The Proverbs of SolomonProverbs 10:1 The proverbs of Solomon.
1 A wise son makes a glad father,
but a foolish son is a sorrow to his mother.
2 Treasures gained by wickedness do not profit,
but righteousness delivers from death.
3 The LORD does not let the righteous go hungry,
but he thwarts the craving of the wicked.
4 A slack hand causes poverty,
but the hand of the diligent makes rich.
5 He who gathers in summer is a prudent son,
but he who sleeps in harvest is a son who brings shame.
6 Blessings are on the head of the righteous,
but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence.
7 The memory of the righteous is a blessing,
but the name of the wicked will rot.
8 The wise of heart will receive commandments,
but a babbling fool will come to ruin.
9 Whoever walks in integrity walks securely,
but he who makes his ways crooked will be found out.
10 Whoever winks the eye causes trouble,
and a babbling fool will come to ruin.
11 The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life,
but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence.
12 Hatred stirs up strife,
but love covers all offenses.
13 On the lips of him who has understanding, wisdom is found,
but a rod is for the back of him who lacks sense.
14 The wise lay up knowledge,
but the mouth of a fool brings ruin near.
15 A rich man’s wealth is his strong city;
the poverty of the poor is their ruin.
16 The wage of the righteous leads to life,
the gain of the wicked to sin.
17 Whoever heeds instruction is on the path to life,
but he who rejects reproof leads others astray.
18 The one who conceals hatred has lying lips,
and whoever utters slander is a fool.
19 When words are many, transgression is not lacking,
but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.
20 The tongue of the righteous is choice silver;
the heart of the wicked is of little worth.
21 The lips of the righteous feed many,
but fools die for lack of sense.
22 The blessing of the LORD makes rich,
and he adds no sorrow with it.
23 Doing wrong is like a joke to a fool,
but wisdom is pleasure to a man of understanding.
24 What the wicked dreads will come upon him,
but the desire of the righteous will be granted.
25 When the tempest passes, the wicked is no more,
but the righteous is established forever.
26 Like vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes,
so is the sluggard to those who send him.
27 The fear of the LORD prolongs life,
but the years of the wicked will be short.
28 The hope of the righteous brings joy,
but the expectation of the wicked will perish.
29 The way of the LORD is a stronghold to the blameless,
but destruction to evildoers.
30 The righteous will never be removed,
but the wicked will not dwell in the land.
31 The mouth of the righteous brings forth wisdom,
but the perverse tongue will be cut off.
32 The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable,
but the mouth of the wicked, what is perverse.
Proverbs 11:1 A false balance is an abomination to the LORD,
but a just weight is his delight.
2 When pride comes, then comes disgrace,
but with the humble is wisdom.
3 The integrity of the upright guides them,
but the crookedness of the treacherous destroys them.
4 Riches do not profit in the day of wrath,
but righteousness delivers from death.
5 The righteousness of the blameless keeps his way straight,
but the wicked falls by his own wickedness.
6 The righteousness of the upright delivers them,
but the treacherous are taken captive by their lust.
7 When the wicked dies, his hope will perish,
and the expectation of wealth perishes too.
8 The righteous is delivered from trouble,
and the wicked walks into it instead.
9 With his mouth the godless man would destroy his neighbor,
but by knowledge the righteous are delivered.
10 When it goes well with the righteous, the city rejoices,
and when the wicked perish there are shouts of gladness.
11 By the blessing of the upright a city is exalted,
but by the mouth of the wicked it is overthrown.
12 Whoever belittles his neighbor lacks sense,
but a man of understanding remains silent.
13 Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets,
but he who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a thing covered.
14 Where there is no guidance, a people falls,
but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.
15 Whoever puts up security for a stranger will surely suffer harm,
but he who hates striking hands in pledge is secure.
16 A gracious woman gets honor,
and violent men get riches.
17 A man who is kind benefits himself,
but a cruel man hurts himself.
18 The wicked earns deceptive wages,
but one who sows righteousness gets a sure reward.
19 Whoever is steadfast in righteousness will live,
but he who pursues evil will die.
20 Those of crooked heart are an abomination to the LORD,
but those of blameless ways are his delight.
21 Be assured, an evil person will not go unpunished,
but the offspring of the righteous will be delivered.
22 Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout
is a beautiful woman without discretion.
23 The desire of the righteous ends only in good,
the expectation of the wicked in wrath.
24 One gives freely, yet grows all the richer;
another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want.
25 Whoever brings blessing will be enriched,
and one who waters will himself be watered.
26 The people curse him who holds back grain,
but a blessing is on the head of him who sells it.
27 Whoever diligently seeks good seeks favor,
but evil comes to him who searches for it.
28 Whoever trusts in his riches will fall,
but the righteous will flourish like a green leaf.
29 Whoever troubles his own household will inherit the wind,
and the fool will be servant to the wise of heart.
30 The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life,
and whoever captures souls is wise.
31 If the righteous is repaid on earth,
how much more the wicked and the sinner!
Proverbs 12:1 Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge,
but he who hates reproof is stupid.
2 A good man obtains favor from the LORD,
but a man of evil devices he condemns.
3 No one is established by wickedness,
but the root of the righteous will never be moved.
4 An excellent wife is the crown of her husband,
but she who brings shame is like rottenness in his bones.
5 The thoughts of the righteous are just;
the counsels of the wicked are deceitful.
6 The words of the wicked lie in wait for blood,
but the mouth of the upright delivers them.
7 The wicked are overthrown and are no more,
but the house of the righteous will stand.
8 A man is commended according to his good sense,
but one of twisted mind is despised.
9 Better to be lowly and have a servant
than to play the great man and lack bread.
10 Whoever is righteous has regard for the life of his beast,
but the mercy of the wicked is cruel.
11 Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread,
but he who follows worthless pursuits lacks sense.
12 Whoever is wicked covets the spoil of evildoers,
but the root of the righteous bears fruit.
13 An evil man is ensnared by the transgression of his lips,
but the righteous escapes from trouble.
14 From the fruit of his mouth a man is satisfied with good,
and the work of a man’s hand comes back to him.
15 The way of a fool is right in his own eyes,
but a wise man listens to advice.
16 The vexation of a fool is known at once,
but the prudent ignores an insult.
17 Whoever speaks the truth gives honest evidence,
but a false witness utters deceit.
18 There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts,
but the tongue of the wise brings healing.
19 Truthful lips endure forever,
but a lying tongue is but for a moment.
20 Deceit is in the heart of those who devise evil,
but those who plan peace have joy.
21 No ill befalls the righteous,
but the wicked are filled with trouble.
22 Lying lips are an abomination to the LORD,
but those who act faithfully are his delight.
23 A prudent man conceals knowledge,
but the heart of fools proclaims folly.
24 The hand of the diligent will rule,
while the slothful will be put to forced labor.
25 Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down,
but a good word makes him glad.
26 One who is righteous is a guide to his neighbor,
but the way of the wicked leads them astray.
27 Whoever is slothful will not roast his game,
but the diligent man will get precious wealth.
28 In the path of righteousness is life,
and in its pathway there is no death.
ESV Study Bible
What I'm Reading
Withholding Corn | Proverbs 11:26
By Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892)Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Volume 11
Sermon No. 642
IF I dared, I should always preach upon the comfortable promises and gracious doctrines of God’s Word. I find it most delightful and easy work to expatiate upon those themes of revelation which abound in sweetness and are full of savour and preciousness to the child of God. I said, “If I dared,” and you will ask me why I dare not? The answer is, because I have a solemn conviction on my mind, that if I would be clear of the blood of all men, I must strive to make my range of ministry as wide as the range of revelation, and I must not shun to declare the whole counsel of God. I feel bound to go. not where my wishes would lead me, but where Holy Scripture has made a track for my feet. There are certain texts in the Scriptures which are very seldom preached upon, because it is thought that there is little gospel in them, and that the people when they go home will say to one another, “Well, I was not fed this morning.” Those who aim at pleasing men, may well be shy of such subjects. But I hold that, since God in his wisdom has placed these passages in the Bible, he intended his servants, the preachers of the Word, to expound them. We are, it strikes me, not to preach from selections of Scripture only, but from the whole of the Sacred Volume, for “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” I freely confess that I do not know why I have selected this text this morning, except that it haunted and hunted me until I could not forbear to preach upon it. It seems to force itself upon me, and to bore its way into my soul like a rifle shot. I thought it over and over and could not make much of it, until I yielded up myself to it, saying within myself, “If the Lord has anything to say to the people out of my mouth, here it is — let him use it.” If there should be any persons among our country friends, or our corn-dealing townsmen, who this morning feel at all touched by the text, I cannot help it; there is my Master’s message to them, and I can only deliver it with the best intentions, hoping that those to whom it comes home may be profited by it. It will, however, soon be clear to you that the verse before us has, besides its first meaning a weight of very important spirutal teaching in it, to which we shall all do well to take heed. “E’er since by faith I saw the stream “Were the whole realm of nature mine,
The text, as it stands, has to do, as you clearly see, with owners of com and dealers in it. In Solomon’s days there were very frequent famines. Communication between one nation and another was so extremely difficult that the transportation of wheat in any large quantities was not attempted; and therefore, if a failure in the crops occurred in one district, the scarcity in that neighbourhood was not compensated by abundance in another, and terrible famines prevailed. Certain persons in those days, not only stored up all the corn which grew on thrown fields, but purchased as much as they could of others, so as to raise the market above its natural level. This, under the circumstances, was a very high affront put upon God, for instead of bearing their part in his judgments, these men enriched themselves by the poverty of their starving neighbours. There have been such people ever since Solomon’s day, and although the present system of free trade has nearly put an end to that kind of thing, there are doubtless some who would again withhold their com, even at famine prices, if they could rise the price still higher. How does Scripture deal with this peculiar form of greed in trade?
I cannot but admire the wonderful reserve of Holy Scripture, for as Mr. Arnot well observes, “in this brief maxim no arbitrary rule is laid down to the possessor of corn, that he must sell at a certain period and at a certain price: and yet the hungry are not left without a protecting law. The protection of the weak is entrusted not to small police regulations, but to great self-acting providential arrangements. The double fact is recorded in terms of peculiar distinctness, that he who in times of scarcity keeps up his com in order to enrich himself is loathed by the people, and he who sells it freely is loved. This is all. There is no further legislation on the subject.” Our narrow wisdom might have wished for some definite law upon the subject, something like a sliding scale, but the great ruler of heaven and earth falls into no such error. Laws which interfere between buyer and seller, master and workman, by any form of law, are blunders and nuisances. Parliaments and princes have hung on to the antiquated absurdity of regulating prices, but the Holy Ghost does nothing of the kind. All the attempts of men to control the price of bread and wheat is sheer folly, as the history of France may well prove. The market goes best when it is left alone, and so in our text, there is no law enacted and no penalty threatened, except that which the nature of things makes inevitable. God knows political economy, whether men do or not, and leaving the coarse machinery of police regulations, he puts the offender under a form of self-acting legislature which is far more efficient. The text seems to say, “Well, if you have no love to your neighbour, and choose to keep your wheat, I make no law to break open your granary or pull down your ricks, but you will most certainly gain the hatred, contempt, and curse of the people among whom you dwell.”
You see, dear friends, that the man may do as he pleases about selling or not, but he cannot escape from the curse of the people if he chooses to lock up his grain; and on the other hand if he will sell at a proper price, or, as another translation reads it. break his bread, that is to say, give it to the starving if they cannot buy it, he will receive blessings not only from the people but from heaven itself.
Brethren, this is a matter of fact, that any man of any observation must have seen, that there is no transaction which ever brings such ill will upon a man, such general condemnation, especially from the poor, as withholding the corn. Common consent condemns the hoarder, and human nature revolts at his offence. Ask any one you choose to meet, except he be himself deep in the same mire, and he will join you in crying out against it. Of course there are many ways of defending the deed, but there is no way of escaping the fact that the people curse the doer of it in their hearts. “Well,” says one, “it is my own corn, I may do as I like with it.” Just so, nobody said you could not; nobody disputed your rights only you are warned that in hoarding it you are sure to get the people’s curse. You cannot alter that; it will follow and hang about your heels, and as far as the fact is known, it will make men curl the lip at you and sneer if they are your equals, while the working-men deep in their hearts will abhor you. No matter how kind you may be to the poor in other matters, nor how you may have given your money in other ways, your holding the corn will be a scorn among your enemies, and an offence to your best friends. It is not always an ill sign when the voice of the people is against a man, but in this case Scripture endorses it, and he who dares to run the risk is none too wise.
“Ah,” says another, “I do not see the wrong of withholding. There are laws of supply and demand, and the preacher does not understand political econony.” The preacher, however, thinks he does understand it, and even if he does not, a child can comprehend the text before him, and with that we have to deal just now. Solomon here tells you that if you like to carry out political economy in the withholding way, you will get cursed for it, and depend upon it YOU WILL. Facts are stubborn things, and this is one that withholding corn earns me the curse of the people, and that is what no Christian man would wish to bear.
“But what business is that of the preacher’s?” He answers that he thanks God that he has no share in it whatever, but he is set in his place to rebuke what God rebukes, and he is doing no more than expounding God’s own word upon the matter. Whether you hear or forbear, there is the truth, and may the Lord bless it to you. “Well, we ought not to hear such things on Sundays.” What, not read our Bibles on Sundays — not explain of a text on Sundays? You would not have heard me on a Monday some of you, and therefore you have it to-day. Do not be angry with the text, but look at it and read it, and then afterwards choose you as you will. “He that withholdeth corn,” God says, “the people shall curse him;” and if you wish to have ill-will, and the bad word of thousands of poor cottagers and all others who have human sympathies, then withhold your corn. Thank God, the worst monopoliser cannot do much mischief now-a-days, for by the gracious providence of God, which has burst the fetters of commerce, we are not likely to feel any very great straitness for bread in this country. Should our own crops fail, the harvests of other lands supply the masses with their food. The crime is growing scarcer and scarcer; but, if any cases still survive, and men choose to follow so ruinous a course, they will get cursed for it in mutterings deep if silent, and in sneers as bitter as they are well deserved.
By your leave, I shall now take a step above my text, using it as a ladder to mount to a yet higher truth. If it brings a curse upon a man to withhold the bread which perisheth, what a weight of curse will light upon that man who withholds the bread of eternal life. If the people shall curse the man who keeps back the bread which merely sustains the body, what shall be the withering denunciations which shall overwhelm the soul of him who deals deceitfully with the bread of eternal life? That seems to me to be a fair deduction from the text, and at that truth we will aim this morning. First, I shall attempt to show the ways in which the bread of life may be withheld from the people, and the curse which will follow; secondly, I shall try to depict the blessedness of the man who “breaketh it,” as another translation hath it, to the people; and, then, thirdly, we shall conclude by opening our own granaries and breaking some of this bread among the assembled multitude.
I. First, he that withholdeth the bread of life will surely get the people’s curse upon him. How CAN THIS BE DONE?
1. It may be readily accomplished by locking up the Word of God in an unknown language, or by delivering and preaching it in such a style that the people shall not comprehend it... The Romish Church for many years kept the sacred Scriptures in an unknown tongue, and resisted all attempts to translate the book of God into the vulgar language of the people. What a curse Rome has had resting on her head. To those who know the enormity of this wickedness in holding back the word of life, it is scarcely possible to think of Rome without invoking judgment upon her. What myriads of souls went down to the pit perishing through lack of knowledge, during what were called the Dark Ages! What fearful imprecations they must be uttering even now upon Popes, and Cardinals, and Priests who had the key of the kingdom, but would neither enter themselves nor suffer others to enter there! They had the light but they concealed it in a dark lantern, and the nations were compelled to sit in the darkness of profound ignorance and superstition because they would not give them the light. Surely the people shall curse such for ever. But are these the only offenders? Is not their crime prolonged by those ministers who aim at delivering themselves in an oratorical style, with flowers of rhetoric far too fine to be reached by the common people? We have heard of some, and we fear we know some, who would rather round a period than win a soul, to whom it is the first and the last object to deliver refined thoughts in elegant and elaborate language, and, having so done, having soared aloft on the spread-eagle’s wing far out of sight, they are content to have dazzled the many, and displayed themselves. Truly such men withhold the corn. What can the poor countrymen and servants, who are sitting in the aisles, make out of their eloquence? What can the work-people, who come in to hear something that may do them good, make out of their outlandish big talk? The terms of theology, the phrases of art, the definitions of philosophy, the jargon of science, are an unknown tongue to the young godly ploughmen or praying shopkeepers. “Alas!” says he, “this does not come to me — I cannot get at it.” Possibly, in their ignorance, some people think the highflyers very Learned men, but in reality they are far from it; for plainness of speech is a better sign of learning than high-sounding words and soaring sentences.
Oh, dear friends, when we preach the gospel plainly, I am sure we have our reward! When preaching in some village chapel, or from a waggon in a field, it is no small delight to watch the faces of the men in smock frocks and the women in their print gowns, as they catch or feel the force of an inspired truth; plain speech wins their blessing. But to stand and talk right over the people’s heads — what is it but having the com and keeping it from those who want it? Simplicity is the authorised style of true gospel ministry. “Having this ministry,” says the apostle, “we use great plainness of speech.” The common people heard the Master gladly, which they would not have done if he had spoken in high flown language. Whitfield, the prince of preachers, was mainly so because of the market language which he used. Let all of us who have the bread of life try to be very plain. You who write tracts, or preach in the street, or you that teach children, break the large slices of truth into small pieces, and crack the shells of the hard nuts. Take away the crust for the babes, and pick out the stones from the fruit. Beware lest in seeking an excess of refinement you withhold the corn and win the people’s curse.
2. But, secondly, we may fall into this sin by keeping back the most important and vital truths of Revelation, and giving a prominence to other things, which are but secondary. My brethren, if I were to stand in this pulpit, and for the next few months address you upon moral precepts, the excellence of virtue or the faultiness of vice; if you could come out of this place and say, time after time, “ We hear nothing about Jesus Christ; we do not know whether there be any Holy Ghost:” if I were gifted with ever so much of ability— if these were my themes, however earnestly I pressed them, J should be guilty of withholding the corn, the true food of souls. Morality brings no food to hungry souls, although it is a good thing in its place. Dissuasives from vice are not the bread of heaven, though well enough in their way. We need to have the great doctrines of grace brought forward, for the Word of God is the sword of the Spirit, and it is by preaching the truth as it is in Jesus, that souls are won to him. I grieve to think how indistinct some preachers are upon the doctrines of grace: they dare not say “Election,” or if they do they tremble directly, and guard their words with shields so huge that the poor truth is crushed beneath them. As to final perseverance, effectual calling, particular redemption, or any of those grand truths wherein the fatness, and savour, and marrow of the gospel is to be found, you may listen to some of them from the beginning of January to the end of December, without hearing a word. This will not do: this is taking away the backbone from the spiritual man; it is tearing away the vitals of the gospel; it is giving to the people husks for wheat, and straw and chaff, instead of com. Above all, that ministry is an abomination which puts Jesus Christ in the background. My brethren and sisters, we must not only hear something about Jesus Christ, but our preaching must be mainly about Him. He must be its head and front; nay, let me say, in some sense, he must be all that the preacher has to preach. Christ crucified must be the general summary of his ministry; and he must be able to say, when he retires from it, and is called up higher, “ I have preached Christ. Of the things which I have spoken, this is the sum: I have preached my Master and what my Master gave me.” O my brethren, what a guilty ministry is that in which the blood has no place— the ministry which denies or undervalues the atoning sacrifice of the great Redeemer! God have mercy upon us that we have not preached this fundamental truth so earnestly as we ought to have done, but still we can plead before him, and say, we have truly desired to do it.
His flowing wounds supply,
Redeeming love has been my theme,
And shall be till I die.”
But we must not talk about ministers, of whom there are not many here: we will come down to you. Many of you are Sunday-school teachers: now you can sin in this way in the very same sense. Suppose as a Sunday-school teacher you are content with making the little ones read through the lesson, satisfied with filling up the hour or the hour and-a-half, and feeling you have done a good deal in making the little fellows sit still, and so on. Ah! my brother and sister, it is very solemn work. You have undertaken to teach these young immortals, and if you are satisfied with just making them go through the routine, take heed, lest when they grow up, they come to curse you. I am afraid that many Sunday-school addresses have no gospel in them. I do not see why the same gospel should not be preached to children as to grown-up people. I think it should. To stand up in a Sunday-school and say, "Now, be good boys and girls and God will love you,” is telling lies. I know the teachers of our school feel the importance of delivering the truth as it is in Jesus to their children, and you therefore tell them, “You are lost and ruined, and your salvation is in Jesus Christ: look to him and live.” The teacher whose general teaching is not full of Christ will be called to a sad account in the day when Christ shall come. Dear teachers of the school, whatever you do not know, do know your Lord, and whatever you cannot get into the youngsters’ heads, do make it a matter of prayer that you may get a knowledge of Christ and his atoning blood into their young hearts by the Holy Ghost. The same is also true of those of our beloved friends who conduct Bible classes, or who in any way teach the people. I do not know that I have any necessity to say this to the most of you here, but still I will say it for the good of others; you must not my brethren get away from your great theme. It is of no use to go to the people empty-handed, we must take them bread; we only mock them by offering them stones, if we talk to them about the histories and precepts of Scripture and forget the cross. Let our teaching histories and precepts of Scripture and forget the cross. Let our teaching be full of grace and truth: let us deliver our souls of every doctrine as we find it in Scripture, and let us be determined that if men do perish, it shall not be for want of knowing the way of salvation.
3. We may withhold the bread of life, dear friends, by a want of loving zeal in our labour; because the mere telling out the plan of salvation is of no great service: God may bless it, but he does not often do so.
That which God blesses to the saving of sinners is truth attended by the earnestness of the speaker, the loving anguish of a heart which stirs the preacher’s soul. What shall I sav here? for if I speak, I do but condemn myself. Think of the preaching of Baxter. He preached for many years, but he said he never went into his pulpit without his knees knocking together; and Martin 'Luther said the same. Truly it is enough to make any man tremble, when he feels that he is God’s mouth to immortal souls. “If they perish and thou warn them not, their blood will I require at thy hand.” Surely this ought to give a melting heart and streaming eyes to God’s ministers! But, I say, I remember reading of Baxter’s ministry — oh what pleading there was in it! The man seemed as if he never would go out of the pulpit till his hearers had received the truth. He wept, and sighed, and sobbed, unless they came to Jesus Christ. You know how he followed them to their houses, watched them through the streets of Kidderminster, and would give them no rest till they thought about eternal things, and he was privileged thus to break the bread of life to many thousands, although his body was as full of physical pain as his heart was of holy anxiety. O for something of Mr. Baxter’s spirit to make us love the souls of men as he did! We are guilty of withholding corn, unless we preach with a sympathising, loving, tender, affectionate, earnest, anxious soul. Brethren and sisters, you are most of you doing something for Jesus Christ; let me therefore put this very plainly to you. If you get through your work for God as a mere matter of form, however true may be that which you have to say, and however carefully you may deliver it, yet still if the truth you deliver is not delivered with holy anxiety, with earnestness, with fervour, with love, with affection, and above all, if it be not attended with prayer, take heed lest in some day to come you get the curse of those from whom you withheld the bread. How would you like, Sunday-school teachers, to see a lad in your class grow up and go into sin? How would you like to meet him some day on a sick bed, when bis vices had at last brought him to his end; how would you like that he should look into your face and say, “Ah! teacher, you were never earnest with me: yon told me the truth, but you told it me so coldly that I did not believe it. If I had seen one tear in your eye, I think there would have been one in mine. If I thought you felt what you were saying, I sometimes think I should have felt it too; but you merely kept me still and told me it all, as if it were no great matter, and so 1 doubted the whole, and from doubt went on to unbelief and ran into sin, and here I am. O that you had wept over me as such-and-such a teacher did with my brother! How different is my brother from what I am. He was in another class, and his teacher took him before God in prayer; prayed with him as well as for him, told him the truth, but did more, laboured to drive it home as with a great hammer, while he pleaded with him to lay hold on eternal life. Teacher, would to God that you had been more earnest with me.” Beloved, seek to rid yourselves of any future regrets in this matter. It is no small satisfaction, when you hear the death-bell toll, to say, “Well, I did all I could for that soul, and whether it be in heaven or hell, my conscience is clear. You cannot save, but still, God who works by means, may make you the instrument of conveying salvation to sinners: or, on the other hand, you may be made instruments of unrighteousness, through whom Satan may harden these children’s hearts, even to their everlasting ruin. I take the case of a Sunday-school teacher, but I intend the remarks for every worker. O let us work for God with our whole hearts. God make us more awfully in earnest. Life is earnest, death is earnest, heaven is earnest, hell is earnest, Christ is earnest, God is earnest; let us be clad with zeal, as with a cloak, and go forth to serve the Lord with all our soul and strength, as his Holy Spirit shall enable us.
4. Fourthly, we may be found guilty of withholding corn by refuting' to labour zealously for the spread of the kingdom of Christ and the conversion of sinners.
I am afraid that the Churches of the past were not altogether without a curse because of their deficiency in the matter of missions and home evangelization. During the pastorate of may venerated predecessor, Dr. Gill, this Church, instead of increasing, gradually decreased; and although the age in which he lived was honoured with many great and excellent men, yet the state of our own denomination, and the Presbyterian body, and the Independent body, in England was most lamentable. Many of the Churches were gradually sliding into Unitarianism, and the simple gospel of Jesus Christ was scarcely preached, or, where preached, it was without any power whatever: and I take it that the reason was very much that the Churches were content to be edified themselves, but had no bowels of compassion for the perishing multitudes around and abroad. But mark this, from the day when-Fuller, Carey, Sutcliffe, and others, met together to send out missionaries to India the sun began to dawn of a gracious revival which is not over yet, for bad as the state of the Churches now is, yet- it is marvellously an improvement upon anything before the age of missions. Though not as zealous as we ought to be, the zeal of Christendom is one hundred times greater than it was then; and, as for what is done for winning souls, brethren, the Churches now are like a garden of the Lord compared with what they were then. I believe that the neglect of sending the word to the heathen brought a blight and a curse upon the Churches, which is now happily removed. Yet even to-day we find professors who are always doubting. They never get beyond —
“‘Tis a point I long to know.”
There they stick, and never know whether they are saved or not. Full assurance is to be a tempting morsel which they have not yet tasted. Their eyes do not sparkle with heavenly delight; they know. not what it is to sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus; their raptures are very few, their joys very shallow. I will tell you why. In almost every case these people do nothing for souls; they withhold the, corn, and therefore they get this curse in their souls, that they shall not enjoy their own religion because they do not want to lead other people into it. If you put your hands into your pockets and say, “Well, glory be to God; I trust I am one of the elect, and whatever becomes of the rest of mankind really is not my concern. - Every man for himself, say I” — that is such an unchristian spirit, so antagonistic to the whole life of Jesus Christ, that if you get sorely whipped in providence, I can only hope you may be blessed by it; but I would not pray that the rod may be removed until you are scourged into a better temper. Commend me to the Christian who says, “I bless God I am saved; now what can I do for others?” The first thing in the morning he prays, “God help me to say a word to some soul this day.” During the day, wherever he may be, he is watching his opportunity, and will do good if he can. He is concerned about his children: it sometimes breaks his heart to think that they are not saved. If he happens to have an ungodly wife, it is his daily burden, “Oh God, save my wife!” When he goes to a place of worship he does not expect the minister to make sermons always on purpose for him, but he says “I shall sit here and pray God to bless the word, “and if he looks round the chapel and sees one that he loves, he prays for him, “God send the word home to him.” When service is over, a man of this' kind will waylay the unconverted, and try to get a personal word with them, and see if he cannot discover some beginnings of grace in their souls. This is how earnest Christians live; and let me tell you, as a rule, though they have the griefs of other men’s souls to carry, they do not have much grief about their own. As a rule, their Master favours them with the light of his countenance; they are watering others and they are watered themselves also. May this be your work and mine! But some of you say nothing for Christ at all. You are too timid you say, and others of you are too indifferent, too thoughtless about others. Oh, the opportunities many of you have lost! Oh, the many who have died to whom you might have spoken but you did not! Oh, the people that are now in the darkness of ignorance who get no light from you! You have light, but you keep it. They are dying, and you have the healing medicine, but you will not tell them of it. May God deliver you from the curse of those who thus withhold the corn.
We will only mention one more form of this evil. Some may be said to be guilty of withholding the corn, because while they themselves do not speak for Christ, they do not help those who can. No Christian man ought to go to bed with an easy conscience, if he has thousands of pounds which he does not require, which lies by unused for God. There must be many Christians in this rich country who have not consecrated their substance to the Lord. When a man can say, “I have money which I really do not need, and my children do not require it; and this is money absolutely needed for God’s cause,” ought he to keep it from the Lord Jesus?' Must you confess that so many missionaries might be sent out to-morrow, if you just drew a cheque and handed it over to the proper quarter, then why not do it? A destitute neighbourhood needs a place of worship, and if I can build it if I would, how am I to answer for it to my Lord?
I cannot understand how a man can love God when he only lives to heap up riches. I can with great difficulty imagine such a case, but I fear that such cannot be real piety. It seems to me that, if I have any religion in my soul it will make me not only say with Dr. Watts: —
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine
Demands my soul my life, my all.”
II. I am pleased to turn to the other subject for a minute or two. I am to speak upon THE BLESSEDNESS WHICH THOSE POESSESS WHO BREAK THE BREAD OF LIFE.
To describe it is altogether beyond my power. You must know, and taste, and feel it, beloved. There are many blessednesses in doing good to others. God is a good paymaster; he pays his servants while at work as well as when they have done it; and 'one of his payments is this, an easy conscience. If you have spoken faithfully only to one person, when you go to bed at night, you feel happy in thinking “I have this day discharged my conscience of that man’s blood.” You do not know how delightful a Sabbath evening is to some of us when God has helped us to be faithful; how sweet to feel, “I have made many blunders, shown many infirmities of the flesh, and so on, but I have preached the gospel and preached it with mv whole heart to the best of my ability.” One feels a burden taken off one’s back, and there is a joy and satisfaction unknown to those who sit at home doing nothing. You in your class at the Sunday school, I know you feel when Sunday is over, though it is a very hard day’s work for some of you after the six days’ toil in the week, you feel “I thank God I did not spend that afternoon in lolling about at home, but I did speak a word for Jesus.” You will find such a peace of mind that you would not give it up for all the world. Then there is a great comfort in doing something for Jesus. Look into his face, what' would you not do for him? When first converted did you no think you could do ten thousand things for Jesus; the moment your burden was off your back and your sins forgiven, how you felt you would follow him-through floods and flames! Have you lived up to your resolutions, brethren? Have you kept up to your own ideas of Christian duties? I do not suppose any of us- can say that we have. Still, what little we have done has been an unspeakable delight, when we have felt that we have been crowning his head, and strewing palm-branches in his path. O what a happiness to place jewels in his crown, and give him to see of the travail of his- soul! Beloved, there is very great reward in watching the first buddings of conviction in a young soul! To say of that girl in the class, “She seems so tender of heart, I do hope that there is the Lord’s work there.” To go home and pray over that boy, who said something in the afternoon to make you think he must know something more than he seemed to know! Oh, the joy of hope! But as for the joy of success! It is unspeakable. I recollect the first soul that God ever gave me — she is in heaven now — but I remember when my good deacon said to me, “God has set his seal on your ministry in this place, sir.” Oh, if anybody had said to me, “Somebody has left you twenty thousand pounds,” I should not have given a snap of my fingers for it, compared with that joy which I felt when I was told that God had set his seal on my ministry. “Who is it?” I asked. “Why, it is a poor labouring man’s wife! she went home broken-hearted by the sermon two or three Sundays ago, and she has been in great trouble of soul, but she has found peace, and she says she would like to speak to you.” I felt like the boy who has earned his first guinea, like a diver who has been down to the depths of the sea and brought up a rare pearl — I prize each one whom God has given me, but I prize that woman most. Since then my God has given me many thousands of souls, who profess to have found the Saviour by hearing or reading words which have come from my lips. Well, this joy, overwhelming as it is, is a hungry sort of joy — you want more of it: for the more you have of spiritual children, the more your soul desires to see them multiplied. Let me tell you, that to be a soul-winner is the happiest thing in this world, and with every soul you bring to Jesus Christ, you seem to get a new heaven here upon earth. But what will be the joy of soul-winning when we get up above! What happiness to the Christian minister to be saluted on his entrance into heaven by many spiritual children! They will call him “Father,” for though they are not married nor given in marriage, though natural relations are all over, yet spiritual relations last for ever. Oh! how sweet is that sentence, “Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.” Do you know what the joy of Christ is over a saved sinner? You cannot guess it. You would need to know the griefs he suffered to save that sinner. O the joys he must feel when he sees that sinner saved as the result of his griefs: this is the very joy which you and I are to possess in heaven: “Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.” Yes, when he mounts the throne, you shall mount with him. When the heaven rings with “Well done, well done,” you shall partake in the reward; you have toiled with him, you have suffered with him, you shall now reign with him; you have sown with him, you shall reap with him; you were despised with him, you shall now be honoured with him; your face was covered with sweat like his. and your soul was grieved for the sins of men as his soul was, now shall your face be bright with heaven’s splendour as is his countenance, and now shall your soul be filled with beatific joys even as his soul is. He that breaketh bread, blessings shall be upon his head.
III. Now I have to open the GRANARY for a minute myself.
Hungry sinners, wanting a Saviour, we cannot withhold the bread from you. You may never come to hear the gospel again; we, therefore, will open the granary very wide. Christ Jesus, the Son of God, became man to save men, and inasmuch as God’s wrath was due to sin, Christ took the sin of all who have ever believed, or ever shall believe on him, and, taking all their sins, he was punished in their room and place, and stead, so that God can now justly forgive sin because Christ was punished in the stead of sinners, and suffered divine wrath for them. Now this is the way of salvation, that thou trust this Son of God with thy soul, and, if thou dost so, then know that thy sins are now forgiven thee, and that thou art saved. Concerning this salvation, hear thou just these few words.
It is a satisfying salvation. Here is all that thou canst want. Thy conscience shall be at ease for ever if thou believest in Jesus: thy biggest sins shall no longer trouble thee, thy blackest iniquities shall no longer haunt thee. Believing in Jesus, every sin thou hast of thought and word and deed shall be cast into the depths of the sea and never shall be mentioned against thee any more for ever.
It is an all-sufficient salvation too. However great thy sins, Christ’s blood can take all away. However deep thy needs, Christ can supply them. Thou canst not be so big a sinner as he is a Saviour. Thou mayest be the worst sinner out of hell, but thou art not too great for him to remove; he can carry elephantine sinners upon his shoulders, and bear gigantic mountains of guilt upon his head into the wilderness of forgetfulness. He has enough for thee however deep thy necessity.
It is, moreover, a complete salvation. Sovereign mercy does not stand on the mountain and cry to you, climb up hither and I will save you. Eternal mercy comes down the valley to you just where you are, and meets your case just as it is, and never leaves you till it has made you meet to be a partaker of the inheritance of the saints in light. Christ does not want you to pay one talent out of the hundred and promise to pay for you the ninety-nine. He will discharge all your debts of sin. All that you want to take you up to heaven is provided in Jesus.
This is a present salvation— a salvation which, if it come to you, will save you now. You shall be a child of God this very hour, and ere that clock shall strike again, you shall rejoice in the peace which 'the Spirit of God gives you, if you believe on him.
It is an available salvation, freely presented to you in Christ Jesus. Remember the text of two or three Sundays ago: “Whosoever will, let him take of the water of life freely.” Jesus casts out none that come to him. Oh that thou mayest be led to come this morning.
Thus have I tried to avoid the sin of withholding com; and if any in this house of prayer have been guilty of it, I pray you avoid the curse of the people, and seek the blessing of the Most High God, by ‘this day endeavouring to scatter everywhere the bread of life. Go and work for God wherever you have an opportunity, and help us in our prayers and efforts to send forth more labourers into the harvest, for the harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few. Amen.
“E’er since by faith I saw the stream
“Were the whole realm of nature mine,
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
Is Life Harder Than You Expected?
By Jon Bloom 7/14/2017
Soldiers don’t learn to fight in the classroom. They learn about fighting in the classroom.
Learning about fighting is crucial to successful fighting, which is why soldiers’ training always includes class time. But learning about fighting is not the same thing as fighting. Soldiers never really learn to fight until they are forced to actually do it. And when they do, they discover the actual, concrete experience of fighting looks and feels very different than the abstract idea of fighting.
Disciples of Jesus don’t learn to walk by faith — to fight the good fight of faith — in the classroom. They learn about faith in the classroom — sermons, conferences, books, articles, videos. Learning about faith is crucial to successful walking by faith, which is why disciples’ training always includes class time. But learning about walking by faith is not the same thing as walking by faith.
Disciples never really learn to walk by faith until they are forced to actually do it. And when they do, they discover the actual, concrete experience of walking by faith looks and feels very different than the abstract idea of walking by faith.
Teach Me Your Way | When we pray with David, “teach me your way, O Lord” (Psalm 27:11), God answers. And his answers often look and feel very different from what we thought we were asking for.
He often takes us out of the classroom — where we thought we understood things — into the chaotic, disorienting, disturbing, desperate violence of the field of spiritual battle, where we encounter internal and external enemies too powerful for us. He brings us up against obstacles too big for us, problems too complex and difficult for us, and burdens so far beyond our strength that we at times despair of life itself (2 Corinthians 1:8).
Jon Bloom serves as author, board chair, and co-founder of Desiring God. He and his wife live in the Twin Cities with their five children.John Bloom Books | Go to Books Page
What the Universe Says About God
By John Piper 7/13/2017
Genesis 1:27: “God created man in his own image, in the image of God. He created him. Male and female, he created them.”
What’s the point of that? The point of an image is to image. Images are erected in cities to display the original person. Images point to originals. Images are there to glorify the original. God made human beings in his image so that the world will be filled with reflectors of God — images of God, six billion statues of God. You should ask how you’re doing, so that nobody would miss the point — God. That’s the point of humanity.
Six billion people created in the image of God. The point is God. Do you see it? Are you seeing it? Are you stunned every day in this world? Six billion statues to God, lest anybody miss the point. The angels cry in Isaiah 6:3, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts. The whole earth is full of his glory,” full of millions upon millions of human image bearers. Glorious ruins.
Not only humans, right? Nature too. Why such a breathtaking world for us to live in? Why such a universe? I read the other day, can’t verify it, that there are more stars in the universe than there are sounds or words that have ever been spoken by all human beings in all of history. That’s a lot of stars. Why? The Bible is crystal clear. Psalm 19:1: “The heavens declare the glory of God.” This is not hard. Why? God — that’s why.
Sometimes people say, “Well, if earth is the only inhabited place in the universe, the only inhabited planet, and man is the only rational inhabited among the stars, why such a large place? Why so many stars, galaxies, billions of them? Why?” The answer is this: It’s not about us, it’s about God. And it’s an understatement. God created us to know him, love him, and show him, and then he gave us a little hint of what he’s like called the universe, and it’s an understatement.”
John Piper (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota.
John Piper Books | Go to Books Page
How to Reach People Who Don’t Care About the Afterlife
By Mike Wittmer 7/11/2017
A billboard outside Chicago asks drivers, “Where are you going? Heaven or Hell.” The word “Heaven” shines upon backlit clouds while “Hell” blazes amid raging flames. A number is given for convicted motorists to call.
I hope many do, though I wonder how effective such roadside messages are in our secular, pluralistic age. Jesus promises to make us “fishers of men” (Matt. 4:19), but often it seems the fish aren’t biting. Many people remain amazingly unfazed by the afterlife; they’re entirely focused on the here and now. Ask where they’re going when they die and they’ll shrug and say they’ll handle it when the time comes. They assume it will all work out for the best.
Some churches respond to such lack of interest in the afterlife by changing the subject. They rarely mention death or hell but instead emphasize how Jesus improves our present lives. He is our BFF who carries our burdens and heals our brokenness. These ministries may think they’re still fishing, but they’re more like children who, bored with watching their undisturbed bobbers, have waded into the shallows to net minnows.
To use a baseball metaphor, they are playing small ball. They are content to slap a single, steal second, bunt the runner to third, then hit a sacrifice fly to scratch out a run. Please hear me. We must show people how Jesus helps with today’s problems. But we must never forget that we alone have the answer to sin, death, and hell. Someday Jesus is going to ask us why we seldom swung for the fences.
But how do we do that? How do we whet people’s appetite for the next life when they only seem interested in this one? We could follow Scripture’s lead and explain the next life will be a lot like this one. Specifically, we could try three strategies.
Mike Wittmer is professor of systematic theology at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary.
Mike Wittmer Books:
Becoming Worldly Saints: Can You Serve Jesus and Still Enjoy Your Life?
Uncomfortable Grace, How Sweet the Sound
By Jeff Robinson 7/12/2017
A few years ago, I took a pastorate with the goal of shepherding that flock faithfully for at least 25 years. I told them as much after an overwhelming majority of members voted for me to occupy the sacred office. It was a mandate, and I pushed offshore for what I hoped would be at minimum a quarter century of preaching God’s Word and leading God’s people.
But the seas of local church ministry were hurricane-rough from day one.
My goal was not God’s goal.
I stayed for a little more than three years—each year more deeply painful than the one before. Every ministerial and theological “button” I pushed—including things clearly mandated in Scripture—seemed to be the wrong one. Every decision I made, every piece of vision I cast, every change I sought to implement—no matter how careful my approach—triggered an avalanche of discontent, dissension, and unrest. At one point I grew paranoid like the young Martin Luther, wondering if God was disciplining me for some unconfessed sin.
I questioned my call to ministry. I questioned my salvation. Toward the end I even questioned my sanity, as the tentacles of depression clamped onto my heart and mind, their iron grip wringing me dry of vigor and joy. Maalox and 5-hour Energy became dietary staples.
Jeff Robinson (PhD, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is a senior editor for The Gospel Coalition. A native of Blairsville, Georgia, he also pastors Christ Fellowship Church in Louisville, Kentucky, and serves as senior research and teaching associate for the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies and adjunct professor of church history at Southern Seminary. Prior to entering ministry, he spent nearly 20 years as a newspaper journalist in Georgia, North Carolina, and Kentucky, writing about various subjects from politics to Major League Baseball and SEC football. He is co-author with Michael Haykin of the book To the Ends of the Earth: Calvin's Missional Vision and Legacy.
What Happened to Your Hands?
By Ravi Zacharias 9/8/2016
I have often referenced the quote by the talk-show host Larry King, in his response to a particular question: “If you could select any one person across all of history to interview, who would it be?” Mr. King’s answer was that he would like to interview Jesus Christ. When the questioner followed with, “And what would you like to ask him?” King replied, “I would like to ask him if he was indeed virgin-born. The answer to that question would define history for me.” The first time I requested permission through a common friend to use this quote of his, he sent word saying, “And tell him I was not being facetious.” I believe him. Who would not like to interview Jesus Christ?
It is not possible to live without asking questions—and what better source for the answers than the one who claimed to be the way, the truth, and the life? If one could only be face to face with him from whom life comes, how delightful would be those moments when the most confounding and painful questions of life are raised. Though unaware that they were walking with the risen Christ, the men who walked on the Emmaus Road said that their hearts burned within them as he opened up the past, the present, and the future. When they realized who he was, a light for all of history had been turned on.
In the same way, it may be that when the time comes to sit across the table from the Lord of history, the answer to the skeptic and the believer will be more visible than it will be in need of utterance. This clue came to me in the form of a question inscribed on a painting I saw in a pastor’s office in Puerto Rico. Just before we went into the sanctuary, my eyes caught a glimpse of it directly in front of his desk. It was the picture of a little girl holding the hand of Jesus, even as he tenderly gazed at her. She was clasping his hand as she asked him, “Que paso con tus manos?”—”What happened to your hands?” That question, I suspect, contains the answer to the doubt of the skeptic, the duplicity of the believer, and the despair of the suffering.
It also carries Larry King’s question to a more profound level. The virgin birth may only prove to the skeptic that naturalism cannot explain the world’s existence, that God has supernaturally intervened in history. In a supernatural framework that is possible. But “What happened to your hands?” answers what it takes to rescue this life of mine from self-serving intellect or from self-glorifying moralizing. It offers a visual answer as to the lengths Christ has gone to reach my own pain, and it brings me to a place from which I no longer live but Christ lives in me. It buries the self that seeks the self and brings to birth the fullest person that God has so uniquely endowed. That is to say, in the cross I find my definitive loss that I might obtain my greatest gain. Only when the skeptic and the believer can see those marks that prompt “What happened to your hands?” can life’s questions cease and answers pour forth from the depths of the soul.
Ravi Zacharias is Founder and President of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM). Zacharias has spoken all over the world for 45 years in scores of universities, notably Harvard, Dartmouth, Johns Hopkins, and Cambridge. He has addressed writers of the peace accord in South Africa and military officers at the Lenin Military Academy and the Center for Geopolitical Strategy in Moscow. At the invitation of the President of Nigeria, he addressed delegates at the First Annual Prayer Breakfast for African Leaders held in Mozambique.
Zacharias has direct contact with key leaders, senators, congressmen, and governors who consult him on an ongoing basis. He has addressed the Florida Legislature and the Governor’s Prayer Breakfast in Texas and Louisiana, and has twice spoken at the Annual Prayer Breakfast at the United Nations in New York, which marks the beginning of the UN General Assembly each year. As the 2008 Honorary Chairman of the National Day of Prayer, he gave addresses at the White House, the Pentagon, and The Cannon House. He has had the privilege of addressing the National Prayer Breakfasts in the seats of government in Ottawa, Canada, and London, England, and speaking at the CIA in Washington, DC.
Born in India in 1946, Zacharias immigrated to Canada with his family twenty years later. While pursuing a career in business management, his interest in theology grew; subsequently, he pursued this study during his undergraduate education. He received his Master of Divinity from Trinity International University in Deerfield, Illinois. Well-versed in the disciplines of comparative religions, cults, and philosophy, he held the chair of Evangelism and Contemporary Thought at Alliance Theological Seminary for three and a half years. Zacharias has been a visiting scholar at Ridley Hall, Cambridge (then affiliated with Cambridge University, now more recently allied with Cambridge and affiliated with Durham University) where he studied moralist philosophers and literature of the Romantic era. He has been conferred ten honorary doctorates, including a Doctor of Laws and a Doctor of Sacred Theology.
Zacharias has authored or edited over 25 books including the Gold Medallion winner Can Man Live Without God (Word, 1994), Walking from East to West (Zondervan, 2006), The Grand Weaver (Zondervan, 2007), Has Christianity Failed You? (Zondervan, 2010), Why Jesus, (FaithWords, 2012), and Beyond Opinion (Thomas Nelson, 2007), which includes contributions from RZIM’s global team. His latest books are Jesus Among Secular Gods (2017) and Why Suffering? (2014), both coauthored with Vince Vitale and released by FaithWords. Several of his books have been translated into Russian, Chinese, Korean, Thai, Spanish, and other languages.
Zacharias has appeared on CNN, Fox, and other international broadcasts. His weekly radio program, “Let My People Think,” airs on 2337 outlets worldwide, his weekday program, “Just Thinking,” on 721, and his one-minute, “Just a Thought,” on 488. Various broadcasts are also translated into Romanian and Turkish, and “Let My People Think” airs as the Spanish-language program “Pensemos” on over 250 outlets in sixteen countries. Additionally, his television program, “Let My People Think,” is broadcast internationally in several countries including Indonesia. RZIM is headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, with additional offices in Canada, India, Singapore, the United Kingdom, the Middle East, Hong Kong, Romania, Turkey, Austria, Spain, Latin America, and South Africa. Zacharias and his wife, Margie, have three grown children. They reside in Atlanta.
The Church as Lobbyist
By Richard S. Adams 2015
Oregon, especially Portland, is known for its attitude, independence, maybe even its defiance. If the world zigs Portlanders naturally want to zag. A recent example is a female cyclist who was denied service at a fast food restaurant because she was on a bike instead of in a car. She responded in typical Portlander style by blogging, letter writing and gaining supporters. Eventually she won.
The Church will not reach people like this with smiles, slogans, arguments or platitudes. Too often the Church comes across as just another agenda filled lobbyist. It may be necessary for pew-sitters to spend more time actually reading the book they proclaim than just talking about it. Most church goers claim to have read the New Testament where passages like Matthew 5:16, 22:37-40, Galatians 5:14 and Ephesians 2:10 describe an attitude that even independent Portlanders will respond too, especially if it represents a life style, not an event.
Matthew 5:16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.
Matthew 22:37-40 ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the greatest and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
Galatians 5:14 For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Ephesians 2:10 For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.
A few years ago the Luis Palau Association of Beaverton, Oregon, known for its world-wide crusades for Christ, came up with the idea of a Season of Service. The idea is service, not sermons. In 2009's Season of Service over 500 churches and 68 organizations including some 27,000 volunteers participated. They did clean-up projects saving the school district over $480,000.
A derivative of doing instead of preaching was the creation of contacts between people who might not normally get together. Schools and churches, not always the best of friends, came together to meet common challenges. Liberals and conservatives saw they have common interests. City leaders met people who cared enough to get involved.
Sharing your testimony is not limited to rake and shovel, picking up trash, or fixing and painting. A professor told me everyone can give something; time, treasure or talent. It is the posture and intention of the heart that is most important.
Can we go through a day and not meet someone who has a need that we are uniquely qualified to respond to? Showing you care could be as simple as helping an elderly person get on a bus. Maybe it is having the courtesy to make eye contact and thank the server, and calling them by name if they have a name tag. Every day we are presented with opportunities to look outside our own wants and needs and see others. We can step up or walk by. It is good to see the church stepping up.
Relationships are not possible until there is contact. Contact comes from caring and caring enough to do something is what love, the Gospel, is all about.
I remember when my wife showed me a picture in the Oregonian of a lamp in a window at Disneyland. The caption explained that Walt Disney kept an apartment above the firehouse on Disneyland's Town Square. This light burned in the window so the park employees would know that Disney was around. After he died in 1966 the light was kept on continuously. How much more should the light within us shine so the world knows our God is around?
By Don Carson 7/16/2018
Acts 3 includes a brief report of a sermon preached impromptu. (Though like many impromptu sermons, doubtless it was made up of pieces Peter had used before!) There are many points of immense interest.
(1) Peter repeatedly ties the coming of Jesus the Messiah with the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Acts 3:13), with Moses and the promise that God would eventually raise up a prophet like him (Acts 3:22; cf. Deut. 18:15-18; see also meditation for June 13), with the prophetic witness of the Old Testament (Acts 3:24), and even with God’s promise to Abraham that through his offspring all the peoples of the earth would be blessed (Acts 3:25; see meditations for January 14–15). At this point Peter did not have as broad an understanding of these points as he would later have, if we may judge by chapters 10-11. But that his understanding had got so far reflects his trainee period with the Lord Jesus.
(2) Peter does not for a moment let the crowd of onlookers off the hook (Acts 3:13-15). Many of his hearers were complicit in the demand to crucify Jesus; but, like an Old Testament prophet, Peter saw the people as a whole bound up in the decision of their leaders. The people may have “acted in ignorance” (Acts 3:17) — i.e., they did not say, in effect, “Here is the Messiah. Let us kill him.” — but kill him they did, and Peter reminds them of their guilt, not only as an unalterable fact of history, but also because it is guilt that Jesus came to deal with (Acts 3:19-20). Moreover, although the people are guilty, Peter understands that it was precisely through the evil execution of Jesus that “God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Christ would suffer” (Acts 3:18). That is the supreme irony of all history.
(3) There is a string of characteristics that unite this sermon with the sermon in Acts 2 and some others in the book of Acts. These features include: the God of our fathers has sent his servant Jesus; you killed him — disowning the Holy and Righteous One, the author of life — but God raised him from the dead; we are witnesses of these things; by the death and resurrection of Jesus God fulfilled the promises he made through the prophets; repent therefore, and turn to God. There are variations on these themes, of course, but these return again and again.
(4) Although “many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles” (Acts 2:43), the apostles themselves are in no doubt that they had neither the power nor the godliness to make a crippled beggar walk (Acts 3:12). Their self-effacement is a perpetual lesson. “It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has given this complete healing” (Acts 3:16).
Don Carson is research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, and co-founder (with Tim Keller) of The Gospel Coalition. He has authored numerous books, and recently edited The Enduring Authority of the Christian Scriptures (Eerdmans, 2016).Don Carson Books | Go to Books Page
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 75God Will Judge with Equity
75 To The Choirmaster: According to Do Not Destroy. A Psalm Of Asaph. A Song.
6 For not from the east or from the west
and not from the wilderness comes lifting up,
7 but it is God who executes judgment,
putting down one and lifting up another.
8 For in the hand of the LORD there is a cup
with foaming wine, well mixed,
and he pours out from it,
and all the wicked of the earth
shall drain it down to the dregs.
9 But I will declare it forever;
I will sing praises to the God of Jacob.
10 All the horns of the wicked I will cut off,
but the horns of the righteous shall be lifted up.
The Institutes of the Christian Religion
Translated by Henry Beveridge
OF THE POPISH MASS. HOW IT NOT ONLY PROFANES, BUT ANNIHILATES THE LORD'S SUPPER.
The principal heads of this chapter are,--I. The abomination of the Mass, sec. 1. Its manifold impiety included under five heads, sec. 2-7. Its origin described. sec. 8, 9. II. Of the name of sacrifice which the ancients gave to the holy Supper, sec. 10-12. An apposite discussion on sacrifice, refuting the arguments of the Papists for the sacrifice of the Mass, sec. 13-18. III. A summary of the doctrine of the Christian Church respecting sacraments, paving the way for the subsequent discussion of the five sacraments, falsely so called, sec. 19, 20.
1. The chief of all the abominations set up in opposition to the Lord's Supper is the Papal Mass. A description of it.
2. Its impiety is five-fold. 1. Its intolerable blasphemy in substituting priests to him the only Priest. Objections of the Papists answered.
3. Impiety of the Mass continued. 2. It overthrows the cross of Christ by setting up an altar. Objections answered.
4. Other objections answered.
5. Impiety of the Mass continued. 3. It banishes the remembrance of Christ's death. It crucifies Christ afresh. Objections answered.
6. Impiety of the Mass continued. 4. It robs us of the benefit Christ's death.
7. Impiety of the Mass continued. 5. It abolishes the Lord's Supper. In the Supper the Father offers Christ to us; in the Mass, priestlings offer Christ to the Father. The Supper is a sacrament common to all Christians; the Mass confined to one priest.
8. The origin of the Mass. Private masses an impious profanation of the Supper.
9. This abomination unknown to the purer Church. It has no foundation in the word of God.
10. Second part of the chapter. Some of the ancients call the Supper a sacrifice, but not propitiatory, as the Papists do the Mass. This proved by passages from Augustine.
11. Some of the ancients seem to have declined too much to the shadows of the law.
12. Great distinction to be made between the Mosaic sacrifices and the Lord's Supper, which is called a eucharistic sacrifice. Same rule in this discussion.
13. The terms sacrifice and priest. Different kinds of sacrifices. 1. Propitiatory. 2. Eucharistic. None propitiatory but the death of Christ.
14. The Lord's Supper not properly called a propitiatory sacrifice, still less can the Popish Mass be so called. Those who mutter over the mass cannot be called priests.
15. Their vanity proved even by Plato.
16. To the eucharistic class of sacrifice belong all offices of piety and charity. This species of sacrifice has no connection with the appeasing of God.
17. Prayer, thanksgiving, and other exercises of piety, called sacrifices. In this sense the Lord's Supper called the eucharist. In the same sense all believers are priests.
18. Conclusion. Names given to the Mass.
19. Last part of the chapter, recapitulating the views which ought to be held concerning baptism and the Lord's Supper. Why the Lord's Supper is, and Baptism is not, repeated.
20. Christians should be contented with these two sacraments. They are abolished by the sacraments decreed by men.
1. By these and similar inventions, Satan has attempted to adulterate and envelop the sacred Supper of Christ as with thick darkness, that its purity might not be preserved in the Church. But the head of this horrid abomination was, when he raised a sign by which it was not only obscured and perverted, but altogether obliterated and abolished, vanished away and disappeared from the memory of man--namely, when, with most pestilential error, he blinded almost the whole world into the belief that the Mass was a sacrifice and oblation for obtaining the remission of sins. I say nothing as to the way in which the sounder Schoolmen at first received this dogma.  I leave them with their puzzling subtleties, which, however they may be defended by cavilling, are to be repudiated by all good men, because, all they do is to envelop the brightness of the Supper in great darkness. Bidding adieu to them, therefore, let my readers understand that I am here combating that opinion with which the Roman Antichrist and his prophets have imbued the whole world-- viz. that the mass is a work by which the priest who offers Christ, and the others who in the oblation receive him, gain merit with God, or that it is an expiatory victim by which they regain the favour of God. And this is not merely the common opinion of the vulgar, but the very act has been so arranged as to be a kind of propitiation, by which satisfaction is made to God for the living and the dead. This is also expressed by the words employed, and the same thing may be inferred from daily practice. I am aware how deeply this plague has struck its roots; under what a semblance of good it conceals its true character, bearing the name of Christ before it, and making many believe that under the single name of Mass is comprehended the whole sum of faith. But when it shall have been most clearly proved by the word of God, that this mass, however glossed and splendid, offers the greatest insult to Christ, suppresses and buries his cross, consigns his death to oblivion, takes away the benefit which it was designed to convey, enervates and dissipates the sacrament, by which the remembrance of his death was retained, will its roots be so deep that this most powerful axe, the word of God, will not cut it down and destroy it? Will any semblance be so specious that this light will not expose the lurking evil?
2. Let us show, therefore, as was proposed in the first place, that in the mass intolerable blasphemy and insult are offered to Christ. For he was not appointed Priest and Pontiff by the Father  for a time merely, as priests were appointed under the Old Testament. Since their life was mortal, their priesthood could not be immortal, and hence there was need of successors, who might ever and anon be substituted in the room of the dead. But Christ being immortal, had not the least occasion to have a vicar substituted for him. Wherefore he was appointed by his Father a priest for ever, after the order of Melchizedek, that he might eternally exercise a permanent priesthood. This mystery had been typified long before in Melchizedek, whom Scripture, after once introducing as the priest of the living God, never afterwards mentions, as if he had had no end of life. In this way Christ is said to be a priest after his order. But those who sacrifice daily must necessarily give the charge of their oblations to priests, whom they surrogate as the vicars and successors of Christ. By this surrogation they not only rob Christ of his honour, and take from him the prerogative of an eternal priesthood, but attempt to remove him from the right hand of his Father, where he cannot sit immortal without being an eternal priest. Nor let them allege that their priestlings are not substituted for Christ, as if he were dead, but are only substitutes in that eternal priesthood, which therefore ceases not to exist. The words of the apostle are too stringent to leave them any means of evasion--viz. "They truly were many priests, because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death: but this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood" (Heb. 7:23, 24). Yet such is their dishonesty, that to defend their impiety they arm themselves with the example of Melchizedek. As he is said to have "brought forth (obtulisse) bread and wine" (Gen. 14:18), they infer that it was a prelude to their mass, as if there was any resemblance between him and Christ in the offering of bread and wine. This is too silly and frivolous to need refutation. Melchizedek gave bread and wine to Abraham and his companions, that he might refresh them when worn out with the march and the battle. What has this to do with sacrifice? The humanity of the holy king is praised by Moses: these men absurdly coin a mystery of which there is no mention. They, however, put another gloss upon their error, because it is immediately added, he was "priest of the most high God." I answer, that they erroneously wrest to bread and wine what the apostle refers to blessing. "This Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the most high God, who met Abraham," "and blessed him." Hence the same apostle (and a better interpreter cannot be desired) infers his excellence. "Without all contradiction, the less is blessed of the better." But if the oblation of Melchizedek was a figure of the sacrifice of the mass, I ask, would the apostle, who goes into the minutest details, have forgotten a matter so grave and serious? Now, however they quibble, it is in vain for them to attempt to destroy the argument which is adduced by the apostle himself--viz. that the right and honour of the priesthood has ceased among mortal men, because Christ, who is immortal, is the one perpetual priest.
3. Another iniquity chargeable on the mass is, that it sinks and buries the cross and passion of Christ. This much, indeed, is most certain,--the cross of Christ is overthrown the moment an altar is erected. For if, on the cross, he offered himself in sacrifice that he might sanctify us for ever, and purchase eternal redemption for us,  undoubtedly the power and efficacy of his sacrifice continues without end. Otherwise, we should not think more honourably of Christ than of the oxen and calves which were sacrificed under the law, the offering of which is proved to have been weak and inefficacious because often repeated. Wherefore, it must be admitted, either that the sacrifice which Christ offered on the cross wanted the power of eternal cleansing, or that he performed this once for ever by his one sacrifice. Accordingly, the apostle says, "Now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself." Again: "By the which act we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all." Again: "For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified." To this he subjoins the celebrated passage: "Now, where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin." The same thing Christ intimated by his latest voice, when, on giving up the ghost, he exclaimed, "It is finished." We are accustomed to observe the last words of the dying as oracular. Christ, when dying, declares, that by his one sacrifice is perfected and fulfilled whatever was necessary to our salvation. To such a sacrifice, whose perfection he so clearly declared, shall we, as if it were imperfect, presume daily to append innumerable sacrifices? Since the sacred word of God not only affirms, but proclaims and protests, that this sacrifice was once accomplished, and remains eternally in force, do not those who demand another, charge it with imperfection and weakness? But to what tends the mass which has been established, that a hundred thousand sacrifices may be performed every day, but just to bury and suppress the passion of our Lord, in which he offered himself to his Father as the only victim? Who but a blind man does not see that it was Satanic audacity to oppose a truth so clear and transparent? I am not unaware of the impostures by which the father of lies is wont to cloak his fraud--viz. that the sacrifices are not different or various, but that the one sacrifice is repeated. Such smoke is easily dispersed. The apostle, during his whole discourse, contends not only that there are no other sacrifices, but that that one was once offered, and is no more to be repeated. The more subtle try to make their escape by a still narrower loophole--viz. that it is not repetition, but application. But there is no more difficulty in confuting this sophism also. For Christ did not offer himself once, in the view that his sacrifice should be daily ratified by new oblations, but that by the preaching of the gospel and the dispensation of the sacred Supper, the benefit of it should be communicated to us. Thus Paul says, that "Christ, our passover, is sacrificed for us," and bids us "keep the feast" (1 Cor. 5:7, 8). The method, I say, in which the cross of Christ is duly applied to us is when the enjoyment is communicated to us, and we receive it with true faith.
4. But it is worth while to hear on what other foundation besides they rear up their sacrifice of the mass. To this end they drag in the prophecy of Malachi, in which the Lord promises that "in every place incense shall be offered unto my name, and a pure offering" (Mal. 1:11). As if it were new or unusual for the prophets, when they speak of the calling of the Gentiles, to designate the spiritual worship of God to which they call them, by the external rites of the law, more familiarly to intimate to the men of their age that they were to be called into the true fellowship of religion, just as in general they are wont to describe the truth which has been exhibited by the gospel by the types of their own age. Thus they use going up to Jerusalem for conversion to the Lord, the bringing of all kinds of gifts for the adoration of God--dreams and visions for the more ample knowledge with which believers were to be endued in the kingdom of Christ. The passage they quote from Malachi resembles one in Isaiah, in which the prophet speaks of three altars to be erected in Assyria, Egypt, and Judea. First, I ask, whether or not they grant that this prophecy is fulfilled in the kingdom of Christ? Secondly, Where are those altars, or when were they ever erected? Thirdly, Do they suppose that a single temple is destined for a single kingdom, as was that of Jerusalem? If they ponder these things, they will confess, I think, that the prophet, under types adapted to his age, prophesied concerning the propagation of the spiritual worship of God over the whole world. This is the answer which we give them; but, as obvious examples everywhere occur in the Scripture, I am not anxious to give a longer enumeration; although they are miserably deluded in this also, that they acknowledge no sacrifice but that of the mass, whereas in truth believers now sacrifice to God and offer him a pure offering, of which we shall speak by-and-by.
5. I now come to the third part of the mass, in regard to which, we are to explain how it obliterates the true and only death of Christ, and drives it from the memory of men. For as among men, the confirmation of a testament depends upon the death of the testator, so also the testament by which he has bequeathed to us remission of sins and eternal righteousness, our Lord has confirmed by his death. Those who dare to make any change or innovation on this testament deny his death, and hold it as of no moment. Now, what is the mass but a new and altogether different testament? What? Does not each mass promise a new forgiveness of sins, a new purchase of righteousness, so that now there are as many testaments as there are masses? Therefore, let Christ come again, and, by another death, make this new testament; or rather, by innumerable deaths, ratify the innumerable testaments of the mass. Said I not true, then, at the outset, that the only true death of Christ is obliterated by the mass? For what is the direct aim of the mass but just to put Christ again to death, if that were possible? For, as the apostle says, "Where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator" (Heb. 9:16). The novelty of the mass bears, on the face of it, to be a testament of Christ, and therefore demands his death. Besides, it is necessary that the victim which is offered be slain and immolated. If Christ is sacrificed at each mass, he must be cruelly slain every moment in a thousand places. This is not my argument, but the apostle's: "Nor yet that he should offer himself often;" "for then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world" (Heb. 9:25, 26). I admit that they are ready with an answer, by which they even charge us with calumny; for they say that we object to them what they never thought, and could not even think. We know that the life and death of Christ are not at all in their hand. Whether they mean to slay him, we regard not: our intention is only to show the absurdity consequent on their impious and accursed dogma. This I demonstrate from the mouth of the apostle. Though they insist a hundred times that this sacrifice is bloodless (anai'makton), I will reply, that it depends not on the will of man to change the nature of sacrifice, for in this way the sacred and inviolable institution of God would fall. Hence it follows, that the principle of the apostle stands firm, "without shedding of blood is no remission" (Heb. 9:22).
6. The fourth property of the mass which we are to consider is, that it robs us of the benefit which redounded to us from the death of Christ, while it prevents us from recognising it and thinking of it. For who can think that he has been redeemed by the death of Christ when he sees a new redemption in the mass? Who can feel confident that his sins have been remitted when he sees a new remission? It will not do to say that the only ground on which we obtain forgiveness of sins in the mass is, because it has been already purchased by the death of Christ. For this is just equivalent to saying that we are redeemed by Christ on the condition that we redeem ourselves. For the doctrine which is disseminated by the ministers of Satan, and which, in the present day, they defend by clamour, fire, and sword, is, that when we offer Christ to the Father in the mass, we, by this work of oblation, obtain remission of sins, and become partakers of the sufferings of Christ. What is now left for the sufferings of Christ, but to be an example of redemption, that we may thereby learn to be our own redeemers? Christ himself, when he seals our assurance of pardon in the Supper, does not bid his disciples stop short at that act, but sends them to the sacrifice of his death; intimating, that the Supper is the memento, or, as it is commonly expressed, the memorial from which they may learn that the expiatory victim by which God was to be appeased was to be offered only once. For it is not sufficient to hold that Christ is the only victim, without adding that his is the only immolation, in order that our faith may be fixed to his cross.
Christian Classics Ethereal Library / Public Domain
Institutes of the Christian Religion
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
5/1/2014 | Reformed (Covenant) Theology
My theological journey to Reformed theology was not an easy one. For more than two years I fought against the doctrines of grace with all of the free will I could muster, until I came to my knees and admitted that God is God—that God is sovereign and I am not. Coming to grips with the sovereignty of God not only changed my understanding of salvation; it changed my understanding of everything. For two more years, armed with all my dispensational presuppositions, I continued to fight against confessional Reformed theology. I carefully examined Scripture, and with great scrutiny I studied our theological forefathers on every side of the debate about covenant theology. But it wasn’t until I came to grasp the newness and the nature of the new covenant and the relationship between the old and new covenants that I came to see God not only as sovereign over the salvation of His people, but also as covenantal in the way He relates to, sanctifies, and saves His people. In the end, I came to see that “Reformed theology,” as R.C. Sproul has said, is just a nickname for “covenant theology.”
The church has always confessed the newness of the new covenant, but Christian thinkers have differed on the nature of its newness. According to confessional Reformed theology, the new covenant is new in that the long-awaited seed of the woman promised by God at the inauguration of the covenant of grace (Gen. 3:15) has come and has fulfilled the old covenant of Moses, thus making it obsolete (Heb. 8:13). Whereas the first Adam failed to keep the covenant of works (Gen. 3:1–6), the second and last Adam, Jesus Christ, kept it perfectly (1 Cor. 15:45). Under the old covenant, the people of God saw only shadows, but now we see the One who cast the shadow: Jesus Christ, who is the end — the goal — of the law (Rom. 10:4). Under the old covenant, God’s people desperately awaited the coming One; now we delightfully celebrate the risen, ascended, and interceding One who perfectly fulfilled all the righteous demands of the law and is coming again. At His first coming Jesus Christ inaugurated the new covenant, and at His second coming He will consummate the new covenant. Only then will we enjoy the fullness of the new covenant and its privileges promised by God through His prophet Jeremiah (31:31–34).
Genesis 3:15 15 I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.” ESV
Genesis 3:1-6 (The Fall) 3 Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made.
He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” 2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, 3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” 4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. ESV
1 Corinthians 15:45 45 Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. ESV
Romans 10:4 4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. ESV
Jeremiah 31:31-34 (The New Covenant) 31 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. 33 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” ESV
The new covenant is new in that the long-awaited Messiah has come and has fulfilled the old, and the new covenant is superior in its scale, simplicity, and scope. Rather than narrowing the scope of the new covenant, covenant theology consistently portrays the broad and beautiful vista of the new covenant, leading us as God’s covenant people to worship our covenant-keeping God, coram Deo, before His face, both now and forever in Christ our covenant head.
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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.
by Bill Federer
Apollo 11 blasted off from Cape Kennedy this day, July 16, 1969, on the first mission to walk on the moon. Commenting on the Apollo program, President Richard M. Nixon stated: “Only a few short weeks ago we shared the glory of man’s first sight of the world as God sees it, as a single sphere reflecting light in the darkness. As the Apollo astronauts flew over the moon’s gray surface … they spoke to us the beauty of earth - and in that voice so clear across the lunar distance, we heard them invoke God’s blessing on its goodness.”
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
Never look for right in the other man,
but never cease to be right yourself.
We are always looking for justice;
the teaching of the Sermon on the Mount is—
Never look for justice,
but never cease to give it.
--- Oswald Chambers
Hyper-Grace: Exposing the Dangers of the Modern Grace Message
God’s purposes often ripen slowly and if the door is shut,don’t put your shoulder to it, wait till Christ takes out the keyand opens it up.
--- John Stott
What Christ thinks of the church: Insights from Revelation 2-3
’Tis sweet to keep my hand in His, while all is dim—
To close my weary, aching eyes, and trust in Him!
Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
... from here, there and everywhere
by Ryan Nicholson
I was placing an order for my next delivery at a store, when an elderly gentleman came up asking for a specific brand of chips. I held up the bag he was looking for and he smiled and said, "those are the ones." He commented he was going to take them to the park and relax there for the afternoon.
I could see he was looking for someone to talk to, so I stopped what I was doing and gave him my attention (mind you, it was supposed to be my day off, and I had still more work to do). He went on to say how much he liked shopping at that store, and he used to work there 30 years ago. He began to describe the way the store used to look and the merchandise they sold. "There was a big cage back there where you needed a combination to get in because people would always steal stuff if it wasn't locked. We sold real nice BBQ's in the cage. And over there is where they had the plants..." "Oh" I said, "this used to be a home improvement store?" "Yes" he replied.
That sparked the conversation into how expensive it was for homes, and how nice of a home he had way back when. I chimed in on my displeasure for the cost of living now a days and remarked, "my wife and I bought our house seven years ago, and I couldn't afford to buy my own house if I were to buy it today. That's just how much things have shot up in price recently."
The conversation then turned to his family. "Speaking of wife, I was married to my wife for 30 years until cancer took her away from me" I gave him my condolences, and he led right into talking about his kids. They were all grown, probably close to my age, and he talked of their accomplishments with the twinkle only a proud father can display.
He then showed me the application he just picked up at the front desk and said he was looking for a job for about 30 hours a week. "Nobody wants to hire an old man" he said semi-jokingly. I explained to him how my father, who is 68, also just applied for a job, and I reiterated some of the struggles my father faced. "If I can get a part-time job for about 30 hours a week that would be great. I have a limited income; there is only $440 in my account to last me till the end of the month. I like to eat just as much as the next guy, but I can only eat so much because I can't afford it" The elderly gentleman said.
"I know what you mean" I replied, "I'm in the same boat. As soon as I get my paycheck it is gone, and I don't live a lavish lifestyle at all." Then I said jokingly, "hey it keeps us skinny." He laughed and said, "if I get any skinnier I won't be able to keep my pants up."
He walked back to his shopping cart and told me he better get going. I think he realized I still had work to do. I then asked his name. He looked at me and smiled. "My name is Bob." "Well Bob, it was very nice to meet you." He kept smiling and said, "maybe I'll see you again sometime." As he walked away I said to myself, "he's just a lonely old man needing a friend."
Suddenly it hit me. His wife had past away, his children were grown and gone, he didn't have a job. Here was a man who used to have somewhere to be, people who depended on him, and now he is a lonely old man striking up conversations with random people at the store. Bob needed to feel like he still mattered to the world.
As I left the store and started thinking about how touched I felt to have shared 10 minutes of this man's 74 years on this earth, I couldn't help but wonder if my life was heading in the same direction. Sitting at a stop light and looking at the people around me and the cars they drove, some were very nice, I realized, life isn't about that. When we are old and grey, it will be the people that were in our lives that gave us purpose. After the children are gone, for whom are you providing? Your sense of purpose diminishes.
I began to get teary eyed thinking about it. We were created by a God whose sole purpose in making us was to have someone to love and someone who loved Him back freely. Because we were created with a purpose to love, it is ingrained in us, but we get caught up in the hustle and bustle of life. Our lives are like micro-seconds in the face of eternity, so why do we waste so much of it on things that don't matter? Buying nice houses and cars, moving up the corporate ladder to label yourself successful. Be grateful for what God has given you, and learn to make due with what you have. Don't waste your time pursuing things only to be left purposeless at the end of your life. Love your family, love your friends, and most importantly, love the Lord God with all your heart for He is the One who gives our lives purpose. I met Bob today, but in a way you can say, I met God today.
A Halakhic Analysis of the Shema
The fundamental halakhic concerns in the matter of the Reading of the Shema are the nature of the mitzvah commandment to recite the Shema; what is included in this mitzvah; how much of the obligatory verses or sections require kavvanah such that the failure to achieve such minimal intention renders the whole recitation meaningless and requires repetition with the proper kavvanah; and the relation, if any, between the mitzvah of recitation (keriah)(1) of the Shema and that of belief in the unity of God.
(1) Modern English, as well as most modern Western languages, differentiates between reading—a private, individual act—and reciting, which is generally a public act; the former may be done silently, the latter is always aloud. In Hebrew, however, the root k-r-a means both reading and reciting, perhaps because in antiquity the two were fused. The keriah of the Shema must likewise be understood as both reading and reciting; indeed, the Talmud specifically requires that it must be pronounced aloud “so that one’s ears hear what he says” (although post factum, if it was read silently, it need not be repeated in order to fulfill one’s obligation). We shall therefore be using the terms “reading” and “recitation” of the Shema interchangeably, but always with the idea that it is to be articulated audibly.
Nature of the Commandment
The Talmud records a major controversy as to whether the mitzvah of reciting the Shema carries biblical or rabbinic weight. (2) The majority opinion holds that it is biblical, one of the 613 commandments, and hence of primary importance. Such is the decision of the Rishonim (the great medieval Talmudists) such as Maimonides (Rambam), R. Isaac Alfasi (Rif), R. Asher (Rosh), and others. This decision is recorded and confirmed in the Shulḥan Arukh, the standard code of Jewish law. (3) The source is cited as a verse of the Shema itself: “and you shall teach them diligently to your children and you shall speak of them when you sit in your house,” etc.
(2) Berakhot 21a.
(3) Oraḥ Ḥayyim, 67.
R. Yonah Gerondi goes even further in underlining the biblical warrant for the Shema, claiming universal consent for his thesis that the Shema is biblically mandated. He maintains that even the talmudic opinion that the Reading of the Shema is only rabbinic agrees that the obligation to recite scriptural verses twice a day (“when you lie down and when you rise up”) is truly biblical; what is rabbinic is the choice of which verses or sections to recite. In other words, the talmudic expression “the Reading of the Shema is rabbinic” refers not to origin or level of obligation, but to the specific passages designated to be recited rather than other scriptural passages.
What Is Included in the Shema
It is indisputably accepted that the readings required are, first, Deuteronomy 6:4–9 (the first verse of which begins with the word Shema), which speaks of the unity of God and the duty to love Him, to speak these words constantly, to teach them diligently to our children, to bind them on hand and on head (the tefillin), and to inscribe them on our doorposts (the mezuzah). The second section speaks of divine reward and punishment for our observance or neglect of the Torah’s commandments and consists of Deuteronomy 11:13–21. The third paragraph is Numbers 15:37–41, which commands that fringes be worn on four-cornered garments (the tzitzit on the tallit) and, significantly, concludes with a reminder that it is the Lord who took Israel out of Egypt in order to serve Him.
Does the biblical commandment to recite the Shema cover all this scriptural material or only parts of it? There are three opinions among the Rishonim. R. Solomon b. Adret (Rashba) and others confine the biblical obligation to reciting the first verse alone: the Shema itself. According to this opinion, all the rest is rabbinic and hence of secondary importance relative to that first verse of the first section. Rashi, however, holds that the entire first paragraph is biblical. (4) And Rambam appears to include all three paragraphs in the biblical mitzvah. (5)
(4) See their respective comments to Berakhot 21a.
(5) There is some doubt about this, because Rambam is not explicit on the matter. See Hilkhot Keriat Shema, 1:2; and see Peri Ḥadash, Oraḥ Ḥayyim, 67, and Shaagat Aryeh, Hilkhot Keriat Shema, 2.
The Shema: Spirituality and Law in Judaism
Thanks to Meir Yona
Concerning The Government Of Claudius, And The Reign Of Agrippa. Concerning The Deaths Of Agrippa And Of Herod And What Children They Both Left Behind Them.
1. Now when Caius had reigned three years and eight months, and had been slain by treachery, Claudius was hurried away by the armies that were at Rome to take the government upon him; but the senate, upon the reference of the consuls, Sentis Saturninus, and Pomponius Secundus, gave orders to the three regiments of soldiers that staid with them to keep the city quiet, and went up into the capitol in great numbers, and resolved to oppose Claudius by force, on account of the barbarous treatment they had met with from Caius; and they determined either to settle the nation under an aristocracy, as they had of old been governed, or at least to choose by vote such a one for emperor as might be worthy of it.
2. Now it happened that at this time Agrippa sojourned at Rome, and that both the senate called him to consult with them, and at the same time Claudius sent for him out of the camp, that he might be serviceable to him, as he should have occasion for his service. So he, perceiving that Claudius was in effect made Caesar already, went to him, who sent him as an ambassador to the senate, to let them know what his intentions were: that, in the first place, it was without his seeking that he was hurried away by the soldiers; moreover, that he thought it was not just to desert those soldiers in such their zeal for him, and that if he should do so, his own fortune would be in uncertainty; for that it was a dangerous case to have been once called to the empire. He added further, that he would administer the government as a good prince, and not like a tyrant; for that he would be satisfied with the honor of being called emperor, but would, in every one of his actions, permit them all to give him their advice; for that although he had not been by nature for moderation, yet would the death of Caius afford him a sufficient demonstration how soberly he ought to act in that station.
3. This message was delivered by Agrippa; to which the senate replied, that since they had an army, and the wisest counsels on their side, they would not endure a voluntary slavery. And when Claudius heard what answer the senate had made, he sent Agrippa to them again, with the following message: That he could not bear the thoughts of betraying them that had given their oaths to be true to him; and that he saw he must fight, though unwillingly, against such as he had no mind to fight; that, however, [if it must come to that,] it was proper to choose a place without the city for the war, because it was not agreeable to piety to pollute the temples of their own city with the blood of their own countrymen, and this only on occasion of their imprudent conduct. And when Agrippa had heard this message, he delivered it to the senators.
4. In the mean time, one of the soldiers belonging to the senate drew his sword, and cried out, "O my fellow soldiers, what is the meaning of this choice of ours, to kill our brethren, and to use violence to our kindred that are with Claudius? while we may have him for our emperor whom no one can blame, and who hath so many just reasons [to lay claim to the government]; and this with regard to those against whom we are going to fight." When he had said this, he marched through the whole senate, and carried all the soldiers along with him. Upon which all the patricians were immediately in a great fright at their being thus deserted. But still, because there appeared no other way whither they could turn themselves for deliverance, they made haste the same way with the soldiers, and went to Claudius. But those that had the greatest luck in flattering the good fortune of Claudius betimes met them before the walls with their naked swords, and there was reason to fear that those that came first might have been in danger, before Claudius could know what violence the soldiers were going to offer them, had not Agrippa ran before, and told him what a dangerous thing they were going about, and that unless he restrained the violence of these men, who were in a fit of madness against the patricians, he would lose those on whose account it was most desirable to rule, and would be emperor over a desert.
5. When Claudius heard this, he restrained the violence of the soldiery, and received the senate into the camp, and treated them after an obliging manner, and went out with them presently to offer their thank-offerings to God, which were proper upon, his first coming to the empire. Moreover, he bestowed on Agrippa his whole paternal kingdom immediately, and added to it, besides those countries that had been given by Augustus to Herod, Trachonitis and Auranitis, and still besides these, that kingdom which was called the kingdom of Lysanius. This gift he declared to the people by a decree, but ordered the magistrates to have the donation engraved on tables of brass, and to be set up in the capitol. He bestowed on his brother Herod, who was also his son-in-law, by marrying [his daughter] Bernice, the kingdom of Chalcis.
6. So now riches flowed in to Agrippa by his enjoyment of so large a dominion; nor did he abuse the money he had on small matters, but he began to encompass Jerusalem with such a wall, which, had it been brought to perfection, had made it impracticable for the Romans to take it by siege; but his death, which happened at Cesarea, before he had raised the walls to their due height, prevented him. He had then reigned three years, as he had governed his tetrarchies three other years. He left behind him three daughters, born to him by Cypros, Bernice, Mariamne, and Drusilla, and a son born of the same mother, whose name was Agrippa: he was left a very young child, so that Claudius made the country a Roman province, and sent Cuspius Fadus to be its procurator, and after him Tiberius Alexander, who, making no alterations of the ancient laws, kept the nation in tranquillity. Now after this, Herod the king of Chalcis died, and left behind him two sons, born to him of his brother's daughter Bernice; their names were Bernie Janus and Hyrcanus. [He also left behind him] Aristobulus, whom he had by his former wife Mariamne. There was besides another brother of his that died a private person, his name was also Aristobulus, who left behind him a daughter, whose name was Jotape: and these, as I have formerly said, were the children of Aristobulus the son of Herod, which Aristobulus and Alexander were born to Herod by Mariamne, and were slain by him. But as for Alexander's posterity, they reigned in Armenia.
by D.H. Stern
and when the wise is instructed, he takes hold of knowledge.
12 The Righteous One observes the house of the wicked;
he overthrows the wicked to their ruin.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
The notion of divine control
How much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask Him? --- Matthew 7:11.
Jesus is laying down rules of conduct for those who have His Spirit. By the simple argument of these verses He urges us to keep our minds filled with the notion of God’s control behind everything, which means that the disciple must maintain an attitude of perfect trust and an eagerness to ask and to seek.
Notion your mind with the idea that God is there. If once the mind is notioned along that line, then when you are in difficulties it is as easy as breathing to remember—Why, my Father knows all about it! It is not an effort, it comes naturally when perplexities press. Before, you used to go to this person and that, but now the notion of the Divine control is forming so powerfully in you that you go to God about it. Jesus is laying down the rules of conduct for those who have His Spirit, and it works on this principle—God is my Father, He loves me, I shall never think of anything He will forget, why should I worry?
There are times, says Jesus, when God cannot lift the darkness from you, but trust Him. God will appear like an unkind friend, but He is not; He will appear like an unnatural Father, but He is not; He will appear like an unjust judge, but He is not. Keep the notion of the mind of God behind all things strong and growing. Nothing happens in any particular unless God’s will is behind it, therefore you can rest in perfect confidence in Him. Prayer is not only asking, but an attitude of mind which produces the atmosphere in which asking is perfectly natural. “Ask, and it shall be given you.”
My Utmost for His Highest
the Poetry of RS Thomas
He had that rare gift that what he said,
Even the simplest statement, could inflame
The mind and heart of the hearer. Those, who
For the first time that small figure
With the Welsh words leaving his lips
As quietly as doves on an errand
Of peace-making, could not imagine
The fierceness of their huge entry
Selected poems, 1946-1968
Kick against the goads
The New King James says, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads.”
A large percentage of people in the first century were tillers of the soil. Oxen were used to work the soil. The prick or goad was a necessary devise. The prick was usually a wooden shaft with a pointed spike (prick) at one end. The man working the ox would position the goad in such a way as to exert influence and control over the ox. You see, if the ox refused the command indicated by the farmer, the goad would be used to jab or prick the ox. Sometimes the ox would refuse this incentive by kicking out at the prick. As result, the prick would be driven deeper into the flesh of the rebellious animal. The more the animal rebelled, the more the animal suffered. Hence, the statement to Saul: "It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks." (Saul was rebelling against God.)
Profaning God’s Covenant
W. W. Wiersbe
Having dealt with the sins of the priests, Malachi now turns to the nation as a whole and confronts the men who divorced their wives to marry pagan women.
Treachery (Mal. 2:10–11, 14). The men loving pagan women wasn’t a new problem in the Jewish nation. When the Jews left Egypt, there was a “mixed multitude” that left with them (Ex. 12:38), which suggests that some Jews had married Egyptian spouses (Lev. 24:10; Num. 11:4). The Jews sinned greatly when they mixed with the women of Midian at Baal Peor (Num. 25), and God judged them severely. Ezra (Ezra 9:1–4) and Nehemiah (Neh. 13:23–31) had to contend with this problem, and it’s not totally absent from the church today (2 Cor. 6:14–18).
In divorcing their Jewish wives and marrying pagan women, the men were committing several sins. To begin with, it was treachery as they broke their vows to God and to their wives. They were profaning God’s covenant and treating it as nothing. Not only had the Lord given specific requirements for marriage in His Law (Ex. 34:11–16; Deut. 7:3–4), but the covenant of marriage was built into creation. “Have we not all one father?” (Mal. 2:10) refers to God as the Father of all humans, the Creator (Acts. 17:28). God made man and women for each other and established marriage for the good of the human family. So, what these men did was contrary to what God had written into nature and in His covenant.
Hypocrisy (Mal. 2:12–13). After committing these sins, the men then brought offerings to the Lord and wept at the altar (vv. 12–13), seeking His help and blessing. Perhaps they had the idea that they could sin blatantly with the intention of coming to God for forgiveness. But if they were truly repentant, they would have forsaken their heathen wives and taken their true wives back, which is what Ezra made them do (Ezra 9–10). These men were guilty of hypocritical worship that had nothing to do with a changed heart. Instead of forgiving them, God was ready to “cut them off.”
In matters of ethics and morals, there are many things in society that are legal but are not biblical. Brides and grooms must remember that God is an unseen witness at every wedding (Mal. 2:14), and He also witnesses those who live together who aren’t married. One day there will come a terrible harvest from the seeds being planted today by those who despise God’s laws and the principles He has built into nature.
Purity (Mal. 2:15). In the entire Book of Malachi, this is recognized as the most difficult verse to translate and interpret. I think the best translation is given by Dr. Gleason Archer: “But no one has done so who has a residue of the Spirit. And what does that one seek for? A godly offspring! Therefore take heed to your spirit [as a true believer under the covenant] and let none of you deal faithlessly with the wife of his youth.” Gleason L. Archer (New International Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties)
Here Malachi commended the faithful husbands who obeyed the Spirit of God and the Word of God. Unlike the men who took pagan wives just to satisfy their sexual hunger, these faithful men wanted to father children who would be a godly seed, devoted Jews, and not idol worshipers. The basic issue was not race, for humans are humans whether they are Jews or Midianites. The basic issue was loyalty to the God of Israel and the maintaining of a godly home.
God called Israel to be the channel for bringing the Messiah into the world, and anything that corrupted that stream would work against His great plan of salvation. God commanded the Jews to be a separate people, not because they were better than any other nation, but because He had a very special task for them to perform. Anything that broke down that wall of separation would play into the hands of the evil one who did all he could to keep the Messiah from being born.
Hostility (Mal. 2:16). “I hate divorce!” (NIV) is about as clear a statement as God can make. (Some people are surprised that a God of love could hate anything, but see Proverbs 6:16–19, as well as Psalms 5:5 and 11:5; Amos 5:21; Zechariah 8:17; and Revelation 2:6 and 15. “You who love the Lord, hate evil!” (Ps. 97:10) and see 139:21–22.) Those who want to please God certainly wouldn’t want to do anything that God so abhors, but would do everything possible to heal the marriage. God gave Adam one wife, not many, and He declared that the two were one flesh (Gen. 2:21–25). Divorce pulls apart that which God put together, and Jesus warned us not to do that (Matt. 19:6). (If God hates divorce, then why did He allow it? God permitted the Jews to divorce their wives if the wives were given a certificate that protected their reputation so they could be married again. However, they could not return to their first husband (Deut. 24:1–4). Jesus made it clear that the permission of divorce was a concession and not a commandment (Matt. 19:1–12), but God, the Author of marriage, can do it. Good and godly people disagree on the interpretation and application of the New Testament teachings concerning divorce and remarriage, and few if any are consistent in the way they handle the matter. It would appear that sexual sin would be grounds for divorce, and so would desertion (1 Cor. 7:12–16).) It’s like an act of violence in an area where there ought to be tenderness.
Why does Malachi mention a “garment” and “violence?” In modern Western society, a man puts an engagement ring on a woman’s finger to propose marriage, but in ancient Israel, he placed a corner of his garment over her (Ezek. 16:8; Ruth 3:9). (Deuteronomy 22:30 reads literally, “A man should not marry his father’s wife; he must not uncover the corner of his father’s garment.”) If a man divorces his wife, instead of having a garment that symbolized love, he had a garment that symbolized violence. He wrenched apart that which God said is one; by his infidelity, he made the marriage bed a place of violence.
In spite of a difficult text and differing interpretations, the main lessons of this passage are clear. In marriage, a man and a woman become one flesh, and God is a partner in that union. Through marriage, the Lord is seeking a godly seed that will carry on His work on earth. Marriage is a physical union (“one flesh”) and can be broken by physical causes: death (Rom. 7:1–3), sexual sin (Matt. 19:9), or desertion (1 Cor. 7:12–16). God’s original intent was that one man and one woman be devoted to each other in marriage for one lifetime. Divorce for reasons other than those given in Scripture, even though legal, would grieve the heart of God.
Be Amazed (Minor Prophets): Restoring an Attitude of Wonder and Worship (The BE Series Commentary)
The very last is dearest.
BIBLE TEXT / Genesis 33:1–2 / Looking up, Jacob saw Esau coming, accompanied by four hundred men. He divided the children among Leah, Rachel, and the two maids, putting the maids and their children first, Leah and her children next, and Rachel and Joseph last. He himself went on ahead and bowed to the ground seven times until he was near his brother.
MIDRASH TEXT / Genesis Rabbah 78, 8 / Putting the maids and their children first. From this it says, “The very last is dearest.” He himself went on ahead. This is what’s written, “As a father has compassion for his children” (Psalm 103:13). Rabbi Ḥiyya taught, “Like the merciful one among the Fathers.” Who is the merciful one among the Fathers? Rabbi Yehudah said, “This is Abraham. Abraham said, ‘Far be it from You to do such a thing’ (Genesis 18:25).” Rabbi Levi said, “This is Jacob. He himself went on ahead. He said, ‘Better that he should injure me than them.’ ”
CONTEXT / Jacob bought the birthright from his brother Esau, who was the first-born (Genesis 25), and then stole the blessing from their father Isaac (Genesis 27). When he learned that Esau was seeking to kill him, Jacob fled to Haran, the land from which his ancestors had come. There, Jacob met his uncle Laban and worked for him for twenty years. During that time, Jacob married both Leah and Rachel. In our biblical text, Genesis 33, Jacob prepares to meet his brother Esau, whom he has not seen in two decades.
As Esau, accompanied by four hundred men, approaches, Jacob divides his camp into smaller groups, reasoning that if Esau attacks, at least some of the family will be spared. Jacob places his maids or concubines, Bilhah and Zilpah, and their sons first, then Leah and her family next, and finally Rachel and Joseph last. It is well known that of his wives Jacob loved Rachel the most, and of his children, her son Joseph the most. Thus, “the very last is dearest,” the one he places last in the entourage, the one who would be attacked by Esau last, is the dearest to him.
He himself went on ahead. The Midrash notes that Jacob left his entire convoy behind him. Thus, the Midrash compares Jacob to God, who is described in Psalm 103 as a father who has compassion for his children. This leads to a disagreement as to who is the most compassionate of the Patriarchs: “As a father has compassion for his children” (Psalm 103:13). Rabbi Yehudah said, “This is Abraham. Rabbi Yehudah believes it to be Abraham who argued on behalf of the residents of Sodom. “Far be it from You to do such a thing” is Abraham’s challenge to God, as the verse continues, “to bring death upon the innocent as well as the guilty, so that innocent and guilty fare alike. Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly?” Abraham asks God not to destroy any righteous people in Sodom. Rabbi Yehudah holds that this shows an incredible compassion, caring for potential innocents in a city of evildoers. Rabbi Levi said, “This is Jacob.…” Rabbi Levi holds that Jacob is the most compassionate patriarch, for Jacob puts his life on the line to save his own family by going alone to confront Esau. If Esau is still angry after all these years and seeks to destroy the camp, Jacob will be the first one harmed. Jacob is willing to risk injury to himself in order to protect his children.
Searching for Meaning in Midrash: Lessons for Everyday Living
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened… and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
--- Matthew 11:28–30.
The invitations of the Gospel are addressed to all; the Good News is to be preached to all creation. (John A. Broadus, “Come unto Me,” downloaded from the Web site of Blessed Hope Ministries of Shiloh Church, Gainesville, Georgia, at members.aol.com/blesshope, accessed Aug. 21, 2001.) God commands all people to repent; he promises that whoever believes in Jesus shall have eternal life—“the free gift of the water of life” (Rev. 22:17).
And it is worth observing that the Gospel invitations are so varied. The same bountiful and gracious Being who suits the blessings of his providence to our various wants also adapts the invitations of his mercy to our varied characters and conditions. Are people enemies to God? They are invited to be reconciled. Have they hearts harder than a millstone? He offers to take away the stone and give a heart of flesh. Are they rushing madly along the way that leads to death? He calls upon them to turn, “Turn! Turn… ! Why will you die?” (Ezek. 33:11). Are people hungering? He tells them of the bread that came down from heaven. Are they thirsty? He calls them to the water of life. And are they burdened with sin? He invites them to come to Jesus for rest. It is those who are bowed down beneath a load of sin who are here especially invited to come to Jesus.
Sin is a grievous burden, and no one can feel its weight without wishing to be relieved of it. Aren’t there many among you who have often felt heavy with the load of your transgressions and the burden of your sinfulness? If you do not all feel so, it is because your perceptions are blunted, you do not see things as they are. You have been servants of sin for a long time—haven’t you found it a hard master? You have been wearing the yoke of Satan these many years—haven’t you found that his yoke is indeed galling and grievous? How many things you have done at his bidding that you knew to be wrong? How often you have stifled the voice of your conscience and listened to the suggestions of the Tempter! How often you have toiled to gratify sinful desires and found that, still, the craving was left unfilled!
Let all, then, who are burdened with sin and sinfulness, who long to know how their transgressions may be forgiven and their souls saved, all who are inquiring what they must do, let them hear the gracious words of the text, “Come to me.”
--- John A. Broadus
Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
I Will Still Celebrate July 16
The London plague of 1665 was terrible. Most shops closed, orphans roamed the streets, parents wailed, and the dead were borne out daily. On July 16, 1665 businessman Walter Petherick, a widower with four children, took his family to the parish church. The sun was brilliant, the Thames smooth. But the heart of London was sad, and the somber church was packed. The minister read from Habakkuk 3: Fig trees may no longer bloom, or vineyards produce grapes; olive trees may be fruitless, and harvest time a failure; sheep pens may be empty, and cattle stalls vacant—but I will still [rejoice in the Lord].
That Evening a horror fell over Petherick. He feared his children would die. He called them together, read Habakkuk 3, sent them to bed, then knelt and prayed earnestly for the first time in years. He cried over each child, saying, “If my children were snatched from me—my fine boys and lovely girls—the treasures that she left me—how could I rejoice in the Lord?” He continued praying in anguish, “Spare him, oh, spare him. Spare her, O Lord; have pity!”
As he prayed he realized he had long neglected prayer and the Lord. He had been more concerned for figs and olives and cattle and harvest than for the things of Christ. He wept, confessed, prayed on—and found peace.
The next year as the Great Fire consumed London, it threatened Petherick’s warehouse containing practically all his earthly substance. This time, however, there was no anguish, just simple trust in God’s will. He later wrote, “Lord, thou hast been pleased by pestilence and fire to redeem my soul from destruction. Thou didst threaten me with the loss of thy choicest gifts that I might set my heart’s affections once more upon the Giver. But the fig tree did not wither; the vines did not perish; the olive not fail. The pestilence did not touch my children; the flames did not destroy my goods. Accept the thanks of thy servant this day and help him, all his days, to rejoice in the Lord.”
Fig trees may no longer bloom, Or vineyards produce grapes; Olive trees may be fruitless, And harvest time a failure; Sheep pens may be empty, And cattle stalls vacant— But I will still celebrate Because the LORD God saves me. The LORD gives me strength. He makes my feet as sure as those of a deer.
--- Habbakkuk 3:17-19a.
On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - July 16
“They gathered manna every Morning.” --- Exodus 16:21.
Labour to maintain a sense of thine entire dependence upon the Lord’s good will and pleasure for the continuance of thy richest enjoyments. Never try to live on the old manna, nor seek to find help in Egypt. All must come from Jesus, or thou art undone for ever. Old anointings will not suffice to impart unction to thy spirit; thine head must have fresh oil poured upon it from the golden horn of the sanctuary, or it will cease from its glory. To-day thou mayest be upon the summit of the mount of God, but he who has put thee there must keep thee there, or thou wilt sink far more speedily than thou dreamest. Thy mountain only stands firm when he settles it in its place; if he hide his face, thou wilt soon be troubled. If the Saviour should see fit, there is not a window through which thou seest the light of heaven which he could not darken in an instant. Joshua bade the sun stand still, but Jesus can shroud it in total darkness. He can withdraw the joy of thine heart, the light of thine eyes, and the strength of thy life; in his hand thy comforts lie, and at his will they can depart from thee. This hourly dependence our Lord is determined that we shall feel and recognize, for he only permits us to pray for “daily bread,” and only promises that “as our days our strength shall be.” Is it not best for us that it should be so, that we may often repair to his throne, and constantly be reminded of his love? Oh! how rich the grace which supplies us so continually, and doth not refrain itself because of our ingratitude! The golden shower never ceases, the cloud of blessing tarries evermore above our habitation. O Lord Jesus, we would bow at thy feet, conscious of our utter inability to do anything without thee, and in every favour which we are privileged to receive, we would adore thy blessed name and acknowledge thine unexhausted love.
Evening - July 16
"Thou shalt arise, and have mercy upon Zion: for the time to favour her, yea, the set time is come. For thy servants take pleasure in her stones, and favour the dust thereof." --- Psalm 102:13, 14.
A selfish man in trouble is exceedingly hard to comfort, because the springs of his comfort lie entirely within himself, and when he is sad all his springs are dry. But a large-hearted man full of Christian philanthropy, has other springs from which to supply himself with comfort beside those which lie within. He can go to his God first of all, and there find abundant help; and he can discover arguments for consolation in things relating to the world at large, to his country, and, above all, to the church. David in this Psalm was exceedingly sorrowful; he wrote, “I am like an owl of the desert. I watch, and am as a sparrow alone upon the house top.” The only way in which he could comfort himself, was in the reflection that God would arise, and have mercy upon Zion: though he was sad, yet Zion should prosper; however low his own estate, yet Zion should arise. Christian man! learn to comfort thyself in God’s gracious dealing towards the church. That which is so dear to thy Master, should it not be dear above all else to thee? What though thy way be dark, canst thou not gladden thine heart with the triumphs of his cross and the spread of his truth? Our own personal troubles are forgotten while we look, not only upon what God has done, and is doing for Zion, but on the glorious things he will yet do for his church. Try this receipt, O believer, whenever thou art sad of heart and in heaviness of spirit: forget thyself and thy little concerns, and seek the welfare and prosperity of Zion. When thou bendest thy knee in prayer to God, limit not thy petition to the narrow circle of thine own life, tried though it be, but send out thy longing prayers for the church’s prosperity, “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem,” and thine own soul shall be refreshed.
... in order that you may always love him. If love be cold, be sure that faith is drooping.
Morning and Evening
JESUS NEVER FAILS
Words and Music by Arthur A. Luther, 1891–1960
Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. (Matthew 25:35)
Just when my hopes have vanished, just when my friends forsake,
Just when the fight is thickest, just when with fear I shake,
Then comes a still small whisper, “Fear not my child, I’m near!”
Jesus brings peace and comfort; I love His voice to hear.
--- J. Bruce Evans
The Bible teaches that some of life’s richest lessons are learned only in the valley of tears. The psalmist declared: “It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn Your decrees” (Psalm 119:71). Difficult times should be the steppingstones in our spiritual growth and usefulness. This was the case with the author and composer of “Jesus Never Fails.” Arthur Luther, pastor and musician, relates the following story regarding the writing of his hymn:
As a school boy Christian I had a burning desire to be a foreign missionary. That was not to be. Later I had an urgent desire to write a song that everyone would sing. I tried a popular song but it was a dismal failure; yet, God, in His own time and way, granted my wish and “Jesus Never Fails” has reached to the uttermost of mission fields and the multitudes have sung it. The song was written at Somerset, Kentucky, while I was there with the Dr. O. E. Williams Evangelistic Party. I received some very disturbing news from my family some 600 miles away. Worried and homesick, I sat down at the old square piano in the “Old Kentucky Home” where we were staying and as my fingers wandered idly, a simple melody developed beneath them which seemed to sing, “Jesus Never Fails.” Then and there the words and music of the chorus were born. I accepted this as the answer to my heart’s prayer and I thank Him that it proved true. Reassuring news came from home. He did not fail me … Scores of testimonies have since come from missionaries, evangelists, and others of the blessing that this simple three-word message has been to them. It has been translated into ten European languages and into Chinese … “Jesus Never Fails” has become a sort of musical slogan of Bible-believing Christians everywhere. Men sang it at the battlefront as they girded themselves for the fray. On the homefront, saints sing it as they do battle with the forces of sin, in true confidence that the Captain of their salvation fails not. I surely have every reason to praise God for this song that He gave me in the hour of my need and which has gone on to bless the entire world with its message of triumph …
* * * *
Earthly friends may prove untrue, doubts and fears assail; One still loves and cares for you, one who will not fail.
Tho the sky be dark and drear, fierce and strong the gale, just remember He is near, and He will not fail.
In life’s dark and bitter hour love will still prevail. Trust His everlasting pow’r—Jesus will not fail.
Chorus: Jesus never fails; heav’n and earth may pass away, but Jesus never fails.
For Today: Matthew 28:20; Acts 18:9; Romans 8:18; 2 Timothy 4:17.
Face life confidently with the awareness that the victorious Lord is at your side. He will never fail! Carry this musical truth with you ---
Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
Martin Luther | (1483-1546)
Sect. LXXXVII. — IT is thus God hardens Pharaoh — He presents to his impious and evil will His word and His work, which that will hates; that is, by its engendered and natural corruption. And thus, while God does not change by His Spirit that will within, but goes on presenting and enforcing; and while Pharaoh, considering his own resources, his riches and his power, trusts to them from the same naturally evil inclination; it comes to pass, that being inflated and uplifted by the imagination of his own greatness on the one hand, and swollen into a proud contempt of Moses coming in all humility with the unostentatious word of God on the other, he becomes hardened; and then, the more and more irritated and chafed, the more Moses advances and threatens: whereas, this his evil will would not, of itself, have been moved or hardened at all. But as the omnipotent Agent moved it by that His inevitable motion, it must of necessity will one way or the other. — And thus, as soon as he presented to it outwardly, that which naturally irritated and offended it, then it was, that Pharaoh could not avoid becoming hardened; even as he could not avoid the action of the Divine Omnipotence, and the aversion or enmity of his own will.
Wherefore, the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart by God, is wrought thus,: — God presents outwardly to his enmity, that which he naturally hates; and then, He ceases not to move within, by His omnipotent motion, the evil will which He there finds. He, from the enmity of his will, cannot but hate that which is contrary to him, and trust to his own powers; and that, so obstinately, that he can neither hear nor feel, but is carried away, in the possession of Satan, like a madman or a fury.
If I have brought these things home with convincing persuasion, the victory in this point is mine. And having exploded the tropes and glosses of men, I understand the words of God simply; so that, there is no necessity for clearing God or accusing Him of iniquity. For when He saith, “I will harden the heart of Pharaoh,” He speaks simply: as though He Should say, I will so work, that the heart of Pharaoh shall be hardened: or, by My operation and working, the heart of Pharaoh shall be hardened. And how this was to be done, we have heard: — that is, by My general motion, I will so move his very evil will, that he shall go on in his course and lust of willing, nor will I cease to move it, nor can I do otherwise. I will, nevertheless, present to him My word and work; against which, that evil impetus will run; for he, being evil, cannot but will evil while I move him by the power of My Omnipotence.
Thus God with the greatest certainty knew, and with the greatest certainty declared, that Pharaoh would be hardened; because, He with the greatest certainty knew, that the will of Pharaoh could neither resist the motion of His Omnipotence, nor put away its own enmity, nor receive its adversary Moses; and that, as that evil will still remained, he must, of necessity, become worse, more hardened, and more proud, while, by his course and impetus, trusting to his own powers, he ran against that which he would not receive, and which he despised.
Here therefore, you see, it is confirmed even by this very Scripture, that “Free-will” can do nothing but evil, while God, who is not deceived from ignorance nor lies from iniquity, so surely promises the hardening of Pharaoh; because, He was certain, that an evil will could will nothing but evil, and that, as the good which it hated was presented to it, it could not but wax worse and worse.
The Bondage of the Will or Christian Classics Ethereal Library
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