Job 1 - 4
Terms for “Wisdom” in Proverbs
The purpose of a book of proverbs is to instruct in the principles of wisdom. There are three major terms for wisdom employed throughout this work: ḥoḵmâ, bɩ̄nâ, and tûšiyyâ.
1. Ḥoḵmâ (“wisdom”) the term most frequently used, pertains not so much to the realm of theoretical knowledge or philosophy as to a proper grasp of the basic issues of life and of the relationship of God to man as a moral agent. This kind of “wisdom” involves a proper discernment between good and evil, between virtue and vice, between duty and self-indulgence. It also includes prudence in secular matters and a skill in the accomplishment of business affairs as well as in interpersonal relationships. It implies an ability to apply theory to practice in real-life situations, consistently applying that which we know to that which we have to do.
2. Bɩ̄nâ (“understanding”) connotes the ability to discern intelligently the difference between sham and reality, between truth and error, between the specious attraction of the moment and the long-range values that govern a truly successful life. The root idea of this term is found in the related preposition bên, meaning “between;” hence there is always an analytical or judgmental factor involved and the ability to distinguish between the valid and the invalid, the false and the true.
3. Tûšiyyâ (“sound wisdom, efficient wisdom,” or, in a derived sense, “abiding success”). This term conceives of wisdom as an authentic insight into, or intuition of, spiritual or psychological truth. It focuses upon the ability of the human mind to rise from below to a grasp of divine reality above, so to speak, rather than the wisdom of a prophetic revelation that comes down supernaturally from heaven. It points to the activity of the believer’s mind by which he is able to deduce from what God has revealed the manner in which these principles are to be applied in everyday situations of life (cf. Prov. 3:21; 8:14; 18:1; and also in the sense of help or deliverance, Prov. 2:7 ).
It should be noted that the characteristic type of māšāl or proverb in this book is the balanced antithesis which incisively contrasts the wise man and the fool, the good man and the wicked, true value and false appearance, in such a way as to set forth the two sides of the truth in clearest opposition to each other and thus perform an incisive didactic function. The constant preoccupation of the book is with the elemental antinomies of obedience versus rebellion, industry versus laziness, prudence versus presumption, and so on. These are so presented as to put before the reader a clear-cut choice, leaving him no ground for wretched compromise or vacillating indecision. A Survey of Old Testament Introduction
Job’s Character and WealthJob 1:1 There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil. 2 There were born to him seven sons and three daughters. 3 He possessed 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, and 500 female donkeys, and very many servants, so that this man was the greatest of all the people of the east. 4 His sons used to go and hold a feast in the house of each one on his day, and they would send and invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. 5 And when the days of the feast had run their course, Job would send and consecrate them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all. For Job said, “It may be that my children have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts.” Thus Job did continually.
Satan Allowed to Test Job6 Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them. 7 The LORD said to Satan, “From where have you come?” Satan answered the LORD and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” 8 And the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” 9 Then Satan answered the LORD and said, “Does Job fear God for no reason? 10 Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. 11 But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” 12 And the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.” So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD.
Satan Takes Job’s Property and Children13 Now there was a day when his sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house, 14 and there came a messenger to Job and said, “The oxen were plowing and the donkeys feeding beside them, 15 and the Sabeans fell upon them and took them and struck down the servants with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” 16 While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, “The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants and consumed them, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” 17 While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, “The Chaldeans formed three groups and made a raid on the camels and took them and struck down the servants with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” 18 While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, “Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house, 19 and behold, a great wind came across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young people, and they are dead, and I alone have escaped to tell you.”
20 Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. 21 And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.”
22 In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.
Satan Attacks Job’s HealthJob 2:1 Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them to present himself before the LORD. 2 And the LORD said to Satan, “From where have you come?” Satan answered the LORD and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” 3 And the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil? He still holds fast his integrity, although you incited me against him to destroy him without reason.” 4 Then Satan answered the LORD and said, “Skin for skin! All that a man has he will give for his life. 5 But stretch out your hand and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse you to your face.” 6 And the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, he is in your hand; only spare his life.”
7 So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD and struck Job with loathsome sores from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. 8 And he took a piece of broken pottery with which to scrape himself while he sat in the ashes.
9 Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.” 10 But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.
Job’s Three Friends11 Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this evil that had come upon him, they came each from his own place, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. They made an appointment together to come to show him sympathy and comfort him. 12 And when they saw him from a distance, they did not recognize him. And they raised their voices and wept, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads toward heaven. 13 And they sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great.
Job Laments His Birth
Job 3:1 After this Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth. 2 And Job said:
3 “Let the day perish on which I was born,
and the night that said,
‘A man is conceived.’
4 Let that day be darkness!
May God above not seek it,
nor light shine upon it.
5 Let gloom and deep darkness claim it.
Let clouds dwell upon it;
let the blackness of the day terrify it.
6 That night—let thick darkness seize it!
Let it not rejoice among the days of the year;
let it not come into the number of the months.
7 Behold, let that night be barren;
let no joyful cry enter it.
8 Let those curse it who curse the day,
who are ready to rouse up Leviathan.
9 Let the stars of its dawn be dark;
let it hope for light, but have none,
nor see the eyelids of the morning,
10 because it did not shut the doors of my mother’s womb,
nor hide trouble from my eyes.
11 “Why did I not die at birth,
come out from the womb and expire?
12 Why did the knees receive me?
Or why the breasts, that I should nurse?
13 For then I would have lain down and been quiet;
I would have slept; then I would have been at rest,
14 with kings and counselors of the earth
who rebuilt ruins for themselves,
15 or with princes who had gold,
who filled their houses with silver.
16 Or why was I not as a hidden stillborn child,
as infants who never see the light?
17 There the wicked cease from troubling,
and there the weary are at rest.
18 There the prisoners are at ease together;
they hear not the voice of the taskmaster.
19 The small and the great are there,
and the slave is free from his master.
20 “Why is light given to him who is in misery,
and life to the bitter in soul,
21 who long for death, but it comes not,
and dig for it more than for hidden treasures,
22 who rejoice exceedingly
and are glad when they find the grave?
23 Why is light given to a man whose way is hidden,
whom God has hedged in?
24 For my sighing comes instead of my bread,
and my groanings are poured out like water.
25 For the thing that I fear comes upon me,
and what I dread befalls me.
26 I am not at ease, nor am I quiet;
I have no rest, but trouble comes.”
Eliphaz Speaks: The Innocent ProsperJob 4:1 Then Eliphaz the Temanite answered and said:
2 “If one ventures a word with you, will you be impatient?
Yet who can keep from speaking?
3 Behold, you have instructed many,
and you have strengthened the weak hands.
4 Your words have upheld him who was stumbling,
and you have made firm the feeble knees.
5 But now it has come to you, and you are impatient;
it touches you, and you are dismayed.
6 Is not your fear of God your confidence,
and the integrity of your ways your hope?
7 “Remember: who that was innocent ever perished?
Or where were the upright cut off?
8 As I have seen, those who plow iniquity
and sow trouble reap the same.
9 By the breath of God they perish,
and by the blast of his anger they are consumed.
10 The roar of the lion, the voice of the fierce lion,
the teeth of the young lions are broken.
11 The strong lion perishes for lack of prey,
and the cubs of the lioness are scattered.
12 “Now a word was brought to me stealthily;
my ear received the whisper of it.
13 Amid thoughts from visions of the night,
when deep sleep falls on men,
14 dread came upon me, and trembling,
which made all my bones shake.
15 A spirit glided past my face;
the hair of my flesh stood up.
16 It stood still,
but I could not discern its appearance.
A form was before my eyes;
there was silence, then I heard a voice:
17 ‘Can mortal man be in the right before God?
Can a man be pure before his Maker?
18 Even in his servants he puts no trust,
and his angels he charges with error;
19 how much more those who dwell in houses of clay,
whose foundation is in the dust,
who are crushed like the moth.
20 Between morning and evening they are beaten to pieces;
they perish forever without anyone regarding it.
21 Is not their tent-cord plucked up within them,
do they not die, and that without wisdom?’
What I'm Reading
Kiss the Son
By R.C. Sproul Jr. 6/1/2008
There is no such thing as the “More Party.” They do not run campaigns seeking to unseat sitting officials of the “Less Party.” Both “more” and “less” need more context and less ambiguity. We need to know what we are getting more or less of. In like manner, the question of pluralism begs a previous question — plural what? What is it the pluralists want more of? On the surface it might seem that what they want more of is religions. One religion isn’t enough. We need to construct, according to these people, a world with plenty of room for Hindus and Hottentots, for Muslims and Mormons, for Buddhists and Baptists. When we look deeper, however, we run headlong into an inescapable spiritual reality, that every religion in the end is all about authority. What they want is multiple authorities. If there is, in the end, only one authority, and I am not that authority, then I am under authority. But, if there are lots of authorities, which is another way of saying there is no authority, then I am free to rule my own world. Then there is not only room for Shintoism, but for Sheila-ism. There is not only room for Roman Catholicism, but for R.C. Sproulicism.
When the apostle Paul writes in Romans 1 that the natural man suppresses the knowledge of God in unrighteousness, that he denies what he knows, we understand that he does this so that he might continue to sin without fear of reprisal. The natural man constructs a view of the world wherein he never need fear facing the judgment of God. This construct not only will actually require the facing of the judgment of God, but is in fact already a judgment of God. It is the very foolishness that God gives their minds over to.
But what about us? Pluralism isn’t the exclusive province of the unbeliever. We who profess the lordship of Christ, more often than not, in turn find pluralism appealing. We who have been given new hearts presumably are about the business of putting to death our desire for self-rule. We ought, it would seem, to be of the “Less Party.” I fear our motives are scarcely more honorable than our unbelieving friends’ motives. It is a different twist on the question of authority. They will not affirm the lordship of Christ over them because they fear that Christ will reign over them. We are fearful of affirming the lordship of Christ over all things, including our neighbors, because we are afraid of our neighbors ruling over us. Pluralism is a half-hearted attempt at a compromise of convenience — we won’t condemn you if you won’t condemn us. We won’t say you are wrong, if you won’t say that we are wrong. We won’t find your views backwards and repugnant, if you won’t find our views backwards and repugnant. What a deal? And all it costs us is the central and first affirmation of our own faith: Jesus is Lord. All we have to give up to win peace with our neighbors is the proclamation of the Gospel.
Jesus is all too aware of our fears. He knows how painful it is to be scorned by the broader culture. He knows what its like to have a single dominant religion find your religion to be foolish and superstitious. He has experience in suffering under a single monolithic power. He’s entered into this reality and conquered it. And He commands of us that we seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. He commands that we put our worries away, and trust in Him.
We evangelicals make the foolish mistake of thinking that when enough souls decide to make Jesus the Lord of their lives, that He will become the Lord of all things. The reality is that Jesus is already Lord over all things. His kingdom, strictly speaking, does not expand, for even now it knows no borders. He does not, therefore, engage in some sort of power sharing arrangement with other pretenders to His throne, whether they be false deities, or those who falsely worship them. His lordship is not something we accomplish. It is something we recognize and submit to. It is not something we negotiate; it is something we proclaim.
That Jesus is Lord, however, is not some grim reality that we proclaim with all the grace of a desert prophet. It is something we proclaim with all the grace of joy. It was our Lord Himself, after all, who commanded us to “Take heart; I have overcome the world”. (John 16:33). It’s over. The kingdom is here, and Jesus has won. What fools we are to rush off to negotiate with the enemy to save our skins.
His victory, of course, does not mean that we rush off to kill all our enemies. It means instead that we are to love them. Our love for them must be strong enough, however, to tell them with both passion and compassion, that their hopes are in vain, that their gods are mute and dumb, and that there is only one name under heaven by which a man must be saved. Our love for them does not present the Christian Gospel as an option. It does not lead us to argue that it’s a good option that has worked well for us. Our love instead commands all men everywhere to repent and believe the Gospel, lest they perish. Our love calls on all our enemies to kiss the Son, lest He be angry and they perish along the way (Ps. 2:12).
R.C. Sproul Jr. has served previously as a pastor, professor, and teacher. He is author of numerous books. Some are listed below.
R.C. Sproul Jr. Books | Go to Books Page
Choose This Day
By Niel Nielson 6/1/2008
Recently, an acquaintance of mine gathered these statistics on the choices available today: 200 cable channels; 255 ways to order a Big Mac; 19,000 possible combinations for coffee at Starbucks and 78,998 for ice cream and toppings at Cold Stone Creamery; and more than 500,000 mathematical possibilities for pizza in America.
Now add the amazing variety of cultures around the world, each with its own wide range of choices and traditions and practices, and it is clear that we live in a pluralistic world gone crazy — a world awash in choices, options, alternatives, and which calls to us, “Come, follow me.” One of our long-time philosophy professors at Covenant College speaks of the “recommendations” that come at us from all directions, recommendations about what to like, what to think, what to buy, what to believe, and how to live. Some of these recommendations are relatively innocuous, like “buy Adidas”; some are more important, like “vote for me rather than my opponent”; and some are deadly serious and carry huge consequences, like “follow my religion” or “believe this about sex.”
At the heart of true education is learning to hear these voices clearly, to recognize their sources, and to respond in godly ways, whether in school, at work, at church, in a recreational context, in a relationship, or in those moments of utter personal privacy when no one is watching.
While our choices today may far outnumber those in previous generations, this challenge of discerning and responding biblically has been around since creation. Our first human parents faced it: a choice between two recommendations, as it were — one from the God who had created them and expected them to obey Him, and the other from the enemy of God who wooed them into doubting God’s words and choosing their own way in place of His.
This is the focus of Jude’s short letter, which he tells us isn’t the letter he first intended to write: “Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (v. 3). Jude is compelled to address the very problem we are discussing here: recommendations coming to his readers from “certain people” who “have crept in unnoticed” and “who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ” (v. 4).
Notice that Jude isn’t writing to them about voices calling from outside the visible fellowship of faith. These people have “crept in unnoticed,” that is, they are inside the congregation of God’s people. In other words, the problem of pluralism is not just “out there” in the world; it’s also “in here” even among those who call themselves Christians. In fact, the deadliest recommendations may come from those who claim to be fellow believers, because they masquerade as people of the light, they use “Christian” vocabulary, and they assert that their views are faithful to our most holy faith.
Jude directs some of the harshest language in all the Bible at such people: they are blasphemers, children of Cain, waterless clouds and fruitless trees, ungodly and loud-mouthed boasters. God has already designated their condemnation. And yet Jude’s burden for his readers is to urge them to contend — to fight earnestly — for the faith once for all delivered to the saints — to reject recommendations that would lead them away into unbelief and unholiness.
What is this faith once for all delivered? For Jude’s readers and for us, it is clearly a reference to our faith laid out in the Word of God written in ages past and now faithfully delivered to us. It is “once for all” revelation from God, gloriously complete in providing all we need to know about God and His plan, purpose, and expectations for His creation.
Jude gives his readers two clues for recognizing these false teachers and their recommendations: they pervert the grace of our God into sensuality, and they deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ (v. 4). While this short list is not exhaustive, it provides very helpful tests.
First, does a particular viewpoint rationalize sexual sin, in this case by co-opting the very grace of God? Beware, Jude is saying, of any teaching or perspective that would use the grace and love of God as the means for justifying sexual sin, whether heterosexual or homosexual.
Second, does a particular viewpoint diminish the exclusive glory and truth of Jesus Christ as the only King and Savior? Beware, Jude is saying, of any teaching or perspective that undermines His deity, diminishes His uniqueness, doubts His kingly claims over the creation, or adds or subtracts from His Gospel.
For the Tabletalk readers of my three sons’ generation — your choices are many, and recommendations are coming continually at you for what to think, to love, to look at, to believe, and to hope for. With joy and tears I urge you to contend for the faith once for all delivered to the saints, written for us in the Holy Scriptures and able to sustain and strengthen you until the day of our Lord’s return.
Dr. Niel Nielson is president of Covenant College in Lookout Mountain, Georgia.
A Good Kind of Pluralism
By Gene Edward Veith 6/1/2008
Today’s postmodernists use cultural pluralism as a pretext for relativism, as if the existence of many cultures implied the existence of many truths. Many Americans embrace multiculturalism as if they had no culture of their own. In religion, pluralism has given rise to a new polytheism. And yet, there is a kind of pluralism that is good, necessary, and biblical.
The apostle Paul speaks of a radical pluralism that nevertheless constitutes a unity: “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body — Jews or Greeks, slaves or free — and all were made to drink of one Spirit. For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,’ that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,’ that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body…. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it” (1 Cor. 12:12–20, 26–27).
The church consists of a multitude of distinct individuals, as different from each other as hands and ears and eyes. And, at the same time, for all of their differences, they are all unified in Christ.
We speak of the “members” of a congregation. That word originally meant “parts of the body.” By now, many of the rich metaphors of the English language have been reduced to just colorless words, so a “member” is just another name on the church roll. But the word goes right back to 1 Corinthians 12 — the member listed on the church roll must be a foot, a hand, an ear, an eye, or some other organ of the body.
The point seems to be that God treasures unique individuals, with different cultures (Jews, Greeks), social positions (slave, free), genders (male, female), gifts, modes of service, and personalities. He has called all of these different kinds of people to Himself, and, through faith has united them to Himself and to each other. They all have the same faith in Christ, who redeemed them and who incorporates them into His body, of which He is the head.
Some congregations encourage conformity, pressuring its people to not be “members” but to be just like each other. In fact, the church growth movement encourages homogeneity. Its methodology came from the missionaries who found that they could make the most progress by appealing to one cultural group at a time. Now, even in America, megachurches usually appeal to the same range of middle class suburbanites. Some have separate services for each generation. Twenty-somethings worship just with each other, as do baby-boomers, old-timers, young marrieds, and little kids. This is a far cry from the unity-of-diversity taught in 1 Corinthians 12.
The body of Christ, of course, goes far beyond individual congregations. Its “members” extending back through history include warriors, peacemakers, rulers, artists, a few intellectuals, lots of slaves, peasants, and ordinary folks in all their various backgrounds, experiences, and characteristics.
This principle inheres throughout the creation. In the body, of course, which consists of millions of self-contained cells that cohere into “members” to form a single organism. In nature, each organism contributes to the others in a complex ecological balance.
Societies also work like that. The economy depends on a division of labor with a variety of different producers and consumers. In government, an emphasis on unity alone produces totalitarianism; an emphasis on pluralism alone produces anarchy. Successful governments of free societies must attain a delicate balance of unity and diversity. This is expressed in the motto of the United States of America: e pluribus unum. Out of many, one.
The balance of unity and diversity is also an aesthetic principle. Modern abstract art sometimes might feature a plain black canvas — which has unity, but no diversity — or random splotches of paint — which has diversity but no unity. Neither have much to them aesthetically. But a great work of art — the Sistine chapel, a Hudson River School landscape — has incredible variety of detail while still coming together into an overall unity.
Looming behind all of these cases is the source of creation, the church, and all that is good, the Triune God. He consists of three distinct Persons — the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit — who together constitute an absolute unity.
To deny the plurality of the persons of the Trinity is a heresy, as is denying their unity. Confusions in art, politics, environmental management, and relationships in the church can entail heresies of their own.
Dr. Gene Edward Veith is provost emeritus and professor of literature emeritus at Patrick Henry College and director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Ind.
Gene Edward Veith Books | Go to Books Page
In All Humility
By Keith A. Mathison 6/1/2008
I face something of a dilemma here that I believe C. J. Mahaney might appreciate. He has written a wonderful book in which he seeks to share insight on the practice of true humility ( Humility: True Greatness ) and the conquest of pride. However, as he and all authors know, a glowing book review is a great temptation to pride for any author. I’ve read and (hopefully) benefited from his book on humility, but I wonder how to write a positive review without encouraging pride in the book’s author — in case he reads the review. Therein lies the dilemma. In order to avoid this conundrum, and to encourage humility in the author, it may be best to begin by pointing out what I believe to be the major flaw in the book…
I wish it were longer.
Mahaney admits in the introduction to his book that he is not qualified to speak as an authority on humility. None of us is. Mahaney is not qualified to write this book because he is a living example of perfect and complete humility. He is qualified to write this book, in my opinion, because he knows he isn’t. All of us have misplaced pride in our lives, but because pride is so deceitful, not all of us are consciously seeking ways to root it out. Mahaney does not write as one who has “arrived,” but as a fellow soldier who is fighting the same battle.
The book is divided into three parts. In the first part, the true nature of humility and pride are described. Mahaney defines humility as “honestly assessing ourselves in light of God’s holiness and our sinfulness.” In short, true humility requires an accurate understanding of who God is and who we are.
Pride, on the other hand, obscures a true knowledge of God. C.S. Lewis said it well: “In God you come up against something which is in every respect immeasurably superior to yourself. Unless you know God as that — and, therefore, know yourself as nothing in comparison — you do not know God at all. As long as you are proud, you cannot know God. A proud man is always looking down on things and people: and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you.” ( Humility: True Greatness )
Pride was the sin of Satan that led to his fall. It was the sin of Adam, who wanted to be “like God.” Pride truly goes before destruction (Prov. 16:18).
In Part Two, Mahaney reveals that true humility requires a redefinition of success. Our culture defines greatness in terms of the self: self-sufficiency, self-made men, self-accomplishment. Greatness, biblically defined, means “serving others for the glory of God.” According to Jesus, “whoever would be great among you must be your servant” (Mark 10:43). True greatness in Scripture is an expression of true humility. It is exemplified in the life of Jesus. It is demonstrated most clearly in the sacrificial death of Jesus on the cross.
Part Three of the book is devoted to practical application. In this section, Mahaney looks at ways we can encourage the growth of humility and root out pride every day of our lives. He reminds us to begin each day by reflecting on the wonder of the cross. As Carl Henry once said, “How can anyone be arrogant when he stands beside the cross?” We should begin each day by acknowledging our dependence on God and our gratitude to God. We should end each day by giving God the glory for the grace we have received that day.
Mahaney also encourages all of us to spend extended periods of time studying what the Bible teaches about the nature of God, our sinfulness, and God’s work of salvation. He also encourages us to laugh often. Prideful men cannot laugh because they are too concerned about their own dignity. And for those who are really serious about cultivating humility, Mahaney recommends, with a smile, that they take up the sport of golf. Anyone who has ever attempted to play golf will know why.
In order to further weaken pride and grow in humility, we should look for evidence of growth in grace in our families and in our churches, and we should look for opportunities to encourage others. We should also seek correction from others because we are very often blind to the sins in our life that are obvious to others.
Mahaney concludes his book by exhorting all of us to respond in humility to suffering and trials. This is, of course, far easier said than done, for none of us enjoys suffering in and of itself. Suffering does, however, tend to remind us of our lack of self-sufficiency, and in doing so, it weakens sinful pride. I cannot recommend this work more highly, for there are none of us who does not need to hear its call to true humility and true greatness.
Per Amazon, Keith A. Mathison (MA, Reformed Theological Seminary; PhD, Whitefield Theological Seminary) is dean of the Ligonier Academy of Biblical and Theological Studies and an associate editor of Tabletalk magazine at Ligonier Ministries. He is editor of When Shall These Things Be: A Reformed Response to Hyper-Preterism and associate editor of The Reformation Study Bible. He lives in Lake Mary, Florida, with his wife and children.Keith Mathison Books:
- 1 Postmillennialism: An Eschatology of Hope
- 2 The Shape of Sola Scriptura
- 3 Given for You: Reclaiming Calvin's Doctrine of the Lord's Supper
- 4 From Age to Age: The Unfolding of Biblical Eschatology
- 5 Dispensationalism: Rightly Dividing the People of God?
- 6 A Reformed Approach to Science and Scripture
- 7 Not a Chance: God, Science, and the Revolt against Reason
- 8 When Shall These Things Be?: A Reformed Response to Hyper-Preterism
Twilight of the Idols
By R.C. Sproul 6/1/2008
The nineteenth-century philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche is famous for his declaration that “God is dead.” That brief dictum does not give the whole story. According to Nietzsche, the cause of the Deity’s demise was compassion. He said, “God is dead; He died of pity.” But before the God who was the God of Judeo-Christianity perished, Nietzsche said that there were a multitude of deities who existed, such as those who resided on Mount Olympus. That is, at one time there was a plurality of gods. All of the rest of the gods perished when one day the Jewish God, Yahweh, stood up in their assembly and said, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” Hearing this, according to Nietzsche’s satirical summary, all of the rest of the gods and goddesses died. They died of laughter.
In our day, where pluralism reigns in the culture, there is as much satirical hostility to the idea of one God as there was in Nietzsche’s satire. But today, that repugnance to monotheism is not a laughing matter. In the culture of pluralism, the chief virtue is toleration, which is the notion that all religious views are to be tolerated, all political views are to be tolerated. The only thing that cannot be tolerated is a claim to exclusivity. There is a built-in, inherent antipathy towards all claims of exclusivity. To say that there is one God is repulsive to the pluralists. To say that one God has not revealed Himself by a plurality of avatars in history is also repugnant. A single God with an only begotten Son is a deity who adds insult to injury by claiming an exclusive Son. There cannot be only one Mediator between man and God. There must be many according to pluralists today. It is equally a truism among pluralists that if there is one way to God, there must be many ways to God, and certainly it cannot be accepted that there is only one way. The exclusive claims of Christianity in terms of God, in terms of Christ, in terms of salvation, cannot live in peaceful coexistence with pluralists.
Beyond the question of the existence of God and of His Son, and of a singular way of salvation, there is also a rejection of any claim to having or possessing an exclusive source of divine revelation. At the time of the Reformation, the so-called solas of the Reformation were asserted. It was said that justification is by faith alone (sola fide), that it is through Christ alone (solus Christus), that it is through grace alone (sola gratia), and that it is for God’s glory alone (soli Deo gloria). But perhaps most repugnant to the modern pluralist is the exclusive claim of sola Scriptura. The idea of sola Scriptura is that there is only one written source of divine revelation, which can never be placed on a parallel status with confessional statements, creeds, or the traditions of the church. Scripture alone has the authority to bind the conscience precisely because only Scripture is the written revelation of almighty God. The implications of sola Scriptura for pluralism are many. Not the least of them is this: It carries a fundamental denial of the revelatory character of all other religious books. An advocate of sola Scriptura does not believe that God’s revealed Word is found in the Bible and in the Book of Mormon, the Bible and in the Koran, the Bible and in the Upanishads, the Bible and in the Bhagavad Gita; rather, the Christian faith stands on the singular and exclusive claim that the Bible and the Bible alone is God’s written word.
The motto of the United States is e pluribus unum. However, since the rise of the ideology of pluralism, the real Unum of that motto has been ripped from its foundation. What drives pluralism is the philosophical antecedent of relativism. All truth is relative; therefore, no one idea or source can be seen as having any kind of supremacy. Built into our law system is the idea of the equal toleration under the law of all religions. It is a short step in people’s thinking from equal toleration under the law to equal validity. The principle that all religions should be treated equally under the law and have equal rights does not carry with it the necessary inference that therefore all religions are valid. Even a cursory, comparative examination of the world’s religions reveals points of radical contradiction among them, and unless one is prepared to affirm the equal truth of contradictories, one must not be able to embrace this fallacious assumption.
Sadly, with a philosophy of relativism and a philosophy of pluralism, the science of logic doesn’t matter. Logic is escorted to the door and is firmly booted out of the house onto the street. There is no room for logic in any system of pluralism and relativism. Indeed, it’s a misnomer to call either a system, because it is the idea of a consistent, coherent view of truth that is unacceptable to the pluralist. The fact that people reject exclusive claims to truth does not invalidate those claims. It is the Christian’s duty to hold firm to the uniqueness of God and of His Christ and not compromise with the advocates of pluralism.
Robert Charles Sproul, 2/13/1939 – 12/14/2017 was an American theologian, author, and ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America. Dr. R.C. Sproul was founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries, an international Christian education and discipleship organization located near Orlando, Fla. He was also copastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., chancellor of Reformation Bible College, and executive editor of Tabletalk magazine. Dr. Sproul has contributed dozens of articles to national evangelical publications, has spoken at conferences, churches, and schools around the world, and has written more than one hundred books. He also served as general editor of the Reformation Study Bible.R.C. Sproul Books | Go to Books Page
By Don Carson 6/1/2018
What is most striking about Psalm 88 is that there is no relief. Heman begins the psalm by crying to the Lord, disclosing his discouragement in various ways, and he ends in gloom and despair. Most psalms that deal with discouragement and despair begin in gloom and end in light. This one begins in gloom and ends in deeper gloom.
When Heman begins, although he cries to the Lord, “the God who saves me” (the only note of hope in the entire poem), he plaintively observes that he cries out before God “day and night” (Ps. 88:1). He frankly feels he is not being heard (Ps. 88:2, 14). He is not only in difficulty but feels he is near death: “For my soul is full of trouble and my life draws near the grave” (88:3). Indeed, Heman insists that others treat him as if he is doomed (Ps. 88:4-5). The only explanation is that he is under divine wrath: “Your wrath lies heavily upon me; you have overwhelmed me with all your waves” (Ps. 88:7; cf. Ps. 88:16). Not the least of his miseries is the loss of all his friends (Ps. 88:8).
Worse yet, Heman is convinced his whole life has been lived under the shadow of death: “From my youth I have been afflicted and close to death,” he writes (Ps. 88:15). Did he, perhaps, suffer from one of the many ugly, chronic, progressive diseases? “I have suffered your terrors and am in despair. Your wrath has swept over me; your terrors have destroyed me. All day long they surround me like a flood; they have completely engulfed me” (Ps. 88:15-17).
But what makes the psalm utterly grim is the closing line. Not only does Heman charge God with taking away his companions and loved ones, but in the last analysis, “the darkness is my closest friend” (Ps. 88:18). Not God; the darkness.
One of the few attractive features of this psalm is its sheer honesty. It is never wise to be dishonest with God, of course; he knows exactly what we think anyway, and would rather hear our honest cries of hurt, outrage, and accusation than false cries of praise. Of course, better yet that we learn to understand, reflect, and sympathize with his own perspective. But in any case it is always the course of wisdom to be honest with God.
That brings up the most important element in this psalm. The cries and hurts penned here are not the cheap and thoughtless rage of people who use their darker moments to denounce God from afar, the smug critique of supercilious agnosticism or arrogant atheism. These cries actively engage with God, fully aware of the only real source of help.
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 57Let Your Glory Be over All the Earth
57 To The Choirmaster: According To Do Not Destroy. A Miktam Of David, When He Fled From Saul, In The Cave.
6 They set a net for my steps;
my soul was bowed down.
They dug a pit in my way,
but they have fallen into it themselves. Selah
7 My heart is steadfast, O God,
my heart is steadfast!
I will sing and make melody!
8 Awake, my glory!
Awake, O harp and lyre!
I will awake the dawn!
9 I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples;
I will sing praises to you among the nations.
10 For your steadfast love is great to the heavens,
your faithfulness to the clouds.
11 Be exalted, O God, above the heavens!
Let your glory be over all the earth!
By Gleason Archer Jr.
The Wisdom Literature
The so-called ḥoḵmâ literature (ḥoḵmâ being the Hebrew word for “wisdom”) was extensively cultivated among all the ancient Near Eastern peoples. Pritchard’s ANET contains translations of some of the more outstanding Egyptian examples, such as: “The Instruction of Ptahhotep,” “The Instruction for King Mer-ka-Re,” “The Instruction of King Amen-em-het,” “The Instruction of Prince Hor-dedef,” “The Instruction of Ani,” and “The Instruction of Amen-em-Opet.” There are also collections of Akkadian proverbs and counsels of wisdom which have been discovered, and in the Aramaic literature, “The Words of Ahiqar.”
It is against the background of this widely cultivated genre as practiced among Israel’s neighbors that we are to understand the wisdom literature of the Hebrews themselves. Most characteristic of the Semitic ḥoḵmâ are the practical precepts based upon a canny observation of the laws of human nature and of the rules for success in social, business, and political life. In general it may be said that the “Wisdom” with which these ancient sages were concerned was of a practical rather than a theoretical nature. Like the sophoi (“wise men”) of the early Greek culture, the Hebrew ḥāḵām originally was a person who knew how to do things well which the average person could only do indifferently or not at all. In this sense the master craftsman Bezaleel is referred to in Ex. 31:3 as ḥāḵām. From this usage it came to be applied to the art of getting along successfully with God and with men. As a necessary involvement it also brought in the moral law which governs both human relationships and relationships with God, and which determines the degree of success to which a man may attain. As Driver points out (ILOT, p. 392–93), the quality of ḥoḵmâ was imputed especially to persons who were able to come up with the right answer in critical situations. Thus Joseph is described as ḥāḵām because of his ability to interpret Pharaoh’s dream ( Gen. 41:39 ). The same is true of the wise woman of Tekoa who engineered a reconciliation between David and his son Absalom ( 2 Sam. 14 ); likewise also Solomon in his clever stratagem for deciding which of two claimants to a single baby was its true mother ( 1 Kings 3 ).
There actually seems to have been a prominent class or school of wise men in ancient Hebrew society, and, as Driver puts it, “They applied themselves rather to the observation of human character as such, seeking to analyze conduct, studying action in its consequences, and establishing morality upon the basis of principles common to humanity at large” (ILOT, p. 393). In its highest form, Hebrew ḥoḵmâ sought to look into the essence of God’s truth and grasp the general ideas which gave the Israelite faith dimensions fitting it to become a world religion. From this perspective all natural and moral phenomena and experiences were reflected upon in order to apprehend more perfectly the final ground of life and the principles by which it is governed.
Which Is the Real Ten Commandments?
By Jason DeRouchie 8/27/2012
Through the history of Christianity, few portions of the Old Testament have influenced the church more than the Ten Words revealed by God to Israel at Mount Sinai. While often termed the “Ten Commandments,” the Hebrew label preserved in Exod 34:28, Deut 4:13, and 10:4 is “Ten Words,” which is also the etymology of the term Decalogue (from the Greek deka ‘ten’ + logoi ‘words’). Nevertheless, Moses declares that the Ten Words were “commanded” (Deut 4:13), and Jesus explicitly calls them “commandments” (Matt 19:17-19), so the traditional title is not misdirected. Overview of the Issue The Real Decalogue: Exodus 20, not 34 Dealing with Differences in Deuteronomy 5
The importance of the Ten Words is seen in the facts that they are the first written material in Scripture specified as authoritatively binding (but note Gen 5:1 and Exod 17:14) and that they are the only portion of the Bible that we are told was “written with the finger of God” (Exod 31:18, Deut 9:10; cf. Exod 24:12, 32:15-16; Deut 5:22). They are classified as “the words of the covenant” (Exod 34:27-28), which highlights how they and all the rest of Scripture that develops from them were not the decrees of a distant Dictator but the loving instructions of a covenant Father to his vassal children, all designed to sustain relationship in the context of freedom. The Ten Words are the only part of the Bible that was placed in the ark of the covenant (Exod 40:20-21, Deut 10:1-5), and they stand in a foundational position at the head of all other instructions in Exodus and Deuteronomy. They are also echoed throughout Scripture as a summary of what it means to love God and neighbor (see Hos 4:2; Jer 7:9; Pss 50:16-23, 81:9; Matt 5:21, 19:18; Mark 10:19; Luke 18:20; Rom 13:9). All these elements display the unique role the Ten Words played among those faithful to Yahweh.
With respect to Exod 34:11-26, the misunderstanding has arisen because the prescriptions themselves are directly followed first by Yahweh’s charge to Moses to write down “these words” in accordance with which God made a covenant with his people (a clear reference to 34:11-26) and then by the narrator’s record that the “the words of the covenant, the Ten Words,” were written on the tablets (34:27-28). Do we not have here a command-fulfillment sequence, wherein Moses obeys by writing the ten covenantal words on the tablets?
The answer is no, for with a back-reference to the divine activity promised and fulfilled in Exod 24:12, 31:18, and 32:15-16, Yahweh announced in 34:1 that he, not Moses, would write the same Words on the new tablets that he had written before with his own finger: “Yahweh said to Moses, ‘Cut for yourself two tablets of stone like the first, and I will write on the tablets the words that were on the first tablets, which you broke.’” Yahweh, not Moses, is the antecedent to the third masculine singular verb phrase “and he wrote” in v. 28, which means that “these words” that Moses is charged to write in v. 27 (i.e., 34:11-26) are not the actual Ten Words of the covenant.
Later in Deuteronomy, Moses highlights that the Words of Exod 20:1-17 were indeed the very same Decalogue of 34:28. First, in Deut 4:12-13, the prophet states specifically that Yahweh declared his covenant, the Ten Words, out of the fire and wrote them on two tablets of stone (cf. Exod. 31:18). In echo of Exod 34:1 and 28, he then stresses in Deut 10:4 that Yawheh “wrote on the tablets, in the same writing as before, the Ten Words that Yahweh had spoken to you on the mountain out of the midst of the first on the day of the assembly.” These passages make clear that the biblical author connected the phrase “Ten Words” only to the lists in Exod 20:1-17 and Deut 5:6-21.
Nevertheless, it is evident that, even with these alterations, Deuteronomy itself treats its Decalogue as a reiteration of the very “Ten Words” spoken by God out of the midst of the fire at the mountain of God—namely, as an echo of Exod 20:1-17 (cf. Deut 5:4-5, 22 with 4:12-13 and 10:4). After the 40 years in the wilderness (1:3-4; 4:45-46), the Ten Words have been updated, probably for pastoral purposes. But Moses still stresses that, while the Deuteronomic version is a secondary account, it is nevertheless “just as Yahweh your God commanded you” (Deut 5:12, 16). As concluded by Norbert Lohfink, this formulaic back-reference ensures that “in spite of the changes and additions that have been made [in the Deuteronomic version], at bottom nothing is commanded that is not also in the older version.” When we think of the Ten Commandments, we should think of the lists in Exod 20:1-17 and Deut 5:6-21.
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According to Amazon | Rev. Dr. Jason DeRouchie (PhD, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is a churchman and Professor of Old Testament and Biblical Theology at Bethlehem College & Seminary, Minneapolis, MN. He is a passionate teacher committed to helping Christians to exalt Jesus and to treasure the hope of the gospel from the Old Testament. Before BCS, Jason taught at Gordon College, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and University of Northwestern - St. Paul, and he served as an associate pastor in a Southern Baptist church in Indiana. He has also published articles in BULLETIN FOR BIBLICAL RESEARCH, SOUTHERN BAPTIST JOURNAL OF THEOLOGY, THEMELIOS, JOURNAL FOR BIBLICAL MANHOOD AND WOMANHOOD, JOURNAL OF THE EVANGELICAL THEOLOGICAL SOCIETY, and HEBREW STUDIES. He is a teaching elder of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, MN, where he resides with his wife and six children.
Jason DeRouchie Books:
Overview of the IssueOne challenge faced by those approaching the Decalogue is the question, “Which Ten Words?” While most interpreters naturally see the title referring to the list of ten principles found in Exod 20:1-17 and repeated (with some changes) in Deut 5:6-21, critical scholars have often viewed these “ethical Decalogues” as secondary to what they believe to be the more original “ritual or cultic Decalogue” of Exod 34:11-26. In a comparable, though less developed line of thought, the late Christopher Hitchens attempted to discredit the Bible by proposing tensions between the original Decalogue of Exodus 20 and the new “re-write” in Exodus 34; he then saw the variations of the Decalogue in Deuteronomy 5 as only adding to the biblical mess. These and other approaches are highly influenced by views of biblical authority and canonical formation far different from the present author. Furthermore, a close reading of the text as it stands removes the proposed tensions and clearly designates which lists are to be regarded as the covenantal “Ten Words.”
The Real Decalogue: Exodus 20, not 34It is true that Exod 34:11-26 includes a series of apodictic principles (i.e., basic instructions without any specified contexts) and that directly after them in v. 28 the phrase “Ten Words” shows up for the first time in Scripture. However, only if one begins with v. 17 are ten directives evident, and as will be shown, Exodus 34 itself calls the reader to look elsewhere for the actual Ten Words of the covenant (34:1, 28). The prescriptions in Exodus 34 are best seen as sample laws from the Covenant Code of Exodus 20-23 (esp. ch. 23), perhaps even a festival calendar, and should not be confused with the actual Decalogue.
Dealing with Differences in Deuteronomy 5As for the relationship between Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5, there are clear differences in Deuteronomy’s version of the Decalogue. Most obvious are (1) the change of focus from God’s work in creating the world to his work in creating a people (i.e., the Exodus) as the basis for Sabbath keeping (Deut 5:12-15), (2) the shaping of the final six prohibitions into a single unit by a fronted “and” (5:17-21), and (3) the transformation of the prohibitions against coveting (5:21a-b) by using two different verbs, by including “field” before the list of household members, and by transposing “house” and “wife,” thus separating the latter from the list and placing the charge against lust (i.e., coveting a neighbor’s wife) on its own line.
The Continual Burnt Offering (Matthew 5:33-35)
By H.A. Ironside - 1941
June 1Matthew 5:33 “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ 34 But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. ESV
Young people often seem to regard profanity as an accomplishment of which to be proud. Instead it is always a sign of weakness and betrays a corrupt and wicked heart. No one admires a swearer. But all right-thinking people recognize the nobility of character that enables one to keep his lips clean and whose speech is wholesome and refined. Our Lord distinctly forbids the use of expletives like “Heavens” and other such terms. These do not add to the strength of one’s language, but rather weaken it, and are utterly unbecoming in the lips of a believer in Christ.
That name I just heard is delightfully sweet!
Jesus is Christ! and Him you must meet;
Now He is meeting poor sinners in grace,
He knocks at your heart. Oh, give Him a place!
He hears you blaspheme: but oh, if you knew
How much He loves sinners, how much He loves you,
You would fall at His feet and adoringly sing,
Jesus! my Saviour! my Lord! and my King!
‘Twas for this that He died on Calvary’s tree,
That sinners, the chief, might from judgment be free;
He’s now up in glory—a Man on God’s throne,
But He’s coming again—it may be quite soon.
He left us this message, while He is above,
A message of mercy—a message of love:
Tell sinners I love them—tell Adam’s whole race,
That this is the day of My patience and grace.
Yea, more—go, beseech—beseech them for Me,
Beseech by My blood, by My death on the tree,
It cleanses from sin and fits them to be
At once and forever in glory with Me.
--- J. H. Wilson
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
7/1/2010 Life and Worship Matters
As I write this article I’m in Louisville, Kentucky, attending a conference called “Together for the Gospel.” Pastors, elders, and seminarians have gathered together for fellowship and worship around the theme: The Unadjusted Gospel. More than seven thousand men from various evangelical (gospel-preaching) churches with various liturgical traditions are standing together as we sing some of the greatest hymns (from both the seventeenth and twenty-first centuries).
At the piano helping to lead us in worship is Bob Kauflin, a man who has spent his life considering what it means to worship our holy and just, gracious and glorious God. His blog and subsequent book Worship Matters: Leading Others to Encounter the Greatness of God, are devoted to help the church to worship God in the way He deserves, demands, and delights. As a pastor and musician, Bob understands what it means to take part in leading worship every Lord’s Day and at conferences like this one in Louisville, and if I were to approach him and say, “Thank you for leading our worship,” he would politely say, “You’re welcome.” However, if I continued to express my gratitude to him for leading our worship, he would likely feel the need to stop me and ensure I rightly understood that he is not the only one leading worship and that he is actually just leading the singing portion of our worship. What is more, he would want to ensure I understood the full meaning of biblical worship.
Many Christians are under the impression that worship is confined to those specific times of corporate worship when we’re singing. As such, churches have given titles such as “worship leader” or “worship team” to those leading us musically. Thus, people naturally conclude that the “worship” portions of the service take place exclusively when we’re singing. God’s Word, however, teaches us that singing is only one part of the worship service and that our prayers, affirmations, confessions of sin, Scripture readings, sermons, and singing are all parts of corporate worship.
Worship is the Christian’s all-encompassing service to our covenant Lord who has set us free to worship Him in beauty and splendor, holiness and freedom, so that wherever we are — in our closets, our homes, and our churches — we can worship Him coram Deo, before His face in Spirit and in truth, with reverence and awe, according to His Word and for His glory (1 Cor. 10:31).
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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
"Don't Give Up The Ship!" were the dying words uttered this day, June 1, 1813 by Captain James Lawrence, as he lay on the deck of the U.S. Frigate Chesapeake. The British had bombarded them as they sailed out of Boston during the War of 1812. Captain Oliver Hazard Perry was so taken by his courage that he named his flagship on Lake Eire "Lawrence" and put Captain Lawrence's dying words on his battle flag. It later became the slogan of the U.S. Navy. After a great victory on Lake Eire, Captain Perry stated: "The prayers of my wife are answered."
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
I say to mankind,
Be not curious about God.
who am curious about each,
am not curious about God -
I hear and behold God in every object,
yet understand God not in the least.
--- Walt Whitman
Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass (150th Anniversary Edition)
great and small,
is a parable
whereby God speaks to us,
and the art of life is to get the message.
--- Malcolm Muggeridge
So You're A Christian, Who Knew?
[God] shows that He can be just and yet justify, love, sanctify, and glorify the chief of sinners. For which all sinners should render Him everlasting thanksgiving and praise.
--- Charles Hodge
The only courage that matters is the kind that gets you from one moment to the next.
--- Mignon McLaughlin
The second neurotic's notebook
... from here, there and everywhere
CHAPTER 2 / “Hear”: To Listen, To Listen To
The most elementary meaning of the word shema is “hear”—the standard translation. It is a summons by Moses to Israel, “Hear O Israel”; so the worshiper summons himself to pay heed to what follows, to “lend an ear” to a significant message that requires his attention.
But the significance of the word hear transcends its obvious function as a call to attention or a preface to the rest of the verse. The sense of hearing or listening is in itself of considerable importance. The famous “Nazir of Jerusalem,” Rabbi David Cohen, colleague and student of Rav Kook, composed a whole volume on this word and its implicit concepts.1 He contrasts hearing with seeing, pointing to the Torah’s insistence that at Sinai we heard God’s voice but did not see Him (Deut. 4:12–19). 2 Seeing leads to idolatry; the worshiper creates an icon to represent what he saw. Hearing, however, leads to obedience; no physical shape or form beguiles the worshiper. He expresses his devotion in terms of what he has heard, i.e., he obeys the Voice who commands him.
A similar point is made by the former Chief Rabbi of Trier:
Sound stands nearest to the purely spiritual among the phenomena of the world of the senses. Therefore, God has chosen it to be the medium of sensory revelation. Since what is heard is the least dimensional, it is easier to imagine it as something unlimited, and extendible into infinity, than what is visible or tactile. Sense and spirit mutually interact in hearing.
What was heard at Mount Sinai was not a one-time affair; the voice of God is ubiquitous and continuous. It is up to us to hear it. As R. Joshua b. Levi taught, “Every day a divine voice (bat kol) issues from Mount Horeb” (Avot 6:2). In the act of hearing we sensitize ourselves to what already exists. It is this hearing, this shema, that endows the commandments with “an incomparable vitality and freshness.” When we understand the word shema in this way, we come up with a novel interpretation of the entire verse: instead of “Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One,” we may now read the verse as, “Hear O Israel the Lord our God: the Lord is One,” in the sense of, “Hear the Lord our God, O Israel: the Lord is One.”
Similarly, the hasidic master R. Zvi Elimelech Shapira of Dinov, in his classic Benei Yisasekhar, distinguishes between faith attained through rational investigation, symbolized by seeing (compare the American colloquial expression, “seeing is believing”), and faith based upon received tradition, represented by hearing; the latter, for the Rabbi of Dinov, is of greater merit and is more enduring.
Not only Jewish scholars but perceptive non-Jews as well have been sensitive to the auditory bias of the Jewish tradition. The Catholic lay theologian Theodore Roszak writes of Jews having acquired “an incomparable ear” in exchange for surrendering their visual and tactile witness:
[T]hey heard … they heard as no one else has ever heard. They became history’s most alert listeners. Their God was pre-eminently a voice, one who revealed His magisterial presence by speaking into the world from beyond it.… Manifested in the image of sound, the divine presence may span all space, be at once in all places, penetrate all barriers.
Roszak adds: unlike the hypnotic murmur of Hindu and Buddhist mantra, “the word of the prophetical God instructs; it is intelligible speech.”
The word “hear” implies understanding as well as apperception. In contemporary colloquial English, the expression, “I hear what you say” acknowledges that the listener has not only heard the speaker’s words but has become aware of the deeper intention underlying them. Thus, true hearing is cognitive as well as sensory.
The Talmud accepts both meanings of the word shema as the basis for halakhic rulings on how the Shema is to be recited (Berakhot 13a). Thus, R. Judah the Prince requires that we must ourselves hear our own enunciation of the first verse of the Shema. As for understanding what we are saying when we recite the Shema, the Sages permit the Shema to be read “in any language that you understand” (shomei’a, literally, “hear”), not only the original Hebrew. The Sages thus agree with R. Judah but are less strict: if the reciter fails to recite the words audibly, R. Judah demands repetition of the passage in order to fulfill the obligation to read the Shema, while the Sages only advise it strongly but do not disqualify the recitation in the absence of audibility. The Halakha ultimately decided in favor of the Sages, and so the preferable translation of shema is not “hear” but “understand.” The differing views of R. Judah and the Sages may also reflect their different judgments as to the priority of spirituality (“understand,” i.e., meditate on the meaning of what you are articulating) versus law (“hear”—articulate audibly).
R. Saadia Gaon—who headed the Babylonian academy of Sura about a millennium ago and whose fame rests upon his multiple accomplishments as a Talmudist, philosopher, linguist, and translator as well as educator and communal leader—also holds that there are two meanings to the word shema, both correct and necessary. The first is familiar to us from the talmudic discussion above: shema is synonymous with da, “know” or “understand.” This meaning is implicit as well in the rabbinic-midrashic interpretation of the biblical expression naaseh ve’nishma (Exod. 24:7), “we shall do and we shall understand.” The recitation that follows the word shema is not a rote recital, a kind of ritualistic incantation, but must be rooted in comprehension.
Saadia’s second sense of this word is kabbel, “accept,” implying faith, commitment, and obedience, as in the talmudic expression for the Shema, kabbalat ‘ol malkhut shamayim, “the acceptance of the yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven.” The recitation is not to be a disembodied intellectual declaration, a mere academic exercise, but must represent a profound spiritual, existential commitment to the content and implications of this first verse of the Shema. That is, we are summoned not only to listen, but to listen to.
This element of religious commitment is graphically symbolized in the text of the Torah scroll itself. Scribal tradition prescribes that the last of the three Hebrew letters of the word shema, the ‘ayin, be written large. Similarly, the dalet, the last letter of the last word, eḥad, is also enlarged. Two reasons have been offered for these orthographic peculiarities, and both reinforce Saadia’s second meaning of shema, namely, kabbel, “to accept.”
The first of these explanations is offered by R. David Abudarham, the fourteenth-century Spanish liturgical commentator: the two letters, ‘ayin and dalet, read together, spell ‘ed, the Hebrew word for “witness.” To declaim shema … eḥad is to give testimony. Thus, Isaiah proclaims in the name of God, atem ‘edai, “You are My witnesses” (43:10). It is not enough to know in the sense of understanding with our minds. We must also make known by testifying to our faith before God, before our fellow humans, and before ourselves.
The second reason offered for enlarging the ‘ayin and dalet is complementary to the first. Not only must we testify to our faith, but we must also guard against betraying it, even inadvertently by hesitation or by hedging our bets. Thus the letter ‘ayin is given prominence in order to distinguish it from an alef, which would spell a homonym of Shema, sounding similar but meaning something quite different: “maybe” or “perhaps.” Similarly, if we were to mistake the dalet for its look-alike cousin, resh, we might read the final word of the verse as aḥer, meaning “other, another,” implying another god, an idol. But when we affirm Judaism’s most precious doctrine, the unity of God, we must put aside any theological qualms and accept fully and humbly the sovereignty of the One God. The enlarged ‘ayin and dalet caution us to leave our doubts and hesitations for another time and another place.
Our tradition makes room for the honest doubter, for without such doubt questions would never be asked, prejudices never challenged, and science would come to a halt. But when we are seriously engaged in prayer, endeavoring to experience the presence of God, it is not the time to entertain intellectual doubts. In prayer, taught R. Naḥman of Bratzlav, we must cast aside all our “wisdom” and stand before our Maker as children; to be child-like in prayer is as appropriate as to be skeptical in thought. When seeking to wrest transcendent meaning out of existence and to pull ourselves out of the void, we should not cast ourselves into that very void. Rather, at that sacred moment, we can put our doubts aside and, in all integrity, proclaim the unity of God whole-heartedly. (The chronic doubter may achieve the same end—by doubting his doubts.) In an age of skepticism and denial, such unwavering faith is indeed hard to come by even for a short period. But, as a wise hasidic master once said, “even faith requires faith.” In the face of all the doubts that plague us, we are invited to believe that we can believe fully and unhesitatingly.
Thus, although the “maybe” and the “perhaps” have their place, the moment of profession of the Shema is not that place. Here, in the inner sanctum of Jewish faith, the ‘ayin and dalet are writ large, and the summons is clear: Hear—and commit yourself, O Israel. Da ve’kabbel, as Saadia put it: commit even as you seek to understand.
The Shema: Spirituality and Law in Judaism
Thanks to Meir Yona
Herod Is Made Procurator Of All Syria; Malichus Is Afraid Of Him, And Takes Antipater Off By Poison; Whereupon The Tribunes Of The Soldiers Are Prevailed With To Kill Him.
1. There, was at this time a mighty war raised among the Romans upon the sudden and treacherous slaughter of Caesar by Cassius and Brutus, after he had held the government for three years and seven months. 14 Upon this murder there were very great agitations, and the great men were mightily at difference one with another, and every one betook himself to that party where they had the greatest hopes of their own, of advancing themselves. Accordingly, Cassius came into Syria, in order to receive the forces that were at Apamia, where he procured a reconciliation between Bassus and Marcus, and the legions which were at difference with him; so he raised the siege of Apamia, and took upon him the command of the army, and went about exacting tribute of the cities, and demanding their money to such a degree as they were not able to bear.
2. So he gave command that the Jews should bring in seven hundred talents; whereupon Antipater, out of his dread of Cassius's threats, parted the raising of this sum among his sons, and among others of his acquaintance, and to be done immediately; and among them he required one Malichus, who was at enmity with him, to do his part also, which necessity forced him to do. Now Herod, in the first place, mitigated the passion of Cassius, by bringing his share out of Galilee, which was a hundred talents, on which account he was in the highest favor with him; and when he reproached the rest for being tardy, he was angry at the cities themselves; so he made slaves of Gophna and Emmaus, and two others of less note; nay, he proceeded as if he would kill Malichus, because he had not made greater haste in exacting his tribute; but Antipater prevented the ruin of this man, and of the other cities, and got into Cassius's favor by bringing in a hundred talents immediately.
3. However, when Cassius was gone Malichus forgot the kindness that Antipater had done him, and laid frequent plots against him that had saved him, as making haste to get him out of the way, who was an obstacle to his wicked practices; but Antipater was so much afraid of the power and cunning of the man, that he went beyond Jordan, in order to get an army to guard himself against his treacherous designs; but when Malichus was caught in his plot, he put upon Antipater's sons by his impudence, for he thoroughly deluded Phasaelus, who was the guardian of Jerusalem, and Herod who was intrusted with the weapons of war, and this by a great many excuses and oaths, and persuaded them to procure his reconciliation to his father. Thus was he preserved again by Antipater, who dissuaded Marcus, the then president of Syria, from his resolution of killing Malichus, on account of his attempts for innovation.
4. Upon the war between Cassius and Brutus on one side, against the younger Caesar [Augustus] and Antony on the other, Cassius and Marcus got together an army out of Syria; and because Herod was likely to have a great share in providing necessaries, they then made him procurator of all Syria, and gave him an army of foot and horse. Cassius promised him also, that after the war was over, he would make him king of Judea. But it so happened that the power and hopes of his son became the cause of his perdition; for as Malichus was afraid of this, he corrupted one of the king's cup-bearers with money to give a poisoned potion to Antipater; so he became a sacrifice to Malichus's wickedness, and died at a feast. He was a man in other respects active in the management of affairs, and one that recovered the government to Hyrcanus, and preserved it in his hands.
5. However, Malichus, when he was suspected of poisoning Antipater, and when the multitude was angry with him for it, denied it, and made the people believe he was not guilty. He also prepared to make a greater figure, and raised soldiers; for he did not suppose that Herod would be quiet, who indeed came upon him with an army presently, in order to revenge his father's death; but, upon hearing the advice of his brother Phasaelus, not to punish him in an open manner, lest the multitude should fall into a sedition, he admitted of Malichus's apology, and professed that he cleared him of that suspicion; he also made a pompous funeral for his father.
The War of the Jews: The History of the Destruction of Jerusalem (complete edition, 7 books)
by D.H. Stern
is brother to the destroyer.
10 The name of ADONAI is a strong tower;
a righteous person runs to it and is raised high [above danger].
11 The wealth of the rich is his fortified city,
like a high wall, in his own imagination.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
The staggering question
Son of man, can these bones live? --- Ezekiel 37:3.
Can that sinner be turned into a saint? Can that twisted life be put right? There is only one answer: ‘O Lord, Thou knowest, I don’t.’ Never trample in with religious common sense and say—‘Oh, yes, with a little more Bible reading and devotion and prayer, I see how it can be done.’
It is much easier to do something than to trust in God; we mistake panic for inspiration. That is why there are so few fellow-workers with God and so many workers for Him. We would far rather work for God than believe in Him. Am I quite sure that God will do what I cannot do? I despair of men in the degree in which I have never realized that God has done anything for me. Is my experience such a wonderful realization of God’s power and might that I can never despair of anyone I see? Have I had any spiritual work done in me at all? The degree of panic is the degree of the lack of personal spiritual experience.
“Behold, O my people, I will open your graves.” When God wants to show you what human nature is like apart from Himself, He has to show it you in yourself. If the Spirit of God has given you a vision of what you are apart from the grace of God (and He only does it when His Spirit is at work), you know there is no criminal who is half so bad in actuality as you know yourself to be in possibility. My ‘grave’ has been opened by God and “I know that in me (that is in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing.” God’s Spirit continually reveals what human nature is like apart from His grace.
My Utmost for His Highest
the Poetry of RS Thomas
that you have been seeking
you come upon it
the village in the Welsh hills
with no road out
but the one you came in by.
A bird chimes
from a green tree
the hour that is no hour
you know. The river dawdles
to hold a mirror for you
where you may see yourself
as you are, a traveller
with the moon's halo
above him, whom has arrived
after long journeying where he
began, catching this
one truth by surprise
that there is everything to look forward to.
Selected Poems, 1946-68
Keritot 11b, 12a
"If you want to feel better, you should.…" "You'd enjoy the program better if you would.…" Every one of us has been in a situation where others give us advice: "You should do this. You should feel that." Those who counsel us usually do so with every good intention. However, they are on the outside looking in. They may think that they know how we feel, or what happened to us, or who we want to be close with, but in the end, each of these is a very personal, subjective decision.
"A man is believed about himself more than a hundred men" still applies today to medical care. When we enter a doctor's office for an examination, the physician will start by asking why we are there. If there is a specific complaint, the doctor will make note of it and will conduct the examination accordingly. A physician can tell us what causes our pain, what appears on the tests, and what treatments are available. Only the patient can tell the doctor what really hurts, when the ache started, and if the prescribed therapy is effective in relieving the symptoms. Medical practitioners are being trained more and more to consider the patient's mental state and emotional stability as well as the description of the illness and concerns about the healing process. Unfortunately, we periodically hear of a case where the patient's worries were ignored by a doctor, resulting in dire consequences.
Jewish law takes note of the personal perspective and how outsiders may not know what is best for us. "A man is believed about himself more than a hundred men" about whether to be permitted to eat on Yom Kippur. While the Torah prohibits eating on Yom Kippur and the Talmud elaborates on these rules, a sick person is allowed to eat on the advice of a physician. What if the doctor says that the illness is not that severe and the sick person can fast despite the illness, while that sick person insists on eating? Jewish law then returns the decision to the sick person, on the theory that "a man is believed about himself more than a hundred men." An outsider can comment on general medical implications of fasting, but they cannot tell us how difficult it is for us to fast. A third party can give a general comment about fasting on those who are ill but cannot fully comprehend the affects of fasting on us.
Especially when we're feeling down on ourselves, we are often willing to accept advice from others, even if it's not in our best interest. Others can know a lot about us, but ultimately we—each and every one of us individually—know our own selves best. This is not to say that we should reject all guidance from others. Rather, we have to sift through the advice and suggestions of others, to test if it is applicable to us, and to be strong enough to believe in ourselves even if a hundred others believe otherwise.
Rest Stop / The Israelites then marched on and encamped in the steppes of Moab, across the Jordan from Jericho. (Numbers 22:1)
Words of Torah are compared to water … as it says: "Ho, all who are thirsty, come for water" [Isaiah 55:1].… And just as with water, a person who does not know how to swim will in the end drown, so too with Torah—a person who does not know how to swim in it and to learn from it will in the end drown. (Song of Songs Rabbah 1, 3)
When I started to study Talmud at the age of 10 or 11, I had to go to a teacher who was extremely poor and who lived in a one-room apartment with his two older daughters. When I came in he asked me, "Why do you have two hands?" I had never asked myself the question, and so it was a matter of "Why shouldn't I have two hands?" I said, "What is the answer?" He said, "With one hand you point into the text, and the other hand you put on the commentary. Once you do that you will never get lost. You know what the text means."
Well, of course, I considered this childish. I was already studying at the gymnasium. But later I really understood why we have two hands. With one hand we point to our tradition, the text, which accompanies us through the centuries; with the other hand, we have to look for the meaning. What does this text mean to us today? One hand is not enough. We need the other hand in order to explore what the text means. (Nahum N. Glatzer, "What I Have Learned," Jewish Heritage summer/fall 1993)
Seder Teharot / Introduction to Seder Teharot
The sixth and final Order of the Mishnah is Teharot, or "Clean Things." It details the very complex laws of ritual purity which were in effect during the period that the Temple stood. Of the twelve tractates in the Mishnah, only one contains Gemara. This tractate is Niddah, which discusses the rules of "family purity," that is, a woman's menstrual cycle and how it impacts on her ability to have intimate relations with her husband. Traditionally observant Jews continue to follow these laws to this day.
Everything is in the hands of Heaven, except for the fear of Heaven.
Text / Rabbi Yoḥanan said: "It is forbidden for a man 'to use his bed' [to have sex] during the daytime." What is the verse [that proves this]? As it says: "Perish the day on which I was born, and the night it was announced, 'A male has been conceived" [Job 3:3]. Night was thus set aside for conception, but daytime was not set aside for conception. Resh Lakish said: "It [scriptural proof] comes from here: 'He who is heedless of his ways will die' " [Proverbs 19:16]. How does Resh Lakish interpret the verse cited by Rabbi Yoḥanan? He needs it in the same way that Rabbi Ḥanina bar Papa explained: "The angel in charge of conception is named 'Lailah' [night]. He takes a drop [of sperm] and places it before the Holy One, blessed be He, and says to Him: 'Master of the World! This drop: What will become of it? Strong or weak? Wise or stupid? Rich or poor?' But 'wicked or righteous' is not said, following Rabbi Ḥanina, for Rabbi Ḥanina said: 'Everything is in the hands of Heaven, except for the fear of Heaven, as it says: "And now, O Israel, what does the Lord your God demand of you? Only this: to revere the Lord your God" ' [Deuteronomy 10:12]."
Context / He who has regard for his life pays regard to commandments; he who is heedless of his ways will die. (Proverbs 19:16)
Context / And now, O Israel, what does the Lord your God demand of you? Only this: to revere the Lord your God, to walk only in His paths, to love Him, and to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and soul, keeping the Lord's commandments and laws, which I enjoin upon you today, for your good. (Deuteronomy 10:12–13)
Context / Interestingly, these two quotations have four key roots or words in common, though in English translation they are rendered somewhat differently:
nafsho/nafshekha—his life/your soul
derakhov/derakhov—his ways/his paths
Context / Thus one verse comes to strengthen the themes of the other. We imagine that Resh Lakish, or the editors of the Gemara, were aware of these affinities when putting these texts together.
The notion that sex was to take place at night—in the dark—may derive from the Jewish value of tzni'ut or modesty. While it may seem a rather puritanical idea to most of us, we need to remember that in pre-modern times, and certainly in antiquity, privacy was very rare. Many houses consisted simply of a cooking/eating area, and a living/sleeping area. Restricting sex to the night time was often the only way to make certain other people weren't able to watch a couple during intimacy.
Rabbi Yoḥanan and Resh Lakish both attempted to back up this teaching with the authority of a biblical verse. Rabbi Yoḥanan looks to the Book of Job, and places great emphasis on the fact that the verse connects conception to the night. A modern reader, of course, would probably see this connection merely as the author's poetic expression. To the Rabbis of the Talmud, however, every nuance of the text is there for a specific purpose, and the connection is read literally.
Resh Lakish agrees with Rabbi Yoḥanan's teaching, but disagrees with his choice of verses to prove it. Instead of Job, he looks to the Book of Proverbs. The key word he focuses on in the verses he chooses is "ways." Perhaps he connected this word (derekh, in Hebrew) with the same word, also found in Proverbs, that speaks of the intimate relationship between a man and a woman: "Three things are beyond me; four I cannot fathom: How an eagle makes its way over the sky; how a snake makes its way over a rock; how a ship makes its way through the high seas; how a man has his way with a maiden. Such is the way of an adulteress: She eats, wipes her mouth, and says, 'I have done no wrong' " (Proverbs 30:18–20, emphasis added). Being "heedless of his (or His, that is, God's) ways" (i.e., having sex during the daytime) can lead to death according to the verse and is thus proof that such behavior is to be avoided.
The Gemara then asks: If Resh Lakish uses Proverbs 19:16 to prove that sex is forbidden during the day, what does he say that Job 3:3 (Rabbi Yoḥanan's verse) comes to teach? The answer is that it tells us an angel named Lailah is present just prior to conception to question God about the future of the child to be born from the act of sexual union. This bit of folklore derives from reading the word Lailah not as a common noun (meaning night: "… the night it was announced: 'A male has been conceived' ") but as a proper noun ("Lailah announced: 'A male has been conceived' ").
Finally, the close reading of verses concludes with Rabbi Ḥanina interpreting Deuteronomy 10:12 to mean: Since only one thing was asked of Israel (that they revere God), the implication is that that alone is out of God's hands; everything else (whether a person is rich or poor, weak or strong, wise or stupid) is decided by God.
Swimming in the Sea of Talmud: Lessons for Everyday Living
The Apologetics Study Bible
Many channelers and trance mediums cite this passage as evidence that communication with the dead is possible. Even if such an argument could be made, biblical law strictly forbids contacting spiritualist mediums (see Lv 19:31; 20:27; Dt 18:10–12; Is 8:19). Despite these injunctions, King Saul asked the medium of Endor to conjure up the spirit of Samuel, the dead prophet. Whether she actually succeeded or not is debatable. Saul's actions were costly: "Saul died for his unfaithfulness to the Lord because he did not keep the LORD's word. He even consulted a medium for guidance, but he did not inquire of the LORD. So the LORD put him to death and turned the kingdom over to David son of Jesse" (1 Ch 10:13–14).
28:6 Why didn't the Lord answer Saul's plea for help? The Bible teaches that people who consistently reject God's leadership in their lives, and refuse to follow the guidance He has already provided, should not expect Him to deliver them from trouble resulting from their poor choices (Jb 27:9; 35:12; Pr 1:23–28; Is 1:15; Jr 11:11; 14:12; Ezk 8:18; Mc 3:4; Zch 7:13; Jms 4:3). Saul had consistently disobeyed God (1 Sm 13:13–14; 15:11–23), even going so far as to kill the Lord's priests (22:17–19). He had created vast problems for himself and his nation. The Lord was not going to promise the king supernatural deliverance from those problems, even though Saul earnestly sought His help. Instead, God would use the Philistines as the instrument of judgment against Saul.
28:6 This passage says that Saul inquired of the Lord, while 1 Ch 10:14 says he did not. The contradiction is apparent only in English translations. In this verse Saul "asked" (Hb dāraš; "inquired of") the Lord to provide guidance, but the Lord did not answer him. In 1 Ch 10:13–14 Saul "asked" (Hb dāraš; "consulted") a medium for guidance but did not "seek" (Hb darash; "inquire of") the Lord. The point is that Saul died because he committed a capital offense in consulting a medium (see Lv 20:27) rather than seeking to obey God.
28:8–22 Did the medium of Endor really conjure up the dead prophet Samuel? Though scholars disagree on this question, the Bible suggests that she did. The law of Moses sternly forbids consultation of mediums (Lv 20:27; Dt 18:10–12) but never says that communicating with dead people is impossible. Saul was seemingly able to speak with a figure that not only accurately repeated key themes from Samuel's previous private conversations with Saul, but also correctly predicted the deaths of Saul and his sons. This suggests that the king was indeed speaking with Samuel.
What Is the Occult? by Leonard G. Goss
The English word "occult" comes from the Latin "occultus," which means things that are hidden, esoteric, concealed, or mysterious. For occult practitioners, the occult represents interference with physical nature by using hidden knowledge (gnosis), such as non-conventional practices including reciting formulas, making gestures, mixing incompatible elements, performing healing spells, or performing secret ceremonies attempting to alter physical nature. What is the hidden knowledge? According to occultists, it is the force at the base of the universe, and it is obtained only through secret communication with that force. Is this hidden force God? Or the devil? Or the soul of the universe? That depends a good deal on what particular source their gnosis has tapped into, but one thing the force is not: It is not the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
For those dabbling in the occult, such activities are considered harmless and fascinating—a real source of spiritual knowledge. For Christians, however, the wide range of practices making up the occult is destructive and spirit-threatening. Christians view as deeply evil things like alchemy, astrology, casting runes, crystals and crystal balls, divination, dowsing, ESP, fortune-telling, horoscopes, the I Ching, levitation, Ouija boards, paganism, palm reading, the paranormal, pendulum divination, psychic phenomena, reading Tarot Cards, ritual abuse, satanism, seances, secret societies, sorcery, spiritualism, talking to dead spirits, Wicca (so-called White Witchcraft) and Witchcraft (Black Magic). The extent of occult involvement is universal. Spiritual warfare is all around us, and if Satan cannot keep us from knowing Christ he will try containing us by drawing us into deception. The Enemy is a deceiver, liar, tempter, and devourer of human souls.
Why the interest in the occult? First, many churches have "watered down" the Gospel of Christ, rejecting the church's central teaching of Christ's divinity and other essential truths. When this happens, a spiritual vacuum invites people to go to the occult to be satisfied, swinging the door to occultist practices wide open. Second, there is a certain mystery about the occult which appeals to our curiosity. Many, thinking the occult is harmless, go deeper and deeper until they can't get out without any bad effects. Third, we all want ultimate answers to life's basic questions, and the occult offers a sort of "reality" by providing these answers. Actually, occultist practices are a counterfeit of God's power, and as such they do reveal some amazing things—but these things are not the ultimate truth. Fourth, an increase in demonic activity is to be expected as a sign of the end times (see Mk 13:22; 1 Tm 4:1).
Often, there is deliberate faking in the lucrative field of the occult. There is money to be made. There is also inaccurate reporting. When some people find a theory fascinating, they often care less about the facts. In addition, there is self manipulation. When it suits their wishes, some believe anything they want. There is, however, true demonic deception. The Bible teaches that there is a deceptive, dangerous spirit world which distorts reality and ruins human lives. Despite outright fraud, all Christians need to know that the occult or paranormal is real. The Bible is clear it is real, as Saul discovered upon meeting the medium of Endor (1 Sm 28), and we must not dismiss it. If God is real, his chief adversary is also real.
First John 3:8 says, "The one who commits sin is of the Devil, for the Devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God was revealed for this purpose: to destroy the Devil's works." Involvement in the occult is involvement in the devil's works, and as it can lead to very serious outcomes spiritually and psychologically, we must remember that the Bible denounces all occultic practices (see Dt 18:9–14; Ac 13:6–12). The road to the occult is broad and always destructive. The way of Christ is narrow but always leads to eternal life.
The Apologetics Study Bible: Understand Why You Believe
The Apologetics Study Bible
1 Samuel 31:3–5 The Bible provides three complementary accounts of Saul's receiving mortal wounds leading to his death. According to verse 3, Saul was severely wounded by a Philistine arrow. Then, to avoid being sadistically executed by the vengeance-seeking Philistines (17:51; 18:27), Saul fell on his own sword (v. 4), receiving a second grave wound that in time would have killed him (2 Sm 1:9). His armor-bearer, seeing that the king was now dead, then fell upon his sword and perished, as well (1 Sm 31:5). Later, an Amalekite—probably on the battlefield to steal personal possessions from the corpses—tried to take credit for dealing Saul's final death blow (2 Sam 1:6–10); whether or not he was telling the truth, it was a foolish move on his part. Though this sequence of events as the Bible relates it is complicated, it is certainly plausible.
The biblical narrative records examples of several individuals who took their own lives. In each case the circumstances of the suicide were inglorious and regrettable. Samson, tortured and humiliated by the Philistines, took his own life with theirs after a ruinous career of disregard for the Lord (Jdg 16:30). Ahithophel committed suicide after being publicly humiliated by having his advice rejected, and in order to avoid being executed for treason (2 Sm 17:23). Zimri, after murdering an Israelite king, ended his life to avoid being killed by his pursuers (1 Kg 16:18). Judas committed suicide after his betrayal of Jesus (Mt 27:5). Saul's attempted suicide was carried out to avoid the humiliation and torture the approaching Philistines would certainly have inflicted on him. There are no biblical examples of honorable suicide. An examination of the Bible's accounts of these lives and deaths suggest two primary scriptural observations about suicide: first, it is an option that some deeply troubled people will choose when facing desperate circumstances; and second, it is a pathetic and tragic end to a human life.
When the Egyptian magicians told Moses that he was bringing straw to Afarayim, they were basically telling him: "There's already too many people here who do what you want to do. There's no more room for you. You won't succeed. Find something else to occupy your time. Here you will just be another small fish in a big pond. Go away!!" But Moses refused to take "No!" for an answer. He was not afraid of the competition, not afraid of being put to the test. He believed in himself and in what he was able to accomplish. His response to "You're bringing straw to Afarayim" (which is similar to the expression "You're carrying coals to Newcastle") was "You bring vegetables to where the vegetables are." Yes, in the produce market, there will be scores of other merchants all selling the same product. Yet, it is the market where people go to when they want to buy their vegetables. We prove ourselves by showing that what we have to offer is just as good as or better than what the next person is selling.
The Apologetics Study Bible: Understand Why You Believe
Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism
The Targums generally do not help penetrate to ancient forms of the text other than those inherited in the MT collection. The Old Greek (OG) translation, on the other hand, provides for many books an invaluable witness to Second Temple textual forms that have otherwise perished. Whereas prior to the middle of the twentieth century the value of the LXX for text-critical purposes was often denigrated, the discovery of Hebrew manuscripts from Qumran vindicated the veracity of the LXX. Scrolls such as 4QDeutq, 4QSama, b, and 4QJerb, d display in Hebrew the type of texts from which the OG had been faithfully translated.
Those manuscripts have illuminated the first of four levels that must be taken into account when dealing with the individual Hebrew parent text from which the original translation was made. Previously, it had mainly been presumed that the parent text was virtually identical with the form in the MT, but the abundant variant editions unearthed at Qumran have freed critics from that myopic vision. One must seriously consider that the Greek is a witness to a Hebrew text that may simply be no longer available.
The second level is that of the act and product of the translation itself. Due to the many sources of possible variation from the parent Hebrew, the Greek often presented a text at odds even with the parent Hebrew it did use. Those sources included, for example, errors or damaged spots in the Hebrew manuscript, the uncertainty involved in understanding an often ambiguous Hebrew, misreading or misunderstanding of the Hebrew on the part of the translator, and different division of sentences due to lack of punctuation. Thus, though the translator was usually attempting to translate the Hebrew source text faithfully, unintended variants were inevitable. It is often declared that every translation is an interpretation. In a restricted sense that is correct; of course, the translator must interpret what the meaning of the original is. But the degree of interpretation is at times exaggerated to include theological Tendenz, or even “actualizing exegesis,” whereby the translator deliberately changed the ancient text to highlight some current event or view. Despite the attractiveness and relatively heightened significance of such theological interpretation—if it were correct—the creative exegesis is usually to be assigned to the scholar proposing it. In light of the pluriform Hebrew and Greek manuscripts from Qumran, a Herculean burden of proof falls on one who would claim that the translator saw and understood one message in the Hebrew and deliberately produced a different message in the translation. A distinction must also be made between the meaning that the translator produced and diverse possible interpretations of that wording later.
Messages different from the Hebrew could and did result from a third level. Roughly six centuries of copyists’ transmission elapsed between the original translation and the earliest full copies of the LXX dating from the fourth century C.E. It must be presumed that textual variants, both inadvertent errors and intentional corrections or supplements, began to affect the Greek texts from the earliest copies that scribes attempted to produce, just as happened with the Hebrew. Some variants entered the text through cross-fertilization from variant Hebrew formulations. Theological changes also occasionally occurred during the transmission process, clearly exemplified in passages such as LXX Ps. 13:3, with a long insertion quoted from Rom. 3:3–10, and other patently Christian additions in the transmitted texts at Pss. 50:9 and 95:10. Variants at the transmission level multiplied voluminously over the centuries and are seen now flooding the critical apparatus of the Göttingen Septuagint editions.
A fourth level visible in LXX manuscripts took the texts in a different direction. While variants multiplied in the LXX transmission, Jewish scholars labored to unify the developing LXX text, revising it toward conformity with what they presumed was the “original” Hebrew text, which for them happened to be the collection of texts now in the MT. This recensional process—seen primarily in the work of Aquila, Symmachus, and (proto-)Theodotion, and culminating in Origen’s Hexapla—instead of unifying the ongoing Greek manuscript tradition, rather infiltrated and complicated it. To use the LXX critically, it is important to work with the first and second levels, sifting out influence from the third and fourth levels.
In addition to serving as a valuable window into ancient Hebrew text forms, the LXX also provides luminous witness to the understanding of the Scriptures in late antiquity. The Greek texts also developed a life of their own, soon no longer moored to the precise meaning of the Hebrew originals, becoming the Scriptures of both Christian and Greek-speaking Jewish communities. The Old Latin and the “daughter versions” (e.g., the Armenian, the Bohairic, etc.) were translated from the LXX and serve indirectly as witnesses to possible alternate Hebrew texts, but all the remaining versions witness uniformly to the MT collection.
The Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism
Hallowed be your name. --- Luke 11:2.
In the invocation, Jesus gave us a new name for God. ( The model prayer;: A series of expositions on "The Lord's Prayer", ) In the first petition, he teaches us to pray for grace to honor that new name of Father by thought and life.
Our first thoughts when we pray must be of God. Above all personal interest stands the glory of God. Before the prayer for daily bread, for forgiveness, for deliverance, comes the prayer that God may have the glory due to his name. [And] hallowing God’s name means honoring the character of God that has been made known to us in Jesus Christ.
[We hallow God’s name] by cherishing worthy ideas of God. We are sinning against this name Father when we think of God as harsh, cruel. You must cherish beautiful thoughts of God if you are to hallow his name. The deeper we penetrate into the nature of God, the more loving, the more gracious we will find him to be. Therefore press on to know him until you come to feel that in earth, in heaven, you want none but him.
[You hallow God’s name] by the trustfulness of your life. A child cannot dishonor a father more than by fearing him, being suspicious about him, doubting his love. People sometimes complain of God’s dealing with them. They have spoken as if God used them hardly, as if God had lost his love for them. They were dishonoring God’s name, casting a slur on his character, forgetting that his nature is love and his name is Father. Those who, in spite of Calvary, think God can be unkind are doing insult to his love. We find ourselves in storms sometimes. In such storms we have the most glorious opportunities of hallowing God’s name. Let us ask him for grace to honor his fatherhood by trusting him in the dark and cloudy day.
[We hallow God’s name] by our obedience. Nothing is so dishonoring to God as profession without practice. Obey him. Obey him promptly, absolutely, willingly. That was how Jesus hallowed his Father’s name. It was his food and drink to do God’s will. He gave his Father full, absolute, glad obedience, so that in his prayer he could say to God, “I have brought you glory.”
We try to put God off with a little outward respect, we bow at his name, we bend in prayer before him, we sing hymns to his praise, but better than all is the daily obedience of the life. Tomorrow in the shop, the office, the school, and the home, make it your food and drink to do the Father’s will.
---J. D. Jones
Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
The Christian Atheist June 1
He was about 30 when, walking along the shore, he listened to the liquid thunder of sea and surf. Solomon’s words in Ecclesiastes 1:2 described his mood—Nothing makes sense! Everything is nonsense. I have seen it all—nothing makes sense! He had pursued every philosophy, and none of them made sense to him. He had studied the Stoics but wasn’t satisfied. Aristotelianism didn’t fulfill him, nor Pythagoreanism. He found Platonism empty of power. But by the ocean that day he met an old man who gave him a message of profound simplicity: Jesus Christ is Lord. Justin’s life was never again the same.
Justin came from Palestine, born soon after the death of the apostle John. His wealthy, pagan parents had given him a splendid education, and Justin proved brilliant. But though his mind was filled with philosophy, nothing filled his heart. That is, not until he met the old man by the sea sharing the Gospel.
Justin immediately began telling everyone that Christ can satisfy both mind and heart. He presented his case for Christianity clearly, defending the Gospel so effectively that he is known as one of the church’s first and finest apologists (defenders of the faith). He became a teacher in Ephesus, then moved to Rome and opened a Christian school. He wrote books advancing the Christian message, three of which still survive including a remarkable dialogue with a Jew in Ephesus named Trypho, a survivor of the Bar Kochba War. Justin skillfully explained the reasons Trypho should consider Christianity as a sound and reasonable faith.
In the mid-160s while teaching in Rome, he debated a cynic named Crescentius who held that virtue alone was the goal of life. Justin won the contest so decisively that Crescentius, enraged, apparently reported Justin to the Roman prefect and brought him before the court on charges of atheism—that is, of not believing in the gods of Rome. Justin and several others were condemned, flogged, and beheaded.
He has since been known as Justin Martyr, and his life is remembered every year by the church in both East and West on his feast day, June 1.
Everything you were taught can be put into a few words: Respect and obey God! This is what life is all about. God will judge everything we do, Even what is done is secret, whether good or bad. --- Ecclesiastes 12:13,14.
On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - June 1
“The Evening and the Morning were the first day.” --- Genesis 1:5.
Was it so even in the beginning? Did light and darkness divide the realm of time in the first day? Then little wonder is it if I have also changes in my circumstances from the sunshine of prosperity to the midnight of adversity. It will not always be the blaze of noon even in my soul concerns, I must expect at seasons to mourn the absence of my former joys, and seek my Beloved in the night. Nor am I alone in this, for all the Lord’s beloved ones have had to sing the mingled song of judgment and of mercy, of trial and deliverance, of mourning and of delight. It is one of the arrangements of Divine providence that day and night shall not cease either in the spiritual or natural creation till we reach the land of which it is written, “there is no night there.” What our heavenly Father ordains is wise and good.
What, then, my soul, is it best for thee to do? Learn first to be content with this divine order, and be willing, with Job, to receive evil from the hand of the Lord as well as good. Study next, to make the outgoings of the Morning and the Evening to rejoice. Praise the Lord for the sun of joy when it rises, and for the gloom of Evening as it falls. There is beauty both in sunrise and sunset, sing of it, and glorify the Lord. Like the nightingale, pour forth thy notes at all hours. Believe that the night is as useful as the day. The dews of grace fall heavily in the night of sorrow. The stars of promise shine forth gloriously amid the darkness of grief. Continue thy service under all changes. If in the day thy watchword be labour, at night exchange it for watch. Every hour has its duty, do thou continue in thy calling as the Lord’s servant until he shall suddenly appear in his glory. My soul, thine Evening of old age and death is drawing near, dread it not, for it is part of the day; and the Lord has said, “I will cover him all the day long.”
Evening - June 1
“He will make her wilderness like Eden.” --- Isaiah 51:3.
Methinks, I see in vision a howling wilderness, a great and terrible desert, like to the Sahara. I perceive nothing in it to relieve the eye, all around I am wearied with a vision of hot and arid sand, strewn with ten thousand bleaching skeletons of wretched men who have expired in anguish, having lost their way in the pitiless waste. What an appalling sight! How horrible! a sea of sand without a bound, and without an oasis, a cheerless graveyard for a race forlorn! But behold and wonder! Upon a sudden, upspringing from the scorching sand I see a plant of renown; and as it grows it buds, the bud expands—it is a rose, and at its side a lily bows its modest head; and, miracle of miracles! as the fragrance of those flowers is diffused the wilderness is transformed into a fruitful field, and all around it blossoms exceedingly, the glory of Lebanon is given unto it, the excellency of Carmel and Sharon. Call it not Sahara, call it Paradise. Speak not of it any longer as the valley of deathshade, for where the skeletons lay bleaching in the sun, behold a resurrection is proclaimed, and up spring the dead, a mighty army, full of life immortal. Jesus is that plant of renown, and his presence makes all things new. Nor is the wonder less in each individual’s salvation. Yonder I behold you, dear reader, cast out, an infant, unswathed, unwashed, defiled with your own blood, left to be food for beasts of prey. But lo, a jewel has been thrown into your bosom by a divine hand, and for its sake you have been pitied and tended by divine providence, you are washed and cleansed from your defilement, you are adopted into heaven’s family, the fair seal of love is upon your forehead, and the ring of faithfulness is on your hand—you are now a prince unto God, though once an orphan, cast away. O prize exceedingly the matchless power and grace which changes deserts into gardens, and makes the barren heart to sing for joy.
Morning and Evening
CHRIST RECEIVETH SINFUL MEN
Erdmann Neumeister, 1671–1756
Translated by Emma F. Bevan, 1827–1909
This man welcomes sinners and eats with them. (Luke 15:2)
Did Christ o’er sinners weep, and shall our cheeks be dry?
Let floods of penitential grief burst forth from every eye.
--- John Newton
The thrilling news of the Gospel is that Jesus welcomes the nobodies of life and transforms them into somebodies. The pages of church history are filled with examples of people whose lives have been dramatically changed from vile sinners to spiritual saints.
Divine love is never forced on anyone. God created man with a free will, free even to reject Christ’s provision for salvation. Our heavenly Father does not want to send to hell people who reject His Son—it is a place that was originally intended for the devil and his angels (Matthew 25:41). It cost God the cross and death of Jesus before He could forgive our sin and still remain a holy God. Although costly to God, salvation is a free gift to all who will receive it.
“Christ Receiveth Sinful Men” was originally written in 1718 by a Lutheran minister, Erdmann Neumeister, pastor of a church in Hamburg, Germany, for 41 years. He became widely known as an eloquent, forceful preacher as well as the author of approximately 650 hymns. More than a century later, an English lady hymnist, Emma Frances Bevan, translated this and a number of other German texts into the English language. Still today, this hymn reminds us clearly that Christ welcomes any repentant sinner who responds to His gracious invitation for forgiveness and a new life.
Sinners Jesus will receive! Sound this word of grace to all who the heav’nly pathway leave, all who linger, all who fall.
Come, and He will give you rest; trust Him for His word is plain; He will take the sinfulest; Christ receiveth sinful men.
Now my heart condemns me not; pure before the law I stand; He who cleansed me from all spot satisfied its last demand.
Christ receiveth sinful men, even me with all my sin; purged from ev’ry spot and stain, heav’n with Him I enter in.
Chorus: Sing it o’er and o’er again: Christ receiveth sinful men; make the message clear and plain: Christ receiveth sinful men.
For Today: Isaiah 55:7; Matthew 11:28, 29; Luke 15:1–7; Ephesians 1:6–8.
Thank God again for His free gift of salvation that is extended to everyone. There are many today who believe that they must somehow make themselves better before they can be accepted by God. Determine to share this truth with such a one.
Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
Martin Luther | (1483-1546)
Sect. XLII. — BUT that we might not seem to delight in a mere war of words, we cede to that abuse, though great and dangerous, that “Free-will means “Vertible-will.” We will cede also that to Erasmus, where he makes “Free-will” ‘a power of the human will:’ (as though angels had not a “Free-will” too, merely because he designed in this book to treat only on the “Free-will” of men!) We make this remark, otherwise, even in this part, the definition would be too narrow to embrace the thing defined.
We come then to those parts of the definition, which are the hinge upon which the matter turns. Of these things some are manifest enough; the rest shun the light, as if conscious to themselves that they had every thing to fear: because, nothing ought to be expressed more clearly, and more decisively, than a definition; for to define obscurely, is the same thing as defining nothing at all.
The clear parts of the definition then are these: — ‘power of human will:’ and ‘by which a man can:’ also, ‘unto eternal salvation.’ But these are Andabatae: — ‘to apply:’ and, ‘to those things which lead:’ also, ‘to turn away.’ What shall we divine that this ‘to apply’ means? And this ‘to turn away,’ also? And also what these words mean, ‘which pertain unto eternal salvation?’ Into what dark corner have these withdrawn their meaning? I seem as if I were engaged in dispute with a very Scotinian, or with Heraclitus himself, so as to be in the way of being worn out by a twofold labour. First, that I shall have to find out my adversary by groping and feeling about for him in pits and darkness, (which is an enterprise both venturous and perilous,) and if I do not find him, to fight to no purpose with ghosts, and beat the air in the dark. And, secondly, if I should bring him out into the light, that then, I shall have to fight with him upon equal ground, when I am already worn out with hunting after him.
I suppose, then, what you mean by the ‘power of the human will’ is this: — a power, or faculty, or disposition, or aptitude, to will or not to will, to choose or refuse, to approve or disapprove, and what other actions soever belong to the will. Now then, what it is for this same power ‘to apply itself,’ or ‘to turn away,’ I do not see: unless it be the very, willing or not willing, choosing or refusing, approving or disapproving; that is, the very action itself of the will. But may we suppose, that this power is a kind of medium, between the will itself and the action itself; such as, that by which the will itself allures forth the action itself of willing or not willing, or by which the action itself of willing or not willing is allured forth? Any thing else beside this, it is impossible for one to imagine or think of. And if I am deceived, let the fault be my author’s who has given the definition, not mine who examine it. For it is justly said among lawyers, ‘his words who speaks obscurely, when he can speak more plainly, are to be interpreted against himself.’ And here I wish to know nothing of our moderns and their subtleties, for we must come plainly to close quarters in what we say, for the sake of understanding and teaching.
And as to those words, ‘which lead unto eternal salvation,’ I suppose by them are meant the words and works of God, which are offered to the human will, that it might either apply itself to them, or turn away from them. But I call both the Law and the Gospel the words of God. By the Law, works are required; and by the Gospel, faith. For there are no other things which lead either unto the grace of God, or unto eternal salvation, but the word and the work of God: because grace or the spirit is the life itself, to which we are led by the word and the work of God.
The Bondage of the Will or Christian Classics Ethereal Library
Dr. Keith Essex | The Master's Seminary
Dr. Keith Essex | The Master's Seminary
Brett Meador | Athey Creek
Intro to Job Job 1-2:10
s2-206 | 4-29-2018
m2-209 | 5-02-2018