Isaiah 1 - 4
Isaiah 1Isaiah 1:1 The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.
The Wickedness of Judah
2 Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth;
for the LORD has spoken:
“Children have I reared and brought up,
but they have rebelled against me.
3 The ox knows its owner, (ox, think dumb as a brick)
and the donkey its master’s crib, (donkey, stubborn as a mule)
but Israel does not know,
my people do not understand.” (See Deut 6:10)
4 Ah, sinful nation,
a people laden with iniquity,
offspring of evildoers,
children who deal corruptly!
They have forsaken the LORD,
they have despised the Holy One of Israel, (Used 25 times in Isaiah and unique to this book)
they are utterly estranged.
5 Why will you still be struck down?
Why will you continue to rebel?
The whole head is sick,
and the whole heart faint.
6 From the sole of the foot even to the head,
there is no soundness in it,
but bruises and sores
and raw wounds;
they are not pressed out or bound up
or softened with oil.
7 Your country lies desolate;
your cities are burned with fire;
in your very presence
foreigners devour your land;
it is desolate, as overthrown by foreigners.
8 And the daughter of Zion is left
like a booth in a vineyard,
like a lodge in a cucumber field,
like a besieged city.
9 If the LORD of hosts
had not left us a few survivors,
we should have been like Sodom,
and become like Gomorrah.
10 Hear the word of the LORD,
you rulers of Sodom!
Give ear to the teaching of our God,
you people of Gomorrah!
11 “What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices?
says the LORD;
I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams
and the fat of well-fed beasts;
I do not delight in the blood of bulls,
or of lambs, or of goats.
12 “When you come to appear before me,
who has required of you
this trampling of my courts?
13 Bring no more vain offerings;
incense is an abomination to me.
New moon and Sabbath and the calling of convocations—
I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly.
14 Your new moons and your appointed feasts
my soul hates;
they have become a burden to me;
I am weary of bearing them.
15 When you spread out your hands,
I will hide my eyes from you;
even though you make many prayers,
I will not listen;
your hands are full of blood.
16 Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean;
remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes;
cease to do evil,
17 learn to do good;
bring justice to the fatherless,
plead the widow’s cause.
18 “Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD:
though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red like crimson,
they shall become like wool.
19 If you are willing and obedient,
you shall eat the good of the land;
20 but if you refuse and rebel,
you shall be eaten by the sword;
for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”
The Unfaithful City
21 How the faithful city
has become a whore,
she who was full of justice!
Righteousness lodged in her,
but now murderers.
22 Your silver has become dross,
your best wine mixed with water.
23 Your princes are rebels
and companions of thieves.
Everyone loves a bribe
and runs after gifts.
They do not bring justice to the fatherless,
and the widow’s cause does not come to them.
24 Therefore the Lord declares,
the LORD of hosts,
the Mighty One of Israel:
“Ah, I will get relief from my enemies
and avenge myself on my foes.
25 I will turn my hand against you
and will smelt away your dross as with lye
and remove all your alloy.
26 And I will restore your judges as at the first,
and your counselors as at the beginning.
Afterward you shall be called the city of righteousness,
the faithful city.”
27 Zion shall be redeemed by justice,
and those in her who repent, by righteousness.
28 But rebels and sinners shall be broken together,
and those who forsake the LORD shall be consumed.
29 For they shall be ashamed of the oaks
that you desired;
and you shall blush for the gardens
that you have chosen.
30 For you shall be like an oak
whose leaf withers,
and like a garden without water.
31 And the strong shall become tinder,
and his work a spark,
and both of them shall burn together,
with none to quench them.
The Mountain of the LORDIsaiah 2:1 The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.
2 It shall come to pass in the latter days
that the mountain of the house of the LORD
shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
and shall be lifted up above the hills;
and all the nations shall flow to it,
3 and many peoples shall come, and say:
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD,
to the house of the God of Jacob,
that he may teach us his ways
and that we may walk in his paths.”
For out of Zion shall go forth the law,
and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
4 He shall judge between the nations,
and shall decide disputes for many peoples;
and they shall beat their swords into plowshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war anymore.
5 O house of Jacob,
come, let us walk
in the light of the LORD.
The Day of the LORD
6 For you have rejected your people,
the house of Jacob,
because they are full of things from the east
and of fortune-tellers like the Philistines,
and they strike hands with the children of foreigners.
7 Their land is filled with silver and gold,
and there is no end to their treasures;
their land is filled with horses,
and there is no end to their chariots.
8 Their land is filled with idols;
they bow down to the work of their hands,
to what their own fingers have made.
9 So man is humbled,
and each one is brought low—
do not forgive them!
10 Enter into the rock
and hide in the dust
from before the terror of the LORD,
and from the splendor of his majesty.
11 The haughty looks of man shall be brought low,
and the lofty pride of men shall be humbled,
and the LORD alone will be exalted in that day.
12 For the LORD of hosts has a day
against all that is proud and lofty,
against all that is lifted up—and it shall be brought low;
13 against all the cedars of Lebanon,
lofty and lifted up;
and against all the oaks of Bashan;
14 against all the lofty mountains,
and against all the uplifted hills;
15 against every high tower,
and against every fortified wall;
16 against all the ships of Tarshish,
and against all the beautiful craft.
17 And the haughtiness of man shall be humbled,
and the lofty pride of men shall be brought low,
and the LORD alone will be exalted in that day.
18 And the idols shall utterly pass away.
19 And people shall enter the caves of the rocks
and the holes of the ground,
from before the terror of the LORD,
and from the splendor of his majesty,
when he rises to terrify the earth.
20 In that day mankind will cast away
their idols of silver and their idols of gold,
which they made for themselves to worship,
to the moles and to the bats,
21 to enter the caverns of the rocks
and the clefts of the cliffs,
from before the terror of the LORD,
and from the splendor of his majesty,
when he rises to terrify the earth.
22 Stop regarding man
in whose nostrils is breath,
for of what account is he?
Judgment on Judah and Jerusalem
Isaiah 3:1 For behold, the Lord GOD of hosts
is taking away from Jerusalem and from Judah
support and supply,
all support of bread,
and all support of water;
2 the mighty man and the soldier,
the judge and the prophet,
the diviner and the elder,
3 the captain of fifty
and the man of rank,
the counselor and the skillful magician
and the expert in charms.
4 And I will make boys their princes,
and infants shall rule over them.
5 And the people will oppress one another,
every one his fellow
and every one his neighbor;
the youth will be insolent to the elder,
and the despised to the honorable.
6 For a man will take hold of his brother
in the house of his father, saying:
“You have a cloak;
you shall be our leader,
and this heap of ruins
shall be under your rule”;
7 in that day he will speak out, saying:
“I will not be a healer;
in my house there is neither bread nor cloak;
you shall not make me
leader of the people.”
8 For Jerusalem has stumbled,
and Judah has fallen,
because their speech and their deeds are against the LORD,
defying his glorious presence.
9 For the look on their faces bears witness against them;
they proclaim their sin like Sodom;
they do not hide it.
Woe to them!
For they have brought evil on themselves.
10 Tell the righteous that it shall be well with them,
for they shall eat the fruit of their deeds.
11 Woe to the wicked! It shall be ill with him,
for what his hands have dealt out shall be done to him.
12 My people—infants are their oppressors,
and women rule over them.
O my people, your guides mislead you
and they have swallowed up the course of your paths.
13 The LORD has taken his place to contend;
he stands to judge peoples.
14 The LORD will enter into judgment
with the elders and princes of his people:
“It is you who have devoured the vineyard,
the spoil of the poor is in your houses.
15 What do you mean by crushing my people,
by grinding the face of the poor?”
declares the Lord GOD of hosts.
16 The LORD said:
Because the daughters of Zion are haughty
and walk with outstretched necks,
glancing wantonly with their eyes,
mincing along as they go,
tinkling with their feet,
17 therefore the Lord will strike with a scab
the heads of the daughters of Zion,
and the LORD will lay bare their secret parts.
18 In that day the Lord will take away the finery of the anklets, the headbands, and the crescents; 19 the pendants, the bracelets, and the scarves; 20 the headdresses, the armlets, the sashes, the perfume boxes, and the amulets; 21 the signet rings and nose rings; 22 the festal robes, the mantles, the cloaks, and the handbags; 23 the mirrors, the linen garments, the turbans, and the veils.
24 Instead of perfume there will be rottenness;
and instead of a belt, a rope;
and instead of well-set hair, baldness;
and instead of a rich robe, a skirt of sackcloth;
and branding instead of beauty.
25 Your men shall fall by the sword
and your mighty men in battle.
26 And her gates shall lament and mourn;
empty, she shall sit on the ground.
(Isaiah 3:26 should be read with Isaiah 4:1. The chapter division here is unfortunate.)
Isaiah 4Isaiah 4:1 And seven women shall take hold of one man in that day, saying, “We will eat our own bread and wear our own clothes, only let us be called by your name; take away our reproach.”
The Branch of the LORD Glorified2 In that day the branch of the LORD shall be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the land shall be the pride and honor of the survivors of Israel. 3 And he who is left in Zion and remains in Jerusalem will be called holy, everyone who has been recorded for life in Jerusalem, 4 when the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion and cleansed the bloodstains of Jerusalem from its midst by a spirit of judgment and by a spirit of burning. 5 Then the LORD will create over the whole site of Mount Zion and over her assemblies a cloud by day, and smoke and the shining of a flaming fire by night; for over all the glory there will be a canopy. 6 There will be a booth for shade by day from the heat, and for a refuge and a shelter from the storm and rain.
ESV Study Bible
What I'm Reading
By Elliot Grudem 12/01/2010
Christ has given His church deacons to lead the church in its ministries of mercy. Deacons serve those in the church by ministering to people in their times of need. Though deacons lead in this area, ministries of mercy are also the responsibility of every Christian.
Providing mercy to those in need is often a challenging task. It involves giving of yourself. I think that Paul understood this, for he encouraged those who were providing care for others not to grow weary in doing good (Gal. 6:9).
Yet we can quickly grow weary of doing good for a number of reasons. I’ll mention three:
First, it can be frustrating. Ministries of mercy are often aimed at those in dire straits. There’s no guarantee that our investment of time or money will result in a life change. There’s no guarantee we will see any change happen. Sometimes we see progress. Other times we see regress. And more often than not, we see progress quickly followed by regress.
Second, there’s potential for failure. We may give money to the wrong person. We may get scammed or cheated. We may pay to feed someone’s addiction. People won’t make good on their promises or live up to their potential.
Third, it makes us feel foolish. Ministries of mercy have a way of taking us into places of deep personal insecurity and asking us to give from places we feel the least qualified to give. How can we help the woman who gave birth to a dead baby, the young mother dying of cancer, the older, home-bound couple who can’t seem to scrape together enough money to pay their light bill, or the young man who suffers from a mental disorder that keeps him from getting steady work? Often it just seems easier to ignore the problem. Keep people at a distance. Send off a check. Pretend we don’t see or don’t care.
Mercy ministry is tough. But it’s good. When we participate in ministries of mercy, we are reminded in a real way of people’s need for a savior. We soon realize we aren’t that savior.
That’s one of the reasons doing mercy is so beneficial. It reminds us that there are problems in this world we can’t solve with hard work or money. The sin outside of us, the sin in others, and the sin in our lives means that this side of Jesus’ return, there will be poverty. People will suffer. There will be needs.
It also reminds us that we serve a God who is committed to eliminating that poverty, that suffering, those needs — forever. His son died and rose from the dead, guaranteeing a better day is yet to come (Rev. 21:3–4). When we meet another’s need, we are reminded to hope for that day to come.
Doing mercy also serves as a wonderful test of our hearts. Passages like 2 Corinthians 8:9, James 2:14–17, and 1 John 3:16–18 indicate this. Our doing mercy — or not doing mercy — demonstrates our grasp and application of the gospel. It helps us see the things in our heart that we worship and hold dear.
(2 Co 8:8–9) 8 I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine. 9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich. ESV
(Jas 2:14–17) 14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. ESV
(1 Jn 3:16–18) 16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 17 But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. ESV
If you are being merciful, praise God. You are showing others the mercy He has shown you. If you aren’t being merciful, seek to grasp the mercy that is yours in Christ. Consider what it means that Jesus left heaven, came to earth, and died on a cross — for you. Ask God to help you grasp the mercy He showed you in Christ. Ask yourself; If this is the mercy I’ve received, how can I not be merciful to others? How can this mercy help me be merciful to others?
God commands us to be merciful (James 1:27). When we show mercy, we glorify God by imitating Him and giving expression to the mercy He’s given us.
(Jas 1:27) 27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. ESV
Here are four practical ways to practice mercy within your church.
Give to an alms fund. Jesus said that what you do with your money is a good indication of the things you really value. If you want to be merciful and want your church to be known for its mercy, commit your money to help those in need.
Get involved in ministering mercy to those in need. Don’t simply abdicate your Christian service to the deacons. Find places of need. Ask how the Lord has gifted you to care for those needs. Meet those needs. Get direction from your deacons if needed, but you don’t need the deacons’ permission to care for needs. Scripture already gives you the authority to do so.
Get involved in a way that fits whom God has made you to be (Rom. 12:3). If you are skilled at carpentry, use that skill instead of trying to cook a meal. If you can train people to work or help them get jobs, do that instead of filling boxes at the food pantry.
(Ro 12:3) 3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. ESV
Make mercy ministry part of your small group or Sunday school class. Pool your money to have funds on hand to meet needs that arise in your group. Use the financial and people resources in your group to meet needs that you know of through your networks. Don’t abdicate what you can handle; don’t foolishly take on what you can’t meet.
When Paul shared the story of his calling and training with the apostles, they confirmed he was not called to preach a different gospel. They approved of his calling and of his theology. They did encourage him, though, to do one thing: “Remember the poor.”
Paul’s response? “The very thing I was eager to do” (Gal. 2:10). By God’s grace, may the same be true for us.
(Ga 2:10) 10 Only, they asked us to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do. ESV
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Objection #3: All Religions Are Basically the Same
By Robert Jeffress 2023
The third objection goes like this: Jesus’s claim of exclusivity doesn’t make sense because all religions teach basically the same thing. At the heart of this objection is the notion that all world religions spring from people’s sincere desire to seek God. People with this objection say that individual experiences and cultural realities cause people to pursue different paths. They say God cares only about the sincerity that fuels a person’s journey to Him, not about the path that person chooses.
The Word of God sees it another way. According to Scripture, the fact that there are so many religions in the world is evidence not of the sincerity of human beings but of the sinfulness of human beings. In Romans 1:22–23, Paul said, “Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.” In other words, the people who created idols didn’t really believe those images were God. Instead, those people rejected the truth of the real God and replaced it with gods of their own liking — ones that were more convenient or manageable. The same goes for every manmade religion. Its followers have rejected the truth of God and replaced it with a truth of their own creation.
That’s one biblical explanation for the origin of world religions. A second explanation is even more alarming. In Psalm 106:36–37, the psalmist revealed that behind every false god is a demon. So when the people of Israel were making sacrifices to the pagan gods of other nations, they were actually sacrificing to demons.
Psalm 106:36–37 (NASB95) 36 And served their idols,
Which became a snare to them.
37 They even sacrificed their sons and their daughters to the demons,
That biblical truth doesn’t change, even when a deity has billions of followers. Behind every other world religion — including Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam — is a demon sent by Satan to deceive people and lead them away from the truth.
The way you deceive people is by mixing a lot of error with a little bit of truth. And that’s how Satan works in world religions today. He provides just enough common ground to convince people there are no substantial differences between other religions and Christianity. He encourages us to relax the exclusivity that God demands.
Objection #4: It’s Unfair for God to Send People to Hell
The fourth objection goes like this: it’s unfair for God to send people to hell just because they haven’t believed in Jesus. After all, not everyone has heard the gospel message — that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins, rose from the grave by the power of God, and now offers us forgiveness and eternal life. There are people who have never heard of Jesus. How can they be expected to believe?
Acts 17:26 seems to bolster the objection: “[God] made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation.” This verse suggests that God determines where we live. He decides whether we’re born in America or India or Africa. So if God has placed people in an area where the gospel has not been preached, how can He be justified in sentencing them to hell because they never believed in Jesus?
The two problems with this objection are that it overestimates people’s ignorance of God and underestimates people’s ability to recognize Him. One of the bedrock principles of Scripture is that God will reveal Himself to those who want to know Him. In fact, He already has.
In Romans 1:18–20, Paul said anyone can look into the heavens — or any aspect of creation — and realize it didn’t happen by accident. Anyone can look at nature and know there is a power greater than him- or herself. You don’t have to read a Bible to know there is a God. Theologically speaking, this is known as general revelation. Everyone who has ever been born has this knowledge of God.
General revelation starts the snowball of faith rolling. If people respond with the right attitude to the realization that there is someone greater than themselves, then God will send them the knowledge they need to be saved. Sometimes He does it in miraculous ways. We know that because He did so on three separate occasions in the New Testament.
In Acts 8:26–39, an Ethiopian official went to Jerusalem to worship the God of Israel, yet his knowledge of God was limited. On his way home, the official stopped his chariot to read a passage about the Messiah from the book of Isaiah. But he couldn’t understand what he was reading. He was not a Jew, so the Messiah was a foreign concept to him. What did God do? He saw a heart that was right toward Him, so He miraculously sent Philip to share the gospel with this man. The Ethiopian official was saved and baptized that very day.
In Acts 10, a Roman centurion named Cornelius loved God and wanted to know Him. What did God do? He spoke to the apostle Peter in a vision and then dispatched the disciple to share the gospel with this centurion. And Cornelius became a believer.
In Acts 19:1–7, the disciples of John the Baptist were lovers of God and followers of the law, but they didn’t know Jesus. What did God do? He sent Paul to share the gospel with them and lead them to a saving faith in Christ.
Whenever God sees a heart that wants to know Him, He will send His truth into that person’s life. And that truth surpasses any objection people may raise against it.
Implications of Rejecting the Exclusivity of Jesus Christ
As we put in context these objections to Jesus’s claim to be the only way of salvation, we need to recognize that there are also three very real implications for embracing inclusivism, the idea that all religions are equally valid.
The Personal Implication
First, there’s a personal implication. If all religions are equally valid, then how do you know which god you should worship? Does it make a difference? If we pursue that line of questioning far enough, we come to a spiritual catch-22: if all roads lead to God, then we have to reject not only Christianity but also Islam and Buddhism, since they all teach that their religion is the exclusive way to God.
The Relational Implication
Second, there’s a relational implication. Imagine that you’re enrolled in a college biology course. On the first day of the semester, the professor announces that everyone in the class will receive a final grade of A+. No matter how well or how poorly you do, you’re guaranteed the highest grade possible.
If a test question asks you to name a property of water, and you answer, “beach house,” you get an A+. If you write an essay explaining that a biome is one more than a monome and one less than a triome, you get an A+. If your assigned twenty-five-page final research paper contains only one sentence, and that sentence is “Biology is a lie,” you get an A+.
Knowing that an A+ is guaranteed regardless of what you do, how motivated would you be to study biology? How much effort would you put into your assignments? Would you even show up to class?
A similar dilemma confronts us if we say that all roads lead to God. If everyone is going to heaven regardless of what they do or believe, is there any reason for you to share your faith? Or to support mission efforts around the world? Or to invest your money in God’s work? Is there any reason to believe your relationship with Christ is worth celebrating or talking about at all?
The Spiritual Implication
Third, there’s a spiritual implication. If you believe that all people will be saved regardless of their religious faith, then you must reject the most basic teachings of Jesus Christ. At the front of that line is John 14:6, ground zero for exclusivism: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”
Inclusivism also renders moot Jesus’s teaching on the wide and narrow gates in Matthew 7:13–14. If you embrace all religions, you’re also embracing the notion that there are no gates at all but rather one gigantic superhighway leading straight to heaven.
In John 3:18, Jesus, speaking of Himself, said, “He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” If Jesus was wrong about these key issues, how can we legitimately trust Him in anything He had to say?
How Do We Talk about the Exclusivity of Christ?
The foundational Christian doctrine that Jesus Christ is the only means of salvation sets God’s people apart from every other religion. To share the good news behind this doctrine, we must go against the grain of our culture. We risk being accused of intolerance, hatred, and prejudice.
I’ve experienced these kinds of accusations firsthand. I am often invited to appear on cable news shows and share a biblical perspective on current events. Many times, those conversations turn to the question of the exclusivity of Christ. And even on conservative talk shows, the hosts often bristle at my assertion that there is only one way to heaven.
In this chapter, I will share some of the things I’ve learned about how to have respectful, informed conversations about this subject of the exclusivity of Christ. Even if we’re the only person in the conversation who holds to a biblical perspective, the advantage we have is that we’re speaking God’s truth. We have the power of His Word behind us. We also have powerful evidence that sets our Christian faith apart from all other religions.
Present the Evidence
Of the thousands of belief systems in the world, how can we know that Christianity is the right one? There are four pieces of evidence that argue in favor of the exclusivity of the Christian faith.
First, Jesus Christ is unique. Most historians agree that Jesus was a historical person. And most people who acknowledge His existence believe Jesus was a good, moral person, but He certainly wasn’t God. The problem with that belief is that Jesus Himself doesn’t give us that option.
Unlike every other major religious leader, Jesus claimed to be God. He didn’t claim to be someone who pointed the way to God, as Muhammad claimed to be, but God Himself. In John 10:30, Jesus said, “I and the Father are one.” When His disciple Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us,” Jesus replied, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (14:8–9). Before Jesus was crucified, He was brought before Caiaphas, the high priest, who asked Him, “Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?” Jesus answered, “I am” (Mark 14:61–62).
Also, unlike every other religious leader, Jesus claimed to be able to forgive sins. In Mark 2, four men brought a paralyzed man to see Jesus. “And Jesus seeing their faith said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven’” (v. 5). The religious leaders were furious. “Why does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming; who can forgive sins but God alone?” (v. 7). Jesus then healed the paralyzed man to show that He was indeed God, who had the authority to forgive sins.
Alone among the major religious leaders, Jesus claimed to be able to conquer death. From the beginning of His ministry, Jesus predicted what was going to happen to Him. He said, in essence, “I’m going to go to Jerusalem, I’m going to be tried, I’m going to be executed, and on the third day I’m going to rise again from the dead.”
The Soul-Shaping Reality of the Gospel: An Interview with David Wells
By David Wells 1/1/2011
Tabletalk: Besides the Bible, what has been the most influential book you have read this past year?
David Wells: Most politicians answer a slightly different question from the one they have been asked, and so may I do so, too? The book I would love to see become the year’s most influential is J.I. Packer and Gary Parrett’s Grounded in the Gospel: Building Believers the Old-Fashioned Way. It argues that our churches should be catechizing because this kind of teaching, especially of our young, preserves doctrine. Biblical doctrine is what makes the church the church. We are stumbling in passing on the doctrinal core of the faith, and that goes to the heart of the church’s weakness today.
TT: Looking at the lay of the evangelical land, what do you see as the largest threat to the church?
DW: Every study on the internal life of the churches shows that they are becoming increasingly less literate biblically. With that, our ability to judge where our culture is intruding upon our souls is diminished. A church that is merely mimicking the culture, rather than offering a biblical alternative to it, is on its way to oblivion. That, in fact, has happened in many Western countries, where no more than two to five percent go to any kind of church at all on Sunday morning. The situation in Europe today could be where we ourselves are headed in the years to come.
TT: How can the church maintain an effective witness as we move into a decidedly post-Christian era in the West?
DW: We need a little perspective here. Our situation in the U.S.A., relative to Christians elsewhere, is not unusually difficult. It is true that we are now moving away from a time when Christianity has had some cultural acceptance. After all, consider how popular it has been to be “born again.” But let us remember that outside the U.S.A., there are Christians who live under tyrannies, such as from Islam, or in extreme poverty, or surrounded by horrible political corruption, or are subject to rampant crime. Our situation is really not that bad! What it requires is that we have some conviction about biblical truth, some savvy about the culture in which we are living, and the spine to preserve our identity as believers. It is a temptation to think that by being nice and accommodating we can make the Christian gospel seem like a great little addition to everyone’s life. But the gospel is not a great little addition. It is a soul-shaking, costly, demanding reality. The church cannot hide this fact! The gospel is not about self-therapy. Despite our pressured, taut, nervejangling age, the Christian message is not there just to make us feel better about ourselves or more able to cope. It is about coming before our great God and Savior, confessing our sins, entrusting ourselves to Him, and surrendering our claim upon ourselves to Him. What is most needed, and what is most lacking in the church, is a little character in differentiating its message from self-help therapies and marketing strategies. Our deficiency is not that we lack the right technique. It is that we often don’t have a real alternative.
TT: Do you have any advice for Christians seeking a career in academia?
DW: Like many other avenues of work, academia has become professionalized. This means that entrance into it is guarded carefully — you must have the right degrees — and advancement within it is carefully regulated. This means, in practice, that academics must negotiate political minefields as they move along and almost certainly they will begin thinking of their work in terms of having a career. Having a career means plotting out strategies to get from one place to another in the ascent up the ladder to visibility, power, and perhaps wealth. All of this is simply deadly to Christian faith. It replaces the demands and horizons of the profession for those of the kingdom of God. That is invariably so, unless we are really intentional about preserving our place in God’s world as His servants, not simply careerists, and as His witnesses to Christ’s gospel. How easy it is to compromise these in order to advance our careers.
TT: How has consumerism contributed to the state we find the church in today?
DW: We have brought into the church the rhythms of buying and selling, of making a product appealing so that a potential buyer can be lured into a sale, and to help out that process, we are changing the atmosphere of worship into one of pleasant entertainment. The product we think we are selling is the gospel and, within that, the God of the universe. Put that way, it sounds pretty absurd, doesn’t it? But as the visions of success, of sanctuaries packed with potential buyers, dance before our eyes, nothing seems to be absurd, inappropriate, or out of bounds to us. Apparently, we are willing to do whatever we think it takes, no matter how inappropriate.
TT: If you were writing No Place for Truth: or Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology? today, is there anything you would change/add/subtract in the book?
DW: It is now almost three decades since I first started doing the research for No Place for Truth. Later, when it came out in 1993, there were gasps all around. And some said that surely I was exaggerating. What I argued then, though, has become a commonplace perception now. The thesis was that evangelicalism was losing its biblical/theological soul through its many cultural compromises. This process has only accelerated. I am, however, encouraged that there are more now who are alert to what has happened, more who really want authenticity, more who are unimpressed with either a psychologized faith or a marketed gospel, and more who yearn for real, vibrant orthodoxy. What I would change, then, would only be this addition — that as evangelicalism continues to fray and unravel, more now are looking for something much better.
TT: Although there are many, is there one lesson the Lord has taught you that you would care to share with us?
DW: I am increasingly reminded of the fragility of life, for I know so many whose death seemed untimely. I’m reminded of John Donne’s lines, “Therefore, send not to know/For whom the bell tolls,/It tolls for thee.” Lord, help me to number my days and apply my heart to becoming wise! And this fragility is even more evident spiritually. How paper-thin is even our best piety! How treacherous life can be! I think of the many, even in ministry, who have blundered and lost their way. Every day is a day for which to thank God for the great gift of life and every day that I continue to walk with Him is a day that I remember my debt to His grace. Yes, there, but for the grace of God, go I!
TT: What project(s) are you working on currently?
DW: I am hoping to make five small, firstrate films on the five themes from my book, The Courage to Be Protestant: Reformation Faith in Today's World. These films will have study materials to go with them for small groups and Sunday school classes. The films will pick up the themes in the book: how Christian faith is, and should be, interfacing with our culture with respect to truth, self, God, Christ, and church. The economy has not been helpful to us in terms of getting this funded, but I am hopeful that we will be able to start work this fall.
David Wells Books:
- 1 Losing Our Virtue: Why the Church Must Recover Its Moral Vision
- 2 God in the Wasteland: The Reality of Truth in a World of Fading Dreams
- 3 Above All Earthly Pow'rs: Christ in a Postmodern World
- 4 No Place for Truth: or Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology?
- 5 Minister's Service Book: For Pulpit and Parish
- 6 God in the Whirlwind: How the Holy-love of God Reorients Our World
- 7 The Courage to Be Protestant: Reformation Faith in Today's World
- 8 Reformed Theology in America: A History of Its Modern Development
- 9 The Princeton Theology (Reformed Theology in America)
- 10 Southern Reformed Theology (Reformed Theology in America)
- 11 Dutch Reformed Theology (Reformed Theology in America)
- 12 The Evangelicals: What they believe, who they are, where they are changing
- 13 Turning to God: Reclaiming Christian Conversion as Unique, Necessary, and Supernatural
- 14 Revolution in Rome
- 15 What Is the Trinity? (Basics of the Faith)
- 16 Christian Faith and Practice in the Modern World: Theology from an Evangelical Point of View
- 17 The Person of Christ: A Biblical and Historical Analysis of the Incarnation (Foundations for faith)
- 18 GOD THE EVANGELIST how the Holy Spirit works to bring men and women to faith
- 19 The Search for Salvation:
- 20 Gospel in the Modern World: A Tribute to John Stott
- 21 Turning to God: Reclaiming Christian Conversion as Unique, Necessary, and Supernatural by David F. Wells (2012-04-12)
- 22 Prophetic Theology of George Tyrrell (Studies in Religion)
By R.C. Sproul 1/1/2011
It has often been charged that the Bible can’t be trusted because people can make it say anything they want it to say. This charge would be true if the Bible were not the objective Word of God, if it were simply a wax nose, able to be shaped, twisted, and distorted to teach one’s own precepts. The charge would be true if it were not an offense to God the Holy Spirit to read into sacred Scripture what is not there. However, the idea that the Bible can teach anything we want it to is not true if we approach the Scriptures humbly, trying to hear what the Bible says for itself.
Sometimes systematic theology is rejected because it is seen as an unwarranted imposition of a philosophical system on the Scriptures. It is seen as a preconceived system, a Procrustean bed into which the Scriptures must be forced by hacking off limbs and appendages to make it fit. However, the appropriate approach to systematic theology recognizes that the Bible itself contains a system of truth, and it is the task of the theologian not to impose a system upon the Bible, but to build a theology by understanding the system that the Bible teaches.
At the time of the Reformation, to stop unbridled, speculative, and fanciful interpretations of Scripture, the Reformers set forth the fundamental axiom that should govern all biblical interpretation. It is called the analogy of faith, which basically means that Holy Scripture is its own interpreter. In other words, we are to interpret Scripture according to Scripture. That is, the supreme arbiter in interpreting the meaning of a particular verse in Scripture is the overall teaching of the Bible.
Behind the principle of the analogy of faith is the prior confidence that the Bible is the inspired Word of God. If it is the Word of God, it must therefore be consistent and coherent. Cynics, however, say that consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds. If that were true, then we would have to say that the smallest mind of all is the mind of God. But there is nothing inherently small or weak to be found in consistency. If it is the Word of God, one may justly expect the entire Bible to be coherent, intelligible, and unified. Our assumption is that God, because of His omniscience, would never be guilty of contradicting Himself. It is therefore slanderous to the Holy Spirit to choose an interpretation of a particular passage that unnecessarily brings that passage into conflict with that which He has revealed elsewhere. So the governing principle of Reformed hermeneutics or interpretation is the analogy of faith.
A second principle that governs an objective interpretation of Scripture is called the sensus literalis. Many times people have said to me, incredulously, “You don’t interpret the Bible literally, do you?” I never answer the question by saying, “Yes,” nor do I ever answer the question by saying, “No.” I always answer the question by saying, “Of course, what other way is there to interpret the Bible?” What is meant by sensus literalis is not that every text in the Scriptures is given a “woodenly literal” interpretation, but rather that we must interpret the Bible in the sense in which it is written. Parables are interpreted as parables, symbols as symbols, poetry as poetry, didactic literature as didactic literature, historical narrative as historical narrative, occasional letters as occasional letters. That principle of literal interpretation is the same principle we use to interpret any written source responsibly.
The principle of literal interpretation gives us another rule, namely that the Bible in one sense is to be read like any other book. Though the Bible is not like any other book in that it carries with it the authority of divine inspiration, nevertheless, the inspiration of the Holy Spirit over a written text does not turn verbs into nouns or nouns into verbs. No special, secret, arcane, esoteric meaning is poured into a text simply because it’s divinely inspired. Nor is there any such mystical ability we call “Holy Ghost Greek.” No, the Bible is to be interpreted according to the ordinary rules of language.
Closely related to this point is the principle that the implicit must be interpreted by the explicit, rather than the explicit interpreted by the implicit. This particular rule of interpretation is violated constantly. For example, we read in John 3:16 that “whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life,” and many of us conclude that since the Bible teaches that anyone who believes shall be saved, it therefore implies that anyone can, without the prior regenerative work of the Holy Spirit, exercise belief. That is, since the call to believe is given to everyone, it implies that everyone has the natural ability to fulfill the call. Yet the same gospel writer has Jesus explaining to us three chapters later that no one can come to Jesus unless it is given to him of the Father (6:65). That is, our moral ability to come to Christ is explicitly and specifically taught to be lacking apart from the sovereign grace of God. Therefore, all of the implications that suggest otherwise must be subsumed under the explicit teaching, rather than forcing the explicit teaching into conformity to implications that we draw from the text.
Finally, it is always important to interpret obscure passages by those that are clear. Though we affirm the basic clarity of sacred Scripture, we do not at the same time say that all passages are equally clear. Numerous heresies have developed when people have forced conformity to the obscure passages rather than to the clear passages, distorting the whole message of Scripture. If something is unclear in one part of Scripture, it probably is made clear elsewhere in Scripture. When we have two passages in Scripture that we can interpret in various ways, we want always to interpret the Bible in such a way as to not violate the basic principle of Scripture’s unity and integrity.
These are simply a few of the basic, practical principles of biblical interpretation that I set forth years ago in my book Knowing Scripture. I mention that book here because so many people have expressed to me how helpful it has been to guide them into a responsible practice of biblical interpretation. Learning the principles of interpretation is exceedingly helpful to guide us in our own study.
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 Precious Gift of Baby Talk
By John Piper 1/1/2011
Human language is precious. It sets us off from the animals. It makes our most sophisticated scientific discoveries and our deepest emotions sharable. Above all, God chose to reveal Himself to us through human language in the Bible. In the fullness of time, He spoke to us by His Son (Heb. 1:1–2), and that Son spoke human language. In like manner, He sent His Spirit to lead His apostles into all truth so that they could tell the story of the Son in human language. Without this story in human language, we would not know the Son. Therefore, human language is immeasurably precious.
But it is also imperfect for capturing the fullness of God. In 1 Corinthians 13, there are four comparisons between this present time and the age to come after Christ returns.
Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love (vv. 8–13). Note the comparisons with this age (now) and the age to come (then):
Now: We know in part.
Then: When the perfect comes, the partial will pass away (vv. 9–10).
Now: I spoke and thought and reasoned like a child.
Then: When I became a man, I gave up childish ways (v. 11).
Now: We see in a mirror dimly.
Then: We will see face to face (v. 12).
Now: I know in part.
Then: I will know fully, even as I am fully known (v. 12).
In this context, we can see what Paul means when he writes, “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child.” He is saying that in this age, our human language and thought and reasoning are like baby talk compared to how we will speak, think, and reason in the age to come.
When Paul was caught up into heaven and given glimpses of heavenly realities, he said that he “heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter” (2 Cor. 12:4). Our language is insufficient to carry the greatness of all that God is.
But what a blunder it would be to infer from this that we may despise language or treat it with contempt or carelessness. What a blunder, if we began to belittle true statements about God as cheap or unhelpful or false. What folly it would be if we scorned propositions, clauses, phrases, and words, as though they were not inexpressibly precious and essential to life.
The main reason this would be folly is that God chose to send His Son into our nursery and speak baby talk with us. Jesus Christ became a child with us. There was a time when Jesus Himself would have said, “When I was a child, I spoke like a child and thought like a child and reasoned like a child.” That is what the incarnation means. He accommodated Himself to our baby talk. He stammered with us in the nursery of human life in this age.
Jesus spoke baby talk. The Sermon on the Mount is our baby talk. His High Priestly Prayer in John 17 is baby talk. “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34) is baby talk—infinitely precious, true, glorious baby talk.
More than that, God inspired an entire Bible of baby talk. True baby talk. Baby talk with absolute authority and power. Baby talk that is sweeter than honey and more to be desired than gold. John Calvin said that “God, in so speaking, lisps with us as nurses are wont to do with little children” ( Institutes of the Christian Religion ). How precious is the baby talk of God. It is not like grass that withers or flowers that fade; it abides forever (Isa. 40:8).
There will be another language and thought and reasoning in the age to come. And we will see things that could not have been expressed in our present baby talk. But when God sent His Son into our human nursery, talking baby talk and dying for the toddlers, He shut the mouths of those who ridicule the possibilities of truth and beauty in the mouth of babes.
And when God inspired a book with baby talk as the infallible interpretation of Himself, what shall we say of the children who make light of the gift of human language as the medium of knowing God? Woe to those who despise, belittle, exploit, or manipulate this gift to the children of man. It is not a toy in the nursery. It is the breath of life. “The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life” (John 6:63).
John Piper Books | Go to Books Page
How Do I Glorify God in My Job?
By John Piper 11/17/2017
Well, a lot of listeners listen to this podcast on their drive to work in the morning, so this seems especially relevant. We don’t want to waste our jobs. None of us does. We spend so much time at work, and it’s a place to pursue excellence. But why? Why should we pursue excellence at work, when we often don’t see any eternal value in our weekly duties and routines? It’s a question today from a listener named Dylan. “Hello, Pastor John. In Colossians 3:22–24, Paul exhorts his readers to ‘work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.’ Does this mean that any work not done in excellence is sinful? And how do we apply God’s view of work to cleaning our house, writing a paper for school, or working a 9-to-5 job? I have been feeling guilty about the way I handle these things for months now, and I’m not sure if I’m just being lazy, self-righteous, or am I disobeying the Lord?”
Well, the first thing with regard to his guilt or feeling guilty is that the Bible handles guilt in two ways, and both are very important. One is the blood of Jesus that covers all our sin, including how we do our work. None of us does our work as well as we could. We’re always falling short of the ideal. The other is to resolve to walk and work faithfully before the Lord in the freedom of that forgiveness.
If we try to use the blood of Jesus as a free pass to walk in sin, our conscience will rise up and protest (thank God). And if we try to walk in faithfulness and obedience without relying on the blood of Jesus for forgiveness and enablement, we will either fail in despair, or we will look like we succeed and become proud.
It’s the two together — the blood of Jesus and the resolve of walking and working faithfully and obediently — that’s the key to the peaceful life of being forgiven before God and being vigilant over our hearts and minds as we go about our daily tasks. So, what is God’s will for how we should do our ordinary work, and then in particular, what is “working as for the Lord” from Colossians 3:23? Let’s get the bigger picture first.
God Owns Us | In the Bible, God makes total, absolute claims on our lives — all of our lives, including all of our work of whatever kind. Everything in our lives is to be done before the face of God, in reliance upon God’s grace, according to God’s guidance, for God’s glory. Listen to these amazing passages.
John Piper (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota.
John Piper Books | Go to Books Page
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 78Tell the Coming Generation
78 A Maskil Of Asaph.
62 He gave his people over to the sword
and vented his wrath on his heritage.
63 Fire devoured their young men,
and their young women had no marriage song.
64 Their priests fell by the sword,
and their widows made no lamentation.
65 Then the Lord awoke as from sleep,
like a strong man shouting because of wine.
66 And he put his adversaries to rout;
he put them to everlasting shame.
67 He rejected the tent of Joseph;
he did not choose the tribe of Ephraim,
68 but he chose the tribe of Judah,
Mount Zion, which he loves.
69 He built his sanctuary like the high heavens,
like the earth, which he has founded forever.
70 He chose David his servant
and took him from the sheepfolds;
71 from following the nursing ewes he brought him
to shepherd Jacob his people,
Israel his inheritance.
72 With upright heart he shepherded them
and guided them with his skillful hand.
By John Walvoord
6 - Prophecy In Ezekiel - Prophecy Of Judgment on Judah
Predicted judgments on the kingdom of Judah occupy the first twenty-four chapters of Ezekiel. This is followed by judgment on the Gentile nations in Ezekiel 25–32 and prophecy of blessings on Israel ( Ezek. 33–48 ).
Ezekiel himself was a priest who had been carried off in the Babylonian captivity. He and the other captives had settled “by the Kebar River in the land of the Babylonians” ( 1:3 ). It was a canal to the east of Babylon that connected one point in the Euphrates River to another point lower down. This forms the geographical background of this prophetic book. As the revelation unfolds, further facts are given about Ezekiel.
Preparation of Ezekiel as a Prophet
Ezekiel 1:1–3:15. Though not strictly prophetic themselves, the opening chapters of Ezekiel prepared the prophet for the series of revelations and visions that he would experience as recorded in this book.
Though Ezekiel was in exile far from Jerusalem and the temple, he received a vision of the glory of God. In particular, he saw “four living creatures” ( 1:5 ), somewhat like a man but with four faces. The first face was of a man, the second the face of a lion, the third the face of an ox, and the fourth the face of an eagle (v. 10 ). Interpreters differ as to their interpretation, but it would seem reasonable to equate the face of a man with intelligence; the face of a lion as the king of beasts, representing man as a ruler; the ox representing power; and the eagle as the most noble of birds, man in his nobility.
Although explanations of the revelation to Ezekiel may differ, it obviously was intended to represent the glory of God, referred to many times in the book ( 1:28; 3:12, 23; 8:4; 9:3; 10:4, 18–19; 11:22–23; 39:21; 43:2, 4–5; 44:4 ). In response to this glorious revelation, Ezekiel fell on his face and heard the voice of the one mentioned in 1:25.
Ezekiel was a priest on the basis of his human lineage, but he was now given the special call of a prophet from God. He was told that he was being sent to a people who would be “obstinate and stubborn” ( 2:4 ). He was instructed to deliver his message whether they would listen or not (v. 7 ). A scroll was also handed to him and unrolled containing “written words of lament and mourning and woe” (v. 10 ).
In chapter 3 Ezekiel was instructed to “eat this scroll; then go and speak to the house of Israel” (v. 1 ). He was informed again that the people to whom he would speak would be “unyielding and hardened” (v. 8 ).
After this revelation he was lifted up by the Spirit (v. 12 ) and taken away so that he could go to the exiles living near the Kebar River (v. 15 ).
Ezekiel 3:16–27. In these verses Ezekiel recorded his subsequent experience as he prepared to be a prophet. He was told that he would be held responsible if he did not warn the Israelites in exile (vv. 17–21 ).
Ezekiel was told, “Get up and go out to the plain, and there I will speak to you” (v. 22 ). When the Holy Spirit came to him, he was told to shut himself inside his house (v. 24 ) and that he would not be able to speak until the Lord opened his mouth (v. 27 ). He was further instructed, “Whoever will listen let him listen, and whoever will refuse let him refuse; for they are a rebellious house” (v. 27 ). These opening chapters gave a prophetic background for Ezekiel’s message as a message from God to His people Judah.
Prophetic Warning of Judgment on Jerusalem
Ezekiel 4:1–17. The first prophecy was symbolized by Ezekiel taking a clay tablet on which was drawn the city of Jerusalem (v. 1 ). Then Ezekiel built what represented a ramp against Jerusalem and camps around about (v. 2 ). Then Ezekiel, following instructions, took an iron pan that was used as a wall between Ezekiel and the city of Jerusalem. This was to indicate that Jerusalem would be under siege, and what he did was to be a sign to the house of Israel (v. 3 ).
Ezekiel was instructed to lie on his left side for 390 days, symbolizing the number of years Israel had sinned against God since the time of Solomon (vv. 4–5 ). Then he was to lie on his right side for 40 days, each day symbolizing a year (v. 6 ), possibly referring to the wicked reign of Manasseh ( 2 Kings 21:11–15; 23:26–27; 24:3–4; 2 Chron. 33:12–13 ).
Then Ezekiel was told to take for food “wheat and barley, beans and lentils, millet and spelt” ( Ezek. 4:9 ). He was instructed to weigh out twenty shekels of food for each day and “a sixth of a hin of water and drink it at set times” (v. 11 ). By this symbolic act, he was to prophesy that the supply of food in Jerusalem would be cut off, that they would ration food and water, as it would be scarce (vv. 16–17 ). This was fulfilled in the Babylonian captivity ( 2 Chron. 36:11–15 ).
The Symbol of Ezekiel’s Sharp Sword
Ezekiel 5:1–17. Ezekiel was told to shave off the hair from his head and his beard (v. 1 ). Then he was instructed to burn a third of his hair with fire inside the city. He was to take a third of the hair and strike it with a sword and then scatter a third to the wind. A few strands of hair were to be put in the folds of his garment (v. 3 ). In addition, a few hairs were to be thrown into the fire. Prophetically, Ezekiel was told, “A fire will spread from there to the whole house of Israel” (v. 4 ).
This symbolism was explained as relating to Jerusalem, which would be destroyed because of her rebellion against God (vv. 5–6 ). Her sins exceeded the sins of the Gentile nations about her (v. 7 ). Because of her idolatry, God would do to Jerusalem what He had not done before (v. 9 ). Fathers in Israel would eat their own children and children would eat their fathers (v. 10 ). Following this, He would scatter the survivors to the winds. Just as Ezekiel divided the hair into thirds, so a third of the people would die by plague or famine, a third by the sword, and a third would be scattered (v. 12 ).
God would make Jerusalem an object of horror to the nations (v. 15 ) and would destroy her with famine, wild beasts, plague, and bloodshed (vv. 15–17 ).
Prophecy of Destruction against the Mountains of Israel
Ezekiel 6:1–14. God predicted destruction against the mountains of Israel as well as the ravines and valleys (vv. 1–3 ). Israel was supposed to worship in the temple of Jerusalem, but heathen idolatry caused her to build shrines on high places throughout the land. God predicted that these altars would be smashed and that Israel’s dead bodies would be in front of her idols and her cities would be laid waste (vv. 5–7 ).
Those who escaped would be able to remember why God judged Israel as she lived in a strange land, and she would know the power of God (vv. 8–10 ). Because of her sins, her land would lie in ruins (vv. 11–14 ). This was fulfilled in the Babylonian captivity ( 2 Chron. 36:11–15 ).
The Coming Day of God’s Judgment
Ezekiel 7:1–27. God had been patient with Israel for many years, but now the end of His patience had come. He would unleash His anger against her and would not spare her (vv. 1–4 ).
Throughout the land of Israel there would be panic as the day of God’s wrath was poured on her. She would know that the Lord was the One who was punishing her (vv. 5–9 ). The day of her judgment had come, much like the time when a flower is in full bloom. Neither the buyer of the land nor the seller would possess the land (vv. 11–14 ).
In the time of destruction the Israelites would put on sackcloth, shave their heads, and throw their silver and gold into the streets. All this would be useless (vv. 15–20 ). Their plunder would go to foreigners who would take their wealth and desecrate their “treasured place” (v. 22 ). Sorrow and destruction would extend to all the people, resulting in not only kings and princes mourning but also the people as a whole being filled with terror (vv. 23–27 ). This was fulfilled in the Babylonian captivity.
The Continual Burnt Offering (Luke 19:9)
By H.A. Ironside - 1941
July 28Luke 19:9 And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. ESV
How delightful the incident brought before us! Here was a man under the curse of the law, helpless to deliver himself, yet saved by pure grace and immediately manifesting the fruit of the new life. He was a thief. He had violated not only the eighth commandment, but the tenth, and others too. He was under sentence of death. The law demanded his destruction. But Jesus came to reveal the grace of God and to free repentant sinners from the condemnation of the broken law. That very condemnation Christ was Himself to bear within a few days. In view of it, Zacchaeus could be, and was justified before God, regenerated by His divine power and made a new man. How vivid the contrast between the law and the Gospel!
Out of the distance and darkness so deep,
Out of the settled and perilous sleep;
Out of the region and shadow of death,
Out of its foul and pestilent breath;
Out of the bondage, and wearying chains,
Out of companionship ever with stains;
Into the light and the glory of God,
Into the holiest, made clean by blood;
Into His arms — the embrace and the kiss—
Into the scene of ineffable bliss;
Into the quiet, the infinite calm,
Into the place of the song and the psalm.
--- M. T.
The Continual Burnt Offering: Daily Meditations on the Word of God
“Christianity doesn’t need evidence because faith is blind.”
By Josh McDowell and Sean McDowellMany atheist critiques of Christianity claim that faith is blind, irrational, stupid. In his book The God Delusion, leading atheist Richard Dawkins asserts that faith opposes reason, and calls faith a “delusion,” which he describes as “persistent false belief held in the face of strong contradictory evidence.” (Dawkins, GD, 28)
A common example used to show that the Bible denigrates evidence is the story of doubting Thomas. Dawkins writes, “Thomas demanded evidence. . . . The other apostles, whose faith was so strong that they did not need evidence, are held up to us as worthy of imitation.” (Dawkins, SG, 198) Was Jesus repudiating an evidence-based faith?
In Is God Just a Human Invention? And Seventeen Other Questions Raised by the New Atheists Jonathan Morrow and I (Sean) list three problems with this claim:
First, Jesus predicted his resurrection on multiple occasions in the presence of the disciples. Thomas should not have been surprised at the return of Jesus. Second, Thomas heard eyewitness testimony (evidence) from the rest of the disciples and yet still refused to believe. (The vast majority of scientific knowledge we possess depends upon trusting the conclusions of other scientists, which is true for virtually all disciplines.) Third, Jesus did many miracles during his ministry as proof of his identity. In fact, right after the story of Jesus scolding Thomas, John said the miracles of Jesus were recorded “so that you may believe Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and by believing you may have life in His name.” (Is God Just a Human Invention? And Seventeen Other Questions Raised by the New Atheists, 21)
John 20:30–31 30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. ESV
Despite what Dawkins claims, Christianity values the role of the mind, which includes the proper use of reason and argumentation. Jesus said to love God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind (Mark 12:30). The Lord said to the nation of Israel, “Come now, let us reason together” (Isa. 1:18). Scripture and church history emphasize the importance of the role of the mind in discipleship and evangelism.
Mark 12:30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’
Isaiah 1:18 “Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD:
though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red like crimson,
they shall become like wool. ESV
Even so, many Christians use the term “faith” to mean “blind faith” rather than biblical faith. But Christianity itself does not demand blind faith. In fact, quite the opposite: when Jesus Christ and the apostles called upon a person to exercise faith, it was not a “blind faith” but rather an intelligent faith. The apostle Paul said, “I know whom I have believed” (2 Tim. 1:12, emphasis added). Jesus specifically performed miracles to show who he was, and, as a result, many confidently placed their faith in him. During a trip to Capernaum, Jesus healed a paralytic. After forgiving the man’s sins, Jesus said to the crowd, “ ‘But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins’—He said to the paralytic, ‘I say to you, arise, take up your bed and go to your house’ ” (Mark 2:10-11). Jesus healed the man so people would know he spoke with authority from above.
Mark 2:10–11 10 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” —he said to the paralytic— 11 “I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.” ESV
Professor of philosophy David Horner explains:Faith and reason are friends and partners. They go together. They need each other and cannot flourish or even survive apart. Our faith should be a reasonable faith, and our reason should be a faithful reason — one that recognizes the inevitable and rationally necessary presence of trust and commitment. Trusting and committing yourself to what you have good reason to think is true and trustworthy, in those cases when doing so is appropriate or unavoidable, is the most reasonable thing you can do. (Mind Your Faith: A Student's Guide to Thinking and Living Well, 170)
Christians are often accused of taking a “blind leap into the dark.” For me (Josh), however, I found the evidence for Christianity powerful and convincing. So when I became a Christian, I hadn’t leapt blindly into the dark, but stepped into the light. I placed the evidence I gathered onto the scales, and they tipped in favor of Jesus Christ as the Son of God, resurrected from the dead. Had I been exercising “blind faith,” I would have rejected Jesus Christ and turned my back on all the evidence.
Of course, no one can absolutely prove that Jesus is the Son of God. My investigation of the evidence weighed the pros and cons. The results convinced me that Christ must be who he claimed to be, and I had to make a decision, which I did. You may be thinking, You found what you wanted. But this is not the case. Rather, I confirmed through investigation what I wanted to refute. I set out to disprove Christianity. I had biases and prejudices not for Christ but against him.
Joslin "Josh" McDowell (born August 17, 1939) is an evangelical apologist and evangelist. He is the author or co-author of over 150 books. His book Evidence That Demands a Verdict was ranked 13th in Christianity Today's list of most influential evangelical books published after World War II. Other well-known titles are More Than a Carpenter, A Ready Defense and Right from Wrong.Josh McDowell Books | Go to Books Page
“Christianity doesn’t need evidence because faith is blind.”
By Doug Greenwold 2/21/42 - 6/23/2019When reading the Scriptures, we see what we know but do not always know what we see. --- Unknown
For the past 30 years I have been teaching God’sWord trying my best to be one who is accurately handling the word of truth. ( 2 Tim 2:15 ) During that time, I have repeatedly been woken up to the realization that I was missing something important. The first such awakening occurred in 1988 when I had the opportunity to go to Israel on a study program. Until then, I never knew how important the land – its historical, cultural, geographic and literary context – was to understanding the purpose and meaning of many of the Gospel passages.
2 Timothy 2:15 (NASB95) Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.
Not too long ago I again realized something important was missing in my teaching of God’s Word. This time it was discovering that I was teaching the facts of the Scripture without providing a facilitating framework into which to organize and integrate them. It was as if I was handing out Christmas ornaments of wonderful biblical truths and facts, but never showed people the tree upon which to hang them. From a contextual perspective, these facts and truths were all necessary for understanding a particular portion of Scripture being opened up, but insufficient for allowing the whole picture to be seen, let alone grasped.
I recognized that my own journey of being taught was comprised of others giving me hundreds of pieces to a puzzle, without one of them ever showing me what the picture on the top of the puzzle box looked like. If you ever tried to assemble a 1,000-piece puzzle without ever having seen the top of the puzzle box, you understand how difficult a task this is. I soon learned that I was not alone in this experience. Furthermore, I was teaching people in the same way that I had been taught. Missing, until recently, were frameworks for helping all of us better understand the Bible.
Here in the West we are so preoccupied with analyzing a leaf (a statement of Jesus) under the microscope that we tend to forget that the leaf came from a tree (the Gospels), and that the tree is part of a great forest (all of Scripture). As a result, we can become so easily focused on the leaf issues of a passage that we often lose sight of its larger contextual background – the tree and the forest.
What we often need when engaging the Scriptures is an elevated perspective on the text, a different and wider frame of reference, one where we can take in all the trees and see the whole forest. If we do that, then we can return to a specific passage to examine more closely the leaves that we thought we knew and understood and discover more of what we may have been missing. This is the approach we will take in opening up Jesus’ encounters with people.
Three Levels of ContextIn engaging Gospel passages within their context, it helps to always keep three perspectives in view:
• The BIBLE’S Context – “The Five Story Lines of Scripture” or the really Big Picture of the Bible. From this 30,000 foot perspective, we first look for what is revealed in any biblical passage about 1) who God is and how He does things, 2) who the Adversary is and how he does things, 3) the character of the Mutiny, 4) the resultant nature of the Human Condition, and 5) God’s eternal plan of Rescue and Restoration to return everything back to its original sinless condition.
• The BOOK’S Context – Those contextual themes that the Gospel writer has already been developing in his narrative, e.g., the Rescuer has come, He is establishing a new Kingdom, He is beginning to remake His disciples’ worldview, and He is bringing God’s mercy to those who have been deprived of it. This is the book-specific perspective from 5,000 feet that we also need to “see” and understand.
• The PASSAGE’S Context – Look for the specific contextual clues that the Gospel writer (a Holy Spirit inspired artist with words) gives us by using names, phrases, sites, references, and idioms to “paint” this encounter. This is the ground-level view of a passage. Let’s explore this ground-level perspective further. Words have very precise meanings in Scripture. That’s why the biblical writers deliberately chose their words under the guidance of the Holy Spirit to communicate an intentional message. In the Gospels, insights into these word meanings include the:
• Literary context of the words used including their Jewish literary form, their linguistic meaning and their use in rabbinic teaching pedagogy.
• Historical context they were rooted in, including the intertestamental and Roman occupation periods, as well as Israel’s own extensive history.
• Geographical context of the sites mentioned including their physical characteristics, topographical and climatic features, as well as the extreme geographical variations that exist in this very small land.
• Religious context they were drawn from including the nature of the Temple, Sabbath worship, the Oral Tradition, rabbinic interpretive wisdom, Messianic themes and prophecy, as well as ceremonial feasts and ritual purification.
• Village context issues including Jewish social customs of mandatory hospitality and social reciprocity, as well as the nature of farming, shepherding and fishing life. Such an integrated contextual approach allows us to get closer to what the biblical writers intended to communicate about who God is and what God wants to reveal to us in these encounters with Jesus.
How Do You Read It?At the beginning of the “Good Samaritan” story, Luke tells us that a certain lawyer came to test Jesus. This confident lawyer initiates his dialogue with Jesus by posing a great question: Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life? In true rabbinic fashion, Jesus answers his question with another question: What is written in the Law? How does it read to you?
Since this lawyer had memorized the Hebrew (Old Testament) Scriptures for his bar mitzvah, the nature of Jesus’ How does it read to you? question is not meant to ask him what does God’s Word say; rather, what does it mean? In other words, how do you interpret God’s Word regarding your question of eternal life?
Biblical IlliteracyJesus’ How does it read to you? (how do you interpret it?) question is the challenge of this book.
Over twenty centuries later, that question still confronts us. How are we reading God’s Word today? Through what kinds of cultural filters, worldview grids and lenses are we reading, massaging and / or altering God’s word so as to make it more palatable to our Western paradigms and personal comfort zones?
Our contemporary situation is radically different from Jesus’ time. Unlike the first century, biblical illiteracy, not proficiency, is epidemic throughout the evangelical church. As a result, we now have at least two core questions to ask followers of Jesus Christ today: What does God’s Word say (a content question), and then what does God’s Word mean (an interpretation question)? When we read and ponder the Scriptures, do we understand the content of what the Holy Spirit, the author of God’s Word, intends for us to see and understand? Then, are we able to recognize the implications of that timeless content for today?
Words Have MeaningBefore the Gospels were written down on scrolls, they were first spoken in a Semitic language that embodied well-known paradigms (ways of thinking, seeing and understanding things) that Jewish listeners knew well. As such, those words had very specific meanings within the Hebrew mindset of its day. Since then, those Hebrew words have been translated into Greek, then into Latin, and then into the constraints of the English language more than a thousand years later. Thus, a needed perspective for engaging a text or passage is to first disconnect from our traditional Hellenistic (Greek) way of thinking – easier said than done – and then ask how the Hebrews who first heard those words would have understood them.
Original MeaningThis process of sequentially disconnecting from our Western way of thinking to engage the world of the Gospels, and then reconnecting to our modern way of thinking is crucial. If we miss the original meaning embodied in those Holy Spirit inspired words, it then becomes relatively easy to not only misunderstand those words, but to redefine them and then misapply them. As part of the process of discovering the original intent of the Bible writers’ words, we must remember that this disconnect - engage - reconnect process is not always an easy one for today’s Westerners:
For many of us Westerners, the Hebrew mindset is so strange, so alien, so impossible to fathom, that we quickly snap back into the comfort zone of the Hellenistic mold of studying the Hebrew Scriptures. We then impose this distorting grid over the Hebrew text – or for that matter, over the Greek text of the New Testament.
Synthesis or AnalysisNot only have we in the West been conditioned by a Greek worldview for 2,000+ years, but we have also been shaped by 300 years of modernity thinking. This has taken its toll and made us egocentric people who instinctively prefer instant analysis and “how to” answers when engaging the Scriptures. We are also much more comfortable tearing things apart than we are fusing and keeping things together. As a result, we like to label the analytical pieces we create, convincing ourselves that in putting these pieces into the right cubbyholes means we have actually mastered them. For example, being able to list and organize sixteen attributes of God may mean we know something about God, but it does not necessarily follow that we actually know God. All of this stands in stark contrast to the Hebrew perspective, which was always about synthesis and integration, i.e., keeping things together when wrestling with the Word of God.
Existentialism is Alive and WellSadly, existentialism (what a passage means to me is the only thing that matters) is not only very much alive and well in evangelicalism, it is flourishing in both subtle and not so subtle ways. For example, a very common response I get before leading a “Bible Alive” contextual immer- sion weekend in a church (where we engage the Bible in its context) is, “Who needs this?” The preferred evangelical existential approach to God’s Word often seems to be some form of “I just open my Bible each day to a verse or passage and let the Spirit speak to me.” While we would not dare learn physics, nursing, or astronomy that way, we do seem to have this peculiar way of approaching and reading the Bible!
Unaware that we are often pragmatic existentialists, we are not looking for the original meaning of a passage. It is not part of our thinking that the Holy Spirit had something very specific in mind to communicate to us in a timeless manner when inspiring those particular words in the text. Thus we unknowingly rely on the Holy Spirit to work overtime on our behalf to reveal God’s intended wisdom to us in the passage because we are too lazy to work at discovering what the Holy Spirit’s original meaning is in the text. And then we wonder why we find mostly anemic Christians sitting limply in the pew.
Discerning Purpose and MeaningWithout the plumb line of the Holy Spirit’s original meaning for a passage, we are left with only two possible outcomes when approaching the Word of God, both woefully deficient. Either the Holy Spirit had nothing specific in mind when He inspired the words we are reading or; I am reminded of Ezekiel 40-42 about the measurements of the Temple if He did, we are incapable of discerning what that intent is. While it is a fine line, and I’m certainly not trying to create a new specialized body of knowledge in suggesting this, I am convinced it is necessary for us to do the best we can to try and discern the Holy Spirit’s timeless intent for any passage we are studying. With that understanding in place, we are then in a much better position to ask the Spirit for discernment regarding the purpose and meaning of that passage for the complexities of our life and world today.
“What Do You Think it Means?”In the world of the Gospels, the rabbi had the role of authoritatively interpreting the Scriptures for his disciples. Today the reader of God’s Word, not always under the guidance and inspiration of the Holy Spirit, frequently assumes that role. Because of the widespread biblical illiteracy that is often part of this dynamic, the implications can be unsettling.
Have you ever been in a small group Bible study when a seemingly difficult passage is discussed? The typical question that the leader often sets in motion is, “What do you think it means?” That is certainly a good question.
However, it is the response to that question that should give us cause for concern! Often, as that question migrates around the room and each person renders his or her opinion, that process ends with a straw vote to determine the best answer! While this may be good representative democracy, it is a dubious approach, at best, to understanding God’s Word.
Unaware that we are often practicing existentialists, Me! Me! Me! I'm so sick of it! I can no longer watch sports. My TV viwing is reduced to HGTV and I am sadly aware that too is Me. we tend to focus on what we think or guess a passage might mean rather than digging more deeply to discern what the Holy Spirit intended it to mean. Then we wonder why we end up looking so much like clones of the culture, very much at home in our “comfortable self-centeredness,” instead of distinctive disciples of Jesus.
There is Work to Be Done!Not too long ago while reading A.W. Pink’s commentary on Exodus, I was challenged in my thinking about studying God’s Word. Pink makes the observation in one of his chapters that “the Bible does not yield its meaning to lazy people.” Oh my! It’s as if we have become too lethargic or complacent to want to do the work that is necessary to dig more deeply into the riches of God’s Word. Paul’s exhortation to Be diligent to present yourself approved by God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth appears to be missing from our consciousness. Note the presupposition of work! So we dabble in our understanding of the Scriptures, quickly investing two minutes on power in our microwave approach to studying God’s Word, and then collectively meet and share our what-do-you-think-it-means superficial opinions.
Some Convincing ExamplesTo underscore these preceding observations and to illustrate both the power and the necessity of understanding the context of the passages we read in the Scriptures, this book (Encounters With Jesus: The Rest of Their Stories) takes twelve “familiar” Gospel passages from Luke and contextually restores them. Doing so allows us to understand the passages as if we were those Middle Eastern villagers who first heard and understood them.
For Pulpit and PewIt is my belief that people in the pew can do what this book does – namely restore much of the context of a biblical passage. That’s what Preserving Bible Time’s Bible-in-Context church weekends are all about – giving people the tools, frameworks and resources to meaningfully reconstruct the context of a passage.
It is important to accept the premise that this contextual restoration process is not something that should be confined just to ministry professionals. The ability to contextually restore much of a passage was always meant for the pew – the priesthood of all believers. After all, it was “lay people” who first heard the Bible’s words and understood those meanings. As such, it is important to remember that the sources providing the contextual facts used in this book are available to the priesthood of all believers. The last thing I would want you, the reader, to conclude is: “I can’t do this. This is too hard.” Yes, it requires some digging and perseverance to find contextual facts; however, that digging will be done if you are convinced of the value of mining God’s Word.
Doing things differently always starts with seeing things differently. Such an effort can profoundly deepen your love affair with the Father and His Son. It can also re-energize your spiritual life and journey.
Consider again Paul’s admonition to young Timothy: Be diligent to present yourself approved by God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. That would certainly suggest there must be a number of ways to inaccurately handle God’s Truth. Are you ready to work at further understanding God’s Word? Are you willing to be your own version of a biblical explorer in passionate pursuit for understanding more of the riches to be found in God’s word just below the surface of a passage? If so, grab some shovels and let’s start contextually digging.
Preserving Bible Times
The Institutes of the Christian Religion
Translated by Henry Beveridge
23. From this, a second consequence is, that we must with ready minds
prove our obedience to them, whether in complying with edicts, or in
paying tribute, or in undertaking public offices and burdens, which
relate to the common defence, or in executing any other orders. "Let
every soul," says Paul, "be subject unto the higher powers."
"Whosoever, therefore, resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of
God" (Rom. 13:1, 2). Writing to Titus, he says, "Put them in mind to be
subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready
to every good work" (Tit. 3:1). Peter also says, "Submit yourselves to
every human creature" (or rather, as I understand it, "ordinance of
man"), "for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; or
unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of
evil-doers, and for the praise of them that do well" (1 Pet. 2:13).
Moreover, to testify that they do not feign subjection, but are
sincerely and cordially subject, Paul adds, that they are to commend
the safety and prosperity of those under whom they live to God. "I
exhort, therefore," says he, "that, first of all, supplications,
prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; for
kings, and for all that are in authority: that we may lead a quiet and
peaceable life in all godliness and honesty" (1 Tim. 2:1, 2). Let no
man here deceive himself, since we cannot resist the magistrate without
resisting God. For, although an unarmed magistrate may seem to be
despised with impunity, yet God is armed, and will signally avenge this
contempt. Under this obedience, I comprehend the restraint which
private men ought to impose on themselves in public, not interfering
with public business, or rashly encroaching on the province of the
magistrate, or attempting anything at all of a public nature. If it is
proper that anything in a public ordinance should be corrected, let
them not act tumultuously, or put their hands to a work where they
ought to feel that their hands are tied, but let them leave it to the
cognisance of the magistrate, whose hand alone here is free. My meaning
is, let them not dare to do it without being ordered. For when the
command of the magistrate is given, they too are invested with public
authority. For as, according to the common saying, the eyes and ears of
the prince are his counsellors, so one may not improperly say that
those who, by his command, have the charge of managing affairs, are his
24. But as we have hitherto described the magistrate who truly is what he is called--viz. the father of his country, and (as the Poet speaks) the pastor of the people, the guardian of peace, the president of justice, the vindicator of innocence, he is justly to be deemed a madman who disapproves of such authority. And since in almost all ages we see that some princes, careless about all their duties on which they ought to have been intent, live, without solicitude, in luxurious sloth; others, bent on their own interest, venally prostitute all rights, privileges, judgments, and enactments; others pillage poor people of their money, and afterwards squander it in insane largesses; others act as mere robbers, pillaging houses, violating matrons, and slaying the innocent; many cannot be persuaded to recognise such persons for princes, whose command, as far as lawful, they are bound to obey. For while in this unworthy conduct, and among atrocities so alien, not only from the duty of the magistrate, but also of the man, they behold no appearance of the image of God, which ought to be conspicuous in the magistrate, while they see not a vestige of that minister of God, who was appointed to be a praise to the good and a terror to the bad, they cannot recognise the ruler whose dignity and authority Scripture recommends to us. And, undoubtedly, the natural feeling of the human mind has always been not less to assail tyrants with hatred and execration, than to look up to just kings with love and veneration.
25. But if we have respect to the word of God, it will lead us farther, and make us subject not only to the authority of those princes who honestly and faithfully perform their duty toward us, but all princes, by whatever means they have so become, although there is nothing they less perform than the duty of princes. For though the Lord declares that a ruler to maintain our safety is the highest gift of his beneficence, and prescribes to rulers themselves their proper sphere, he at the same time declares, that of whatever description they may be, they derive their power from none but him. Those, indeed, who rule for the public good, are true examples and specimens of his beneficence, while those who domineer unjustly and tyrannically are raised up by him to punish the people for their iniquity. Still all alike possess that sacred majesty with which he has invested lawful power. I will not proceed further without subjoining some distinct passages to this effect.  We need not labour to prove that an impious king is a mark of the Lord's anger, since I presume no one will deny it, and that this is not less true of a king than of a robber who plunders your goods, an adulterer who defiles your bed, and an assassin who aims at your life, since all such calamities are classed by Scripture among the curses of God. But let us insist at greater length in proving what does not so easily fall in with the views of men, that even an individual of the worst character, one most unworthy of all honour, if invested with public authority, receives that illustrious divine power which the Lord has by his word devolved on the ministers of his justice and judgment, and that, accordingly, in so far as public obedience is concerned, he is to be held in the same honour and reverence as the best of kings.
26. And, first, I would have the reader carefully to attend to that Divine Providence which, not without cause, is so often set before us in Scripture, and that special act of distributing kingdoms, and setting up as kings whomsoever he pleases. In Daniel it is said, "He changeth the times and the seasons: he removeth kings, and setteth up kings" (Dan. 2:21, 37). Again, "That the living may know that the Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will" (Dan. 4:17, 25). Similar sentiments occur throughout Scripture, but they abound particularly in the prophetical books. What kind of king Nebuchadnezzar, he who stormed Jerusalem, was, is well known. He was an active invader and devastator of other countries. Yet the Lord declares in Ezekiel that he had given him the land of Egypt as his hire for the devastation which he had committed. Daniel also said to him, "Thou, O king, art a king of kings: for the God of heaven hath given thee a kingdom, power, and strength, and glory. And wheresoever the children of men dwell, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the heaven hath he given into thine hand, and hath made thee ruler over them all" (Dan. 2:37, 38). Again, he says to his son Belshazzar, "The most high God gave Nebuchadnezzar thy father a kingdom, and majesty, and glory, and honour: and for the majesty that he gave him, all people, nations, and languages, trembled and feared before him" (Dan. 5:18, 19). When we hear that the king was appointed by God, let us, at the same time, call to mind those heavenly edicts as to honouring and fearing the king, and we shall have no doubt that we are to view the most iniquitous tyrant as occupying the place with which the Lord has honoured him. When Samuel declared to the people of Israel what they would suffer from their kings, he said, "This will be the manner of the king that shall reign over you: He will take your sons, and appoint them for himself, for his chariots, and to be his horsemen; and some shall run before his chariots. And he will appoint him captains over thousands, and captains over fifties; and will set them to ear his ground, and to reap his harvest, and to make his instruments of war, and instruments of his chariots. And he will take your daughters to be confectioneries, and to be cooks, and to be bakers. And he will take your fields, and your vineyards, and your oliveyards, even the best of them, and give them to his servants. And he will take the tenth of your seed, and of your vineyards, and give to his officers, and to his servants. And he will take your men-servants, and your maid-servants, and your goodliest young men, and your asses, and put them to his work. He will take the tenth of your sheep: and ye shall be his servants" (1 Sam. 8:11-l7). Certainly these things could not be done legally by kings, whom the law trained most admirably to all kinds of restraint; but it was called justice in regard to the people, because they were bound to obey, and could not lawfully resist: as if Samuel had said, To such a degree will kings indulge in tyranny, which it will not be for you to restrain. The only thing remaining for you will be to receive their commands, and be obedient to their words.
27. But the most remarkable and memorable passage is in Jeremiah. Though it is rather long, I am not indisposed to quote it, because it most clearly settles this whole question. "I have made the earth, the man and the beast that are upon the ground, by my great power, and by my outstretched arm, and have given it unto whom it seemed meet unto me. And now have I given all these lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, my servant: and the beasts of the field have I given him also to serve him. And all nations shall serve him, and his son, and his son's son, until the very time of his land come: and then many nations and great kings shall serve themselves of him. And it shall come to pass, that the nation and kingdom which will not serve the same Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, and that will not put their neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon, that nation will I punish, saith the Lord, with the sword, and with famine, and with pestilence, until I have consumed them by his hand" (Jer. 27:5-8). Therefore "bring your necks under the yoke of the king of Babylon, and serve him and his people, and live" (v. 12). We see how great obedience the Lord was pleased to demand for this dire and ferocious tyrant, for no other reason than just that he held the kingdom. In other words, the divine decree had placed him on the throne of the kingdom, and admitted him to regal majesty, which could not be lawfully violated. If we constantly keep before our eyes and minds the fact, that even the most iniquitous kings are appointed by the same decree which establishes all regal authority, we will never entertain the seditious thought, that a king is to be treated according to his deserts, and that we are not bound to act the part of good subjects to him who does not in his turn act the part of a king to us.
28. It is vain to object, that that command was specially given to the Israelites. For we must attend to the ground on which the Lord places it--"I have given the kingdom to Nebuchadnezzar; therefore serve him and live." Let us doubt not that on whomsoever the kingdom has been conferred, him we are bound to serve. Whenever God raises any one to royal honour, he declares it to be his pleasure that he should reign. To this effect we have general declarations in Scripture. Solomon says--"For the transgression of a land, many are the princes thereof" (Prov. 28:2). Job says--"He looseth the bond of kings, and girdeth their loins with a girdle" (Job. 12:18). This being confessed, nothing remains for us but to serve and live. There is in Jeremiah another command in which the Lord thus orders his people--"Seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto the Lord for it: for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace" (Jer. 29:7). Here the Israelites, plundered of all their property, torn from their homes, driven into exile, thrown into miserable bondage, are ordered to pray for the prosperity of the victor, not as we are elsewhere ordered to pray for our persecutors, but that his kingdom may be preserved in safety and tranquillity, that they too may live prosperously under him. Thus David, when already king elect by the ordination of God, and anointed with his holy oil, though causelessly and unjustly assailed by Saul, holds the life of one who was seeking his life to be sacred, because the Lord had invested him with royal honour. "The Lord forbid that I should do this thing unto my master, the Lord's anointed, to stretch forth mine hand against him, seeing he is the anointed of the Lord." "Mine eyes spare thee; and I said, I will not put forth mine hand against my lord; for he is the Lord's anointed" (1 Sam. 24:6, 11). Again,--"Who can stretch forth his hand against the Lord's anointed, and be guiltless"? "As the Lord liveth the Lord shall smite him, or his day shall come to die, or he shall descend into battle, and perish. The Lord forbid that I should stretch forth mine hand against the Lord's anointed" (l Sam. 24:9-11).
29. This feeling of reverence, and even of piety, we owe to the utmost to all our rulers, be their characters what they may. This I repeat the oftener, that we may learn not to consider the individuals themselves, but hold it to be enough that by the will of the Lord they sustain a character on which he has impressed and engraven inviolable majesty. But rulers, you will say, owe mutual duties to those under them. This I have already confessed. But if from this you conclude that obedience is to be returned to none but just governors, you reason absurdly. Husbands are bound by mutual duties to their wives, and parents to their children. Should husbands and parents neglect their duty; should the latter be harsh and severe to the children whom they are enjoined not to provoke to anger, and by their severity harass them beyond measure; should the former treat with the greatest contumely the wives whom they are enjoined to love and to spare as the weaker vessels; would children be less bound in duty to their parents, and wives to their husbands? They are made subject to the froward and undutiful. Nay, since the duty of all is not to look behind them, that is, not to inquire into the duties of one another, but to submit each to his own duty, this ought especially to be exemplified in the case of those who are placed under the power of others. Wherefore, if we are cruelly tormented by a savage, if we are rapaciously pillaged by an avaricious or luxurious, if we are neglected by a sluggish, if, in short, we are persecuted for righteousness' sake by an impious and sacrilegious prince, let us first call up the remembrance of our faults, which doubtless the Lord is chastising by such scourges. In this way humility will curb our impatience. And let us reflect that it belongs not to us to cure these evils, that all that remains for us is to implore the help of the Lord, in whose hands are the hearts of kings, and inclinations of kingdoms.65  "God standeth in the congregation of the mighty; he judgeth among the gods." Before his face shall fall and be crushed all kings and judges of the earth, who have not kissed his anointed, who have enacted unjust laws to oppress the poor in judgment, and do violence to the cause of the humble, to make widows a prey, and plunder the fatherless.
Christian Classics Ethereal Library / Public Domain
Institutes of the Christian Religion
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
5/1/2015 The Heresy of Indifference
Doctrine matters—it matters in life and in death. Our doctrine determines our destiny. It not only affects our view about God but our view about everything. We are doctrinal beings by nature. Everyone holds to some sort of doctrine; the question is whether or not our doctrine is biblical. Consequently, we dare not be indifferent about doctrine. Indeed, there is a reason we’ve never heard of a Christian martyr who was indifferent about doctrine. Indifference about doctrine is the mother of every heresy in all of history, and in our day indifference about doctrine is spreading like wildfire in the pulpits and pews of our churches. Ironically, the assertion that doctrine doesn’t matter is in fact a doctrine in itself.
When people tell me they are into Jesus but not into doctrine, I tell them that if they are not into doctrine, they are, in fact, not into Jesus. We cannot know Jesus without knowing doctrine, and we cannot love God without knowing God, and the way we know God is by studying His Word. Doctrine comes from God, it teaches us about God, and by faith it leads us back to God in worship, service, and love. Indifference to doctrine is indifference to God, and indifference to God is indifference to our own eternity. Pastors who think it is relevant and cool to be indifferent about doctrine—who play down the necessity and importance of doctrine and who fail to preach and explain doctrine in their sermons—are in fact failing to give their people that which will save their souls. For us to downplay doctrine or to be intentionally fuzzy in preaching doctrine isn’t cool or humble or relevant, it’s outright arrogant. There is nothing more relevant than doctrine, there is nothing more humbling than doctrine, and there is nothing that more quickly gets our eyes off ourselves and fixes them on our loving and gracious God than doctrine that proceeds from God.
Doctrine, however, is not an end in itself. Doctrine exists to help us know, love, worship, and glorify the God who is. There are few things the devil wants more than to have churches full of people who think they are as straight as a rifle barrel in their doctrine—but just as empty as one—in their application of that doctrine. Doctrine rightly understood is doctrine rightly applied. If we separate our doctrine from our life, our doctrine will lead to our death. Doctrine is a gift from God, and it flows from the inspired pages of the Word of God that we might love God with our whole being and our neighbor as ourselves. This is why we must be dogmatic in our doctrine—not dogmatically harsh, but dogmatically humble as we seek to know, proclaim, and defend the doctrine that teaches us about our loving and holy Lord who gave Himself for us. We must be dogmatic in our doctrine and dogmatic in living it out for the glory of God. As Matthew Henry wrote, “Those who teach by their doctrine must teach by their life, or else they pull down with one hand what they build up with the other.”
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Dr. Burk Parsons (@BurkParsons) is editor of Tabletalk magazine, senior pastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., a visiting lecturer at Reformed Theological Seminary, and a Ligonier Ministries teaching fellow. He is editor of John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, and Doxology.
Ligonier coram Deo (definition)
by Bill Federer
German composer Johann Sebastian Bach died this day, July 28, 1750. He was considered the “master of masters,” combining the tradition of Baroque music with harmonic innovations. The majority of his works are religious, including Passion According to St. Matthew Passion and (Jesus, My Joy!). In expressing his conviction on the purpose of music, Bach asserted: “The aim and final end of all music should be none other than the glory of God and the refreshment of the soul. If heed is not paid to this, it is not true music but a diabolical bawling and twanging.”
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
What price have you paid for your integrity?
If you haven’t paid a price
I question your integrity.
--- Dennis Bontrager
The diabolical nature of sin is that it hates God, it is not at enmity against God; it is enmity. When you get the nature of sin revealed by the Holy Spirit, you know that this phrase is not too strong—red-handed anarchy against God.
--- Oswald Chambers
He is not to us a God afar off, with whom we have no immediate concern; but a God who is not far from any one of us, in whom we live, move, and have our being, who numbers the hairs of your head, and without whose notice a sparrow does not fall to the ground.
--- Charles Hodge
Hope means hoping when things are hopeless, or it is no virtue at all... As long as matters are really hopeful, hope is mere flattery or platitude; it is only when everything is hopeless that hope begins to be a strength.
--- G.K. Chesterton ... from here, there and everywhere
Thanks to Meir Yona
The Calamities And Slaughters That Came Upon The Jews.
1. Now the people of Cesarea had slain the Jews that were among them on the very same day and hour [when the soldiers were slain], which one would think must have come to pass by the direction of Providence; insomuch that in one hour's time above twenty thousand Jews were killed, and all Cesarea was emptied of its Jewish inhabitants; for Florus caught such as ran away, and sent them in bonds to the galleys. Upon which stroke that the Jews received at Cesarea, the whole nation was greatly enraged; so they divided themselves into several parties, and laid waste the villages of the Syrians, and their neighboring cities, Philadelphia, and Sebonitis, and Gerasa, and Pella, and Scythopolis, and after them Gadara, and Hippos; and falling upon Gaulonitis, some cities they destroyed there, and some they set on fire, and then went to Kedasa, belonging to the Tyrians, and to Ptolemais, and to Gaba, and to Cesarea; nor was either Sebaste [Samaria] or Askelon able to oppose the violence with which they were attacked; and when they had burnt these to the ground; they entirely demolished Anthedon and Gaza; many also of the villages that were about every one of those cities were plundered, and an immense slaughter was made of the men who were caught in them.
2. However, the Syrians were even with the Jews in the multitude of the men whom they slew; for they killed those whom they caught in their cities, and that not only out of the hatred they bare them, as formerly, but to prevent the danger under which they were from them; so that the disorders in all Syria were terrible, and every city was divided into two armies, encamped one against another, and the preservation of the one party was in the destruction of the other; so the day time was spent in shedding of blood, and the night in fear, which was of the two the more terrible; for when the Syrians thought they had ruined the Jews, they had the Judaizers in suspicion also; and as each side did not care to slay those whom they only suspected on the other, so did they greatly fear them when they were mingled with the other, as if they were certainly foreigners. Moreover, greediness of gain was a provocation to kill the opposite party, even to such as had of old appeared very mild and gentle towards them; for they without fear plundered the effects of the slain, and carried off the spoils of those whom they slew to their own houses, as if they had been gained in a set battle; and he was esteemed a man of honor who got the greatest share, as having prevailed over the greatest number of his enemies. It was then common to see cities filled with dead bodies, still lying unburied, and those of old men, mixed with infants, all dead, and scattered about together; women also lay amongst them, without any covering for their nakedness: you might then see the whole province full of inexpressible calamities, while the dread of still more barbarous practices which were threatened was every where greater than what had been already perpetrated.
3. And thus far the conflict had been between Jews and foreigners; but when they made excursions to Scythopolis, they found Jew that acted as enemies; for as they stood in battle-array with those of Scythopolis, and preferred their own safety before their relation to us, they fought against their own countrymen; nay, their alacrity was so very great, that those of Scythopolis suspected them. These were afraid, therefore, lest they should make an assault upon the city in the night time, and, to their great misfortune, should thereby make an apology for themselves to their own people for their revolt from them. So they commanded them, that in case they would confirm their agreement and demonstrate their fidelity to them, who were of a different nation, they should go out of the city, with their families to a neighboring grove; and when they had done as they were commanded, without suspecting any thing, the people of Scythopolis lay still for the interval of two days, to tempt them to be secure; but on the third night they watched their opportunity, and cut all their throats, some as they lay unguarded, and some as they lay asleep. The number that was slain was above thirteen thousand, and then they plundered them of all that they had.
4. It will deserve our relation what befell Simon; he was the son of one Saul, a man of reputation among the Jews. This man was distinguished from the rest by the strength of his body, and the boldness of his conduct, although he abused them both to the mischieving of his countrymen; for he came every day and slew a great many of the Jews of Scythopolis, and he frequently put them to flight, and became himself alone the cause of his army's conquering. But a just punishment overtook him for the murders he had committed upon those of the same nation with him; for when the people of Scythopolis threw their darts at them in the grove, he drew his sword, but did not attack any of the enemy; for he saw that he could do nothing against such a multitude; but he cried out after a very moving manner, and said, "O you people of Scythopolis, I deservedly suffer for what I have done with relation to you, when I gave you such security of my fidelity to you, by slaying so many of those that were related to me. Wherefore we very justly experience the perfidiousness of foreigners, while we acted after a most wicked manner against our own nation. I will therefore die, polluted wretch as I am, by mine own hands; for it is not fit I should die by the hand of our enemies; and let the same action be to me both a punishment for my great crimes, and a testimony of my courage to my commendation, that so no one of our enemies may have it to brag of, that he it was that slew me, and no one may insult upon me as I fall." Now when he had said this, he looked round about him upon his family with eyes of commiseration and of rage [that family consisted of a wife and children, and his aged parents]; so, in the first place, he caught his father by his grey hairs, and ran his sword through him, and after him he did the same to his mother, who willingly received it; and after them he did the like to his wife and children, every one almost offering themselves to his sword, as desirous to prevent being slain by their enemies; so when he had gone over all his family, he stood upon their bodies to be seen by all, and stretching out his right hand, that his action might be observed by all, he sheathed his entire sword into his own bowels. This young man was to be pitied, on account of the strength of his body and the courage of his soul; but since he had assured foreigners of his fidelity [against his own countrymen], he suffered deservedly.
The War of the Jews: The History of the Destruction of Jerusalem (complete edition, 7 books)
by D.H. Stern
esteem over silver and gold.
2 Rich and poor have this in common—
ADONAI made them both.
by Frank W. Boreham
I like to think that Jesus spent forty nights of His wondrous life out in the Wild with the wolves. 'He was with the wild beasts,' Mark tells us, and the statement is not recorded for nothing. Night is the great leveller. Desert and prairie are indistinguishable in the night. Night folds everything in sable robes, and the loveliest landscape is one with the dreariest prospect. North and South, East and West, are all alike in the night. Here is the Wild of the West. 'A vast silence reigned,' Jack London tells us. 'The land itself was a desolation, lifeless, without movement, so lone and cold that the spirit of it was not even that of sadness. There was a hint in it of laughter—the masterful and incommunicable wisdom of eternity laughing at the futility of life and the effort of life. It was the Wild—the savage, frozen-hearted Northern Wild!' Here, I say, is the Wild. And here is the life of the Wild: 'Bill opened his mouth to speak, but changed his mind. Instead, he pointed towards the wall of darkness that pressed about them from every side. There was no suggestion of form in the utter blackness; only could be seen a pair of eyes gleaming like live coals. Henry indicated with his hand a second pair and a third. A circle of the gleaming eyes had drawn about their camp. Now and again a pair of eyes moved, or disappeared to appear again a moment later.'
What did it mean—those restless flashing eyes, like fireflies breaking across the surface of the darkness? It simply meant that they were in the Wild at night, and they were with the wild beasts. And what does it mean, this vivid fragment from my Bible? It means that He was in the Wild at night, night after night for forty nights, and He was with the wild beasts. He heard the roar of the lion as it awoke the echoes of the slumbering forest. He saw the hyena pass stealthily near Him in the track of a timid deer, and watched the cheetah prowl through the brushwood in pursuit of a young gazelle. He heard the squeal of the hare as the crouching fox sprang out; and the flutter of the partridge as the jackal seized its prey. He heard the slither of the viper as it glided through the grass beside His head; and was startled by the shrieking of the nightbirds, and the flapping of their wings, as they whirled and swooped about Him. And He too saw the gleaming eyes of the hungry wolves as they drew their fierce cordon around Him. For He was out in the Wild for forty nights, and He was with the wild beasts.
And yet He was unhurt! Now why was He unharmed those forty nights with the scrub around Him alive with claws and talons and fangs? He was with the wild beasts, Mark tells us, and yet no lion sprang upon Him; no lone wolf slashed at Him with her frightful fangs; no serpent bit Him.
'Henry,' said one of Jack London's heroes to the other, as they watched the wolfish eyes flashing hither and thither in the darkness, 'it's an awful misfortune to be out of ammunition!'
But He was unarmed and unprotected! No blade was in His hand; no ring of fire blazed round about Him to affright the prowling brutes. And yet He was unharmed! Not a tooth nor a claw left scratch or gash upon Him! Why was it? It will never do to fall back upon the miraculous, for the very point of the story of the Temptation is His sublime refusal to sustain Himself by superhuman aid. By the employment of miracle He could easily have commanded the stones to become bread, and He might thus have grandly answered the taunt of the Tempter and have appeased the gnawings of His body's hunger at one and the same time. But it would have spoiled everything. He went into the Wild to be tempted 'like as we are tempted'; and since miracle is not at our disposal He would not let it be at His. It is impossible, therefore, to suppose that He scorned the aid of miracle to protect Him from hunger, but called in the aid of miracle to protect Him from the beasts.
Now in order to solve this problem I turned to my Bible, beginning at the very beginning. And there, in the very first chapter, I found the explanation. 'Have dominion,' God said, 'over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.' There was nothing really miraculous in Christ's authority over the fish. I never see a man dangling with a line without a sigh for our lost dominion. There was nothing really miraculous in Christ's immunity from harm. The wolves did not tear Him; He told them not to do so. He was a man, just such a man as God meant all men to be. And therefore He 'had dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that creepeth upon the earth.' He was unscathed in the midst of the wolves, not because He was superhuman, but because He was truly human. We are something less than human, the wrecks and shadows of men. Having forfeited the authority of our humanity, the fish no longer obey us, and we have perforce to dangle for them with hooks and strings. The wolves and the tigers no longer stand off at our command, and we have to fall back upon camp-fires and pistols. It is very humiliating! The crown is fallen from our heads, and all things finned and furred and feathered mock us in our shame. But Thine, O Man of men, is the power and the dominion, and all the creatures of the Wild obey Thee! 'He was with the wild beasts.'
What did those wild, dumb, eloquent eyes say to Jesus as they looked wonderingly at Him out there in the Wild? As they bounded out of the thicket, crouched, stared at Him, and slunk away, what did they say to Him, those great lean wolves? And what did He say to them? Animals are such eloquent things, especially at such times. 'The foxes have holes,' Jesus said, long afterwards, remembering as He said it how He watched the creatures of the Wild seek out their lairs. 'And the birds of the air have nests,' He said, remembering the twittering and fluttering in the boughs above His head as the feathered things settled down for the night. 'But the Son of Man hath not where to lay His head,' He concluded, as He thought of those long, long nights in the homeless Wild. Did He mean that the wolves were better off than He was? We are all tempted to think so when the conflict is pressing too hardly upon us. There seems to be less choice, and therefore less responsibility, among the beasts of the field; less play of right and wrong. 'I think,' said Walt Whitman—
I think I could turn and live with animals, they are so
placid and self-contained;
I stand and look at them sometimes an hour at a stretch.
They do not sweat and whine about their condition,
They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins,
They do not make me sick discussing their duty to God,
Not one is dissatisfied, not one is demented with the mania
of owning things,
Not one kneels to another, nor to his kind that lived
thousands of years ago,
Not one is respectable or industrious over the whole earth.
Was some flitting, hovering thought like this part of the Temptation in the Wild? Is that what Mark means when he says so significantly that 'He was with the wild beasts'? Surely; for He was tempted in all points like as we are, and we have all been tempted in this. 'Good old Carlo!' we have said, as we patted the dog's head, looking down out of our eyes of anguish into his calm, impassive gaze. 'Good old Carlo, you don't know anything of such struggles, old boy!' And we have fancied for a moment that Carlo had the best of it. It was a black and blasphemous thought, and He struck it away, as we should strike at a hawk that fluttered in front of our faces and threatened to pick at our eyes. But for one moment it hovered before Him, and He caught its ugly glance. It is a very ugly glance. Our capacity for great inward strife and for great inward suffering is the one proof we have that we were made in the image of God.
Was He thinking, I wonder, when He went out to the wolves in the Wild of those who, before so very long, would be torn to pieces by hungry beasts for His dear sake?
'To-day,' said Amplonius, a teacher of the persecuted Roman Christians, 'to-day, by the cruel order of Trajan, Ignatius was thrown to the wild beasts in the arena. He it was, my children, whom Jesus took, when as yet he was but a little child, and set him in the midst of the disciples and said, "Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye cannot enter the kingdom of heaven." And now, from the same Lord who that day laid His sacred hands upon his head, he has received the martyr crown. But Ignatius did not fear the beasts, my children. I have seen a letter which he wrote but yesterday to the aged Polycarp, the angel of the Church of Smyrna. In it he says that the hungry creatures have no terrors for him. "Would to God," he said, "that I were come to the beasts prepared for me. I wish that, with their gaping mouths, they were now ready to rush upon me. Let the angry beasts tear asunder my members so that I may win Christ Jesus." Thus Ignatius wrote but yesterday to the beloved Polycarp; and to-day, with a face like the face of an angel, he gave himself to the wolves. We know not which of us shall suffer next, my children. The people are still crying wildly, "The Christians to the lions!" It may be that I, your teacher, shall be the next to witness for the faith. But let us remember that for forty days and forty nights Jesus was Himself with the wild beasts, and not one of them durst harm Him. And He is still with the wild beasts wherever we His people, are among them; and their cruel fangs can only tear us so far as it is for our triumph and His glory.' So spake Amplonius, and the Church was comforted.
And at this hour there is, in the catacomb at St. Callixtus, at Rome, a rude old picture of Jesus among the untamed creatures of the Wild. The thought that lions and leopards crouched at His feet in the days of His flesh, and were subject unto Him, was very precious to the hunted and suffering people.
Sometimes, too, I fancy that He saw, in these savage brutes that harmed Him not, a symbol and a prophecy of His own great conquest. For they, with their hateful fangs and blooded talons, were part of His vast constituency. 'The whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together,' Paul declares. Richard Jefferies pointed to a quaint little English cottage beside a glorious bank of violets. But he could never bring himself to pluck the fragrant blossoms, for, in the cottage, the dreaded small-pox had once raged. 'It seemed,' says Jefferies, 'to quite spoil the violet bank. There is something in disease so destructive; as it were, to flowers.' And as the violets shared the scourge, so the creatures shared the curse. And as they stared dumbly into the eyes of the Son of God they seemed to half understand that their redemption was drawing nigh. 'In Nature herself,' as Longfellow says, 'there is a waiting and hoping, a looking and yearning, after an unknown something. Yes, when above there, on the mountain, the lonely eagle looks forth into the grey dawn to see if the day comes not; when by the mountain torrent the brooding raven listens to hear if the chamois is returning from his nightly pasture in the valley; and when the rising sun calls out the spicy odours of the Alpine flowers, then there awake in Nature an expectation and a longing for a future revelation of God's majesty.' Did He see this brooding sense of expectancy in the fierce eyes about Him? And did He rejoice that the hope of the Wild would in Him be gloriously fulfilled? Who knows?
In his The Cloister and the Hearth, Charles Reade tells of the temptation and triumph of Clement the hermit. 'And one keen frosty night, as he sang the praises of God to his tuneful psaltery, and his hollow cave rang with his holy melody, he heard a clear whine, not unmelodious. It became louder. He peeped through the chinks of his rude door, and there sat a great red wolf moaning melodiously with his nose high in the air! Clement was delighted. "My sins are going," he cried, "and the creatures of God are owning me!" And in a burst of enthusiasm he sang:
Praise Him, all ye creatures of His!
Let everything that hath breath praise the Lord!
And all the time he sang the wolf bayed at intervals.' Did Jesus, I wonder, see the going of the world's sin and the departure of its primal curse in the faces of the wild things that howled and roared around Him? As the fierce things prowled around Him and left Him unharmed, did He see a symbol of His final subjugation of all earth's savage and restless elements? Who shall say?
'He was with the wild beasts,' says Mark, 'and the angels ministered unto Him.' Life always hovers between the beasts and the angels; and however wolfish may be the eyes that affright us in the day of our temptation, we may be sure that our solitary struggle is watched by invisible spectators, and that, after the baying of the beasts, we shall hear the angels sing.
Mushrooms on the Moor (Dodo Press)
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
And straightway He constrained His disciples to get into the ship, and to go to the other side.… --- Mark 6:45–52.
We are apt to imagine that if Jesus Christ constrains us, and we obey Him, He will lead us to great success. We must never put our dreams of success as God’s purpose for us; His purpose may be exactly the opposite. We have an idea that God is leading us to a particular end, a desired goal; He is not. The question of getting to a particular end is a mere incident. What we call the process, God calls the end.
What is my dream of God’s purpose? His purpose is that I depend on Him and on His power now. If I can stay in the middle of the turmoil calm and unperplexed, that is the end of the purpose of God. God is not working towards a particular finish; His end is the process—that I see Him walking on the waves, no shore in sight, no success, no goal, just the absolute certainty that it is all right because I see Him walking on the sea. It is the process, not the end, which is glorifying to God.
God’s training is for now, not presently. His purpose is for this minute, not for something in the future. We have nothing to do with the afterwards of obedience; we get wrong when we think of the afterwards. What men call training and preparation, God calls the end.
God’s end is to enable me to see that He can walk on the chaos of my life just now. If we have a further end in view, we do not pay sufficient attention to the immediate present; but if we realize that obedience is the end, then each moment as it comes is precious.
My Utmost for His Highest
the Poetry of RS Thomas
And at the tide’s retreat,
When the vexed ocean camping far
On the horizon filled the air
With dull thunder, ominous and low,
He felt his theories break and go
In the small clouds about the sky,
Whose nihilistic blue repelled
The vain probing of his eye.
If a mitzvah comes your way, do it right away.
BIBLE TEXT / Exodus 12:16–18 / You shall celebrate a sacred occasion on the first day, and a sacred occasion on the seventh day; no work at all shall be done on them; only what every person is to eat, that alone may be prepared for you. You shall observe the [Feast of] Unleavened Bread [matzot] for on this very day I brought your ranks out of the land of Egypt; you shall observe this day throughout the ages as an institution for all time. In the first month, from the fourteenth day of the month at Evening, you shall eat unleavened bread until the twenty-first day of the month at Evening.
MIDRASH TEXT / Mekhilta de-Rabbi Yishmael, Bo 9 / You shall observe the [Feast of] Unleavened Bread. Guard it [the dough] so that it doesn’t become unfit. From this, they [the Rabbis] said: If it [the dough] rises, then throw cold water on it. If it is already “risen,” it must be burned. One who eats it is exempt [from punishment]. [If it is already] “cracked,” it must be burned. One who eats it is liable of karet [the divine punishment of being “cut off”]. What is “risen”? [When the cracks on the dough’s surface look like] the antennae of a grasshopper. [What is] “cracked”? When the cracks run into one another, according to Rabbi Yehudah. But the Sages say, “One who eats either of these [“risen” or “cracked”] is liable.” What is, then, “risen”? When its surface becomes as pale as a man whose hair stands on end.
You shall observe the [Feast of] Unleavened Bread [matzot]. Rabbi Yoshiah says, “Do not read it this way [matzot], but ‘You shall observe the mitzvot.’ Just as one does not let the matzah [sit and] sour, so too do not let the mitzvah [sit and] sour, but if a mitzvah comes your way, do it right away.”
CONTEXT / The first paragraph is a Midrash halakhah, an explanation of the legal definitions, in this case of חָמֵץ/ḥametz, dough that has begun to sour and rise. We note how severe the penalty was for eating such food during the week of Pesaḥ, when all ḥametz was forbidden.
The second paragraph is a Midrash aggadah, a nonlegal homily or sermon, searching for the deeper meaning of this law. The biblical text commands the Israelites “You shall observe the [Feast of] Unleavened Bread [matzot],” Pesaḥ. The P’shat, or “contextual meaning,” of this chapter of Bible is: Do not forget to observe the holiday of matzot. Remember it throughout your generations.
Rabbi Yoshiah says: “Do not read it this way [matzot], but ‘You shall observe the mitzvot.’ ” The Hebrew lends itself to a pun: The word for “observe” is ש־מ־ר/sh-m-r, the same root having the meaning of “watch over” or “guard.” And the words matzot and mitzvot have the same Hebrew letters. Thus, the unpunctuated word מצות can be read as either matzot or mitzvot. From the context, and according to the vowels, it is מַצּוֹת/matzot, or “unleavened bread,” that the Torah is talking about, and not מַצְוֹת/mitzvot, “commandments.” This did not deter the Rabbis from making their pun and, more importantly, their homily: Just as the matzot are rendered unfit by leaving them for too long until they “sour” (that is, ferment and rise, becoming ḥametz), so too a mitzvah may be left for too long and turn sour: Just as one does not let the matzah [sit and] sour, so too do not let the mitzvah [sit and] sour, but if a mitzvah comes your way, do it right away.
This phrase, when translated as “you shall watch over the matzot,” is the origin for matzah shmurah or shmurah matzah, matzah that has been guarded (from leaven) from the time the grain has been gathered. This is stricter than the usual supervision from the time the water is added to the flour.
We have translated חָמֵץ/ḥametz as “sour.” In Hebrew, this word has several uses and meanings: 1) as a verb: to sour, leaven, or ferment (as in “sour dough”); 2) as a noun: vinegar or any liquid that has been pickled or fermented; 3) as an adjective, meaning “seasoned” or fermented. In modern Hebrew, pickled vegetables are called חֲמוּצים/ḥamutzim.
Searching for Meaning in Midrash: Lessons for Everyday Living
Delight yourself in the LORD.
--- Psalm 37:4.
This delight springs from the Spirit of God. Works of Stephen Charnock (5 Volume Set) Not a spark of fire on your own hearth is able to kindle this spiritual delight; it is the Holy Spirit who breathes such a heavenly heat into our affections. The Spirit is the fire that kindles the soul, the spring that moves the watch, the wind that drives the ship. The swiftest ship with spread sails will be only sluggish in its motion unless the wind fills its sails; without this Spirit we are in a weak and sickly condition, our breath short, a heavy and troublesome asthma upon us. “When I called, you answered me; you made me bold and stouthearted” (Ps. 138:3). Just as prayer is the work of the Spirit in the heart, so delight in prayer owes itself to the same author.
[This delight springs] from grace. The Spirit kindles and gives us the oil of grace to make the lamp burn clear. There is not only need of fire to kindle the lamp but of oil to preserve the flame. Natural people may have their affections kindled in a way of common working, but they will soon faint and die, as the flame of cotton will dim and vanish if there is no oil to nourish it.
[Delight in the Lord springs] from a good conscience. Guilt will come trembling and with a sad face into the presence of God’s majesty. A guilty child cannot with cheerfulness come into a displeased parent’s presence. A soul smoked with hell cannot with delight approach heaven. Guilty souls, in regard of the injury they have done to God, will be afraid to come, and in regard of the soot of sin with which they are defiled and the blackness they have contracted, they will be ashamed to come. They know that by their sins they would provoke his anger—not allure his love. A soul under conscience of sin cannot look up to God. Nor will God with favor look down on it. Jonah was asleep after his sin and was outdone in readiness to pray even by idolaters. The mariners jogged him but could not get him, that we read of, to call on that God whom he had offended. Where there is corruption, the sparks of sin will kindle that tinder and weaken a spiritual delight.
--- Stephen Charnock
Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
Never on Sunday July 28
Jonathan Edwards fell in love with Sarah Pierrepont when she was 13. He was moody and stiff; she was as vivacious as a songbird. He could think of nothing else, and one day studying Greek, he scribbled in the cover of his textbook that Sarah goes from place to place, singing sweetly, full of joy. She loves to be alone, walking in the fields and groves, and seems to have someone invisible always conversing with her.
They married on July 28, 1727, the bride (then 17) in a green dress. Jonathan was hired by a Massachusetts church. But parishioners often criticized the young couple. Jonathan was too strict for some, Sarah too extravagant for others.
Even worse, they evidently were intimate on the Lord’s Day. Colonial New Englanders believed that babies were born on the same day of the week as conceived. When six of the Edwards’s 11 children arrived on Sundays, it sent tongues wagging. Such intimacy wasn’t appropriate Sunday behavior.
But through all the hardships, the couple nurtured their love. They cherished afternoon horseback rides along forest trails. They had nightly devotions, and Jonathan read Sarah his compositions daily. He devoted an hour each day to the children and took them on trips one at a time.
George Whitefield wrote: A sweeter couple I have not seen. Their children were not dressed in silks and satins, but plain, examples of Christian simplicity. Mrs. Edwards is adorned with a meek, quiet spirit; she talked solidly of the things of God, and seemed to be such a helpmeet for her husband, that she caused me to renew those prayers, I have put up to God, (for) a wife.
Jonathan’s last words were, Give my love to my dear wife, and tell her that the uncommon union which has long subsisted between us has been of such a nature as I trust is spiritual and therefore will continue forever.
Years later a reporter tracked down 1,400 descendants of Jonathan and Sarah, finding among them 80 college presidents, professors, and deans, 100 lawyers, 66 physicians, 80 political leaders, three senators, three governors, countless preachers and missionaries—and one traitor, Aaron Burr.
A woman’s family is held together by her wisdom. …
If you respect the LORD, you and your children have
A strong fortress and a life-giving fountain
That keeps you safe from deadly traps.
--- Proverbs 14:1,26,27.
On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - July 28
“So foolish was I, and ignorant; I was as a beast before thee.” --- Psalm 73:22.
Remember this is the confession of the man after God’s own heart; and in telling us his inner life, he writes, “So foolish was I, and ignorant.” The word “foolish,” here, means more than it signifies in ordinary language. David, in a former verse of the Psalm, writes, “I was envious at the foolish when I saw the prosperity of the wicked,” which shows that the folly he intended had sin in it. He puts himself down as being thus “foolish,” and adds a word which is to give intensity to it; “so foolish was I.” How foolish he could not tell. It was a sinful folly, a folly which was not to be excused by frailty, but to be condemned because of its perverseness and wilful ignorance, for he had been envious of the present prosperity of the ungodly, forgetful of the dreadful end awaiting all such. And are we better than David that we should call ourselves wise! Do we profess that we have attained perfection, or to have been so chastened that the rod has taken all our wilfulness out of us? Ah, this were pride indeed! If David was foolish, how foolish should we be in our own esteem if we could but see ourselves! Look back, believer: think of your doubting God when he has been so faithful to you—think of your foolish outcry of “Not so, my Father,” when he crossed his hands in affliction to give you the larger blessing; think of the many times when you have read his providences in the dark, misinterpreted his dispensations, and groaned out, “All these things are against me,” when they are all working together for your good! Think how often you have chosen sin because of its pleasure, when indeed, that pleasure was a root of bitterness to you! Surely if we know our own heart we must plead guilty to the indictment of a sinful folly; and conscious of this “foolishness,” we must make David’s consequent resolve our own—“Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel.”
Evening - July 28
“Who went about doing good.” --- Acts 10:38.
Few words, but yet an exquisite miniature of the Lord Jesus Christ. There are not many touches, but they are the strokes of a master’s pencil. Of the Saviour and only of the Saviour is it true in the fullest, broadest, and most unqualified sense. “He went about doing good.” From this description it is evident that he did good personally. The evangelists constantly tell us that he touched the leper with his own finger, that he anointed the eyes of the blind, and that in cases where he was asked to speak the word only at a distance, he did not usually comply, but went himself to the sick bed, and there personally wrought the cure. A lesson to us, if we would do good, to do it ourselves. Give alms with your own hand; a kind look, or word, will enhance the value of the gift. Speak to a friend about his soul; your loving appeal will have more influence than a whole library of tracts. Our Lord’s mode of doing good sets forth his incessant activity! He did not only the good which came close to hand, but he “went about” on his errands of mercy. Throughout the whole land of Judea there was scarcely a village or a hamlet which was not gladdened by the sight of him. How this reproves the creeping, loitering manner, in which many professors serve the Lord. Let us gird up the loins of our mind, and be not weary in well doing. Does not the text imply that Jesus Christ went out of his way to do good? “He went about doing good.” He was never deterred by danger or difficulty. He sought out the objects of his gracious intentions. So must we. If old plans will not answer, we must try new ones, for fresh experiments sometimes achieve more than regular methods. Christ’s perseverance, and the unity of his purpose, are also hinted at, and the practical application of the subject may be summed up in the words, “He hath left us an example that we should follow in his steps.”
Morning and Evening
Words and Music by N. B. Vandall, 1896–1970
… weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the Morning. (Psalm 30:5)
How much more content we are if we know that after some trying or painful experience, there will be pleasure and a reward. Such thoughts help to spur on the athlete in competition, a mother during the birth of a child, or a weary workman on his way home to a warm fire and loved ones. It was in the midst of a tragic personal experience that the author and composer of the hymn was moved to express this consoling thought.
N. B. Vandall, a singer and a well-known Gospel evangelist, was rushed to the hospital to discover that his son Paul had just been struck by a car and was critically injured. The doctor held out very little hope for recovery. Mr. Vandall recalled:
For one hour and fifteen minutes, I held on in prayer while they cleaned and sewed up the head wounds and set the broken bones. Wearily I made my way back to my humble home. I tried to comfort my wife, when, in my own heart, I had no assurance. I fell on my knees and tried to pray, saying only, “O God!”
Hardly had those words been uttered when God came. It seemed to me that Jesus knelt by my side and I could feel His arms around me as He said, “Never mind, my child. Your home will be visited with tribulation and sorrow, but in the afterwards to come, these things shall not be. Your home is in heaven, where all tears shall be wiped away!”
Brushing aside my tears, I made my way to the piano and wrote the song “After.” Paul did recover from the accident. He is still very nervous and his eyesight is impaired, but I thank God for His goodness in giving him back to us. God in His wisdom, through heartache, gave a song that has since been a comfort to a vast number of His people.
* * * * After the toil and the heat of the day, after my troubles are past, after the sorrows are taken away, I shall see Jesus at last.
After the heartaches and sighing shall cease, after the cold winter’s blast, after the conflict comes glorious peace—I shall see Jesus at last.
After the shadows of Evening shall fall, after my anchor is cast, after I list to my Savior’s last call, I shall see Jesus at last.
Refrain: He will be waiting for me—Jesus, so kind and true; on His beautiful throne, He will welcome me home—after the day is through.
For Today: John 14:2, 3; 1 Corinthians 2:9; 2 Corinthians 5:1, 6, 8; 2 Peter 1:3, 4
Perhaps some sorrowful or stormy time has served to make God’s presence more real in your life. Thank Him for this, and for His promise of seeing Jesus “after the day is through.” Carry this promise with you as you go ---
Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
Martin Luther | (1483-1546)
Sect. C. — BUT however, that Moses does not intend their servitude only, and that Paul is perfectly right, in understanding it concerning eternal salvation, is manifest from the text itself. And although this is somewhat wide of our present purpose, yet I will not suffer Paul to be contaminated with the calumnies of the sacrilegious. The oracle in Moses is thus — “Two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels, and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger.” (Gen. xxv. 23).
Here, manifestly, are two people distinctly mentioned. The one, though the younger, is received into the grace of God; to the intent that, he might overcome the other; not by his own strength, indeed, but by a favouring God: for how could the younger overcome the elder unless God were with him!
Since, therefore, the younger was to be the people of God, it is not only the external rule or servitude which is there spoken of, but all that pertains to the spirit of God; that is, the blessing, the word, the Spirit, the promise of Christ, and the everlasting kingdom. And this the Scripture more fully confirms afterwards, where it describes Jacob as being blessed, and receiving the promises and the kingdom.
All this Paul briefly intimates, where he saith, “The elder shall serve the younger:” and he sends us to Moses, who treats upon the particulars more fully. So that you may say, in reply to the sacrilegious sentiment of Jerome and the Diatribe, that these passages which Paul adduces have more force in their own place than they have in his Epistle. And this is true also, not of Paul only, but of all the Apostles; who adduce Scriptures as testimonies and assertions of their own sentiments. But it would be ridiculous to adduce that as a testimony, which testifies nothing, and does not make at all to the purpose. And even if there were some among the philosophers so ridiculous as to prove that which was unknown, by that which was less known still, or by that which was totally irrelevant to the subject, with what face can we attribute such kind of proceeding to the greatest champions and authors of the Christian doctrines, especially, since they teach those things which are the essential articles of faith, and on which the salvation of souls depends? But such a face becomes those who, in the Holy Scriptures, feel no serious interest whatever.
The Bondage of the Will or Christian Classics Ethereal Library
Tom Steffen | Biola University
Dr. Perry Phillips | Gordon College
Brett Meador | Athey Creek