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6/14/2019     Yesterday     Tomorrow
     Psalm 1 - 8


Psalm 1

The Way of the Righteous and the Wicked

Psalm 1:1 1 Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
2  but his delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates day and night.

3  He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
4  The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

5  Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
6  for the LORD knows the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.


Psalm 2

The Reign of the LORD’s Anointed

Psalm 2  Why do the nations rage
and the peoples plot in vain?
2  The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers take counsel together,
against the LORD and against his Anointed, saying,
3  “Let us burst their bonds apart
and cast away their cords from us.”

4  He who sits in the heavens laughs;
the Lord holds them in derision.
5  Then he will speak to them in his wrath,
and terrify them in his fury, saying,
6  “As for me, I have set my King
on Zion, my holy hill.”

7  I will tell of the decree:
The LORD said to me, “You are my Son;
today I have begotten you.
8  Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,
and the ends of the earth your possession.
9  You shall break them with a rod of iron
and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”

10  Now therefore, O kings, be wise;
be warned, O rulers of the earth.
11  Serve the LORD with fear,
and rejoice with trembling.
12  Kiss the Son,
lest he be angry, and you perish in the way,
for his wrath is quickly kindled.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him.


Psalm 3

Save Me, O My God

A Psalm of David, when he fled from Absalom his son.

Psalm 3 1 O Lord, how many are my foes!
Many are rising against me;
2 many are saying of my soul,
“There is no salvation for him in God.” Selah

3 But you, O Lord, are a shield about me,
my glory, and the lifter of my head.
4 I cried aloud to the Lord,
and he answered me from his holy hill. Selah

5 I lay down and slept;
I woke again, for the Lord sustained me.
6 I will not be afraid of many thousands of people
who have set themselves against me all around.

7 Arise, O Lord!
Save me, O my God!
For you strike all my enemies on the cheek;
you break the teeth of the wicked.

8 Salvation belongs to the Lord;
your blessing be on your people! Selah


Psalm 4

Answer Me When I Call

To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments. A Psalm of David.

Psalm 4 1 Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness!
You have given me relief when I was in distress.
Be gracious to me and hear my prayer!

2 O men, how long shall my honor be turned into shame?
How long will you love vain words and seek after lies? Selah
3 But know that the Lord has set apart the godly for himself;
the Lord hears when I call to him.

4 Be angry, and do not sin;
ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. Selah
5 Offer right sacrifices,
and put your trust in the Lord.

6 There are many who say, “Who will show us some good?
Lift up the light of your face upon us, O Lord!”
7 You have put more joy in my heart
than they have when their grain and wine abound.

8 In peace I will both lie down and sleep;
for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.


Psalm 5

Lead Me in Your Righteousness

To the choirmaster: for the flutes. A Psalm of David.

  See Psalm 5 article below   Psalm 5 1 Give ear to my words, O Lord;
consider my groaning.
2 Give attention to the sound of my cry,
my King and my God,
for to you do I pray.
3 O Lord, in the morning you hear my voice;
in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch.

4 For you are not a God who delights in wickedness;
evil may not dwell with you.
5 The boastful shall not stand before your eyes;
you hate all evildoers.
6 You destroy those who speak lies;
the Lord abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man.

7 But I, through the abundance of your steadfast love,
will enter your house.
I will bow down toward your holy temple
in the fear of you.
8 Lead me, O Lord, in your righteousness
because of my enemies;
make your way straight before me.

9 For there is no truth in their mouth;
their inmost self is destruction;
their throat is an open grave;
they flatter with their tongue.
10 Make them bear their guilt, O God;
let them fall by their own counsels;
because of the abundance of their transgressions cast them out,
for they have rebelled against you.

11 But let all who take refuge in you rejoice;
let them ever sing for joy,
and spread your protection over them,
that those who love your name may exult in you.
12 For you bless the righteous, O Lord;
you cover him with favor as with a shield.


Psalm 6

O Lord, Deliver My Life

To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments; according to The Sheminith. A Psalm of David.

  See Psalm 6 article below   Psalm 6 1 O Lord, rebuke me not in your anger,
nor discipline me in your wrath.
2 Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am languishing;
heal me, O Lord, for my bones are troubled.
3 My soul also is greatly troubled.
But you, O Lord—how long?

4 Turn, O Lord, deliver my life;
save me for the sake of your steadfast love.
5 For in death there is no remembrance of you;
in Sheol who will give you praise?

6 I am weary with my moaning;
every night I flood my bed with tears;
I drench my couch with my weeping.
7 My eye wastes away because of grief;
it grows weak because of all my foes.

8 Depart from me, all you workers of evil,
for the Lord has heard the sound of my weeping.
9 The Lord has heard my plea;
the Lord accepts my prayer.
10 All my enemies shall be ashamed and greatly troubled;
they shall turn back and be put to shame in a moment.


Psalm 7

In You Do I Take Refuge

  See Psalm 7 article below   Psalm 7 1  Praise the LORD!
Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever!
2  Who can utter the mighty deeds of the LORD,
or declare all his praise?
3  Blessed are they who observe justice,
who do righteousness at all times!


Psalm 8

How Majestic Is Your Name

  See Psalm 8 article below   Psalm 8 1  Praise the LORD!
Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever!
2  Who can utter the mighty deeds of the LORD,
or declare all his praise?
3  Blessed are they who observe justice,
who do righteousness at all times!

The Reformation Study Bible


What I'm Reading

Psalm 5 Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892)

By Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892)

TITLE. "To the Chief Musician upon Nehiloth, a Psalm of David." The Hebrew word Nehiloth is taken from another word, signifying "to perforate;" "to bore through," whence it comes to mean a pipe or a flute; so that this song was probably intended to be sung with an accompaniment of wind instruments, such as the horn, the trumpet, flute, or cornet. However, it is proper to remark that we are not sure of the interpretation of these ancient titles, for the Septuagint translates it, "For him who shall obtain inheritance," and Aben Ezra thinks it denotes some old and well known melody to which this Psalm was to be played. The best scholars confess that great darkness hangs over the precise interpretation of the title; nor is this much to be regretted, for it furnishes an internal evidence of the great antiquity of the Book. Throughout the first, second, third, and forth Psalms, you will have noticed that the subject is a contrast between the position, the character, and the prospects of the righteous and of the wicked. In this Psalm you will note the same. The Psalmist carries out a contrast between himself made righteous by God's grace, and the wicked who opposed him. To the devout mind there is here presented a precious view of the Lord Jesus, of whom it is said that in the days of his flesh, he offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears.

DIVISION. The Psalm should be divided into two parts, from the first to the seventh verse, and then from the eighth to the twelfth. In the first part of the Psalm David most vehemently beseeches the Lord to hearken to his prayer, and in the second part he retraces the same ground.



EXPOSITION

     Verse 1. There are two sorts of prayers—those expressed in words, and the unuttered longings which abide as silent meditations. Words are not the essence but the garments of prayer. Moses at the Red Sea cried to God, though he said nothing. Yet the use of language may prevent distraction of mind, may assist the powers of the soul, and may excite devotion. David, we observe, uses both modes of prayer, and craves for the one a hearing, and for the other a consideration. What an expressive word! "Consider my meditation." If I have asked that which is right, give it to me; if I have omitted to ask that which I most needed, fill up the vacancy in my prayer. "Consider my meditation." Let thy holy soul consider it as presented through my all-glorious Mediator: then regard thou it in thy wisdom, weigh it in the scales, judge thou of my sincerity, and of the true state of my necessities, and answer me in due time for thy mercy's sake! There may be prevailing intercession where there are no words; and alas! there may be words where there is no true supplication. Let us cultivate the spirit of prayer which is even better than the habit of prayer. There may be seeming prayer where there is little devotion. We should begin to pray before we kneel down, and we should not cease when we rise up.

     Verse 2. "The voice of my cry." In another Psalm we find the expression, "The voice of my weeping." Weeping has a voice—a melting, plaintive tone, an ear-piercing shrillness, which reaches the very heart of God; and crying hath a voice—a soul-moving eloquence; coming from our heart it reaches God's heart. Ah! my brothers and sisters, sometimes we cannot put our prayers into words: they are nothing but a cry: but the Lord can comprehend the meaning, for he hears a voice in our cry. To a loving father his children's cries are music, and they have a magic influence which his heart cannot resist. "My King, and my God." Observe carefully these little pronouns, "my King, and my God." They are the pith and marrow of the plea. Here is a grand argument why God should answer prayer—because he is our King and our God. We are not aliens to him: he is the King of our country. Kings are expected to hear the appeals of their own people. We are not strangers to him; we are his worshippers, and he is our God: ours by covenant, by promise, by oath, by blood.

     "For unto thee will I pray." Here David expresses his declaration that he will seek to God, and to God alone. God is to be the only object of worship: the only resource of our soul in times of need. Leave broken cisterns to the godless, and let the godly drink from the Divine fountain alone. "Unto thee will I pray." He makes a resolution, that as long as he lived he would pray. He would never cease to supplicate, even though the answer should not come.

     Verse 3. Observe, this is not so much a prayer as a resolution, "'My voice shalt thou hear;' I will not be dumb, I will not be silent, I will not withhold my speech, I will cry to thee for the fire that dwells within compels me to pray." We can sooner die than live without prayer. None of God's children are possessed with a dumb devil.

     "In the morning." This is the fittest time for intercourse with God. An hour in the morning is worth two in the evening. While the dew is on the grass, let grace drop upon the soul. Let us give to God the mornings of our days and the morning of our lives. Prayer should be the key of the day and the lock of the night. Devotion should be both the morning star and the evening star.

     If we merely read our English version, and want an explanation of these two sentences, we find it in the figure of an archer, "I will direct my prayer unto thee," I will put my prayer upon the bow, I will direct it towards heaven, and then when I have shot up my arrow, I will look up to see where it has gone. But the Hebrew has a still fuller meaning than this—"I will direct my prayer." It is the word that is used for the laying in order of the wood and the pieces of the victim upon the altar, and it is used also for the putting of the shewbread upon the table. It means just this: "I will arrange my prayer before thee;" I will lay it out upon the altar in the morning, just as the priest lays out the morning sacrifice. I will arrange my prayer; or, as old Master Trapp has it, "I will marshall up my prayers," I will put them in order, call up all my powers, and bid them stand in their proper places, that I may pray with all my might, and pray acceptably.

     "And will look up," or, as the Hebrew might better be translated, "'I will look out,' I will look out for the answer; after I have prayed, I will expect that the blessing shall come." It is a word that is used in another place where we read of those who watched for the morning. So will I watch for thine answer, O my Lord! I will spread out my prayer like the victim on the altar, and I will look up, and expect to receive the answer by fire from heaven to consume the sacrifice.

     Two questions are suggested by the last part of this verse. Do we not miss very much of the sweetness and efficacy of prayer by a want of careful meditation before it, and of hopeful expectation after it? We too often rush into the presence of God without forethought or humility. We are like men who present themselves before a king without a petition, and what wonder is it that we often miss the end of prayer? We should be careful to keep the stream of meditation always running; for this is the water to drive the mill of prayer. It is idle to pull up the flood-gates of a dry brook, and then hope to see the wheel revolve. Prayer without fervency is like hunting with a dead dog, and prayer without preparation is hawking with a blind falcon. Prayer is the work of the Holy Spirit, but he works by means. God made man, but he used the dust of the earth as a material: the Holy Ghost is the author of prayer, but he employs the thoughts of a fervent soul as the gold with which to fashion the vessel. Let not our prayers and praises be the flashes of a hot and hasty brain, but the steady burning of a well-kindled fire.

     But, furthermore, do we not forget to watch the result of our supplications? We are like the ostrich, which lays her eggs and looks not for her young. We sow the seed, and are too idle to seek a harvest. How can we expect the Lord to open the windows of his grace, and pour us out a blessing, if we will not open the windows of expectation and look up for the promised favour? Let holy preparation link hands with patient expectation, and we shall have far larger answers to our prayers.

     Verse 4. And now the Psalmist having thus expressed his resolution to pray, you hear him putting up his prayer. He is pleading against his cruel and wicked enemies. He uses a most mighty argument. He begs of God to put them away from him, because they were displeasing to God himself. "For thou art not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness: neither shall evil dwell with thee." "When I pray against my tempters," says David, "I pray against the very things which thou thyself abhorrest." Thou hatest evil: Lord, I beseech thee, deliver me from it!

     Let us learn here the solemn truth of the hatred which a righteous God must bear toward sin. He has no pleasure in wickedness, however wittily, grandly, and proudly it may array itself. Its glitter has no charm for him. Men may bow before successful villainy, and forget the wickedness of the battle in the gaudiness of the triumph, but the Lord of Holiness is not such-an-one as we are. "Neither shall evil dwell with thee." He will not afford it the meanest shelter. Neither on earth nor in heaven shall evil share the mansion of God. Oh, how foolish are we if we attempt to entertain two guests so hostile to one another as Christ Jesus and the devil! Rest assured, Christ will not live in the parlour of our hearts if we entertain the devil in the cellar of our thoughts.

     Verse 5. "The foolish shall not stand in thy sight." Sinners are fools written large. A little sin is a great folly, and the greatest of all folly is great sin. Such sinful fools as these must be banished from the court of heaven. Earthly kings were wont to have fools in their trains, but the only wise God will have no fools in his palace above. "Thou hatest all workers of iniquity." It is not a little dislike, but a thorough hatred which God bears to workers of iniquity. To be hated of God is an awful thing. O let us be very faithful in warning the wicked around us, for it will be a terrible thing for them to fall into the hands of an angry God!

     Verse 6. Observe, that evil speakers must be punished as well as evil workers, for "thou shalt destroy them that speak leasing." All liars shall have their portion in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone. A man may lie without danger of the law of man, but he will not escape the law of God. Liars have short wings, their flight shall soon be over, and they shall fall into the fiery floods of destruction. "The Lord will abhor the bloody and deceitful man." Bloody men shall be made drunk with their own blood, and they who began by deceiving others shall end with being deceived themselves. Our old proverb saith, "Bloody and deceitful men dig their own graves." The voice of the people is in this instance the voice of God. How forcible is the word abhor! Does it not show us how powerful and deep-seated is the hatred of the Lord against the workers of iniquity?

     Verse 7. With this verse the first part of the Psalm ends. The Psalmist has bent his knee in prayer; he has described before God, as an argument for his deliverance, the character and the fate of the wicked; and now he contrasts this with the condition of the righteous. "But as for me, I will come into thy house." I will not stand at a distance, I will come into thy sanctuary, just as a child comes into his father's house. But I will not come there by my own merits; no, I have a multitude of sins, and therefore I will come in the multitude of thy mercy. I will approach thee with confidence because of thy immeasurable grace. God's judgments are all numbered, but his mercies are innumerable; he gives his wrath by weight, but without weight his mercy. "And in thy fear will I worship toward thy holy temple,"—towards the temple of thy holiness. The temple was not built on earth at that time; it was but a tabernacle; but David was wont to turn his eyes spiritually to that temple of God's holiness where between the wings of the Cherubim Jehovah dwells in light ineffable. Daniel opened his window toward Jerusalem, but we open our hearts toward heaven.

     Verse 8. Now we come to the second part, in which the Psalmist repeats his arguments, and goes over the same ground again.

     "Lead me, O Lord," as a little child is led by its father, as a blind man is guided by his friend. It is safe and pleasant walking when God leads the way. "In thy righteousness," not in my righteousness, for that is imperfect, but in thine, for thou art righteousness itself. "Make thy way," not my way, "straight before my face." Brethren, when we have learned to give up our own way, and long to walk in God's way, it is a happy sign of grace; and it is no small mercy to see the way of God with clear vision straight before our face. Errors about duty may lead us into a sea of sins, before we know where we are.

     Verse 9. This description of depraved man has been copied by the Apostle Paul, and, together with some other quotations, he has placed it in the second chapter of Romans, as being an accurate description of the whole human race, not of David's enemies only, but of all men by nature. Note that remarkable figure, "Their throat is an open sepulchre," a sepulchre full of loathsomeness, of miasma, of pestilence and death. But, worse than that, it is an open sepulchre, with all its evil gases issuing forth, to spread death and destruction all around. So, with the throat of the wicked, it would be a great mercy if it could always be closed. If we could seal in continual silence the mouth of the wicked it would be like a sepulchre shut up, and would not produce much mischief. But, "their throat is an open sepulchre," consequently all the wickedness of their heart exhales, and comes forth. How dangerous is an open sepulchre; men in their journeys might easily stumble therein, and find themselves among the dead. Ah! take heed of the wicked man, for there is nothing that he will not say to ruin you; he will long to destroy your character, and bury you in the hideous sepulchre of his own wicked throat. One sweet thought here, however. At the resurrection there will be a resurrection not only of bodies, but characters. This should be a great comfort to a man who has been abused and slandered. "Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun." The world may think you vile, and bury your character; but if you have been upright, in the day when the graves shall give up their dead, this open sepulchre of the sinner's throat shall be compelled to give up your heavenly character, and you shall come forth and be honoured in the sight of men. "They flatter with their tongue." Or, as we might read it, "They have an oily tongue, a smooth tongue." A smooth tongue is a great evil; many have been bewitched by it. There be many human ant-eaters that with their long tongues covered with oily words entice and entrap the unwary and make their gain thereby. When the wolf licks the lamb, he is preparing to wet his teeth in its blood.

     Verse 10. "Against thee:" not against me. If they were my enemies I would forgive them, but I cannot forgive thine. We are to forgive our enemies, but God's enemies it is not in our power to forgive. These expressions have often been noticed by men of over refinement as being harsh, and grating on the ear. "Oh!" say they, "they are vindictive and revengeful." Let us remember that they might be translated as prophecies, not as wishes; but we do not care to avail ourselves of this method of escape. We have never heard of a reader of the Bible who, after perusing these passages, was made revengeful by reading them, and it is but fair to test the nature of a writing by its effects. When we hear a judge condemning a murderer, however severe his sentence, we do not feel that we should be justified in condemning others for any private injury done to us. The Psalmist here speaks as a judge, ex officio; he speaks as God's mouth, and in condemning the wicked he gives us no excuse whatever for uttering anything in the way of malediction upon those who have caused us personal offence. The most shameful way of cursing another is by pretending to bless him. We were all somewhat amused by noticing the toothless malice of that wretched old priest of Rome, when he foolishly cursed the Emperor of France with his blessing. He was blessing him in form and cursing him in reality. Now, in direct contrast we put this healthy commination of David, which is intended to be a blessing by warning the sinner of the impending curse. O impenitent man, be it known unto thee that all thy godly friends will give their solemn assent to the awful sentence of the Lord, which he shall pronounce upon thee in the day of doom! Our verdict shall applaud the condemning curse which the Judge of all the earth shall thunder against the godless.

     In the following verse we once more find the contrast which has marked the preceeding Psalms.

     Verse 11. Joy is the privilege of the believer. When sinners are destroyed our rejoicing shall be full. They laugh first and weep ever after; we weep now, but shall rejoice eternally. When they howl we shall shout, and as they must groan for ever, so shall we ever shout for joy. This holy bliss of ours has a firm foundation, for, O Lord, we are joyful in thee. The eternal God is the well-spring of our bliss. We love God, and therefore we delight in him. Our heart is at ease in our God. We fare sumptuously every day because we feed on him. We have music in the house, music in the heart, and music in heaven, for the Lord Jehovah is our strength and our song; he also is become our salvation.

     Verse 12. Jehovah has ordained his people the heirs of blessedness, and nothing shall rob them of their inheritance. With all the fulness of his power he will bless them, and all his attributes shall unite to satiate them with divine contentment. Nor is this merely for the present, but the blessing reaches into the long and unknown future. "Thou, Lord, wilt bless the righteous." This is a promise of infinite length, of unbounded breadth, and of unutterable preciousness. As for the defence which the believer needs in this land of battles, it is here promised to him in the fullest measure. There were vast shields used by the ancients as extensive as a man's whole person, which would surround him entirely. So says David, "With favour wilt thou compass him as with a shield." According to Ainsworth there is here also the idea of being crowned, so that we wear a royal helmet, which is at once our glory and defence. O Lord, ever give to us this gracious coronation!

The Treasury of David (3 Volumes Set)

     Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892) served for 30 years at the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London. He was the great Victorian preacher and was one of the most influential people of the second half of the 19th Century. At the heart of his desire to preach was a fierce love of people, a desire that meant he did not neglect his pastoral ministry. It is estimated that during his lifetime he spoke to 10 million people, and he became known as the "Prince of Preachers." His works fill over 60 volumes; and more than a century after his death, his sermons and devotional texts continue to challenge and touch Christians and non-Christians alike with their biblical grounding, eloquent text, and simple encouragement.

     C.H. Spurgeon Books |  Go to Books Page

Psalm 6 Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892)

By Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892)

TITLE. This Psalm is commonly known as the first of the PENITENTIAL PSALMS, (The other six are 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, 143) and certainly its language well becomes the lip of a penitent, for it expresses at once the sorrow, (verses 3, 6, 7), the humiliation (verses 2 and 4), and the hatred of sin (verse 8), which are the unfailing marks of the contrite spirit when it turns to God. O Holy Spirit, beget in us the true repentance which needeth not to be repented of. The title of this Psalm is "To the chief Musician on Neginoth upon Sheminith (1 Chronicle 15:21), A Psalm of David," that is, to the chief musician with stringed instruments, upon the eighth, probably the octave. Some think it refers to the bass or tenor key, which would certainly be well adapted to this mournful ode. But we are not able to understand these old musical terms, and even the term "Selah," still remains untranslated. This, however, should be no difficulty in our way. We probably lose but very little by our ignorance, and it may serve to confirm our faith. It is a proof of the high antiquity of these Psalms that they contain words, the meaning of which is lost even to the best scholars of the Hebrew language. Surely these are but incidental (accidental I might almost say, if I did not believe them to be designed by God), proofs of their being, what they profess to be, the ancient writings of King David of olden times.

DIVISION. You will observe that the Psalm is readily divided into two parts. First, there is the Psalmist's plea in his great distress, reaching from the first to the end of the seventh verse. Then you have, from the eighth to the end, quite a different theme. The Psalmist has changed his note. He leaves the minor key, and betakes himself to sublimer strains. He tunes his note to the high key of confidence, and declares that God hath heard his prayer, and hath delivered him out of all his troubles.


EXPOSITION

     Verse 1. Having read through the first division, in order to see it as a whole, we will now look at it verse by verse. "O Lord, rebuke me not in thine anger." The Psalmist is very conscious that he deserves to be rebuked, and he feels, moreover, that the rebuke in some form or other must come upon him, if not for condemnation, yet for conviction and sanctification. "Corn is cleaned with wind, and the soul with chastenings." It were folly to pray against the golden hand which enriches us by its blows. He does not ask that the rebuke may be totally withheld, for he might thus lose a blessing in disguise; but, "Lord, rebuke me not in thine anger." If thou remindest me of my sin, it is good; but, oh, remind me not of it as one incensed against me, lest thy servant's heart should sink in despair. Thus saith Jeremiah, "O Lord, correct me, but with judgment; not in thine anger, lest thou bring me to nothing." I know that I must be chastened, and though I shrink from the rod yet do I feel that it will be for my benefit; but, oh, my God, "chasten me not in thy hot displeasure," lest the rod become a sword, and lest in smiting, thou shouldest also kill. So may we pray that the chastisements of our gracious God, if they may not be entirely removed, may at least be sweetened by the consciousness that they are "not in anger, but in his dear covenant love."

     Verse 2. "Have mercy upon me, O Lord; for I am weak." Though I deserve destruction, yet let thy mercy pity my frailty. This is the right way to plead with God if we would prevail. Urge not your goodness or your greatness, but plead your sin and your littleness. Cry, "I am weak," therefore, O Lord, give me strength and crush me not. Send not forth the fury of thy tempest against so weak a vessel. Temper the wind to the shorn lamb. Be tender and pitiful to a poor withering flower, and break it not from its stem. Surely this is the plea that a sick man would urge to move the pity of his fellow if he were striving with him, "Deal gently with me, 'for I am weak.'" A sense of sin had so spoiled the Psalmist's pride, so taken away his vaunted strength, that he found himself weak to obey the law, weak through the sorrow that was in him, too weak, perhaps, to lay hold on the promise. "I am weak." The original may be read, "I am one who droops," or withered like a blighted plant. Ah! beloved, we know what this means, for we, too, have seen our glory stained, and our beauty like a faded flower.

     Verse 3. "O Lord, heal me; for my bones are vexed." Here he prays for healing, not merely the mitigation of the ills he endured, but their entire removal, and the curing of the wounds which had arisen therefrom. His bones were "shaken," as the Hebrew has it. His terror had become so great that his very bones shook; not only did his flesh quiver, but the bones, the solid pillars of the house of manhood, were made to tremble. "My bones are shaken." Ah, when the soul has a sense of sin, it is enough to make the bones shake; it is enough to make a man's hair stand up on end to see the flames of hell beneath him, an angry God above him, and danger and doubt surrounding him. Well might he say, "My bones are shaken." Lest, however, we should imagine that it was merely bodily sickness— although bodily sickness might be the outward sign—the Psalmist goes on to say, "My soul is also sore vexed." Soul-trouble is the very soul of trouble. It matters not that the bones shake if the soul be firm, but when the soul itself is also sore vexed this is agony indeed. "But thou, O Lord, how long?" This sentence ends abruptly, for words failed, and grief drowned the little comfort which dawned upon him. The Psalmist had still, however, some hope; but that hope was only in his God. He therefore cries, "O Lord, how long?" The coming of Christ into the soul in his priestly robes of grace is the grand hope of the penitent soul; and, indeed, in some form or other, Christ's appearance is, and ever has been, the hope of the saints.

     Calvin's favourite exclamation was, "Domine usquequo"—"O Lord, how long?" Nor could his sharpest pains, during a life of anguish, force from him any other word. Surely this is the cry of the saints under the altar, "O Lord, how long?" And this should be the cry of the saints waiting for the millennial glories, "Why are his chariots so long in coming; Lord, how long?" Those of us who have passed through conviction of sin knew what it was to count our minutes hours, and our hours years, while mercy delayed its coming. We watched for the dawn of grace, as they that watch for the morning. Earnestly did our anxious spirits ask, "O Lord, how long?"

     Verse 4. "Return, O Lord; deliver my soul." As God's absence was the main cause of his misery, so his return would be enough to deliver him from his trouble. "Oh save me for thy mercies' sake." He knows where to look, and what arm to lay hold upon. He does not lay hold on God's left hand of justice, but on his right hand of mercy. He knew his iniquity too well to think of merit, or appeal to anything but the grace of God.

     "For thy mercies' sake." What a plea that is! How prevalent it is with God! If we turn to justice, what plea can we urge? but if we turn to mercy we may still cry, notwithstanding the greatness of our guilt, "Save me for thy mercies' sake."

     Observe how frequently David here pleads the name of Jehovah, which is always intended where the word LORD is given in capitals. Five times in four verses we here meet with it. Is not this a proof that the glorious name is full of consolation to the tempted saint? Eternity, Infinity, Immutability, Self-existence, are all in the name Jehovah, and all are full of comfort.

     Verse 5. And now David was in great fear of death—death temporal, and perhaps death eternal. Read the passage as you will, the following verse is full of power. "For in death there is no remembrance of thee; in the grave who shall give thee thanks?" Churchyards are silent places; the vaults of the sepulchre echo not with songs. Damp earth covers dumb mouths. "O Lord!" saith he, "if thou wilt spare me I will praise thee. If I die, then must my mortal praise at least be suspended; and if I perish in hell, then thou wilt never have any thanksgiving from me. Songs of gratitude cannot rise from the flaming pit of hell. True, thou wilt doubtless be glorified, even in my eternal condemnation, but then O Lord, I cannot glorify thee voluntarily; and among the sons of men, there will be one heart the less to bless thee." Ah! poor trembling sinners, may the Lord help you to use this forcible argument! It is for God's glory that a sinner should be saved. When we seek pardon, we are not asking God to do that which will stain his banner, or put a blot on his escutcheon. He delighteth in mercy. It is his peculiar, darling attribute. Mercy honours God. Do not we ourselves say, "Mercy blesseth him that gives, and him that takes?" And surely, in some diviner sense, this is true of God, who, when he gives mercy, glorifies himself.

     Verse 6. The Psalmist gives a fearful description of his long agony: "I am weary with my groaning." He has groaned till his throat was hoarse; he had cried for mercy till prayer became a labour. God's people may groan, but they may not grumble. Yea, they must groan, being burdened, or they will never shout in the day of deliverance. The next sentence, we think, is not accurately translated. It should be, "I shall make my bed to swim every night" (when nature needs rest, and when I am most alone with my God). That is to say, my grief is fearful even now, but if God do not soon save me, it will not stay of itself, but will increase, until my tears will be so many, that my bed itself shall swim. A description rather of what he feared would be, than of what had actually taken place. May not our forebodings of future woe become arguments which faith may urge when seeking present mercy?

     Verse 7. "I water my couch with my tears. Mine eye is consumed because of grief; it waxeth old because of all my enemies." As an old man's eye grows dim with years, so, says David, my eye is grown red and feeble through weeping. Conviction sometimes has such an effect upon the body, that even the outward organs are made to suffer. May not this explain some of the convulsions and hysterical attacks which have been experienced under convictions in the revivals in Ireland? Is it surprising that some souls be smitten to the earth, and begin to cry aloud; when we find that David himself made his bed to swim, and grew old while he was under the heavy hand of God? Ah! brethren, it is no light matter to feel one's self a sinner, condemned at the bar of God. The language of this Psalm is not strained and forced, but perfectly natural to one in so sad a plight.

     Verse 8. Hitherto, all has been mournful and disconsolate, but now—

"Your harps, ye trembling saints,
Down from the willows take."

Ye must have your times of weeping, but let them be short. Get ye up, get ye up, from your dunghills! Cast aside your sackcloth and ashes! Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.

     David has found peace, and rising from his knees he begins to sweep his house of the wicked. "Depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity." The best remedy for us against an evil man is a long space between us both. "Get ye gone; I can have no fellowship with you." Repentance is a practical thing. It is not enough to bemoan the desecration of the temple of the heart, we must scourge out the buyers and sellers, and overturn the tables of the money changers. A pardoned sinner will hate the sins which cost the Saviour his blood. Grace and sin are quarrelsome neighbours, and one or the other must go to the wall.

     "For the Lord hath hear the voice of my weeping." What a fine Hebraism, and what grand poetry it is in English! "He hath heard the voice of my weeping." Is there a voice in weeping? Does weeping speak? In what language doth it utter its meaning? Why, in that universal tongue which is known and understood in all the earth, and even in heaven above. When a man weeps, whether he be a Jew or Gentile, Barbarian, Scythian, bond or free, it has the same meaning in it. Weeping is the eloquence of sorrow. It is an unstammering orator, needing no interpreter, but understood of all. Is it not sweet to believe that our tears are understood even when words fail? Let us learn to think of tears as liquid prayers, and of weeping as a constant dropping of importunate intercession which will wear its way right surely into the very heart of mercy, despite the stony difficulties which obstruct the way. My God, I will "weep" when I cannot plead, for thou hearest the voice of my weeping.

     Verse 9. "The Lord hath heard my supplication." The Holy Spirit had wrought into the Psalmist's mind the confidence that his prayer was heard. This is frequently the privilege of the saints. Praying the prayer of faith, they are often infallibly assured that they have prevailed with God. We read of Luther that, having on one occasion wrestled hard with God in prayer, he came leaping out of his closet crying, "Vicimus, vicimus;" that is, We have conquered, we have prevailed with God." Assured confidence is no idle dream, for when the Holy Ghost bestows it upon us, we know its reality, and could not doubt it, even though all men should deride our boldness. "The Lord will receive my prayer." Here is past experience used for future encouragement. He hath, he will. Note this, O believer, and imitate its reasoning.

     Verse 10. "Let all mine enemies be ashamed and sore vexed." This is rather a prophecy than an imprecation, it may be read in the future, "All my enemies shall be ashamed and sore vexed." They shall return and be ashamed instantaneously,—in a moment;—their doom shall come upon them suddenly. Death's day is doom's day, and both are sure and may be sudden. The Romans were wont to say, "The feet of the avenging Deity are shod with wool." With noiseless footsteps vengeance nears its victim, and sudden and overwhelming shall be its destroying stroke. If this were an imprecation, we must remember that the language of the old dispensation is not that of the new. We pray for our enemies, not against them. God have mercy on them, and bring them into the right way.

     Thus the Psalm, like those which preceed it, shews the different estates of the godly and the wicked. O Lord, let us be numbered with thy people, both now and forever!

The Treasury of David (3 Volumes Set)

     Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892) served for 30 years at the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London. He was the great Victorian preacher and was one of the most influential people of the second half of the 19th Century. At the heart of his desire to preach was a fierce love of people, a desire that meant he did not neglect his pastoral ministry. It is estimated that during his lifetime he spoke to 10 million people, and he became known as the "Prince of Preachers." His works fill over 60 volumes; and more than a century after his death, his sermons and devotional texts continue to challenge and touch Christians and non-Christians alike with their biblical grounding, eloquent text, and simple encouragement.

     C.H. Spurgeon Books |  Go to Books Page

Psalm 7 Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892)

By Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892)

     TITLE. "Shiggaion of David, which he sang unto the Lord, concerning the word of Cush the Benjamite."—"Shiggaion of David." As far as we can gather from the observations of learned men, and from a comparison of this Psalm with the only other Shiggaion in the Word of God, (Habakkuk 3:1), this title seems to mean "variable songs," with which also the idea of solace and pleasure is associated. Truly our life-psalm is composed of variable verses; one stanza rolls along with the sublime metre of triumph, but another limps with the broken rhythm of complaint. There is much bass in the saint's music here below. Our experience is as variable as the weather in England.

     From the title we learn the occasion of the composition of this song. It appears probable that Cush the Benjamite had accused David to Saul of treasonable conspiracy against his royal authority. This the king would be ready enough to credit, both from his jealousy of David, and from the relation which most probably existed between himself, the son of Kish, and this Cush, or Kish, the Benjamite. He who is near the throne can do more injury to a subject than an ordinary slanderer.

     This may be called the SONG OF THE SLANDERED SAINT. Even this sorest of evils may furnish occasion for a Psalm. What a blessing it would be if we could turn even the most disastrous event into a theme for song, and so turn the tables upon our great enemy. Let us learn a lesson from Luther, who once said, "David made Psalms; we also will make Psalms, and sing them as well as we can to the honour of our Lord, and to spite and mock the devil."

     DIVISION. In the first and second verses the danger is stated, and prayer offered. Then the Psalmist most solemnly avows his innocence. (3, 4, 5). The Lord is pleaded with to arise to judgment (6, 7). The Lord, sitting upon his throne, hears the renewed appeal of the Slandered Supplicant (8, 9). The Lord clears his servant, and threatens the wicked (10, 11, 12, 13). The slanderer is seen in vision bringing a curse upon his own head, (14, 15, 16), while David retires from trial singing a hymn of praise to his righteous God. We have here a noble sermon upon that text: "No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper, and every tongue that riseth against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn."



EXPOSITION

     Verse 1. David appears before God to plead with him against the Accuser, who had charged him with treason and treachery. The case is here opened with an avowal of confidence in God. Whatever may be the emergency of our condition we shall never find it amiss to retain our reliance upon our God. "O Lord my God," mine by a special covenant, sealed by Jesus' blood, and ratified in my own soul by a sense of union to thee; "in thee," and in thee only, "do I put my trust," even now in my sore distress. I shake, but my rock moves not. It is never right to distrust God, and never vain to trust him. And now, with both divine relationship and holy trust to strengthen him, David utters the burden of his desire—"save me from all them that persecute me." His pursuers were very many, and any one of them cruel enough to devour him; he cries, therefore, for salvation from them all. We should never think our prayers complete until we ask for preservation from all sin, and all enemies. "And deliver me," extricate me from their snares, acquit me of their accusations, give a true and just deliverance in this trial of my injured character. See how clearly his case is stated; let us see to it, that we know what we would have when we are come to the throne of mercy. Pause a little while before you pray, that you may not offer the sacrifice of fools. Get a distinct idea of your need, and then you can pray with the more fluency of fervency.

     2. "Lest he tear my soul." Here is the plea of fear co-working with the plea of faith. There was one among David's foes mightier than the rest, who had both dignity, strength, and ferocity, and was, therefore, "like a lion." From this foe he urgently seeks deliverance. Perhaps this was Saul, his royal enemy; but in our own case there is one who goes about like a lion, seeking whom he may devour, concerning whom we should ever cry, "Deliver us from the Evil One." Notice the vigour of the description—"rending it in pieces, while there is none to deliver." It is a picture from the shepherd-life of David. When the fierce lion had pounced upon the defenceless lamb, and had made it his prey, he would rend the victim in pieces, break all the bones, and devour all, because no shepherd was near to protect the lamb or rescue it from the ravenous beast. This is a soul-moving portrait of a saint delivered over to the will of Satan. This will make the bowels of Jehovah yearn. A father cannot be silent when a child is in such peril. No, he will not endure the thought of his darling in the jaws of a lion, he will arise and deliver his persecuted one. Our God is very pitiful, and he will surely rescue his people from so desperate a destruction. It will be well for us here to remember that this is a description of the danger to which the Psalmist was exposed from slanderous tongues. Verily this is not an overdrawn picture, for the wounds of a sword will heal, but the wounds of the tongue cut deeper than the flesh, and are not soon cured. Slander leaves a slur, even if it be wholly disproved. Common fame, although notoriously a common liar, has very many believers. Once let an ill word get into men's mouths, and it is not easy to get it fully out again. The Italians say that good repute is like the cypress, once cut it never puts forth leaf again; this is not true if our character be cut by a stranger's hand, but even then it will not soon regain its former verdure. Oh, 'tis a meanness most detestable to stab a good man in his reputation, but diabolical hatred observes no nobility in its mode of warfare. We must be ready for this trial, for it will surely come upon us. If God was slandered in Eden, we shall surely be maligned in this land of sinners. Gird up your loins, ye children of the resurrection, for this fiery trial awaits you all.

     Verses 3-5. The second part of this wandering hymn contains a protestation of innocence, and an invocation of wrath upon his own head, if he were not clear from the evil imputed to him. So far from hiding treasonable intentions in his hands, or ungratefully requiting the peaceful deeds of a friend, he had even suffered his enemy to escape when he had him completely in his power. Twice had he spared Saul's life; once in the cave of Adullam, and again when he found him sleeping in the midst of his slumbering camp: he could, therefore, with a clear conscience, make his appeal to heaven. He needs not fear the curse whose soul is clear of guilt. Yet is the imprecation a most solemn one, and only justifiable through the extremity of the occasion, and the nature of the dispensation under which the Psalmist lived. We are commanded by our Lord Jesus to let our yea be yea, and our nay, nay: "for whatsoever is more than this cometh of evil." If we cannot be believed on our word, we are surely not to be trusted on our oath; for to a true Christian his simple word is as binding as another man's oath. Especially beware, O unconverted men! of trifling with solemn imprecations. Remember the woman at Devizes, who wished she might die if she had not paid her share in a joint purchase, and who fell dead there and then with the money in her hand.

     Selah. David enhances the solemnity of this appeal to the dread tribunal of God by the use of the usual pause.

     From these verses we may learn that no innocence can shield a man from the calumnies of the wicked. David had been scrupulously careful to avoid any appearance of rebellion against Saul, whom he constantly styled "the Lord's anointed;" but all this could not protect him from lying tongues. As the shadow follows the substance, so envy pursues goodness. It is only at the tree laden with fruit that men throw stones. If we would live without being slandered we must wait till we get to heaven. Let us be very heedful not to believe the flying rumors which are always harassing gracious men. If there are no believers in lies there will be but a dull market in falsehood, and good men's characters will be safe. Ill-will never spoke well. Sinners have an ill-will to saints, and therefore, be sure they will not speak well of them.

     Verse 6. We now listen to a fresh prayer, based upon the avowal which he has just made. We cannot pray too often, and when our heart is true, we shall turn to God in prayer as naturally as the needle to its pole.

     "Arise, O Lord, in thine anger." His sorrow makes him view the Lord as a judge who had left the judgment-seat and retired into his rest. Faith would move the Lord to avenge the quarrel of his saints. "Lift up thyself because of the rage of mine enemies"—a still stronger figure to express his anxiety that the Lord would assume his authority and mount the throne. Stand up, O God, rise thou above them all, and let thy justice tower above their villainies. "Awake for me to the judgment that thou hast commanded." This is a bolder utterance still, for it implies sleep as well as inactivity, and can only be applied to God in a very limited sense. He never slumbers, yet doth he often seem to do so; for the wicked prevail, and the saints are trodden in the dust. God's silence is the patience of longsuffering, and if wearisome to the saints, they should bear it cheerfully in the hope that sinners may thereby be led to repentance.

     Verse 7. "So shall the congregation of the people compass thee about." Thy saints shall crowd to thy tribunal with their complaints, or shall surround it with their solemn homage: "for their sakes therefore return thou on high." As when a judge travels at the assizes, all men take their cases to his court that they may be heard, so will the righteous gather to their Lord. Here he fortifies himself in prayer by pleading that if the Lord will mount the throne of judgment, multitudes of the saints would be blessed as well as himself. If I be too base to be remembered, yet, "for their sakes," for the love thou bearest to thy chosen people, come forth from thy secret pavilion, and sit in the gate dispensing justice among the people. When my suit includes the desires of all the righteous it shall surely speed, for, "shall not God avenge his own elect?"

     Verse 8. If I am not mistaken, David has now seen in the eye of his mind the Lord ascending to his judgment-seat, and beholding him seated there in royal state, he draws near to him to urge his suit anew. In the last two verses he besought Jehovah to arise, and now that he is arisen, he prepares to mingle with "the congregation of the people" who compass the Lord about. The royal heralds proclaim the opening of the court with the solemn words, "The Lord shall judge the people." Our petitioner rises at once, and cries with earnestness and humility, "Judge me, O Lord, according to my righteousness, and according to mine integrity that is in me." His hand is on an honest heart, and his cry is to a righteous Judge.

     Verse 9. He sees a smile of complacency upon the face of the King, and in the name of all the assembled congregation he cries aloud, "Oh let the wickedness of the wicked come to an end; but establish the just." Is not this the universal longing of the whole company of the elect? When shall we be delivered from the filthy conversation of these men of Sodom? When shall we escape from the filthiness of Mesech and the blackness of the tents of Kedar?

     What a solemn and weighty truth is contained in the last sentence of the ninth verse! How deep is the divine knowledge!—"He trieth." How strict, how accurate, how intimate his search!—"he trieth the hearts," the secret thoughts, "and reins," the inward affections. "All things are naked and opened to the eyes of him with whom we have to do."

     Verse 10. The judge has heard the cause, has cleared the guiltless, and uttered his voice against the persecutors. Let us draw near, and learn the results of the great assize. Yonder is the slandered one with his harp in hand, hymning the justice of his Lord, and rejoicing aloud in his own deliverance. "My defense is of God, which saveth the upright in heart." Oh, how good to have a true and upright heart. Crooked sinners, with all their craftiness, are foiled by the upright in heart. God defends the right. Filth will not long abide on the pure white garments of the saints, but shall be brushed off by divine providence, to the vexation of the men by whose base hands it was thrown upon the godly. When God shall try our cause, our sun has risen, and the sun of the wicked is set for ever. Truth, like oil, is ever above, no power of our enemies can drown it; we shall refute their slanders in the day when the trumpet wakes the dead, and we shall shine in honour when lying lips are put to silence. O believer, fear not all that thy foes can do or say against thee, for the tree which God plants no winds can hurt.

     Verse 11. "God judgeth the righteous," he hath not given thee up to be condemned by the lips of persecutors. Thine enemies cannot sit on God's throne, nor blot thy name out of his book. Let them alone, then, for God will find time for his revenge.

     "God is angry with the wicked every day." He not only detests sin, but is angry with those who continue to indulge in it. We have no insensible and stolid God to deal with; he can be angry, nay, he is angry to-day and every day with you, ye ungodly and impenitent sinners. The best day that ever dawns on a sinner brings a curse with it. Sinners may have many feast days, but no safe days. From the beginning of the year even to its ending, there is not an hour in which God's oven is not hot, and burning in readiness for the wicked, who shall be as stubble.

     Verse 12. "If he turn not, he will whet his sword." What blows are those which will be dealt by that long uplifted arm! God's sword has been sharpening upon the revolving stone of our daily wickedness, and if we will not repent, it will speedily cut us in pieces. Turn or burn is the sinner's only alternative. "He hath bent his bow and made it ready."

     Verse 13. Even now the thirsty arrow longs to wet itself with the blood of the persecutor. The bow is bent, the aim is taken, the arrow is fitted to the string, and what, O sinner, if the arrow should be let fly at thee even now! Remember, God's arrows never miss the mark, and are, every one of them, "instruments of death." Judgment may tarry, but it will not come too late. The Greek proverb saith, "The mill of God grinds late, but grinds to powder."

     Verse 14. In three graphic pictures we see the slanderer's history. A woman in travail furnishes the first metaphor. "He travaileth with iniquity." He is full of it, pained until he can carry it out, he longs to work his will, he is full of pangs until his evil intent is executed. "He hath conceived mischief." This is the original of his base design. The devil has had doings with him, and the virus of evil is in him. And now behold the progeny of this unhallowed conception. The child is worthy of its father, his name of old was,"the father of lies," and the birth doth not belie the parent, for he brought forth falsehood. Thus, one figure is carried out to perfection; the Psalmist now illustrates his meaning by another, taken from the stratagems of the hunter.

     Verse 15. "He made a pit, and digged it." He was cunning in his plans, and industrious in his labours. He stooped to the dirty work of digging. He did not fear to soil his own hands, he was willing to work in a ditch if others might fall therein. What mean things men will do to wreak revenge on the godly. They hunt for good men, as if they were brute beasts; nay, they will not give them the fair chase afforded to the hare or the fox, but must secretly entrap them, because they can neither run them down nor shoot them down. Our enemies will not meet us to the face, for they fear us as much as they pretend to despise us. But let us look on to the end of the scene. The verse says, he "is fallen into the ditch which he made." Ah! there he is, let us laugh at his disappointment. Lo! he is himself the beast, he has hunted his own soul, and the chase has brought him a goodly victim. Aha, aha, so should it ever be. Come hither and make merry with this entrapped hunter, this biter who has bitten himself. Give him no pity, for it will be wasted on such a wretch. He is but rightly and richly rewarded by being paid in his own coin. He cast forth evil from his mouth, and it has fallen into his bosom. He has set his own house on fire with the torch which he lit to burn a neighbour. He sent forth a foul bird, and it has come back to its nest.

     Verse 16. The rod which he lifted on high, has smitten his own back. He shot an arrow upward, and it has "returned upon his own head." He hurled a stone at another and it has "come down upon his own pate." Curses are like young chickens, they always come home to roost. Ashes always fly back in the face of him that throws them. "As he loved cursing, so let it come unto him." (Psalm 109:17.) How often has this been the case in the histories of both ancient and modern times. Men have burned their own fingers when they were hoping to brand their neighbour. And if this does not happen now, it will hereafter. The Lord has caused dogs to lick the blood of Ahab in the midst of the vineyard of Naboth. Sooner or later the evil deeds of persecutors have always leaped back into their arms. So it will be in the last great day, when Satan's fiery darts shall all be quivered in his own heart, and all his followers shall reap the harvest which they themselves have sown.

     Verse 17. We conclude with the joyful contrast. In this all these Psalms are agreed; they all exhibit the blessedness of the righteous, and make its colours the more glowing by contrast with the miseries of the wicked. The bright jewel sparkles in a black foil. Praise is the occupation of the godly, their eternal work, and their present pleasure. Singing is the fitting embodiment for praise, and therefore do the saints make melody before the Lord Most High. The slandered one is now a singer: his harp was unstrung for a very little season, and now we leave him sweeping its harmonious chords, and flying on their music to the third heaven of adoring praise.

The Treasury of David (3 Volumes Set)

     Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892) served for 30 years at the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London. He was the great Victorian preacher and was one of the most influential people of the second half of the 19th Century. At the heart of his desire to preach was a fierce love of people, a desire that meant he did not neglect his pastoral ministry. It is estimated that during his lifetime he spoke to 10 million people, and he became known as the "Prince of Preachers." His works fill over 60 volumes; and more than a century after his death, his sermons and devotional texts continue to challenge and touch Christians and non-Christians alike with their biblical grounding, eloquent text, and simple encouragement.

     C.H. Spurgeon Books |  Go to Books Page

Psalm 8 Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892)

By Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892)

TITLE. "To the Chief Musician upon Gittith, a Psalm of David." We are not clear upon the meaning of the word Gittith. Some think it refers to Gath, and may refer to a tune commonly sung there, or an instrument of music there invented, or a song of Obededom the Gittite, in whose house the ark rested, or, better still, a song sung over Goliath of Gath. Others, tracing the Hebrew to its root, conceive it to mean a song for the winepress, a joyful hymn for the treaders of grapes. The term Gittith is applied to two other Psalms, (81 and 84) both of which, being of a joyous character, it may be concluded, that where we find that word in the title, we may look for a hymn of delight.

     We may style this Psalm the Song of the Astronomer: let us go abroad and sing it beneath the starry heavens at eventide, for it is very probable that in such a position, it first occurred to the poet's mind. Dr. Chalmers says, "There is much in the scenery of a nocturnal sky; to lift the soul to pious contemplation. That moon, and these stars, what are they? They are detached from the world, and they lift us above it. We feel withdrawn from the earth, and rise in lofty abstraction from this little theatre of human passions and human anxieties. The mind abandons itself to reverie, and is transferred in the ecstasy of its thought to distant and unexplored regions. It sees nature in the simplicity of her great elements, and it sees the God of nature invested with the high attributes of wisdom and majesty."

     DIVISION. The first and last verses are a sweet song of admiration, in which the excellence of the name of God is extolled. The intermediate verses are made up of holy wonder at the Lord's greatness in creation, and at his condescension towards man. Poole, in his annotations, has well said, "It is a great question among interpreters, whether this Psalm speaks of man in general, and of the honour which God puts upon him in his creation; or only of the man Christ Jesus. Possibly both may be reconciled and put together, and the controversy if rightly stated, may be ended, for the scope and business of this Psalm seems plainly to be this: to display and celebrate the great love and kindness of God to mankind, not only in his creation, but especially in his redemption by Jesus Christ, whom, as he was man, he advanced to the honour and dominion here mentioned, that he might carry on his great and glorious work. So Christ is the principal subject of this Psalm, and it is interpreted of him, both by our Lord himself (Matthew 21:16), and by his holy apostle (1 Corinthians 15:27; Hebrews 2:6,7).


EXPOSITION

     Verse 1. Unable to express the glory of God, the Psalmist utters a note of exclamation. O Jehovah our Lord! We need not wonder at this, for no heart can measure, no tongue can utter, the half of the greatness of Jehovah. The whole creation is full of his glory and radiant with the excellency of his power; his goodness and his wisdom are manifested on every hand. The countless myriads of terrestrial beings, from man the head, to the creeping worm at the foot, are all supported and nourished by the Divine bounty. The solid fabric of the universe leans upon his eternal arm. Universally is he present, and everywhere is his name excellent. God worketh ever and everywhere. There is no place where God is not. The miracles of his power await us on all sides. Traverse the silent valleys where the rocks enclose you on either side, rising like the battlements of heaven till you can see but a strip of the blue sky far overhead; you may be the only traveler who has passed through that glen; the bird may start up affrighted, and the moss may tremble beneath the first tread of human foot; but God is there in a thousand wonders, upholding yon rocky barriers, filling the flowercups with their perfume, and refreshing the lonely pines with the breath of his mouth. Descend, if you will, into the lowest depths of the ocean. where undisturbed the water sleeps, and the very sand is motionless in unbroken quiet, but the glory of the Lord is there, revealing its excellence in the silent palace of the sea. Borrow the wings of the morning and fly to the uttermost parts of the sea, but God is there. Mount to the highest heaven, or dive into the deepest hell, and God is in both hymned in everlasting song, or justified in terrible vengeance. Everywhere, and in every place, God dwells and is manifestly at work. Nor on earth alone is Jehovah extolled, for his brightness shines forth in the firmament above the earth. His glory exceeds the glory of the starry heavens; above the region of the stars he hath set fast his everlasting throne, and there he dwells in light ineffable. Let us adore him "who alone spreadeth out the heavens, and treadeth upon the waves of the sea; who maketh Arcturus, Orion, and Pleiades, and the chambers of the south." (Job 9:8, 9.) We can scarcely find more fitting words than those of Nehemiah, "Thou, even thou, art Lord alone; thou hast made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth, and all things that are therein, the seas, and all that is therein, and thou preservest them all; and the host of heaven worshippeth thee." Returning to the text we are led to observe that this Psalm is addressed to God, because none but the Lord himself can fully know his own glory. The believing heart is ravished with what it sees, but God only knows the glory of God. What a sweetness lies in the little word our, how much is God's glory endeared to us when we consider our interest in him as our Lord. How excellent is thy name! no words can express that excellency; and therefore it is left as a note of exclamation. The very name of Jehovah is excellent, what must his person be. Note the fact that even the heavens cannot contain his glory, it is set above the heavens, since it is and ever must be too great for the creature to express. When wandering among the Alps, we felt that the Lord was infinitely greater than all his grandest works, and under that feeling we roughly wrote these few lines:—

Yet in all these how great soe'er they be,
We see not Him. The glass is all too dense
And dark, or else our earthborn eyes too dim.
Yon Alps, that lift their heads above the clouds
And hold familiar converse with the stars,
Are dust, at which the balance trembleth not,
Compared with His divine immensity.
The snow-crown'd summits fail to set Him forth,
Who dwelleth in Eternity, and bears
Alone, the name of High and Lofty One.
Depths unfathomed are too shallow to express
The wisdom and the knowledge of the Lord.
The mirror of the creatures has no space
To bear the image of the Infinite.
'Tis true the Lord hath fairly writ his name,
And set his seal upon creation's brow.
But as the skilful potter much excels
The vessel which he fashions on the wheel,
E'en so, but in proportion greater far,
Jehovah's self transcends his noblest works.
Earth's ponderous wheels would break, her axles snap,
If freighted with the load of Deity.
Space is too narrow for the Eternal's rest,
And time too short a footstool for his throne.
E'en avalanche and thunder lack a voice,
To utter the full volume of his praise.
How then can I declare him? Where are words
With which my glowing tongue may speak his name?
Silent I bow, and humbly I adore.

     Verse 2. Not only in the heavens above is the Lord seen, but the earth beneath is telling forth his majesty. In the sky, the massive orbs, rolling in their stupendous grandeur, are witnesses of his power in great things, while here below, the lisping utterances of babes are the manifestations of his strength in little ones. How often will children tell us of a God whom we have forgotten! How doth their simple prattle refute those learned fools who deny the being of God! Many men have been made to hold their tongues, while sucklings have borne witness to the glory of the God of heaven. It is singular how clearly the history of the church expounds this verse. Did not the children cry "Hosannah!" in the temple, when proud Pharisees were silent and contemptuous? and did not the Saviour quote these very words as a justification of their infantile cries? Early church history records many amazing instances of the testimony of children for the truth of God, but perhaps more modern instances will be the most interesting. Fox tells us, in the Foxe's Book of Martyrs (Pure Gold Classics), that when Mr. Lawrence was burnt in Colchester, he was carried to the fire in a chair, because through the cruelty of the Papists, he could not stand upright, several young children came about the fire, and cried as well as they could speak, "Lord, strengthen thy servant, and keep thy promise." God answered their prayer, for Mr. Lawrence died as firmly and calmly as any one could wish to breathe his last. When one of the Popish chaplains told Mr. Wishart, the great Scotch martyr, that he had a devil in him, a child that stood by cried out, "A devil cannot speak such words as yonder man speaketh." One more instance is still nearer to our time. In a postscript to one of his letters, in which he details his persecution when first preaching in Moorfields, Whitfield says, "I cannot help adding that several little boys and girls, who were fond of sitting round me on the pulpit while I preached, and handed to me people's notes—though they were often pelted with eggs, dirt, &c., thrown at me—never once gave way; but on the contrary, every time I was struck, turned up their little weeping eyes, and seemed to wish they could receive the blows for me. God make them, in their growing years, great and living martyrs for him who, out of the mouths of babes and sucklings, perfects praise!" He who delights in the songs of angels is pleased to honour himself in the eyes of his enemies by the praises of little children. What a contrast between the glory above the heavens, and the mouths of babes and sucklings! yet by both the name of God is made excellent.

     Verses 3, 4. At the close of that excellent little manual entitled "The Solar System," written by Dr. Dick, we find an eloquent passage which beautifully expounds the text:—A survey of the solar system has a tendency to moderate the pride of man and to promote humility. Pride is one of the distinguishing characteristics of puny man, and has been one of the chief causes of all the contentions, wars, devastations, systems of slavery, and ambitious projects which have desolated and demoralized our sinful world. Yet there is no disposition more incongruous to the character and circumstances of man. Perhaps there are no rational beings throughout the universe among whom pride would appear more unseemly or incompatible than in man, considering the situation in which he is placed. He is exposed to numerous degradations and calamities, to the rage of storms and tempests, the devastations of earthquakes and volcanoes, the fury of whirlwinds, and the tempestuous billows of the ocean, to the ravages of the sword, famine, pestilence, and numerous diseases; and at length he must sink into the grave, and his body must become the companion of worms! The most dignified and haughty of the sons of men are liable to these and similar degradations as well as the meanest of the human family. Yet, in such circumstances, man—that puny worm of the dust, whose knowledge is so limited, and whose follies are so numerous and glaring—has the effrontery to strut in all the haughtiness of pride, and to glory in his shame.

     When other arguments and motives produce little effect on certain minds, no considerations seem likely to have a more powerful tendency to counteract this deplorable propensity in human beings, than those which are borrowed from the objects connected with astronomy. They show us what an insignificant being— what a mere atom, indeed, man appears amidst the immensity of creation! Though he is an object of the paternal care and mercy of the Most High, yet he is but as a grain of sand to the whole earth, when compared to the countless myriads of beings that people the amplitudes of creation. What is the whole of this globe on which we dwell compared with the solar system, which contains a mass of matter ten thousand times greater? What is it in comparison of the hundred millions of suns and worlds which by the telescope have been descried throughout the starry regions? What, then, is a kingdom, a province, or a baronial territory, of which we are as proud as if we were the lords of the universe and for which we engage in so much devastation and carnage? What are they, when set in competition with the glories of the sky? Could we take our station on the lofty pinnacles of heaven, and look down on this scarcely distinguishable speck of earth, we should be ready to exclaim with Seneca, "Is it to this little spot that the great designs and vast desires of men are confined? Is it for this there is so much disturbance of nations, so much carnage, and so many ruinous wars? Oh, the folly of deceived men, to imagine great kingdoms in the compass of an atom, to raise armies to decide a point of earth with the sword!" Dr. Chalmers, in his Astronomical Discourses, very truthfully says, "We gave you but a feeble image of our comparative insignificance, when we said that the glories of an extended forest would suffer no more from the fall of a single leaf, than the glories of this extended universe would suffer though the globe we tread upon, 'and all that it inherits, should dissolve.'"

     Verses 5-8. These verses may set forth man's position among the creatures before he fell; but as they are, by the apostle Paul, appropriated to man as represented by the Lord Jesus, it is best to give most weight to that meaning. In order of dignity, man stood next to the angels, and a little lower than they; in the Lord Jesus this was accomplished, for he was made a little lower than the angels by the suffering of death. Man in Eden had the full command of all creatures, and they came before him to receive their names as an act of homage to him as the viceregent of God to them. Jesus in his glory, is now Lord, not only of all living, but of all created things, and, with the exception of him who put all things under him, Jesus is Lord of all, and his elect, in him, are raised to a dominion wider than that of the first Adam, as shall be more clearly seen at his coming. Well might the Psalmist wonder at the singular exaltation of man in the scale of being, when he marked his utter nothingness in comparison with the starry universe.

     Thou madest him a little lower than the angels—a little lower in nature, since they are immortal, and but a little, because time is short; and when that is over, saints are no longer lower than the angels. The margin reads it, "A little while inferior to." Thou crownest him. The dominion that God has bestowed on man is a great glory and honour to him; for all dominion is honour, and the highest is that which wears the crown. A full list is given of the subjugated creatures, to show that all the dominion lost by sin is restored in Christ Jesus. Let none of us permit the possession of any earthly creature to be a snare to us, but let us remember that we are to reign over them, and not to allow them to reign over us. Under our feet we must keep the world, and we must shun that base spirit which is content to let worldly cares and pleasures sway the empire of the immortal soul.

     Verse 9.. Here, like a good composer, the poet returns to his key-note, falling back, as it were, into his first state of wondering adoration. What he started with as a proposition in the first verse, he closes with as a well proven conclusion, with a sort of quod erat demonstrandum. O for grace to walk worthy of that excellent name which has been named upon us, and which we are pledged to magnify!

     Thus the Psalm, like those which preceed it, shews the different estates of the godly and the wicked. O Lord, let us be numbered with thy people, both now and forever!


The Treasury of David (3 Volumes Set)

     Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892) served for 30 years at the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London. He was the great Victorian preacher and was one of the most influential people of the second half of the 19th Century. At the heart of his desire to preach was a fierce love of people, a desire that meant he did not neglect his pastoral ministry. It is estimated that during his lifetime he spoke to 10 million people, and he became known as the "Prince of Preachers." His works fill over 60 volumes; and more than a century after his death, his sermons and devotional texts continue to challenge and touch Christians and non-Christians alike with their biblical grounding, eloquent text, and simple encouragement.

     C.H. Spurgeon Books |  Go to Books Page

The Second World War

By R.C. Sproul Jr. 3/1/2010

     It is natural, though altogether wrong, to think that somehow when we turn the pages that separate the Old and New Testaments that we are entering into more gentle times, that God in the interim somehow became kinder and gentler. We do not see in the New Testament, as we do in the Old, flaming mountains with flashing lightning and earth-shaking thunder. We do not see all the first born of a given nation wiped out in a single night, nor the earth’s whole population, save one family, suffer death by drowning. We do not see Uzzah struck dead for touching God’s ark, nor do we see the prophets of Baal struck down by God’s own prophets. Instead, we meet Jesus. Jesus, we are told, will not break a bruised reed, nor quench a smoldering wick (Matt. 12:20). He is gentle and mild, and utterly determined to bring all His enemies under subjection, to silence every pretender to His throne.

     It was when Jesus interpreted law on the mount, at His sermon there, that He first commanded us that we should seek first His kingdom and His righteousness. But it was in Psalm 2 where we are told that Jesus will be given the nations for an inheritance, the ends of the earth for a possession, and where we are told that He will break the rebellious princes and potentates with a rod of iron.

The Reign of the LORD’s Anointed

(Ps 2:1–12) 1 Why do the nations rage
and the peoples plot in vain?
2  The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers take counsel together,
against the LORD and against his Anointed, saying,
3  “Let us burst their bonds apart
and cast away their cords from us.”

4  He who sits in the heavens laughs;
the Lord holds them in derision.
5  Then he will speak to them in his wrath,
and terrify them in his fury, saying,
6  “As for me, I have set my King
on Zion, my holy hill.”

7  I will tell of the decree:
The LORD said to me, “You are my Son;
today I have begotten you.
8  Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,
and the ends of the earth your possession.
9  You shall break them with a rod of iron
and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”

10  Now therefore, O kings, be wise;
be warned, O rulers of the earth.
11  Serve the LORD with fear,
and rejoice with trembling.
12  Kiss the Son,
lest he be angry, and you perish in the way,
for his wrath is quickly kindled.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him.
  ESV

     These two perspectives are not at odds with each other. Indeed, they meet together in the book of Acts. Jesus is conquering the world, but the weapons of His warfare are not carnal. If you step back a bit from the book of Acts, you can discern a curious pattern. Just as the book of Joshua tells the story of God’s people conquering the land after a great deliverance, so too does the book of Acts. In both instances, the great leader, after leading the people out of slavery, has gone on to his reward. Moses is taken to heaven, and Jesus ascends to His throne. In both instances there is trouble from those outside the camp. The Canaanites fight against Joshua even as both Rome and the Jews fight the apostles. With Joshua, the walls come tumbling down. In Acts, angels rescue the apostles from the prison walls that keep them in. In Joshua, there is sin in the camp as Achan seizes the plunder of Jericho and is killed. In Acts, Ananias and Sapphira lie to the Holy Spirit and die.

     Both books are stories of conquest. In both instances it is Jesus Himself, the Captain of the Lord’s Host, who goes before His people in conquest. The difference is here — Joshua, at God’s command, fights with a literal sword. The apostles, at God’s command, fight with the Word of the Lord. Because we are worldly, we find the Joshua story more dramatic, the new covenant context a toning down of the war. The reality is far different. The warfare is intensifying rather than waning, the stakes growing more deadly. Now it is clear that it is not a question of dead bodies but of dead souls.

     For all the parallels between the books of Joshua and Acts, there is this difference as well. Joshua finished his conquest. The land was subdued under his leadership. In the book of Acts, the war begins in Jerusalem, spreads to Judea, and from there to Samaria and the outermost parts of the world. Never, however, has this battle ended. Indeed, it will not end until the end. Jesus is bringing every enemy under subjection. He is conquering the whole of the promised land (the earth), not a narrow strip of land in the Middle East.

     It is because the battle continues that we must continue to hear the battle call of our Lord. From that first mount He commanded all that were there that they would set aside all their worldly worries and set their hearts on the battle. He commands of us the same. He has drafted us into His army not as the war is cooling down but as it is heating up. And He has equipped us not with sword and spear but with that spirit of liberty that is ready to die. He has not called us to go out and kill the enemy but to die for the enemy that they might be won. He has called us to follow His supreme example.

     The “bloodthirsty” God of the Old Testament, we would be wise to remember, wisely, rightly, executed the guilty. He never practiced an uncontrolled fury. He never punished the innocent with the guilty, for in the Old Testament there were no innocent. The next time we are tempted to fall for that folly that sees God getting soft in the New Testament, we need to remember this: Only once did God kill an innocent man. And that was in the New Testament.

     In the new covenant, it is we who are called to be bloodthirsty. We do not subdue His enemies with carnal weapons but with spiritual. Joshua’s soldiers were sustained by the bread from heaven. So are we. Their thirsts were sated by the rock that was struck. Our thirsts too. We must hunger for His body and we must thirst for His blood. We must, if we would conquer in His name, conquer in His way — by dying to ourselves, by picking up our cross.

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     R.C. Sproul Jr. has served previously as a pastor, professor, and teacher. He is author of numerous books. Some are listed below.

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The Gospel of the Gospels

By Daniel Hyde 2/1/2009

     Quick. What are the Gospels? Time is up. Did you answer: “The Gospels are the biographies of Jesus Christ?” When we read the Gospels as biographies only, we basically look at them like trees apart from the proverbial forest. There is a better way to read and hear them. The Gospels are biography, but they are theological interpretations of the life of Jesus Christ with the purpose of proclaiming the coming of the king of Israel and the inauguration of His kingdom over all the earth.

     When read this way, we are enabled to read the gospel in the Gospels as the announcement of the fulfillment of the prophets’ promises. Among their promises were that a king would come to Israel, as the Lord promised to Abram (Gen. 17:6), to Judah (Gen. 49:10), to David (2 Sam. 7:12–13), and to the people of God through Solomon’s song (Ps. 72) and Zechariah’s prophecy (Zech. 9:9). When this king would come, He would usher in a kingdom of peace for all nations (Isa. 2:2–4, 9:1–7). We see this coming king and His kingdom in living color in the Gospel narratives.

     The entrance of the king and His kingdom is expressed in the birth narrative of our Lord. In the genealogy of Jesus He is described as the “son of David” (Matt. 1:1). The fourteen generations from Abraham to David moved towards the great king and kingdom of Israel (1:2–6), while the fourteen generations from David to Babylon moved away from that glorious king’s kingdom (1:7–11). With the coming of Jesus the fourteen generations from Babylon to Christ are a restoration of the Davidic kingship and kingdom (1:12–16). The true identity of this baby boy is shown by the travels of the “wise men from the east” (2:1) who traveled to find “he who has been born king of the Jews” in order “to worship him” (2:2).

     John heralded this king’s coming, preaching, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand” (3:2), while our Lord’s own preaching in the synagogue was characterized by an announcement of His kingdom (4:17). Throughout His ministry Jesus preached the “gospel of the kingdom” (4:23, 9:35; Luke 16:16), a phrase that means that the kingdom is the subject of the gospel. Our Lord preached His parables to communicate to His disciples “the secrets of the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 13:11 see also vv. 19, 24, 31, 33, 38, 41–45, 47, 52). Jesus used His identity as king to confound the Pharisees, asking them: “‘What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?’ They said to Him, ‘The son of David’” (22:42). Jesus then pointed out that in Psalm 110, David, “in the Spirit, calls him [the Christ] Lord, saying, ‘The Lord said to my Lord’” (Matt. 22:43–44a). Jesus’ conclusion was masterful, leaving the Pharisees speechless: “If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son?” (22:45).

     Even the passion narrative is all about the king and His kingdom, not the sad ending of a biography. When the high priest Caiaphas interrogated Jesus, he said, “Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God” (26:63). Jesus answered, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven” (26:64). Yet this king would first suffer mocking: “Hail, King of the Jews,” having a scarlet robe placed on His back, a crown of thorns placed on His head, and a reed placed in His hand (27:28–29). Even above His head was placed a placard: “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews” (27:37). Yet as John’s gospel makes clear, through humiliation our Lord experienced exaltation: “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (John 12:32).

     Of course, our Lord’s resurrection is the most powerful proof of His kingship and kingdom gospel: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matt. 28:18). The reason for this, as James said at the Jerusalem Council, was that the resurrection was the raising up of the fallen tent of David (Acts 15:13–18; see Amos 9:11–12). The king has come and has established His kingdom as the prophets foretold.

     What should this way of reading the Gospels do to us? First, it ought to cause us to read the Gospels with more urgency, for the king has come and His kingdom is at hand. Mark’s characteristic word, immediately, shows us the force of reading and coming to grips with its message (1:12, 18, 21, 23, 29, 42). Second, since the Gospels are not mere biographies, they are not to be read from afar, as if they were only stories of what happened “long ago, far, far away.” We are to participate in these narratives by faith: “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:30–31). Third, preachers need to preach the Gospels not as historic artifacts, as principles for victorious Christian living, nor as window dressing in Holy Week services, but as urgent accounts of the inauguration of an everlasting kingdom that our king has established in this world. Ministers must preach the gospel from the Gospels and not turn them into new laws.

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     Daniel R. Hyde is the Pastor of Oceanside United Reformed Church (Carlsbad/Oceanside, California), Adjunct Instructor of Ministerial Studies at Mid-America Reformed Seminary, and Adjunct Instructor of Systematic Theology and Missions at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary. He is currently writing his PhD on John Owen’s liturgical theology at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.

Psalms 1 - 2

By Don Carson 4/1/2018

     The first Psalm is sometimes designated a wisdom Psalm. In large part this designation springs from the fact that it offers two ways, and only two ways — the way of the righteous (Ps.1:1-3) and the way of the wicked (1:4-5), with a final summarizing contrast (1:6).

     The first three verses, describing the righteous person, fall naturally into three steps. In verse 1, the righteous person is described negatively, in verse 2 positively, and in verse 3 metaphorically. The negative description in verse 1 establishes what the “blessed” man is not like. He does not “walk in the counsel of the wicked”; he does not “stand in the way of sinners”; he does not “sit in the seat of mockers.”

     The wicked man, then, is grinding to a halt (walk/stand/sit). He begins by walking in the counsel of the wicked: he picks up the advice, perspectives, values, and worldview of the ungodly. If he does this long enough, he sinks to the next level: he “stands in the way of sinners.” This translation gives the wrong impression. To “stand in someone’s way” in English is to hinder them. One thinks of Robin Hood and Little John on the bridge: each stands in the other’s way, and one of them ends in the stream. But “to stand in someone’s way” in Hebrew means something like “to stand in his moccasins”: to do what he does, to adopt his lifestyle, his habits, his patterns of conduct. If he pursues this course long enough, he is likely to descend to the abyss and “sit in the seat of mockers.” He not only participates in much that is godless, but sneers at those who don’t. At this point, someone has said, a person receives his master’s in worthlessness and his doctorate in damnation. The psalmist insists, “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, or stand in the way of sinners, or sit in the seat of mockers” (italics added). The righteous person is described negatively.

     One might have expected the second verse to respond with contrasting parallelism: “Blessed, rather, is the man who walks in the counsel of the righteous, who stands in the way of the obedient, who sits in the seat of the grateful”– or something of that order. Instead, there is one positive criterion, and it is enough: “But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night” (1:2).

     Where one delights in the Word of God, constantly meditating on it, there one learns good counsel, there one’s conduct is shaped by revelation, there one nurtures the grace of gratitude and praise. That is a sufficient criterion.

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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).

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How Can Christ Be the Only Way to God?

By Dr. William Lane Craig 2/26/2017

     I recently spoke at a major Canadian university on the existence of God. After my talk, one slightly irate co-ed wrote on her comment card, “I was with you until you got to the stuff about Jesus. God is not the Christian God!”

     This attitude is pervasive in Western culture today. Most people are happy to agree that God exists; but in our pluralistic society it has become politically incorrect to claim that God has revealed Himself decisively in Jesus.

          And yet this is exactly what the New Testament clearly teaches. Take the letters of the apostle Paul, for example. He invites his Gentile converts to recall their pre-Christian days: "Remember that at that time you were separated from Christ, aliens to the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world" (Eph 2.12). It is the burden of the opening chapters of his letter to the Romans to show that this desolate condition is the general situation of mankind. Paul explains that God’s power and deity are made known through the created order around us, so that men are without excuse (1.20), and that God has written His moral law upon all men's hearts, so that they are morally responsible before Him (2.15). Although God offers eternal life to all who will respond in an appropriate way to God's general revelation in nature and conscience (2.7), the sad fact is that rather than worship and serve their Creator, people ignore God and flout His moral law (1.21-32). The conclusion: All men are under the power of sin (3.9-12). Worse, Paul goes on to explain that no one can redeem himself by means of righteous living (3.19-20). Fortunately, however, God has provided a means of escape: Jesus Christ has died for the sins of mankind, thereby satisfying the demands of God's justice and enabling reconciliation with God (3.21-6). By means of his atoning death salvation is made available as a gift to be received by faith.

     The logic of the New Testament is clear: The universality of sin and uniqueness of Christ's atoning death entail that there is no salvation apart from Christ. As the apostles proclaimed, “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4.12).

     This particularistic doctrine was just as scandalous in the polytheistic world of the Roman Empire as in contemporary Western culture. Early Christians were therefore often subjected to severe persecution, torture, and death because of their refusal to embrace a pluralistic approach to religions. In time, however, as Christianity grew to supplant the religions of Greece and Rome and became the official religion of the Roman Empire, the scandal receded. Indeed, for medieval thinkers like Augustine and Aquinas, one of the marks of the true Church was its catholicity, that is, its universality. To them it seemed incredible that the great edifice of the Christian Church, filling all of civilization, should be founded on a falsehood.

     The demise of this doctrine came with the so-called “Expansion of Europe,” which refers to the three centuries of exploration and discovery from about 1450 until 1750. Through the travels and voyages of men like Marco Polo, Christopher Columbus, and Ferdinand Magellan, new civilizations and whole new worlds were discovered which knew nothing of the Christian faith. The realization that much of the world lay outside the bounds of Christianity had a two-fold impact upon people's religious thinking. First, it tended to relativize religious beliefs. It was seen that far from being the universal religion of mankind, Christianity was largely confined to Western Europe, a corner of the globe. No particular religion, it seemed, could make a claim to universal validity; each society seemed to have its own religion suited to its peculiar needs. Second, it made Christianity's claim to be the only way of salvation seem narrow and cruel. Enlightenment rationalists like Voltaire taunted the Christians of his day with the prospect of millions of Chinamen doomed to hell for not having believed in Christ, when they had not so much as even heard of Christ. In our own day, the influx into Western nations of immigrants from former colonies and the advances in telecommunications which have served to shrink the world to a global village have heightened our awareness of the religious diversity of mankind. As a result religious pluralism has today become once again the conventional wisdom.

     The Problem Posed by Religious Diversity | But what, exactly, is the problem supposed to be which is posed by mankind's religious diversity? And for whom is this supposed to be a problem? When one reads the literature on this issue, the recurring challenge seems to be laid at the doorstep of the Christian particularist. The phenomenon of religious diversity is taken to imply the truth of pluralism, and the main debate then proceeds to the question of which form of pluralism is the most plausible. But why think that Christian particularism is untenable in the face of religious diversity? What exactly seems to be the problem?

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     William Lane Craig is Research Professor of Philosophy at Talbot School of Theology and Professor of Philosophy at Houston Baptist University. He and his wife Jan have two grown children.

     At the age of sixteen as a junior in high school, he first heard the message of the Christian gospel and yielded his life to Christ. Dr. Craig pursued his undergraduate studies at Wheaton College (B.A. 1971) and graduate studies at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (M.A. 1974; M.A. 1975), the University of Birmingham (England) (Ph.D. 1977), and the University of Munich (Germany) (D.Theol. 1984). From 1980-86 he taught Philosophy of Religion at Trinity, during which time he and Jan started their family. In 1987 they moved to Brussels, Belgium, where Dr. Craig pursued research at the University of Louvain until assuming his position at Talbot in 1994.

     He has authored or edited over thirty books, including The Kalam Cosmological Argument; Assessing the New Testament Evidence for the Historicity of the Resurrection of Jesus; Divine Foreknowledge and Human Freedom; Theism, Atheism and Big Bang Cosmology; and God, Time and Eternity, as well as over a hundred articles in professional journals of philosophy and theology, including The Journal of Philosophy, New Testament Studies, Journal for the Study of the New Testament, American Philosophical Quarterly, Philosophical Studies, Philosophy, and British Journal for Philosophy of Science. In 2016 Dr. Craig was named by The Best Schools as one of the fifty most influential living philosophers. [My Google Profile+]

William Lane Craig Books:

Read The Psalms In "1" Year

Psalm 64

Hide Me from the Wicked
64 To The Choirmaster. A Psalm Of David.

1 Hear my voice, O God, in my complaint;
preserve my life from dread of the enemy.
2 Hide me from the secret plots of the wicked,
from the throng of evildoers,
3 who whet their tongues like swords,
who aim bitter words like arrows,
4 shooting from ambush at the blameless,
shooting at him suddenly and without fear.
5 They hold fast to their evil purpose;
they talk of laying snares secretly,
thinking, “Who can see them?”
6 They search out injustice,
saying, “We have accomplished a diligent search.”
For the inward mind and heart of a man are deep.

ESV Study Bible

The Institutes of the Christian Religion

Translated by Henry Beveridge

     10. There can be no doubt that this great progress has been made from slender beginnings. They could not reach so far at one step, but at one time by craft and wily art, secretly raised themselves before any one foresaw what was to happen; at another time, when occasion offered, by means of threats and terror, extorted some increase of power from princes; at another time, when they saw princes disposed to give liberally, they abused their foolish and inconsiderate facility. The godly in ancient times, when any dispute arose, in order to escape the necessity of a lawsuit, left the decision to the bishop, because they had no doubt of his integrity. The ancient bishops were often greatly dissatisfied at being entangled in such matters, as Augustine somewhere declares; but lest the parties should rush to some contentious tribunal, unwillingly submitted to the annoyance. These voluntary decisions, which altogether differed from forensic strife, these men have converted into ordinary jurisdiction. As cities and districts, when for some time pressed with various difficulties, betook themselves to the patronage of the bishops, and threw themselves on their protection, these men have, by a strange artifice, out of patrons made themselves masters. That they have seized a good part by the violence of faction cannot be denied. The princes, again, who spontaneously conferred jurisdiction on bishops, were induced to it by various causes. Though their indulgence had some appearance of piety, they did not by this preposterous liberality consult in the best manner for the interests of the Church, whose ancient and true discipline they thus corrupted, nay, to tell the truth, completely abolished. Those bishops who abuse the goodness of princes to their own advantage, gave more than sufficient proof by this one specimen of their conduct, that they were not at all true bishops. Had they had one spark of the apostolic spirit, they would doubtless have answered in the words of Paul, "The weapons of our warfare are not carnal," but spiritual (2 Cor. 10:4). But hurried away by blind cupidity, they lost themselves, and posterity, and the Church.

11. At length the Roman Pontiff, not content with moderate districts, laid hands first on kingdoms, and thereafter on empire. And that he may on some pretext or other retain possession, secured by mere robbery, he boasts at one time that he holds it by divine right, at another, he pretends a donation from Constantine, at another, some different title. First, I answer with Bernard, "Be it that on some ground or other he can claim it, it is not by apostolic right. For Peter could not give what he had not, but what he had he gave to his successors--viz. care of the churches. But when our Lord and Master says that he was not appointed a judge between two, the servant and disciple ought not to think it unbecoming not to be judge of all" (Bernard. de Considerat. Lib. 2). Bernard is spearing of civil judgments, for he adds, "Your power then is in sins, not in rights of property, since for the former and not the latter you received the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Which of the two seems to you the higher dignity, the forgiving of sins or the dividing of lands? There is no comparison. These low earthly things have for their judges the kings and princes of the earth. Why do you invade the territories of others?" &c. Again, "You are made superior" (he is addressing Pope Eugenius), "for what? not to domineer, I presume. Let us therefore remember, however highly we think of ourselves, that a ministry is laid upon us, not a dominion given to us. Learn that you have need of a slender rod, not of a sceptre, to do the work of a prophet." Again, "It is plain that the apostles are prohibited to exercise dominion. Go you, therefore, and dare to usurp for yourself, either apostleship with dominion, or dominion with apostleship." Immediately after he says, "The apostolic form is this; dominion is interdicted, ministry is enjoined." Though Bernard speaks thus, and so speaks as to make it manifest to all that he speaks truth, nay, though without a word the thing itself is manifest, the Roman Pontiff was not ashamed at the Council of Arles to decree that the supreme right of both swords belonged to him of divine right.

12. As far as pertains to the donation of Constantine, those who are moderately versant in the history of the time have no need of being told, that the claim is not only fabulous but also absurd. But to say nothing of history, Gregory alone is a fit and most complete witness to this effect. For wherever he speaks of the emperor he calls him His Most Serene Lord, and himself his unworthy servant. [589] Again, in another passage he says, "Let not our Lord in respect of worldly power be too soon offended with priests, but with excellent consideration, on account of him whose servants they are, let him while ruling them also pay them due reverence." We see how in a common subjection he desires to be accounted one of the people. For he there pleads not another's but his own cause. Again, "I trust in Almighty God that he will give long life to pious rulers, and place us under your hand according to his mercy." I have not adduced these things here from any intention thoroughly to discuss the question of Constantine's donation, but only to show my readers by the way, how childishly the Romanists tell lies when they attempt to claim an earthly empire for their Pontiff. The more vile the impudence of Augustine Steuchus, who, in so desperate a cause, presumed to lend his labour and his tongue to the Roman Pontiff. Valla, as was easy for a man of learning and acuteness to do, had completely refuted this fable. And yet, as he was little versant in ecclesiastical affairs, he had not said all that was relevant to the subject. Steuchus breaks in, and scatters his worthless quibbles, trying to bury the clear light. And certainly he pleads the cause of his master not less frigidly than some wit might, under pretence of defending the same view, support that of Valla. But the cause is a worthy one, which the Pope may well hire such patrons to defend; equally worthy are the hired ravers whom the hope of gain may deceive, as was the case with Eugubinus.

13. Should any one ask at what period this fictitious empire began to emerge, five hundred years have not yet elapsed since the Roman Pontiffs were under subjection to the emperors, and no pontiff was elected without the emperor's authority. An occasion of innovating on this order was given to Gregory VII. by Henry IV., a giddy and rash man, of no prudence, great audacity, and a dissolute life. When he had the whole bishoprics of Germany in his court partly for sale, and partly exposed to plunder, Hildebrand, who had been provoked by him, seized the plausible pretext for asserting his claim. As his cause seemed good and pious, it was viewed with great favour, while Henry, on account of the insolence of his government, was generally hated by the princes. At length Hildebrand, who took the name of Gregory VII., an impure and wicked man, betrayed his sinister intentions. On this he was deserted by many who had joined him in his conspiracy. He gained this much, however, that his successors were not only able to shake off the yoke with impunity, but also to bring the emperors into subjection to them. Moreover, many of the subsequent emperors were liker Henry than Julius Cæsar. These it was not difficult to overcome while they sat at home sluggish and secure, instead of vigorously exerting themselves, as was most necessary, by all legitimate means to repress the cupidity of the pontiffs. We see what colour there is for the grand donation of Constantine, by which the Pope pretends that the western empire was given to him.

14. Meanwhile the pontiff ceased not, either by fraud, or by perfidy, or by arms, to invade the dominions of others. Rome itself, which was then free, they, about a hundred and thirty years ago, reduced under their power. At length they obtained the dominion which they now possess, and to retain or increase which, now for two hundred years (they had begun before they usurped the dominion of the city) they have so troubled the Christian world that they have almost destroyed it. Formerly, when in the time of Gregory, the guardians of ecclesiastical property seized upon lands which they considered to belong to the Church, and, after the manner of the exchequer, affixed their seals in attestation of their claim, Gregory having assembled a council of bishops, and bitterly inveighed against that profane custom, asked whether they would not anathematise the churchman who, of his own accord, attempted to seize some possession by the inscription of a title, and in like manner, the bishop who should order it to be done, or not punish it when done without his order. All pronounced the anathema. If it is a crime deserving of anathema for a churchman to claim a property by the inscription of a title--then, now that for two hundred years, the pontiffs meditate nothing but war and bloodshed, the destruction of armies, the plunder of cities, the destruction or overthrow of nations, and the devastation of kingdoms, only that they may obtain possession of the property of others--what anathemas can sufficiently punish such conduct? Surely it is perfectly obvious that the very last thing they aim at is the glory of Christ. For were they spontaneously to resign every portion of secular power which they possess, no peril to the glory of God, no peril to sound doctrine, no peril to the safety of the Church ensues; but they are borne blind and headlong by a lust for power, thinking that nothing can be safe unless they rule, as the prophet says, "with force and with cruelty" (Ezek. 34:4).

15. To jurisdiction is annexed the immunity claimed by the Romish clergy. They deem it unworthy of them to answer before a civil judge in personal causes; and consider both the liberty and dignity of the Church to consist in exemption from ordinary tribunals and laws. But the ancient bishops, who otherwise were most resolute in asserting the rights of the Church, did not think it any injury to themselves and their order to act as subjects. Pious emperors also, as often as there was occasion, summoned clergy to their tribunals, and met with no opposition. For Constantine, in a letter to the Nicomedians, thus speaks:--"Should any of the bishops unadvisedly excite tumult, his audacity shall be restrained by the minister of God, that is, by my executive" (Theodoret. Lib. 1 c. 20). Valentinian says, "Good bishops throw no obloquy on the power of the emperor, but sincerely keep the commandments of God, the great King, and obey our laws" (Theodoret. Lib. 4 c. 8). This was unquestionably the view then entertained by all. Ecclesiastical causes, indeed, were brought before the episcopal court; as when a clergyman had offended, but not against the laws, he was only charged by the Canons; and instead of being cited before the civil court, had the bishop for his judge in that particular case. In like manner, when a question of faith was agitated, or one which properly pertained to the Church, cognisance was left to the Church. In this sense the words of Ambrose are to be understood: "Your father, of august memory, not only replied verbally, but enacted by law, that, in a question of faith, the judge should be one who was neither unequal from office, nor incompetent from the nature of his jurisdiction" (Ambros. Ep. 32). Again, "If we attend to the Scriptures, or to ancient examples, who can deny that in a question of faith, a question of faith, I say, bishops are wont to judge Christian emperors, not emperors to judge bishops?" Again, "I would have come before your consistory, O emperor, would either the bishops or the people have allowed me to come: they say that a question of faith should be discussed in the Church before the people." He maintains, indeed, that a spiritual cause, that is, one pertaining to religion, is not to be brought before the civil court, where worldly disputes are agitated. His firmness in this respect is justly praised by all. And yet, though he has a good cause, he goes so far as to say, that if it comes to force and violence, he will yield. "I will not desert the post committed to me, but, if forced, I will not resist: prayers and tears are our weapons" (Ambros. Hom. de Basilic. Traden.). Let us observe the singular moderation of this holy man, his combination of prudence, magnanimity, and boldness. Justina, the mother of the emperor, unable to bring him over to the Arian party, sought to drive him from the government of the Church. And this would have been the result had he, when summoned, gone to the palace to plead his cause. He maintains, therefore, that the emperor is not fit to decide such a controversy. This both the necessity of the times, and the very nature of the thing, demanded. He thought it were better for him to die than consent to transmit such an example to posterity; and yet if violence is offered, he thinks not of resisting. For he says, it is not the part of a bishop to defend the faith and rights of the Church by arms. But in all other causes he declares himself ready to do whatever the emperor commands. "If he asks tribute, we deny it not: the lands of the Church pay tribute. If he asks lands, he has the power of evicting them; none of us interposes." Gregory speaks in the same manner. "I am not ignorant of the mind of my most serene lord: he is not wont to interfere in sacerdotal causes, lest he may in some degree burden himself with our sins." He does not exclude the emperor generally from judging priests, but says that there are certain causes which he ought to leave to the ecclesiastical tribunal.

16. And hence all that these holy men sought by this exception was, to prevent irreligious princes from impeding the Church in the discharge of her duty, by their tyrannical caprice and violence. They did not disapprove when princes interposed their authority in ecclesiastical affairs, provided this was done to preserve, not to disturb, the order of the Church, to establish, not to destroy discipline. For, seeing the Church has not, and ought not to wish to have, the power of compulsion (I speak of civil coercion), it is the part of pious kings and princes to maintain religion by laws, edicts, and sentences. In this way, when the emperor Maurice had commanded certain bishops to receive their neighbouring colleagues, who had been expelled by the Barbarians, Gregory confirms the order, and exhorts them to obey. [590] He himself, when admonished by the same emperor to return to a good understanding with John, Bishop of Constantinople, endeavours to show that he is not to be blamed; but so far from boasting of immunity from the secular forum, rather promises to comply as far as conscience would permit: he at the same time says, that Maurice had acted as became a religious prince, in giving these commands to priests.

__________________________________________________________________

[586] There is nothing repugnant to this in the statement of Augustine (Ep. 119), that as the teachers of liberal arts and pursuits, so bishops also were often accustomed, in their judicial proceedings, to chastise with the rod.

[587] 120 D120 It is truly unfortunate that these sound sentiments were not heeded by Calvin himself, when, exactly six years before this definitive edition of 1559 was published, he asked the councils of Geneva to arrest the heretic Michael Servetus, brought charges against him, carried on the debate to prove that his heresy was threatening the Church of Christ, and approved of the verdict to put him to death (although he urged beheading instead of burning at the stake). Calvin even wrote a small book defending the death sentence upon Servetus. Today there is a monument on Champel, the hill upon which Servetus perished in the flames. It was erected on the 350th anniversary of the execution, by followers of Calvin. The inscription reads: As reverent and grateful sons of Calvin, our great Reformer, repudiating his mistake, which was the mistake of his age, and according to the true principles of the Reformation and the Gospel, holding fast to freedom of conscience, we erect this monument of reconciliation on this 27th of October 1903.

[588] This is stated by Ambrose, Hom. de Basilic. Tradend. See also August. De Fide et Operibus, cap. 4.

[589] Gregor. Lib. 2 Ep. 5; Lib. 3 Ep. 20; Lib. 2 Ep. 61; Lib. 4 Ep. 31, 34.

[590] Lib. 1 Ep. 43; Lib. 4 Ep. 32, 34; Lib. 7 Ep. 39.

__________________________________________________________________

     Christian Classics Ethereal Library / Public Domain

     Institutes of the Christian Religion




  • Don't Grieve
    the Holy Spirit
  • The Most Misunderstood
    Parable
  • Responding To
    Holiness

#3 Jerry Bridges | Gospel Coalition

 


     Devotionals, notes, poetry and more

coram Deo
     9/1/2011    Ten Years Later

     The world has changed. We are not the same people we were on September 10, 2001. The events of September 11, 2001, and the events that followed in ensuing years have not only changed America but nations and peoples throughout the world. People are more afraid and less naïve. People are more aware of the differences between world religions and of the different cultures of those world religions. People are either more antagonistic towards the religion of their fathers or they are more committed adherents. There are fewer and fewer merely nominal religious bystanders and more and more radical adherents. In ten short years, we have emerged a changed human race — a race of people with a few different norms and many different perspectives, different words and different definitions of words. Those things that once seemed foreign are now familiar, and those things we thought we would never see are now boldly marching down Main Street and entering our homes in ways we never dreamed possible. It has been a rapidly changing ten years, and most people are still trying to figure out what to make of our brave new world.

     September 11, 2001, is a day that is burned into our memories. In the history of the world, humanity has never been a witness to such horrendous terror via live video footage. It is our generation’s dreadful day of infamy. Ten years later, and we have not forgotten the murdered or their families, the heroes or the villains. Terrorist attacks are not isolated to America, nor are they isolated to a particular time in history. That dreadful day was not the start of something new but the consequence of something very old. The historic evil of that sad day ten years ago is a symptom of the historic evil of the day of the fall of man.

     Since the fall, such sins have been common to all men everywhere, and the works of sinful flesh are evident: terrorist attacks at the hands of committed and conservative Muslims; murderous crusades led by cross-draped and body-armored biblically confused crusaders in the name of Christ; indiscriminate mass murders by fame-seeking, face-masked American high school students; discriminatory holocausts fueled by the psychotic minds of nationally appointed madmen; and government-supported, socially accepted infanticide in the once safe wombs of inconvenienced women and their self-centered, irresponsible “men.”

     Although the horrific events of September 11, 2001, sent shock waves throughout the world, our sovereign God was neither shocked nor surprised, and though the world has changed and will continue to change, the one and only God of the Bible has not changed but is forever changing His world by building His kingdom through the advance of the gospel by His sovereign hand and for His own glory.

     click here for article source

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

Ligonier     coram Deo (definition)

American Minute
     by Bill Federer

     Thirteen Stars and Thirteen Stripes. It was on this day, June 14, 1777, that the Second Continental Congress chose this as the Flag of the United States. In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson signed a Proclamation making this day "National Flag Day." It was also on this day in 1954, that President Dwight Eisenhower signed the Act of Congress which added the phrase "One Nation Under God" to the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag. Eisenhower stated: "From this day forward… millions of… school children will daily proclaim… the dedication of our nation… to the Almighty."

American Minute
Lean Into God
     Compiled by Richard S. Adams

God is a verb,
not a noun proper or improper.
--- R. Buckminster Fuller
No more secondhand God, and other writings.


I object to violence because when it appears to do good,
the good is only temporary;
the evil it does is permanent.
--- Mohandas Gandhi
The Collected Works Of Mahatma Gandhi: (11 April, 1910 - 12 July, 1911)., Volume 11...

He did not die for Himself, so neither did He obey for Himself. In both forms of His obedience He acted for us, as our representative and substitute, that through His righteousness many might be made righteous.
--- Charles Hodge
Systematic Theology - (3-Volume Set)

Reality is that which when you stop believing in it does not go away.
--- Philip K. Dick
Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said

... from here, there and everywhere

The Shema: Spirituality and Law in Judaism
     CHAPTER 8 / “The Lord Is One”:
     “One” and Contemporary Science


     Indeed, we often feel adrift, without a center. The “global village,” about which we have heard so much, integrates technology and business, not our lives as individuals. What the late Ludwig Lewisohn complained about American Jewry is true of the rest of the world: we have assimilated not on the level of America’s finest thinkers, but on the level of junk literature, mindless television, nihilistic and hedonistic entertainment. As individual men and women, we have succumbed to an “anarchic pluralism” that leads us into a contemporary idolatry in the form of a “sophisticated hedonistic individualism.”6 The Zohar calls such a state the alma de’peruda, the “World of Dis-integration” or, in the powerful imagery later introduced by R. Isaac Luria, the “breaking of the vessels,” that at the beginning of time left the unitary quality of existence shattered. Indeed, social psychologists and philosophers have long characterized human life, particularly modern life, as a state of alienation and estrangement.

     In this milieu of incohesiveness and fragmentation, Judaism bids us recite the Shema. If—and this is an important if—we assume that the theological unity of God reflects the existential unity of humanity, then we must understand the Shema’s message of God as eḥad as a beckoning vision, not as a description of current reality. The unity of God is, unquestionably, not yet a fact; it must await, as the Sifre maintained, eschatological fulfillment. But that fulfillment must not be merely a passive one, relegated only to the heart. If not (yet) a fact, it must be championed as a value. It must motivate an active program so that all of life will move toward realizing that “And the Lord shall be king over all the earth”; that the “World of Disintegration” will one day be replaced by the “World of Unity” and reintegration.

     The disparity between what is and what ought to be, between fact and value, between “the Lord our God is One” and “On that day the Lord shall be One and His Name One,” implies a certain tension. If we are called upon actively to help realize the future, how can we declare that God is one? Yet that is precisely how these two tendencies produce psychologically conflicting results. If we declare that “God is one,” implying that humanity is not unified (as Saadia would have it), then we are not summoned to aggressive attempts to implement His unity by actively inviting redemption and promoting the Messianic program. If, however, the divine unity is a value (as Maimonides holds), so that “the Lord shall be one,” it follows that we have a duty to bring down the Messiah from heaven to earth, as it were. All agree that we believe in the coming of the Messiah; what to do, if anything, to hasten his arrival is where the extrapolations of these two views differ. The former counsels patience, the latter anticipation as we await redemption.

     This is a tension that will never be resolved, not until the coming of the Messiah. It is our fate and destiny to participate in this millennial balancing act, yielding neither to despair nor to the illusion that the “end of history” is at hand.

     The challenge of helping to fulfill the divine yiḥud is therefore a very real one, summoning Jews to pursue the vision of yiḥud Hashem on many levels simultaneously. We are called upon to focus our kavvanah, our intention, when reciting the Shema; to keep alive and flourishing expectation of the Messianic redemption by creating the proper conditions for it, while at the same time rejecting the allure of pseudo-Messianism in any form or shape; to advance the fortunes of the State of Israel, not only for its own sake but also as a possible harbinger of the Messianic era; to ingather the exiles from lands of oppression and from “the four corners of the earth”; to make aliyah ourselves; and so on. And all this is to be carried out without impatience and without demanding immediate gratification. For such an impatience has too often led and can again lead to cataclysmic results.

     In the opinion of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik (see also the reference to this in the appendix), the first verse of the Shema fulfills not only the requirement to proclaim the unity of God, but also the mitzvah to love God and to study His Torah. In other words, our love of God and study of Torah must be energized by the grand quest for divine unity. These teachings have special meaning for those who have the good fortune and resolve to devote time regularly to the study of Torah, especially those privileged to study in a community of students and scholars all dedicated to Torah. But they are relevant to all other Jews as well. For our study of the Shema has demonstrated that talmud torah, the ongoing and ever deepening study of Torah, is not isolated from the rest of one’s existence. On the contrary, it represents the unifying force of life, its existential glue. Torah study must therefore never lead us to a paralyzed introversion, to intellectual, spiritual, or communal self-involvement that constrains our concern for those outside our immediate circle. While mastery of Torah requires periods of retreat from society and mundane affairs—as does mastery of any great discipline—Torah must never be regarded as a self-enclosed system that turns its back on the world. Rather, it is the instrument for unifying the world under the Holy One. Therefore the goal of Torah study must be to unify, to bring coherence to our own lives and, in expanding circles, to our community, to our people, and to all humankind.

     Seen from this perspective, the study of Torah becomes more inclusive, comprehending within it the “secular” or worldly disciplines that must be integrated with Torah as part of the drama of unifying the divine Name. Indeed, Torah Umadda, the integration of sacred and “secular” studies, is an ideal of avodat Hashem, the lifelong service of God. For when we expand the boundaries of Torah study, we discover that it constitutes a “unified field theory,” allowing us simultaneously to fulfill the mitzvot of unifying God, loving God, and studying Torah.7

     Viewed from this “activist” standpoint, yiḥud Hashem, as articulated in the first verse of the Shema, becomes not only a holy concept but, even more, an extraordinarily powerful value that energizes the worshiper to spiritual ambition even without the promise of immediate success.

     Perhaps this is one reason that we place our hand over our eyes when reciting the Shema, following the practice of R. Judah the Prince (Berakhot 13a). The gesture declares that yiḥud Hashem is not only an idea in our head, not only a dream in our mind’s eye; it is also a value that governs our conduct, a principle that directs our action, a program that must be carried out by our hands. The hands must do what the eyes envision.

  The Shema: Spirituality and Law in Judaism
History of the Destruction of Jerusalem
     Thanks to Meir Yona

     4. "The present dread you are under seems to me to have seized upon you very unreasonably. It is true, you might justly be dismayed at that providential chastisement which hath befallen you; but to suffer yourselves to be equally terrified at the invasion of men is unmanly. As for myself, I am so far from being affrighted at our enemies after this earthquake, that I imagine that God hath thereby laid a bait for the Arabians, that we may be avenged on them; for their present invasion proceeds more from our accidental misfortunes, than that they have any great dependence on their weapons, or their own fitness for action. Now that hope which depends not on men's own power, but on others' ill success, is a very ticklish thing; for there is no certainty among men, either in their bad or good fortunes; but we may easily observe that fortune is mutable, and goes from one side to another; and this you may readily learn from examples among yourselves; for when you were once victors in the former fight, your enemies overcame you at last; and very likely it will now happen so, that these who think themselves sure of beating you will themselves be beaten. For when men are very confident, they are not upon their guard, while fear teaches men to act with caution; insomuch that I venture to prove from your very timorousness that you ought to take courage; for when you were more bold than you ought to have been, and than I would have had you, and marched on, Athenio's treachery took place; but your present slowness and seeming dejection of mind is to me a pledge and assurance of victory. And indeed it is proper beforehand to be thus provident; but when we come to action, we ought to erect our minds, and to make our enemies, be they ever so wicked, believe that neither any human, no, nor any providential misfortune, can ever depress the courage of Jews while they are alive; nor will any of them ever overlook an Arabian, or suffer such a one to become lord of his good things, whom he has in a manner taken captive, and that many times also. And do not you disturb yourselves at the quaking of inanimate creatures, nor do you imagine that this earthquake is a sign of another calamity; for such affections of the elements are according to the course of nature, nor does it import any thing further to men, than what mischief it does immediately of itself. Perhaps there may come some short sign beforehand in the case of pestilences, and famines, and earthquakes; but these calamities themselves have their force limited by themselves [without foreboding any other calamity]. And indeed what greater mischief can the war, though it should be a violent one, do to us than the earthquake hath done? Nay, there is a signal of our enemies' destruction visible, and that a very great one also; and this is not a natural one, nor derived from the hand of foreigners neither, but it is this, that they have barbarously murdered our ambassadors, contrary to the common law of mankind; and they have destroyed so many, as if they esteemed them sacrifices for God, in relation to this war. But they will not avoid his great eye, nor his invincible right hand; and we shall be revenged of them presently, in case we still retain any of the courage of our forefathers, and rise up boldly to punish these covenant-breakers. Let every one therefore go on and fight, not so much for his wife or his children, or for the danger his country is in, as for these ambassadors of ours; those dead ambassadors will conduct this war of ours better than we ourselves who are alive. And if you will be ruled by me, I will myself go before you into danger; for you know this well enough, that your courage is irresistible, unless you hurt yourselves by acting rashly."

     5. When Herod had encouraged them by this speech, and he saw with what alacrity they went, he offered sacrifice to God; and after that sacrifice, he passed over the river Jordan with his army, and pitched his camp about Philadelphia, near the enemy, and about a fortification that lay between them. He then shot at them at a distance, and was desirous to come to an engagement presently; for some of them had been sent beforehand to seize upon that fortification: but the king sent some who immediately beat them out of the fortification, while he himself went in the forefront of the army, which he put in battle-array every day, and invited the Arabians to fight. But as none of them came out of their camp, for they were in a terrible fright, and their general, Elthemus, was not able to say a word for fear,—so Herod came upon them, and pulled their fortification to pieces, by which means they were compelled to come out to fight, which they did in disorder, and so that the horsemen and foot-men were mixed together. They were indeed superior to the Jews in number, but inferior in their alacrity, although they were obliged to expose themselves to danger by their very despair of victory.

     6. Now while they made opposition, they had not a great number slain; but as soon as they turned their backs, a great many were trodden to pieces by the Jews, and a great many by themselves, and so perished, till five thousand were fallen down dead in their flight, while the rest of the multitude prevented their immediate death, by crowding into the fortification. Herod encompassed these around, and besieged them; and while they were ready to be taken by their enemies in arms, they had another additional distress upon them, which was thirst and want of water; for the king was above hearkening to their ambassadors; and when they offered five hundred talents, as the price of their redemption, he pressed still harder upon them. And as they were burnt up by their thirst, they came out and voluntarily delivered themselves up by multitudes to the Jews, till in five days' time four thousand of them were put into bonds; and on the sixth day the multitude that were left despaired of saving themselves, and came out to fight: with these Herod fought, and slew again about seven thousand, insomuch that he punished Arabia so severely, and so far extinguished the spirits of the men, that he was chosen by the nation for their ruler.

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

The War of the Jews: The History of the Destruction of Jerusalem (complete edition, 7 books)
Proverbs 19:13
     by D.H. Stern

13     A son who is a fool is his father’s ruin,
and a nagging wife is like a leak that keeps dripping.


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

My Utmost For The Highest
     A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers

                Get a move on

     In the Matter of Determination. Abide in Me. --- John 15:4.

     The Spirit of Jesus is put into me by the Atonement, then I have to construct with patience the way of thinking that is exactly in accordance with my Lord. God will not make me think like Jesus, I have to do it myself; I have to bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. “Abide in Me”—in intellectual matters, in money matters, in every one of the matters that make human life what it is. It is not a bandbox life.

     Am I preventing God from doing things in my circumstances because I say it will hinder my communion with Him? That is an impertinence. It does not matter what my circumstances are, I can be as sure of abiding in Jesus in them as in a prayer meeting. I have not to change and arrange my circumstances myself. With Our Lord the inner abiding was unsullied; He was at home with God wherever His body was placed. He never chose His own circumstances, but was meek towards His Father’s dispensations for Him. Think of the amazing leisure of Our Lord’s Life! We keep God at excitement point, there is none of the serenity of the life hid with Christ in God about us.

     Think of the things that take you out of abiding in Christ—‘Yes, Lord, just a minute, I have got this to do; Yes, I will abide when once this is finished; when this week is over, it will be all right, I will abide then.’ Get a move on; begin to abide now. In the initial stages it is a continual effort until it becomes so much the law of life that you abide in Him unconsciously. Determine to abide in Jesus wherever you are placed.

My Utmost for His Highest
Pieta
     the Poetry of RS Thomas


                Pieta

Always the same hills
  Crowd the horizon,
  Remote witness
  Of the still scene.

  And in the foreground
  The tall Cross,
  Sombre, untenanted,
  Aches for the Body
  That is the back in the cradle
  Of a maid's arms

Selected Poems, 1946-68
Searching For Meaning In Midrash
     Part II Genesis


     BIBLE TEXT / Genesis 3:6–7 / When the woman saw that the tree was good for eating and a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable as a source of wisdom, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave some to her husband, and be ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened and they perceived that they were naked; and they sewed together fig leaves and made themselves loincloths.

     MIDRASH TEXT / Genesis Rabbah 19, 6 / And they perceived that they were naked. Even the one mitzvah that they had was stripped from them. And they sewed together fig [תְּאֵנָה/t'einah] leaves. Rabbi Shimon ben Yoḥai said, "This is the leaf that brought grief [תּו̇אֲנָה/to-anah] to the world." Rabbi Yitzḥak said, "You have ruined things! Take a thread and sew it up!"

     "CONTEXT / And they, Adam and Eve, perceived that they were naked. The Rabbis were puzzled: Doesn't an unclothed person realize that he is naked? Even a blind person knows that he is naked. What really happened when Adam and Eve opened their eyes? And what is the verse telling us when it says that they perceived that they were naked? This Midrash imagines that even the one mitzvah that they had, not to eat from the tree, was in a figurative sense stripped from them the way clothing would be stripped off a person. It was then that Adam and Eve realized just how "bare" they were, exposed before God as unable to keep the one command that they had.

     "They sewed together fig [תְּאֵנָה/t'einah] leaves. Rabbi Shimon ben Yoḥai (also called Shimon bar Yoḥai) thought of a pun: the word תְּאֵנָה/t'einah, "fig," sounds like another Hebrew word, תּו̇אֲנָה/to-anah, "grief" or "trouble." "This is the leaf that brought grief [תּו̇אֲנָה/to-anah] by their eating from the tree, in disobedience of God, to the world." What it brought to the world, apparently, is death. Rabbi Yitzḥak said, It's as if God said to Adam and Eve, "You have ruined things! Take a thread and sew it up!" The text says that they sewed the fig leaves together themselves. Adam and Eve themselves had to make amends for what they had wrecked by mending their own clothing.

     "Most of us have been taught, and therefore assume, that Eve gave Adam an apple. After all, we call the protrusion of the larynx the "Adam's apple," not "Adam's pear" or "Adam's grape." But the Bible text says only that "she [Eve] took of its fruit and ate," never specifying which fruit it was. Rabbi Shimon bar Yoḥai speculates on the fruit and makes a pun, trying to learn a lesson by connecting the Hebrew words תְּאֵנָה/t'einah, "fig,"תּוֹאֲנָה/to-anah, "grief," and עֲלֵה תְאֵנָה/alei t'einah, "fig leaves." (In reality, the first and third words are from the same root; the second from a different root.) Rabbi Shimon is saying that the remedy has to fit the problem; since the sin was committed with the תְּאֵנָה/t'einah, "fig," which caused grief (תּו̇אֲנָה/to-anah)—that is, Adam and Eve's sudden knowledge that they were naked—then the remedy must somehow fit. And it does with עֲלֵה תְאֵנָה/alei t'einah, "fig leaves." The punishment fits the crime, linguistically and, more important, philosophically.

Searching for Meaning in Midrash: Lessons for Everyday Living
Hosea 14:1–9 Love So Amazing
     W. W. Wiersbe

     "3. God's Promises for the Future

     Though His people may turn away from Him, God will not abandon them, even though He disciplines them, for He is true to His covenant and His promises. "If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself"
(2 Tim. 2:13, NKJV).

     God pleads with His people to return to Him and forsake the sins that were causing their downfall (Hosea 14:1). He had already told them to plow up their hard hearts and seek the Lord (10:12) and to turn to God for mercy (12:6), but now He talks to them like little children and tells them just what to do. The Lord gives them promises to encourage them to repent.

     He will receive us (
Hosea 14:2–3). God had every reason to reject His sinful people, but He chose to offer them forgiveness. Instead of bringing sacrifices, they needed to bring sincere words of repentance and ask God for His gracious forgiveness. "For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart – these, O God, You will not despise" (Ps. 51:16–17, NKJV).

     He will restore us (Hosea 14:4). God restores the penitent to spiritual health and heals their backsliding (Jer. 14:7). When a person collapses with sickness, it's usually the result of a process that's been working in the body for weeks or months. First an infection gets into the system and begins to grow. The person experiences weariness and loss of appetite, then weakness, and then the collapse occurs. When sin gets into the inner person and isn't dealt with, it acts like an insidious infection: it grows quietly; it brings loss of spiritual appetite; it creates weariness and weakness; then comes the collapse.

     For example, when Peter denied his Lord three times, that sin didn't suddenly appear; it was the result of gradual spiritual deterioration. The denial began with Peter's pride, when he told the Lord he would never forsake Him and would even die for Him. The next stage was sleeping when he should have been praying, and then fighting when he should have put away his sword. Peter should have left the scene ("I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad" [Matt. 26:31; Zech. 13:7]); but instead, he followed to see what would happen and walked right into temptation.

     When we confess our sins to the Lord, He forgives us and the "germs of sin" are cleansed away (1 John 1:9) but, as with physical sickness, often there's a period of recuperation when we get back our strength and our appetite for spiritual food. "I will love them freely" describes that period, when we're back in fellowship with the Lord and enjoying His presence. We see the smile of His face, for His anger is turned away.

     He will revive us (Hosea 14:5–8). Hosea pictures the restoration of the penitent as the emergence of new life in a dry field on which the refreshing dew has fallen. (Biblical images must be studied carefully and identified accurately, for the same image may be used with different meanings in different contexts. The dew is a case in point. In Hosea 6:4, it represents the fleeting religious devotion of the hypocrites, while in 13:3, it symbolizes the transiency of the people who think they're so secure. Both Jesus and Satan are represented by the lion (Rev. 5:5; 1 Peter 5:8).) In the summer and early autumn in the Holy Land, the dew is very heavy and greatly appreciated (Ps. 133:3; Isa. 18:4). That's what the word "revive" means: to bring new life. The rich vegetation appears, producing beauty and fragrance where once the farmer saw only ugliness and emptiness. The fallow ground becomes a fruitful garden!

     The closing verse presents us with only two alternatives: rebel against the Lord and continue to stumble, or return to the Lord and walk securely in His ways. The first choice is foolish; the second choice is wise.

     "I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore, choose life" (Deut. 30:19).

Be Amazed (Minor Prophets): Restoring an Attitude of Wonder and Worship (The BE Series Commentary)
Early Judaism in Modern Scholarship
     Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism

     Judaism in the period between the conquests of Alexander the Great in the fourth century B.C.E. and the last Jewish revolt against Rome in the early second century C.E. has been characterized in various ways. For German scholars of the late nineteenth and early and mid-twentieth century, such as Emil Schürer and Wilhelm Bousset, this was Spätjudentum, “Late Judaism.” The “lateness” was relative to the teaching of the prophets, and bespoke decline as well as chronological sequence. The decline reached its nadir in rabbinic Judaism, understood as a religion of the Law.

     After the Holocaust, this way of characterizing ancient Judaism was widely (but not universally) recognized as not only offensive but dangerous. It was also inaccurate. On any reckoning, the history of Judaism since the Roman period is longer than the preceding history. Moreover, it is now increasingly apparent that the religion of ancient Israel and Judah before the Babylonian conquest was significantly different from the “Judaism” that emerged after the Exile. It has often been assumed that the reforms of Ezra in the fifth century marked the beginning of Judaism, but in fact we have little historical knowledge about these reforms, or indeed about Ezra himself. Shaye Cohen has argued persuasively that the Greek word Ioudaios originally meant “Judean,” a usage that never disappears, but that “in the latter part of the second century B.C.E. is supplemented by a ‘religious’ or ‘cultural’ meaning: ‘Jew’ ” (Cohen 1999: 3; Mason 2007 disputes the supplementary meaning). The word “Judaism” derives from the Greek Ioudaismos, which first occurs in 2 Maccabees (2:21; 8:1; 14:38), as does its counterpart Hellenismos (4:13). The Jewish, or Judean, way of life was certainly recognized as distinctive before this. It was noted by Hecataeus of Abdera at the beginning of the Hellenistic period (ca. 300 B.C.E.). The right of Judeans, even communities living outside of Judah, to live according to their ancestral laws was widely recognized by Hellenistic rulers, who were probably continuing Persian policy. But there are good grounds for regarding “Judaism” as a phenomenon of the Second Temple period. Accordingly, the period under review in this volume belongs to the early history of Judaism, even if the beginnings should be sought somewhat earlier.

     While some biblical books (Daniel and probably Qoheleth) date from the Hellenistic age, the primary evidence for Judaism in this period lies in literature and other evidence dated “between the Bible and the Mishnah” (Nickelsburg 2005). Accordingly, this has sometimes been called the “intertestamental” period. While this term does not have the derogatory character of Spätjudentum, it does reflect a Christian perspective. Moreover, it obscures the fact that the New Testament itself provides evidence for Judaism in this period, and that some of the important Jewish writings (e.g., Josephus, 4 Ezra, 2 Baruch) are contemporary with or later than some of the Christian Scriptures. In recent years, it has become customary to use the label “Second Temple Judaism” for this period (Stone 1984). Again, several relevant Jewish authors (most notably Josephus) worked after the destruction of the Second Temple, but the inaccuracy can be excused on the grounds that many of the later writings are still greatly preoccupied with the Temple and its destruction, and that the restructuring and reconceptualizing of the religion that we find in rabbinic literature did not occur immediately when Jerusalem fell. The Second Temple period, however, must begin with the Persians, and includes the editing, if not the composition, of much of the Hebrew Bible.

     In this volume, we are mainly concerned with the evidence for Judaism between the Bible and the Mishnah. There is still overlap with the later biblical books, and the rabbinic corpus, compiled centuries later, also contains material relevant to the earlier period. No characterization, and no exact delimitation, is without problems, but “Early Judaism” seems the least problematic label available. (The designation “Middle Judaism,” suggested by Gabriele Boccaccini [1991], might be applied more appropriately to the Middle Ages. It is hardly appropriate for prerabbinic Judaism.) The conquests of Alexander are taken as the terminus a quo, on the grounds that they marked a major cultural transition. Several extant postbiblical Jewish writings date from the third or early second century B.C.E., prior to the Maccabean Revolt, which has often served as a marker for a new era (e.g., in Schürer’s History). The reign of Hadrian (117–138 C.E.) and the Bar Kokhba Revolt (132–135 C.E.) are taken to mark the end of an era, but not the end of Judaism by any means. The rabbinic literature, which later tradition would take as normative, took shape in the following centuries, but it did so in conditions that were very different from those that had prevailed before the great revolts.

The Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism
Take Heart
     June 14

     Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered. --- Hebrews 5:8.

     If some recording angel were to visit all our homes today, and we were asked to name the experiences that have blessed and taught us most, surely that angel’s book would tell of enrichment brought by God’s gifts of love, home, nature, and the beauty of the world; but page after page would tell how trouble, difficulty, bereavement, disappointment—all the things that hurt and leave a mark—had brought blessing by imparting new depth, new insight, to the soul. (Classic Sermons on Suffering (Kregel Classic Sermons Series)) And these words that stand written of God’s firstborn child, Jesus, God himself may be using as he looks on others of his children: “Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered.”

     Isn’t this the great transfiguring discovery, that pain can be creative? You do not just have to bear it negatively; you can use it positively. By the grace of God, you can compel the darkest, bitterest experiences to yield up hidden treasures of sweetness and light. Do not think the trials and troubles are meaningless; one day you are going to look into the face of God and thank him for every sorrow and for every tear you ever shed. The true Christian reaction to suffering and sorrow takes difficulties as a God-given opportunity and regards troubles as a sacred trust and wears the thorns as a crown.

     Let this be added—that the loveliest thing of all about the creative attitude toward suffering is that not only do you develop your own character, but you become a source of blessing and of strength to others.

     There is nothing on earth more beautiful to see than suffering transmuted into love. To say that the bitter cup can be drunk heroically is no more than every brave man or woman knows already, but to say that one soul’s hurt and suffering can distill out life and strength and healing for others—that is the everlasting miracle.

     “Yes,” someone will say, “but how am I to do it? I see now that suffering is not so much a problem to be explained as a challenge to be met, but how am I to meet it?”

     The only answer that can ultimately suffice is God incarnate on a cross, facing there the worst that suffering and evil have ever done on the earth. For still he comes to us, this Christ victorious over all the mystery of suffering and evil, and offers to make his triumph ours.
--- James S. Stewart

Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
On This Day
     Entombed Alive  June 14

     Methodius was born in Syracuse, Sicily, an island off the Italian coast famous for its olives, wine, and marble. The schools there afforded him a good education, and he developed political ambitions. The capital of the surviving Roman Empire was Constantinople, so Methodius packed his bags and traveled there, hoping for a post at court. Instead he met a monk who persuaded him to abandon secular pursuits and to enter the ministry. Methodius was eventually noticed by Patriarch Nicephorus who gave him ecclesiastical responsibilities.

     The iconoclastic controversy was tearing the church apart at the time. Should icons and images of Christ and the saints be worshiped? Methodius vigorously argued in the affirmative, but he found himself on the losing side. Patriarch Nicephorus was deposed, and Methodius was condemned, flogged, and imprisoned in a tomb with two thieves. When one of the thieves died, officials refused to remove the body, leaving it to rot where it had fallen. Methodius suffered in this putrid confinement for seven years, and he was little more than a skeleton when released.

     But he immediately resumed his crusade for the worship of idols and relics in the Eastern church. He was summoned before Emperor Theophilus and charged with heresy, but he threw the charges back in the ruler’s face: “If an image is so worthless in your eyes,” he reportedly thundered, “how is it you do not also condemn the veneration paid to representations of yourself? You are continually causing them to be multiplied.”

     Emperor Theophilus died soon thereafter, and his widow, Theodora, took Methodius’s side. Icon worshipers returned to the churches, exiled clergy returned to the empire, and within 30 days icons had been reinstated in all the churches of the capital.

     Methodius was named Patriarch of Constantinople and soon called a council of Eastern churches to endorse his decrees about icons and to institute the Feast of Orthodoxy, celebrating the return of images to the churches. He ruled as patriarch for four years until he died of dropsy on June 14, 847.

     What is an idol worth? It’s merely a false god. Why trust a speechless image made from wood or metal By human hands? What can you learn from idols covered with silver or gold? They can’t even breathe. Pity anyone who says to an idol of wood or stone, “Get up and do something!” Let all the world be silent— The LORD is present in his holy temple.
--- Habakkuk 2:18-20.

On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes
Morning and Evening
     Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON

          Morning - June 14

     “Delight thyself also in the Lord.” --- Psalm 37:4.

     The teaching of these words must seem very surprising to those who are strangers to vital godliness, but to the sincere believer it is only the inculcation of a recognized truth. The life of the believer is here described as a delight in God, and we are thus certified of the great fact that true religion overflows with happiness and joy. Ungodly persons and mere professors never look upon religion as a joyful thing; to them it is service, duty, or necessity, but never pleasure or delight. If they attend to religion at all, it is either that they may gain thereby, or else because they dare not do otherwise. The thought of delight in religion is so strange to most men, that no two words in their language stand further apart than “holiness” and “delight.” But believers who know Christ, understand that delight and faith are so blessedly united, that the gates of hell cannot prevail to separate them. They who love God with all their hearts, find that his ways are ways of pleasantness, and all his paths are peace. Such joys, such brimful delights, such overflowing blessednesses, do the saints discover in their Lord, that so far from serving him from custom, they would follow him though all the world cast out his name as evil. We fear not God because of any compulsion; our faith is no fetter, our profession is no bondage, we are not dragged to holiness, nor driven to duty. No, our piety is our pleasure, our hope is our happiness, our duty is our delight.

     Delight and true religion are as allied as root and flower; as indivisible as truth and certainty; they are, in fact, two precious jewels glittering side by side in a setting of gold.

     “’Tis when we taste thy love,
     Our joys divinely grow,
     Unspeakable like those above,
     And heaven begins below.”



          Evening - June 14

     “O Lord, to us belongeth confusion of face … because we have sinned against thee.” --- Daniel 9:8.

     A deep sense and clear sight of sin, its heinousness, and the punishment which it deserves, should make us lie low before the throne. We have sinned as Christians. Alas! that it should be so. Favoured as we have been, we have yet been ungrateful: privileged beyond most, we have not brought forth fruit in proportion. Who is there, although he may long have been engaged in the Christian warfare, that will not blush when he looks back upon the past? As for our days before we were regenerated, may they be forgiven and forgotten; but since then, though we have not sinned as before, yet we have sinned against light and against love—light which has really penetrated our minds, and love in which we have rejoiced. Oh, the atrocity of the sin of a pardoned soul! An unpardoned sinner sins cheaply compared with the sin of one of God’s own elect ones, who has had communion with Christ and leaned his head upon Jesus’ bosom. Look at David! Many will talk of his sin, but I pray you look at his repentance, and hear his broken bones, as each one of them moans out its dolorous confession! Mark his tears, as they fall upon the ground, and the deep sighs with which he accompanies the softened music of his harp! We have erred: let us, therefore, seek the spirit of penitence. Look, again, at Peter! We speak much of Peter’s denying his Master. Remember, it is written, “He wept bitterly.” Have we no denials of our Lord to be lamented with tears? Alas! these sins of ours, before and after conversion, would consign us to the place of inextinguishable fire if it were not for the sovereign mercy which has made us to differ, snatching us like brands from the burning. My soul, bow down under a sense of thy natural sinfulness, and worship thy God. Admire the grace which saves thee—the mercy which spares thee—the love which pardons thee!

Morning and Evening
Amazing Grace
     June 14

          ROOM AT THE CROSS FOR YOU

     Words and Music by Ira R. Stanphill, 1914–1994

     But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

     Out of the varied experiences of a fruitful life have come the many moving hymns of Ira F. Stanphill. As a child he traveled by covered wagon from Arkansas to New Mexico, then later moved to Oklahoma and Kansas. Converted at age 12, Stanphill began preaching at 22 in revival meetings and later served pastorates in Florida, Pennsylvania, and Texas. At 17 he wrote his first Gospel song and traveled for several years with evangelists, playing the piano, organ, ukulele and accordion.

     Mr. Stanphill began to write his own Gospel hymns, and he employed the unusual practice of creating a text from titles suggested from the congregation during a service. He would explain:

     “The basic reason I have written songs is that I love God and Christ has loved me. Most of my songs are the outgrowth of real experiences with Christ. I think they appeal to people because I have had trials, heartaches, and sorrow in my own life, and I know what I write about.”

     “Room at the Cross” was a title suggested to Ira in 1946 at one of his meetings. He wrote it on a scrap of paper, which he found in his pocket after returning home. Impressed with the title, he quickly wrote both words and music as they appear today. Since then the song has been recorded by numerous Christian artists, translated into Spanish, German, and Italian, and was used as the closing theme of the national broadcast Revival Time for many years. Only eternity will reveal the number who have been directed to Christ through this one Gospel hymn that reminds us that there is always room at the cross for one more sinner.

     The cross upon which Jesus died is a shelter in which we can hide; and its grace so free is sufficient for me, and deep is its fountain—as wide as the sea.

     Tho millions have found Him a friend and have turned from the sins they have sinned, the Savior still waits to open the gates and welcome a sinner before it’s too late.

     The hand of my Savior is strong, and the love of my Savior is long; through sunshine or rain, through loss or in gain, the blood flows from Calv’ry to cleanse every stain.

     Chorus: There’s room at the cross for you; tho millions have come, there’s still room for one—Yes, there’s room at the cross for you.


     For Today: Acts 16:31; Romans 10:9, 10, 13; 1 Timothy 1:15; Hebrews 2:3.

     No one can hear the message of God’s great love as displayed at Calvary and remain unmoved. Resolve to invite some needy sinner to come to the cross. Share this musical truth with that person ---

Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
De Servo Arbitrio “On the Enslaved Will” or The Bondage of the Will
     Martin Luther | (1483-1546)


     Sect. LV. — ANOTHER passage is adduced by our Diatribe out of Gen. iv. 7.: where the Lord saith unto Cain, “Under thee shall be the desire of sin, and thou shalt rule over it.” — “Here it is shewn (saith the Diatribe) that the motions of the mind to evil can be overcome, and that they do not carry with them the necessity of sinning.” —

     These words, ‘the motions of the mind to evil can be overcomes’ though spoken with ambiguity, yet, from the scope of the sentiment, the consequence, and the circumstances, must mean this: — that “Free-will,” has the power of overcoming its motions to evil; and that, those motions do not bring upon it the necessity of sinning. Here, again; what is there excepted which is not ascribed unto “Free-will?” What need is there of the Spirit, what need of Christ, what need of God, if “Free-will” can overcome the motions of the mind to evil! And where, again, is that ‘probable opinion’ which affirms, that “Free-will” cannot so much as will good? For here, the victory over evil is ascribed unto that, which neither wills nor wishes for good. The inconsiderateness of our Diatribe is really — too — too bad!

     Take the truth of the matter in a few words. As I have before observed, by such passages as these, it is shewn to man what he ought to do, not what he can do. It is said, therefore, unto Cain, that he ought to rule over his sin, and to hold its desires in subjection under him. But this he neither did nor could do, because he was already pressed down under the contrary dominion of Satan. — It is well known, that the Hebrews frequently use the future indicative for the imperative: as in Exod. xx. 1-17. “Thou shalt, have none other gods but Me,” “Thou shalt not kill,” “Thou shalt not commit adultery,” and in numberless other instances of the same kind. Otherwise, if these sentences were taken indicatively, as they really stand, they would be promises of God; and as He cannot lie, it would come to pass that no man could sin; and then, as commands, they would be unnecessary; and if this were the case, then our interpreter would have translated this passage more correctly thus: — “let its desire be under thee, and rule thou over it,” (Gen. iv. 7.) Even as it then ought also to be said concerning the woman, “Be thou under thy husband, and let him rule over thee,” (Gen. iii. 16.) But that it was not spoken indicatively unto Cain is manifest from this: — it would then have been a promise. Whereas, it was not a promise; because, from the conduct of Cain, the event proved the contrary.

The Bondage of the Will   or   Christian Classics Ethereal Library
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