Isaiah 5 - 8
The Vineyard of the LORD Destroyed
Isaiah 5:1 Let me sing for my beloved
my love song concerning his vineyard:
My beloved had a vineyard
on a very fertile hill.
2 He dug it and cleared it of stones,
and planted it with choice vines;
he built a watchtower in the midst of it,
and hewed out a wine vat in it;
and he looked for it to yield grapes,
but it yielded wild grapes.
3 And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem
and men of Judah,
judge between me and my vineyard.
4 What more was there to do for my vineyard,
that I have not done in it?
When I looked for it to yield grapes,
why did it yield wild grapes?
5 And now I will tell you
what I will do to my vineyard.
I will remove its hedge,
and it shall be devoured;
I will break down its wall,
and it shall be trampled down.
6 I will make it a waste;
it shall not be pruned or hoed,
and briers and thorns shall grow up;
I will also command the clouds
that they rain no rain upon it.
7 For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts
is the house of Israel,
and the men of Judah
are his pleasant planting;
and he looked for justice,
but behold, bloodshed;
but behold, an outcry!
Woe to the Wicked
8 Woe to those who join house to house,
who add field to field,
until there is no more room,
and you are made to dwell alone
in the midst of the land.
9 The LORD of hosts has sworn in my hearing:
“Surely many houses shall be desolate,
large and beautiful houses, without inhabitant.
10 For ten acres of vineyard shall yield but one bath,
and a homer of seed shall yield but an ephah.”
11 Woe to those who rise early in the morning,
that they may run after strong drink,
who tarry late into the evening
as wine inflames them!
12 They have lyre and harp,
tambourine and flute and wine at their feasts,
but they do not regard the deeds of the LORD,
or see the work of his hands.
13 Therefore my people go into exile
for lack of knowledge;
their honored men go hungry,
and their multitude is parched with thirst.
14 Therefore Sheol has enlarged its appetite
and opened its mouth beyond measure,
and the nobility of Jerusalem and her multitude will go down,
her revelers and he who exults in her.
15 Man is humbled, and each one is brought low,
and the eyes of the haughty are brought low.
16 But the LORD of hosts is exalted in justice,
and the Holy God shows himself holy in righteousness.
17 Then shall the lambs graze as in their pasture,
and nomads shall eat among the ruins of the rich.
18 Woe to those who draw iniquity with cords of falsehood,
who draw sin as with cart ropes,
19 who say: “Let him be quick,
let him speed his work
that we may see it;
let the counsel of the Holy One of Israel draw near,
and let it come, that we may know it!”
20 Woe to those who call evil good
and good evil,
who put darkness for light
and light for darkness,
who put bitter for sweet
and sweet for bitter!
21 Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes,
and shrewd in their own sight!
22 Woe to those who are heroes at drinking wine,
and valiant men in mixing strong drink,
23 who acquit the guilty for a bribe,
and deprive the innocent of his right!
24 Therefore, as the tongue of fire devours the stubble,
and as dry grass sinks down in the flame,
so their root will be as rottenness,
and their blossom go up like dust;
for they have rejected the law of the LORD of hosts,
and have despised the word of the Holy One of Israel.
25 Therefore the anger of the LORD was kindled against his people,
and he stretched out his hand against them and struck them,
and the mountains quaked;
and their corpses were as refuse
in the midst of the streets.
For all this his anger has not turned away,
and his hand is stretched out still.
26 He will raise a signal for nations far away,
and whistle for them from the ends of the earth;
and behold, quickly, speedily they come!
27 None is weary, none stumbles,
none slumbers or sleeps,
not a waistband is loose,
not a sandal strap broken;
28 their arrows are sharp,
all their bows bent,
their horses’ hoofs seem like flint,
and their wheels like the whirlwind.
29 Their roaring is like a lion,
like young lions they roar;
they growl and seize their prey;
they carry it off, and none can rescue.
30 They will growl over it on that day,
like the growling of the sea.
And if one looks to the land,
behold, darkness and distress;
and the light is darkened by its clouds.
Isaiah’s Vision of the LordIsaiah 6:1 In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one called to another and said:
“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory!”
—In Rabbinical Literature:6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7 And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”
According to the Rabbis Isaiah was a descendant of Judah and Tamar (Soṭah 10b). His father was a prophet and the brother of King Amaziah (Meg. 15a). While Isaiah, says the Midrash, was walking up and down in his study he heard God saying, "Whom shall I send ?" Then Isaiah said, "Here am I; send me!" Thereupon God said to him," My children are trouble-some and sensitive; if thou art ready to be insulted and even beaten by them, thou mayest accept My message; if not, thou wouldst better renounce it" (Lev. R. x.). Isaiah accepted the mission, and was the most forbearing, as well as the most ardent patriot, among the Prophets, always defending Israel and imploring forgiveness for its sins. He was therefore distinguished from all other prophets in that he received his communications directly from God and not through an intermediary (ib.). When Isaiah said, "I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips" (vi. 5) he was rebuked by God for speaking in such terms of His people (Cant. R. i. 6). Jewish Encyclopedia 8235-isaiah
Isaiah’s Commission from the Lord8 And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.” 9 And he said, “Go, and say to this people:
“ ‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand;
keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’
10 Make the heart of this people dull,
and their ears heavy,
and blind their eyes;
lest they see with their eyes,
and hear with their ears,
and understand with their hearts,
and turn and be healed.”
11 Then I said, “How long, O Lord?”
And he said:
“Until cities lie waste
and houses without people,
and the land is a desolate waste,
12 and the LORD removes people far away,
and the forsaken places are many in the midst of the land.
13 And though a tenth remain in it,
it will be burned again,
like a terebinth or an oak,
whose stump remains
when it is felled.”
The holy seed is its stump.
Isaiah Sent to King AhazIsaiah 7:1 In the days of Ahaz the son of Jotham, son of Uzziah, king of Judah, Rezin the king of Syria and Pekah the son of Remaliah the king of Israel came up to Jerusalem to wage war against it, but could not yet mount an attack against it. 2 When the house of David was told, “Syria is in league with Ephraim,” the heart of Ahaz and the heart of his people shook as the trees of the forest shake before the wind.
3 And the LORD said to Isaiah, “Go out to meet Ahaz, you and Shear-jashub your son, at the end of the conduit of the upper pool on the highway to the Washer’s Field. 4 And say to him, ‘Be careful, be quiet, do not fear, and do not let your heart be faint because of these two smoldering stumps of firebrands, at the fierce anger of Rezin and Syria and the son of Remaliah. 5 Because Syria, with Ephraim and the son of Remaliah, has devised evil against you, saying, 6 “Let us go up against Judah and terrify it, and let us conquer it for ourselves, and set up the son of Tabeel as king in the midst of it,” 7 thus says the Lord GOD:
“ ‘It shall not stand,
and it shall not come to pass.
8 For the head of Syria is Damascus,
and the head of Damascus is Rezin.
And within sixty-five years
Ephraim will be shattered from being a people.
9 And the head of Ephraim is Samaria,
and the head of Samaria is the son of Remaliah.
If you are not firm in faith,
you will not be firm at all.’ ”
The Sign of Immanuel10 Again the LORD spoke to Ahaz: 11 “Ask a sign of the LORD your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven.” 12 But Ahaz said, “I will not ask, and I will not put the LORD to the test.” 13 And he said, “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also? 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. 15 He shall eat curds and honey when he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good. 16 For before the boy knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land whose two kings you dread will be deserted. 17 The LORD will bring upon you and upon your people and upon your father’s house such days as have not come since the day that Ephraim departed from Judah—the king of Assyria!”
18 In that day the LORD will whistle for the fly that is at the end of the streams of Egypt, and for the bee that is in the land of Assyria. 19 And they will all come and settle in the steep ravines, and in the clefts of the rocks, and on all the thornbushes, and on all the pastures.
20 In that day the Lord will shave with a razor that is hired beyond the River—with the king of Assyria—the head and the hair of the feet, and it will sweep away the beard also. 21 In that day a man will keep alive a young cow and two sheep, 22 and because of the abundance of milk that they give, he will eat curds, for everyone who is left in the land will eat curds and honey.
23 In that day every place where there used to be a thousand vines, worth a thousand shekels of silver, will become briers and thorns. 24 With bow and arrows a man will come there, for all the land will be briers and thorns. 25 And as for all the hills that used to be hoed with a hoe, you will not come there for fear of briers and thorns, but they will become a place where cattle are let loose and where sheep tread.
The Coming Assyrian InvasionIsaiah 8:1 Then the LORD said to me, “Take a large tablet and write on it in common characters, ‘Belonging to Maher-shalal-hash-baz.’ 2 And I will get reliable witnesses, Uriah the priest and Zechariah the son of Jeberechiah, to attest for me.”
3 And I went to the prophetess, and she conceived and bore a son. Then the LORD said to me, “Call his name Maher-shalal-hash-baz; 4 for before the boy knows how to cry ‘My father’ or ‘My mother,’ the wealth of Damascus and the spoil of Samaria will be carried away before the king of Assyria.”
5 The LORD spoke to me again: 6 “Because this people has refused the waters of Shiloah that flow gently, and rejoice over Rezin and the son of Remaliah, 7 therefore, behold, the Lord is bringing up against them the waters of the River, mighty and many, the king of Assyria and all his glory. And it will rise over all its channels and go over all its banks, 8 and it will sweep on into Judah, it will overflow and pass on, reaching even to the neck, and its outspread wings will fill the breadth of your land, O Immanuel.”
9 Be broken, you peoples, and be shattered;
give ear, all you far countries;
strap on your armor and be shattered;
strap on your armor and be shattered.
10 Take counsel together, but it will come to nothing;
speak a word, but it will not stand,
for God is with us.
Fear God, Wait for the LORD11 For the LORD spoke thus to me with his strong hand upon me, and warned me not to walk in the way of this people, saying: 12 “Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread. 13 But the LORD of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread.
He that by his word masters the rage of the sea, can overrule the pride and power of men. Where is the fury of the oppressor? It cannot overleap the bounds he hath set it, nor march an inch beyond the point he hath prescribed it. Fear not the confederacies of man, but “sanctify the Lord of hosts; let him be your fear, and let him be your dread” (Isa. 8:13). To fear men is to dishonor the name of God, and regard him as a feeble Lord, and not as the Lord of hosts, who is mighty in strength, so that they that harden themselves against him shall not prosper. The Existence and Attributes of God14 And he will become a sanctuary and a stone of offense and a rock of stumbling to both houses of Israel, a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. 15 And many shall stumble on it. They shall fall and be broken; they shall be snared and taken.”
16 Bind up the testimony; seal the teaching among my disciples. 17 I will wait for the LORD, who is hiding his face from the house of Jacob, and I will hope in him. 18 Behold, I and the children whom the LORD has given me are signs and portents in Israel from the LORD of hosts, who dwells on Mount Zion. 19 And when they say to you, “Inquire of the mediums and the necromancers who chirp and mutter,” should not a people inquire of their God? Should they inquire of the dead on behalf of the living? 20 To the teaching and to the testimony! If they will not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn. 21 They will pass through the land, greatly distressed and hungry. And when they are hungry, they will be enraged and will speak contemptuously against their king and their God, and turn their faces upward. 22 And they will look to the earth, but behold, distress and darkness, the gloom of anguish. And they will be thrust into thick darkness.
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What I'm Reading
Embrace the Race God Gives You
By Jon Bloom 7/28/2017
You have a race to run. It’s a race you’ve been given, not one you’ve chosen.
It’s possible you wouldn’t have chosen your race at all, had the choice been yours. Or perhaps you wouldn’t have chosen this particular route. Or perhaps you wouldn’t have chosen your pace. Or perhaps you would have chosen different racing environments, teammates, or coaches. Or perhaps you would have chosen different capacities, strengths, and resources, ones you believe would help you run more effectively. Or perhaps you would have chosen a different distance.
But here you are: in this race, on this route, at this pace, on this terrain, in this climate, with these people, and your strengths, and your limitations, for this distance. Like it or not, this is your race.
And the question is this: Will you embrace your race or keep trying to escape it? What mindset will you choose? For though you may not have chosen your race, you do get to choose how you run it.
You Can’t Escape | Of course, escape is not a real option. However, fantasy provides a seductively compelling illusion of escape. And the world offers you an overwhelming number of fantastic virtual experiences to “relieve” you from the rigorous realities of your race.
Jon Bloom serves as author, board chair, and co-founder of Desiring God. He and his wife live in the Twin Cities with their five children.John Bloom Books | Go to Books Page
The Deity of Christ and the Church
By Robert Peterson 1/1/2011
There is no more important biblical truth for the life and health of the church than the deity of Christ. Although this truth exists in seed form in the Old Testament (Pss. 45:6–7; 110:1; Isa. 9:6; Dan. 7:13–14), it comes to full flower in the New Testament. I marshal five arguments for the deity of Christ:
First, Jesus is identified with God. Recent scholarship has taught us to argue for Christ’s deity based on the way that early Christians identified Jesus unambiguously with the one God of Israel (1 Cor. 8:5–6).
Second, Jesus receives devotion due to God alone. Amazingly, the New Testament not only continues to affirm Old Testament monotheism, but also affirms another truth: it is proper and necessary to offer religious devotion to Jesus. He is worshiped, honored in baptism and the Lord’s Supper, praised in doxologies, adored in hymns, and is the object of prayers (Matt. 28:19; John 5:22–23; 1 Cor. 11:20; Eph. 5:18–19; Heb. 13:20–21; Rev. 22:20).
Third, Jesus brings the age to come. David Wells captures this point: “Jesus was the one in whom the ‘age to come’ was realized, through whom it is redemptively present in the church, and by whom it will be made cosmically effective at its consummation” (The Person of Christ: A Biblical and Historical Analysis of the Incarnation (Foundations for faith), p. 172).
Fourth, Jesus saves us when we are spiritually united to Him. The Father planned salvation before creation, and the Son accomplished it in the first century. But we only experience that salvation when we are spiritually united to Christ by grace through faith. Only union with Him in His death, resurrection, ascension, session, and second coming brings salvation (Col. 3:1–4). This is a role played only by God Himself.
Fifth, Jesus performs the works of God. Christ performs many works that only God can perform: creation, providence, judgment, and salvation (Col. 1:16–20; Heb. 1).
It is difficult to overemphasize the significance of Christ’s deity for the church. The church’s lifeblood depends on who Christ is (the Godman) and what He did (died and arose, 1 Cor. 15:3–4).
Christianity stands if Christ’s deity is true. If Jesus is divine, then His claims are true “and there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). G.C. Berkouwer follows suit, when he argues that Christ’s deity is essential to Christianity:
The heart of the Christian religion pulsates in the confession that in Jesus Christ, in the incarnation of the Word, God truly came down to us… . The practice of the ancient church, to speak of Christ “as of God,” goes directly back to the New Testament itself where we hear adoring voices addressing Christ as truly God and not as quasi-God (quoted in The Person of Christ, pp. 156–57, 161–62)
Robert L. Reymond underscores the importance of the deity of Christ when he argues that the affirmation or denial of it affects every other point for Christology and for systematic theology in general (see his Jesus Divine Messiah: The New and Old Testament Witness, p. 323). He also points out that one’s estimation of Jesus has consequences beyond this life, as Jesus Himself says: “Unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins” (John 8:24). In fact, Jesus claims: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (14:6).
(Jn 8:22–24) 23 He said to them, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. 24 I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.” ESV
Wells laments the disastrous effects for those who deny the deity of Christ:
Their christs might be admired, but they cannot be worshiped. They might inspire religious devotion, but they cannot sustain or explain Christian faith. They tell us very much about their authors and very little about Jesus… . These christs are impotent, and their appeal is superficial. Their appeal is not that of the biblical Christ. (The Person of Christ, p. 172)
The true Christ of Scripture deserves more than our admiration. That is because He is the eternal Word become incarnate in Jesus of Nazareth. He is God and man in one person and deserves worship as the only mediator between God and human beings. Because He is God, “he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him” (Heb. 7:25). As Wells reminds us, the biblical Christ is “the One who was God with us, the means of forgiveness for our sin, and the agent of our reconciliation. Forgiveness and reconciliation are what we need centrally. We need to know there is someone there to forgive us, someone who can forgive and heal us, and that was why the Word was incarnate” (The Person of Christ, p. 172). Indeed, we need to know that God incarnate forgives and reconciles us. Because of His unique identity and because of the unique work He performed, the church stands in fulfillment of Jesus’ own prediction: “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18).
Robert A. Peterson (Ph.D., Drew University) is professor of systematic theology at Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri. He was formerly professor of New Testament and theology at Biblical Theological Seminary in Hatfield, Pennsylvania. He has written numerous articles, was a contributor to the second edition of the Evangelical Dictionary of Theology (Baker) and edits Covenant Seminary's journal, Presbyterion.Robert Peterson Books:
- 1 Why I Am Not an Arminian
- 2 Fallen: A Theology of Sin
- 3 Hell on Trial: The Case for Eternal Punishment
- 4 Salvation Applied by the Spirit: Union with Christ
- 5 The Deity of Christ (Redesign) (Theology in Community)
- 6 The Kingdom of God
- 7 Suffering and the Goodness of God
- 8 Salvation Accomplished by the Son: The Work of Christ
- 9 The Glory of God
- 10 Why We Belong: Evangelical Unity and Denominational Diversity
- 11 Adopted by God: From Wayward Sinners to Cherished Children
- 12 Our Secure Salvation: Preservation and Apostasy (Explorations in Biblical Theology)
- 13 Election and Free Will: God's Gracious Choice and Our Responsibility (Explorations in Biblical Theology)
- 14 Calvin's Doctrine of the Atonement
- 15 Getting to Know John's Gospel: A Fresh Look at Its Main Ideas
Os Guinness: The Extraordinary Times We Are Living In and the Need for Christian Courage
By Jason Daye 7/26/2017
Os Guinness is an author and social critic. Great-great-great grandson of Arthur Guinness, the Dublin brewer, he was born in China in World War Two where his parents were medical missionaries. A witness to the climax of the Chinese revolution in 1949, he was expelled with many other foreigners in 1951 and returned to Europe where he was educated in England. He completed his undergraduate degree at the University of London and his D.Phil in the social sciences from Oriel College, Oxford. Os is the author of several books, including Impossible People. Os lives with his wife in the Washington, D.C. area.
Key Questions: | What is the struggle for the soul of civilization you speak of in your new book, Impossible People?
How can western Christians move from simply being inspired by our brothers and sisters facing persecution in other parts of the world to living courageously like they do?
How do we operate in the power of the Holy Spirit on a daily basis?
Key Quotes: | “Now is not the time for cowards or fence-sitters.”
Do You Sleep Less Than Jesus?
By David Mathis 11/09/2017
The Word became flesh and slept among us.
God himself in full humanity — body, heart, mind, and will — closed his eyes and went to sleep. And not once or twice, but every day.
Of his thirty-plus years dwelling here bodily, God himself spent roughly one-third of that time asleep. He not only ate, drank, cried, and celebrated, like every other human, but he also became tired, “wearied as he was from his journey” (John 4:6 ), just as we become tired and weary. And it was no sin, fault, or failing in the God-man that he became tired. It was human.
Yet it’s one thing to sleep, and quite another to sleep through a “great storm.” Matthew, Mark, and Luke all tell the story of Jesus asleep in the boat. “A great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion” (Mark 4:37–38 ). Waves breaking into the boat. Not only is this a testimony to how tired he must have been, but also how trusting. What serenity of soul, what rest in his Father, that he slept in the storm.
We might even say, “No one ever slept like this man!”
God made us to spend a third of our lives like this. Unconscious. Inactive. Exposed. Dependent. It’s a nightly reminder of our frailty and limitations. We are creatures, not the Creator. Sleep is telling us something profound. And it does so every night.
Sleep invites an exercise of faith. When we lie down, close our eyes, and give ourselves over to sleep, we make ourselves vulnerable — like Saul before David, and Samson before Delilah. Jesus not only trusted his disciples, to fall asleep in their presence, but he also entrusted himself to his faithful Father, to care for him and meet every essential need. “In peace I will both lie down and sleep,” said God’s anointed, “for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety” (Psalm 4:8 ).
What does it say for the sanctity of our own sleep, that the God-man himself slept? Yes, God “will neither slumber nor sleep” (Psalm 121:4 ) — that is, until he becomes human. Then he will sanctify our sleep. And what does it say for the peace in Jesus’s own soul that he could sleep, even in the storm?
Perhaps the Bible’s signature statement on sleep comes from Solomon in Psalm 127:2:
It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.
God gives sleep as an expression of his love. As much as it may seem like a horrible inconvenience and waste of time to those toiling under the sway of a productivity idol — eight hours lost every day! — sleep is a divine gift.
Life has its ups and downs, no doubt. For everything there is a season — a day to rise early, a day to go to bed late — but God didn’t design us to burn the candle at both ends. He doesn’t mean for us to always be “on,” to always feel productive. But he does mean for us to recognize the glorious constraints of creatureliness, embrace the limits of our humanity, and own the humility of coming to the end of ourselves every day — laying down, closing our eyes, and leaving not just the whole world, but also our own worlds, to him.
Bedtime is rehearsal that he is sovereign and I am not. Every night is an opportunity to “be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10 ).
But the sanctity of sleep is not the only lesson we glean from Jesus. Don’t go away yet and miss what makes it Christian. Sleep is not only a divine gift to be received and appreciated, but also a good to be sacrificed, when necessary, in the cause of love. Jesus not only embraced the limits of his humanity and slept, but he was willing to deny himself sleep, at the right time, to gain something greater.
We have two clear instances of Jesus forgoing sleeping, denying himself this natural desire, when something more pressing was at hand. The first came in choosing his apostles:
He went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God. And when day came, he called his disciples and chose from them twelve, whom he named apostles. (Luke 6:12–13 )
A huge decision lay before him: Which twelve men would receive the lion’s share of the God-man’s investment of his earthly life? Who would “be with him” (Mark 3:14 ) and go out to represent him? Which of these “uneducated, common men” would one day astonish the rulers as “they recognized that they had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13 )? And what men would we still be reading two thousand years later as the inspired spokesmen of Christ himself in his new covenant? This was a significant decision, and faith in his Father led him, in this instance, not to sleep but to all-night prayer.
Second, then, came as his defining hour approached, late night in the garden of Gethsemane. Doubtless Jesus and his men were wiped. As much as he encouraged them to stay awake and prepare themselves in prayer, and as much as their spirits may have been willing, their flesh was weak (Matthew 26:41 ). But Jesus himself, knowing what lay before him, did not give himself to sleep, but steadied and readied his soul in prayer.
“My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done” (Matthew 26:42 ).
It echoes today in the lives of those who benefit from his person and work. Jesus not only sanctified our sleep, but also he sacrificed his sleep. When the time came, he was willing to deny himself God’s good gift in pursuit of something greater. Sleep wasn’t his God. He did not bow his knee to sleep but to his Father — which meant not only a normal pattern of sleeping, as an act of faith, but when necessary, denying himself sleep, as an act of faith, in dependence on God and in the service of love.
So also today, most evenings, he says to us, by his Spirit, “Come away . . . and rest a while” (Mark 6:31 ). But that’s not all he says. At times, and in seasons, he comes by his Spirit and says, in the service of love, “Sleep and take your rest later on” (Matthew 26:45 ). There are times to receive God’s gift and enjoy our sleep, and times to deny ourselves our natural desire in view of something more important, whether it’s a hungry newborn, sick child, or neighbor in need.
Walking by faith leads Christians to be both sleep-embracers by default and sleep-deniers when needed.
So our mini-theology of sleep from the life of Christ cuts both ways: sanctify your sleep per normal and sacrifice your sleep when love calls. In Jesus, God means for us to walk in faith that rests in him, relinquishes control, closes our eyes, and goes to bed. And he means for us to walk in faith that rises to meet others’ needs, when loves beckons, and forgoes his good gift of sleep.
Sleeping to the glory of God is not simply maximizing it or minimizing it. Walking by faith in a fallen world requires us to read the situation and follow the leading of the Spirit. Typically that means “turning in” on time, turning off the TV, putting away the smartphone, and saying, “Father, now I give myself to you in sleep. You are sovereign. I am not. You don’t need me to run the universe. Now I rest in your care and ask for your gift of sleep.” How much better might we sleep if we consciously rolled our burdens onto Jesus’s broad shoulders before hitting the pillow?
And walking by faith, at times, will mean trusting God, when we’d much rather be comfortably tucked into bed, to stay up late, or get up inconveniently, for the sake of someone else’s good. This is called love. Such rising by faith can turn an otherwise “ungodly hour” into an opportunity for godly love.
David Mathis (@davidcmathis) is executive editor for desiringGod.org, pastor at Cities Church in Minneapolis/Saint Paul, and adjunct professor for Bethlehem College and Seminary. He is a husband, father of four, and author of Habits of Grace: Enjoying Jesus through the Spiritual Disciplines.
The Importance Of The Resurrection
By Robert Jeffress 2023
Even Jesus’s enemies understood that the resurrection was at the core of His teaching. That explains why they went to Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor, after Jesus’s burial (Matt. 27:62–66).
The Jewish leaders asked Pilate to secure Jesus’s tomb so His disciples wouldn’t steal His body and claim He had risen from the dead as He predicted. They knew if that word got out, the Christian movement would spread like wildfire. So the religious leaders did everything they could to make sure Jesus’s body remained in the tomb.
Pilate shared their concern. He didn’t want followers of some new religion causing a revolt in Rome. So he appointed a unit of sixteen highly trained soldiers to guard the tomb. That Sunday morning, they discovered just how fruitless their efforts had been.
Because Jesus did indeed rise from the dead, eternal life is available to everyone who trusts in Him.
In Matthew 16:21, “Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things . . . and be killed, and be raised up on the third day” because that was God’s will for Him. Jesus’s death was not accidental. It wasn’t the result of bad people prematurely extinguishing His life. Jesus’s death was part of God’s plan to bring salvation to the world, and Jesus knew this. Furthermore, Jesus said His resurrection from the dead would be proof to everyone that He truly was the Son of God.
Finally, alone among all major religious leaders, Jesus claimed He would return to judge the world (Matt. 25:31–46). Only Jesus Christ said our eternal destiny is dependent on our acceptance or rejection of Him.
Second, Jesus’s teaching includes exclusivity. The teaching of Jesus includes the exclusivity of the Christian faith. If you accept that Jesus is Lord, then it stands to reason you must trust everything He said. If Jesus Christ is really God, then everything He said is true.
Jesus taught there are only two eternal destinations for people. In verse 46, Jesus said the unrighteous “will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” He did not say everyone is going to the same place when they die.
Third, Jesus offers the only way to heaven. That means even the sincerest followers of other religions must trust in Christ for salvation. It’s no coincidence that Jesus gave His most detailed explanation of how to get to heaven not to a hardened atheist but to a devout Jew. In John 3, Jesus talked with a Jewish leader named Nicodemus, who had spent his life trying to keep the Mosaic law. If anyone should have gone to heaven on the basis of good works, it was Nicodemus. But Jesus told this respected Jewish leader that his devotion to the law was not enough. Nicodemus had to be born again. In John 3:14–16, Jesus explained how to be born again. Whoever believes in Jesus will have eternal life. The Greek word translated as “believes” means “to trust in, to believe in, to cling to, to put your full hope and faith in.”
Fourth, Jesus offers the only genuine solution to humanity’s greatest dilemma. Almost every religion contains a kernel of truth. And one common denominator in almost all the world’s religions is that humanity’s basic problem is internal.
However, other religions claim that the solution for our dilemma begins with us. For example, Eastern religions such as Buddhism and Hinduism say the way we overcome our basic selfishness is through meditation, by which we empty ourselves of our desire for pleasure and status. Other religions such as Islam and Judaism say the way to solve our dilemma is by trying to earn God’s favor through keeping a set of laws and regulations.
Christianity’s diagnosis of the human condition is much more severe. Christianity says we’re not only flawed but also spiritually “dead in [our] trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1). Paul said in Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
Furthermore, unlike other religions, Christianity doesn’t allow selective obedience to God’s law. Every other religion says do the best you can — but not Christianity. James 2:10 says, “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.” According to Romans 6:23, the penalty for falling short of God’s standard is eternal death. Christianity is unique because it raises the performance requirements. Christianity doesn’t say it’s good enough to be good enough. Christianity says God’s standard is absolute perfection. The problem is, no one can meet God’s standard.
Since none of us is capable of meeting that standard, God instituted a rescue plan for us. He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, who lived a perfect life and willingly died on a cross. As Jesus hung on that cross, God poured out all the punishment we deserve for our sins on His Son. Jesus experienced hell so that we can experience heaven. God tells us, If you will quit trying to earn My forgiveness and simply put your faith and trust in Jesus, I’ll place all your sins on Him and let Him pay for them. And I’ll wrap Jesus’s absolute righteousness around you so that when I look at you from now on, I’ll no longer see your sin; instead, I’ll see the perfection of My Son. Paul explained it this way in 2 Corinthians 5:21: “[God] made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
God offers to forgive our every failure — not on the basis of what we do for Him but on the basis of what Christ has done for us. God doesn’t require that we earn His forgiveness. In fact, He doesn’t even allow us to try. In Ephesians 2:8–9, Paul said, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
Respond to Objections
Where does that leave believers? We have an urgent message to proclaim — a matter of eternal life and death. Yet the truth we have to share is so out of step with our culture that we risk offending others with it. How do we respond to these objections to salvation? How do we help people understand that the gospel — Jesus is the only way to God and the only means of salvation — is the greatest news the world has ever received? As I’ve responded to these objections to the exclusivity of Jesus Christ over the years, I’ve found four responses that tend to help defuse tension and open the door to heartfelt conversation.
First, “Your argument is with the Bible, not with me.” Jesus said in John 14:6, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” In Acts 4:12, Peter said, “There is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” Paul said in Romans 10:9, “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”
Jesus, Paul, and Peter were all Jews. Yet they all made it clear that no one can be saved by following Jewish rules and regulations. Only through Jesus Christ can someone be saved. As we share the gospel, it’s important to point out that we’re not concocting our own way to be saved. We’re simply repeating what God has already said — and we do so not to hurt people but to help people.
Second, “God wants to save as many, not as few, people as possible.” Consider the words of the three most prominent Jews in the New Testament. In 1 Timothy 2:4, Paul said, “[God] desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” In 2 Peter 3:9, Peter said, “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” In Luke 19:10, Jesus said, “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”
Third, “The fact that God has provided one way of salvation demonstrates His love, not His hatred.” Suppose you’re on a plane that crash-lands. The cabin fills with smoke and the interior lights flicker out. A flight attendant stands at the front of the plane, waving her emergency flashlight, yelling, “This way out!” Would you accuse her of being intolerant because she insisted there’s only one way out of the plane? If someone grabbed your hand in the darkness and said, “Follow me, I’ll help you out,” would you say that person was being hateful or narrow-minded? We can’t force people to utilize the way of escape God has provided. But that shouldn’t keep us from courageously waving the light of God’s truth in this sinful, dark world.
Fourth, “Consider the cost.” One truth that must not get lost in this discussion is that there was a person in Scripture who took this matter of exclusivity directly to God. One person, in a moment of unimaginable duress, had the nerve to question God about whether the sacrifice of Jesus Christ was truly the only means of salvation.
That person was Jesus Christ.
On the night of His arrest, as the enormity of what He was about to do settled on Him, Jesus issued an anguished plea: “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me” (Matt. 26:39). In other words, He was saying, “Father, if there is any other way for this sinful human race to be saved and reconciled to You — one that doesn’t involve My physical torture, emotional humiliation, and spiritual desolation — please let it happen.”
But Jesus ended His plea with these words: “Yet not as I will, but as You will” (v. 39). Jesus came to earth for one purpose: to do His Father’s will (John 5:19). So just before He became the only way to God, He needed to know He was indeed the only way to God.
Three times Jesus prayed. And then He received His Father’s answer. Reassured that He was indeed the only way, Jesus gathered His friends and waited for His enemies with a calm confidence and a reenergized sense of purpose.
Jesus asked if there was another way, and God said no. The salvation of the human race would require unimaginable suffering and sacrifice for both of them. That was the cost of sin.
Therein lies the heart of exclusivity. Jesus came to earth, lived a sinless life, allowed Himself to be crucified, and rose from the dead because no one else could. He sacrificed everything for us because there was no plan B. If all roads lead to God — indeed, if any other road leads to God — that means the sacrifice Jesus believed was necessary really wasn’t. If there is another way to God, then God lied to His Son — and this supreme act of love becomes a monstrous deception and needless bloodletting.
When we consider the cost of salvation, we understand why there is no other way.
A Final Prayer
All of us have sinned against God. The gospel is clear that we cannot save ourselves. No matter how hard we try, we cannot be good enough to earn heaven. Instead, we have to admit our sin and trust in Jesus alone to save us. When Jesus Christ died on the cross, He willingly took the punishment you and I deserve for our sins.
The biggest decision you will ever make is whether you want to pay for your own sins or whether you will accept God’s payment for your sins through Jesus Christ. If you decide you want to pay for your own sins by being a good person, you will never be able to pay your sin debt. If you attempt to get into heaven based only on your good works, you will end up being condemned to an eternity in hell.
The only other option is to accept Christ’s payment for your sin. You must believe that when Jesus said on the cross, “It is finished!” (John 19:30) — literally, paid in full — He paid your debt for you, and you must accept that payment for your sins.
If you would like to become a Christian and know for sure that one day you will be welcomed into heaven, I invite you to pray this prayer, knowing that God is listening:
Thank You for loving me. I realize I have failed You in so many ways. And I am truly sorry for the sin in my life. I believe that You love me so much that You sent Your Son, Jesus, to die on the cross for me and take the punishment that I deserve for my sins. And right now, I am trusting in what Jesus did for me — not in my good works — to save me from my sins. Thank You for forgiving me. Help me to spend the rest of my life serving You. In Jesus’s name, amen.
Judges 12; Acts 16; Jeremiah 25; Mark 11
By Don Carson 7/29/2018
Three Observations on these steps in the ministry of Paul and Silas (Acts 16):
(1) To understand Paul’s “Macedonian call” (Acts 16:6-10), one must follow his movements on a map. After traveling through the central part of what is now Turkey, the Spirit forbids Paul and Silas from going into Asia (Acts 16:6), i.e., Asia Minor, the Western part of modern Turkey. So they travel north. Now they try to enter Bithynia (Acts 16:7). Had they been enabled to do so, they would have been on the major east/west road that joined the Roman Empire with India — and heading east. But the “Spirit of Jesus” forbids them from taking that step (Acts 16:7), and so they go in the only direction still open to them along the roads of the day: they head toward the port city of Troas. From there, there is only one obvious place to go: across the water to Europe.
During the night Paul has a vision of a man in Macedonia, the nearest landfall of Europe, begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us” (Acts 16:9). This confirms Paul and Silas in their movements; it does not redirect them. The result is ministry on the continent of Europe, and ultimately a path to Rome.
(2) Paul’s first convert in Europe was a woman, an intercontinental business traveler from Thyatira. Note the description of her conversion, and then the description of the Philippian jailer’s: “The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message” (Acts 16:14); “The jailer….had come to believe in God — he and his whole family” (Acts 16:34). Let’s use both locutions today.
(3) Worth pondering are the occasions when Paul stands on his Roman citizenship, and when he does not. Sometimes he is beaten without a word of protest. In Philippi, Paul and Silas are “severely flogged” (Acts 16:23-24), apparently without protesting. Roman citizens were exempt from flogging until they had been found guilty of the crime for which they were charged. Yet when the jailer is told to release the prisoners, Paul protests that he and Silas, both citizens, have been flogged without a trial, and insists that the city’s leaders come and escort them out of jail as a kind of public apology (Acts 16:37-39). Why not simply suffer in silence, not least since that is what they sometimes do?
It is difficult to prove, but many have argued, believably, that Paul stands on his rights when by doing so he thinks he can establish legal precedents that may help other Christians. Every case on the books where Christians have been shown not to be guilty of public disorder or a threat to the Roman Empire can only be a useful legal precedent. If this is right, it is a mark of strategic thinking — for the sake of others.
Don Carson is research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, and co-founder (with Tim Keller) of The Gospel Coalition. He has authored numerous books, and recently edited The Enduring Authority of the Christian Scriptures (Eerdmans, 2016).Don Carson Books | Go to Books Page
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 79How Long, O LORD?
79 A Psalm Of Asaph.
1 O God, the nations have come into your inheritance;
they have defiled your holy temple;
they have laid Jerusalem in ruins.
2 They have given the bodies of your servants
to the birds of the heavens for food,
the flesh of your faithful to the beasts of the earth.
3 They have poured out their blood like water
all around Jerusalem,
and there was no one to bury them.
4 We have become a taunt to our neighbors,
mocked and derided by those around us.
5 How long, O LORD? Will you be angry forever?
Will your jealousy burn like fire?
6 Pour out your anger on the nations
that do not know you,
and on the kingdoms
that do not call upon your name!
7 For they have devoured Jacob
and laid waste his habitation.
By John Walvoord
Idolatry Revealed in the Temple
Ezekiel 8:1–18. The Spirit took Ezekiel to the north gate of the temple (vv. 1–4 ). Ezekiel was then brought to the entrance of the court and told to look through a hole in the wall. He “saw portrayed all over the walls all kinds of crawling things and detestable animals and all the idols of the house of Israel. In front of them stood seventy elders of the house of Israel, and Jaazaniah son of Shaphan was standing among them. Each had a censer in his hand, and a fragrant cloud of incense was rising” (vv. 10–11 ).
Ezekiel was then at the entrance of the north gate of the temple where he saw women mourning for Tammuz, a Sumerian god related to vegetation. Worshippers of this idol believed that when drought came in the summer, Tammuz would die but in the spring would come out and bring rain (vv. 14–15 ).
When Ezekiel was brought into the inner court of the temple, he witnessed twenty-five men with their backs toward the temple, bowing toward the sun (v. 16 ). As a result of their desecration of the temple and turning to heathen gods, God would bring judgment on them and He would not show pity (vv. 17–18 ). This was fulfilled in the Babylonian captivity ( 2 Chron. 36:11–15 ).
God Commands Idolaters to Be Killed
Ezekiel 9:1–11. God instructed six guards to go about the city and mark all “who grieve and lament over all the detestable things that are done in it” (vv. 1–4 ).
God then told others to kill everyone who did not have the mark, whether old or young, but not to touch those who had the mark, indicating that they detested idol worship (vv. 5–7 ). As my bride says, God always has a remnant. Revelation 7:3, Revelation 14:1, Satan always tries to copy the Lord. His followers also have a mark, the mark of the Beast.
When Ezekiel questioned whether the Lord was going to pour out His wrath on Jerusalem, God replied that the time of judgment had come because of her wickedness and that He “will not look on them with pity or spare them, but I will bring down on their own heads what they have done” (vv. 8–11 ). This was fulfilled in the Babylonian captivity ( 2 Chron. 36:11–15 ).
The Glory Departs from the Defiled Temple
Ezekiel 10:1–22. In a vision that is similar but not identical to what Ezekiel saw earlier ( 1:1–28 ), Ezekiel saw another vision of the glory of God. God was in a chariot throne that had wheels and contained burning coals ( 10:1–3 ). As God entered the temple, the temple was filled with His glory (vv. 4–5 ).
God then instructed a man clothed in linen, probably an angel, to take fire from the coals in the chariot and scatter them over the city of Jerusalem (vv. 2, 6–7 ).
The four wheels were described as sparkling like chrysolite (v. 9 ). The cherubim described had four faces similar to the four faces mentioned in 1:4–10, but somewhat different because one of the faces was that of a cherub instead of an ox ( 10:14 ).
Ezekiel identified the living creatures as those he saw by the Kebar River (v. 15, 20; 1:1 ). The main point of this revelation was that “the glory of the LORD departed from over the threshold of the temple and stopped above the cherubim” ( 10:18 ). Another picture of the cherubim was given in verses 20–22. This was fulfilled in the Babylonian captivity ( 2 Chron. 36:11–15 ).
Coming Judgment on the Wicked Leaders of Israel
Ezekiel 11:1–15. Ezekiel was given another vision of twenty-five leaders of Israel who were plotting evil and were wicked (vv. 1–4 ). Those who had been already killed in the city were only the beginning as God was going to drive them out and inflict punishment on them in keeping with their sins (vv. 5–12 ). The death of Pelatiah, one of the leaders, was a foreshadowing of death that would destroy the others (v. 13 ). In contrast to the destruction of the leaders of Israel was the remnant of Israel, the fellow captives of Ezekiel (vv. 13–15 ). God reassured Ezekiel that ultimately the land would be given for the possession of Israel (v. 15 ). This was fulfilled in the Babylonian captivity, and the restoration of the land will be fulfilled in the millennial kingdom.
Israel to Be Restored to Their Land
Ezekiel 11:16–25. Just as God had scattered them among the heathens, so God would ultimately bring the Israelites back to their land (vv. 16–17 ). This promise, repeated so often, must be taken in the same literal sense as the destruction that followed, which fell on her because of her sins. Such restoration was partially fulfilled in the return from the Babylonian and Assyrian captivities but ultimately will be fulfilled by the complete regathering of Israel at the time of the second coming of Christ.
When Israel returns, there will be a new spirit among her that will cause her to remove the idols. God promised to “put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh” (v. 19 ). At that time God declared, “Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. They will be my people, and I will be their God” (v. 20 ). Those who have been wicked and departed from God will bring judgment on their own heads. In closing this episode of Ezekiel’s image, he saw the glory going from within the city and stopping in the mountain to the east of Jerusalem (v. 23 ). This will be fulfilled in the millennium ( Jer. 23:3–8 ).
The Captivity Symbolized
Ezekiel 12:1–28. God gave Ezekiel instructions to act out going into exile (vv. 1–6 ). In obedience to what God commanded, Ezekiel packed his things, as if going into exile, dug a hole through the wall, and at dusk carried out his things on his shoulders while the people watched (v. 7 ).
God instructed him that if they asked what he was doing, he should tell them that it symbolized the whole house of Israel going into exile (vv. 8–11 ). God described “the prince among them” (v. 12 ) doing the same thing as Ezekiel.
Zedekiah’s departure from Jerusalem, however, would only result in his being caught and brought to Babylon (vv. 12–13 ). The prediction that while he was going to Babylon he would not see it was fulfilled during the conquest of Nebuchadnezzar ( Jer. 52:10–11 ). Because Zedekiah was blinded, he was unable to see Babylon even though he was taken to it.
The dispersion of Israel among the nations of the world was predicted ( Ezek. 12:15–16 ). This prediction was not completed by the Babylonian or Assyrian captivities but was fulfilled in the dispersion of Israel after the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70.
Ezekiel was instructed to eat and drink and to “shudder in fear” (v. 18 ). By this means, symbolically, he was to represent what would happen in Jerusalem, as in their despair they saw the land stripped of everything and their cities destroyed (vv. 17–20 ). God promised to fulfill without delay the visions and revelations of their destruction (vv. 25–28 ). This was fulfilled in the Babylonian captivity ( 2 Chron. 36:11–15 ).
Condemnation of False Prophets
Ezekiel 13:1–23. Having delivered two messages that judgment was near ( 12:21–25; 26–28 ), God gave Ezekiel the third message of judgment to come, which concerned the false prophets who had encouraged Israel to believe that she would not go into captivity ( 13:1–3 ). God declared, “Their visions are false and their divinations a lie” (v. 6 ). She would be destroyed and would not be able to return to the land of Israel (v. 9 ).
God compared Israel’s false prophets to “a flimsy wall” covered “with whitewash” (v. 10 ). God predicted that rain, violent winds, and hailstones would destroy the wall (vv. 10–13 ). God declared, “I will tear down the wall you have covered with whitewash and will level it to the ground so that its foundations will be laid bare. When it falls, you will be destroyed in it; and you will know that I am the LORD” (v. 14 ). God also declared judgment on “the women who sew magic charms on all their wrists and make veils of various lengths for their heads in order to ensnare people” (v. 18 ). God declared that He would judge them for their wicked behavior (vv. 19–22 ). These false prophets and the women “will no longer see false visions or practice divination” (v. 23 ). This was fulfilled in the Babylonian captivity ( 2 Chron. 36:11–15 ).
The Continual Burnt Offering (Luke 19:10)
By H.A. Ironside - 1941
July 29Luke 19:10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” ESV
It is an interesting and challenging fact that we nowhere find in the Gospels, nor in all the New Testament for that matter, certain words which are widely used today, and often as though they really provide the key to the ministry of the Lord Jesus. Such terms as “the social order,” “social service,” “the social gospel” are conspicuous by their absence. Our Lord did not attempt to overturn the social order of His day by some new system of ethical instruction. He did not take into consideration the mass as such. He dealt with the individual. And He showed that personal sin was the root of all the trouble in the world. But He did not merely attempt the reformation of the sinner. He came not to reform, but to save. He did not come to help the race to better its condition. He came to bring in an entirely new creation through the regeneration of individual sinners.
This program adhered to necessarily makes for improved social conditions. If individuals are saved, they will affect in a marked way the environment in which they live. Consequently, the social order has been wonderfully improved through the coming of Christ and the proclamation of His gospel. But the important thing is to put first things first; preach the gospel to the individual, and when he is saved set him to work seeking the salvation of his neighbors. It was in this way that the Christianity of the first three centuries overturned the paganism of the Roman Empire. To reverse this order is fatal.
Not what these hands have done
Can save my guilty soul;
Not what this toiling flesh has borne
Can make my spirit whole.
No other work save Thine—
Nought save Thy blood will do:
No strength, save that which is divine,
Can bear me safely through.
--- Herbert G. Tovey
The Continual Burnt Offering: Daily Meditations on the Word of God
The Institutes of the Christian Religion
Translated by Henry Beveridge
30. Herein is the goodness, power, and providence of God wondrously
displayed. At one time he raises up manifest avengers from among his
own servants, and gives them his command to punish accursed tyranny,
and deliver his people from calamity when they are unjustly oppressed;
at another time he employs, for this purpose, the fury of men who have
other thoughts and other aims. Thus he rescued his people Israel from
the tyranny of Pharaoh by Moses; from the violence of Chusa, king of
Syria, by Othniel; and from other bondage by other kings or judges.
Thus he tamed the pride of Tyre by the Egyptians; the insolence of the
Egyptians by the Assyrians; the ferocity of the Assyrians by the
Chaldeans; the confidence of Babylon by the Medes and Persians,--Cyrus
having previously subdued the Medes, while the ingratitude of the kings
of Judah and Israel, and their impious contumacy after all his
kindness, he subdued and punished,--at one time by the Assyrians, at
another by the Babylonians. All these things, however, were not done in
the same way. The former class of deliverers being brought forward by
the lawful call of God to perform such deeds, when they took up arms
against kings, did not at all violate that majesty with which kings are
invested by divine appointment, but armed from heaven, they, by a
greater power, curbed a less, just as kings may lawfully punish their
own satraps. The latter class, though they were directed by the hand of
God, as seemed to him good, and did his work without knowing it, had
nought but evil in their thoughts.
31. But whatever may be thought of the acts of the men themselves,  the Lord by their means equally executed his own work, when he broke the bloody sceptres of insolent kings, and overthrew their intolerable dominations. Let princes hear and be afraid; but let us at the same time guard most carefully against spurning or violating the venerable and majestic authority of rulers, an authority which God has sanctioned by the surest edicts, although those invested with it should be most unworthy of it, and, as far as in them lies, pollute it by their iniquity. Although the Lord takes vengeance on unbridled domination, let us not therefore suppose that that vengeance is committed to us, to whom no command has been given but to obey and suffer. I speak only of private men. For when popular magistrates have been appointed to curb the tyranny of kings (as the Ephori, who were opposed to kings among the Spartans, or Tribunes of the people to consuls among the Romans, or Demarchs to the senate among the Athenians; and perhaps there is something similar to this in the power exercised in each kingdom by the three orders, when they hold their primary diets). So far am I from forbidding these officially to check the undue license of kings, that if they connive at kings when they tyrannise and insult over the humbler of the people, I affirm that their dissimulation is not free from nefarious perfidy, because they fradulently betray the liberty of the people, while knowing that, by the ordinance of God, they are its appointed guardians.
32. But in that obedience which we hold to be due to the commands of rulers, we must always make the exception, nay, must be particularly careful that it is not incompatible with obedience to Him to whose will the wishes of all kings should be subject, to whose decrees their commands must yield, to whose majesty their sceptres must bow. And, indeed, how preposterous were it, in pleasing men, to incur the offence of Him for whose sake you obey men! The Lord, therefore, is King of kings. When he opens his sacred mouth, he alone is to be heard, instead of all and above all. We are subject to the men who rule over us, but subject only in the Lord. If they command anything against Him let us not pay the least regard to it, nor be moved by all the dignity which they possess as magistrates--a dignity to which no injury is done when it is subordinated to the special and truly supreme power of God. On this ground Daniel denies that he had sinned in any respect against the king when he refused to obey his impious decree (Dan. 6:22), because the king had exceeded his limits, and not only been injurious to men, but, by raising his horn against God, had virtually abrogated his own power. On the other hand, the Israelites are condemned for having too readily obeyed the impious edict of the king. For, when Jeroboam made the golden calf, they forsook the temple of God, and, in submissiveness to him, revolted to new superstitions (1 Kings 12:28). With the same facility posterity had bowed before the decrees of their kings. For this they are severely upbraided by the Prophet (Hosea 5:11). So far is the praise of modesty from being due to that pretence by which flattering courtiers cloak themselves, and deceive the simple, when they deny the lawfulness of declining anything imposed by their kings, as if the Lord had resigned his own rights to mortals by appointing them to rule over their fellows, or as if earthly power were diminished when it is subjected to its author, before whom even the principalities of heaven tremble as suppliants. I know the imminent peril to which subjects expose themselves by this firmness, kings being most indignant when they are contemned. As Solomon says, "The wrath of a king is as messengers of death" (Prov. 16:14). But since Peter, one of heaven's heralds, has published the edict, "We ought to obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29), let us console ourselves with the thought, that we are rendering the obedience which the Lord requires, when we endure anything rather than turn aside from piety. And that our courage may not fail, Paul stimulates us by the additional consideration (1 Cor. 7:23), that we were redeemed by Christ at the great price which our redemption cost him, in order that we might not yield a slavish obedience to the depraved wishes of men, far less do homage to their impiety.
END OF THE INSTITUTES.
Christian Classics Ethereal Library / Public Domain
Institutes of the Christian Religion
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
6/1/2015 Gospel Religion
I have heard people say that the Bible is just a list of do’s and don’ts. People who say that have not read the Bible. In order to combat this sort of thinking, some Christians will quickly respond by arguing that the Bible is not a list of do’s and don’ts at all. But when they do that, they throw out the baby with the bath water. Those who have read the Bible will know that it is not just a list of do’s and don’ts, nor simply a how-to manual, nor a mere guide for moral living. Nevertheless, the Bible does in fact tell us what to do and what not to do. It tells us how to live moral lives that please God, and it provides us with God’s rules for all of life. The Bible is not just a list of do’s and don’ts, it’s far more than that—it is God’s grand story of His reign and redemption. Nevertheless, it does indeed contain God’s lists of do’s and don’ts that we might know how to love, obey, glorify, and enjoy God.
Christianity is not a religion of moralism, it is a gospel religion of grace. It is a religion established on a relationship. It’s not either/or, it’s both—a relationship and a religion. They are not mutually exclusive, and we do well not to pit one against the other. Our gospel relationship with Jesus Christ, by grace alone through faith alone, is the foundation for our all-of-life-encompassing gospel religion. Our relationship with Christ naturally leads to pure and undefiled religion (James 1:26-27). Religion is a helpful word we use to describe our Christian faith, which encompasses every aspect of our Christian lives, rooted in and flowing out of our spiritually regenerated new hearts and minds, and founded on the relationship that God has established with us by uniting us to Christ. In the fourth century, Augustine advocated using the Latin word religio by highlighting its etymology religare, which means to join or bind together as in a covenant bond between man and God. The word religion, rightly understood, joins together everything we believe as we live it out in all of life. The Dutch Reformed theologian Herman Bavinck writes: “Religion must not just be something in one’s life, but everything. Jesus demands that we love God with all our heart, all our soul, and all our strength.”
Our religion is established on Jesus Christ, who did not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it (Matt. 5:17). Christ fulfilled all the righteous demands of the law in His life so that His death would be a perfect atonement for our sins. Indeed, we are justified by works—His works, not ours. Christ perfectly kept His Father’s list of do’s and don’ts for us. And He did so not so that we might ignore God’s commands, but so that we might no longer be slaves of sin but slaves of righteousness. Christ frees us by faith that we might bear fruit. To be sure, we are saved by faith, not fruit, but we won’t be saved by fruitless faith. God’s grace enables us and His Spirit sustains us, helping us in our weakness to pursue holiness as we rest in the holiness of Jesus Christ. For, as Martin Luther said, “Faith cannot help doing good works constantly. It doesn’t stop to ask if good works ought to be done, but before anyone asks, it already has done them and continues to do them without ceasing.”
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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
Alexis de Tocqueville was born this day, July 29, 1805. He was a French social philosopher who traveled the United States in 1831. His work, Democracy in America, has been described as “the most comprehensive … analysis … between character and society in America that has ever been written.” In it, de Tocqueville wrote: “There is no country in the whole world where the Christian religion retains a greater influence over the souls of men than in America, and there can be no greater proof of its utility … than that its influence is powerfully felt over the most enlightened and free nation of the earth.”
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
I am not moved by what I see or hear;
I am moved by what I believe.
--- Smith Wigglesworth
An implicit confession
is almost as bad as an implicit faith;
wicked men commonly confess their sins by wholesale,
We are all sinners;
but the true penitent confesses his sins by retail.
--- Thomas Brooks
Men must be governed by God or they will be ruled by tyrants.
--- William Penn
He that is down needs fear no fall,
He that is low no pride;
He that is humble ever shall
Have God to be his guide.
I am content with what I have,
Little be it or much;
And, Lord, contentment still I crave
Because Thou savest such.
Fulness to such a burden is
That go in pilgrimage;
Here little and hereafter bliss
Is best from all to age.
--- John Bunyan ... from here, there and everywhere
Thanks to Meir Yona
5. Besides this murder at Scythopolis, the other cities rose up against the Jews that were among them; those of Askelon slew two thousand five hundred, and those of Ptolemais two thousand, and put not a few into bonds; those of Tyre also put a great number to death, but kept a greater number in prison; moreover, those of Hippos, and those of Gadara, did the like while they put to death the boldest of the Jews, but kept those of whom they were afraid in custody; as did the rest of the cities of Syria, according as they every one either hated them or were afraid of them; only the Antiochtans the Sidontans, and Apamians spared those that dwelt with them, and would not endure either to kill any of the Jews, or to put them in bonds. And perhaps they spared them, because their own number was so great that they despised their attempts. But I think the greatest part of this favor was owing to their commiseration of those whom they saw to make no innovations. As for the Gerasans, they did no harm to those that abode with them; and for those who had a mind to go away, they conducted them as far as their borders reached.
6. There was also a plot laid against the Jews in Agrippa's kingdom; for he was himself gone to Cestius Gallus, to Antioch, but had left one of his companions, whose name was Noarus, to take care of the public affairs; which Noarus was of kin to king Sohemus. 26 Now there came certain men seventy in number, out of Batanea, who were the most considerable for their families and prudence of the rest of the people; these desired to have an army put into their hands, that if any tumult should happen, they might have about them a guard sufficient to restrain such as might rise up against them. This Noarus sent out some of the king's armed men by night, and slew all those [seventy] men; which bold action he ventured upon without the consent of Agrippa, and was such a lover of money, that he chose to be so wicked to his own countrymen, though he brought ruin on the kingdom thereby; and thus cruelly did he treat that nation, and this contrary to the laws also, until Agrippa was informed of it, who did not indeed dare to put him to death, out of regard to Sohemus; but still he put an end to his procuratorship immediately. But as to the seditious, they took the citadel which was called Cypros, and was above Jericho, and cut the throats of the garrison, and utterly demolished the fortifications. This was about the same time that the multitude of the Jews that were at Machaerus persuaded the Romans who were in garrison to leave the place, and deliver it up to them. These Romans being in great fear, lest the place should be taken by force, made an agreement with them to depart upon certain conditions; and when they had obtained the security they desired, they delivered up the citadel, into which the people of Machaerus put a garrison for their own security, and held it in their own power.
7. But for Alexandria, the sedition of the people of the place against the Jews was perpetual, and this from that very time when Alexander [the Great], upon finding the readiness of the Jews in assisting him against the Egyptians, and as a reward for such their assistance, gave them equal privileges in this city with the Grecians themselves; which honorary reward Continued among them under his successors, who also set apart for them a particular place, that they might live without being polluted [by the Gentiles], and were thereby not so much intermixed with foreigners as before; they also gave them this further privilege, that they should be called Macedonians. Nay, when the Romans got possession of Egypt, neither the first Caesar, nor any one that came after him, thought of diminishing the honors which Alexander had bestowed on the Jews. But still conflicts perpetually arose with the Grecians; and although the governors did every day punish many of them, yet did the sedition grow worse; but at this time especially, when there were tumults in other places also, the disorders among them were put into a greater flame; for when the Alexandrians had once a public assembly, to deliberate about an embassage they were sending to Nero, a great number of Jews came flocking to the theater; but when their adversaries saw them, they immediately cried out, and called them their enemies, and said they came as spies upon them; upon which they rushed out, and laid violent hands upon them; and as for the rest, they were slain as they ran away; but there were three men whom they caught, and hauled them along, in order to have them burnt alive; but all the Jews came in a body to defend them, who at first threw stones at the Grecians, but after that they took lamps, and rushed with violence into the theater, and threatened that they would burn the people to a man; and this they had soon done, unless Tiberius Alexander, the governor of the city, had restrained their passions. However, this man did not begin to teach them wisdom by arms, but sent among them privately some of the principal men, and thereby entreated them to be quiet, and not provoke the Roman army against them; but the seditious made a jest of the entreaties of Tiberius, and reproached him for so doing.
8. Now when he perceived that those who were for innovations would not be pacified till some great calamity should overtake them, he sent out upon them those two Roman legions that were in the city, and together with them five thousand other soldiers, who, by chance, were come together out of Libya, to the ruin of the Jews. They were also permitted not only to kill them, but to plunder them of what they had, and to set fire to their houses. These soldiers rushed violently into that part of the city that was called Delta, where the Jewish people lived together, and did as they were bidden, though not without bloodshed on their own side also; for the Jews got together, and set those that were the best armed among them in the forefront, and made a resistance for a great while; but when once they gave back, they were destroyed unmercifully; and this their destruction was complete, some being caught in the open field, and others forced into their houses, which houses were first plundered of what was in them, and then set on fire by the Romans; wherein no mercy was shown to the infants, and no regard had to the aged; but they went on in the slaughter of persons of every age, till all the place was overflowed with blood, and fifty thousand of them lay dead upon heaps; nor had the remainder been preserved, had they not be-taken themselves to supplication. So Alexander commiserated their condition, and gave orders to the Romans to retire; accordingly, these being accustomed to obey orders, left off killing at the first intimation; but the populace of Alexandria bare so very great hatred to the Jews, that it was difficult to recall them, and it was a hard thing to make them leave their dead bodies.
9. And this was the miserable calamity which at this time befell the Jews at Alexandria. Hereupon Cestius thought fit no longer to lie still, while the Jews were everywhere up in arms; so he took out of Antioch the twelfth legion entire, and out of each of the rest he selected two thousand, with six cohorts of footmen, and four troops of horsemen, besides those auxiliaries which were sent by the kings; of which Antiochus sent two thousand horsemen, and three thousand footmen, with as many archers; and Agrippa sent the same number of footmen, and one thousand horsemen; Sohemus also followed with four thousand, a third part whereof were horsemen, but most part were archers, and thus did he march to Ptolemais. There were also great numbers of auxiliaries gathered together from the [free] cities, who indeed had not the same skill in martial affairs, but made up in their alacrity and in their hatred to the Jews what they wanted in skill. There came also along with Cestius Agrippa himself, both as a guide in his march over the country, and a director what was fit to be done; so Cestius took part of his forces, and marched hastily to Zabulon, a strong city of Galilee, which was called the City of Men, and divides the country of Ptolemais from our nation; this he found deserted by its men, the multitude having fled to the mountains, but full of all sorts of good things; those he gave leave to the soldiers to plunder, and set fire to the city, although it was of admirable beauty, and had its houses built like those in Tyre, and Sidon, and Berytus. After this he overran all the country, and seized upon whatsoever came in his way, and set fire to the villages that were round about them, and then returned to Ptolemais. But when the Syrians, and especially those of Berytus, were busy in plundering, the Jews pulled up their courage again, for they knew that Cestius was retired, and fell upon those that were left behind unexpectedly, and destroyed about two thousand of them.
10. And now Cestius himself marched from Ptolemais, and came to Cesarea; but he sent part of his army before him to Joppa, and gave order, that if they could take that city [by surprise] they should keep it; but that in case the citizens should perceive they were coming to attack them, that they then should stay for him, and for the rest of the army. So some of them made a brisk march by the sea-side, and some by land, and so coming upon them on both sides, they took the city with ease; and as the inhabitants had made no provision beforehand for a flight, nor had gotten any thing ready for fighting, the soldiers fell upon them, and slew them all, with their families, and then plundered and burnt the city. The number of the slain was eight thousand four hundred. In like manner, Cestius sent also a considerable body of horsemen to the toparchy of Narbatene, that adjoined to Cesarea, who destroyed the country, and slew a great multitude of its people; they also plundered what they had, and burnt their villages.
11. But Cestius sent Gallus, the commander of the twelfth legion, into Galilee, and delivered to him as many of his forces as he supposed sufficient to subdue that nation. He was received by the strongest city of Galilee, which was Sepphoris, with acclamations of joy; which wise conduct of that city occasioned the rest of the cities to be in quiet; while the seditious part and the robbers ran away to that mountain which lies in the very middle of Galilee, and is situated over against Sepphoris; it is called Asamon. So Gallus brought his forces against them; but while those men were in the superior parts above the Romans, they easily threw their darts upon the Romans, as they made their approaches, and slew about two hundred of them. But when the Romans had gone round the mountains, and were gotten into the parts above their enemies, the others were soon beaten; nor could they who had only light armor on sustain the force of them that fought them armed all over; nor when they were beaten could they escape the enemies' horsemen; insomuch that only some few concealed themselves in certain places hard to be come at, among the mountains, while the rest, above two thousand in number, were slain.
The War of the Jews: The History of the Destruction of Jerusalem (complete edition, 7 books)
by D.H. Stern
the simple go on and pay the penalty.
4 The reward for humility is fear of ADONAI,
along with wealth, honor and life.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
by Frank W. Boreham
Dick Sunshine was not his real name; at least so they said. But the thing that they called his real name did not describe him a scrap; it seemed to abandon all attempt at description as hopelessly impossible; but when you called him Dick Sunshine it fitted him like a glove. That is the immense advantage that nicknames possess over real names. Of all real things, real names are the most unreal. There is no life in them. They stand for nothing; they express nothing; they reveal nothing. They bear no kind of relationship to the unfortunate individuals who are sentenced to wear them, like meaningless badges, for the term of their natural lives. But nicknames, on the other hand, sparkle and flash; they bring the man himself vividly and palpitatingly before you; and without more introduction or ado, you know him at once for what he is. That is the reason why we prefer to be called by our real names. We know in our secret souls that our nicknames are our true names, and that our real names are mere tags and badges; but we prefer the meaningless tag to the too candid truth. There are obvious disadvantages in being constantly spoken of as Mr. Grump, Mrs. Crosspatch, or Miss Spitfire; whereas Mr. Smith, Mrs. Robinson, or Miss Jones are much safer and more non-committal. But, for all that, the nicknames, depend upon it, are the true names. Nicknames reveal the man; real names conceal the man. And since, in the case of my present hero, I desire to reveal everything and to conceal nothing, it is obviously desirable to speak of him by his nickname, which is his true name, rather than by his real name, which is a mere affectation and artificiality. He was always Dick Sunshine to me, and I noticed that the children always called him Dick Sunshine, and children are not easily deceived. Besides, he was Dick Sunshine, so what is the use of beating about the bush?
Who was Dick Sunshine? It is difficult to say. He was partly a grocer and party a consumptive. He spent half his time laughing, and half his time coughing. He only stopped laughing in order to cough; and he only stopped coughing in order to laugh. You could always tell which he was doing at any particular time by taking a glance at the shop. If the shop was open, you knew that Dick was behind the counter laughing. If it was closed, you knew that he was in bed coughing. A fine-looking fellow was Dick, or would have been if only his health had given him a chance. Fine wavy golden hair tossed in naïve disorder about his lofty forehead; and a small pointed golden beard set off a frank, cheery, open face. Somehow or other, there was a certain touch of chivalry about Dick, although it is not easy to say exactly how it made itself felt. It was a certain knightly bearing, perhaps, a haughty contempt for his own suffering, a rollicking but resolute refusal of anything in the shape of pity. Coughing or laughing, there was always a roguish little twinkle in the corner of his eye, a kind of danger signal that kept you on constant guard lest his next sally should take you by surprise.
The church at North-East Valley has had its ups and downs, like most churches, but as long as Dick was its secretary it never had a gloomy church meeting. However grave or unexpected might be the crisis, he came up smiling, and greeted the unseen with a cheer. When things were going well, he always made the most of it, and drew attention to the encouraging features in the church's outlook. If things were so-so, he pointed out that they might have been a great deal worse, and that the church was putting up a brave fight against heavy odds. If anybody criticized the minister, Dick was on his feet in a minute. Could the minister do everything? Dick wanted to know. Was he solely responsible for the unsatisfactory conditions? Why, anybody who watches the minister can see that the poor man is doing his best, which, Dick slyly added, is more than can be said for some of us! And the ministers of North-East Valley used to tell me that when they themselves got down in the dumps, Dick treated their collapse as a glorious joke. He would come down to the Manse and laugh until he coughed, and cough until he could laugh again, and, by the time that he stopped laughing and coughing, the masses of his golden hair were tumbled about his high forehead like shocks of corn blown from the stocks by playful winds in harvest-time; and when he went home to finish his coughing, the Manse was flooded with the laughter and the sunshine that he had left behind him.
I was sitting one morning in my study at Mosgiel, when there came a ring at the front door bell. On answering it, I found myself standing face to face with Dick. He was laughing so violently that he could at first scarcely salute me. He followed me into the study, and assured me as he sank into a chair that it was the fun of the world. I asked him to explain the cause of his boisterous merriment.
'Had to give it up!' he gasped. 'The doctors told me that I should die in a week if I remained in the shop any longer. So I've left it to look after itself, and come away. No fun in dying in a week, you know!'
I admitted that there was something in that, and inquired what he was going to do now.
'That's the joke!' he roared, between laughter and coughing. 'I've come to stay with you.'
There was nothing for it but to let him take his time, so I patiently awaited further explanation. At length it came.
'Just as I was locking up the shop,' he said, presently, 'I heard that the temperance people wanted a lecturer and organizer to work this district. Except the lecturing, it will be all open-air work, so I applied for it, and got it!'
'But, my dear fellow,' I remonstrated, 'I never knew that you could lecture. Why, outside the church meeting, you never made a speech in your life!'
'That's part of the joke!' he cried, going off again into a paroxysm of laughter. 'But I told them that you would help me at the first, and they appointed me on that condition. So this is to be my head quarters!'
His duties were to commence the following week, and we arranged that he should make his debut as a lecturer at a place called Outram, about eight miles across country from Mosgiel. I promised to accompany him, and to fill up such time as he found it impossible or inconvenient to occupy. In the meantime he got to work with his visiting and organizing. The open air suited him, his health improved amazingly, and the Mosgiel Manse simply rocked under the storms of his boisterous gaiety. Sometimes the shadow of the coming ordeal spread itself heavily over his spirit, and he came to the study with unwonted gravity to ask how this or that point in his maiden effort had better be approached. To prevent his anxiety under this head from becoming too much for his fragile frame, I lent him a book, and sent him out on to the sunlit verandah to read it. It chanced to be The Old Curiosity Shop. He had never read anything of Dickens, and it opened a new world to him. I have never seen anybody fall more completely under the spell of the magician. From the study I would hear him suddenly yell with laughter, and come rushing through the hall to read me some passage that had just captivated his fancy. Whenever he came stealing along like a thief, I knew it was to talk about the lecture; when he came like an incarnate thunderstorm, I knew it was about the book.
One passage in the famous story especially appealed to him. It was the part about Codlin and Short, the Punch and Judy men. In the middle of dinner, without the slightest provocation or warning, he would suddenly drop his knife and fork, throw himself back in his chair, slap his leg a sounding blow with his hand, and shriek out, 'Codlin's your friend, not Short,' and then go off into ecstasies of glee as he told the tale all over again.
Well, Monday—the day of his opening lecture—came at last. During the day he was unusually quiet and taciturn, although, even in face of the grim test that awaited him, the Punch and Judy men haunted his memory and led to occasional subdued outbursts of fun. After tea we set out. It was a delicious evening. Few things are sweeter than the early evenings of early summer. The sunset is throwing long shadows across the fresh green grass, and the birds are busy in the boughs. Everything about us was clad in its softest and loveliest garb. We drove on between massive hedges of fragrant hawthorn, and up huge avenues of stately blue gum trees, scattering the rabbits before us. Then we caught sight of the river, and drove over the bridge into the quiet little town in which such unsuspected adventures awaited us. Dick was pale and quiet; his sunshine was veiled in banks of cloud, and I found it difficult to rouse him. On arrival at the hall we found it crowded. I was naturally delighted; his pleasure was more restrained. Indeed, he confided to me, with a look that, for him, was positively lugubrious, that he would have been more gratified if the horrid place had been empty. However, there was nothing for it. Not a soul, except myself, knew that Dick was lecturing for the first time in his life; the chairman led us to the platform; and, after a brief introduction relative to the renown of the speakers, he called upon Dick to address the townsfolk. As a maiden effort it was a triumph; his native good humour combined with careful preparation to produce a really excellent effect; and he sat down amidst a thunder of applause. I filled in an odd half-hour, and then the chairman nearly killed Dick at one blow.
'Would anybody in the audience care to ask either of the speakers a question?' he gravely inquired.
Poor Dick was the picture of abject dismay. This was a flank attack for which he was totally unprepared. An elderly gentleman, in the body of the hall, rose slowly, adjusted his spectacles, and, with grave deliberation, announced that he wished to submit a question to the first speaker. Dick looked like a man whose death-warrant was about to be signed. The problem was duly enunciated, and it turned out to be a carefully planned and decidedly awkward one. I wondered how on earth poor Dick would face the music. He paused, as though considering his reply. Then a sudden light mantled his face. A wicked twinkle sparkled in his eye. He rose smartly, looked straight into the face of his questioner, and exclaimed confidently:
'Codlin's your friend, not Short!'
The audience was completely mystified. The answer had no more to do with the question than Dutch cheese has to do with the rings of Saturn. For a fraction of a second you could have heard a pin drop. I saw that the only way of saving the situation was by commencing to applaud, and I smote my hands together with a will, and laughed as I have rarely allowed myself to laugh in public. The sympathetic section of the audience followed suit. A general impression seemed to exist that, somehow, Dick had made a particularly clever point. The old gentleman who had asked the question was manifestly bewildered; he gazed helplessly round on his cheering fellow citizens, and evidently regarded the answer as some recondite allusion of which it would never do to display his ignorance. He resumed his seat, discomfited and ashamed. When the applause and laughter had somewhat subsided, I rose and moved a vote of thanks to the chairman, which Dick seconded, though, I fancied, without much show of enthusiasm. Thus the meeting, which Dick never forgot, came to an eminently satisfactory end, although I heard privately long afterwards that, as the people took their homeward way along those country roads, many who had applauded vigorously inquired confidentially of their neighbours the exact bearing of the cryptic reply on the particular matter in hand.
If Dick lacked laughter on the way across the plains to the meeting, he amply atoned for the deficiency on the way home. How he roared, and yelled, and screamed in his glee!
'I had to say something,' he exclaimed. 'I hadn't the slightest idea what the old gentleman was talking about; and the only thing I could think of was the Punch and Judy!'
He laughed and coughed his way through that campaign. Everybody grew wonderfully fond of him, and looked eagerly for his coming. He did a world of good, and shamed scores of us out of the gloom in which we bore our slighter maladies. My mail from New Zealand tells me that, at last, his cough has proved too much for him, so he has given it up. But I like to fancy that, in the land where coughing is no more heard, Dick Sunshine is laughing still.
Mushrooms on the Moor (Dodo Press)
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
What do you see in your clouds?
Behold, He cometh with clouds. --- Rev. 1:7.
In the Bible clouds are always connected with God. Clouds are those sorrows or sufferings or providences, within or without our personal lives, which seem to dispute the rule of God. It is by those very clouds that the Spirit of God is teaching us how to walk by faith. If there were no clouds, we should have no faith. ‘The clouds are but the dust of our Father’s feet.’ The clouds are a sign that He is there. What a revelation it is to know that sorrow and bereavement and suffering are the clouds that come along with God! God cannot come near without clouds, He does not come in clear shining.
It is not true to say that God wants to teach us something in our trials; through every cloud He brings, He wants us to unlearn something. God’s purpose in the cloud is to simplify our belief until our relationship to Him is exactly that of a child—God and my own soul, other people are shadows. Until other people become shadows, clouds and darkness will be mine every now and again. Is the relationship between myself and God getting simpler than ever it has been?
There is a connection between the strange providences of God and what we know of Him, and we have to learn to interpret the mysteries of life in the light of our knowledge of God. Unless we can look the darkest, blackest fact full in the face without damaging God’s character, we do not yet know Him.
“They feared as they entered the cloud.…” Is there anyone “save Jesus only” in your cloud? If so, it will get darker; you must get to the place where there is “no one any more save Jesus only.”
My Utmost for His Highest
the Poetry of RS Thomas
Meet the Family
John One takes his place at the table,
He is the first part of the fable;
His eyes are dry as a dead leaf.
Look on him and learn grief.
John Two stands in the door
Dumb; you have seen that face before
Leaning out of the dark past,
Tortured in thought's bitter blast.
John Three is still outside
Drooling where the daylight died
On the wet stones; his hands are crossed
In mourning for a playmate lost.
John All and his lean wife,
Whose forced complicity gave life
To each loathed foetus, stare from the wall,
Dead not absent. The night falls.
Selected poems, 1946-1968
By William Butler Yeats
The Collected Poems of W. B. Yeats (The Collected Works of W.B. Yeats)
When You Are Old
When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;
How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;
And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.
How busy we are! We have so much to do that we have to put things on the back burner. Rabbi Yoshiah reminds us that things put on the back burner may still cook, though very slowly. Dough put on the back burner will ultimately ferment or sour; because of the slow rate, it will become unfit for use. And the same is true of our obligations.
We say: “I’ll get to this really soon, but I have to back-burner it for now.” And “soon,” the opportunity sours. Our sweet dreams turn into bitter reality. Just as the matzah dough eventually rises, whether we want it to or not, and is spoiled, so too opportunities slip by, like it or not, and are lost. Not every chance turns sour with time, but it happens often enough that Rabbi Yoshiah’s words ring true. If we have a chance to do a mitzvah, we should grab it, for that opportunity may not present itself again.
Whether it’s caring for friends, spending time with our children, or being a good spouse, we have to do it now. If not, we may cause the various meanings of the Hebrew root חָמֵץ/ḥametz to happen to us: Our relationships may sour. We may find ourselves in a pickle with those we care about most. We may no longer be able to get a rise out of those whose love and opinions matter so much to us.
What’s at stake when we hesitate is much more than just a piece of matzah. The Talmud (Ta’anit 21a) tells the story of Naḥum of Gamzu, who lived in Israel at the beginning of the second century. Naḥum was blind, and his arms and legs had been lost. His students could not understand how such terrible afflictions had been visited upon their teacher, whom they believed to be entirely righteous. Naḥum explained that what had happened to him was not a result of God punishing him; Naḥum himself had prayed for the loss of his sight and limbs. The students couldn’t comprehend this; Naḥum told them his tale:
Once I was journeying to the house of my father-in-law, and I brought with me three donkeys, one carrying food, the second carrying drinks, and the third carrying various delicacies. A poor man stopped me on the road and said, “Master, give me something to sustain me.” I told him to wait until I unloaded the donkeys. When I returned to him, he had died of hunger.
Naḥum, realizing that his hesitation had cost a man his life, was filled with remorse. Of what use are eyes, he cried, if they do not see the suffering of another? Of what use are legs if they do not run to another’s aid? Of what use are hands if they do not reach out and offer help to those in need? According to the story, Naḥum’s punishment was the “answer to his prayer.”
When it comes to tzedakah or to saving a life, we must do the mitzvah right away. When a human life is at stake, we must not delay. Immediate action is imperative.
But what about the hundreds of other mitzvot that are ritual in nature: lighting Shabbat candles, not mixing milk and meat, reciting the Sh’ma, blowing the shofar, waving the lulav and etrog, circumcising an eight-day-old boy, sitting shivah? Why is it so important that we do these at the very first opportunity? A simple answer is that if we get into the habit of putting things off, we might soon come to neglect them entirely. We live incredibly busy lives. We have more to do than there are hours in the day. What’s at the top of our “to do” list becomes a priority and gets done. What’s put at the bottom of the list often is forgotten. If Judaism is preserved by the observance of mitzvot, then our procrastinations can lead to its end.
There may be a deeper reason. Lurianic Kabbalah, the most well-known form of Jewish mysticism, holds that at the time of Creation, a cosmic accident occurred. The vessels that were to hold the divine light shattered, leaving the world broken and imperfect. Even God was affected by this great mishap. God’s feminine aspect, the Shekhinah, was torn apart and exiled from God’s masculine side. The world was left in a state of chaos, one that even God could not fix. But we can. According to Lurianic doctrine, human beings have the mission of performing tikun olam, “repair of the world.”
This is accomplished by our doing mitzvot. Every time we perform a mitzvah, be it ritual or ethical, we are taking a step toward fixing the cosmos. It was the practice of the Jewish mystics to recite a kavanah, a brief meditation, prior to doing a mitzvah. The formula includes the words “I am about to perform the mitzvah … in order to bring about the union of the Holy One, praised is He, and the Shekhinah.…” Our acts here on earth not only “put God back together,” they also help to repair and fix the world.
It is no wonder then, that we are taught that mitzvot must not be put off. Delay can be catastrophic.
Searching for Meaning in Midrash: Lessons for Everyday Living
Delight yourself in the LORD.
--- Psalm 37:4.
[This delight springs] from a holy and frequent familiarity with God. Works of Stephen Charnock (5 Volume Set) Where there is a great familiarity there is a great delight. There is more swiftness in going to a God with whom we are acquainted than to a God to whom we are strangers. I go to a God whose goodness I have tasted, with whom I have often met in prayer.
[Delight in the Lord springs] from hopes of receiving. There cannot be motion where there is paralysis of doubts. How full of delight must that soul be who can plead a promise and can show God his own bond—when it can be pleaded not only as a favor to appeal to his mercy, but in some sense a debt to appeal to his truth and righteousness! We carry a covenant of grace with us for ourselves and a promise of security and perpetuity for the church. On this account we have more cause of motion to God than the ancient believers had. Fear motivated them under the law; love motivates us under the Gospel. Those who have arguments of God’s own framing to plead with him cannot but delight in prayer—God cannot deny his own arguments and reasonings. Little comfort can be sucked from a perhaps. But when we seek promised mercies, God’s faithfulness to his promise puts the mercy past a perhaps. We go to a God who desires our presence more than we desire his assistance.
[Delight in the Lord springs] from a recognition of former mercies. If manna is rained down, it not only takes our thoughts off Egyptian garlic but quickens our desires for a second shower. A sense of God’s majesty will make us lose our showy self-satisfaction. A sense of God’s love will make us lose our lumpishness. We may return with merry hearts when God accepts our prayers. The doves will readily fly to the windows where they have formerly found shelter and the beggar to the door where he has often received alms. “Because he turned his ear to hear me, I will call on him as long as I live” (Ps. 116:2). I have found refuge with God before; I have found my wants supplied, my soul raised, my temptations checked, my doubts answered, and my prayers accepted; therefore I will repeat my appeals with cheerfulness.
--- Stephen Charnock
Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
Stokeley’s Slave July 29
Richard Allen grew up in slavery, toiling alongside parents and siblings on Stokeley Sturgis’s Delaware farm. The family was broken up before Richard became an adult. Mr. Sturgis sold Richard’s mother and three of his siblings, and Richard never saw them again. Heavyhearted, he followed a crowd into the fields one day to hear a Methodist preacher. “I was brought to see myself, poor, wretched, and undone,” he wrote. “Shortly after, I obtained mercy through the blood of Christ.”
Allen soon purchased his freedom and commenced as an itinerant Methodist evangelist. In 1786 he joined the staff of Philadelphia’s St. George’s Methodist Episcopal Church, the mother church of American Methodism. He conducted the five A.M. Sunday services. When his powerful preaching brought many blacks to St. George’s, white parishioners felt uneasy, and African-American worshipers were gradually denied seating, being forced to stand along the walls during services.
Still the church grew, and a building expansion became necessary. On the first Morning in the refurbished auditorium, Allen took his seat in the new balcony. As the congregation knelt for prayer, he heard a scuffle. A church trustee was pulling blacks to their feet, trying to force them from the gallery. “Wait until the prayer is over,” whispered a disturbed worshiper, “and we’ll trouble you no more.” But the trustee only increased his efforts. Allen and his friends left, vowing never to return to St. George’s.
They were without a church, and Allen had no job. He hired out as a chimney sweep, then opened a shoemaker’s shop. But his spare time was devoted to preaching the Gospel and serving the black community. His heroic efforts during the yellow fever epidemic of 1793 so impressed the Philadelphians that tensions eased with St. George’s. With the church’s blessing, Allen assembled a group of black Christians on July 29, 1794, in a converted blacksmith’s shop. The Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church was formed, the mother church of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, now known throughout the world. Allen became the first consecrated bishop in the growing movement which today is among the largest Methodist groups on earth.
Live in harmony by showing love for each other. Be united in what you think, as if you were only one person. Don’t be jealous or proud, but be humble and consider others more important than yourselves. Care about them as much as you care about yourselves and think the same way that Christ Jesus thought.
--- Philippians 2:2b-5.
On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes
Died July 29, 1833
3 Crucial Lessons from William Wilberforce by Jayson Bradley
William Wilberforce, British politician and prominent abolitionist, died July 29, 1833. Here are three lessons from the man whose faith helped end slavery in England and inspire America’s abolitionist movement.
1. Experience life through the lens of faith.
Prior to his conversion, William was not known as an industrious individual. As a student at St. John’s College, he invested most of his time in social activities and idleness. William committed himself to frivolity, even after being elected into Parliament at 21. As he said himself, “the first years in Parliament I did nothing—nothing to any purpose.”
After a sudden conversion experience, William began to see his work (and world) in a whole new light.
“The Gospel freely admitted makes a man happy. It gives him peace with God, and makes him happy in God. It gives to industry a noble, contented look which selfish drudgery never wore; and from the moment that a man begins to do his work for his Saviour’s sake, he feels that the most ordinary employments are full of sweetness and dignity, and that the most difficult are not impossible. And if any of you, my friends, is weary with his work, if dissatisfaction with yourself or sorrow of any kind disheartens you, if at any time you feel the dull paralysis of conscious sin, or the depressing influence of vexing thoughts, look to Jesus, and be happy. Be happy, and your joyful work will prosper well.”
2. Bloom where you are planted.
William struggled with his Parliament position in light of his new faith. Religious enthusiasm was not socially accepted in high society, and he worried about finding himself at odds with his peers. For advice, he reached out to Anglican clergyman John Newton (writer of “Amazing Grace”). Newton responded by telling William, “It is hoped and believed that the Lord has raised you up for the good of his church and for the good of the nation.” This gave William the encouragement he needed.
As he later wrote in his diary, “My walk I am sensible is a public one; my business is in the world; and I must mix in assemblies of men, or quit the post which Providence seems to have assigned me.”
His decision to stay in Parliament would help change the nation and end the slave trade.
3. Have the stamina to pursue your God-given passions until the end.
In William’s time, more than 11 million people had been captured in Africa and forced into labor in the West Indies, with Britain controlling the majority of that slave trade. Putting an end to Britain’s role in this unacceptable practice became William’s driving passion, no matter the cost to himself.
“As soon as ever I had arrived thus far in my investigation of the slave trade, I confess to you sir, so enormous, so dreadful, so irremediable did its wickedness appear that my own mind was completely made up for the abolition. A trade founded in iniquity, and carried on as this was, must be abolished, let the policy be what it might,—let the consequences be what they would, I from this time determined that I would never rest till I had effected its abolition.”
Slavery, a booming business, contributed much to the British economy. Though few were directly involved in the slave trade, most wealthy families benefited from it somehow. The resistance to abolishing slavery was fierce, but William was resolute.
For 20 years, William worked as an abolitionist, often without seeing positive results. But on July 26, 1833, the House of Commons voted to abolish the slave trade. Upon hearing the news, William said, “Thank God that I have lived to witness [this] day.” He died three days later.
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - July 29
“Nevertheless I am continually with thee.” --- Psalm 73:23.
“Nevertheless,”—As if, notwithstanding all the foolishness and ignorance which David had just been confessing to God, not one atom the less was it true and certain that David was saved and accepted, and that the blessing of being constantly in God’s presence was undoubtedly his. Fully conscious of his own lost estate, and of the deceitfulness and vileness of his nature, yet, by a glorious outburst of faith, he sings “nevertheless I am continually with thee.” Believer, you are forced to enter into Asaph’s confession and acknowledgment, endeavour in like spirit to say “nevertheless, since I belong to Christ I am continually with God!” By this is meant continually upon his mind, he is always thinking of me for my good. Continually before his eye;—the eye of the Lord never sleepeth, but is perpetually watching over my welfare. Continually in his hand, so that none shall be able to pluck me thence. Continually on his heart, worn there as a memorial, even as the high priest bore the names of the twelve tribes upon his heart for ever. Thou always thinkest of me, O God. The bowels of thy love continually yearn towards me. Thou art always making providence work for my good. Thou hast set me as a signet upon thine arm; thy love is strong as death, many waters cannot quench it; neither can the floods drown it. Surprising grace! Thou seest me in Christ, and though in myself abhorred, thou beholdest me as wearing Christ’s garments, and washed in his blood, and thus I stand accepted in thy presence. I am thus continually in thy favour—“continually with thee.” Here is comfort for the tried and afflicted soul; vexed with the tempest within—look at the calm without. “Nevertheless”—O say it in thy heart, and take the peace it gives. “Nevertheless I am continually with thee.”
Evening - July 29
“All that the Father giveth me shall come to me.” --- John 6:37.
This declaration involves the doctrine of election: there are some whom the Father gave to Christ. It involves the doctrine of effectual calling: these who are given must and shall come; however stoutly they may set themselves against it, yet they shall be brought out of darkness into God’s marvellous light. It teaches us the indispensable necessity of faith; for even those who are given to Christ are not saved except they come to Jesus. Even they must come, for there is no other way to heaven but by the door, Christ Jesus. All that the Father gives to our Redeemer must come to him, therefore none can come to heaven except they come to Christ.
Oh! the power and majesty which rest in the words “shall come.” He does not say they have power to come, nor they may come if they will, but they “shall come.” The Lord Jesus doth by his messengers, his word, and his Spirit, sweetly and graciously compel men to come in that they may eat of his marriage supper; and this he does, not by any violation of the free agency of man, but by the power of his grace. I may exercise power over another man’s will, and yet that other man’s will may be perfectly free, because the constraint is exercised in a manner accordant with the laws of the human mind. Jehovah Jesus knows how, by irresistible arguments addressed to the understanding, by mighty reasons appealing to the affections, and by the mysterious influence of his Holy Spirit operating upon all the powers and passions of the soul, so to subdue the whole man, that whereas he was once rebellious, he yields cheerfully to his government, subdued by sovereign love. But how shall those be known whom God hath chosen? By this result: that they do willingly and joyfully accept Christ, and come to him with simple and unfeigned faith, resting upon him as all their salvation and all their desire. Reader, have you thus come to Jesus?
Morning and Evening
BEYOND THE SUNSET
Virgil P. Brock, 1887–1978
Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. (1 Corinthians 13:12)
The ability to see “beyond the sunset”—to anticipate the glories of God’s tomorrow—enables a Christian to live joyfully and victoriously in any of life’s circumstances. It is difficult for us to imagine heavenly scenes or to describe them with earthly symbols. The Bible does promise us, however, that there will be “eternal joy” in the “glorious presence” of our Savior “on that fair shore.”
Virgil P. Brock told how he wrote this favorite hymn about heaven:
This song was born during a conversation at the dinner table, one Evening in 1936, after watching a very unusual sunset at Winona Lake, Indiana, with a blind guest, my cousin Horace Burr, and his wife, Grace. A large area of the water appeared ablaze with the glory of God, yet there were threatening storm clouds gathering overhead. Our blind guest excitedly remarked that he had never seen a more beautiful sunset.
“People are always amazed when you talk about seeing,” I told him, “I can see,” Horace replied. “I see through other people’s eyes, and I think I often see more; I see beyond the sunset.”
The phrase “beyond the sunset” and the striking inflection of his voice struck me so forcibly, I began singing the first few measures. “That’s beautiful!” his wife interrupted. “Please go to the piano and sing it.”
We went to the piano nearby and completed the first verse. Before the Evening meal was finished, all four stanzas had been written and we sang the entire song together.
Virgil P. Brock’s cheerful and lively manner continued to inspire others as he wrote more than 500 Gospel songs and led congregations in vibrant singing until the end of his 9l years. His fruitful life reflected a constant, keen awareness of that land “beyond the sunset.”
Beyond the sunset, O blissful Morning, when with our Savior heav’n is begun. Earth’s toiling ended, O glorious dawning—beyond the sunset when day is done.
Beyond the sunset no clouds will gather; no storms will threaten, no fears annoy; O day of gladness, O day unending—beyond the sunset, eternal joy!
Beyond the sunset a hand will guide me to God the Father, whom I adore; His glorious presence, His words of welcome, will be my portion on that fair shore.
Beyond the sunset, O glad reunion with our dear loved ones who’ve gone before. In that fair homeland we’ll know no parting—beyond the sunset forevermore!
For Today: John 14:2, 3; Philippians 3:20, 21; Revelation 21:4
Practice frequent thoughts about the promises and glories of heaven when you feel yourself giving an undue amount of importance to the trivial events of daily living. Now sing ---
Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
Martin Luther | (1483-1546)
Sect. CI. — AND with respect to that of Malachi which Paul annexes, “Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated;” (Mal. i. 2-3). that, the Diatribe perverts by a threefold contrivance. The first is – “If (it says) you stick to the letter, God does not love as we love, nor does He hate any one: because, passions of this kind do not pertain unto God.” —
What do I hear! Are we now inquiring whether or not God loves and hates, and not rather why He loves and hates? Our inquiry is, from what merit it is in us that He loves or hates. We know well enough, that God does not love or hate as we do; because, we love and hate mutably, but He loves and hates from an eternal and immutable nature; and hence it is, that accidents and passions do not pertain unto Him.
And it is this very state of the truth, that of necessity proves “Free-will” to be nothing at all; seeing that, the love and hatred of God towards men is immutable and eternal; existing, not only before there was any merit or work of “Free-will,” but before the worlds were made; and that, all things take place in us from necessity, accordingly as He loved or loved not from all eternity. So that, not the love of God only, but even the manner of His love imposes on us necessity. Here then it may be seen, how much its invented ways of escape profit the Diatribe; for the more it attempts to get away from the truth, the more it runs upon it; with so little success does it fight against it!
But be it so, that your trope stands good — that the love of God is the effect of love, and the hatred of God the effect of hatred. Does, then, that effect take place without, and independent of, the will of God? Will you here say also, that God does not will as we do, and that the passion of willing does not pertain to Him? If then those effects take place, they do not take place but according to the will of God. Hence, therefore, what God wills, that He loves and hates. Now then, tell me, for what merit did God love Jacob or hate Esau, before they wrought, or were born? Wherefore it stands manifest, that Paul most rightly adduces Malachi in support of the passage from Moses: that is, that God therefore called Jacob before he was born, because He loved him; but that He was not first loved by Jacob, nor moved to love him from any merit in him. So that, in the cases of Jacob and Esau, it is shewn — what ability there is in our “Free-will”!
The Bondage of the Will or Christian Classics Ethereal Library
Brett Meador | Athey Creek
The Year King Uzziah Died
Isaiah 7:15-Isaiah 8