or question with which our Lord was dealing. In other words, parables usually drive home one main truth.
But you might be wondering, why parables? Well, you would not be the only one to have asked that question. After hearing Jesus tell the parable of the soils, “the disciples came and said to him, ‘Why do you speak to them in parables?’” (Matt. 13:10). The reply of our Lord is very interesting:
“And he answered them, ‘To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.
‘But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear’” (vv. 11–13, 16).
You see, Christ was speaking to a mixed-multitude. There were those who received His teaching with open hearts, and those who spurned His truth and persisted in unbelief. Rather than try to weed-out the believers in order to instruct only them, Christ set His teaching before the crowds in the form of parables. Those who had hearts to believe would embrace the teaching and seek to understand further, and those who rejected it, even though they had heard, would not understand at all. In this way, parables withdraw the light from the rebellious at heart who hate the truth, and give light to those who believe and love the truth.
The implication of this is profound: more than a mere homiletical device or a powerful didactic tool, the parables of Jesus are actually designed to help us see whether illuminating grace is on the move in our lives. (Whether we fully understand every nuance of a given parable is not the main concern — even the disciples had to have some interpreted for them.) Parables function as little tests of faith, beckoning us to see and believe and obey the truth of the Storyteller.
So as we seek to be the church in this world, let us eagerly read the parables of Jesus — and all of God’s Word — with a humble dependence on the gracious, illuminating work of the Holy Spirit. Let us ask these kinds of questions: Am I embracing Christ as the ultimate good of the gospel today? Am I open to His teaching? Am I joyfully abiding in His instruction? Am I really interested in His truth? Do I have eyes that want to see and ears that want to hear the words of life?
In reading this way, we will become joy-filled partakers of the great story to which the gospel has so graciously called us, and the Word of God will become a deep well of life-giving truth that provides rich, spiritual satisfaction for our souls.
Scott Anderson is president and CEO of Desiring God Ministries in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
7 things God does not want us to be ignorant of
By Kirk M. (ChristianBlog.com 6-17-2015
The Greek word agnoeo takes the common word noeo (to know) and places an a before it meaning "not". Simply put, this word means “not to know, understand or comprehend” . Although the word agnoeo is used numerous times in the New Testament, there are seven times when it is used in conjunction with the Greek word ou (not) making the meaning in English to be "not ignorant of” . These seven things God does not want us to be ignorant of present wonderful and simple references to some of the most important elements of our Christian walk. “The Deliverer will come from Zion,
All but one of these particular usages of agnoeo come in Romans, 1 Corinthians and 2 Corinthians. For the sake of simplicity, let us look at these seven usages as they come up chronologically in the New Testament. The first usage is found in Romans 1:13:
Romans 1:13 I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that I have often intended to come to you (but thus far have been prevented), in order that I may reap some harvest among you as well as among the rest of the Gentiles. ESV
And I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that oftentimes I purposed to come unto you (and was hindered hitherto), that I might have some fruit in you also, even as in the rest of the Gentiles.
The Apostle Paul did not want the believers in Rome to be ignorant of how many times he wanted to visit them in. It is obvious in verses 8 and 9 that Paul thought highly of the believers in Rome and prayed for them without ceasing. Verses 10-12 express Paul's great desire and expectation to see them and impart unto them some spiritual gift that they would be established. Paul wanted them to not be ignorant that many times he purposed to come to Rome but was hindered. The next reference is found in Romans 11:25:
Romans 11:25 Lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. 26 And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written,
he will banish ungodliness from Jacob”;
27 “and this will be my covenant with them
when I take away their sins.” ESV
Paul did not want the Roman believers (which were a blend of Jews and Gentiles) to be ignorant of this mystery. Time and space do not allow me to go into this difficult verse, but the mystery (secret) Paul was referring to here is found in verse 24 where he talks about grafting branches from a wild olive tree into a good olive tree. The mystery is that this process works and it is reference to grafting the Gentiles into the Jewish tree. It is indeed a secret how this can happen. The next reference is found in 1 Corinthians 10:1:
1 Corinthians 10:1 For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea,
1 Corinthians 10:5 Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness.
6 Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did. 7 Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.” 8 We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. 9 We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, 10 nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. 11 Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. 12 Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. 13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. ESV
For I would not, brethren, have you ignorant, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea;
This reference actually includes verses 2-4 and in these verses Paul reminds the predominantly Gentile believers in Corinth of the positives that took place in the Children of Israel's passage from Egypt to the Promised Land. It is important that we all never forget the glorious things God did for His people at this time. It is also very important that we never forget what Paul brings up in verses 5-13. The next reference is found in 1 Corinthians 12:1:
1 Corinthians 12:1 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed. ESV
Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant.
The words translated “spiritual gifts” are one Greek word pneumatikos which should be translated as “spiritual things or matters” . The entire realm of spiritual matters encompasses not only the matters brought up in the following verses but all matters in the Divine sphere and also in satan's realm (Ephesians 6:12). God does not want us to be ignorant concerning spiritual matters. The next reference is found in 2 Corinthians 1:8:
Ephesians 6:12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. ESV
For we would not have you ignorant, brethren, concerning our affliction which befell us in Asia, that we were weighed down exceedingly, beyond our power, insomuch that we despaired even of life:
In light of the context of the first few chapters of 2 Corinthians (which deal with suffering, affliction and tribulation), it is not surprising that Paul expresses his desire that the Corinthian believers not be ignorant of the affliction he and his companions went through in Asia. Specifically, Paul wanted them to not be ignorant of just how dire the situation was, so much so that they feared for their very lives. The next reference is found in 2 Corinthians 2:11:
2 Corinthians 2:11 so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs. ESV
that no advantage may be gained over us by Satan: for we are not ignorant of his devices.
The direct context of this verse is found in verse 10 which is FORGIVENESS. Nothing opens the door to satan faster and more effectively than lack of forgiveness. Nothing gives satan an advantage over God's people more than when they fail to forgive each other. Logically, satan does everything in his power to keep believers from manifesting forgiveness. We must not be ignorant of this truth lest satan gain an advantage over us. The final reference is found in 1 Thessalonians 4:13:
1 Thessalonians 4:13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 15 For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words. ESV
But we would not have you ignorant, brethren, concerning them that fall asleep; that ye sorrow not, even as the rest, who have no hope.
What greater way to conclude this study than to bring it back to the hope we have of Christ's return! Specifically, Paul did not want the believers to be ignorant regarding the state of those who had passed away. He did not want the believers to sorrow as the unbelievers did when they lost someone. Verses 14-18 go on to give the incredible details of what our hope entails. The dead in Christ shall rise first and then we which are alive will be gathered together in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air and forever be with Him.
The opposite of being ignorant of something is to know or understand. In each of these seven references, God is laying out specific things He wants us to KNOW, UNDERSTAND and COMPREHEND. The more we concentrate on “not being ignorant” of these things, the more we will tap into the heart of God as manifested in the Church Epistles.
“The Deliverer will come from Zion,
Kirk M. A retired minister living with his wife and animals in rural eastern Missouri
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 73God Is My Strength and Portion Forever
73 A Psalm Of Asaph.
12 Behold, these are the wicked;
always at ease, they increase in riches.
13 All in vain have I kept my heart clean
and washed my hands in innocence.
14 For all the day long I have been stricken
and rebuked every morning.
15 If I had said, “I will speak thus,”
I would have betrayed the generation of your children.
16 But when I thought how to understand this,
it seemed to me a wearisome task,
17 until I went into the sanctuary of God;
then I discerned their end.
18 Truly you set them in slippery places;
you make them fall to ruin.
19 How they are destroyed in a moment,
swept away utterly by terrors!
20 Like a dream when one awakes,
O Lord, when you rouse yourself, you despise them as phantoms.
21 When my soul was embittered,
when I was pricked in heart,
22 I was brutish and ignorant;
I was like a beast toward you.
The Institutes of the Christian Religion
Translated by Henry Beveridge
17. Some, in order obstinately to maintain the error which they have
once rashly adopted, hesitate not to assert that the dimensions of
Christ's flesh are not more circumscribed than those of heaven and
earth. His birth as an infant, his growth, his extension on the cross,
his confinement in the sepulchre, were effected, they say, by a kind of
dispensation, that he might perform the offices of being born, of
dying, and of other human acts: his being seen with his wonted bodily
appearance after the resurrection, his ascension into heaven, his
appearance, after his ascension, to Stephen and Paul, were the effect
of the same dispensation, that it might be made apparent to the eye of
man that he was constituted King in heaven. What is this but to call
forth Marcion from his grave? For there cannot be a doubt that the body
of Christ, if so constituted, was a phantasm, or was phantastical. Some
employ a rather more subtle evasion, That the body which is given in
the sacrament is glorious and immortal, and that, therefore, there is
no absurdity in its being contained under the sacrament in various
places, or in no place, and in no form. But, I ask, what did Christ
give to his disciples the day before he suffered? Do not the words say
that he gave the mortal body, which was to be delivered shortly after?
But, say they, he had previously manifested his glory to the three
disciples on the mount (Mt. 17:2). This is true; but his purpose was to
give them for the time a taste of immortality. Still they cannot find
there a twofold body, but only the one which he had assumed, arrayed in
new glory. When he distributed his body in the first Supper, the hour
was at hand in which he was "stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted"
(Isa. 53:4). So far was he from intending at that time to exhibit the
glory of his resurrection. And here what a door is opened to Marcion,
if the body of Christ was seen humble and mortal in one place, glorious
and immortal in another! And yet, if their opinion is well-founded, the
same thing happens every day, because they are forced to admit that the
body of Christ, which is in itself visible, lurks invisibly under the
symbol of bread. And yet those who send forth such monstrous dogmas, so
far from being ashamed at the disgrace, assail us with virulent
invectives for not subscribing to them.
18. But assuming that the body and blood of Christ are attached to the bread and wine, then the one must necessarily be dissevered from the other. For as the bread is given separately from the cup, so the body, united to the bread, must be separated from the blood, included in the cup. For since they affirm that the body is in the bread, and the blood is in the cup, while the bread and wine are, in regard to space, at some distance from each other, they cannot, by any quibble, evade the conclusion that the body must be separated from the blood. Their usual pretence--viz. that the blood is in the body, and the body again in the blood, by what they call concomitance, is more than frivolous, since the symbols in which they are included are thus distinguished. But if we are carried to heaven with our eyes and minds, that we may there behold Christ in the glory of his kingdom, as the symbols invite us to him in his integrity, so, under the symbol of bread, we must feed on his body, and, under the symbol of wine, drink separately of his blood, and thereby have the full enjoyment of him. For though he withdrew his flesh from us, and with his body ascended to heaven, he, however, sits at the right hand of the Father; that is, he reigns in power and majesty, and the glory of the Father. This kingdom is not limited by any intervals of space, nor circumscribed by any dimensions. Christ can exert his energy wherever he pleases, in earth and heaven, can manifest his presence by the exercise of his power, can always be present with his people, breathing into them his own life, can live in them, sustain, confirm, and invigorate them, and preserve them safe, just as if he were with them in the body; in fine, can feed them with his own body, communion with which he transfuses into them. After this manner, the body and blood of Christ are exhibited to us in the sacrament.
19. The presence of Christ in the Supper we must hold to be such as neither affixes him to the element of bread, nor encloses him in bread, nor circumscribes him in any way (this would obviously detract from his celestial glory); and it must, moreover, be such as neither divests him of his just dimensions, nor dissevers him by differences of place, nor assigns to him a body of boundless dimensions, diffused through heaven and earth. All these things are clearly repugnant to his true human nature. Let us never allow ourselves to lose sight of the two restrictions. First, Let there be nothing derogatory to the heavenly glory of Christ. This happens whenever he is brought under the corruptible elements of this world, or is affixed to any earthly creatures. Secondly, Let no property be assigned to his body inconsistent with his human nature. This is done when it is either said to be infinite, or made to occupy a variety of places at the same time. But when these absurdities are discarded, I willingly admit anything which helps to express the true and substantial communication of the body and blood of the Lord, as exhibited to believers under the sacred symbols of the Supper, understanding that they are received not by the imagination or intellect merely, but are enjoyed in reality as the food of eternal life. For the odium with which this view is regarded by the world, and the unjust prejudice incurred by its defence, there is no cause, unless it be in the fearful fascinations of Satan. What we teach on the subject is in perfect accordance with Scripture, contains nothing absurd, obscure, or ambiguous, is not unfavourable to true piety and solid edification; in short, has nothing in it to offend, save that, for some ages, while the ignorance and barbarism of sophists reigned in the Church, the clear light and open truth were unbecomingly suppressed. And yet as Satan, by means of turbulent spirits, is still, in the present day, exerting himself to the utmost to bring dishonour on this doctrine by all kinds of calumny and reproach, it is right to assert and defend it with the greatest care.
20. Before we proceed farther, we must consider the ordinance itself, as instituted by Christ, because the most plausible objection of our opponents is, that we abandon his words. To free ourselves from the obloquy with which they thus load us, the fittest course wil1 be to begin with an interpretation of the words. Three Evangelists and Paul relate that our Saviour took bread, and after giving thanks, brake it, and gave it to his disciples, saving, Take, eat: this is my body which is given or broken for you. Of the cup, Matthew and Mark say, "This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins" (Mt. 26:26; Mark 14:22). Luke and Paul say, "This cup is the new testament in my blood" (Luke 22:20; 1 Cor. 11:25). The advocates of transubstantiation insist, that by the pronoun, this, is denoted the appearance of bread, because the whole complexion of our Saviour's address is an act of consecration, and there is no substance which can be demonstrated. But if they adhere so religiously to the words, inasmuch as that which our Saviour gave to his disciples he declared to be his body, there is nothing more alien from the strict meaning of the words than the fiction, that what was bread is now body. What Christ takes into his hands, and gives to the apostles, he declares to be his body; but he had taken bread, and, therefore, who sees not that what is given is still bread? Hence, nothing can be more absurd than to transfer what is affirmed of bread to the species of bread. Others, in interpreting the particle is, as equivalent to being transubstantiated, have recourse to a gloss which is forced and violently wrested. They have no ground, therefore, for pretending that they are moved by a reverence for the words. The use of the term is, for being converted into something else, is unknown to every tongue and nation. With regard to those who leave the bread in the Supper, and affirm that it is the body of Christ, there is great diversity among them. Those who speak more modestly, though they insist upon the letter, This is my body, afterwards abandon this strictness, and observe that it is equivalent to saying that the body of Christ is with the bread, in the bread, and under the bread. To the reality which they affirm, we have already adverted, and will by-and-by, at greater length. I am not only considering the words by which they say they are prevented from admitting that the bread is called body, because it is a sign of the body. But if they shun everything like metaphor, why do they leap from the simple demonstration of Christ to modes of expression which are widely different? For there is a great difference between saying that the bread is the body, and that the body is with the bread. But seeing it impossible to maintain the simple proposition that the bread is the body, they endeavoured to evade the difficulty by concealing themselves under those forms of expression. Others, who are bolder, hesitate not to assert that, strictly speaking, the bread is body, and in this way prove that they are truly of the letter. If it is objected that the bread, therefore, is Christ, and, being Christ, is God,--they will deny it, because the words of Christ do not expressly say so. But they gain nothing by their denial, since all agree that the whole Christ is offered to us in the Supper. It is intolerable blasphemy to affirm, without figure, of a fading and corruptible element, that it is Christ. I now ask them, if they hold the two propositions to be identical, Christ is the Son of God, and Bread is the body of Christ? If they concede that they are different (and this, whether they will or not, they will be forced to do), let them tell wherein is the difference. All which they can adduce is, I presume, that the bread is called body in a sacramental manner. Hence it follows, that the words of Christ are not subject to the common rule, and ought not to be tested grammatically. I ask all these rigid and obstinate exactors of the letter, whether, when Luke and Paul call the cup the testament in blood, they do not express the same thing as in the previous clause, when they call bread the body? There certainly was the same solemnity in the one part of the mystery as in the other, and, as brevity is obscure, the longer sentence better elucidates the meaning. As often, therefore, as they contend, from the one expression, that the bread is body, I will adduce an apt interpretation from the longer expression, That it is a testament in the body. What? Can we seek for surer or more faithful expounders than Luke and Paul? I have no intention, however, to detract, in any respect, from the communication of the body of Christ, which I have acknowledged. I only meant to expose the foolish perverseness with which they carry on a war of words. The bread I understand, on the authority of Luke and Paul, to be the body of Christ, because it is a covenant in the body. If they impugn this, their quarrel is not with me, but with the Spirit of God. However often they may repeat, that reverence for the words of Christ will not allow them to give a figurative interpretation to what is spoken plainly, the pretext cannot justify them in thus rejecting all the contrary arguments which we adduce. Meanwhile, as I have already observed, it is proper to attend to the force of what is meant by a testament in the body and blood of Christ. The covenant, ratified by the sacrifice of death, would not avail us without the addition of that secret communication, by which we are made one with Christ.
21. It remains, therefore, to hold, that on account of the affinity which the things signified have with their signs, the name of the thing itself is given to the sign figuratively, indeed, but very appropriately. I say nothing of allegories and parables, lest it should be alleged that I am seeking subterfuges, and slipping out of the present question. I say that the expression which is uniformly used in Scripture, when the sacred mysteries are treated of, is metonymical. For you cannot otherwise understand the expressions, that circumcision is a "covenant"--that the lamb is the Lord's "passover"--that the sacrifices of the law are expiations--that the rock from which the water flowed in the desert was Christ,--unless you interpret them metonymically."  Nor is the name merely transferred from the superior to the inferior, but, on the contrary, the name of the visible sign is given to the thing signified, as when God is said to have appeared to Moses in the bush; the ark of the covenant is called God, and the face of God, and the dove is called the Holy Spirit.  For although the sign differs essentially from the thing signified, the latter being spiritual and heavenly, the former corporeal and visible,--yet, as it not only figures the thing which it is employed to represent as a naked and empty badge, but also truly exhibits it, why should not its name be justly applied to the thing? But if symbols humanly devised, which are rather the images of absent than the marks of present things, and of which they are very often most fallacious types, are sometimes honoured with their names,--with much greater reason do the institutions of God borrow the names of things, of which they always bear a sure, and by no means fallacious signification, and have the reality annexed to them. So great, then, is the similarity, and so close the connection between the two, that it is easy to pass from the one to the other. Let our opponents, therefore, cease to indulge their mirth in calling us Tropists, when we explain the sacramental mode of expression according to the common use of Scripture. For, while the sacraments agree in many things, there is also, in this metonymy, a certain community in all respects between them. As, therefore, the apostle says that the rock from which spiritual water flowed forth to the Israelites was Christ (1 Cor. 10:4), and was thus a visible symbol under which, that spiritual drink was truly perceived, though not by the eye, so the body of Christ is now called bread, inasmuch as it is a symbol under which our Lord offers us the true eating of his body. Lest any one should despise this as a novel invention, the view which Augustine took and expressed was the same: "Had not the sacraments a certain resemblance to the things of which they are sacraments, they would not be sacraments at all. And from this resemblance, they generally have the names of the things themselves. This, as the sacrament of the body of Christ, is, after a certain manner, the body of Christ, and the sacrament of Christ is the blood of Christ; so the sacrament of faith is faith" (August. Ep. 23, ad Bonifac.). He has many similar passages, which it would be superfluous to collect, as that one may suffice. I need only remind my readers, that the same doctrine is taught by that holy man in his Epistle to Evodius. Where Augustine teaches that nothing is more common than metonymy in mysteries, it is a frivolous quibble to object that there is no mention of the Supper. Were this objection sustained, it would follow, that we are not entitled to argue from the genus to the species; e. g., Every animal is endued with motion; and, therefore, the horse and the ox are endued with motion.  Indeed, longer discussion is rendered unnecessary by the words of the Saint himself, where he says, that when Christ gave the symbol of his body, he did not hesitate to call it his body (August. Cont. Adimantum, cap. 12). He elsewhere says, "Wonderful was the patience of Christ in admitting Judas to the feast, in which he committed and delivered to the disciples the symbol of his body and blood" (August. in. Ps. 3).
22. Should any morose person, shutting his eyes to everything else, insist upon the expression, This is, as distinguishing this mystery from all others, the answer is easy. They say that the substantive verb is so emphatic, as to leave no room for interpretation. Though I should admit this, I answer, that the substantive verb occurs in the words of Paul (1 Cor. 10:16), where he calls the bread the communion of the body of Christ. But communion is something different from the body itself. Nay, when the sacraments are treated of, the same word occurs: "My covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant" (Gen. 17:13). "This is the ordinance of the passover" (Exod. 12:43). To say no more, when Paul declares that the rock was Christ (1 Cor. 10:4), why should the substantive verb, in that passage, be deemed less emphatic than in the discourse of Christ? When John says, "The Holy Ghost was not yet given, because that Jesus was not yet glorified" (John 7:39), I should like to know what is the force of the substantive verb? If the rule of our opponents is rigidly observed, the eternal essence of the Spirit will be destroyed, as if he had only begun to be after the ascension of Christ. Let them tell me, in fine, what is meant by the declaration of Paul, that baptism is "the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost" (Tit. 3:5); though it is certain that to many it was of no use. But they cannot be more effectually refuted than by the expression of Paul, that the Church is Christ. For, after introducing the similitude of the human body, he adds, "So also is Christ" (1 Cor. 7:12), when he means not the only-begotten Son of God in himself, but in his members. I think I have now gained this much, that all men of sense and integrity will be disgusted with the calumnies of our enemies, when they give out that we discredit the words of Christ; though we embrace them not less obediently than they do, and ponder them with greater reverence. Nay, their supine security proves that they do not greatly care what Christ meant, provided it furnishes them with a shield to defend their obstinacy, while our careful investigation should be an evidence of the authority which we yield to Christ. They invidiously pretend that human reason will not allow us to believe what Christ uttered with his sacred mouth; but how naughtily they endeavour to fix this odium upon us, I have already, in a great measure, shown, and will still show more clearly. Nothing, therefore, prevents us from believing Christ speaking, and from acquiescing in everything to which he intimates his assent. The only question here is, whether it be unlawful to inquire into the genuine meaning?
23. Those worthy masters, to show that they are of the letter, forbid us to deviate, in the least, from the letter. On the contrary, when Scripture calls God a man of war, as I see that the expression would be too harsh if not interpreted, I have no doubt that the similitude is taken from man. And, indeed, the only pretext which enabled the Anthropomorphites to annoy the orthodox Fathers was by fastening on the expressions, "The eyes of God see;" "It ascended to his ears;" "His hand is stretched out;" "The earth is his footstool;" and exclaimed, that God was deprived of the body which Scripture assigns to him. Were this rule admitted, complete barbarism would bury the whole light of faith. What monstrous absurdities shall fanatical men not be able to extract, if they are allowed to urge every knotty point in support of their dogmas? Their objection, that it is not probable that when Christ was providing special comfort for the apostles in adversity, he spoke enigmatically or obscurely,--supports our view. For, had it not occurred to the apostles that the bread was called the body figuratively, as being a symbol of the body, the extraordinary nature of the thing would doubtless have filled them with perplexity. For, at this very period, John relates, that the slightest difficulties perplexed them (John 14:5, 8; 16:17). They debate, among themselves, how Christ is to go to the Father, and not understanding that the things which were said referred to the heavenly Father, raise a question as to how he is to go out of the world until they shall see him? How, then, could they have been so ready to believe what is repugnant to all reason--viz. that Christ was seated at table under their eye, and yet was contained invisible under the bread? As they attest their consent by eating this bread without hesitation, it is plain that they understood the words of Christ in the same sense as we do, considering what ought not to seem unusual when mysteries are spoken of, that the name of the thing signified was transferred to the sign. There was therefore to the disciples, as there is to us, clear and sure consolation, not involved in any enigma; and the only reason why certain persons reject our interpretation is, because they are blinded by a delusion of the devil to introduce the darkness of enigma, instead of the obvious interpretation of an appropriate figure. Besides, if we insist strictly on the words, our Saviour will be made to affirm erroneously something of the bread different from the cup. He calls the bread body, and the wine blood. There must either be a confusion in terms, or there must be a division separating the body from the blood. Nay, "This is my body," may be as truly affirmed of the cup as of the bread; and it may in turn be affirmed that the bread is the blood.  If they answer, that we must look to the end or use for which symbols were instituted, I admit it: but still they will not disencumber themselves of the absurdity which their error drags along with it--viz. that the bread is blood, and the wine is body. Then I know not what they mean when they concede that bread and body are different things, and yet maintain that the one is predicated of the other, properly and without figure, as if one were to say that a garment is different from a man, and yet is properly called a man. Still, as if the victory depended on obstinacy and invective, they say that Christ is charged with falsehood, when it is attempted to interpret his words. It will now be easy for the reader to understand the injustice which is done to us by those carpers at syllables, when they possess the simple with the idea that we bring discredit on the words of Christ; words which, as we have shown, are madly perverted and confounded by them, but are faithfully and accurately expounded by us.
Christian Classics Ethereal Library / Public Domain
Institutes of the Christian Religion
Psalm 133 Charles Spurgeon
By Charles Spurgeon 06-19-1834 - 01-31-1892
A Song of Degrees of David. We see no reason for depriving David of the authorship of this sparkling sonnet. He knew by experience the bitterness occasioned by divisions in families, and was well prepared to celebrate in choicest Psalmody the blessing of unity for which he sighed. Among the "songs of degrees", this hymn has certainly attained unto a good degree, and even in common literature it is frequently quoted for its perfume and dew. In this Psalm there is no wry word, all is "sweetness and light", —a notable ascent from Psalm 110 with which the Pilgrims set out. That is full of war and lamentation, but this sings of peace and pleasantness. The visitors to Zion were about to return, and this may have been their hymn of joy because they had seen such union among the tribes who had gathered at the common altar. The previous Psalm, which sings of the covenant, had also revealed the centre of Israel's unity in the Lord's anointed and the promises made to him. No wonder that brethren dwell in unity when God dwells among them, and finds his rest in them. Our translators have given to this Psalm an admirable explanatory heading, "The benefit of the communion of saints." These good men often hit off the meaning of a passage in a few words.
EXPOSITIONVerse 1. Behold. It is a wonder seldom seen, therefore behold it! It may be seen, for it is the characteristic of real saints, —therefore fail not to inspect it! It is well worthy of admiration; pause and gaze upon it! It will charm you into imitation, therefore note it well! God looks on with approval, therefore consider it with attention. How good and holy pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! No one can tell the exceeding excellence of such a condition; and so the Psalmist uses the word "how" twice; — Behold how good! and how pleasant! He does not attempt to measure either the good or the pleasure, but invites us to behold for ourselves. The combination of the two adjectives "good" and "pleasant", is more remarkable than the conjunction of two stars of the first magnitude: for a thing to be "good" is good, but for it also to be pleasant is better. All men love pleasant things, and yet it frequently happens that the pleasure is evil; but here the condition is as good as it is pleasant, as pleasant as it is good, for the same "how" is set before each qualifying word.
For brethren according to the flesh to dwell together is not always wise; for experience teaches that they are better a little apart, and it is shameful for them to dwell together in disunion. They had much better part in peace like Abraham and Lot, than dwell together in envy like Joseph's brothers. When brethren can and do dwell together in unity, then is their communion worthy to be gazed upon and sung of in holy Psalmody. Such sights ought often to be seen among those who are near of kin, for they are brethren, and therefore should be united in heart and aim; they dwell together, and it is for their mutual comfort that there should be no strife; and yet how many families are rent by fierce feuds, and exhibit a spectacle which is neither good nor pleasant!
As to brethren in spirit, they ought to dwell together in church fellowship, and in that fellowship one essential matter is unity. We can dispense with uniformity if we possess unity: oneness of life, truth, and way; oneness in Christ Jesus; oneness of object and spirit — these we must have, or our assemblies will be synagogues of contention rather than churches of Christ. The closer the unity the better; for the more of the good and the pleasant there will be. Since we are imperfect beings, somewhat of the evil and the unpleasant is sure to intrude; but this will readily be neutralized and easily ejected by the true love of the saints, if it really exists. Christian unity is good in itself, good for ourselves, good for the brethren, good for our converts, good for the outside world; and for certain it is pleasant; for a loving heart must have pleasure and give pleasure in associating with others of like nature. A church united for years in earnest service of the Lord is a well of goodness and joy to all those who dwell round about it.
Verse 2. It is like the precious ointment upon the head. In order that we may the better behold brotherly unity David gives us a resemblance, so that as in a glass we may perceive its blessedness. It has a sweet perfume about it, comparable to that precious ointment with which the first High Priest was anointed at his ordination. It is a holy thing, and so again is like the oil of consecration which was to be used only in the Lord's service. What a sacred thing must brotherly love be when it can be likened to an oil which must never be poured on any man but on the Lord's high priest alone! It is a diffusive thing: being poured on his bead the fragrant oil flowed down upon Aaron's head, and thence dropped upon his garments till the utmost hem was anointed therewith; and even so doth brotherly love extend its benign power and bless all who are beneath its influence. Hearty concord brings a benediction upon all concerned; its goodness and pleasure are shared in by the lowliest members of the household; even the servants are the better and the happier because of the lovely unity among the members of the family. It has a special use about it; for as by the anointing oil Aaron was set apart for the special service of Jehovah, even so those who dwell in love are the better fitted to glorify God in his church. The Lord is not likely to use for his glory those who are devoid of love; they lack the anointing needful to make them priests unto the Lord. That ran down upon the beard, even Aaron's beard. This is a chief point of comparison, that as the oil did not remain confined to the place where it first fell, but flowed down the High Priest's hair and bedewed his beard, even so brotherly love descending from the head distils and descends, anointing as it runs, and perfuming all it lights upon. That went down to the skirts of his garments. Once set in motion it would not cease from flowing. It might seem as if it were better not to smear his garments with oil, but the sacred unguent could not be restrained, it flowed over his holy robes; even thus does brotherly love not only flow over the hearts upon which it was first poured out, and descend to those who are an inferior part of the mystical body of Christ, but it runs where it is not sought for, asking neither leave nor license to make its way. Christian affection knows no limits of parish, nation, sect, or age. Is the man a believer in Christ? Then he is in the one body, and I must yield him an abiding love. Is he one of the poorest, one of the least spiritual, one of the least lovable? Then he is as the skirts of the garment, and my heart's love must fall even upon him. Brotherly love comes from the head, but falls to the feet. Its way is downward. It "ran down", and it" went down": love for the brethren condescends to men of low estate, it is not puffed up, but is lowly and meek. This is no small part of its excellence: oil would not anoint if it did not flow down, neither would brotherly love diffuse its blessing if it did not descend.
Verse 3. As the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion. From the loftier mountains the moisture appears to be wafted to the lesser hills: the dews of Hermon fall on Zion. The Alpine Lebanon ministers to the minor elevation of the city of David; and so does brotherly love descend from the higher to the lower, refreshing and enlivening in its course. Holy concord is as dew, mysteriously blessed, full of life and growth for all plants of grace. It brings with it so much benediction that it is as no common dew, but as that of Hermon which is specially copious, and far reaching. The proper rendering is, "As the dew of Hermon that descended upon the mountains of Zion", and this tallies with the figure which has been already used; and sets forth by a second simile the sweet descending diffusiveness of brotherly unity. For there the LORD commanded the blessing, even life for evermore. That is, in Zion, or better still, in the place where brotherly love abounds. Where love reigns God reigns. Where love wishes blessing, there God commands the blessing. God has but to command, and it is done. He is so pleased to see his dear children happy in one another that he fails not to make them happy in himself. He gives especially his best blessing of eternal life, for love is life; dwelling together in love we have begun the enjoyments of eternity, and these shall not be taken from us. Let us love for evermore, and we shall live for evermore. This makes Christian brotherhood so good and pleasant; it has Jehovah's blessing resting upon it, and it cannot be otherwise than sacred like "the precious ointment", and heavenly like "the dew of Hermon." O for more of this rare virtue! Not the love which comes and goes, but that which dwells; not that spirit which separates and secludes, but that which dwells together; not that mind which is all for debate and difference, but that which dwells together in unity. Never shall we know the full power of the anointing till we are of one heart and of one spirit; never will the sacred dew of the Spirit descend in all its fulness till we are perfectly joined together in the same mind; never will the covenanted and commanded blessing come forth from the Lord our God till once again we shall have "one Lord, one faith, one baptism." Lord, lead us into this most precious spiritual unity, for thy Son's sake. Amen. Excerpt from The Treasury of David: Spurgeon's Great Commentary on Psalms
When Charles Spurgeon died in January 1892, London went into mourning. Nearly 60,000 people came to pay homage during the three days his body lay in state at the Metropolitan Tabernacle. Some 100,000 lined the streets as a funeral parade two miles long followed his hearse from the Tabernacle to the cemetery. Flags flew at half-staff and shops and pubs were closed. See entire article here.Charles Spurgeon Books | Go to Books Page
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
11/1/2013 Enjoying God, Coram Deo
I am a confessional Presbyterian pastor. As such, I subscribe to the Westminster Standards, consisting of the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Larger and Shorter Catechisms. Over the years I have heard the Westminster Standards criticized for being too erudite; some have charged that the Westminster divines (theologians) were so concerned with doctrinal precision that they failed to display the beauty and loveliness of the faith in their documents. Although I appreciate their concerns, I always remind such critics that the Westminster catechisms begin with the language of glorifying and enjoying God, and that the Standards exist to explain in doctrinal terms how Scripture directs us to glorify and enjoy God in all we think, do, and say.
I first came across the Standards at a Ligonier Ministries conference about twenty years ago. I had no idea what they were, but as a student it was one of the only books I could afford. I spent four dollars on a copy of the Standards and devoured them from beginning to end. I quickly concluded that they were the most helpful summary of biblical doctrine I had ever encountered, and it was the doctrinal precision of the Standards that made them so beautiful to me.
The first question and answer of the Westminster Shorter Catechism is as follows: “What is the chief end of man? Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” When I read that, I didn’t struggle to understand the first part of the answer: “To glorify God,” but I did struggle to understand the second part: “to enjoy him forever.” Why didn’t the Westminster divines provide us with an answer that echoed Jesus’ answer when He said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matt. 22:37)? Why didn’t they just say, “To glorify God,” and leave it at that? What did they mean by “enjoy him forever”?
Over time, I have come to see the wisdom of the words to enjoy God. They capture the all encompassing nature of our relationship with God; namely, being chosen by God, called by God, united to God in Christ, justified by God, indwelt by the Spirit of God, adopted by God, sanctified by God, and loving God and neighbor to the end that we might glorify God. And although we will not be able to grasp the full meaning of enjoying God until we meet Christ face to face, we can know and experience now in part what it means to enjoy God because the Son of God, Jesus Christ, has met us, has dwelt among us, and now dwells within us by the Holy Spirit. Throughout history, our covenant God has graciously dwelt among His people in various ways, and yet we eagerly look forward to that glorious day when God will establish His eternal presence with us in the new heavens and new earth that we might fully glorify and enjoy Him, coram Deo, before His face, forever.
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Dr. Burk Parsons (@BurkParsons) is editor of Tabletalk magazine, senior pastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., a visiting lecturer at Reformed Theological Seminary, and a Ligonier Ministries teaching fellow. He is editor of John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, and Doxology.
Ligonier coram Deo (definition)
by Bill Federer
Millard Fillmore became the 13th President this day, July 10, 1850, when President Zachary Taylor died unexpectedly. He was remembered for sending Commodore Perry to open trade with Japan, admitting California, which had just begun the Gold Rush, into the Union as a free state, and when the Library of Congress caught on fire, he and his Cabinet formed a bucket brigade to help extinguish the flames. After being sworn into office, President Millard Fillmore addressed Congress: “I dare not shrink … I rely upon Him who holds in His hands the destinies of nations to endow me with … strength for the task.”
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
We believe we are rising because while keeping the same base inclinations (for instance: the desire to triumph over others) we have given them a noble object. We should, on the contrary, rise by attaching noble inclinations to lowly objects.
--- Simone Weil
Gravity and Grace (1972), p. 48
Humility before men
may be unconscious blasphemy before God
--- Oswald Chambers
For many people during many centuries, mankind’s history before the coming of Christianity was the history of the Jews and what they recounted of the history of others. Both were written down in the books called the Old Testament, [the Torah] the sacred writings of the Jewish people ... They were the first to arrive at an abstract notion of God and to forbid his representation by images. No other people has produced a greater historical impact from such comparatively insignificant origins and resources ...
--- J.M. Roberts
The New History of the World
If people can be sensible about these everyday matters, why can’t they be sensible about eternal matters, especially since the consequences are much more tragic?
--- Warren Wiersbe
Be Decisive (Jeremiah): Taking a Stand for the Truth (The BE Series Commentary)
... from here, there and everywhere
CHAPTER 17 / The Torah, the Heart,
What, if anything, is the relationship between the opening words of the paragraph—“you shall love the Lord your God”—and the second verse: “these words which I command you this day shall be upon your heart”?
The author of the popular medieval work on the 613 commandments, the Ḥinukh,4 quotes the Sifre, which says:
It is said, “You shall love the Lord your God” (Deut. 6:4). But (from this) I do not know how one loves Him; therefore is it said, “And these words … shall be upon your heart” (ibid. 6:6)—as a result of this you will come to know Him by whose word the world came into being. (5)
(5) Sifre to Va-et’ḥanan, 8.
The Ḥinukh comments:
That is to say, that by contemplation of the Torah one comes to acknowledge the greatness of the Holy One who is unsurpassed and infinite, and thus will his love for Him be firmly implanted in his heart.
The connection is clear: love for God is enhanced and strengthened by the study of Torah. Thus, to love God fully means to place “these words” upon our hearts.
This passage from Sifre and those who built upon it, such as the Hinukh, clearly argue for study of Torah, as opposed to contemplation of Nature, as the major source of love for God—in apparent contradistinction to Maimonides, who, toward the beginning of his great halakhic code, points to Nature as the source of both the love and fear of God. (6) Why this particular stance on the provenance of love?
(6) See chapter 10 for a more elaborate discussion on this theme.
I suggest that the key to the answer lies in two words at the end of the Sifre passage, two words omitted by the Ḥinukh and others, such as the Mishnah Berurah. (7) Those words are u-medabbek bi’derakhav, “you will come to know Him by whose word the world came into being and cling to His ways.” That is, if we arrive at love for God through contemplating Nature, we may well thereby “come to know Him by whose word the world came into being.” What begins with a study of Nature can lead, ultimately, to an appreciation for the Author of Nature in His role as Creator. However, such an approach cannot take us beyond that and tell us anything of God’s character or personality, of His relationship with the human world. For this we must turn to Torah, which can offer us not only knowledge of the God who created Nature—“by whose word the world came into being”—but also of the character of this Deity, “His ways.” This latter understanding encourages us to imitate those ways, to “cling” to them and to God. The contemplation of Nature, in contrast, cannot tell us anything about God’s ethical character, and it cannot lead to imitatio Dei; only the study of Torah can do that. The more human way to know God and love Him, according to the Sifre, is through the study of and meditation in Torah.
(7) See above, n. 6.
This linkage between study and love is further amplified in succeeding generations of talmudic authorities and midrashic writers.
The Talmud approvingly records the statement of R. Avdimi, that at the revelation at Sinai, the Holy One raised the mountain over the heads of the assembled Israelites and said to them, “If you accept the Torah, good; if not, here shall be your burial place.” The Gemara proceeds to analyze this aggada legally: if the Torah was coerced on us, how can it be considered a valid covenant?
The same quotation of R. Avdimi appears in the Midrash, (8) which does not indulge in halakhic analysis of the validity of the Torah as a binding contract. Instead, it asks another question, (9) the answer to which offers an important distinction as to what aspect of Torah has this power to lead to the love for God. Thus:
(8) Midrash Tanḥuma (Warsaw ed.), to Noaḥ, chapter 3.
(9) The same question appears in Tosafot (to Shabbat 88a, s.v. Kafah), which apparently was unaware of the passage in the Tanḥuma.
Now, if you will say that He raised the mountain over [the Israelites] concerning the Written Torah (i.e., the Pentateuch), then [we may ask]: did the Jews not immediately respond when He asked, “Do you accept the Torah?” that “we shall do and we shall obey”—for [the Written Torah] is short and requires no special effort or pain (to study it)? So, it must be that He [coerced them] concerning the Oral Torah (i.e., the whole of what became the Talmud and its vast literature), for it contains the precise manner of performing the mitzvot, both the easy and the difficult ones, and [its love] is strong as death and its jealousy as cruel as the grave. (10) For one does not [undertake to] study the Oral Law if He does not love the Holy One with all his heart and all his soul and all his might, as it is written, “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your might”
(Deut. 6:5). And whence do we learn that this “love” implies study? See what is written [immediately] afterwards: “And these words … shall be upon your heart” (Deut. 6:6). And what kind of study can be said to be “upon your heart?” Read further: “And you shall teach them diligently unto your children”—this refers to the study [of Torah] that requires sharpness. (11)
(10) araphrasing Song of Songs 8:6.
(11) Ve’shinantam (“you shall teach them diligently”) is related to shinun, sharpness or acuity, i.e., the kind of study that requires keen logical analysis.
The Shema: Spirituality and Law in Judaism
Thanks to Meir Yona
The Jews Greatly Complain Of Archelaus And Desire That They May Be Made Subject To Roman Governors. But When Caesar Had Heard What They Had To Say, He Distributed Herod's Dominions Among His Sons According To His Own Pleasure.
1. But now came another accusation from the Jews against Archelaus at Rome, which he was to answer to. It was made by those ambassadors who, before the revolt, had come, by Varus's permission, to plead for the liberty of their country; those that came were fifty in number, but there were more than eight thousand of the Jews at Rome who supported them. And when Caesar had assembled a council of the principal Romans in Apollo's 2 temple, that was in the palace, [this was what he had himself built and adorned, at a vast expense,] the multitude of the Jews stood with the ambassadors, and on the other side stood Archelaus, with his friends; but as for the kindred of Archelaus, they stood on neither side; for to stand on Archelaus's side, their hatred to him, and envy at him, would not give them leave, while yet they were afraid to be seen by Caesar with his accusers. Besides these, there were present Archelaus's brother Philip, being sent thither beforehand, out of kindness by Varus, for two reasons: the one was this, that he might be assisting to Archelaus; and the other was this, that in case Caesar should make a distribution of what Herod possessed among his posterity, he might obtain some share of it.
2. And now, upon the permission that was given the accusers to speak, they, in the first place, went over Herod's breaches of their law, and said that he was not a king, but the most barbarous of all tyrants, and that they had found him to be such by the sufferings they underwent from him; that when a very great number had been slain by him, those that were left had endured such miseries, that they called those that were dead happy men; that he had not only tortured the bodies of his subjects, but entire cities, and had done much harm to the cities of his own country, while he adorned those that belonged to foreigners; and he shed the blood of Jews, in order to do kindnesses to those people that were out of their bounds; that he had filled the nation full of poverty, and of the greatest iniquity, instead of that happiness and those laws which they had anciently enjoyed; that, in short, the Jews had borne more calamities from Herod, in a few years, than had their forefathers during all that interval of time that had passed since they had come out of Babylon, and returned home, in the reign of Xerxes 3 that, however, the nation was come to so low a condition, by being inured to hardships, that they submitted to his successor of their own accord, though he brought them into bitter slavery; that accordingly they readily called Archelaus, though he was the son of so great a tyrant, king, after the decease of his father, and joined with him in mourning for the death of Herod, and in wishing him good success in that his succession; while yet this Archelaus, lest he should be in danger of not being thought the genuine son of Herod, began his reign with the murder of three thousand citizens; as if he had a mind to offer so many bloody sacrifices to God for his government, and to fill the temple with the like number of dead bodies at that festival: that, however, those that were left after so many miseries, had just reason to consider now at last the calamities they had undergone, and to oppose themselves, like soldiers in war, to receive those stripes upon their faces [but not upon their backs, as hitherto]. Whereupon they prayed that the Romans would have compassion upon the [poor] remains of Judea, and not expose what was left of them to such as barbarously tore them to pieces, and that they would join their country to Syria, and administer the government by their own commanders, whereby it would [soon] be demonstrated that those who are now under the calumny of seditious persons, and lovers of war, know how to bear governors that are set over them, if they be but tolerable ones. So the Jews concluded their accusation with this request. Then rose up Nicolaus, and confuted the accusations which were brought against the kings, and himself accused the Jewish nation, as hard to be ruled, and as naturally disobedient to kings. He also reproached all those kinsmen of Archelaus who had left him, and were gone over to his accusers.
3. So Caesar, after he had heard both sides, dissolved the assembly for that time; but a few days afterward, he gave the one half of Herod's kingdom to Archelaus, by the name of Ethnarch, and promised to make him king also afterward, if he rendered himself worthy of that dignity. But as to the other half, he divided it into two tetrarchies, and gave them to two other sons of Herod, the one of them to Philip, and the other to that Antipas who contested the kingdom with Archelaus. Under this last was Perea and Galilee, with a revenue of two hundred talents; but Batanea, and Trachonitis, and Auranitis, and certain parts of Zeno's house about Jamnia, with a revenue of a hundred talents, were made subject to Philip; while Idumea, and all Judea, and Samaria were parts of the ethnarchy of Archelaus, although Samaria was eased of one quarter of its taxes, out of regard to their not having revolted with the rest of the nation. He also made subject to him the following cities, viz. Strato's Tower, and Sebaste, and Joppa, and Jerusalem; but as to the Grecian cities, Gaza, and Gadara, and Hippos, he cut them off from the kingdom, and added them to Syria. Now the revenue of the country that was given to Archelaus was four hundred talents. Salome also, besides what the king had left her in his testaments, was now made mistress of Jamnia, and Ashdod, and Phasaelis. Caesar did moreover bestow upon her the royal palace of Ascalon; by all which she got together a revenue of sixty talents; but he put her house under the ethnarchy of Archelaus. And for the rest of Herod's offspring, they received what was bequeathed to them in his testaments; but, besides that, Caesar granted to Herod's two virgin daughters five hundred thousand [drachmae] of silver, and gave them in marriage to the sons of Pheroras: but after this family distribution, he gave between them what had been bequeathed to him by Herod, which was a thousand talents, reserving to himself only some inconsiderable presents, in honor of the deceased.
The War of the Jews: The History of the Destruction of Jerusalem (complete edition, 7 books)
by D.H. Stern
he directs it wherever he pleases.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
The spiritual sluggard
Let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works; not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together. --- Hebrews 10:24–25.
We are all capable of being spiritual sluggards; we do not want to mix with the rough and tumble of life as it is, our one object is to secure retirement. The note struck in Hebrews 10 is that of provoking one another and of keeping together—both of which require initiative, the initiative of Christ-realization, not of self-realization. To live a remote, retired, secluded life is the antipodes of spirituality as Jesus Christ taught it.
The test of our spirituality comes when we come up against injustice and meanness and ingratitude and turmoil, all of which have the tendency to make us spiritual sluggards. We want to use prayer and Bible reading for the purpose of retirement. We utilize God for the sake of getting peace and joy, that is, we do not want to realize Jesus Christ, but only our enjoyment of Him. This is the first step in the wrong direction. All these things are effects and we try to make them causes.
“I think it meet,” said Peter, “… to stir you up by putting you in remembrance.” It is a most disturbing thing to be smitten in the ribs by some provoker of God, by someone who is full of spiritual activity. Active work and spiritual activity are not the same thing. Active work may be the counterfeit of spiritual activity. The danger of spiritual sluggishness is that we do not wish to be stirred up, all we want to hear about is spiritual retirement. Jesus Christ never encourages the idea of retirement—“Go tell My brethren …”
My Utmost for His Highest
the Poetry of RS Thomas
You never asked what he was like,
That man, Prytherch. Did you class him
With other labourers, breaking the wild
Mare of the soil with bare knuckles
And gnarled thighs, knowing him shut
In cold arenas between hedges
With no audience, a man for whom
The star's bridle was hung too high?
He was in rags; you were right there.
But the blood was fanned by the sharp draught
Of winter into a huge blaze
In the cheek's grate, and eyes that you might
Have fancied brown from their long gazing
Downward were of a hard blue,
So shrill they would not permit the ear
To hear what the lips slobber intended.
Selected poems, 1946-1968
David numbered the people
It is probable that this chapter once stood in intimate connection with ch. 21, and that the famine therein described was followed by a pestilence, of which the blame largely rested upon David, though the sin punished by it was fully shared by the people. In saying that David was moved of Jehovah to number Israel and Judah, the writer acknowledges the great truth that all action, both good and evil, is of God. “Shall there be evil in a city, and Jehovah hath not done it?” (Amos 3:6).
While we are taught to pray that we may not be led into temptation, yet trial and temptation are by God’s ordinance for man’s good. Man falls only when the temptation gives the opportunity for the outbreak of that which already was at work within (Jas. 1:14). If the previous watch over the heart has been careful and earnest, then the temptation is a stepping-stone to a nobler and more pure godliness; and if a man fall, yet even so he learns by outward proof what was secretly ruining his soul, and may by its manifestation be led to repentance. Now there are a couple of lines worth a lot of thought and reflection. There were festering in David’s heart a thirst for war, and pride in his victories; a growing ambition, and, as its necessary result, a disregard of the rights of other nations. The same passions were gaining a daily increasing influence over the people generally. It is too often the case that a nation uses the bravery which has obtained for it freedom from foreign oppression, to impose the yoke of slavery upon others. But this chastisement brought back David and his subjects to more upright counsels.
In 1 Chron. 21:1 the temptation is ascribed to Satan, because David fell. God tempts, that is, tries men that they may stand more firmly and advance in all that is true and good. Satan tempts men that he may find out their weaknesses and effect their ruin. Yet David fell only to rise again. Satan’s triumph was but temporary, and the result was good for king and people, who would have suffered far more terribly from the effects of their lust of war than from the pestilence.
Temptation, then, has two sides, and is good or evil according to the use we make of it; but in itself it is a necessity for our probation. The trials and sorrows of life serve but to break up the fallow ground (Jer. 4:3); and without them our hearts would remain hard as the roadway; and the good seed, which may spring up to eternal life, would lie unheeded upon the surface, and find no entrance into their depths.
As regards the exact time to which this pestilence may be referred, we cannot draw any certain conclusion from its place in 1 Chron. 21, because it seems to have been inserted there in connection with the arrangements for the building of the temple, which was erected upon the site purchased from Araunah. As Joab, however, could be spared for nine months and twenty days for the making of this census, it is plain that it took place in a time of profound peace. Probably, therefore, its position in 1 Chronicles is right, namely, at some time after the termination of David’s great wars. About twelve years elapsed between the capture of Rabbah and the rebellion of Absalom, and if during this period the respect of the people for David was first damaged by the revelation of his adultery with Bathsheba, and the murder of her husband, and then rudely shaken by the repeated manifestation of the displeasure of the Most High, it is not so surprising, perhaps, that his hold upon his subjects was so small as to make them ready to favour the designs of his ambitious son. But wherein lay the sin? Not only was a census lawful, but it was actually commanded (Exod. 30:12); and the idea of the Jewish commentators, that the sin consisted in neglecting to pay the half-shekel there enjoined upon each man numbered, is not merely gratuitous, but is disproved by Joab’s remonstrance; for he objects to the census absolutely. From what, too, we know of Joab’s character, we cannot suppose that he would be particularly shocked at this being a census of the fighting men. Yet these Israelites were very noble men in their love of freedom and their respect for their national constitution; and if Joab observed in David a growing disposition towards despotism, and foresaw danger to the nation’s liberty from the king’s lust of foreign conquest, he was too upright a statesman not to oppose a measure which would strengthen the king in his dangerous tendencies.
His words in 1 Chron. 21:3, “Are they not all my lord’s servants?” seem to have this meaning. David was the master of all these fighting men. If their vast number was paraded before his imagination, it might lead him, flushed with past successes, into aggressive war; and victory abroad would lead to the destruction of freedom at home. The sin plainly lay in the violation of the principles of the theocratic government, which fostered personal independence in every member of the nation, and were opposed to every war except one of self-defence; and it was the fact that a nation so governed was weak and almost powerless even to protect itself, that had made the people clamour for a king. And now the opposite dangers were developing themselves, and the Israelites, dazzled by the glamour of victory, were joining with their king in a longing after extended empire. Do you read this and think of Hitler's military parades? The pestilence stopped them for the present in their ambitious course; the disruption of the kingdom under Rehoboam dispelled their dream for ever. In 1 Chron. 27:23 we also find the thought that the taking of a census, though several times practised by Moses
(Exod. 38:26; Numb. 1:2; 26:2), was in itself presumptuous, because it seemed to contradict the promise in Gen. 15:5, that the seed of Abraham should be past numbering.
The Pulpit Commentary (II Samuel)
Vision: Ponder the Greatness of God
W. W. Wiersbe
The Lord isn’t likely to give us today a vision such as Habakkuk saw, but because it’s recorded in the Word, we can ponder it and let the Spirit teach us from it. (Writing about his experience at the Transfiguration
(2 Peter 1:15–21), the Apostle Peter points out that the written Word is superior to glorious experiences. Only a few people can have rapturous experiences, but any believer can ponder them in the Word with the Spirit’s help. The people who had these great experiences have died, but the Word lives on. The memories of experiences will fade, but the Word remains the same. We now have a completed Bible, so the New Testament sheds light on the experiences of people like Moses, David, and the prophets; and we can see things that perhaps they didn’t see. So, instead of saying, “I wish I could have that kind of experience,” we should be asking, “Lord, what do You want to teach me from this experience?”) God reveals His greatness in creation, in Scripture, and in history, and if we have eyes to see, we can behold His glory. (These mighty revelations of God in history are called “theophanies,” from two Greek words meaning “an appearance of a God.” For other examples, see Psalms 18; 68; and 77; and
Exodus 15 and 19; and Deuteronomy 33.)
God came in splendor (Hab. 3:3–5). According to some scholars, Mt. Paran is another name for the entire Sinai Peninsula, or for Mt. Sinai itself (Deut. 33:2). Teman is usually identified with Edom. In this song, Habakkuk seems to be retracing the march of Israel from Sinai to the Promised Land.
Everything about this stanza reveals the glory of God. He is called “the Holy One” (Hab. 3:3, and see 1:12), a name used in Isaiah at least thirty times. “His glory covered the heavens” (3:3) is an anticipation of the time when His glory will cover all the earth (2:14). God’s appearance was like the lightning that plays across the heavens before the storm breaks. All of creation joined in praising Him as “the earth was full of His praise.” God’s brightness was like the sunrise only to a greater degree (see Matt. 17:2). “Horns” means “rays”: “rays flashed from His hand (Hab. 3:4, NIV) where His power was hidden.
Verse 5 takes us to Egypt, where God revealed His power and glory in the plagues and pestilences that devastated the land and took the lives of the firstborn (Ex. 7–12). Those ten plagues were not only punishment because of Pharaoh’s hardness of heart; they also revealed the vanity of Egypt’s gods. “Against all the gods of Egypt will I execute judgment: I am the Lord” (Ex. 12:12; Ps. 78:50). But this verse might also include the various judgments God sent to Israel when they disobeyed Him from time to time during their wilderness march.
In Old Testament times, God often revealed His glory through such judgments, but in this present dispensation, He reveals His glory through Jesus Christ. “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14, NKJV). Pharaoh wouldn’t acknowledge the truth, so he couldn’t experience the grace. The first plague of Moses in Egypt was the turning of water into blood (Ex. 7:14–25), while our Lord’s first recorded miracle was the turning of water into wine.
The Lord stood in power (Hab. 3:6–7). Invading generals either push forward to gain ground or they fall back in retreat, but the Lord simply stood and faced the enemy unafraid. In fact, He calmly measured the earth (The KJV has “measured” while the NIV has “shook.” It all depends on what root you select, the Hebrew or the Arabic. Perhaps both ideas are included.) as a sign that He possessed it. To measure something is an indication that it’s yours and you can do with it what you please. It’s also a preliminary step to action, as though the Lord were surveying the situation and estimating how much power it would take to execute His wrath on the nations. The Lord revealed His power when He shook the earth at Sinai before He delivered His Law to Israel
(Ex. 19:18; Heb. 12:18–21).
The nations that lay between Egypt and Canaan are typified by Cushan and Midian, two peoples living near Edom. As the news of the exodus from Egypt spread quickly through the nations, the people were terribly frightened and wondered what would happen to them when Israel arrived on the scene
(Ex. 15:14–16; 23:27; Deut. 2:25; Josh. 2:8–11).
God marched in victory (Hab. 3:8–15). Habakkuk uses dynamic poetic imagery to describe Israel’s march through the wilderness as they followed the Lord to the Promised Land and then claimed their inheritance. The Red Sea opened to let Israel out of Egypt, and the Jordan opened to let Israel into Canaan. The Egyptian chariots sank into the mud and their occupants were drowned, but God’s chariots were chariots of salvation. Verse 9 pictures the various battles that the Israelites fought en route to Canaan, battles that the Lord won for them as they trusted Him and obeyed His commands.
In verse 10, we move into the Promised Land and see Israel conquering the enemy. God was in complete control of land and water and used His creation to defeat the Canaanites. Verse 10 describes the victory of Deborah and Barak over Sisera (Jud. 4–5), when a sudden rainstorm turned their battlefield into a swamp and left the enemy’s chariots completely useless. In Habakkuk 3:11, we have the famous miracle of Joshua when the day was prolonged so Joshua would have more time for a total victory
(Josh. 10:12–13). Leading His army, God marched through Canaan like a farmer threshing grain, and His people claimed their inheritance (Hab. 3:12).
Expositors aren’t agreed as to what historical event is described in verses 13–15. This could be a picture of the nation’s deliverance from Egypt, but if it is, Habakkuk should have mentioned it earlier. God’s “anointed” would be the nation of Israel, for they were a holy people to the Lord
(Ex. 19:5–8). Perhaps the prophet is referring to the various times God had to deliver His people, as recorded in the Book of Judges, and the “anointed one” would then be the judges He raised up and used to bring deliverance (Jud. 2:10–19).
However, perhaps Habakkuk was looking ahead and describing the deliverance of God’s people from the Babylonian Captivity. God brought the Medes and Persians to crush Babylon and then to permit the Jews to return to their land (Ezra 1:1–4). The image of God stripping Babylon “from head to foot” (Hab. 3:13, NIV) parallels what Jeremiah prophesied in Jeremiah 50–51. Perhaps Habakkuk was looking both to the past (the Exodus) and to the future (deliverance from Babylon) and using the ancient victory to encourage the people to expect a new victory. (For other poetic descriptions of Israel’s history, see Psalms 44; 68; 74; 78; 80; 83; 89; 105–106; 135; and 136.)
In this hymm, Habakkuk describes his God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the God of glory who reveals His glory in creation and in history. He is the living God who makes the dead idols of the nations look ridiculous. He is the God of power who can command land and sea, heaven, and earth, and therefore, He is the God of victory who leads His people in triumph.
There is no substitute for good theology, whether in our RS Thomas or in our songs. The shallowness of some contemporary RS Thomas, books, and songs may be the major contributing factor to the weakness of the church and the increase in “religious entertainment” in meetings where we ought to be praising God. The thing that lifted Habakkuk to the mountaintop was his understanding of the greatness of God. We need a return to the kind of worship that focuses on the glory of God and seeks to honor Him alone. (William Cowper’s hymn “God Moves in a Mysterious Way” is based partly on this hymn in Habakkuk 3.)
Be Amazed (Minor Prophets): Restoring an Attitude of Wonder and Worship (The BE Series Commentary)
The swine lies down and stretches out its hoofs as if to say, “I am kosher.”
BIBLE TEXT / Genesis 26:34–35 / When Esau was forty years old, he took to wife Judith daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and Basemath daughter of Elon the Hittite; and they were a source of bitterness to Isaac and Rebekah.
MIDRASH TEXT / Genesis Rabbah 65, 1 / When Esau was forty years old, he took to wife.… Thus it is written, “… wild boars gnaw at it …” (Psalm 80:14). Rabbi Pinḥas in the name of Rabbi Simon: “Of all the prophets, only two spoke of it [Roman rule] publicly: Moses and Asaph. Moses said, ‘… also the swine—for although it has true hoofs, it does not bring up the cud—is unclean for you’ (Deuteronomy 14:8). Asaph said, ‘… wild boars gnaw at it …’ (Psalm 80:14). Why is it [Rome] compared to a swine? Just as the swine lies down and stretches out its hoofs, as if to say ‘I am kosher,’ so too this evil government robs and commits violence, yet makes it appear as if it sets up the platform [of a court]. In the same way, Esau for forty years preyed on the men’s wives and afflicted them; when he reached the age of forty, he compared himself to his father by saying, ‘Just as my father married at the age of forty, so too I will marry a wife at the age of forty.’ Thus it is written, ‘When Esau was forty years old, he took to wife.…’ ”
CONTEXT / The Jews in Israel under Roman rule were at times subject to persecution and oppression. On two occasions the Jews attempted an armed uprising, both of which (in 70 C.E. and 132 C.E.) ended disastrously. Our Midrash addresses the fact that despite its cruelty, Rome was the envy of the world for its wealth, power, and culture.
When Esau was forty years old, he took to wife.… It is interesting to note that the name Rome does not actually appear in this Midrash; it was no doubt too dangerous to make explicitly critical statements against the Roman occupation. Instead, oblique words (“it”) or general phrases (“the evil government”) are used. We even see the use of the figure of Esau as a coded reference for Rome. Esau was chosen because of his warlike nature and his enmity for Jacob, a symbol of the Jewish people.
Rabbi Pinḥas in the name of Rabbi Simon: “Of all the prophets, only two spoke of it publicly: Moses and Asaph.” We are told that only two of the prophets had the courage to be critical in public of Roman rule—and even then in a very guarded way. (The anachronistic problem of how Moses could speak of Rome when he lived more than a thousand years before its empire is not an issue to the Rabbis. They believed that Moses was a prophet who knew the future.) Why is it compared to a swine? Moses and Asaph, according to the Rabbis, were actually talking about the Romans when they spoke about swine or boars (i.e., the pig). Moses discussed the Jewish dietary laws in the Book of Deuteronomy and set forth the commandment that kosher animals had to have two “signs”: They had to chew their cud, and they had to have split hoofs. Deuteronomy 14:8 mentions that while the pig has split hoofs, it does not chew its cud and is therefore not kosher.
Asaph was a Levite who lived during the time of David and was from one of the families of singers in the Temple. Asaph is traditionally credited with composing Psalm 50 and Psalms 73–83. In Psalm 80, the people of Israel are likened to a vine, and their enemies to a wild boar eating the vine. According to Rabbinic interpretation, the boar represented Rome.
The two verses chosen—“… also the swine—for although it has true hoofs …” (Deuteronomy 14:8) and “… wild boars gnaw at it …” (Psalm 80:14)—represent the two sides of the Romans. In the latter verse, there is the wild creature trying to destroy and swallow the vine. In the former, there is the calm, domesticated animal extending its “kosher” (i.e., split) hoofs. The not-so-subtle point of the Midrash is: Don’t believe everything you see. The pig shows off its kosher feet; the Romans pretend that they are a cultured and moral nation. What we don’t see is that the swine does not chew its cud; accordingly, it is not “kosher.” Roman corruption and cruelty give lie to the pretense of justice.
In the same way, Esau.… Rome’s hypocrisy mirrors Esau’s. According to the Rabbis, Esau lived a life of debauchery. Yet, for appearance’s sake, he married at the same age as his father Isaac did (Genesis 25:20). Some people were fooled by his show of piety; those who knew him recognized his true nature. The same was true of Rome. The Jewish people were not fooled by Rome’s pretense at civilized demeanor.
Searching for Meaning in Midrash: Lessons for Everyday Living
Yet he saved them for his name’s sake.
--- Psalm 106:8.
What is imported in this “Yet,” in God’s saving notwithstanding? (Ralph Erskine, “God’s Great Name, the Ground and Reason of Saving Great Sinners,” preached at Carnock, July 18, 1730, before the administration of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, downloaded from Fire and Ice, Puritan and Reformed Writings, at www.puritanRS Thomas.com, accessed Aug. 21, 2001.) The text is speaking of impediments on the sinner’s part. God saved Israel here, notwithstanding dreadful sins. God can save you with an everlasting salvation, notwithstanding the most grievous provocations that you have been guilty of and the greatest impediments that you have laid in the way.
He can save for his name’s sake, notwithstanding grievous guilt and heinous transgressions. Thus his name is declared to be a God forgiving wickedness, rebellion, and sin. You see mercy courting you, notwithstanding this very objection.
He can save for his name’s sake, notwithstanding long continuance in sin. Mercy follows you with many a “how long, how long”: “How long will these people treat me with contempt? How long will they refuse to believe in me?”
He can save for his name’s sake, notwithstanding many apostasies and backslidings. “Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon” (Isa. 55:7).
He can save for his name’s sake, notwithstanding enormous neglect and contempt of God until now. See Isaiah 43:25, “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.”
He can save for his name’s sake, notwithstanding grievous, rebellious hardness and contrariness. “He kept on in his willful ways. I have seen his ways, but I will heal him; I will guide him and restore comfort to him”
He can save for his name’s sake, notwithstanding outward afflictions and poor circumstances in the world. Though you are an outcast and nobody cares for you, he may save you for his name’s sake, for he “gathers the exiles of Israel”
He can save for his name’s sake, notwithstanding degradation, unworthiness, and pollution, for there is a fountain opened. “On that day a fountain will be opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and impurity” (Zech. 13:1).
--- Ralph Erskine
Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
A Little Relief July 10
During the days of Emperor Trajan, John the Apostle, the last surviving of the twelve disciples, passed away of natural causes. Then Trajan himself fell ill, suffered a stroke, developed dropsy, and died in 117 at age 64. His widow conspired with Hadrian to bring him to the throne. He was tall and elegant, his hair curly, and he sported a beard to hide the blemishes on his face.
In 124–125, Emperor Hadrian provided a little relief for suffering Christians. Anti-Christian riots had broken out in Asia Minor, and the governor had written Hadrian for advice. The emperor, whose nod against the church might well have led to a Christian holocaust, proved neutral. He ordered cases against Christians tried, but he decreed that the defendants had to be proven guilty before they could be condemned. Slanderous attacks on them were forbidden.
Now, if our subjects of the provinces are able to sustain by evidence their charges against the Christians I have no objection. But I do not allow them to have recourse to mere clamorous demands and outcries to this end. If therefore anyone accuses and proves that the aforesaid men do anything contrary to the laws, you will pass sentences corresponding to their offenses. On the other hand, I emphatically insist that if anyone demand a writ of summons against any of these Christians merely as a slanderous accusation, you proceed against that man with heavier penalties, in proportion to the gravity of his offense.
But while Hadrian was indifferent toward Christianity, he was bitterly opposed to Judaism. He ordered Jerusalem rebuilt as a Roman colony and renamed Aelia Capitolina. Like a miniature Antichrist, he erected pagan altars on the temple site—leading to another Jewish uprising and bloodbath. It was during that same year, 135, that Hadrian, 59, fell sick with a painful, wasting illness. He begged for hemlock. No one would oblige him and he suffered three years before dying on July 10, 138.
Children, this is the last hour. You heard that the enemy of Christ would appear at this time, and many of Christ’s enemies have already appeared. So we know that the last hour is here. Keep thinking about the message you first heard, and you will always be one in your heart with the Son and with the Father.
--- 1 John 2:18,24.
On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - July 10
“Fellow citizens with the saints.” --- Ephesians 2:19.
What is meant by our being citizens in heaven? It means that we are under heaven’s government. Christ the king of heaven reigns in our hearts; our daily prayer is, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” The proclamations issued from the throne of glory are freely received by us: the decrees of the Great King we cheerfully obey. Then as citizens of the New Jerusalem, we share heaven’s honours. The glory which belongs to beatified saints belongs to us, for we are already sons of God, already princes of the blood imperial; already we wear the spotless robe of Jesus’ righteousness; already we have angels for our servitors, saints for our companions, Christ for our Brother, God for our Father, and a crown of immortality for our reward. We share the honours of citizenship, for we have come to the general assembly and Church of the first-born whose names are written in heaven. As citizens, we have common rights to all the property of heaven. Ours are its gates of pearl and walls of chrysolite; ours the azure light of the city that needs no candle nor light of the sun; ours the river of the water of life, and the twelve manner of fruits which grow on the trees planted on the banks thereof; there is nought in heaven that belongeth not to us. “Things present, or things to come,” all are ours. Also as citizens of heaven we enjoy its delights. Do they there rejoice over sinners that repent—prodigals that have returned? So do we. Do they chant the glories of triumphant grace? We do the same. Do they cast their crowns at Jesus’ feet? Such honours as we have we cast there too. Are they charmed with his smile? It is not less sweet to us who dwell below. Do they look forward, waiting for his second advent? We also look and long for his appearing. If, then, we are thus citizens of heaven, let our walk and actions be consistent with our high dignity.
Evening - July 10
"And the Evening and the Morning were the first day." --- Genesis 1:5.
The Evening was “darkness” and the Morning was “light,” and yet the two together are called by the name that is given to the light alone! This is somewhat remarkable, but it has an exact analogy in spiritual experience. In every believer there is darkness and light, and yet he is not to be named a sinner because there is sin in him, but he is to be named a saint because he possesses some degree of holiness. This will be a most comforting thought to those who are mourning their infirmities, and who ask, “Can I be a child of God while there is so much darkness in me?” Yes; for you, like the day, take not your name from the Evening, but from the Morning; and you are spoken of in the word of God as if you were even now perfectly holy as you will be soon. You are called the child of light, though there is darkness in you still. You are named after what is the predominating quality in the sight of God, which will one day be the only principle remaining. Observe that the Evening comes first. Naturally we are darkness first in order of time, and the gloom is often first in our mournful apprehension, driving us to cry out in deep humiliation, “God be merciful to me, a sinner.” The place of the Morning is second, it dawns when grace overcomes nature. It is a blessed aphorism of John Bunyan, “That which is last, lasts for ever.” That which is first, yields in due season to the last; but nothing comes after the last. So that though you are naturally darkness, when once you become light in the Lord, there is no Evening to follow; “thy sun shall no more go down.” The first day in this life is an Evening and a Morning; but the second day, when we shall be with God, for ever, shall be a day with no Evening, but one, sacred, high, eternal noon.
Morning and Evening
NO ONE UNDERSTANDS LIKE JESUS
Words and Music by John W. Peterson, 1921–
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in our time of need. (Hebrews 4:15, 16)
Since World War II, the name John W. Peterson has become synonymous with fine Gospel music. Over 1,000 Gospel songs and hymns, as well as many other musical works such as cantatas, anthems, choral arrangements, and Gospel film musicales, have been written by this gifted and dedicated composer. Mr. Peterson gave this account of “No One Understands Like Jesus,” written during the early years of his ministry:
At one time I had a fairly responsible position with a well-known Gospel ministry. One day a supervisory position opened up in my department. I was led to believe that I was to be promoted to this position. I was thrilled and challenged by the prospect of a new job. But I was by-passed, and a man from the outside was brought in to fill the position. There followed days of agonizing heart searching. It was all I could do to keep from becoming bitter. One night I had occasion to spend an Evening with the man who was brought in for “my” position. For some reason or other, though otherwise a very pleasant fellow, that night he became quite caustic in some of his remarks to me, and I was deeply hurt. Later that Evening, after returning home, I was sitting in our living room thinking about the events of the past days and about the bitter experiences of that Evening. I began to feel very alone and forsaken. Suddenly, I sensed the presence of the Lord in an unusual way and my mind was diverted from my difficulties to His faithfulness and sufficiency. Soon the thought occurred to me that He fully understood and sympathized with my situation—in fact, no one could ever completely understand or care as did He. Before long, the idea for the song came and I began to write ---
* * * *
No one understands like Jesus. He’s a friend beyond compare; meet Him at the throne of mercy; He is waiting for you there.
No one understands like Jesus; ev’ry woe He sees and feels; tenderly He whispers comfort, and the broken heart He heals.
No one understands like Jesus when the foes of life assail; you should never be discouraged; Jesus cares and will not fail.
No one understands like Jesus when you falter on the way; tho you fail Him, sadly fail Him, He will pardon you today.
Refrain: No one understands like Jesus when the days are dark and grim; no one is so near, so dear as Jesus—Cast your ev’ry care on Him.
For Today: Job 23:10; Psalm 112:7; 131:2; 139:2; Proverbs 14:26.
Learn to handle human disappointments and rejection even as Joseph did by realizing this truth—“they meant it for harm, the Lord meant it for good” (Genesis 50:19, 20). Be thankful for Jesus who understands and will never disappoint. Sing as you go realizing that ---
Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
Martin Luther | (1483-1546)
Sect. LXXXI. — NOR do the similitudes adduced make any thing to the purpose, where it is said by the Diatribe — “As under the same sun, mud is hardened and wax melted; as by the same shower, the cultivated earth brings forth fruit, and the uncultivated earth thorns; so, by the same long-suffering of God, some are hardened and some converted.” —
For, we are not now dividing “Free-will” into two different natures, and making the one like mud, the other like wax; the one like cultivated earth, the other like uncultivated earth; but we are speaking concerning that one “Free-will” equally impotent in all men; which, as it cannot will good, is nothing but mud, nothing but uncultivated earth. Nor does Paul say that God, as the potter, makes one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour, out of different kinds of clay, but He saith, “Out of the same lump, &c.” (Rom. ix. 21.) Therefore, as mud always becomes harder, and uncultivated earth always becomes more thorny; even so “Free-will,” always becomes worse, both under the hardening sun of long-suffering, and under the softening shower of rain.
If, therefore, “Free-will” be of one and the same nature and impotency in all men, no reason can be given why it should attain unto grace in one, and not in another; if nothing else be preached to all, but the goodness of a long-suffering and the punishment of a mercy-shewing God. For it is a granted position, that “Free-will” in all, is alike defined to be, ‘that which cannot will good.’ And indeed, if it were not so, God could not elect any one, nor would there be any place left for Election; but for “Free-will” only, as choosing or refusing the long-suffering and anger of God. And if God be thus robbed of His power and wisdom to elect, what will there be remaining but that idol Fortune, under the name of which, all things take place at random! Nay, we shall at length come to this: that men may be saved and damned without God’s knowing anything at all about it; as not having determined by certain election who should be saved and who should be damned; but having set before all men in general His hardening goodness and long-suffering, and His mercy shewing correction and punishment, and left them to choose for themselves whether they would be saved or damned; while He, in the mean time, should be gone, as Homer says, to an Ethiopian feast!
It is just such a God as this that Aristotle paints out to us; that is, who sleeps Himself, and leaves every one to use or abuse His long-suffering and punishment just as He will. Nor can reason, of herself, form any other judgment than the Diatribe here does. For as she herself snores over, and looks with contempt upon, divine things; she thinks concerning God, that He sleeps and snores over them too; not exercising His wisdom, will, and presence, in choosing, separating, and inspiring, but leaving the troublesome and irksome business of accepting or refusing His long-suffering and His anger, entirely to men. This is what we come to, when we attempt, by human reason, to limit and make excuses for God, not revering the secrets of His Majesty, but curiously prying into them — being lost in the glory of them, instead of making one excuse for God, we pour forth a thousand blasphemies! And forgetting ourselves, we prate like madmen, both against God and against ourselves; when we are all the while supposing, that we are, with a great deal of wisdom, speaking both for God and for ourselves.
Here then you see, what that trope and gloss of the Diatribe, will make of God. And moreover, how excellently consistent the Diatribe is with itself; which before, by its one definition, made “Free-will” one and the same in all men: and now, in the course of its argumentation, forgetting its own definition, makes one “Free-will” to be cultivated and the other uncultivated, according to the difference of works, of manners, and of men: thus making two different “Free-wills”; the one, that which cannot do good, the other, that which can do good, and that by its own powers before grace: whereas, its former definition declared, that it could not, by those its own powers, will any thing good whatever. Hence, therefore, it comes to pass, that while we do not ascribe unto the will of God only, the will and power of hardening, shewing mercy, and doing all things; we ascribe unto “Freewill” itself the power of doing all things without grace; which, nevertheless, we declared to be unable to do any good whatever without grace.
The similitudes, therefore, of the sun and of the shower, make nothing at all to the purpose. The Christian would use those similitudes more rightly, if he were to make the sun and the shower to represent the Gospel, as Psalm xix. does, and as does also Hebrews vi. 7; and were to make the cultivated earth to represent the elect, and the uncultivated the reprobate; for the former are, by the word, edified and made better, while the latter are offended and made worse. Or, if this distinction be not made, then, as to “Free-will” itself, that, is in all men uncultivated earth and the kingdom of Satan.
The Bondage of the Will or Christian Classics Ethereal Library
& Message of Prophets
Dr. Gary Yates
Lecture 1 Ministry & Message
Lecture 2 Ministry & Message
Lecture 3 Overview
Lecture 4 Overview Part 2
Lecture 5 Assyrian Crisis
Lecture 6 Social Sins
Lecture 7 Religious Sins
Lecture 8 Judgmetn on Nations
Brett Meador | Athey Creek
Precious Thoughts, Precious Deeds
Psalm 139:17-18 | S2-257 | 06-16-2019