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7/26/2023     Yesterday     Tomorrow

Ecclesiastes 9 - 12

Ecclesiastes 9

Death Comes to All

Ecclesiastes 9:1     But all this I laid to heart, examining it all, how the righteous and the wise and their deeds are in the hand of God. Whether it is love or hate, man does not know; both are before him. 2 It is the same for all, since the same event happens to the righteous and the wicked, to the good and the evil, to the clean and the unclean, to him who sacrifices and him who does not sacrifice. As the good one is, so is the sinner, and he who swears is as he who shuns an oath. 3 This is an evil in all that is done under the sun, that the same event happens to all. Also, the hearts of the children of man are full of evil, and madness is in their hearts while they live, and after that they go to the dead. 4 But he who is joined with all the living has hope, for a living dog is better than a dead lion. 5 For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing, and they have no more reward, for the memory of them is forgotten. 6 Their love and their hate and their envy have already perished, and forever they have no more share in all that is done under the sun.

Enjoy Life with the One You Love

7 Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved what you do.

8 Let your garments be always white. Let not oil be lacking on your head.

9 Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vain life that he has given you under the sun, because that is your portion in life and in your toil at which you toil under the sun. 10 Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might, for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going.

Wisdom Better Than Folly

11 Again I saw that under the sun the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to those with knowledge, but time and chance happen to them all. 12 For man does not know his time. Like fish that are taken in an evil net, and like birds that are caught in a snare, so the children of man are snared at an evil time, when it suddenly falls upon them.

13 I have also seen this example of wisdom under the sun, and it seemed great to me. 14 There was a little city with few men in it, and a great king came against it and besieged it, building great siegeworks against it. 15 But there was found in it a poor, wise man, and he by his wisdom delivered the city. Yet no one remembered that poor man. 16 But I say that wisdom is better than might, though the poor man’s wisdom is despised and his words are not heard.

17 The words of the wise heard in quiet are better than the shouting of a ruler among fools. 18 Wisdom is better than weapons of war, but one sinner destroys much good.

Ecclesiastes 10

Ecclesiastes 10:1     Dead flies make the perfumer’s ointment give off a stench;
so a little folly outweighs wisdom and honor.
2  A wise man’s heart inclines him to the right,
but a fool’s heart to the left.
3  Even when the fool walks on the road, he lacks sense,
and he says to everyone that he is a fool.
4  If the anger of the ruler rises against you, do not leave your place,
for calmness will lay great offenses to rest.

5 There is an evil that I have seen under the sun, as it were an error proceeding from the ruler: 6 folly is set in many high places, and the rich sit in a low place. 7 I have seen slaves on horses, and princes walking on the ground like slaves.

8  He who digs a pit will fall into it,
and a serpent will bite him who breaks through a wall.
9  He who quarries stones is hurt by them,
and he who splits logs is endangered by them.
10  If the iron is blunt, and one does not sharpen the edge,
he must use more strength,
but wisdom helps one to succeed.
11  If the serpent bites before it is charmed,
there is no advantage to the charmer.

12  The words of a wise man’s mouth win him favor,
but the lips of a fool consume him.
13  The beginning of the words of his mouth is foolishness,
and the end of his talk is evil madness.
14  A fool multiplies words,
though no man knows what is to be,
and who can tell him what will be after him?
15  The toil of a fool wearies him,
for he does not know the way to the city.

16  Woe to you, O land, when your king is a child,
and your princes feast in the morning!
17  Happy are you, O land, when your king is the son of the nobility,
and your princes feast at the proper time,
for strength, and not for drunkenness!
18  Through sloth the roof sinks in,
and through indolence the house leaks.
19  Bread is made for laughter,
and wine gladdens life,
and money answers everything.
20  Even in your thoughts, do not curse the king,
nor in your bedroom curse the rich,
for a bird of the air will carry your voice,
or some winged creature tell the matter.

Ecclesiastes 11

Cast Your Bread upon the Waters

Ecclesiastes 11:1     Cast your bread upon the waters,
for you will find it after many days.
2  Give a portion to seven, or even to eight,
for you know not what disaster may happen on earth.
3  If the clouds are full of rain,
they empty themselves on the earth,
and if a tree falls to the south or to the north,
in the place where the tree falls, there it will lie.
4  He who observes the wind will not sow,
and he who regards the clouds will not reap.

5 As you do not know the way the spirit comes to the bones in the womb of a woman with child, so you do not know the work of God who makes everything.

6 In the morning sow your seed, and at evening withhold not your hand, for you do not know which will prosper, this or that, or whether both alike will be good. 7 Light is sweet, and it is pleasant for the eyes to see the sun.

8 So if a person lives many years, let him rejoice in them all; but let him remember that the days of darkness will be many. All that comes is vanity.

9 Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth. Walk in the ways of your heart and the sight of your eyes. But know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment.

10 Remove vexation from your heart, and put away pain from your body, for youth and the dawn of life are vanity.

Ecclesiastes 12

Remember Your Creator in Your Youth

Ecclesiastes 12:1     Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, “I have no pleasure in them”; 2 before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars are darkened and the clouds return after the rain, 3 in the day when the keepers of the house tremble, and the strong men are bent, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those who look through the windows are dimmed, 4 and the doors on the street are shut—when the sound of the grinding is low, and one rises up at the sound of a bird, and all the daughters of song are brought low— 5 they are afraid also of what is high, and terrors are in the way; the almond tree blossoms, the grasshopper drags itself along, and desire fails, because man is going to his eternal home, and the mourners go about the streets— 6 before the silver cord is snapped, or the golden bowl is broken, or the pitcher is shattered at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern, 7 and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it. 8 Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher; all is vanity.

Fear God and Keep His Commandments

9 Besides being wise, the Preacher also taught the people knowledge, weighing and studying and arranging many proverbs with great care. 10 The Preacher sought to find words of delight, and uprightly he wrote words of truth.

11 The words of the wise are like goads, and like nails firmly fixed are the collected sayings; they are given by one Shepherd. 12 My son, beware of anything beyond these. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh.

13 The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. 14 For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.

ESV Study Bible

What I'm Reading

A Holy God

By Robert Jeffress 2023

     God is holy. That’s important to remember. It’s so important, in fact, that there are seraphim, angelic beings, in heaven who announce God’s holiness continuously, according to the prophet Isaiah. In his vision, Isaiah saw the Lord, seated on His throne in heaven, surrounded by seraphim who called out, “Holy, Holy, Holy is the LORD of hosts” (Isa. 6:3).

     Many people mistakenly assume that holiness is a benign concept, similar to goodness or morality. They think the seraphim’s heavenly announcement is the equivalent of saying, “God is a good guy who stands for truth and justice.”

     But holiness goes far beyond goodness or morality. God’s holiness has profound implications for us sin - infected descendants of Adam. The Hebrew word translated as “holy” comes from a term that means “to cut” or “to separate.” God is separate from everything and everyone else in creation. In other words, He is “a cut above.”

     God’s holiness means He is separate from sin. Such a concept was novel in the ancient world. Practitioners of false religions imagined their gods reveling in evil and immorality. But not so with the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The prophet Habakkuk addressed the Lord this way: “Your eyes are too pure to approve evil, and You can not look on wickedness with favor” (1:13).

     For clues as to how God’s holiness affects us, take a look at how Isaiah reacted after he got just a fleeting glimpse of that holiness. He said, “Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts” (6:5). The venerable prophet came unglued as he realized what God’s holiness meant for him — and for the rest of God’s people —forever.

     The clearer God’s holiness comes into focus, the clearer we see our own sinfulness and the reason He sets Himself apart from us. Understanding God’s holiness gives us a sense of the distance our sin has created between us and Him.

A Vast Chasm

     The prophet Isaiah certainly recognized that distance. He said, “Behold, the LORD’s hand is not so short that it cannot save; nor is His ear so dull that it cannot hear. But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear” (59:1–2).

     We have no defense against this charge. The responsibility for the distance between us and God lies solely with us. God did nothing to us but provide for our every need, share His amazing creation with us, entrust us with a solemn responsibility, and show us how to find our deepest fulfillment by obeying Him. He has stayed absolutely true to His nature and unquestionably faithful to His promises.

     The distance between us and God was created by Adam’s and Eve’s decisions to disobey in the garden — and by the similar decisions made every day by every one of their descendants (again, with one exception). As the old saying goes, “If you feel distant from God, guess which one of you moved?”

     Of course, that doesn’t stop us from trying to shift the blame — or at least trying to shift the focus. Since God is blameless, the only place we can point our finger is at one another. So we rationalize and make strategic comparisons designed to show ourselves in the best possible light. We use faulty standards to measure our goodness. We invoke the names of history’s most notorious villains to show that, relatively speaking, we’re not as bad as other people are.

     In terms of distance from God, we may not be as near to Him as, say, Peter, Paul, Mary the mother of Jesus, and other heroes of the faith were. But we’re certainly closer to Him than Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, and the Christian - persecuting Roman emperor Nero were. And that has to count for something — or so we think.

     The problem is, we underestimate the distance that our sin put between us and God.

     To put it in terms we can picture, imagine that the chasm between us and God is the size of the Grand Canyon. God is on the North Rim of the canyon; we’re on the South Rim. With no help from God, each of our lives would be like taking a running leap from the South Rim. Hitler and his ilk would stumble on takeoff, of course, and drop like stones. Most of us would surpass them by a good six or seven feet. The very best of us — the most morally upright people who ever lived — might get as far as twelve feet out from takeoff. But what does that matter when the distance between the North and South Rims is more than twenty miles?

     With this Grand Canyon analogy in mind, the words of the apostle Paul in Romans 3:23 take on a new dimension: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” The glory of God — the evidence of His perfections — is the very thing we were created to acknowledge and celebrate. The glory of God is the only thing in which we can find ultimate meaning and purpose. Yet due to the lethal combination of our sin and God’s holiness, the glory of God is immeasurably beyond our reach.

     We are powerless to close the distance between us and God. Unless we acknowledge that truth, the distance can never be closed. We can’t bring God closer by being the best possible version of ourselves. We can’t earn His favor through good works. We can’t jump the gap, even with a good tailwind.

     Our only hope for bridging the chasm between our sinfulness and God’s holiness is for God to take the initiative and reach across to us. The bridge must start from His side.

The Way Back

     You may have noticed that the Alexander Pope quote earlier in this chapter — “To err is human” — was incomplete. To put this sixth core belief of Christianity in context, to understand how humanity’s sin and God’s holiness can ever be reconciled, we need to finish the poet’s thought:

     “To err is human; to forgive, divine.”3

     Just as God’s holiness can never be abated, neither can His love. The impossibly wide chasm between us and God that we created because of our sin is no match for God’s love. Our way back to God begins with understanding what it cost God to redeem us and understanding that our battle against sin never ends.

A Plan of Redemption

     To understand God’s plan of redemption, we need to go back to the beginning, to Adam and Eve in the garden. A series of tragic “firsts” occurred in the wake of their decision to disobey God. Genesis 3:7 says, “The eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings.”

     For the first time ever, humans experienced guilt. The rawness of the emotion caused Adam and Eve to feel exposed. Both had been naked since creation — unashamedly so, because they had nothing to hide. Yet after they sinned, Adam and Eve suddenly felt the need for a covering. Guilt provokes that same reaction in us even today. Instead of admitting our mistakes, our natural instinct is to try to cover them up and hope no one notices. This is part of the sin nature we inherited from Adam and Eve. The first couple tried to cover their sin using the materials they had on hand to fashion garments for themselves.

Like Father, Like Son

     In Romans 5:8, Paul said, “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” However, even before He died for us, Jesus gave us tangible evidence of God’s love for sinners.

     Jesus spent so much time with despised members of Jewish society that the religious leaders of the day referred to Him as “a friend of tax collectors and sinners” (Matt. 11:19). They thought they were leveling a devastating criticism. They didn’t realize Jesus would embrace the title.

     Jesus was a friend of sinners. He cared about their well-being. He showed them a different way. And when they crucified Him, He said, “Father, forgive them” (Luke 23:34). Jesus loved sinners because God loves sinners. And our redemption begins with that amazing truth.

     Meanwhile, God came looking for them “in the cool of the day” (v. 8), as was His custom. And for the first time, Adam and Eve dreaded God’s presence. They became acutely aware of His holiness and realized their feeble efforts to cover themselves could not withstand His scrutiny.

     As the awful weight of what they had done settled on them, Adam and Eve were able to receive God’s first provision for their sin: “The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them” (v. 21). This is the first death recorded in Scripture. It’s also the first sacrifice. It’s the first reveal of the payment necessary for sin — and the first foreshadowing of the once - and - for - all sacrifice to come.

     The skin for their coverings came from an animal God had created — a living creature He had to kill because of their sin. For the first time ever, something innocent died to cover the sins of someone guilty. And God provided the sacrificial animal.

     Animal sacrifices, along with grain offerings, multiplied exponentially under the law of Moses. The never - ending need for offerings and sacrifices served as a perpetual reminder of the people’s sins. These sacrifices didn’t actually remove sins. Instead, they underscored people’s need for forgiveness. They also foreshadowed the coming final sacrifice of Jesus Christ. The climax of Israel’s annual cycle of offerings and sacrifices took place on the Day of Atonement, which is described in detail in Leviticus 16.

     God wanted His people to understand that something innocent had to die to atone for those who are guilty. Even so, the covering of sins these animals provided was limited. These animals were simply object lessons that pointed to the ultimate sacrifice, Jesus Christ, whom God Himself would provide to atone for the sins of the world. Like the animal sacrifices, Jesus Christ was “without blemish” (Ezek. 43:22). But that’s where the similarity stops.

     •     The Old Testament sacrifice system was perpetual. The offerings and sacrifices had to be made continually. But Jesus Christ was offered once, through His crucifixion.

     •     The Old Testament sacrifices were made by sinful priests who first had to atone for their own sins. Christ was the perfect, sinless High Priest who had no sin of His own to atone for, so He could present Himself as the ultimate sacrifice for our sins.

     •     The Old Testament sacrifices provided temporary reconciliation with God. Christ’s sacrifice offered eternal redemption for those who believe (Heb. 9:11–12).

     The Old Testament sacrificial system was designed to remind God’s people every day of their sin and their need for atonement. The fact that those sacrifices were never completed but had to be offered year after year created a longing for the once - and - for - all sin offering that only God Himself could make.

     That sacrifice is the focus of the seventh core belief of Christianity. In the chapter that follows, we will examine why Jesus Christ alone is able to provide salvation. As we wrap up this chapter, let’s consider the lingering problem of sin.

Robert Jeffress, What Every Christian Should Know: 10 Core Beliefs for Standing Strong in a Shifting World (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2023)

What’s in a Name?

By Mark Futato 11/1/2010

     Anybody who has spent any time in the church can tell stories of flat-out ridiculous attitudes and actions they have seen in the lives of God’s people. There is nothing new under the sun. The book of Jonah exposes in a sometimes humorous way the foibles of the faithful in ancient Israel. Against the backdrop of human folly shines the brilliance of divine faithfulness. Such is the message of the book of Jonah. We need not, however, study the whole book to get this message. It is found in Jonah’s name.

     Some scholars are hesitant to see any significance in Jonah’s name. In brief, three reasons should suffice to overcome this hesitancy. One, the author of the book of Jonah uses a variety of names for God in a way that is theologically significant. Two, the book of Jonah is filled with rhetorical devices, so we should not be surprised if the name of one of the chief characters plays into the storyline. Three, naming is significant in many other Old Testament narratives. I will mention just a few from the early chapters of Genesis.

     Adam (1:26) means “humanity,” and he is the representative of the human race. Eve (3:20) means “living” because she will be the mother of all of the living. Cain (4:1) sounds like the word for “acquired,” and Eve said she acquired a male child with the help of the Lord. Abel (v. 2) means “vanity” because his life was in vain, having been snuffed out in its prime. Seth (v. 25) means “replacement” because he was a replacement for the son that Eve lost.

     Examples could be multiplied, but suffice to say that it is common for personal names to have theological significance in Hebrew narratives.

     The author of the book of Jonah tells us that the word of the Lord came to “Jonah the son of Amittai” (v. 1). With this naming, the author identifies the Jonah of our story with the Jonah known from the history of the kings, who prophesied in the northern kingdom of Israel during the reign of Jeroboam II (see 2 Kings 14:25). The reign of Jeroboam II was characterized by two things: human waywardness and divine blessing. In spite of Israel’s waywardness, she experienced the blessing of God in a way that was reminiscent of the glory days of David and Solomon (vv. 23–29). As we will see, Jonah also experiences the blessing of God in spite of his waywardness, and in this way he serves as a representative of the nation.

     In addition to this straightforward use of the name “Jonah the son of Amittai” that identifies him with the historical prophet, I think the author also uses the name in a way that is theologically significant, especially since the author uses the naming of God in a way that is theologically significant.

     In addition to being a proper noun, the Hebrew word for “Jonah” is also a common noun that means “dove.” In American culture, the word dove can be used symbolically to refer to a variety of things, including “peace” and the “Holy Spirit.” In a similar way, the Hebrew word for “dove” can be used symbolically in a variety of ways. Of particular interest is its use in Hosea 7:11, where we read, “Ephraim is like a dove, silly and without sense.” From the beginning of the story to its end, Jonah will show himself to be true to his name “silly and without sense.”

     But the author does not simply give us Jonah’s “first” name. He goes on to give us his “last” name. Is there significance here?

     Since there were numerous people with the same names in ancient Israel, Hebrew tradition specified individuals in reference to their fathers. So Jonah is called “the son of Amittai.” The Hebrew noun translated “Amittai” is made up of two parts. The first part comes from a noun that means, among other things, “reliability, dependability, trustworthiness, faithfulness, constancy.” The second part of the name is the personal pronoun “my.” So when hearing Jonah’s full name in the story, ancient Israelites would have easily heard “Dove, the son of my faithfulness.” And that he was! From the beginning of the book to its end, Jonah not only shows himself to be “silly and without sense,” but he ever remains the son of God’s “faithfulness.”

     In the book of Jonah, the primary way in which God’s faithfulness manifests itself is in compassion. Even when God disciplines Jonah in the story, this discipline is from God’s compassionate heart and for Jonah’s good. God never gives up on Jonah but remains faithful to him throughout the story. Jonah is one who repeatedly experiences God’s faithful compassion.

     In short, therefore, the story of Jonah has a twofold focus: Jonah’s silly and senseless waywardness and God’s faithful compassion. This twofold focus is why the story of Jonah has touched the hearts of God’s people throughout the generations. From the time when the story was first told until the present day, it speaks to God’s people about the ways in which we, like Jonah, are silly and senseless at times and yet always remain the objects of God’s faithful compassion.

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     Dr. Mark D. Futato is Robert L. Maclellan Chair of Old Testament and academic dean of Reformed Theological Seminary Orlando.

By Faith, Not Fear

By Scotty Smith 11/1/2010

     “Lions and tigers and bears, O my!” That’s not only one of the more memorable lines from cinematic history, it’s one of the more recognizable themes in contemporary discipleship. Sometimes fear of the enemies to our faith seems much more pronounced than faith in the object of our faith — the Lord Jesus Christ.

     We can ill afford to be naive about the “schemes of our enemy” — the prowling, roaring lion, seeking to devour (2 Cor. 2:11; 1 Peter 5:8). Only an abusive parent and an irresponsible church doesn’t seek to protect the lambs of Jesus. Moreover, we can ill afford naiveté about the glory and grace of Jesus — the Lion of the tribe of Judah. We are called to a discipleship that is proactive rather than reactive — engaging rather than escaping — one filled with faith, not crippled by fear.

     So what’s the connection between a concern to protect our kids from the dangers of life in our fallen world and a commitment to prepare them to live as kingdom-servants in that very same world — the world Jesus is committed to renew and restore?

     In my first season of vocational ministry, I erred on the side of protection. Influenced by bad eschatology, a pragmatic gospel, a dualistic worldview, and paranoid parents, I thought more in terms of helping graduating seniors survive rather than thrive in their first few years out of high school.

     But over the past three decades, a greater grasp of the gospel has led me to invest more in the preparation end of the protection-preparation continuum. For the sake of brevity, I’ll mention three areas that we parents and local parishes should take seriously as we seek to prepare our young people for life in the real world — God’s world.

A Satisfying Gospel Spirituality

     It’s one thing for our children to be able to defend the faith against false religion, but quite another for them actually to delight in the faith they defend.

     As a young convert and collegian, I depended more on the apologetics of Francis Schaeffer and C.S. Lewis than on the power of the gospel “to get me by.” I felt more of a burden to defend God and the Bible than joy and peace in knowing Him. I objectified my professors as adversaries; ignored Paul’s instruction about being kind instead of quarrelsome (2 Tim. 2:24); and did very little to make the teaching about God our Savior attractive (Titus 2:10).

     While we teach our children to believe in the inspiration and authority of the Bible, let’s make sure they are discovering and savoring Jesus in every portion of the inspired Scriptures. Let’s help them know why Jesus is the only way to the Father, but let’s make sure they are feasting on Him as the bread of life and the giver of the water that slakes our deepest thirst. If the increase of wickedness leads to love growing cold (Matt. 24:12), then let’s stoke the fires of gospel affection rather than simply lamenting the increase of wickedness (Ps. 63:3–4).

A Robust Biblical Sexuality

     The world into which God calls our children is sexually broken. Of course, covenant children need to be aware of sexual temptations as they move into the next season of life. Of course, they need us to be direct with them about the destructiveness of pornography. Yet before there was broken sexuality there was a life of shameless nakedness (Gen. 2:25). A bigger issue, of course, for this generation is the need to introduce them to the frolicking goodness, the sensual wonder, and the magnificent beauty of the sexuality for which God designed us.

     Do our children sense we are more alarmed over the “gay agenda” than we are excited about the biblical credenda for sex? Do our children have any clue that we, their parents, actually have and enjoy sex? What would cause us more fear and shock: Finding obscene sexual materials on their computers or having them knock on our bedroom door when we’re making love? Have our kids ever been taught age-appropriate and context-appropriate truths, images, and metaphors from the Bible about the beauty and joy of sex? We must do this well.

Honest, Grace-Infused Community

     Relationships, relationships, meaningful relationships. I don’t know of any generation more hungry and more in need of substantive, grace-infused relationships than this one. Not only must we wrap the truth of the gospel around their hearts, we must wrap our arms around them and enter into their brokenness, struggles, and longings (see 1 Thess. 2:8).

(1 Th 2:8) 8 So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.   ESV

     As parents, do our children see us still needing the gospel? Are they catching the contagion of repentance as a way of life in our homes? As pastors, mentors, and disciplers, do our parishioners and protégés hear brokenness in our prayers? Do they see vulnerability when they are with us? Are we giving them our hearts or just books and advice on moral reform?

     Should the time come when our children find themselves “coming to their senses” in some “far away country,” will their inclination be to come and find the welcoming heart of God where we live, or will they avoid the self-righteous elder brother in us?

     Maybe the final word is this: Let’s protect this upcoming generation of young people by preparing them in the gospel so much earlier and so much more thoroughly than we were.

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     Rev. Scotty Smith is founding pastor of Christ Community Church in Franklin, Tennessee. Rev. Scotty Smith Books:

Be Prepared

By R.C. Sproul 11/1/2010

     Never argue with the man with the microphone. On several occasions, I’ve been invited to appear on radio or television programs for interviews by controversial hosts. For the most part, I have declined these interviews because of the format in which they are structured. Though they promise the opportunity for open debate, such debate is rarely forthcoming. There are certain hosts who are ruthless in their treatment of their guests and get away with it because of the power of the microphone. Whoever controls the microphone controls the game. If the host makes a particular statement, the guest must rely on the mercy of the person with the microphone in order to offer a rebuttal to the host. At any time in the course of such discussions, the comments of the guest can be silenced.

     I use this illustration frequently in talking with students who encounter hostile professors in college or in seminary. In their efforts to defend the truth claims of Christianity, students often valiantly charge in where angels fear to tread and are attacked viciously by the professor. I try to communicate to them that, as valiant as their attempts may be, they are in most cases exercises in futility because the professor controls the discussion. The classroom is not a place where open debate is usually encouraged. To the contrary, on the campuses of many universities and even seminaries, open season has been declared on Christian students. For some reason, it seems that professors in such settings take delight in trying to undermine the faith of their students. This is one reason why the New Testament warns us that not many should become teachers, for with teaching comes a greater judgment.

     At the same time, our Lord Himself warned against those who bring harm to one of His little ones. In most cases, it is easy for a man or woman with a doctorate and years of experience in higher education to humiliate a student, no matter how strong the student’s faith is or how articulate the student may be. It’s a mismatch, and it’s a mismatch that unscrupulous teachers greedily seize upon.

     These teachers explain their tactics by saying they’re simply trying to open the closed minds of the students or to bring them to deliverance from their slavery to outmoded ideas. The excuses are as endless as they are mindless. In the first week of my first year attending seminary, a professor was sharply critical of a student for coming to the seminary with too many preconceived ideas. The idea the seminary student brought with him that the professor described as an unwarranted preconception was his belief in the deity of Christ. I was shocked when I saw a student being humiliated for having the audacity to come to seminary with the idea already formed in his mind that Christ is the incarnate Son of God. The real question, however, was this one: Why was the professor, who was supposedly committed to the creedal statements of the seminary, denying the deity of Christ in such a situation? But this type of thing happens far more regularly than many people realize.

     When I was on the faculty of a Christian college many years ago, I had a constant stream of students come to me with questions about the relationship between the truths affirmed in the New Testament about Christ and similar mythological affirmations found in the famous work Metamorphoses (Oxford World's Classics) by the poet Ovid. It became clear that it was the delight of the english professor in his humanities class, which included a study of Ovid, to draw parallels between the New Testament teachings about Jesus and the myths presented in Metamorphosis.

     I had the opportunity to meet in a friendly atmosphere with this professor over coffee in the student union, and I began asking him questions about his knowledge of the biblical worldview compared to the worldview of Ovid. I pointed out the remarkable number of differences between Ovid’s worldview and that of the New Testament, which the professor acknowledged existed, and I said: “It’s just simply not good teaching to point out similarities between different positions without at the same time acknowledging the signifi cant differences between them. In your critique of Christianity, you have failed to mention these differences, which is not a sound approach to the matter.” He was contrite and committed not to do that anymore. But again, that was one incident out of literally tens of thousands that take place every year on campuses, not only at secular universities, but at church-related colleges and even in theological seminaries, as I’ve already mentioned.

     One of the problems we have here is the criteria we use when choosing colleges or universities to attend in the first place. So often parents are impressed by the beauty of the campus of the particular institution or by their own remembrance of the commitment of the institution a generation ago, overlooking the reality that the approach to Christianity changes in various institutions as the faculty changes. The most significant barometer for choosing any kind of institution of higher learning is not the beauty of its campus but its faculty.

     If you’re looking to send your children to an institution that has a Christian history or a Christian relationship, do not assume that the current faculty is fully persuaded of the truth claims of Christianity. You may indeed be throwing your children into the fire of a crucible they are not expecting and are not really prepared to withstand. I am not for educating people in a sheltered environment where there is no interaction with the secular mindset and with pagan worldviews, but we need to be fully prepared to understand when and where those worldviews come into collision with Christianity and how to avoid collisions that may be disastrous.

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Robert Charles Sproul, 2/13/1939 – 12/14/2017 was an American theologian, author, and ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America. Dr. R.C. Sproul was founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries, an international Christian education and discipleship organization located near Orlando, Fla. He was also copastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., chancellor of Reformation Bible College, and executive editor of Tabletalk magazine. Dr. Sproul has contributed dozens of articles to national evangelical publications, has spoken at conferences, churches, and schools around the world, and has written more than one hundred books. He also served as general editor of the Reformation Study Bible.

     R.C. Sproul Books |  Go to Books Page

The Year in Books

By Keith Mathison 12/1/2010

     I have always enjoyed recommending books, and for the final “Beyond the Wicket Gate” column of 2010, I thought it might be helpful to share some of the significant books that have been published so far this year, books that you may not have heard about but should consider reading. This list is not exhaustive. I have not seen all of the books published this year, and even if I had, it is humanly impossible to read them all. It is inevitable, therefore, that there will be great books missing from this list. Furthermore, since I am writing several months before this column will be published, I will miss some of those books published later in the year.

     The year 2009 was a good year for Reformed believers because it was the 500th anniversary of John Calvin’s birth, and this anniversary prompted the publication of numerous books related to Calvin and Calvinism. The flow of such books did not cease in 2010. Reformation Heritage Books published Piety's Wisdom: A Summary of Calvin's Institutes with Study Questions by J. Mark Beach, a professor at Mid-America Reformed Seminary. The same publisher also released Calvin: Theologian and Reformer, edited by Joel R. Beeke and Garry J. Williams. This volume contains seven brief chapters dealing with the life, the work, and the theology of Calvin. A much larger volume was published in the Calvin 500 Series by P&R Publishing. This work is edited by David Hall and is titled Tributes to John Calvin: A Celebration of His Quincentenary (Calvin 500). It is a collection of twenty-three academic papers presented at an assembly gathered in Geneva to celebrate the anniversary of Calvin’s birth.

     This year seems to have been a slow one thus far for exceptional commentaries. There are exceptions, however. Pillar New Testament Commentary (Set of 16 Volumes) (The Pillar New Testament Commentary) (2013-07-25) series published by Eerdmans and edited by D.A. Carson continues to compete with Pixar Animation for the longest continuous series of great releases. Early this year, Eerdmans added a substantive 600-page commentary on The Letter to the Hebrews (The Pillar New Testament Commentary (PNTC)) by Peter T. O’Brien to its Pillar series. This one belongs in every pastor’s library. By the time this column is published, Eerdmans will have also added a commentary on 1 Corinthians to the Pillar series. There are a number of other commentaries that should be available by the time this column is published. Baker Academic is adding a commentary on Ephesians to its Baker Exegetical Commentaries series. Eerdmans is adding a commentary on Hosea to its New International Commentary on the Old Testament series and commentaries on the Gospel of John and the Epistle of James to its New International Commentary on the New Testament series. Both New Testament commentaries are replacing older works in the series.

     Two must-reads related in one way or another to Christianity and culture are David VanDrunen’s Natural Law and the Two Kingdoms: A Study in the Development of Reformed Social Thought (Emory University Studies in Law and Religion) and James Davison Hunter’s To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World. VanDrunen’s work traces the development of the doctrine of natural law and the “two-kingdoms” concept in Reformed thought from the sixteenthcentury to the present. Hunter’s work analyzes the failure of the common Christian view of its world-changing task and criticizes the tactics of the Christian right, the Christian left, and the neo-Anabaptists before offering an alternative proposal. Neither book will convince every reader, but both publications make important contributions to the discussion of culture among Christians.

     Several significant works for students of systematic and historical theology were released this year. Christian Focus published a small book that should become required reading for every seminary student. The Trials of Theology: Becoming a 'proven worker' in a dangerous business, edited by Andrew J.B. Cameron and Brian S. Rosner, contains several essays by luminaries such as Augustine, Luther, Spurgeon, and Warfield on how to navigate the dangers of theological study. It also contains several essays by contemporary authors such as Carson, Carl Trueman, and Gerald Bray focusing on specific areas of theological study.

     Reformation Heritage Books published the second volume of Reformed Confessions of the 16th and 17th Centuries in English Translation: 1552-1566 Volume 2. This volume contains translations of thirty-five Reformed confessions written between 1552 and 1566. Some, such as the Belgic Confession, are well known. Others, such as the Confession of Piotrków, are not. By the time this column is published, Reformation Heritage will also have published the works of the great Reformed theologian Herman Witsius. This five-volume set will include a reprint of his classic work on covenant theology, Economy of the Covenants Between God and Man (2 Volumes), and his commentaries on the Apostles’ Creed and the Lord’s Prayer.

     Students of the early church and patristic theology welcomed the second edition of Frances Young’s From Nicaea to Chalcedon: A Guide to the Literature and Its Background, one of the most helpful introductions to the writings of the fourth and fifth centuries. Finally, InterVarsity Press has published Shapers of Christian Orthodoxy: Engaging with Early and Medieval Theologians, a collection of essays on several important early and medieval theologians, from Irenaeus to Aquinas. For Christian bibliophiles, it has been another very good year.

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Per Amazon, Keith A. Mathison (MA, Reformed Theological Seminary; PhD, Whitefield Theological Seminary) is dean of the Ligonier Academy of Biblical and Theological Studies and an associate editor of Tabletalk magazine at Ligonier Ministries. He is editor of When Shall These Things Be: A Reformed Response to Hyper-Preterism and associate editor of The Reformation Study Bible. He lives in Lake Mary, Florida, with his wife and children.

Keith Mathison Books:

The Institutes of the Christian Religion

Translated by Henry Beveridge

     11. As it is sometimes necessary for kings and states to take up arms in order to execute public vengeance, the reason assigned furnishes us with the means of estimating how far the wars which are thus undertaken are lawful. For if power has been given them to maintain the tranquillity of their subjects, repress the seditious movements of the turbulent, assist those who are violently oppressed, and animadvert on crimes, can they use it more opportunely than in repressing the fury of him who disturbs both the ease of individuals and the common tranquillity of all; who excites seditious tumult, and perpetrates acts of violent oppression and gross wrongs? If it becomes them to be the guardians and maintainers of the laws, they must repress the attempts of all alike by whose criminal conduct the discipline of the laws is impaired. Nay, if they justly punish those robbers whose injuries have been afflicted only on a few, will they allow the whole country to be robbed and devastated with impunity? Since it makes no difference whether it is by a king or by the lowest of the people that a hostile and devastating inroad is made into a district over which they have no authority, all alike are to be regarded and punished as robbers. Natural equity and duty, therefore, demand that princes be armed not only to repress private crimes by judicial inflictions, but to defend the subjects committed to their guardianship whenever they are hostilely assailed. Such even the Holy Spirit, in many passages of Scripture, declares to be lawful.

12. But if it is objected, that in the New Testament there is no passage or example teaching that war is lawful for Christians, I answer, first, that the reason for carrying on war, which anciently existed, still exists in the present day, and that, on the other hand, there is no ground for debarring magistrates from the defence of those under them; and, secondly, that in the Apostolical writings we are not to look for a distinct exposition of those matters, their object being not to form a civil polity, but to establish the spiritual kingdom of Christ; lastly, that there also it is indicated, in passing, that our Saviour, by his advent, made no change in this respect. For (to use the words of Augustine) "if Christian discipline condemned all wars, when the soldiers ask counsel as to the way of salvation, they would have been told to cast away their arms, and withdraw altogether from military service. Whereas it was said (Luke 3:14), Concuss no one, do injury to no one, be contented with your pay. Those whom he orders to be contented with their pay he certainly does not forbid to serve" (August. Ep. 5 ad Marcell.) But all magistrates must here be particularly cautious not to give way, in the slightest degree, to their passions. Or rather, whether punishments are to be inflicted, they must not be borne headlong by anger, nor hurried away by hatred, nor burn with implacable severity; they must, as Augustine says (De Civit. Dei. Lib. 5 cap. 24), "even pity a common nature in him in whom they punish an individual fault;" or whether they have to take up arms against an enemy, that is, an armed robber, they must not readily catch at the opportunity, nay, they must not take it when offered, unless compelled by the strongest necessity. For if we are to do far more than that heathen demanded, who wished war to appear as desired peace, assuredly all other means must be tried before having recourse to arms. In fine, in both cases, they must not allow themselves to be carried away by any private feeling, but be guided solely by regard for the public. Acting otherwise, they wickedly abuse their power which was given them, not for their own advantage, but for the good and service of others. On this right of war depends the right of garrisons, leagues, and other civil munitions. By garrisons, I mean those which are stationed in states for defence of the frontiers; by leagues, the alliances which are made by neighbouring princes, on the ground that if any disturbance arise within their territories, they will mutually assist each other, and combine their forces to repel the common enemies of the human race; under civil munitions, I include everything pertaining to the military art.

13. Lastly, we think it proper to add, that taxes and imposts are the legitimate revenues of princes, which they are chiefly to employ in sustaining the public burdens of their office. These, however, they may use for the maintenance of their domestic state, which is in a manner combined with the dignity of the authority which they exercise. Thus we see that David, Hezekiah, Josiah, Jehoshaphat, and other holy kings, Joseph also, and Daniel, in proportion to the office which they sustained, without offending piety, expended liberally of the public funds; and we read in Ezekiel, that a very large extent of territory was assigned to kings (Ezek. 48:21). In that passage, indeed, he is depicting the spiritual kingdom of Christ, but still he borrows his representation from lawful dominion among men. Princes, however, must remember, in their turn, that their revenues are not so much private chests as treasuries of the whole people (this Paul testifies, Rom. 13:6), which they cannot, without manifest injustice, squander or dilapidate; or rather, that they are almost the blood of the people, which it were the harshest inhumanity not to spare. They should also consider that their levies and contributions, and other kinds of taxes, are merely subsidies of the public necessity, and that it is tyrannical rapacity to harass the poor people with them without cause. These things do not stimulate princes to profusion and luxurious expenditure (there is certainly no need to inflame the passions, when they are already, of their own accord, inflamed more than enough), but seeing it is of the greatest consequence that, whatever they venture to do, they should do with a pure conscience, it is necessary to teach them how far they can lawfully go, lest, by impious confidence, they incur the divine displeasure. Nor is this doctrine superfluous to private individuals, that they may not rashly and petulantly stigmatise the expenditure of princes, though it should exceed the ordinary limits.

14. In states, the thing next in importance to the magistrates is laws, the strongest sinews of government, or, as Cicero calls them after Plato, the soul, without which, the office of the magistrate cannot exist; just as, on the other hand, laws have no vigour without the magistrate. Hence nothing could be said more truly than that the law is a dumb magistrate, the magistrate a living law. As I have undertaken to describe the laws by which Christian polity is to be governed, there is no reason to expect from me a long discussion on the best kind of laws. The subject is of vast extent, and belongs not to this place. I will only briefly observe, in passing, what the laws are which may be piously used with reference to God, and duly administered among men. This I would rather have passed in silence, were I not aware that many dangerous errors are here committed. For there are some who deny that any commonwealth is rightly framed which neglects the law of Moses, and is ruled by the common law of nations. How perilous and seditious these views are, let others see: for me it is enough to demonstrate that they are stupid and false. We must attend to the well known division which distributes the whole law of God, as promulgated by Moses, into the moral, the ceremonial, and the judicial law, and we must attend to each of these parts, in order to understand how far they do, or do not, pertain to us. Meanwhile, let no one be moved by the thought that the judicial and ceremonial laws relate to morals. For the ancients who adopted this division, though they were not unaware that the two latter classes had to do with morals, did not give them the name of moral, because they might be changed and abrogated without affecting morals. They give this name specially to the first class, without which, true holiness of life and an immutable rule of conduct cannot exist.

15. The moral law, then (to begin with it), being contained under two heads, the one of which simply enjoins us to worship God with pure faith and piety, the other to embrace men with sincere affection, is the true and eternal rule of righteousness prescribed to the men of all nations and of all times, who would frame their life agreeably to the will of God. For his eternal and immutable will is, that we are all to worship him and mutually love one another. The ceremonial law of the Jews was a tutelage by which the Lord was pleased to exercise, as it were, the childhood of that people, until the fulness of the time should come when he was fully to manifest his wisdom to the world, and exhibit the reality of those things which were then adumbrated by figures (Gal. 3:24; 4:4). The judicial law, given them as a kind of polity, delivered certain forms of equity and justice, by which they might live together innocently and quietly. And as that exercise in ceremonies properly pertained to the doctrine of piety, inasmuch as it kept the Jewish Church in the worship and religion of God, yet was still distinguishable from piety itself, so the judicial form, though it looked only to the best method of preserving that charity which is enjoined by the eternal law of God, was still something distinct from the precept of love itself. Therefore, as ceremonies might be abrogated without at all interfering with piety, so, also, when these judicial arrangements are removed, the duties and precepts of charity can still remain perpetual. But if it is true that each nation has been left at liberty to enact the laws which it judges to be beneficial, still these are always to be tested by the rule of charity, so that while they vary in form, they must proceed on the same principle. Those barbarous and savage laws, for instance, which conferred honour on thieves, allowed the promiscuous intercourse of the sexes, and other things even fouler and more absurd, I do not think entitled to be considered as laws, since they are not only altogether abhorrent to justice, but to humanity and civilised life.

16. What I have said will become plain if we attend, as we ought, to two things connected with all laws--viz. the enactment of the law, and the equity on which the enactment is founded and rests. Equity, as it is natural, cannot be the same in all, and therefore ought to be proposed by all laws, according to the nature of the thing enacted. As constitutions have some circumstances on which they partly depend, there is nothing to prevent their diversity, provided they all alike aim at equity as their end. Now, as it is evident that the law of God which we call moral, is nothing else than the testimony of natural law, and of that conscience which God has engraven on the minds of men, the whole of this equity of which we now speak is prescribed in it. Hence it alone ought to be the aim, the rule, and the end of all laws. Wherever laws are formed after this rule, directed to this aim, and restricted to this end, there is no reason why they should be disapproved by us, however much they may differ from the Jewish law, or from each other (August. de Civit. Dei, Lib. 19 c. 17). The law of God forbids to steal. The punishment appointed for theft in the civil polity of the Jews may be seen in Exodus 22. Very ancient laws of other nations punished theft by exacting the double of what was stolen, while subsequent laws made a distinction between theft manifest and not manifest. Other laws went the length of punishing with exile, or with branding, while others made the punishment capital. Among the Jews, the punishment of the false witness was to "do unto him as he had thought to have done with his brother" (Deut. 19:19). In some countries, the punishment is infamy, in others hanging, in others crucifixion. All laws alike avenge murder with blood, but the kinds of death are different. In some countries, adultery was punished more severely, in others more leniently. Yet we see that amidst this diversity they all tend to the same end. For they all with one mouth declare against those crimes which are condemned by the eternal law of God--viz. murder, theft, adultery, and false witness; though they agree not as to the mode of punishment. This is not necessary, nor even expedient. There may be a country which, if murder were not visited with fearful punishments, would instantly become a prey to robbery and slaughter. There may be an age requiring that the severity of punishments should be increased. If the state is in troubled condition, those things from which disturbances usually arise must be corrected by new edicts. In time of war, civilisation would disappear amid the noise of arms, were not men overawed by an unwonted severity of punishment. In sterility, in pestilence, were not stricter discipline employed, all things would grow worse. One nation might be more prone to a particular vice, were it not most severely repressed. How malignant were it, and invidious of the public good, to be offended at this diversity, which is admirably adapted to retain the observance of the divine law. The allegation, that insult is offered to the law of God enacted by Moses, where it is abrogated, and other new laws are preferred to it, is most absurd. Others are not preferred when they are more approved, not absolutely, but from regard to time and place, and the condition of the people, or when those things are abrogated which were never enacted for us. The Lord did not deliver it by the hand of Moses to be promulgated in all countries, and to be everywhere enforced; but having taken the Jewish nation under his special care, patronage, and guardianship, he was pleased to be specially its legislator, and as became a wise legislator, he had special regard to it in enacting laws.

     Christian Classics Ethereal Library / Public Domain

     Institutes of the Christian Religion

Read The Psalms In "1" Year

Psalm 78

Tell the Coming Generation
78 A Maskil Of Asaph.

39 He remembered that they were but flesh,
a wind that passes and comes not again.
40 How often they rebelled against him in the wilderness
and grieved him in the desert!
41 They tested God again and again
and provoked the Holy One of Israel.
42 They did not remember his power
or the day when he redeemed them from the foe,
43 when he performed his signs in Egypt
and his marvels in the fields of Zoan.
44 He turned their rivers to blood,
so that they could not drink of their streams.
45 He sent among them swarms of flies, which devoured them,
and frogs, which destroyed them.
46 He gave their crops to the destroying locust
and the fruit of their labor to the locust.
47 He destroyed their vines with hail
and their sycamores with frost.
48 He gave over their cattle to the hail
and their flocks to thunderbolts.
49 He let loose on them his burning anger,
wrath, indignation, and distress,
a company of destroying angels.

ESV Study Bible

By John Walvoord

Idolatry in Egypt

     Jeremiah 44:15–30. The Jews rejected the warning of Jeremiah and announced that they would worship the gods of Egypt (vv.  15–19 ). Jeremiah reminded them how God had punished the people of Israel. When they refused to listen (vv.  20–24 ), Jeremiah reminded them that God would cause them to perish and that he would give them a sign that He would punish them in this place, that is, that Pharaoh Hophrah, king of Egypt, would be handed over to Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon. This prophecy as well as  Ezekiel 29:19–20, which was given in 571 BC, indicated the invasion was still to come. It probably was fulfilled between 571 and 567 BC.

Jeremiah’s Message to Baruch

     Jeremiah 45:1–5. In the fourth year of Jehoiakim, Jeremiah told Baruch, who was overwhelmed by the tragedies that had overtaken his people, that he himself would escape the disaster that would overtake his people. Baruch was the stenographer who wrote down Jeremiah’s dictation ( 36:4, 32 ). The many prophecies about the destruction of Jerusalem were literally fulfilled.

Prophecy In  Jeremiah Concerning The Nations | Egypt’s Downfall

     Jeremiah 46:1–12. Prophecies concerning the nations began with the prediction of Egypt’s downfall to the armies of Babylon. One of the most important battles in the ancient world occurred at Carchemish in 605 BC. The Babylonian armies decisively defeated Egypt and ended any Egyptian claim to influence the Holy Land. The Babylonian army had lifted its siege of Jerusalem in order to fight the Egyptians (cf.  Jer. 37:4–13 ). After defeating the Egyptians, the Babylonians came back and conquered Jerusalem. In this Scripture, Jeremiah prophesied graphically how the Egyptian army would fall before the Babylonians. Egypt would never rise to great power again.

Invasion of Egypt

     Jeremiah 46:13–26. After the defeat of the Egyptians, the Babylonian armies later invaded Egypt. This was in keeping with earlier prophecies of Jeremiah that God would pursue the Israelites who fled to Egypt and would search them out and deliver them to the Babylonians (cf.  42:13–22 ). Jeremiah’s prophecy not only predicted the invasion but pictured Egypt being laid waste and lying in ruins. It would be their day of disaster ( 46:21 ). God would use the Babylonians to bring judgment on the gods of Egypt (v.  25 ). Though the destruction of Egypt was to be extensive, later Egypt would resume her normal life (v.  26 ).

The Later Restoration of Israel

     Jeremiah 46:27–28. In contrast to the destruction brought on Egypt, God reassured Israel that she would ultimately be restored to her land and made safe and secure (v.  27 ). Though God would deal severely with those Israelites who fled to Egypt, ultimately the nation would be restored. God declared, “Though I completely destroy all the nations among which I scatter you, I will not completely destroy you. I will discipline you but only with justice; I will not let you go entirely unpunished” (v.  28 ). This same thought was declared in  Jeremiah 30:11. This was fulfilled in history and will be fulfilled in the millennium.

Prophecy about the Philistines

     Jeremiah 47:1–7. The second nation to be destroyed according to Jeremiah’s prophecy was the land of the Philistines. They occupied an area along the coast of Judah and periodically rose in power to attack Israel and other nations. Many such incidents are recorded in Scripture (cf.  Judg. 3:1–4, 31; 13–16; 1 Sam. 7:2–17; 1 Sam. 13:1–14:23; 28:1–4; 29:1–2, 11; 31:1–10; 2 Sam. 5:17–25; 8:1; 2 Chron. 21:16–17; 28:16–18 ). This section describes a battle between Philistia and Pharaoh Neco, king of Egypt (cf.  2 Kings 23:29–30 ). This event probably occurred about 609 BC.

     Ashkelon, which is described as being destroyed ( Jer. 47:5 ), was conquered by the Babylonians in 604 BC. Though Ashkelon was rebuilt numerous times in its history after the seventh century BC, the ancient ruins that are visible today are dramatic proof of God’s judgment. The ruined city of Ashkelon is a testimony to fulfilled prophecy, and alongside it is the modern city of Ashkelon, one of the five most important cities of Philistia. Ashkelon is mentioned often in Scripture ( Judg. 1:18; 14:19; 1 Sam. 6:17; 2 Sam. 1:20; Jer. 25:20; Amos 1:8; Zeph. 2:4, 7; Zech. 9:5 ).

Prophecy about Moab

     Jeremiah 48:1–47. The destruction of Moab is described as complete (v.  8 ). The Moabites were descendants of Lot’s elder daughter ( Gen. 19:36–37 ). Nebo and Kirjathaim were cities originally possessed by the tribe of Reuben but were conquered by the Moabites. Heshbon, another city once owned by the tribe of Reuben, also was to be destroyed. Other prophecies in Scripture relate also to Moab ( Isa. 15–16; Ezek. 25:8–11; Amos 2:1–3; Zeph. 2:8–11 ). From available evidence, scholars believe that Moab was destroyed in 582 BC by the Babylonians. The god of the Moabites, Chemosh, would no longer be worshipped or honored.

     Jeremiah described the word from the Lord as a prophecy of the further destruction of Moab ( Jer. 48:11–12 ). She would be ashamed of Chemosh, her god (v.  13 ). Her finest young men would be killed (v.  15 ).

     Judgment was declared on the main cities of Moab, which are named (vv.  20–24 ). Though they once scorned Israel, they would have to abandon their cities and live among rocks (v.  28 ).

     Moab’s pride, which had been so evident in her boasting in times past, would now be turned to weeping (vv.  29–33 ). Her cries of distress would be heard from Heshbon to Elealeh and Jabaz (v.  34 ). No longer would she bring offerings to her gods (v.  35 ). Her wealth would be gone (v.  36 ). Moab would be shattered like a piece of pottery and become the object of ridicule (vv.  37–39 ).

     In concluding his predictions concerning Moab, the Lord indicated that her destruction would be complete (vv.  40–44 ). It would be a country destroyed by fire (v.  45 ), and her sons and daughters would be taken into exile (v.  46 ). At the conclusion of the prediction, however, God predicted the future restoration of Moab (v.  47; cf. 49:39 ).

Prophecy about Ammon

     Jeremiah 49:1–6. A devastating invasion and destruction of the land of the Ammonites is described in this prophecy that Jeremiah received from the Lord. The Ammonites were descendants of Lot’s younger daughter ( Gen. 19:38 ). Its capital city, Rabbah, would “become a mound of ruins” ( Jer. 49:2 ). Ai, mentioned as destroyed (v.  3 ), is not the Ai in  Joshua 7, but its location is unknown. Like the prophecy concerning Moab, though the destruction was extensive, God promised to “restore the fortunes of the Ammonites” ( Jer. 49:6 ).

Prophecy about Edom

     Jeremiah 49:7–22. The Edomites, who lived in the area east of the Dead Sea, were descendants of Esau and traditional enemies of Israel. Throughout Israel’s history there was constant conflict with the Edomites (cf.  Num. 20:18–21; 1 Sam. 14:47; 2 Sam. 8:13–14; 1 Kings 11:14–23; 2 Chron. 20:22 ). The Edomites were denounced by later prophets ( Isa. 34:5–8; 63:1–4; Lam 4:21; Ezek. 25:13–14; Amos 1:11–12; Obad. 8–10 ).

     Here the prophecy describes the disaster that would fall on the Edomites and bring on them ruin and horror (v.  13 ). The nations were urged to attack Edom ( Jer. 49:14–15 ). “Edom will become an object of horror; all who pass by will be appalled and will scoff because of all its wounds” (v.  17 ). It is described as being overthrown like Sodom and Gomorrah (v.  18 ). The enemy is described like a lion (v.  19 ) and a swooping eagle (v.  22 ). No prophecy was given here concerning Edom’s restoration. The Edomites disappeared from history after the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70.

Prophecy about Damascus

     Jeremiah 49:23–27. Damascus, one of the oldest cities in the Middle East, is described here as being destroyed by fire. It is first mentioned in Scripture in  Genesis 14:15 and continued to be an important city throughout biblical history. Though destroyed by the Assyrians, it was later rebuilt before Jeremiah’s time. Here it is destroyed once again. The destruction prophesied in Jeremiah is also predicted in  Isaiah 7:8; 8:4; 17:1–3. In New Testament times it again was a flourishing city. The home of Ananias in Damascus, where Paul went after his conversion, has been identified. Damascus, referred to as “the city of renown” ( Jer. 49:25 ), is described here as suffering defeat of its soldiers and fire on its walls.


Every Prophecy of the Bible: Clear Explanations for Uncertain Times

The Continual Burnt Offering (Luke 16:31)

By H.A. Ironside - 1941

July 26
Luke 16:31 He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’ ”   ESV

     The Word of God is His perfect message to men. If that be spurned He has nothing more to say to them until they meet Him in judgment. Wherever that Word is proclaimed it puts those who hear it in the place of responsibility such as they never knew before. The light shines from the Word. If they refuse its testimony they prove that they love darkness rather than light. That Word contains all that is necessary to show the way of life. It reveals Christ. This was true of the Old Testament. Moses and the prophets all spake of Him. But in the New Testament we have the complete revelation of Him who has come in grace to seek and to save the lost. He who believes finds deliverance. He who turns away will perish in his sins.

What will it profit when life here is o’er,
Though great worldly wisdom I gain,
If, seeking knowledge, I utterly fail
The wisdom of God to obtain?

What will it profit, when life here is o’er,
Though gathering riches and fame,
If, gaining the world, I lose my own soul,
And in Heav’n unknown is my name?

What will it profit when life here is o’er
Though earth’s farthest corners I see,
If, going my way, and doing my will
I miss what His love planned for me?
--- Grace E. Troy

The Continual Burnt Offering: Daily Meditations on the Word of God

  • The Sacraments
  • Church and Holy Spirit
  • Ecumenism

#1 Allen Yeh | Biola University


#2 Allen Yeh | Biola University


#3 Allen Yeh | Biola University


     Devotionals, notes, poetry and more

coram Deo
     3/1/2015| Bible-Believing, Bible-Obeying

     As a pastor, I spend much of my time out in the community, and I meet new people every week. When people inquire what I do for a living, I tell them I am a pastor. At that point I get responses that vary depending on whether the person is a Christian and whether he or she has been to church recently. When I tell them I serve as a pastor of a church called Saint Andrew’s Chapel, I then have to explain what kind of church we are and what kind of church we’re not. It’s the most natural way I have found to be able to explain the gospel to unbelievers in our community on a regular basis. Over the years, I have also found that describing our church initially in two simple ways is most effective for helping them understand who we are and what we believe. I explain that we are a Bible-believing and gospel-preaching church; and, if they haven’t run away yet, I then proceed to explain slowly and carefully what it means to believe the Bible—what the gospel is, who Jesus is and what He did, how sinners are saved, and why we worship as a community of believers. Although most people don’t realize it, I am giving them a basic, five-minute systematic theology course based on and flowing from the doctrine of Scripture. The doctrine of Scripture informs every other doctrine. It is a most practical doctrine for all of life.

     Scripture is the foundation for all we believe and the fountain from which we daily drink. It was the heart of the sixteenth-century Reformation, and it holds the message of eternal life for ourselves, our children, and our neighbors. It is the sacred Word of God given to us by human authors through the superintendence of the Holy Spirit, and it is our only inerrant and infallible authority for all of faith and life. Nevertheless, many professing Christians give little attention to it. Though they constantly look for a special word from God, there it sits on their shelves, gathering dust. It is ignored by many people who sit in our churches, and it is under attack by many outside the church. It has been under attack ever since the fall, when the serpent asked, “Did God really say?” (Gen. 3:1).

     Fundamentally, the devil questioned the authority of the Word of God, and the devil’s servants have been questioning it ever since. Questioning the authority of God’s Word is tantamount to questioning God Himself, and questioning whether God’s sacred Word contains errors is in fact questioning God’s ability to do all things perfectly. If we question God’s Word, we have set ourselves up as a higher tribunal than God and have declared ourselves judges of God and His Word. Nevertheless, as Bible-believing Christians, we must not simply refrain from questioning the truth of God’s Word, and we must not merely believe that God’s Word is true, but we must actually believe God’s Word and submit to it in all of life as we live coram Deo, before His face.

     click here for article source

     Dr. Burk Parsons (@BurkParsons) is editor of Tabletalk magazine, senior pastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., a visiting lecturer at Reformed Theological Seminary, and a Ligonier Ministries teaching fellow. He is editor of John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, and Doxology.

Ligonier     coram Deo (definition)

American Minute
     by Bill Federer

     On this day, July 26, 1775, Benjamin Franklin became the first Postmaster General of the United States. Before the Revolution he served in that position under the British Crown. Franklin also established the first volunteer fire department, a circulating public library and the lighting of city streets. He helped found the University of Pennsylvania, a hospital, an insurance company, a city police force, a night watch and the first militia. A printer, scientist, philosopher and statesmen, Benjamin Franklin wrote in Poor Richard’s Almanac: “Work as if you were to live 100 years; pray as if you were to die tomorrow.”

American Minute

Lean Into God
     Compilation by RickAdams7

Religion is what you are left with
after the Holy Spirit has left the building.
--- Bono

     Hence also to be informed, that God the Father, and God the Son, do mutually rely and trust to one another in the business of our redemption. The Father relies upon the Son for the performance of his part; as it is, Isa. 42: 1, ” Behold my servant, whom I uphold.” And, to speak plain, the Father so far trusted Christ, that upon the credit of his promise to come into the world, and in the fulness of time to become a sacrifice for the elect, he saved all the Old Testament saints, whose faith also respected a Christ to come; with reference whereto, it is said, Heb. 11: 39, 40. “That they received not the promises, God having provided some better things for us, that they without us should not be made perfect,” i. e. without Jesus Christ manifested in the flesh, in our times, though believed on, as to come in the flesh, in their times.      And as the Father trusted Christ, so does Christ, in like manner, depend upon, and trust his Father. For, having performed his part, and left the world again, he now trusteth his Father for the accomplishment of that promise made him, Isa. 53: 10. “That he shall see his seed,” &c. He depends upon his Father for all the elect that are left behind, yet unregenerated, as well as those already called, that they shall be all preserved unto the heavenly kingdom, according to that, John 17: 11. “And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world; and I come unto thee: holy Father, keep, through thine own name, those whom thou hast given me.” And can it be imagined, that the Father will fail in his trust, who every way acquitted himself so punctually to the Son? It cannot be.
--- John Flavel

The doctrine of the Trinity … is truth for the heart. The fact that it cannot be satisfactorily explained, instead of being against it, is in its favor. Such a truth had to be revealed; no one could have imagined it.
--- A. W. Tozer
The Knowledge of the Holy: The Attributes of God: Their Meaning in the Christian Life

... from here, there and everywhere

History of the Destruction of Jerusalem
     Thanks to Meir Yona

     5. Upon this the men of power, with the high priests, as also all the part of the multitude that were desirous of peace, took courage, and seized upon the upper city [Mount Sion;] for the seditious part had the lower city and the temple in their power; so they made use of stones and slings perpetually against one another, and threw darts continually on both sides; and sometimes it happened that they made incursions by troops, and fought it out hand to hand, while the seditious were superior in boldness, but the king's soldiers in skill. These last strove chiefly to gain the temple, and to drive those out of it who profaned it; as did the seditious, with Eleazar, besides what they had already, labor to gain the upper city. Thus were there perpetual slaughters on both sides for seven days' time; but neither side would yield up the parts they had seized on.

     6. Now the next day was the festival of Xylophory; upon which the custom was for every one to bring wood for the altar [that there might never be a want of fuel for that fire which was unquenchable and always burning]. Upon that day they excluded the opposite party from the observation of this part of religion. And when they had joined to themselves many of the Sicarii, who crowded in among the weaker people, [that was the name for such robbers as had under their bosoms swords called Sicae,] they grew bolder, and carried their undertaking further; insomuch that the king's soldiers were overpowered by their multitude and boldness; and so they gave way, and were driven out of the upper city by force. The others then set fire to the house of Ananias the high priest, and to the palaces of Agrippa and Bernice; after which they carried the fire to the place where the archives were reposited, and made haste to burn the contracts belonging to their creditors, and thereby to dissolve their obligations for paying their debts; and this was done in order to gain the multitude of those who had been debtors, and that they might persuade the poorer sort to join in their insurrection with safety against the more wealthy; so the keepers of the records fled away, and the rest set fire to them. And when they had thus burnt down the nerves of the city, they fell upon their enemies; at which time some of the men of power, and of the high priests, went into the vaults under ground, and concealed themselves, while others fled with the king's soldiers to the upper palace, and shut the gates immediately; among whom were Ananias the high priest, and the ambassadors that had been sent to Agrippa. And now the seditious were contented with the victory they had gotten, and the buildings they had burnt down, and proceeded no further.

          The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Wars of the Jews or History of the Destruction of Jerusalem, by Flavius Josephus Translator: William Whiston

The War of the Jews: The History of the Destruction of Jerusalem (complete edition, 7 books)

Proverbs 21:29-30
     by D.H. Stern

29     A wicked man puts on a bold face,
whereas the upright prepares his ways.

30     No wisdom, discernment or counsel
succeeds against ADONAI..

Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)

What is the curse of Jeconiah?
     Jeremiah 22

     Jeconiah, also called “Jehoiachin” (1 Chronicles 3:16, NIV) and “Coniah” (Jeremiah 22:24), was a king of Judah who was deported as part of the Babylonian captivity (Esther 2:6; 1 Chronicles 3:17). He is also listed in the genealogy of Jesus, in Joseph’s family line (Matthew 1:12).

     The curse of Jeconiah is found in Jeremiah 22. First, the LORD likens the king to a signet ring on God’s hand — a ring that God will pull off (verse 24). Then, God pronounces a curse: “Record this man as if childless, a man who will not prosper in his lifetime, for none of his offspring will prosper, none will sit on the throne of David or rule anymore in Judah” (verse 30).

     The problem is that the curse of Jeconiah seems to invalidate Jesus’ right to the throne of David. The Davidic Covenant promised that the Messiah, the “Son of David,” would reign forever on Jerusalem’s throne (1 Chronicles 17:11-14). If Jesus is a descendant of Jeconiah, then how can He be the Messiah, since the curse bars any of Jeconiah’s descendants from assuming David’s throne?

     There are three possible solutions to this difficulty. First, the “offspring” of Jeconiah mentioned in the curse could be a limited reference to the king’s own children—his immediate offspring, in other words. On a related note, the phrase “in his lifetime” could apply to the entire verse. The curse would only be in force while the king lived. This is exactly what happened, as Jeconiah was not successful as a king (he only reigned for three months before he surrendered to Nebuchadnezzar’s forces), and none of his sons (he had seven of them, 1 Chronicles 3:17–18 reigned over Judah.

     A second solution concerns the virgin birth. Jesus only had one human parent, Mary. His mother was of David’s line, but not through Jeconiah Luke 3:31. Joseph was Jesus’ legal father, but not His physical one. Thus, Jesus was of royal blood through Mary, but the curse of Jeconiah stopped with Joseph and was not passed on to Jesus.

     A third possible solution is that God reversed the curse on Jeconiah’s family. This is hinted at by the prophet Haggai, who told Zerubbabel, Jeconiah’s grandson, that God would make him a “signet ring” on God’s hand Haggai 2:23. Zerubbabel was blessed by God as the governor of Judea, and he prospered in that role when the Jewish exiles returned to Jerusalem. The “signet ring” imagery of Jeconiah’s curse is repeated in Zerubbabel’s blessing, which must be more than coincidence. Several rabbinic sources teach that Jeconiah repented in Babylon and that God forgave him and lifted the curse.

The Moody Handbook of Theology

Got Questions
Mushrooms On The Moor
     by Frank W. Boreham


     I heard a capital story the other evening under the most astonishing circumstances. It was at a public meeting connected with a religious conference. A certain minister rose to address us. We knew from past experience that we should have a most suggestive and stimulating address. But, somehow, it did not occur to us that we should be favoured with a story. And when this grave and sedate member of our assembly suddenly launched out into the intricacies of his tale, it was as great a surprise as though the haildrops turned out to be diamonds, or Vesuvius had begun to pour forth gold. Before we knew what had happened, we were electrified by the story of a man who dwelt in a very comfortable house, with a large, light, airy cellar. The river ran near by. One day the river overflowed, the cellar was flooded, and all the hens that he kept in it were drowned. The next day he bounced off to see the landlord.

     'I have come,' he said, 'to give you notice. I wish to leave the house.'

     'How is that?' asked the astonished landlord. 'I thought you liked it so much. It is a very comfortable, well-built house, and cheap.'

     'Oh, yes,' the tenant replied, 'but the river has overflowed into my cellar, and all my hens are drowned.'

     'Oh, don't let that make you give up the house,' the landlord reasoned; 'try ducks!'

     I entirely forget—I most fervently hope that my friend will never see this lamentable confession of mine!—I entirely forget what he made of this delightful story. But, looking back on it now, I can see quite clearly that half the philosophy of life is wrapped up in its delicious folds. It raises the question at the very outset as to how far I am under any obligation to endure the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. The river has flooded my cellar and drowned all my hens. Very well. Now two courses are open to me. Shall I grin and bear it? or shall I make a change? I must remember that it is very nice living on the banks of the river. There is the boat-house at the foot of the garden. What delightful hours we have spent gliding up and down the bends and reaches of the tranquil stream, watching the reflections in the water, and picnicking under the willows on its grassy banks! How the children love to come down here and feed the swans as the graceful creatures glide proudly hither and thither, seeming to be conscious that their beauty richly deserves all the homage that is paid to it! The fishing, too! The whirr of the line, and the bend of the rod, and the splash of the trout; why, there was more concentrated excitement in some of those tremendous moments than in all the politics and battles since the world began! And the bathing! On those hot summer days when the very air seemed to scorch the skin, how exquisite those swirling waters seemed! Am I to give up all this enjoyment because, once in five years perhaps, the swollen stream floods my cellar and drowns my hens? That is the question, and it is a live question too.

     Now the trouble is a little deeper than appears on the surface. For if I persuade myself that it is my duty to bounce off down to the owner of the house and give him notice to quit, I shall soon find myself spending a considerable proportion of my time in waiting upon my landlords. In the next house to which I go I shall not only miss the boating and fishing and bathing, but I shall within six months discover other disadvantages quite as grave as the occasional flooding of my riverside cellar. And then I shall have to move again. And moving will become a habit with me. And, on the whole, it is a bad habit. It may be good for the hens; but there are other things to be considered besides hens. The solar system is not kept in operation solely for the benefit of the hens in the cellar. There are the children, and, with all respect for the fowl-yard, children are as much worthy of consideration as chickens. It is not good for children to be everlastingly moving. It is good for them to have sacred and beautiful memories of the home of their childhood. It is good for them to feed the swans, and play under the willows, year in and year out, and to retain the swans and the willows as part of the background with which memory will always paint the picture of their infancy. It is good for children to feel a certain fixity and stability about home and school and friends.

     George Gissing pathetically tells how the spirit of dereliction stole into the life of Godwin Peak. It was all owing to the family gipsyings. 'As a result of the family's removal first from London to the farm, and then into Twybridge, Godwin had no friends of old standing. A boy reaps advantage from the half-parental kindness of men and women who have watched his growth from infancy; in general it affects him as a steadying influence, keeping before his mind the social bonds to which his behaviour owes allegiance. Godwin had no ties which bound him strongly to any district.' He was like a ship that belongs to no port in particular, and that drifts hither and thither about the world as fugitive commissions may arise.

     The finest of all the fine arts is the art of putting up with nasty things. It is not very nice to have all your hens drowned. You get fond of hens. And apart from the financial loss involved, there is a sense of bereavement in seeing all your choice Dorkings, your favourite Leghorns, your lovely Orpingtons, or your beautiful Silver Wyandottes all lying dead and bedraggled in the muddy cellar. Few things are more disconcerting. And yet I am writing this article for no other purpose than to assert that the best thing to do, if you must have hens, is to bury these as quickly as possible and send down to the market for a fresh supply. It is certainly gratifying to one's pride as a tenant to feel that one has a grievance and can now show his glorious independence of the landlord. There is always a pleasurable piquancy in being able to resign, or dismiss somebody, or give notice. But my interest is every bit as well worth considering as my dignity. And whilst my dignity clamours to get even with the landlord, my interest reminds me of the swans and the willows, the boating and the fishing. My dignity shouts angrily about my dead fens; but my interest whispers significantly about my living children. So that, all things considered, it is better to bury the hens and the hatchet at the same time. I may quit my riverside residence and have a waterproof fowl-run in another street; but when I see somebody else taking his children out in my old boat, I shall only bite my lip and wish that I had quietly restocked my chicken-run. It may be a most iniquitous proceeding on the part of the landlord to allow the river to flood my cellar but, thinking it over calmly, I am convinced that it is my duty as a Christian to forgive him. And it always pays a man to do his duty.

     I had thought of devoting a paragraph to ministers and deacons. But perhaps I had better not. These matters are very intricate and very delicate, and need a tenderer touch than mine. Things will sometimes go wrong. The river will rise. The cellar gets flooded, and the hens get drowned. But, really, I am certain that, nine times out of ten, perhaps ninety-nine times out of a hundred, it is better to bury the poor birds quietly and say no more about it. I don't know quite how to apply this parable. I was afraid I should get out of my depth if I ventured into such matters. But suppose that the minister finds some morning that his cellar is flooded and his pet birds drowned. Of course, it is pleasant to send in your resignation and say that you will not stand it. And yet, and yet—rivers will rise; it is a way that rivers have; and the Church Secretary, when he receives the resignation, feels as helpless as the landlord. And has the minister any guarantee that the next river on the banks of which he builds his nest will never rise? And, even if he is certain of perfection in the fields to which he flies, is he quite justified in avenging his dead hens by imperilling his living children and his living church?

     Or perhaps I have misinterpreted the story. I am really very nervous about it, and feel that I have plunged into things too high for me. Perhaps the minister is the landlord. It is through his wickedness that the river has risen and drowned some of the Church's best hens, or at least ruffled the fine feathers of some of the Church's best birds. It is the easiest thing in the world to give him notice to quit. And it accords magnificently with the dignity of the situation. But are we quite sure that the poor minister made the river rise? That is the question the tenant ought to consider. Was it the landlord's fault? I repeat that rivers will rise at times, generally at storm times. The Nile and the Tigris used to rise in prehistoric times. It is a way rivers have. I really think that it will be as well to say no more about it. Try to smooth down the ruffled feathers and forget. It may not have been his fault; and, anyhow, we shall be saying good-bye to a good many delightful experiences if we part company.

     And, really, when you think it over quietly, there seems to be a great deal in the landlord's suggestion: 'Try ducks!' Of course, ducks are the very thing for a riverside dwelling. Every change, however small, should be dictated by reason and not by caprice. This was the essential difference between the stupid tenant and the wise landlord. The tenant said, 'I will make a fundamental change, and I will make it capriciously—I will leave the house!' The landlord said, 'Why not make an incidental change, and make it reasonably? Try ducks!' I have in my time seen great numbers of people, among all kinds and conditions of men, throw up their riverside dwellings in high dudgeon because their hens were drowned in the cellar. But among my saddest letters I find some from those who tell me how they miss the swans and the boat-house, the trout and the willows, and how sincerely they wish now that they had tried ducks. But it is too late; the flashing stream is the paradise of other tenants; and the children's most romantic memory of childhood twines itself about the fun of getting the piano and the dining-room table in and out of the different doors. We may easily form a stupid habit of giving the landlord notice whenever the river happens to rise; and we forget that it is from just such movements—such goings and such stayings—that life as a whole takes its tint and colour. Destiny is made of trifles. Our weal and our woe are determined by comparatively insignificant issues. Somebody has finely said that we make our decisions, and then our decisions turn round and make us.

     Now let nobody suppose that I am deprecating a change. On the contrary, I am advocating a change. It will never do to let the fowls drown, and to take no steps to prevent a recurrence of any such disaster. I hold no brief for stagnation. I am merely insisting that the change must commend itself to heart and conscience and reason. It must be a forward move. Look at this, for example. It is from Stanley's Life of Arnold: 'We are all in the midst of confusion,' Arnold writes from Laleham, 'the books all packed and half the furniture; and on Tuesday, if God will, we shall leave this dear place, this nine-years' home of such exceeding happiness. But it boots not to look backwards. Forward, forward, forward, should be one's motto.' And thus Arnold moved to Rugby, and made history! There are times when the landlord's gate is the high-road to glory.

     The whole matter is capable of the widest application, and must be scientifically treated. Man is always finding his fowls drowned in the cellar and going the wrong way to put things right. Generally speaking, it must be confessed that he is too fond of rushing off to the landlord. In his Travels in Russia, Theophile Gautier has a striking word concerning this perilous proclivity. 'Whatever is of real use to man,' he says, 'was invented from the beginning of the world, and all the people who have come along since have worn their brains out to find something new, but have made no improvements. Change is far from being progress; it is not yet proved that steamers are better than sailing-vessels, or railways than horse traffic. For my part, I believe that men will end in returning to the old methods, which are always the best.' I do not agree with the first part of Gautier's statement. It is not likely. But when he says that we are getting back to our starting-point, his contention is indisputable. In the beginning, man was alone with his earth; and all that he did, he did in the sweat of his brow. Then came the craze for machinery, and the world became a network of wires and a wilderness of whirling wheels. But we are beginning to recognize that it has been a ridiculous mistake. The thing is too clumsy and too complicated. Mr. Marconi has already taught us to feel half ashamed of the wires. And Mr. H. G. Wells predicts that in forty years' time all the activities of a larger and busier world will be driven by invisible currents of power, and the whole of our industrial machinery will have gone to the scrap-heap. Man will find himself once more alone with his world, but it will be a world that has taken him into its confidence and revealed to him its wonderful secrets. He will look back with a smile on the age of screaming syrens and snorting engines, of racing pistons and whirling wheels. He will be amazed at his own earlier readiness to resort to such a cumbrous and complicated system when a smaller transition would have ushered him into his kingdom.

     The whole drift of our modern scientific development is away from our clinking mechanical complexities and back towards the great primal simplicities. We have been too fond of the drastic and dramatic course, too fond of bouncing off to the landlord. We are too apt to involve ourselves in a big move when we might have gained our point by simply trying ducks. We love the things that are burdensome, the ways that are involved, the paths that lead to headache and heartache. It is a very ancient and very human tendency. Paul wrote the Epistle to the Galatians to reprove in them the same sad blunder. 'O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you?' They had abandoned he simplicities under the lure of the complexities. The Church that was urged by her Lord to return to her first love had made the same mistake. We are too prone to scorn the simple and the obvious. We forsake the fountain of living water, and hew out to ourselves clumsy cisterns. We neglect the majestic simplicities of the gospel, and involve our tired brains and hungry hearts in tortuous systems that lead us a long, long way from home. The landlord is right. The simplest course is almost always the safest.

Mushrooms on the Moor
My Utmost For The Highest
     A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers

                The account with purity

     Out of the heart proceed … --- Matthew 15:18–20.

     We begin by trusting our ignorance and calling it innocence, by trusting our innocence and calling it purity; and when we hear these rugged statements of Our Lord’s, we shrink and say—‘But I never felt any of those awful things in my heart.’ We resent what Jesus Christ reveals. Either Jesus Christ is the supreme Authority on the human heart, or He is not worth paying any attention to. Am I prepared to trust His penetration, or do I prefer to trust my innocent ignorance? If I make conscious innocence the test, I am likely to come to a place where I find with a shuddering awakening that what Jesus Christ said is true, and I shall be appalled at the possibility of evil and wrong in me. As long as I remain under the refuge of innocence, I am living in a fool’s paradise. If I have never been a blackguard, the reason is a mixture of cowardice and the protection of civilized life; but when I am undressed before God, I find that Jesus Christ is right in His diagnosis.

     The only thing that safeguards is the Redemption of Jesus Christ. If I will hand myself over to Him, I need never experience the terrible possibilities that are in my heart. Purity is too deep down for me to get to naturally: but when the Holy Spirit comes in, He brings into the centre of my personal life the very Spirit that was manifested in the life of Jesus Christ, viz. Holy Spirit, which is unsullied purity.

My Utmost for His Highest

The Island
     the Poetry of RS Thomas

                The Island

And God said, I will build a church here
  And cause this people to worship me,
  And afflict them with poverty and sickness
  In return for centuries of hard work
  And patience. And its walls shall be hard as
  Their hearts, and its windows let in the light
  Grudgingly, as their minds do, and the priest’s words be drowned
  By the wind’s caterwauling. All this I will do,

  Said God, and watch the bitterness in their eyes
  Grow, and their lips suppurate with
  Their prayers. And their women shall bring forth
  On my altar, and I will choose the best
Of them to be thrown back into the sea.

And that was only on one island.


Searching For Meaning In Midrash
     Exodus 7:17–19

     Does a person who drinks from the well cast a stone into it?

     BIBLE TEXT / Exodus 7:17–19 / Thus says the Lord, “By this you shall know that I am the Lord.” See, I [Moses] shall strike the water in the Nile with the rod that is in my hand, and it will be turned to blood; and the fish in the Nile will die. The Nile will stink so that the Egyptians will find it impossible to drink the water of the Nile.

     And the Lord said to Moses, “Say to Aaron: Take your rod and hold out your arm over the waters of Egypt—its rivers, its canals, its ponds, all its bodies of water—that they may turn to blood; there shall be blood throughout the land of Egypt, even in vessels of wood and stone.”

     MIDRASH TEXT / Exodus Rabbah 20, 1 / And it says, “Every boy that is born.” The Holy One, praised is He, started to tell Moses, “Say to Pharaoh, ‘Let My people go that they may worship Me’ ” (Exodus 7:16). He [Moses] went and told him [Pharaoh] and he [Pharaoh] started to say, “Who is the Lord that I should heed Him?” (Exodus 5:2). Moses started saying to the Holy One, praised is He, “He’s saying ‘Who is the Lord?’ and he does not want to send them.” He [God] said to him [Moses], “Where does Egypt drink from?” He [Moses] said, “The Nile.” He [God] said to him, “Change it into blood.” He said, “I can’t change it. Does a person who drinks from the well cast a stone into it?” God said, “Let Aaron go and change it.” Aaron went and struck it, and it was changed into blood. Why didn’t Moses strike it? He said, “I was thrown into it [the Nile], and it didn’t harm me.” Because of this, Aaron struck it.

     CONTEXT / At the beginning of the Book of Exodus, Pharaoh decreed that all the Israelite baby boys were to be drowned in the Nile. Moses, who should have been killed in this manner, was hidden and later saved by being placed in a basket on the very same river. Many years later, when Moses returned to demand that Pharaoh free the Israelites, Pharaoh refused. God then initiated a series of plagues meant to force the king’s hand. In the first plague, “blood,” God commanded:

     Say to Aaron: Take your rod and hold out your arm over the waters of Egypt … that they may turn to blood.
(Exodus 7:19)

     The Rabbis wondered why God commanded Moses to tell Aaron to do this. Why couldn’t Moses do it himself?

     The Rabbis imagined God as directing the first plague against the very basis of Egyptian life. God asked Moses, “Where does Egypt drink from?” When Moses answered, “The Nile,” God told him, “Change it into blood.” But Moses protested, “I can’t change it. Does a person who drinks from the well cast a stone into it?” This refers back to the verses at the beginning of Exodus 2, where Moses’ mother placed him on the Nile in a wicker basket. Moses was saved by the river: How could he now inflict a plague upon it? Thus, the saying “Does a person who drinks from the well cast a stone into it?” is clear: Moses could not repay the kindness of the Nile, which saved him from death, by bringing a plague on it. God did not force the issue with Moses but instead said, “Let Aaron go and change it.” Aaron did not have a special relationship with the Nile, and Aaron could effect the plague. God’s will was done eventually, though not by Moses.

Searching for Meaning in Midrash: Lessons for Everyday Living

Take Heart
     July 26

     To grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge.
--- Ephesians 3:18–19.

     That Christ should come from the eternal bosom of his Father to a region of sorrow and death (John 1:18); that God should be made flesh, the Creator made a creature
(Isa. 53:4); that he who filled heaven should be cradled in a manger (John 17:5); that the God of strength should be weary; that the judge of all flesh should be condemned; that the God of life should be put to death (John 19:41); that he who had the keys of hell and death should lie imprisoned in the sepulchre of another, having in his lifetime nowhere to lay his head nor, after death, to lay his body
(John 19:41–42)—and all this for fallen, miserable human beings—is beyond the thoughts of created natures. How Great Is Our God The sharp, the universal, and the continual sufferings of our Lord Jesus Christ, from the cradle to the cross, above all other things speaks out the transcendent love of Jesus Christ to sinners. That matchless wrath of an angry God that was so terribly impressed on the soul of Christ quickly sapped his natural strength, yet all this wrath he patiently underwent that sinners might be saved and that he might bring “many sons to glory” (Heb. 2:10).

     Oh, wonder of love! Love is submissive, it enables to suffer. So it was love that made our dear Lord Jesus lay down his life to save us from hell and to bring us to heaven. Oh, love unspeakable!

     Christ’s love is like his name, and that is Wonderful
(Isa. 9:6), so wonderful that it is above all creatures, beyond all measure, contrary to all nature. It is above all creatures, for it is above the angels and therefore above all others. It is beyond all measure, for time did not begin it, and time shall never end it; place does not bound it, sin does not exceed it, understandings cannot conceive it. And it is contrary to all nature, for what nature can love where it is hated? can forgive where it is provoked? can offer reconciliation where it receives wrong? What nature can heap up kindness on contempt, favor on ingratitude, mercy on sin? And yet Christ’s love has led him to all this, so that well may we spend all our days in admiring and adoring this wonderful love and be always captivated with the thoughts of it.
--- Thomas Brooks

Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers

On This Day
     Wilberforce  July 26

     In the 1700s an exclusive little hamlet outside London called Clapham became home to a number of prominent evangelicals and evangelical causes. Historians call these Christians the “Clapham Sect.” The most famous member of the Clapham Sect was a shrimp-size politician named William Wilberforce who had come to Christ at age 25. Wilberforce gathered his Clapham friends into regular “Cabinet Councils” to discuss national trends and to establish Christian strategies for dealing with them, making the Clapham Sect one of the most unusual fraternities in British public life. Out of it sprang the Church Missionary Society, The British and Foreign Bible Society, the Society for Bettering the Condition of the Poor, the Society for the Reformation of Prison Discipline, and, most of all, Wilberforce’s history-changing crusade against slavery.

     In 1789 Wilberforce first spoke against slavery in the House of Commons. Two years later in another speech he said: Never, never will we desist till we have wiped away this scandal from the Christian name, released ourselves from the load of guilt, and extinguished every trace of this bloody traffic.

     The Clapham Sect went to work mobilizing opinion and helping Wilberforce marshal his arguments. They lectured on public platforms, wrote books, posted billboards, and lobbied leaders. Finally in 1807 after nearly 20 years of work, Wilberforce sat bent in his chair, head in his hands, weeping, as the parliament outlawed the trading of slaves in the British Empire. Later that night, a beaming Wilberforce turned to a friend and said, “Well, Henry, what do we abolish next?”

     Slavery itself, that’s what. Wilberforce pressed on for another 20 years for complete emancipation of all slaves in the British Empire. He was a virtual one-man, nonstop crusade until his health broke and he became a dying man. His friends finished the fight. On July 26, 1833, the Bill for the Abolition of Slavery passed in the House of Commons. News was rushed to the bedfast Wilberforce who raised himself on one elbow, smiled quietly, and said, “Thank God that I have lived to witness [this] day.”

     He died three days later, his life’s work finished.

   The Spirit of the LORD God has taken control of me!
   The LORD has chosen and sent me
   To tell the oppressed the good news,
   To heal the brokenhearted,
   And to announce freedom for prisoners and captives.
   --- Isaiah 61:1.

On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes

Morning and Evening
     Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON

          Morning - July 26

     “Giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge, etc.” --- 2 Peter 1:5, 6.

     If thou wouldest enjoy the eminent grace of the full assurance of faith, under the blessed Spirit’s influence, and assistance, do what the Scripture tells thee, “Give diligence.” Take care that thy faith is of the right kind—that it is not a mere belief of doctrine, but a simple faith, depending on Christ, and on Christ alone. Give diligent heed to thy courage. Plead with God that he would give thee the face of a lion, that thou mayest, with a consciousness of right, go on boldly. Study well the Scriptures, and get knowledge; for a knowledge of doctrine will tend very much to confirm faith. Try to understand God’s Word; let it dwell in thy heart richly.

     When thou hast done this, “Add to thy knowledge temperance.” Take heed to thy body: be temperate without. Take heed to thy soul: be temperate within. Get temperance of lip, life, heart, and thought. Add to this, by God’s Holy Spirit, patience; ask him to give thee that patience which endureth affliction, which, when it is tried, shall come forth as gold. Array yourself with patience, that you may not murmur nor be depressed in your afflictions. When that grace is won look to godliness. Godliness is something more than religion. Make God’s glory your object in life; live in his sight; dwell close to him; seek for fellowship with him; and thou hast “godliness”; and to that add brotherly love. Have a love to all the saints: and add to that a charity, which openeth its arms to all men, and loves their souls. When you are adorned with these jewels, and just in proportion as you practise these heavenly virtues, will you come to know by clearest evidence “your calling and election.” “Give diligence,” if you would get assurance, for lukewarmness and doubting very naturally go hand in hand.

          Evening - July 26

     “That he may set him with princes.” --- Psalm 113:8.

     Our spiritual privileges are of the highest order. “Among princes” is the place of select society. “Truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.” Speak of select society, there is none like this! “We are a chosen generation, a peculiar people, a royal priesthood.” “We are come unto the general assembly and church of the first-born, whose names are written in heaven.” The saints have courtly audience: princes have admittance to royalty when common people must stand afar off. The child of God has free access to the inner courts of heaven. “For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.” “Let us come boldly,” says the apostle, “to the throne of the heavenly grace.” Among princes there is abundant wealth, but what is the abundance of princes compared with the riches of believers? for “all things are yours, and ye are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.” “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” Princes have peculiar power. A prince of heaven’s empire has great influence: he wields a sceptre in his own domain; he sits upon Jesus’ throne, for “He hath made us kings and priests unto God, and we shall reign for ever and ever.” We reign over the united kingdom of time and eternity. Princes, again, have special honour. We may look down upon all earth-born dignity from the eminence upon which grace has placed us. For what is human grandeur to this, “He hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus”? We share the honour of Christ, and compared with this, earthly splendours are not worth a thought. Communion with Jesus is a richer gem than ever glittered in imperial diadem. Union with the Lord is a coronet of beauty outshining all the blaze of imperial pomp.

Morning and Evening

Amazing Grace
     July 26


     Fredrick A. Blom, 1867–1927
     Translated by Nathaniel Carlson, 1879–1957

     But as it is written, eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him. (1 Corinthians 2:9 )KJV

     Out of the repentant heart of a backslidden Swedish pastor came this deeply emotional and vividly worded hymn, which expresses his renewed faith in God. After serving as the minister of several churches, Fredrick Arvid Blom somehow fell into deep sin and even was in prison for a time. “I drifted from God,” he explained, “and became embittered with myself, the world, and not the least with ministers who looked on me with suspicion because I was a member of the Socialist Party.” Then like a “dove when hunted” or “a wounded fawn,” Blom cried in anguish to his heavenly Father, who in “love divine” forgave him and healed his broken heart and life. From this restoration came this lovely text, which has since comforted many sorrowful hearts with the assurance of a never-ending divine love and a promise of an eternal heavenly home. God’s people need not fear death. Instead we ought to view it as the beginning of a new form of life—the entering into an eternal abode with our loving Savior, who will Himself open heaven’s gate to welcome us home.

     Love divine, so great and wondrous, deep and mighty, pure, sublime! Coming from the heart of Jesus—just the same thru tests of time.
     Like a dove when hunted, frightened, as a wounded fawn was I; brokenhearted, yet He healed me—He will heed the sinner’s cry.
     Love divine, so great and wondrous! All my sins He then forgave! I will sing His praise forever, for His blood, His pow’r to save.
     In life’s even-tide, at twilight, at His door I’ll knock and wait; by the precious love of Jesus I shall enter heaven’s gate.
     Chorus: He the pearly gates will open, so that I may enter in; for He purchased my redemption and forgave me all my sin.

     For Today: John 14:2, 3; 2 Corinthians 5:1, 6, 8; Revelation 7:9, 16, 17

     Try to comfort someone who is ill or fearful of death with the strong promises of Scripture that remind us of the welcome in heaven awaiting each true believer in Christ. Or, if you have opportunity, try to reassure someone who has been away from God that there is forgiveness and divine love for all who will truly repent and turn again to seek renewed fellowship with God. Sing this musical testimony as you go ---

Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions

De Servo Arbitrio “On the Enslaved Will” or The Bondage of the Will
     Martin Luther | (1483-1546)

     Sect. XCVIII. — THIS place the Diatribe evades by saying — ‘that it does not properly pertain to the salvation of man. For God (it says) may will that a man shall be a servant, or a poor man; and yet, not reject him from eternal salvation.’ —

     Only observe, I pray you, how many evasions and ways of escape a slippery mind will invent, which would flee from the truth, and yet cannot get away from it after all. Be it so, that this passage does not pertain to the salvation of man, (to which point I shall speak hereafter), are we to suppose, then, that Paul who adduces it, does so, for no purpose whatever? Shall we make Paul to be ridiculous, or a vain trifler, in a discussion so serious?

     But all this breathes nothing but Jerome, who dares to say, in more places than one, with a supercilious brow and a sacrilegious mouth, ‘that those things are made to be of force in Paul, which, in their own places, are of no force.’ This is no less than saying, that Paul, where he lays the foundation of the Christian doctrine, does nothing but corrupt the Holy Scriptures, and delude believing souls with sentiments hatched out of his own brain, and violently thrust into the Scriptures. — Is this honouring the Holy Spirit in Paul, that sanctified and elect instrument of God! Thus, when Jerome ought to be read with judgment, and this saying of his to be numbered among those many things which that man impiously wrote, (such was his yawning inconsiderateness, and his stupidity in understanding the Scriptures), the Diatribe drags him in without any judgment; and not thinking it right, that his authority should be lessened by any mitigating gloss whatever, takes him as a most certain oracle, whereby to judge of, and attemper the Scriptures. And thus it is; we take the impious sayings of men as rules and guides in the Holy Scripture, and then wonder that it should become ‘obscure and ambiguous;’ and that so many fathers should be blind in it; whereas, the whole proceeds from this impious and sacrilegious Reason.

The Bondage of the Will   or   Christian Classics Ethereal Library

Ecclesiastes 9-12
     JD Farag

Ecclesiastes 9
The Ways and Whys of God
J.D. Farag


Ecclesiastes 10
An Upside-Down World
J.D. Farag


Ecclesiastes 11
Seize the Opportunity
J.D. Farag


Ecclesiastes 12
Fear and Obey God
J.D. Farag


J.D. Farag

Ecclesiastes 9-12
     Jon Courson

Ecclesiastes 7-9
Jon Courson

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Ecclesiastes 10-12
Jon Courson

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Jon Courson | Jon Courson

Ecclesiastes 9-12
     Paul LeBoutillier

Ecclesiastes 9-12
No man knows
Paul LeBoutillier

Paul LeBoutillier | Calvary Chapel Ontario, Oregon

Ecclesiastes 9-12
     Brett Meador | Athey Creek

Ecclesiastes 10:1-15
Fly in the Ointment


Ecclesiastes 8-10


Ecclesiastes 10:1-15
The Conclusion


Ecclesiastes 11-12


     Brett Meador | Athey Creek

     ==============================      ==============================

Ecclesiastes 11-12
A Fulfilled Life
Gary Hamrick

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Ecclesiastes 7:1
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C.H. Spurgeon