Psalm 21 - 25
The King Rejoices in the LORD’s Strength
TO THE CHOIRMASTER. A PSALM OF DAVID.
Psalm 21:1 O LORD, in your strength the king rejoices,
and in your salvation how greatly he exults!
2 You have given him his heart’s desire
and have not withheld the request of his lips. Selah
3 For you meet him with rich blessings;
you set a crown of fine gold upon his head.
4 He asked life of you; you gave it to him,
length of days forever and ever.
5 His glory is great through your salvation;
splendor and majesty you bestow on him.
6 For you make him most blessed forever;
you make him glad with the joy of your presence.
7 For the king trusts in the LORD,
and through the steadfast love of the Most High he shall not be moved.
8 Your hand will find out all your enemies;
your right hand will find out those who hate you.
9 You will make them as a blazing oven
when you appear.
The LORD will swallow them up in his wrath,
and fire will consume them.
10 You will destroy their descendants from the earth,
and their offspring from among the children of man.
11 Though they plan evil against you,
though they devise mischief, they will not succeed.
12 For you will put them to flight;
you will aim at their faces with your bows.
13 Be exalted, O LORD, in your strength!
We will sing and praise your power.
Why Have You Forsaken Me?
TO THE CHOIRMASTER: ACCORDING TO THE DOE OF THE DAWN. A PSALM OF DAVID.
Psalm 22:1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?
2 O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer,
and by night, but I find no rest.
3 Yet you are holy,
enthroned on the praises of Israel.
4 In you our fathers trusted;
they trusted, and you delivered them.
5 To you they cried and were rescued;
in you they trusted and were not put to shame.
6 But I am a worm and not a man,
scorned by mankind and despised by the people.
7 All who see me mock me;
they make mouths at me; they wag their heads;
8 “He trusts in the LORD; let him deliver him;
let him rescue him, for he delights in him!”
9 Yet you are he who took me from the womb;
you made me trust you at my mother’s breasts.
10 On you was I cast from my birth,
and from my mother’s womb you have been my God.
11 Be not far from me,
for trouble is near,
and there is none to help.
12 Many bulls encompass me;
strong bulls of Bashan surround me;
13 they open wide their mouths at me,
like a ravening and roaring lion.
14 I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint;
my heart is like wax;
it is melted within my breast;
15 my strength is dried up like a potsherd,
and my tongue sticks to my jaws;
you lay me in the dust of death.
16 For dogs encompass me;
a company of evildoers encircles me;
they have pierced my hands and feet—
17 I can count all my bones—
they stare and gloat over me;
18 they divide my garments among them,
and for my clothing they cast lots.
19 But you, O LORD, do not be far off!
O you my help, come quickly to my aid!
20 Deliver my soul from the sword,
my precious life from the power of the dog!
21 Save me from the mouth of the lion!
You have rescued me from the horns of the wild oxen!
22 I will tell of your name to my brothers;
in the midst of the congregation I will praise you:
23 You who fear the LORD, praise him!
All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him,
and stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!
24 For he has not despised or abhorred
the affliction of the afflicted,
and he has not hidden his face from him,
but has heard, when he cried to him.
25 From you comes my praise in the great congregation;
my vows I will perform before those who fear him.
26 The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied;
those who seek him shall praise the LORD!
May your hearts live forever!
27 All the ends of the earth shall remember
and turn to the LORD,
and all the families of the nations
shall worship before you.
28 For kingship belongs to the LORD,
and he rules over the nations.
29 All the prosperous of the earth eat and worship;
before him shall bow all who go down to the dust,
even the one who could not keep himself alive.
30 Posterity shall serve him;
it shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation;
31 they shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn,
that he has done it.
The LORD Is My Shepherd
A PSALM OF DAVID.
Psalm 23:1 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
3 He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD
The King of Glory
A PSALM OF DAVID.
Psalm 24:1 The earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof,
the world and those who dwell therein,
2 for he has founded it upon the seasv and established it upon the rivers.
3 Who shall ascend the hill of the LORD?
And who shall stand in his holy place?
4 He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who does not lift up his soul to what is false
and does not swear deceitfully.
5 He will receive blessing from the LORD
and righteousness from the God of his salvation.
6 Such is the generation of those who seek him,
who seek the face of the God of Jacob. Selah
7 Lift up your heads, O gates!
And be lifted up, O ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in.
8 Who is this King of glory?
The LORD, strong and mighty,
the LORD, mighty in battle!
9 Lift up your heads, O gates!
And lift them up, O ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in.
10 Who is this King of glory?
The LORD of hosts,
he is the King of glory! Selah
Teach Me Your Paths
Psalm 25:1 To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul.
2 O my God, in you I trust;
let me not be put to shame;
let not my enemies exult over me.
3 Indeed, none who wait for you shall be put to shame;
they shall be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.
4 Make me to know your ways, O LORD;
teach me your paths.
5 Lead me in your truth and teach me,
for you are the God of my salvation;
for you I wait all the day long.
6 Remember your mercy, O LORD, and your steadfast love,
for they have been from of old.
7 Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions;
according to your steadfast love remember me,
for the sake of your goodness, O LORD!
8 Good and upright is the LORD;
therefore he instructs sinners in the way.
9 He leads the humble in what is right,
and teaches the humble his way.
10 All the paths of the LORD are steadfast love and faithfulness,
for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.
11 For your name’s sake, O LORD,
pardon my guilt, for it is great.
12 Who is the man who fears the LORD?
Him will he instruct in the way that he should choose.
13 His soul shall abide in well-being,
and his offspring shall inherit the land.
14 The friendship of the LORD is for those who fear him,
and he makes known to them his covenant.
15 My eyes are ever toward the LORD,
for he will pluck my feet out of the net.
16 Turn to me and be gracious to me,
for I am lonely and afflicted.
17 The troubles of my heart are enlarged;
bring me out of my distresses.
18 Consider my affliction and my trouble,
and forgive all my sins.
19 Consider how many are my foes,
and with what violent hatred they hate me.
20 Oh, guard my soul, and deliver me!
Let me not be put to shame, for I take refuge in you.
21 May integrity and uprightness preserve me,
for I wait for you.
22 Redeem Israel, O God,
out of all his troubles.
What I'm Reading
Psalm 21 Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892)
By Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892)SUBJECT. The title gives us but little information; it is simply, To the chief Musician, a Psalm of David. Probably written by David, sung by David, relating to David, and intended by David to refer in its fullest reach of meaning to David's Lord. It is evidently the fit companion of Psalm Twenty, and is in its proper position next to it. Psalm Twenty anticipates what this regards as realized. If we pray to-day for a benefit and receive it, we must, ere the sun goes down, praise God for that mercy, or we deserve to be denied the next time. It has been called David's triumphant song, and we may remember it as The Royal Triumphal Ode. "The king" is most prominent throughout, and we shall read it to true profit if our meditation of him shall be sweet while perusing it. We must crown him with the glory of our salvation; singing of his love, and praising his power, The next Psalm will take us to the foot of the cross, this introduces us to the steps of the throne.
DIVISION. The division of the translators will answer every purpose. A thanksgiving for victory, verses 1 to 6. Confidence of further success, verses 7 to 13.
Verse 1. "The king shall joy in thy strength, O Lord." Jesus is a Royal Personage. The question, "Art thou a King then?" received a full answer from the Saviour's lips: "Thou sayest that I am a King. To this end was I born, and for this purpose came I into the world, that I might bear witness unto the truth." He is not merely a King, but the King; King over minds and hearts, reigning with a dominion of love, before which all other rule is but mere brute force. He was proclaimed King even on the cross, for there, indeed, to the eye of faith, he reigned as on a throne, blessing with more than imperial munificence the needy sons of earth. Jesus has wrought out the salvation of his people, but as a man he found his strength in Jehovah his God, to whom he addressed himself in prayer upon the lonely mountain's side, and in the garden's solitary gloom. That strength so abundantly given is here gratefully acknowledged, and made the subject of joy. The Man of Sorrows is now anointed with the oil of gladness above his fellows. Returned in triumph from the overthrow of all his foes, he offers his own rapturous Te Deum in the temple above, and joys in the power of the Lord. Herein let every subject of King Jesus imitate the King; let us lean upon Jehovah's strength, let us joy in it by unstaggering faith, let us exult in it in our thankful songs. Jesus not only has thus rejoiced, but he shall do so as he sees the power of divine grace bringing out from their sinful hiding-places the purchase of his soul's travail; we also shall rejoice more and more as we learn by experience more and more fully the strength of the arm of our covenant God. Our weakness unstrings our harps, but his strength tunes them anew. If we cannot sing a note in honour of our own strength, we can at any rate rejoice in our omnipotent God. "Let him be crowned with majesty
"And in thy salvation how greatly shall he rejoice!" Everything is ascribed to God; the source is thy strength and the stream is thy salvation. Jehovah planned and ordained it, works it and crowns it, and therefore it is his salvation. The joy here spoken of is described by a note of exclamation and a word of wonder: "how greatly!" The rejoicing of our risen Lord must, like his agony, be unutterable. If the mountains of his joy rise in proportion to the depth of the valleys of his grief, then his sacred bliss is high as the seventh heaven. For the joy which was set before him as he endured the cross, despising the shame, and now that joy daily grows, for he rests in his love and rejoices over his redeemed with singing, as in due order they are brought to find their salvation in his blood. Let us with our Lord rejoice in salvation, as coming from God, as coming to us, as extending itself to others, and as soon to encompass all lands. We need not be afraid of too much rejoicing in this respect; this solid foundation will well sustain the loftiest edifice of joy. The shoutings of the early methodists in the excitement of the joy were far more pardonable than our own lukewarmness. Our joy should have some sort of inexpressibleness in it.
Verse 2. "Thou hast given him his heart's desire." That desire he ardently pursued when he was on earth, both by his prayer, his actions, and his suffering; he manifested that his heart longed to redeem his people, and now in heaven he has his desire granted him, for he sees his beloved coming to be with him where he is. The desires of the Lord Jesus were from his heart, and the Lord heard them; if our hearts are right with God, he will in our case also "fulfil the desires of them that fear him."
"And hast not withholden the request of his lips." What is in the well of the heart is sure to come up in the bucket of the lips, and those are the only true prayers where the heart's desire is first, and the lip's request follows after. Jesus prayed vocally as well as mentally; speech is a great assistance to thought. Some of us feel that even when alone we find it easier to collect our thoughts when we can pray aloud. The requests of the Saviour were not withheld. He was and still is a prevailing Pleader. Our Advocate on high returns not empty from the throne of grace. He asked for his elect in the eternal council-chamber, he asked for blessings for them here, he asked for glory for them hereafter, and his requests have speeded. He is ready to ask for us at the mercy-seat. Have we not at this hour some desire to send up to his Father by him? Let us not be slack to use our willing, loving, all-prevailing Intercessor.
"Selah." Here a pause is very properly inserted that we may admire the blessed success of the king's prayers, and that we may prepare our own requests which may be presented through him. If we had a few more quiet rests, a few more Selahs in our public worship, it might be profitable.
Verse 3. "For thou preventest him with the blessings of goodness." The word prevent formerly signified to precede or go before, and assuredly Jehovah preceded his Son with blessings. Before he died saints were saved by the anticipated merit of his death, before he came believers saw his day and were glad, and he himself had his delights with the sons of men. The Father is so willing to give blessings through his Son, that instead of his being constrained to bestow his grace, he outstrips the Mediatorial march of mercy. "I say not that I will pray the Father for you, for the Father himself loveth you." Before Jesus calls the Father answers, and while he is yet speaking he hears. Mercies may be bought with blood, but they are also freely given. The love of Jehovah is not caused by the Redeemer's sacrifice, but that love, with its blessings of goodness, preceded the great atonement, and provided it for our salvation. Reader, it will be a happy thing for thee if, like thy Lord, thou canst see both providence and grace preceding thee, forestalling thy needs, and preparing thy path. Mercy, in the case of many of us, ran before our desires and prayers, and it ever outruns our endeavours and expectancies, and even our hopes are left to lag behind. Prevenient grace deserves a song; we may make one out of this sentence; let us try. All our mercies are to be viewed as "blessings;" gifts of a blessed God, meant to make us blessed; they are "blessings of goodness," not of merit, but of free favour; and they come to us in a preventing way, a way of prudent foresight, such as only preventing love could have arranged. In this light the verse is itself a sonnet!
"Thou settest a crown of pure gold on his head." Jesus wore the thorn-crown, but now wears the glory-crown. It is a "crown," indicating royal nature, imperial power, deserved honour, glorious conquest, and divine government. The crown is of the richest, rarest, most resplendent, and most lasting order—"gold," and that gold of the most refined and valuable sort, "pure gold," to indicate the excellence of his dominion. This crown is set upon his head most firmly, and whereas other monarchs find their diadems fitting loosely, his is fixed so that no power can move it, for Jehovah himself has set it upon his brow. Napoleon crowned himself, but Jehovah crowned the Lord Jesus; the empire of the one melted in an hour, but the other has an abiding dominion. Some versions read, "a crown of precious stones;" this may remind us of those beloved ones who shall be as jewels in his crown, of whom he has said, "They shall be mine in the day when I make up my jewels." May we be set in the golden circlet of the Redeemer's glory, and adorn his head for ever!
Verse 4. "He asked life of thee, and thou gavest it him, even length of days for ever and ever." The first words may suit King David, but the length of days for ever and ever can only refer to the King Messiah. Jesus, as man, prayed for resurrection and he received it, and now possesses it in immortality. He died once, but being raised from the dead he dieth no more. "Because I live, ye shall live also," is the delightful intimation which the Saviour gives us, that we are partakers of his eternal life. We had never found this jewel, if he had not rolled away the stone which covered it.
Verse 5. "His glory is great in thy salvation." Immanuel bears the palm; he once bore the cross. The Father has glorified the Son, so that there is no glory like unto that which surroundeth him. See his person as it is described by John in the Revelation; see his dominion as it stretches from sea to sea; see his splendour as he is revealed in flaming fire. Lord, who is like unto thee? Solomon in all his glory could not be compared with thee, thou once despised Man of Nazareth! Mark, reader: salvation is ascribed to God; and thus the Son, as our Saviour, magnifies his Father; but the Son's glory is also greatly seen, for the Father glorifies his Son.
"Honour and majesty hast thou laid upon him." Parkhurst reads, "splendour and beauty." These are put upon Jesus as chains of gold, and stars and tokens of honour are placed upon princes and great men. As the wood of the tabernacle was overlaid with pure gold, so is Jesus covered with glory and honour. If there be a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory for his humble followers, what must there be for our Lord himself? The whole weight of sin was laid upon him; it is but meet that the full measure of the glory of bearing it away should be laid upon the same beloved person. A glory commensurate with his shame he must and will receive, for well has he earned it. It is not possible for us to honour Jesus too much; what our God delights to do, we may certainly do to our utmost. Oh for new crowns for the lofty brow which once was marred with thorns!
Who bowed his head to death,
And be his honours sounded high
By all things that have breath."
"Thou hast made him exceeding glad with thy countenance." He who is a blessing to others cannot but be glad himself; the unbounded good-doing of Jesus ensures him unlimited joy. The loving favour of his Father, the countenance of God, gives Jesus exceeding joy. This is the purest stream to drink of, and Jesus chooses no other. His joy is full. Its source is divine. Its continuance is eternal. Its degree exceeding all bounds. The countenance of God makes the Prince of Heaven glad; how ought we to seek it, and how careful should we be lest we should provoke him by our sins to hide his face from us! Our anticipations may cheerfully fly forward to the hour when the joy of our Lord shall be shed abroad on all the saints, and the countenance of Jehovah shall shine upon all the blood-bought. So shall we "enter into the joy of our Lord."
So far all has been "the shout of them that triumph, the song of them that feast." Let us shout and sing with them, for Jesus is our King, and in his triumphs we share a part.
Verse 7. "For the king trusteth in the Lord." Our Lord, like a true King and leader, was a master in the use of the weapons, and could handle well the shield of faith, for he has set us a brilliant example of unwavering confidence in God. He felt himself safe in his Father's care until his hour was come, he knew that he was always heard in heaven; he committed his cause to him that judgeth right, and in his last moments he committed his spirit into the same hands. The joy expressed in the former verses was the joy of faith, and the victory achieved was due to the same precious grace. A holy confidence in Jehovah is the true mother of victories. This Psalm of triumph was composed long before our Lord's conflict began, but faith overleaps the boundaries of time, and chants her "Io triumphe," while yet she sings her battle song.
"Through the mercy of the Most High he shall not be moved." Eternal mercy secures the mediatorial throne of Jesus. He who is Most High in every sense, engages all his infinite perfections to maintain the throne of grace upon which our King in Zion reigns. He was not moved from his purpose, nor in his sufferings, nor by his enemies, nor shall he be moved from the completion of his designs. He is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever. Other empires are dissolved by the lapse of years, but eternal mercy maintains his growing dominion evermore; other kings fail because they rest upon an arm of flesh, but our monarch reigns on in splendour because he trusteth in Jehovah. It is a great display of divine mercy to men that the throne of King Jesus is still among them: nothing but divine mercy could sustain it, for human malice would overturn it to-morrow if it could. We ought to trust in God for the promotion of the Redeemer's kingdom, for in Jehovah the King himself trusts: all unbelieving methods of action, and especially all reliance upon mere human ability, should be for ever discarded from a kingdom where the monarch sets the examples of walking by faith in God.
Verse 8. "Thine hand shall find out all thine enemies: thy right hand shall find out those that hate thee." The destruction of the wicked is a fitting subject for joy to the friends of righteousness; hence here, and in most scriptural songs, it is noted with calm thanksgiving. "Thou hast put down the mighty from their seats," is a note of the same song which sings, "and hast exalted them of low degree." We pity the lost for they are men, but we cannot pity them as enemies of Christ. None can escape from the wrath of the victorious King, nor is it desirable that they should. Without looking for his flying foes he will find them with his hand, for his presence is about and around them. In vain shall any hope for escape, he will find out all, and be able to punish all, and that too with the ease and rapidity which belong to the warrior's right hand. The finding out relates, we think, not only to the discovery of the hiding places of the haters of God, but to the touching of them in their tenderest parts, so as to cause the severest suffering. When he appears to judge the world hard hearts will be subdued into terror, and proud spirits humbled into shame. He who has the key of human nature can touch all its springs at his will, and find out the means of bringing the utmost confusion and terror upon those who aforetime boastfully expressed their hatred of him.
Verse 9. "Thou shalt make them as a fiery oven in the time of thine anger." They themselves shall be an oven to themselves, and so their own tormentors. Those who burned with anger against thee shall be burned by thine anger. The fire of sin will be followed by the fire of wrath. Even as the smoke of Sodom and Gomorrah went up to heaven, so shall the enemies of the Lord Jesus be utterly and terribly consumed. Some read it, "thou shalt put them as it were into a furnace of fire." Like faggots cast into an oven they shall burn furiously beneath the anger of the Lord; "they shall be cast into a furnace of fire, there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth." These are terrible words, and those teachers do not well who endeavour by their sophistical reasonings to weaken their force. Reader, never tolerate slight thoughts of hell, or you will soon have low thoughts of sin. The hell of sinners must be fearful beyond all conception, or such language as the present would not be used. Who would have the Son of God to be his enemy when such an overthrow awaits his foes? The expression, "the time of thine anger," reminds us that as now is the time of his grace, so there will be a set time for his wrath. The judge goes upon assize at an appointed time. There is a day of vengeance of our God; let those who despise the day of grace remember this day of wrath.
"The Lord shall swallow them up in his wrath, and the fire shall devour them." Jehovah will himself visit with his anger the enemies of his Son. The Lord Jesus will, as it were, judge by commission from God, whose solemn assent and co-operation shall be with him in his sentences upon impenitent sinners. An utter destruction of soul and body, so that both shall be swallowed up with misery, and be devoured with anguish, is here intended. Oh, the wrath to come! The wrath to come! Who can endure it? Lord, save us from it, for Jesu's sake.
Verse 10. "Their fruit shalt thou destroy from the earth." Their life's work shall be a failure, and the result of their toil shall be disappointment. That in which they prided themselves shall be forgotten; their very names shall be wiped out as abominable, "and their seed from among the children of men." Their posterity following in their footsteps shall meet with a similar overthrow, till at last the race shall come to an end. Doubtless the blessing of God is often handed down by the righteous to their sons, as almost a heirloom in the family, while the dying sinner bequeaths a curse to his descendants. If men will hate the Son of God, they must not wonder if their own sons meet with no favour.
Verse 11. "For they intended evil against thee." God takes notice of intentions. He who would but could not is as guilty as he who did. Christ's church and cause are not only attacked by those who do not understand it, but there are many who have the light and yet hate it. Intentional evil has a virus in it which is not found in sins of ignorance; now as ungodly men with malice aforethought attack the gospel of Christ, their crime is great, and their punishment will be proportionate. The words "against thee" show us that he who intends evil against the poorest believer means ill to the King himself: let persecutors beware.
"They imagined a mischievous device, which they are not able to perform." Want of power is the clog on the foot of the haters of the Lord Jesus. They have the wickedness to imagine, and the cunning to devise, and the malice to plot mischief, but blessed be God, they fail in ability; yet they shall be judged as to their hearts, and the will shall be taken for the deed in the great day of account. When we read the boastful threatenings of the enemies of the gospel at the present day, we may close our reading by cheerfully repeating, "which they are not able to perform." The serpent may hiss, but his head is broken; the lion may worry, but he cannot devour: the tempest may thunder, but cannot strike. Old Giant Pope bites his nails at the pilgrims, but he cannot pick their bones as aforetime. Growling forth a hideous "non possumus," the devil and all his allies retire in dismay from the walls of Zion, for the Lord is there.
Verse 12. "Therefore shalt thou make them turn their back, when thou shalt make ready thine arrows upon thy strings against the face of them." For a time the foes of God may make bold advances, and threaten to overthrow everything, but a few ticks of the clock will alter the face of their affairs. At first they advance impudently enough, but Jehovah meets them to their teeth, and a taste of the sharp judgment of God speedily makes them flee in dismay. The original has in it the thought of the wicked being set as a butt for God to shoot at, a target for his wrath to aim at. What a dreadful situation! As an illustration upon a large scale, remember Jerusalem during the siege; and for a specimen in an individual, read the story of the death-bed of Francis Spira. God takes sure aim; who would be his target? His arrows are sharp and transfix the heart; who would wish to be wounded by them? Ah, ye enemies of God, your boastings will soon be over when once the shafts begin to fly!
Verse 13. "Be thou exalted, Lord, in thine own strength." A sweet concluding verse. Our hearts shall join in it. It is always right to praise the Lord when we call to remembrance his goodness to his Son, and the overthrow of his foes. The exaltation of the name of God should be the business of every Christian; but since such poor things as we fail to honour him as he deserves, we may invoke his own power to aid us. Be high, O God, but do thou maintain thy loftiness by thine own almightiness, for no other power can worthily do it.
"So will we sing and praise thy power." For a time the saints may mourn, but the glorious appearance of their divine Helper awakens their joy. Joy should always flow in the channel of praise. All the attributes of God are fitting subjects to be celebrated by the music of our hearts and voices, and when we observe a display of his power, we must extol it. He wrought our deliverance alone, and he alone shall have the praise.
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.
"Let him be crowned with majesty
Psalm 22 Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892)
By Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892)TITLE. "To the chief Musician upon Aijeleth Shahar. A Psalm of David." This ode of singular excellence was committed to the most excellent of the temple songsters; the chief among ten thousand is worthy to be extolled by the chief Musician; no meaner singer must have charge of such a strain; we must see to it that we call up our best abilities when Jesus is the theme of praise. The words Aijeleth Shahar are enigmatical, and their meaning is uncertain; some refer them to a musical instrument used upon mournful occasions, but the majority adhere to the translation of our margin, "Concerning the kind of the morning." This last interpretation is the subject of much enquiry and conjecture. Calmet believed that the Psalm was addressed to the music master who presided over the band called the "Morning Hind," and Adam Clarke thinks this to be the most likely of all the conjectural interpretations, although he himself inclines to the belief that no interpretation should be attempted, and believes that it is a merely arbitrary and unmeaning title, such as Orientals have always been in the habit of appending to their songs. Our Lord Jesus is so often compared to a hind, and his cruel huntings are so pathetically described in this most affecting Psalm, that we cannot but believe that the title indicates the Lord Jesus under a well-known poetical metaphor; at any rate, Jesus is the Hind of the morning concerning whom David here sings.
SUBJECT. This is beyond all others THE PSALM OF THE CROSS. It may have been actually repeated word by word by our Lord when hanging on the tree; it would be too bold to say that it was so, but even a casual reader may see that it might have been. It begins with, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" and ends, according to some, in the original with "It is finished." For plaintive expressions uprising from unutterable depths of woe we may say of this psalm, "there is none like it." It is the photograph of our Lord's saddest hours, the record of his dying words, the lachrymatory of his last tears, the memorial of his expiring joys. David and his afflictions may be here in a very modified sense, but, as the star is concealed by the light of the sun, he who sees Jesus will probably neither see nor care to see David. Before us we have a description both of the darkness and of the glory of the cross, the sufferings of Christ and the glory which shall follow. Oh for grace to draw near and see this great sight! We should read reverently, putting off our shoes from off our feet, as Moses did at the burning bush, for if there be holy ground anywhere in Scripture it is in this Psalm.
DIVISION. From the commencement to the twenty-first verse is a most pitiful cry for help, and from verse 21 to 31 is a most precious foretaste of deliverance. The first division may be subdivided at the tenth verse, from verse 1 to 10 being an appeal based upon covenant relationship; and from verse 10 to 21 being an equally earnest plea derived from the imminence of his peril.
Verse 1. "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" This was the startling cry of Golgotha: Eloi, Eloi, lama sabacthani. The Jews mocked, but the angels adored when Jesus cried this exceeding bitter cry. Nailed to the tree we behold our great Redeemer in extremities, and what see we? Having ears to hear let us hear, and having eyes to see let us see! Let us gaze with holy wonder, and mark the flashes of light amid the awful darkness of that midday-midnight. First, our Lord's faith beams forth and deserves our reverent imitation; he keeps his hold upon his God with both hands and cries twice, "My God, my God!" The spirit of adoption was strong within the suffering Son of Man, and he felt no doubt about his interest in his God. Oh that we could imitate this cleaving to an afflicting God! Nor does the sufferer distrust the power of God to sustain him, for the title used —"El"—signifies strength, and is the name of the Mighty God. He knows the Lord to be the all-sufficient support and succour of his spirit, and therefore appeals to him in the agony of grief, but not in the misery of doubt. He would fain know why he is left, he raises that question and repeats it, but neither the power nor the faithfulness of God does he mistrust. What an enquiry is this before us! "Why hast thou forsaken me?" We must lay the emphasis on every word of this saddest of all utterances. "Why?" what is the great cause of such a strange fact as for God to leave his own Son at such a time and in such a plight? There was no cause in him, why then was he deserted? "Hast:" it is done, and the Saviour is feeling its dread effect as he asks the question; it is surely true, but how mysterious! It was no threatening of forsaking which made the great Surety cry aloud, he endured that forsaking in very deed. "Thou:" I can understand why traitorous Judas and timid Peter should be gone, but thou, my God, my faithful friend, how canst thou leave me? This is worst of all, yea, worse than all put together. Hell itself has for its fiercest flame the separation of the soul from God. "Forsaken:" if thou hadst chastened I might bear it, for thy face would shine; but to forsake me utterly, ah! why is this? "Me:" thine innocent, obedient, suffering Son, why leavest thou me to perish? A sight of self seen by penitence, and of Jesus on the cross seen by faith will best expound this question. Jesus is forsaken because our sins had separated between us and our God.
"Why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?" The Man of Sorrows had prayed until his speech failed him, and he could only utter moanings and groanings as men do in severe sicknesses, like the roarings of a wounded animal. To what extremity of grief was our Master driven? What strong crying and tears were those which made him too hoarse for speech! What must have been his anguish to find his own beloved and trusted Father standing afar off, and neither granting help nor apparently hearing prayer! This was good cause to make him "roar." Yet there was reason for all this which those who rest in Jesus as their Substitute well know.
Verse 2. "O my God, I cry in the daytime, but thou hearest not." For our prayers to appear to be unheard is no new trial, Jesus felt it before us, and it is observable that he still held fast his believing hold on God, and cried still, "My God." On the other hand his faith did not render him less importunate, for amid the hurry and horror of that dismal day he ceased not his cry, even as in Gethsemane he had agonized all through the gloomy night. Our Lord continued to pray even though no comfortable answer came, and in this he set us an example of obedience to his own words, "men ought always to pray, and not to faint." No daylight is too glaring, and no midnight too dark to pray in; and no delay or apparent denial, however grievous, should tempt us to forbear from importunate pleading.
Verse 3. "But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel." However ill things may look, there is no ill in thee, O God! We are very apt to think and speak hardly of God when we are under his afflicting hand, but not so the obedient Son. He knows too well his Father's goodness to let outward circumstances libel his character. There in no unrighteousness with the God of Jacob, he deserves no censure; let him do what he will, he is to be praised, and to reign enthroned amid the songs of his chosen people. If prayer be unanswered it is not because God is unfaithful, but for some other good and weighty reason. If we cannot perceive any ground for the delay, we must leave the riddle unsolved, but we must not fly in God's face in order to invent an answer. While the holiness of God is in the highest degree acknowledged and adored, the afflicted speaker in this verse seems to marvel how the holy God could forsake him, and be silent to his cries. The argument is, thou art holy, Oh! why is it that thou dost disregard thy holy One in his hour of sharpest anguish? We may not question the holiness of God, but we may argue from it, and use it as a plea in our petitions.
Verse 4. "Our fathers trusted in thee: they trusted, and thou didst deliver them." This is the rule of life with all the chosen family. Three times over is it mentioned, they trusted, and trusted, and trusted, and never left off trusting, for it was their very life; and they fared well too, for thou didst deliver them. Out of all their straits, difficulties, and miseries faith brought them by calling their God to the rescue; but in the case of our Lord it appeared as if faith would bring no assistance from heaven, he alone of all the trusting ones was to remain without deliverance. The experience of other saints may be a great consolation to us when in deep waters if faith can be sure that their deliverance will be ours; but when we feel ourselves sinking, it is poor comfort to know that others are swimming. Our Lord here pleads the past dealings of God with his people as a reason why he should not be left alone; here again he is an example to us in the skilful use of the weapon of all prayer. The use of the plural pronoun "our" shows how one with his people Jesus was even on the cross. We say, "Our Father which art in heaven," and he calls those "our fathers" through whom we came into the world, although he was without father as to the flesh.
Verse 5. "They cried unto thee, and were delivered: they trusted in thee, and were not confounded." As if he had said, "How is it that I am now left without succour in my overwhelming griefs, while all others have been helped? We may remind the Lord of his former lovingkindnesses to his people, and beseech him to be still the same. This is true wrestling; let us learn the art. Observe, that ancient saints cried and trusted, and that in trouble we must do the same; and the invariable result was that they were not ashamed of their hope, for deliverance came in due time; this same happy portion shall be ours. The prayer of faith can do the deed when nothing else can. Let us wonder when we see Jesus using the same pleas as ourselves, and immersed in griefs far deeper than our own.
Verse 6. "But I am a worm, and no man." This verse is a miracle in language. How could the Lord of glory be brought to such abasement as to be not only lower than the angels, but even lower than men. What a contrast between "I AM" and "I am a worm"! yet such a double nature was found in the person of our Lord Jesus when bleeding upon the tree. He felt himself to be comparable to a helpless, powerless, down-trodden worm, passive while crushed, and unnoticed and despised by those who trod upon him. He selects the weakest of creatures, which is all flesh; and becomes, when trodden upon, writhing, quivering flesh, utterly devoid of any might except strength to suffer. This was a true likeness of himself when his body and soul had become a mass of misery—the very essence of agony—in the dying pangs of crucifixion. Man by nature is but a worm; but our Lord puts himself even beneath man, on account of the scorn that was heaped upon him and the weakness which he felt, and therefore he adds, "and no man." The privileges and blessings which belonged to the fathers he could not obtain while deserted by God, and common acts of humanity were not allowed him, for he was rejected of men; he was outlawed from the society of earth, and shut out from the smile of heaven. How utterly did the Saviour empty himself of all glory, and become of no reputation for our sakes! "A reproach of men" —their common butt and jest; a byword and a proverb unto them: the sport of the rabble, and the scorn of the rulers. Oh the caustic power of reproach, to those who endure it with patience, yet smart under it most painfully! "And despised of the people." The vox populi was against him. The very people who would once have crowned him then contemned him, and they who were benefited by his cures sneered at him in his woes. Sin is worthy of all reproach and contempt, and for this reason Jesus, the Sinbearer, was given up to be thus unworthily and shamefully entreated.
Verse 7. "All they that see me laugh me to scorn." Read the evangelistic narrative of the ridicule endured by the Crucified One, and then consider, in the light of this expression, how it grieved him. The iron entered into his soul. Mockery has for its distinctive description "cruel mockings;" those endured by our Lord were of the most cruel kind. The scornful ridicule of our Lord was universal; all sorts of men were unanimous in the derisive laughter, and vied with each other in insulting him. Priests and people, Jews and Gentiles, soldiers and civilians, all united in the general scoff, and that at the time when he was prostrate in weakness and ready to die. Which shall we wonder at the most, the cruelty of man or the love of the bleeding Saviour? How can we ever complain of ridicule after this?
"They shoot out the lip, they shake the head." These were gestures of contempt. Pouting, grinning, shaking of the head, thrusting out of the tongue, and other modes of derision were endured by our patient Lord; men made faces at him before whom angels vail their faces and adore. The basest signs of disgrace which disdain could devise were maliciously cast at him. They punned upon his prayers, they made matter for laughter of his sufferings, and set him utterly at nought. Herbert sings of our Lord as saying,—
"Shame tears my soul, my body many a wound;
Sharp nails pierce this, but sharper that confound;
Reproaches which are free, while I am bound.
Was ever grief like mine?"
Verse 9. "But thou art he that took me out of the womb." Kindly providence attends with the surgery of tenderness at every human birth; but the Son of Man, who was marvelously begotten of the Holy Ghost, was in an especial manner watched over by the Lord when brought forth by Mary. The destitute state of Joseph and Mary, far away from friends and home, led them to see the cherishing hand of God in the safe delivery of the mother, and the happy birth of the child; that Child now fighting the great battle of his life, uses the mercy of his nativity as an argument with God. Faith finds weapons everywhere. He who wills to believe shall never lack reasons for believing. "Thou didst make me hope when I was upon my mother's breasts." Was our Lord so early a believer? Was he one of those babes and sucklings out of whose mouths strength is ordained? So it would seem; and if so, what a plea for help! Early piety gives peculiar comfort in our after trials, for surely he who loved us when we were children is too faithful to cast us off in our riper years. Some give the text the sense of "gave me cause to trust, by keeping me safely," and assuredly there was a special providence which preserved our Lord's infant days from the fury of Herod, the dangers of travelling, and the ills of poverty.
Verse 10. "I was cast upon thee from the womb." Into the Almighty arms he was first received, as into those of a loving parent. This is a sweet thought. God begins his care over us from the earliest hour. We are dandled upon the knee of mercy, and cherished in the lap of goodness; our cradle is canopied by divine love, and our first totterings are guided by his care. "Thou art my God from my mother's belly." The Psalm begins with "My God, my God," and here, not only is the claim repeated, but its early date is urged. Oh noble perseverance of faith, thus to continue pleading with holy ingenuity of argument! Our birth was our weakest and most perilous period of existence; if we were then secured by Omnipotent tenderness, surely we have no cause to suspect that divine goodness will fail us now. He who was our God when we left our mother, will be with us till we return to mother earth, and will keep us from perishing in the belly of hell.
Verses 11-21. The crucified Son of David continues to pour out his complaint and prayer. We need much grace that while reading we may have fellowship with his sufferings. May the blessed Spirit conduct us into a most clear and affecting sight of our Redeemer's woes.
Verse 11. "Be not far from me." This is the petition for which he has been using such varied and powerful pleas. His great woe was that God had forsaken him, his great prayer is that he would be near him. A lively sense of the divine presence is a mighty stay to the heart in times of distress. "For trouble is near; for there is none to help." There are two "fors," as though faith gave a double knock at mercy's gate; that is a powerful prayer which is full of holy reasons and thoughtful arguments. The nearness of trouble is a weighty motive for divine help; this moves our heavenly Father's heart, and brings down his helping hand. It is his glory to be our very present help in trouble. Our Substitute had trouble in his inmost heart, for he said, "the waters have come in, even unto my soul;" well might he cry, "be not far from me." The absence of all other helpers is another telling plea. In our Lord's case none either could or would help him, it was needful that he should tread the winepress alone; yet was it a sore aggravation to find that all his disciples had forsaken him, and lover and friend were put far from him. There is an awfulness about absolute friendlessness which is crushing to the human mind, for man was not made to be alone, and is like a dismembered limb when he has to endure heart-loneliness.
Verse 12. "Many bulls have compassed me: strong bulls of Bashan have beset me round." The mighty ones in the crowd are here marked by the tearful eye of their victim. The priests, elders, scribes, Pharisees, rulers, and captains bellowed round the cross like wild cattle, fed in the fat and solitary pastures of Bashan, full of strength and fury; they stamped and foamed around the innocent One, and longed to gore him to death with their cruelties. Conceive of the Lord Jesus as a helpless, unarmed, naked man, cast into the midst of a herd of infuriated wild bulls. They were brutal as bulls, many, and strong, and the Rejected One was all alone, and bound naked to the tree. His position throws great force into the earnest entreaty, "Be not far from me."
Verse 13. "They gaped upon me with their mouths, as a ravening and a roaring lion." Like hungry cannibals they opened their blasphemous mouths as if they were about to swallow the man whom they abhorred. They could not vomit forth their anger fast enough through the ordinary aperture of their mouths, and therefore set the doors of their lips wide open like those who gape. Like roaring lions they howled out their fury, and longed to tear the Saviour in pieces, as wild beasts raven over their prey. Our Lord's faith must have passed through a most severe conflict while he found himself abandoned to the tender mercies of the wicked, but he came off victorious by prayer; the very dangers to which he was exposed being used to add prevalence to his entreaties.
Verse 14. Turning from his enemies, our Lord describes his own personal condition in language which should bring the tears into every loving eye. "I am poured out like water." He was utterly spent, like water poured upon the earth; his heart failed him, and had no more firmness in it than running water, and his whole being was made a sacrifice, like a libation poured out before the Lord. He had long been a fountain of tears; in Gethsemane his heart welled over in sweat, and on the cross he gushed forth with blood; he poured out his strength and spirit, so that he was reduced to the most feeble and exhausted state. "All my bones are out of joint," as if distended upon a rack. Is it not most probable that the fastenings of the hands and feet, and the jar occasioned by fixing the cross in the earth, may have dislocated the bones of the Crucified One? If this is not intended, we must refer the expression to that extreme weakness which would occasion relaxation of the muscles and a general sense of parting asunder throughout the whole system. "My heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels." Excessive debility and intense pain made his inmost life to feel like wax melted in the heat. The Greek liturgy uses the expression, "thine unknown sufferings," and well it may. The fire of Almighty wrath would have consumed our souls for ever in hell; it was no light work to bear as a substitute the heat of an anger so justly terrible. Dr. Gill wisely observes, "if the heart of Christ, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, melted at it, what heart can endure, or hands be strong, when God deals with them in his wrath?"
Verse 15. "My strength is dried up like a potsherd." Most complete debility is here portrayed; Jesus likens himself to a broken piece of earthenware, or an earthen pot, baked in the fire till the last particle of moisture is driven out of the clay. No doubt a high degree of feverish burning afflicted the body of our Lord. All his strength was dried up in the tremendous flames of avenging justice, even as the paschal lamb was roasted in the fire. "My tongue cleaveth to my jaws;" thirst and fever fastened his tongue to his jaws. Dryness and a horrible clamminess tormented his mouth, so that he could scarcely speak. "Thou hast brought me into the dust of death;" so tormented in every single part as to feel dissolved into separate atoms, and each atom full of misery; the full price of our redemption was paid, and no part of the Surety's body or soul escaped its share of agony. The words may set forth Jesus as having wrestled with Death until he rolled into the dust with his antagonist. Behold the humiliation of the Son of God! The Lord of Glory stoops to the dust of death. Amid the mouldering relics of mortality Jesus condescends to lodge!
Bishop Mant's version of the two preceding verses is forcible and accurate:—
"Pour'd forth like water is my frame;
My bones asunder start;
As wax that feels the searching flame,
Within me melts my heart.
My wither'd sinews shrink unstrung
Like potsherd dried and dead:
Cleaves to my jaws my burning tongue
The dust of death my bed."
Verse 17. So emaciated was Jesus by his fastings and sufferings that he says, "I may tell all my bones." He could count and recount them. The posture of the body on the cross, Bishop Horne thinks, would so distend the flesh and skin as to make the bones visible, so that they might be numbered. The zeal of his Father's house had eaten him up; like a good soldier he had endured hardness. Oh that we cared less for the body's enjoyment and ease and more for our Father's business! It were better to count the bones of an emaciated body than to bring leanness into our souls.
"They look and stare upon me." Unholy eyes gazed insultingly upon the Saviours's nakedness, and shocked the sacred delicacy of his holy soul. The sight of the agonizing body ought to have ensured sympathy from the throng, but it only increased their savage mirth, as they gloated their cruel eyes upon his miseries. Let us blush for human nature, and mourn in sympathy with our Redeemer's shame. The first Adam made us all naked, and therefore the second Adam became naked that he might clothe our naked souls.
Verse 18. "They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture." The garments of the executed were the perquisites of the executioners in most cases, but it was not often that they cast lots at the division of the spoil; this incident shows how clearly David in vision saw the day of Christ, and how surely the Man of Nazareth is he of whom the prophets spake: "these things, therefore, the soldiers did." He who gave his blood to cleanse us gave his garments to clothe us. As Ness says, "this precious Lamb of God gave up his golden fleece for us." How every incident of Jesus' griefs is here stored up in the treasury of inspiration, and embalmed in the amber of sacred song; we must learn hence to be very mindful of all that concerns our Beloved, and to think much more of everything which has a connection with him. It may be noted that the habit of gambling is of all others the most hardening, for men could practise it even at the cross-foot while besprinkled with the blood of the Crucified. No Christian will endure the rattle of the dice when he thinks of this.
Verse 19. "But be thou not far from me, O Lord." Invincible faith returns to the charge, and uses the same means, viz., importunate prayer. He repeats the petition so piteously offered before. He wants nothing but his God, even in his lowest state. He does not ask for the most comfortable or nearest presence of God, he will be content if he is not far from him; humble requests speed at the throne. "O my strength, haste thee to help me." Hard cases need timely aid: when necessity justifies it we may be urgent with God as to time, and cry, "make haste;" but we must not do this out of willfulness. Mark how in the last degree of personal weakness he calls the Lord "my strength;" after this fashion the believer can sing, "when I am weak, then am I strong."
Verse 20. "Deliver my soul from the sword." By the sword is probably meant entire destruction, which as a man he dreaded; or perhaps he sought deliverance from the enemies around him, who were like a sharp and deadly sword to him. The Lord had said, "Awake, O sword," and now from the terror of that sword the Shepherd would fain be delivered as soon as justice should see fit. "My darling from the power of the dog." Meaning his soul, his life, which is most dear to every man. The original is, "my only one," and therefore is our soul dear, because it is our only soul. Would that all men made their souls their darlings, but many treat them as if they were not worth so much as the mire of the streets. The dog may mean Satan, that infernal Cerberus, that cursed and cursing cur; or else the whole company of Christ's foes, who though many in number were as unanimous as if there were but one, and with one consent sought to rend him in pieces. If Jesus cried for help against the dog of hell, much more may we. Cave canem, beware of the dog, for his power is great, and only God can deliver us from him. When he fawns upon us, we must not put ourselves in his power; and when he howls at us, we may remember that God holds him with a chain.
Verse 21. "Save me from the lion's mouth: for thou hast heard me from the horns of the unicorns." Having experienced deliverance in the past from great enemies, who were strong as the unicorns, the Redeemer utters his last cry for rescue from death, which is fierce and mighty as the lion. This prayer was heard, and the gloom of the cross departed. Thus faith, though sorely beaten, and even cast beneath the feet of her enemy, ultimately wins the victory. It was so in our Head, it shall be so in all the members. We have overcome the unicorn, we shall conquer the lion, and from both lion and unicorn we shall take the crown.
Verses 22-31. The transition is very marked; from a horrible tempest all is changed into calm. The darkness of Calvary at length passed away from the face of nature, and from the soul of the Redeemer, and beholding the light of his triumph and its future results the Saviour smiled. We have followed him through the gloom, let us attend him in the returning light. It will be well still to regard the words as a part of our Lord's soliloquy upon the cross, uttered in his mind during the last few moments before his death.
Verse 22. "I will declare thy name unto my brethren." The delights of Jesus are always with his church, and hence his thoughts, after much distraction, return at the first moment of relief to their usual channel; he forms fresh designs for the benefit of his beloved ones. He is not ashamed to call them brethren, "Saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee." Among his first resurrection words were these, "Go to my brethren." In the verse before us, Jesus anticipates happiness in having communication with his people; he purposes to be their teacher and minister, and fixes his mind upon the subject of his discourse. The name, i.e., the character and conduct of God are by Jesus Christ's gospel proclaimed to all the holy brotherhood; they behold the fulness of the Godhead dwelling bodily in him, and rejoice greatly to see all the infinite perfections manifested in one who is bone of their bone and flesh of their flesh. What a precious subject is the name of our God! It is the only one worthy of the only Begotten, whose meat and drink it was to do the Father's will. We may learn from this resolution of our Lord, that one of the most excellent methods of showing our thankfulness for deliverances is to tell to our brethren what the Lord has done for us. We mention our sorrows readily enough; why are we so slow in declaring our deliverances? "In the midst of the congregation will I praise thee." Not in a little household gathering merely does our Lord resolve to proclaim his Father's love, but in the great assemblies of his saints, and in the general assembly and church of the first-born. This the Lord Jesus is always doing by his representatives, who are the heralds of salvation, and labour to praise God. In the great universal church Jesus is the One authoritative teacher, and all others, so far as they are worthy to be called teachers, are nothing but echoes of his voice. Jesus, in this second sentence, reveals his object in declaring the divine name, it is that God may be praised; the church continually magnifies Jehovah for manifesting himself in the person of Jesus, and Jesus himself leads the song, and is both precentor and preacher in his church. Delightful are the seasons when Jesus communes with our hearts concerning divine truth; joyful praise is the sure result.
Verse 23. "Ye that fear the Lord praise him." The reader must imagine the Saviour as addressing the congregation of the saints. He exhorts the faithful to unite with him in thanksgiving. The description of "fearing the Lord" is very frequent and very instructive; it is the beginning of wisdom, and is an essential sign of grace. "I am a Hebrew and I fear God" was Jonah's confession of faith. Humble awe of God is so necessary a preparation for praising him that none are fit to sing to his honour but such as reverence his word; but this fear is consistent with the highest joy, and is not to be confounded with legal bondage, which is a fear which perfect love casteth out. Holy fear should always keep the key of the singing pew. Where Jesus leads the tune none but holy lips may dare to sing. "All ye the seed of Jacob glorify him." The genius of the gospel is praise. Jew and Gentile saved by sovereign grace should be eager in the blessed work of magnifying the God of our salvation. All saints should unite in the song; no tongue may be silent, no heart may be cold. Christ calls us to glorify God, and can we refuse? "And fear him, all ye the seed of Israel." The spiritual Israel all do this, and we hope the day will come when Israel after the flesh will be brought to the same mind. The more we praise God the more reverently shall we fear him, and the deeper our reverence the sweeter our songs. So much does Jesus value praise that we have it here under his dying hand and seal that all the saints must glorify the Lord.
Verse 24. "For he hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted." Here is good matter and motive for praise. The experience of our covenant Head and Representative should encourage all of us to bless the God of grace. Never was man so afflicted as our Saviour in body and soul from friends and foes, by heaven and hell, in life and death; he was the foremost in the ranks of the afflicted, but all those afflictions were sent in love, and not because his Father despised and abhorred him. 'Tis true that justice demanded that Christ should bear the burden which as a substitute he undertook to carry, but Jehovah always loved him, and in love laid that load upon him with a view to his ultimate glory and to the accomplishment of the dearest wish of his heart. Under all his woes our Lord was honourable in the Father's sight, the matchless jewel of Jehovah's heart. "Neither hath he hid his face from him." That is to say, the hiding was but temporary, and was soon removed; it was not final and eternal. "But when he cried unto him, he heard." Jesus was heard in that he feared. He cried in extremis and de profundis, and was speedily answered; he therefore bids his people join him in singing a Gloria in excelsis.
Every child of God should seek refreshment for his faith in this testimony of the Man of Sorrows. What Jesus here witnesses is as true to-day as when it was first written. It shall never be said that any man's affliction or poverty prevented his being an accepted suppliant at Jehovah's throne of grace. The meanest applicant is welcome at mercy's door:—
"None that approach his throne shall find
A God unfaithful or unkind."
Verse 26. "The meek shall eat and be satisfied." Mark how the dying Lover of our souls solaces himself with the result of his death. The spiritually poor find a feast in Jesus, they feed upon him to the satisfaction of their hearts, they were famished until he gave himself for them, but now they are filled with royal dainties. The thought of the joy of his people gave comfort to our expiring Lord. Note the characters who partake of the benefit of his passion; "the meek," the humble and lowly. Lord, make us so. Note also the certainty that gospel provisions shall not be wasted, "they shall eat;" and the sure result of such eating, "and be satisfied." "They shall praise the Lord that seek him." For a while they may keep a fast, but their thanksgiving days must and shall come. "Your heart shall live for ever." Your spirits shall not fail through trial, you shall not die of grief, immortal joys shall be your portion. Thus Jesus speaks even from the cross to the troubled seeker. If his dying words are so assuring, what consolation may we not find in the truth that he ever liveth to make intercession for us! They who eat at Jesus' table receive the fulfilment of the promise, "Whosoever eateth of this bread shall live for ever."
Verse 27. In reading this verse one is struck with the Messiah's missionary spirit. It is evidently his grand consolation that Jehovah will be known throughout all places of his dominion. "All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the Lord." Out from the inner circle of the present church the blessing is to spread in growing power until the remotest parts of the earth shall be ashamed of their idols, mindful of the true God, penitent for their offences, and unanimously earnest for reconciliation with Jehovah. Then shall false worship cease, "and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee," O thou only living and true God. This hope which was the reward of Jesus is a stimulus to those who fight his battles.
It is well to mark the order of conversion as here set forth; they shall "remember"—this is reflection, like the prodigal who came unto himself; "and turn unto Jehovah"—this is repentance, like Manasseh who left his idols and "worship"—this is holy service, as Paul adored the Christ whom once he abhorred.
Verse 28. "For the kingdom is the Lord's." As an obedient Son the dying Redeemer rejoiced to know that his Father's interests would prosper through his pains. "The Lord reigneth" was his song as it is ours. He who by his own power reigns supreme in the domains of creation and providence, has set up a kingdom of grace, and by the conquering power of the cross that kingdom will grow until all people shall own its sway and proclaim that "he is the governor among the nations." Amid the tumults and disasters of the present the Lord reigneth; but in the halcyon days of peace the rich fruit of his dominion will be apparent to every eye. Great Shepherd, let thy glorious kingdom come.
Verse 29. "All they that be fat upon earth," the rich and great are not shut out. Grace now finds the most of its jewels among the poor, but in the latter days the mighty of the earth "shall eat," shall taste of redeeming grace and dying love, and shall "worship" with all their hearts the God who deals so bountifully with us in Christ Jesus. Those who are spiritually fat with inward prosperity shall be filled with the marrow of communion, and shall worship the Lord with peculiar fervour. In the covenant of grace Jesus has provided good cheer for our high estate, and he has taken equal care to console us in our humiliation, for the next sentence is, "all they that go down to the dust shall bow before him." There is relief and comfort in bowing before God when our case is at its worst; even amid the dust of death prayer kindles the lamp of hope.
While all who come to God by Jesus Christ are thus blessed, whether they be rich or poor, none of those who despise him may hope for a blessing. "None can keep alive his own soul." This is the stern counterpart of the gospel message of "look and live." There is no salvation out of Christ. We must hold life, and have life as Christ's gift, or we shall die eternally. This is very solid evangelical doctrine, and should be proclaimed in every corner of the earth, that like a great hammer it may break in pieces all self-confidence.
Verse 30. "A seed shall serve him." Posterity shall perpetuate the worship of the Most High. The kingdom of truth on earth shall never fail. As one generation is called to its rest, another will arise in its stead. We need have no fear for the true apostolic succession; that is safe enough. "It shall be accounted to the Lord for a generation." He will reckon the ages by the succession of the saints, and set his accounts according to the families of the faithful. Generations of sinners come not into the genealogy of the skies. God's family register is not for strangers, but for the children only.
Verse 31. "They shall come." Sovereign grace shall bring out from among men the bloodbought ones. Nothing shall thwart the divine purpose. The chosen shall come to life, to faith, to pardon, to heaven. In this the dying Saviour finds a sacred satisfaction. Toiling servant of God, be glad at the thought that the eternal purpose of God shall suffer neither let nor hindrance. "And shall declare his righteousness unto a people that shall be born." None of the people who shall be brought to God by the irresistible attractions of the cross shall be dumb, they shall be able to tell forth the righteousness of the Lord, so that future generations shall know the truth. Fathers shall teach their sons, who shall hand it down to their children; the burden of the story always being "that he hath done this," or, that "It is finished." Salvation's glorious work is done, there is peace on earth, and glory in the highest. "It is finished," these were the expiring words of the Lord Jesus, as they are the last words of this Psalm. May we by living faith be enabled to see our salvation finished by the death of Jesus!
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 23 Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892)
By Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892)There is no inspired title to this Psalm, and none is needed, for it records no special event, and needs no other key than that which every Christian may find in his own bosom. It is David's Heavenly Pastoral; a surpassing ode, which none of the daughters of music can excel. The clarion of war here gives place to the pipe of peace, and he who so lately bewailed the woes of the Shepherd tunefully rehearses the joys of the flock. Sitting under a spreading tree, with his flock around him, like Bunyan's shepherd-boy in the Valley of Humiliation, we picture David singing this unrivalled pastoral with a heart as full of gladness as it could hold; or, if the Psalm be the product of his after-years, we are sure that his soul returned in contemplation to the lonely water-brooks which rippled among the pastures of the wilderness, where in early days she had been wont to dwell. This is the pearl of psalms whose soft and pure radiance delights every eye; a pearl of which Helicon need not be ashamed, though Jordan claims it. Of this delightful song it may be affirmed that its piety and its poetry are equal, its sweetness and its spirituality are unsurpassed.
The position of this Psalm is worthy of notice. It follows the twenty-second, which is peculiarly the Psalm of the Cross. There are no green pastures, no still waters on the other side of the twenty-second Psalm. It is only after we have read, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" that we come to "The Lord is my Shepherd." We must by experience know the value of blood-shedding, and see the sword awakened against the Shepherd, before we shall be able truly to know the Sweetness of the good Shepherd's care.
It has been said that what the nightingale is among birds, that is this divine ode among the Psalms, for it has sung sweetly in the ear of many a mourner in his night of weeping, and has bidden him hope for a morning of joy. I will venture to compare it also to the lark, which sings as it mounts, and mounts as it sings, until it is out of sight, and even then is not out of hearing. Note the last words of the Psalm—"I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever;" these are celestial notes, more fitted for the eternal mansions than for these dwelling places below the clouds. Oh that we may enter into the spirit of the Psalm as we read it, and then we shall experience the days of heaven upon the earth!
Verse 1. "The Lord is my shepherd." What condescension is this, that the infinite Lord assumes towards his people the office and character of a Shepherd! It should be the subject of grateful admiration that the great God allows himself to be compared to anything which will set forth his great love and care for his own people. David had himself been a keeper of sheep, and understood both the needs of the sheep and the many cares of a shepherd. He compares himself to a creature weak, defenceless, and foolish, and he takes God to be his Provider, Preserver, Director, and, indeed, his everything. No man has a right to consider himself the Lord's sheep unless his nature has been renewed for the scriptural description of unconverted men does not picture them as sheep, but as wolves or goats. A sheep is an object of property, not a wild animal; its owner sets great store by it, and frequently it is bought with a great price. It is well to know, as certainly David did, that we belong to the Lord. There is a noble tone of confidence about this sentence. There is no "if" nor "but," nor even "I hope so;" but he says, "The Lord is my shepherd." We must cultivate the spirit of assured dependence upon our heavenly Father. The sweetest word of the whole is that monosyllable, "My." He does not say, "The Lord is the shepherd of the world at large, and leadeth forth the multitude as his flock," but "The Lord is my shepherd;" if he be a Shepherd to no one else, he is a Shepherd to me; he cares for me, watches over me, and preserves me. The words are in the present tense. Whatever be the believer's position, he is even now under the pastoral care of Jehovah. "In sacred silence of the mind "Let earth be all in arms abroad,
The next words are a sort of inference from the first statement—they are sententious and positive—"I shall not want." I might want otherwise, but when the Lord is my Shepherd he is able to supply my needs, and he is certainly willing to do so, for his heart is full of love, and therefore "I shall not want." I shall not lack for temporal things. Does he not feed the ravens, and cause the lilies to grow? How, then, can he leave his children to starve? I shall not want for spirituals, I know that his grace will be sufficient for me. Resting in him he will say to me, "As thy day so shall thy strength be." I may not possess all that I wish for, but "I shall not want." Others, far wealthier and wiser than I, may want, but "I shall not." "The young lions do lack, and suffer hunger: but they that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing." It is not only "I do not want," but "I shall not want." Come what may, if famine should devastate the land, or calamity destroy the city, "I shall not want." Ah, the following is for me. Old age with its feebleness shall not bring me any lack, and even death with its gloom shall not find me destitute. I have all things and abound; not because I have a good store of money in the bank, not because I have skill and wit with which to win my bread, but because "The Lord is my shepherd." The wicked always want, but the righteous never; a sinner's heart is far from satisfaction, but a gracious spirit dwells in the palace of content.
Verse 2. "He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters." The Christian life has two elements in it, the contemplative and the active, and both of these are richly provided for. First, the contemplative. "He maketh me to lie down in green pastures." What are these "green pastures" but the Scriptures of truth—always fresh, always rich, and never exhausted? There is no fear of biting the bare ground where the grass is long enough for the flock to lie down in it. Sweet and full are the doctrines of the gospel; fit food for souls, as tender grass is natural nutriment for sheep. When by faith we are enabled to find rest in the promises, we are like the sheep that lie down in the midst of the pasture; we find at the same moment both provender and peace, rest and refreshment, serenity and satisfaction. But observe: "He maketh me to lie down." It is the Lord who graciously enables us to perceive the preciousness of his truth, and to feed upon it. How grateful ought we to be for the power to appropriate the promises! There are some distracted souls who would give worlds if they could but do this. They know the blessedness of it, but they cannot say that this blessedness is theirs. They know the "green pastures," but they are not made to "lie down" in them. Those believers who have for years enjoyed a "full assurance of faith" should greatly bless their gracious God.
The second part of a vigorous Christian's life consists in gracious activity. We not only think, but we act. We are not always lying down to feed, but are journeying onward toward perfection; hence we read, "he leadeth me beside the still waters." What are these "still waters" but the influences and graces of his blessed Spirit? His Spirit attends us in various operations, like waters—in the plural—to cleanse, to refresh, to fertilise, to cherish. They are "still waters," for the Holy Ghost loves peace, and sounds no trumpet of ostentation in his operations. He may flow into our soul, but not into our neighbour's, and therefore our neighbour may not perceive the divine presence; and though the blessed Spirit may be pouring his floods into one heart, yet he that sitteth next to the favoured one may know nothing of it.
My heaven, and there my God I find."
Verse 3. "He restoreth my soul." When the soul grows sorrowful he revives it; when it is sinful he sanctifies it; when it is weak he strengthens it. "He" does it. His ministers could not do it if he did not. His Word would not avail by itself. "He restoreth my soul." Are any of us low in grace? Do we feel that our spirituality is at its lowest ebb? He who turns the ebb into the flood can soon restore our soul. Pray to him, then, for the blessing — "Restore thou me, thou Shepherd of my soul!"
"He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake." The Christian delights to be obedient, but it is the obedience of love, to which he is constrained by the example of his Master. "He leadeth me." The Christian is not obedient to some commandments and neglectful of others; he does not pick and choose, but yields to all. Observe, that the plural is used—"the paths of righteousness." Whatever God may give us to do we would do it, led by his love. Some Christians overlook the blessing of sanctification, and yet to a thoroughly renewed heart this is one of the sweetest gifts of the covenant. If we could be saved from wrath, and yet remain unregenerate, impenitent sinners, we should not be saved as we desire, for we mainly and chiefly pant to be saved from sin and led in the way of holiness. All this is done out of pure free grace; "for his name's sake." It is to the honour of our great Shepherd that we should be a holy people, walking in the narrow way of righteousness. If we be so led and guided we must not fail to adore our heavenly Shepherd's care.
Verse 4. "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me." This unspeakably delightful verse has been sung on many a dying bed, and has helped to make the dark valley bright times out of mind. Every word in it has a wealth of meaning. "Yea, though I walk," as if the believer did not quicken his pace when he came to die, but still calmly walked with God. To walk indicates the steady advance of a soul which knows its road, knows its end, resolves to follow the path, feels quite safe, and is therefore perfectly calm and composed. The dying saint is not in a flurry, he does not run as though he were alarmed, nor stand still as though he would go no further, he is not confounded nor ashamed, and therefore keeps to his old pace. Observe that it is not walking in the valley, but through the valley. We go through the dark tunnel of death and emerge into the light of immortality. We do not die, we do but sleep to wake in glory. Death is not the house but the porch, not the goal but the passage to it. The dying article is called a valley. The storm breaks on the mountain, but the valley is the place of quietude, and thus full often the last days of the Christian are the most peaceful of his whole career; the mountain is bleak and bare, but the valley is rich with golden sheaves, and many a saint has reaped more joy and knowledge when he came to die than he ever knew while he lived. And, then, it is not "the valley of death," but "the valley of the shadow of death," for death in its substance has been removed, and only the shadow of it remains. Some one has said that when there is a shadow there must be light somewhere, and so there is. Death stands by the side of the highway in which we have to travel, and the light of heaven shining upon him throws a shadow across our path; let us then rejoice that there is a light beyond. Nobody is afraid of a shadow, for a shadow cannot stop a man's pathway even for a moment. The shadow of a dog cannot bite; the shadow of a sword cannot kill; the shadow of death cannot destroy us. Let us not, therefore, be afraid. "I will fear no evil." He does not say there shall not be any evil; he had got beyond even that high assurance, and knew that Jesus had put all evil away; but "I will fear no evil;" as if even his fears, those shadows of evil, were gone for ever. The worst evils of life are those which do not exist except in our imagination. If we had no troubles but real troubles, we should not have a tenth part of our present sorrows. We feel a thousand deaths in fearing one, but the psalmist was cured of the disease of fearing. "I will fear no evil," not even the Evil One himself; I will not dread the last enemy, I will look upon him as a conquered foe, an enemy to be destroyed, "For thou art with me." This is the joy of the Christian! "Thou art with me." The little child out at sea in the storm is not frightened like all the other passengers on board the vessel, it sleeps in its mother's bosom; it is enough for it that its mother is with it; and it should be enough for the believer to know that Christ is with him. "Thou art with me; I have, in having thee, all that I can crave: I have perfect comfort and absolute security, for thou art with me." "Thy rod and thy staff," by which thou governest and rulest thy flock, the ensigns of thy sovereignty and of thy gracious care—"they comfort me." I will believe that thou reignest still. The rod of Jesse shall still be over me as the sovereign succour of my soul.
Many persons profess to receive much comfort from the hope that they shall not die. Certainly there will be some who will be "alive and remain" at the coming of the Lord, but is there so very much of advantage in such an escape from death as to make it the object of Christian desire? A wise man might prefer of the two to die, for those who shall not die, but who "shall be caught up together with the Lord in the air," will be losers rather than gainers. They will lose that actual fellowship with Christ in the tomb which dying saints will have, and we are expressly told that they shall have no preference beyond those who are asleep. Let us be of Paul's mind when he said that "To die is gain," and think of "departing to be with Christ, which is far better." This 23rd Psalm is not worn out, and it is as sweet in a believer's ear now as it was in David's time, let novelty-hunters say what they will.
Verse 5. "Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies." The good man has his enemies. He would not be like his Lord if he had not. If we were without enemies we might fear that we were not the friends of God, for the friendship of the world is enmity to God. Yet see the quietude of the godly man in spite of, and in the sight of, his enemies. How refreshing is his calm bravery! "Thou preparest a table before me." When a soldier is in the presence of his enemies, if he eats at all he snatches a hasty meal, and away he hastens to the fight. But observe: "Thou preparest a table," just as a servant does when she unfolds the damask cloth and displays the ornaments of the feast on an ordinary peaceful occasion. Nothing is hurried, there is no confusion, no disturbance, the enemy is at the door, and yet God prepares a table, and the Christian sits down and eats as if everything were in perfect peace. Oh! the peace which Jehovah gives to his people, even in the midst of the most trying circumstances!
They dwell in perfect peace."
Verse 6. "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life." This is a fact as indisputable as it is encouraging, and therefore a heavenly verily, or "surely" is set as a seal upon it. This sentence may be read, "only goodness and mercy," for there shall be unmingled mercy in our history. These twin guardian angels will always be with me at my back and my beck. Just as when great princes go abroad they must not go unattended, so it is with the believer. Goodness and mercy follow him always—"all the days of his life"—the black days as well as the bright days, the days of fasting as well as the days of feasting, the dreary days of winter as well as the bright days of summer. Goodness supplies our needs, and mercy blots out our sins. "And I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever." "A servant abideth not in the house for ever, but the son abideth ever." While I am here I will be a child at home with my God; the whole world shall be his house to me; and when I ascend into the upper chamber, I shall not change my company, nor even change the house; I shall only go to dwell in the upper storey of the house of the Lord for ever.
May God grant us grace to dwell in the serene atmosphere of this most blessed Psalm!
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.
"In sacred silence of the mind
"Let earth be all in arms abroad,
Psalm 24 Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892)
By Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892)Title. A Psalm of David. From the title we learn nothing but the authorship: but this is interesting and leads us to observe the wondrous operations of the Spirit upon the mind of Israel's sweet singer, enabling him to touch the mournful string in Psalm twenty-two, to pour forth gentle notes of peace in Psalm twenty-three, and here to utter majestic and triumphant strains. We can do or sing all things when the Lord strengtheneth us.
This sacred hymn was probably written to be sung when the ark of the covenant was taken up from the house of Obed-edom, to remain within curtains upon the hill of Zion. The words are not unsuitable for the sacred dance of joy in which David led the way upon that joyful occasion. The eye of the psalmist looked, however, beyond the typical upgoing of the ark to the sublime ascension of the King of glory. We will call it The Song of the Ascension.
Division. The Psalm makes a pair with the fifteenth Psalm. It consists of three parts. The first glorifies the true God, and sings of his universal dominion; the second describes the true Israel, who are able to commune with him; and the third pictures the ascent of the true Redeemer, who has opened heaven's gates for the entrance of his elect.
Verse 1. How very different is this from the ignorant Jewish notion of God which prevailed in our Saviour's day? The Jews said, "The holy land is God's, and the seed of Abraham are his only people;" but their great Monarch had long before instructed them,—"The earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof." The whole round world is claimed for Jehovah, "and they that dwell therein" are declared to be his subjects. When we consider the bigotry of the Jewish people at the time of Christ, and how angry they were with our Lord for saying that many widows were in Israel, but unto none of them was the prophet sent, save only to the widow of Sarepta, and that there were many lepers in Israel, but none of them was healed except Naaman the Syrian,—when we recollect, too, how angry they were at the mention of Paul's being sent to the Gentiles, we are amazed that they should have remained in such blindness, and yet have sung this Psalm, which shows so clearly that God is not the God of the Jews only, but of the Gentiles also. What a rebuke is this to those wiseacres who speak of the negro and other despised races as though they were not cared for by the God of heaven! If a man be but a man the Lord claims him, and who dares to brand him as a mere piece of merchandise! The meanest of men is a dweller in the world, and therefore belongs to Jehovah. Jesus Christ had made an end of the exclusiveness of nationalities. There is neither barbarian, Scythian, bond not free; but we all are one in Christ Jesus. "Lo his triumphal chariot waits,
Man lives upon "the earth," and parcels out its soil among his mimic kings and autocrats; but the earth is not man's. He is but a tenant at will, a leaseholder upon the most precarious tenure, liable to instantaneous ejectment. The great Landowner and true Proprietor holds his court above the clouds, and laughs at the title-deeds of worms of the dust. The fee-simple is not with the lord of the manor nor the freeholder, but with the Creator. The "fulness" of the earth may mean its harvests, its wealth, its life, or its worship; in all these senses the Most High God is Possessor of all. The earth is full of God; he made it full and he keeps it full, notwithstanding all the demands which living creatures make upon its stores. The sea is full, despite all the clouds which rise from it; the air is full, notwithstanding all the lives which breathe it; the soil is full, though millions of plants derive their nourishment from it. Under man's tutored hand the world is coming to a greater fulness than ever, but it is all the Lord's; the field and the fruit, the earth and all earth's wonders are Jehovah's. We look also for a sublimer fulness when the true ideal of a world for God shall have been reached in millennial glories, and then most clearly the earth will be be the Lord's and the fulness thereof. These words are now upon London's Royal Exchange, they shall one day be written in letters of light across the sky.
The term "world" indicates the habitable regions, wherein Jehovah is especially to be acknowledged as Sovereign. He who rules the fish of the sea and the fowl of the air should not be disobeyed by man, his noblest creature. Jehovah is the Universal King, all nations are beneath his sway: true Autocrat of all the nations, emperors and czars are but his slaves. Men are not their own, nor may they call their lips, their hearts, or their substance their own; they are Jehovah's rightful servants. This claim especially applies to us who are born from heaven. We do not belong to the world or to Satan, but by creation and redemption we are the peculiar portion of the Lord.
Paul uses this verse twice, to show that no food is unclean, and that nothing is really the property of false gods. All things are God's; no ban is on the face of nature, nothing is common or unclean. The world is all God's world, and the food which is sold in the shambles is sanctified by being my Father's, and I need not scruple to eat thereof.
Verse 2. In the second verse we have the reason why the world belongs to God, namely, because he has created it, which is a title beyond all dispute. "For he hath founded it upon the seas." It is God who lifts up the earth from out of the sea, so that the dry land, which otherwise might in a moment be submerged, as in the days of Noah, is kept from the floods. The hungry jaws of ocean would devour the dry land if a constant fiat of Omnipotence did not protect it. "He hath established it upon the floods." The world is Jehovah's, because from generation to generation he preserves and upholds it, having settled its foundations. Providence and Creation are the two legal seals upon the title-deeds of the great Owner of all things. He who built the house and bears up its foundations has surely a first claim upon it. Let it be noted, however, upon what insecure foundations all terrestrial things are founded. Founded on the seas! Established on the floods! Blessed be God the Christian has another world to look forward to, and rests his hopes upon a more stable foundation than this poor world affords. They who trust in worldly things build upon the sea; but we have laid our hopes, by God's grace, upon the Rock of Ages; we are resting upon the promise of an immutable God, we are depending upon the constancy of a faithful Redeemer. Oh! ye worldlings, who have built your castles of confidence, your palaces of wealth, and your bowers of pleasure upon the seas, and established them upon the floods; how soon will your baseless fabrics melt, like foam upon the waters! Sand is treacherous enough, but what shall be said of the yet more unstable sea?
Verses 3-6. Here we have the true Israel described. The men who shall stand as courtiers in the palace of the living God are not distinguished by race, but by character; they are not Jews only, nor Gentiles only, nor any one branch of mankind peculiarly, but a people purified and made meet to dwell in the holy hill of the Lord.
Verse 3. "Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord?" It is uphill work for the creature to reach the Creator. Where is the mighty climber who can scale the towering heights? Nor is it height alone; it is glory too. Whose eye shall see the King in his beauty and dwell in his palace? In heaven he reigns most gloriously, who shall be permitted to enter into his royal presence? God has made all, but he will not save all; there is a chosen company who shall have the singular honour of dwelling with him in his high abode. These choice spirits desire to commune with God, and their wish shall be granted them. The solemn enquiry of the text is repeated in another form. Who shall be able to "stand" or continue there? He casteth away the wicked, who then can abide in his house? Who is he that can gaze upon the Holy One, and can abide in the blaze of his glory? Certainly none may venture to commune with God upon the footing of the law, but grace can make us meet to behold the vision of the divine presence. The question before us is one which all should ask for themselves, and none should be at ease till they have received an answer of peace. With careful self-examination let us enquire, "Lord, is it I."
Verse 4. "He that hath clean hands." Outward, practical holiness is a very precious mark of grace. To wash in water with Pilate is nothing, but to wash in innocency is all-important. It is to be feared that many professors have perverted the doctrine of justification by faith in such a way as to treat good works with contempt; if so, they will receive everlasting contempt at the last great day. It is vain to prate of inward experience unless the daily life is free from impurity, dishonesty, violence, and oppression. Those who draw near to God must have "clean hands." What monarch would have servants with filthy hands to wait at his table? They who were ceremonially unclean could not enter into the Lord's house which was made with hands, much less shall the morally defiled be allowed to enjoy spiritual fellowship with a holy God. If our hands are now unclean, let us wash them in Jesu's precious blood, and so let us pray unto God, lifting up pure hands. But "clean hands" would not suffice, unless they were connected with "a pure heart." True religion is heart-work. We may wash the outside of the cup and the platter as long as we please; but if the inward parts be filthy, we are filthy altogether in the sight of God, for our hearts are more truly ourselves than our hands are. We may lose our hands and yet live, but we could not lose our heart and still live; the very life of our being lies in the inner nature, and hence the imperative need of purity within. There must be a work of grace in the core of the heart as well as in the palm of the hand, or our religion is a delusion. May God grant that our inward powers may be cleansed by the sanctifying Spirit, so that we may love holiness and abhor all sin. The pure in heart shall see God, all others are but blind bats; stone-blindness in the eyes arises from stone in the heart. Dirt in the heart throws dust in the eyes.
The soul must be delivered from delighting in the grovelling toys of earth; the man who is born for heaven "hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity." All men have their joys, by which their souls are lifted up; the worldling lifts up his soul in carnal delights, which are mere empty vanities; but the saint loves more substantial things; like Jehoshaphat, he is lifted up in the ways of the Lord. He who is content with the husks will be reckoned with the swine. If we suck our consolation from the breasts of the world, we prove ourselves to be its home-born children. Does the world satisfy thee? Then thou hast thy reward and thy portion in this life; make much of it, for thou shalt know no other joy.
"Nor sworn deceitfully." The saints are men of honour still. The Christian man's word is his only oath; but that is as good as twenty oaths of other men. False speaking will shut any man out of heaven, for a liar shall not enter into God's house, whatever may be his professions or doings. God will have nothing to do with liars, except to cast them into the lake of fire. Every liar is a child of the devil, and will be sent home to his father. A false declaration, a fraudulent statement, a cooked account, a slander, a lie—all these may suit the assembly of the ungodly, but are detested among true saints: how could they have fellowship with the God of truth, if they did not hate every false way?
Verse 5. It must not be supposed that the persons who are thus described by their inward and outward holiness are saved by the merits of their works; but their works are the evidences by which they are known. The present verse shows that in the saints grace reigns and grace alone. Such men wear the holy livery of the Great King because he has of his own free love clothed them therewith. The true saint wears the wedding garment, but he owns that the Lord of the feast provided it for him, without money and without price. "He shall receive the blessing from the Lord, and righteousness from the God of his salvation." So that the saints need salvation; they receive righteousness, and "the blessing" is a boon from God their Saviour. They do not ascend the hill of the Lord as givers but as receivers, and they do not wear their own merits, but a righteousness which they have received. Holy living ensures a blessing as its reward from the thrice Holy God, but it is itself a blessing of the New Covenant and a delightful fruit of the Spirit. God first gives us good works, and then rewards us for them. Grace is not obscured by God's demand for holiness, but is highly exalted as we see it decking the saint with jewels, and clothing him in fair white linen; all this sumptuous array being a free gift of mercy.
Verse 6. "This is the generation of them that seek him, that seek thy face, O Jacob." These are the regeneration, these are in the line of grace; these are the legitimate seed. Yet they are only seekers; hence learn that true seekers are very dear in God's esteem, and are entered upon his register. Even seeking has a sanctifying influence; what a consecrating power must lie in finding and enjoying the Lord's face and favour! To desire communion with God is a purifying thing. Oh to hunger and thirst more and more after a clear vision of the face of God; this will lead us to purge ourselves from all filthiness, and to walk with heavenly circumspection. He who longs to see his friend when he passes takes care to clear the mist from the window, lest by any means his friend should go by unobserved. Really awakened souls seek the Lord above everything, and as this is not the usual desire of mankind, they constitute a generation by themselves; a people despised of men but beloved of God. The expression "O Jacob" is a very difficult one, unless it be indeed true that the God of Jacob here condescendeth to be called Jacob, and takes upon himself the name of his chosen people.
The preceding verses correct the inordinate boastings of those Jews who vaunted themselves as the favourites of heaven; they are told that their God is the God of all the earth, and that he is holy, and will admit none but holy ones into his presence. Let the mere professor as he reads these verses listen to the voice which saith, "without holiness no man shall see the Lord."
"Selah." Lift up the harp and voice, for a nobler song is coming; a song of our Well-beloved.
Verse 7. These last verses reveal to us the great representative man, who answered to the full character laid down, and therefore by his own right ascended the holy hill of Zion. Our Lord Jesus Christ could ascend into the hill of the Lord because his hands were clean and his heart was pure, and if we by faith in him are conformed to his image we shall enter too. We have here a picture of our Lord's glorious ascent. We see him rising from amidst the little group upon Olivet, and as the cloud receives him, angels reverently escort him to the gates of heaven.
The ancient gates of the eternal temple are personified and addressed in song by the attending cohorts of rejoicing spirits.
And angels chant the solemn lay.
'Lift up your heads, ye heavenly gates;
Ye everlasting doors, give way."
Verse 8. The watchers at the gate hearing the song look over the battlements and ask, "Who is this King of glory?" A question full of meaning and worthy of the meditations of eternity. Who is he in person, nature, character, office and work? What is his pedigree? What his rank and what his race? The answer given in a mighty wave of music is, "The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle." We know the might of Jesus by the battles which he has fought, the victories which he has won over sin, and death, and hell, and we clap our hands as we see him leading captivity captive in the majesty of his strength. Oh for a heart to sing his praises! Mighty hero, be thou crowned for ever King of kings and Lord of lords.
Verse 9. "Lift up your heads, O ye gates; even lift them up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in." The words are repeated with a pleasing variation. There are times of deep earnest feeling when repetitions are not vain but full of force. Doors were often taken from their hinges when Easterns would show welcome to a guest, and some doors were drawn up and down like a portcullis, and may possibly have protruded from the top; thus literally lifting up their heads. The picture is highly poetical, and shows how wide heaven's gate is set by the ascension of our Lord. Blessed be God, the gates have never been shut since. The opened gates of heaven invite the weakest believer to enter.
Dear reader, it is possible that you are saying, "I shall never enter into the heaven of God, for I have neither clean hands nor a pure heart." Look then to Christ, who has already climbed the holy hill. He has entered as the forerunner of those who trust him. Follow in his footsteps, and repose upon his merit. He rides triumphantly into heaven, and you shall ride there too if you trust him. "But how can I get the character described?" say you. The Spirit of God will give you that. He will create in you a new heart and a right spirit. Faith in Jesus is the work of the Holy Spirit, and has all virtues wrapped up in it. Faith stands by the fountain filled with blood, and as she washes therein, clean hands and a pure heart, a holy soul and a truthful tongue are given to her.
Verse 10. The closing note is inexpressibly grand. Jehovah of hosts, Lord of men and angels, Lord of the universe, Lord of the worlds, is the King of glory. All true glory is concentrated upon the true God, for all other glory is but a passing pageant, the painted pomp of an hour. The ascended Saviour is here declared to be the Head and Crown of the universe, the King of Glory. Our Immanuel is hymned in sublimest strains. Jesus of Nazareth is Jehovah Sabaoth.
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.
"Lo his triumphal chariot waits,
Beauty and the Best
By R.C. Sproul 4/1/2009
There is a tension among the people of God that reflects a delicate balance to which the Bible calls us. Paul, you will recall, argued that in his passion for the gospel, he wished to be all things to all people, that by all means some might be saved (1 Cor. 9:22). On the other hand, Jesus tells the disciples that when they brought the good news and were not received, they were to wipe the dust off of their feet as they left the town (Luke 9:5). They’re both legitimate perspectives on the lost. Where, we wonder, does earnestly contending for lost souls end and pandering to the lost begin?
The worship wars of our own day are driven by this same tension. There is nothing new under the sun. Do we gather together each Lord’s Day to worship the Lord with the most simple language? Should our music aspire for accessibility above all else? Do we want to dumb everything down so that everyone can get it? Is this how we bring in the lost? Or, should our weekly gatherings instead be times of erudite exposition and sublime aural harmonies? Do we, with the former, through our workaday media, communicate a God who is safe? Do we, with the latter — with our highbrow affectations — communicate a God who is inaccessible?
In the ninth century, when the Latin Mass began to be enforced, I’m confident the same discussions took place. Some, I would expect, argued that the Latin Mass carried with it a gravity that communicated the glory of God, a certain sense of mystery and timelessness. Others, I’m quite sure, pointed out that the people for whom Jesus died could not understand what was being said. How can we say that this body was broken for you if you don’t know what we’re saying?
The Bible is a book that not only is full of wisdom but that in turn calls us to wisdom. Wisdom, more often than not, means balance. Wisdom recognizes that there is a real difference between prudent accessibility and the lowest common denominator. Wisdom can tell the difference between a foreign language and a challenging language. It is able to distinguish between self-serving, highbrow tastes and treating matters of import with all due dignity. It recognizes, for instance, that there is a great yawning space between a pastor preaching in a long dead language and a pastor preaching in a clown suit.
As is so often the case, wisdom is often found when we look away from the question at hand, when we step away from the raging debate and look instead to where we agree. When we gather together for worship, we are gathering together, according to the Bible, as a body. We are likewise gathering together as a bride. We are coming to meet our Lord, who comes to renew covenant with us and to feast with us at His table. Now consider how we approach a wedding.
When we come together for a wedding, no one would suggest that for the sake of the dignity of the event we ought to perform the service in Latin. No one would argue that the pastor’s homily ought to be peppered with obtuse language fit only for the seminary classroom. Neither, however, does any bride dream of a day when a man in stained overalls, smelling of a barnyard, looks down at her and asks her the vows: “Well, do yer or don’t yer?” Instead, when we marry we put on our best clothes. We decorate the setting to befit a time of solemnity and joy. We play our best music. We speak in our most gracious tones, and with our most polished grammar. It is our most important “our.” Nobody, I trust, argues that this leaves people out. No one argues that this is somehow inauthentic. No bride would, if her groom showed up in flip-flops and a t-shirt, argue that she sees the heart and that what’s on the outside doesn’t matter. That is, the wedding ceremony is not to be marked by the world’s best and highest, but by our best and our highest. It is our most important “our.”
Our worship should bring us together, rather than drive us apart. We have, after all, together been called to worship by our Lord. That is why we use at one and the same time a common language in an uncommon way. We speak so that the gravity of the message might be heard. We are not pandering to anyone, and we rejoice in an audience of One. We play music that can reach the hearts of the congregation in a way far more powerful than silly love songs ever could, seeking to reflect the heavenly chorus.
When we come to worship we come in ourselves still unclean. We as a bride are too besmirched and stained to feign haughtiness. We are too conscious of our own sin to be looking down our noses at others. But we come seeking to be made beautiful, confident that our Groom can bring this to pass. We have given up the world, with all its arrogant slovenliness. We have turned up our noses at the world’s studied indifference to beauty. We do indeed speak English, but it is not the English of the court fool. It is the King’s English.
Robert Charles Sproul, 2/13/1939 – 12/14/2017 was an American theologian, author, and ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America. Dr. R.C. Sproul was founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries, an international Christian education and discipleship organization located near Orlando, Fla. He was also copastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., chancellor of Reformation Bible College, and executive editor of Tabletalk magazine. Dr. Sproul has contributed dozens of articles to national evangelical publications, has spoken at conferences, churches, and schools around the world, and has written more than one hundred books. He also served as general editor of the Reformation Study Bible.R.C. Sproul Books | Go to Books Page
Has Science Buried God?
By Keith Mathison 4/1/2009
One of the most common ways of looking at the relationship between science and faith is the conflict thesis, which posits an inherent conflict between science and religion. The conflict thesis was popularized in the nineteenth century by John William Draper and by Andrew Dickson White. Despite the acknowledged poor scholarship underlying these works, the conflict thesis has persisted among both believers and unbelievers. Today, some scientists, including Peter Atkins, Daniel Dennett, and Richard Dawkins, are asserting that there should no longer be any conflict because science has shown us either that God does not exist or that God almost certainly does not exist.
Not all scientists adhere to the conflict thesis. There are believing scientists such as Francis Collins and John Polkinghorne who argue that science and faith are complementary. Others, such as the atheist Steven Jay Gould, argue that science and faith may coexist because they deal with completely separate subject matter, or in Gould’s terminology, “nonoverlapping magisteria.” In short, there is no agreement on the issue even among scientists. The views of men such as Dawkins, Dennett, and Atkins, however, have been the most publicized, and because of this, there are many who wonder whether science has in fact demonstrated that God does not exist.
There have been a number of books published in an attempt to answer this question. Many of them are quite good, but certainly among the two or three best is a new lay level book by Dr. John C. Lennox entitled God’s Undertaker: Has Science Buried God? Dr. Lennox has earned doctorates from Oxford, Cambridge, and the University of Wales. He is presently professor of mathematics at the University of Oxford and fellow in mathematics and philosophy of science at Green Templeton College, Oxford. He achieved some recognition in the United States recently when he engaged in a highly publicized debate with Richard Dawkins in Birmingham, Alabama. God’s Undertaker is his response to the arguments made by dogmatic atheist scientists.
God’s Undertaker contains eleven relatively brief chapters. In his first chapter, Lennox demonstrates that the real conflict that exists is not between science and faith but between two competing worldviews: naturalism and theism. This is important because it is the unproven presuppositions of naturalism, rather than empirical evidence, that underlies many of the arguments made by atheistic scientists. In chapter 2, Lennox deals with the difficult and controversial issues surrounding the definition of “science,” while in chapter 3, he deals with the materialistic reductionism of some scientists. Chapter 4 examines some of the many facts about our universe, which, rather than pointing us away from the idea of God, actually provide evidence for God’s existence.
Most of the remaining chapters deal with various arguments related to biological science. Lennox examines and finds wanting the argument made by Dawkins and others that Darwin’s theory disproves the existence of God. In chapter 6, he looks closely at some of the numerous flaws that exist in the neo-Darwinian synthesis. Lennox recognizes that daring to question evolutionary orthodoxy will likely result in being declared a lunatic by the high priests of the Darwinist Inquisition, but he has prepared his own epitaph just in case: “Here lies the body of John Lennox. You ask me why he’s in this box? He died of something worse than pox, On Darwinism — heterodox.” The following chapters deal with the problems involved in a naturalistic conception of the origin of life and of the information in the genetic code, in particular the repeated use of “Darwin of the gaps” arguments by atheists. In chapter 10, Lennox provides devastating evidence of the self-contradictory nature of some of Dawkins’ suggestions as to how life could have originated.
Such topics have been dealt with many times in many books, but rarely have they been dealt with as well as they have been here. In contrast to the shrill and irrational ranting of several of the recent works written by the new atheists, Lennox deals with the subject calmly and rationally, dismantling point by point their often absurd assertions. This is one of those books that comes around every so often that you not only need to read but that you need to have your high school and college-age children and grandchildren read. The metaphysical claims of atheist scientists are one of the main challenges facing young people and adults alike today. Read this book and discover why so many of those claims are vacuous.
Per Amazon, Keith A. Mathison (MA, Reformed Theological Seminary; PhD, Whitefield Theological Seminary) is dean of the Ligonier Academy of Biblical and Theological Studies and an associate editor of Tabletalk magazine at Ligonier Ministries. He is editor of When Shall These Things Be: A Reformed Response to Hyper-Preterism and associate editor of The Reformation Study Bible. He lives in Lake Mary, Florida, with his wife and children.Keith Mathison Books:
- 1 Postmillennialism: An Eschatology of Hope
- 2 The Shape of Sola Scriptura
- 3 Given for You: Reclaiming Calvin's Doctrine of the Lord's Supper
- 4 From Age to Age: The Unfolding of Biblical Eschatology
- 5 Dispensationalism: Rightly Dividing the People of God?
- 6 A Reformed Approach to Science and Scripture
- 7 Not a Chance: God, Science, and the Revolt against Reason
- 8 When Shall These Things Be?: A Reformed Response to Hyper-Preterism
By Don Carson 6/17/2017
The Old Testament Chapter quoted most often in the New Testament is Psalm 110. It is an oracular Psalm: i.e., it does not so much disclose the experience of its writer as set forth words that the writer has received by direct and immediate revelation — as an “oracle” from God. Perhaps there are even parts of it the psalmist himself did not fathom too well (just as Daniel did not understand the meaning of all that he saw in his visions and was required to record for the benefit of a later generation (Dan. 12:4, 8-10).
In the Psalm, the LORD, Yahweh, speaks to someone whom David himself addresses as “my Lord.” This element, as much as any other, has convinced countless interpreters, both Jewish and Christian, that this is explicitly a messianic psalm, and that the person whom David addresses is the anticipated Messiah.
I shall focus on verse 4: “The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind: ‘You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.’” Granted that Yahweh here addresses the Messiah, what do his words mean? Two elements attract attention:
First, Melchizedek himself — this is only the second mention of him in the Bible. The first is Genesis 14:18-20: after the defeat of the kings, Abraham meets this strange priest-king and pays him a tithe of the spoils. Various things can be inferred from the brief account (see meditation for January 13), but then Melchizedek drops from view until this psalm, written almost a millennium later.
Second, by this time much has taken place in the history of Israel. The people had endured slavery in Egypt, had been rescued at the Exodus, had received the Law of God at Sinai, had entered the Promised Land, and had lived through the period of the judges to reach this point of the beginning of the Davidic dynasty. Above all, Sinai had prescribed a tabernacle and the associated rites, all to be administered by Levites and by high priests drawn from that tribe. The Mosaic Law made it abundantly clear that Levites alone could discharge these priestly functions. Yet here is an oracle from God insisting that God himself will raise up another priest-king with very different links. Yahweh will extend this king’s mighty scepter from Zion: i.e., his kingly power is connected with Zion, with Jerusalem, and thus with the fledgling Davidic dynasty. And as priest, he will be aligned, not with the order of Levi, but with the order of Melchizedek.
Small wonder the writer to the Hebrews understands that this is an announcement of the obsolescence of the Mosaic Covenant (Heb. 7:11-12). We needed a better priesthood; and we have one.
Don Carson is research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, and co-founder (with Tim Keller) of The Gospel Coalition. He has authored numerous books, and recently edited The Enduring Authority of the Christian Scriptures (Eerdmans, 2016).Don Carson Books | Go to Books Page
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 65O God of Our Salvation
65 To The Choirmaster. A Psalm Of David. A Song.
5 By awesome deeds you answer us with righteousness,
O God of our salvation,
the hope of all the ends of the earth
and of the farthest seas;
6 the one who by his strength established the mountains,
being girded with might;
7 who stills the roaring of the seas,
the roaring of their waves,
the tumult of the peoples,
8 so that those who dwell at the ends of the earth are in awe at your signs.
You make the going out of the morning and the evening to shout for joy.
9 You visit the earth and water it;
you greatly enrich it;
the river of God is full of water;
you provide their grain,
for so you have prepared it.
10 You water its furrows abundantly,
settling its ridges,
softening it with showers,
and blessing its growth.
11 You crown the year with your bounty;
your wagon tracks overflow with abundance.
12 The pastures of the wilderness overflow,
the hills gird themselves with joy,
13 the meadows clothe themselves with flocks,
the valleys deck themselves with grain,
they shout and sing together for joy.
By Gleason Archer Jr.
Proverbs: The Relationship of Chapters 22–24 to the Wisdom of Amenemope
A hieratic manuscript of the late Egyptian work, The Wisdom of Amenemope (or Amen-em-apt) was discovered by E. A. Wallis Budge in 1888 and provisionally dated by him as Eighteenth Dynasty in origin. So dated, of course, there would be no difficulty in supposing that Solomon was familiar with this Egyptian work and adapted it for his purposes in Prov. 22:17–24:34. But subsequent study by Erman, Spiegelberg, Griffith, and Lange brought down the date for Amenemope to 1000 B.C., then Dynasty XXII, and finally Dynasty XXIV, or even the Persian or Greek period. The majority of critics assumed that the demonstrably close relationship between the Hebrew and the Egyptian texts was to be explained as only a dependence of the former upon the latter; that is to say, while the Hebrews might borrow from Egyptian lore, the Egyptians would never borrow from Palestine. By this reasoning, then, these chapters in Proverbs must stem from the Persian or even the Greek period. Although the majority of Liberal scholars are still of this opinion, a close examination of the linguistic data indicates quite conclusively that the borrowing must have been the other way around in this particular case. In 1930, R. O. Kevin (following the lead of Oesterley in his Commentary on Proverbs, 1929) adduced the following considerations:
1. There are proportionately far more Semitisms in Amenemope’s Egyptian text than in any other Egyptian work on morality; at least nineteen of these Semitisms are indisputable and sixteen more are highly probable.
2. Numerous cases of Egyptian words garbled or otherwise unknown can be successfully explained as textual corruptions from an earlier text which translated the Hebrew terms employed in the corresponding passage in Proverbs.
3. There are several instances where the Egyptian translator has misunderstood the corresponding Hebrew word; thus the word t-ḥ-š-w-k (“hold back from or rescue”) in Prov. 24:11 has been rendered in Amenemope XI. 7 as if it were t-ḥ-š-y-k, meaning “to hide” (hence the Egyptian ḥʾpw, “to hide”). Or again, the Hebrew šā˓ar (“to think” or “to reckon”) in Amenemope XIII. 2 has been misunderstood as the Hebrew š-˓-r (šā˓ar) or “storm” (the Egyptian sn˓) in a nonsensical connection, even though the Hebrew original is perfectly clear and coherent in its own context. Or else the Egyptian author has grappled with the difficulty of an obscure Hebrew phase by resorting to a banal paraphrase. For example, Prov. 23:4 says, “Do not toil to acquire wealth, cease from thine own wisdom”; this comes out in Amenemope IX. 14–15: “Do not strain to seek an excess when thy needs are safe for thee.” In other words, the un-Egyptian sentiment “from thy wisdom desist” has been altered to “when thy needs are safe for thee,” or “when your property is intact,” as Kevin renders it. The important thing is to observe that while satisfactory reconstructions of the Egyptian can be made on the basis of the Hebrew original, it is never possible to reconstruct the Hebrew text on the basis of the Egyptian original.
4. It should also be noted that the word š-l-š-w-m in Prov. 22:20, which probably means “adjutant” (third man in the chariot), has been misinterpreted as the more common word š-l-š-y-m which means “thirty.” So construed, this would be a statement that thirty proverbs are included in this section ( Prov. 22:17–23:12 ), although there are actually only twenty-seven separate units that can be made out in this section. Quite evidently Amenemope interpreted the word as “thirty,” saying in XXVII., “Behold these thirty chapters,” and therefore was careful to come out with that number of proverbs. (Note that the Hebrew text of Prov. 22:20 yields the meaning, “Have I not written to thee excellent things in counsels of knowledge?” — the word excellent being vocalized as šālɩ̂šɩ̂m. The consonantal text, as indicated above, ends the word in w-m. Many modern scholars follow Amenemope’s amendment and construe the word as “thirty.” Among these are Erman, Eissfeldt, and the RSV: — “Have I not written for you thirty sayings of admonition and knowledge?”) Perhaps it should be added that only one-third of the material in Proverbs 22–24 shows any relationship to the text of Amenemope; the latter seems to have drawn much of his material from non-Hebrew sources (although Kevin sees traces of Ps. 1 also).
The Continual Burnt Offering (Matthew 26:26-28)
By H.A. Ironside - 1941
June 17Matthew 26:26 Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” 27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. ESV
The Lord’s supper in the Christian church takes the place of the Passover among the Jews. The two are intimately linked together, for it was after the celebration of the paschal feast that Jesus offered His disciples the bread and wine and tenderly requested them to partake of them as setting forth His body about to be offered on the cross and His blood so soon to be shed for the remission of sins. Nearly two millennia have elapsed since that solemn night, during which untold millions of grateful believers have partaken of these memorials in remembrance of Him who loved them even unto death.
The communion (1 Corinthians 10:16) is not in any sense a sacrifice. It commemorates the one perfect sacrifice offered by our Lord once for all when He gave Himself for us on Calvary. Neither should it be celebrated with any thought of its having saving value or increasing merit. It is the reminder that when we were utterly lost and helpless, Christ died for us to redeem us to God. It is true that the sacrifice of praise (Hebrews 13:15) should ever accompany it as we contemplate the great cost at which we were saved, and rejoice that He who endured such grief and shame for us is now alive forevermore, never again to have to submit to the pain of death. We call Him to mind as the Author and Finisher of faith, who for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and now sits at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:2).
1 Corinthians 10:16 The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?
Hebrews 13:15 Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.
Hebrews 12:2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. ESV
Around the table of His grace,
Spread with this feast of love,
We meditate in perfect peace
On our High Priest above:
With praise and gratitude we trace
The wonders of His love.
The Institutes of the Christian Religion
Translated by Henry Beveridge
11. Another special requisite to moderation of discipline is, as
Augustine discourses against the Donatists, that private individuals
must not, when they see vices less carefully corrected by the Council
of Elders, immediately separate themselves from the Church; nor must
pastors themselves, when unable to reform all things which need
correction to the extent which they could wish, cast up their ministry,
or by unwonted severity throw the whole Church into confusion. What
Augustine says is perfectly true: "Whoever corrects what he can, by
rebuking it, or without violating the bond of peace, excludes what he
cannot correct, or unjustly condemns while he patiently tolerates what
he is unable to exclude without violating the bond of peace, is free
and exempted from the curse" (August. contra Parmen. Lib. 2 c. 4). He
elsewhere gives the reason. "Every pious reason and mode of
ecclesiastical discipline ought always to have regard to the unity of
the Spirit in the bond of peace. This the apostle commands us to keep
by bearing mutually with each other. If it is not kept, the medicine of
discipline begins to be not only superfluous, but even pernicious, and
therefore ceases to be medicine" (Ibid. Lib. 3 c. 1). "He who
diligently considers these things, neither in the preservation of unity
neglects strictness of discipline, nor by intemperate correction bursts
the bond of society" (Ibid. cap. 2). He confesses, indeed, that pastors
ought not only to exert themselves in removing every defect from the
Church, but that every individual ought to his utmost to do so; nor
does he disguise the fact, that he who neglects to admonish, accuse,
and correct the bad, although he neither favours them, nor sins with
them, is guilty before the Lord; and if he conducts himself so that
though he can exclude them from partaking of the Supper, he does it
not, then the sin is no longer that of other men, but his own. Only he
would have that prudence used which our Lord also requires, "lest while
ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them" (Mt.
13:29). Hence he infers from Cyprian, "Let a man then mercifully
correct what he can; what he cannot correct, let him bear patiently,
and in love bewail and lament."
12. This he says on account of the moroseness of the Donatists, who, when they saw faults in the Church which the bishops indeed rebuked verbally, but did not punish with excommunication (because they did not think that anything would be gained in this way), bitterly inveighed against the bishops as traitors to discipline, and by an impious schism separated themselves from the flock of Christ. Similar, in the present day, is the conduct of the Anabaptists, who, acknowledging no assembly of Christ unless conspicuous in all respects for angelic perfection, under pretence of zeal overthrow everything which tends to edification.  "Such (says Augustin. contra Parmen. Lib. 3 c. 4), not from hatred of other men's iniquity, but zeal for their own disputes, ensnaring the weak by the credit of their name, attempt to draw them entirely away, or at least to separate them; swollen with pride, raving with petulance, insidious in calumny, turbulent in sedition. That it may not be seen how void they are of the light of truth, they cover themselves with the shadow of a stern severity: the correction of a brother's fault, which in Scripture is enjoined to be done with moderation, without impairing the sincerity of love or breaking the bond of peace, they pervert to sacrilegious schism and purposes of excision. Thus Satan transforms himself into an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14) when, under pretext of a just severity, he persuades to savage cruelty, desiring nothing more than to violate and burst the bond of unity and peace; because, when it is maintained, all his power of mischief is feeble, his wily traps are broken, and his schemes of subversion vanish."
13. One thing Augustine specially commends--viz. that if the contagion of sin has seized the multitude, mercy must accompany living discipline. "For counsels of separation are vain, sacrilegious, and pernicious, because impious and proud, and do more to disturb the weak good than to correct the wicked proud" (August. Ep. 64). This which he enjoins on others he himself faithfully practiced. For, writing to Aurelius, Bishop of Carthage, he complains that drunkenness, which is so severely condemned in Scripture, prevails in Africa with impunity, and advises a council of bishops to be called for the purpose of providing a remedy. He immediately adds, "In my opinion, such things are not removed by rough, harsh, and imperious measures, but more by teaching than commanding, more by admonishing than threatening. For thus ought we to act with a multitude of offenders. Severity is to be exercised against the sins of a few" (August. Ep. 64). He does not mean, however, that the bishops were to wink or be silent because they are unable to punish public offences severely, as he himself afterwards explains. But he wishes to temper the mode of correction, so as to give soundness to the body rather than cause destruction. And, accordingly, he thus concludes: "Wherefore, we must on no account neglect the injunction of the apostle, to separate from the wicked, when it can be done without the risk of violating peace, because he did not wish it to be done otherwise (1 Cor. 5:13); we must also endeavour, by bearing with each other, to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (Eph. 4:2).
14. The remaining part of discipline, which is not, strictly speaking, included in the power of the keys, is when pastors, according to the necessity of the times, exhort the people either to fasting and solemn prayer, or to other exercises of humiliation, repentance, and faith, the time, mode, and form of these not being prescribed by the Word of God, but left to the judgment of the Church. As the observance of this part of discipline is useful, so it was always used in the Church, even from the days of the apostles. Indeed, the apostles themselves were not its first authors, but borrowed the example from the Law and Prophets. For we there see,  that as often as any weighty matter occurred the people were assembled, and supplication and fasting appointed. In this, therefore, the apostles followed a course which was not new to the people of God, and which they foresaw would be useful. A similar account is to be given of the other exercises by which the people may either be aroused to duty, or kept in duty and obedience. We everywhere meet with examples in Sacred History, and it is unnecessary to collect them. In general, we must hold that whenever any religious controversy arises, which either a council or ecclesiastical tribunal behoves to decide;  whenever a minister is to be chosen; whenever, in short, any matter of difficulty and great importance is under consideration: on the other hand, when manifestations of the divine anger appear, as pestilence, war, and famine, the sacred and salutary custom of all ages has been for pastors to exhort the people to public fasting and extraordinary prayer. Should any one refuse to admit the passages which are adduced from the Old Testament, as being less applicable to the Christian Church, it is clear that the apostles also acted thus; although, in regard to prayer, I scarcely think any one will be found to stir the question. Let us, therefore, make some observations on fasting, since very many, not understanding what utility there can be in it, judge it not to be very necessary, while others reject it altogether as superfluous. Where its use is not well known it is easy to fall into superstition.
15. A holy and lawful fast has three ends in view. We use it either to mortify and subdue the flesh, that it may not wanton, or to prepare the better for prayer and holy meditation; or to give evidence of humbling ourselves before God, when we would confess our guilt before him. The first end is not very often regarded in public fasting, because all have not the same bodily constitution, nor the same state of health, and hence it is more applicable to private fasting. The second end is common to both, for this preparation for prayer is requisite for the whole Church, as well as for each individual member. The same thing may be said of the third. For it sometimes happens that God smites a nation with war or pestilence, or some kind of calamity. In this common chastisement it behoves the whole people to plead guilty, and confess their guilt. Should the hand of the Lord strike any one in private, then the same thing is to be done by himself alone, or by his family. The thing, indeed, is properly a feeling of the mind. But when the mind is effected as it ought, it cannot but give vent to itself in external manifestation, especially when it tends to the common edification, that all, by openly confessing their sin, may render praise to the divine justice, and by their example mutually encourage each other.
16. Hence fasting, as it is a sign of humiliation, has a more frequent use in public than among private individuals, although as we have said, it is common to both. In regard, then, to the discipline of which we now treat, whenever supplication is to be made to God on any important occasion, it is befitting to appoint a period for fasting and prayer. Thus when the Christians of Antioch laid hands on Barnabas and Paul, that they might the better recommend their ministry, which was of so great importance, they joined fasting and prayer (Acts 13:3). Thus these two apostles afterwards, when they appointed ministers to churches, were wont to use prayer and fasting (Acts 14:23). In general, the only object which they had in fasting was to render themselves more alert and disencumbered for prayer. We certainly experience that after a full meal the mind does not so rise toward God as to be borne along by an earnest and fervent longing for prayer, and perseverance in prayer. In this sense is to be understood the saying of Luke concerning Anna, that she "served God with fastings and prayers, night and day" (Luke 2:37). For he does not place the worship of God in fasting, but intimates that in this way the holy woman trained herself to assiduity in prayer. Such was the fast of Nehemiah, when with more intense zeal he prayed to God for the deliverance of his people (Neh. 1:4). For this reason Paul says, that married believers do well to abstain for a season (1 Cor. 7:5), that they may have greater freedom for prayer and fasting, when by joining prayer to fasting, by way of help, he reminds us it is of no importance in itself, save in so far as it refers to this end. Again, when in the same place he enjoins spouses to render due benevolence to each other, it is clear that he is not referring to daily prayer, but prayers which require more than ordinary attention.
Christian Classics Ethereal Library / Public Domain
Institutes of the Christian Religion
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
12/1/2011 | Hope For the Broken
Every home is dysfunctional because everyone is sinful. There is no perfect family this side of heaven, and if we were perfect parents, neither we nor our children would need a Savior. When we consider the state of the family at the beginning of the twenty-first century, our tendency is to reflect nostalgically on imagined idyllic days of generations past when families weren’t perfect but pretty close to it, or so we like to think.
As fallen people, born into fallen families, and living in a fallen world, the simple truth is that there has never been a time when families were not dysfunctional. To see this, we don’t need to look at the world around us or even at world history, all we need to do is look at the church and at every family in all of Scripture — from the murderous family of God’s son Adam, to God’s son Israel, to the overwhelming dysfunction of the families recorded in the genealogy of Jesus. We cannot, therefore, idolize families of the past or present, all of which are sinful, and we cannot make our own families or the families of others into earthly gods that can fulfill our every need and be the ultimate source of our joy, peace, and comfort.
This is not to say, however, that there are no examples of God-honoring families in Scripture and in our own day, for indeed there are, but it is to say there are no perfect families that don’t desperately need to know, believe, and apply the gospel of Christ. Although perfect healing will only exist in our eternal home, our present hope for our broken homes is the redeeming, forgiving, reconciling, and transforming gospel of God for God’s people.
We know the content of the gospel, but we fail to trust God’s promises in the gospel, and we fail to apply God’s gospel promises in our lives individually, affecting, in turn, our families. For example, as men, we sometimes think that all we need to do to raise good kids is simply be good dads, when, in fact, what every kid needs to see first and foremost is how his dad loves his mother with a repentant, patient, and sacrificial love that not only swears to die for her (which we’ll likely never have the opportunity to do) but that strives to live for her each and every day, which is precisely what Jesus did for us. Our Lord didn’t merely come and die, He lived for us as well. When we believe and apply the gospel, we will not need to pretend we are sinless but will instead be free to repent of our sins and ask forgiveness as we look to God’s true and faithful Son, Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.
God showed His love for us by sending His Son to live and die for us, and as men we are to show our love for our families by pointing them to Jesus Christ whose love for us never changes. And though I hear it all the time, there’s no such thing as “falling out of love.” Christian couples don’t ever fall out of love, they fall out of being repentant. The gospel hope for our broken homes is our broken and contrite hearts that turn daily to Jesus Christ and His brokenness for us on the cross as our Savior and Lord.
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Dr. Burk Parsons (@BurkParsons) is editor of Tabletalk magazine, senior pastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., a visiting lecturer at Reformed Theological Seminary, and a Ligonier Ministries teaching fellow. He is editor of John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, and Doxology.
Ligonier coram Deo (definition)
by Bill Federer
“Don’t Shoot Until You See the Whites of Their Eyes!” was the order given this day, June 17, 1775, by Colonel William Prescott to colonial troops defending Bunker Hill. They were aiming at the wall of twenty-three hundred British soldiers marching toward them from the Boston Harbor in their bright red uniforms with bayonets fixed. Twice the Americans repelled them til they ran out of gunpowder. Over one thousand British died and five hundred Americans. Colonel William Prescott wrote: “Let us all be of one heart, and stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free.”
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
If God asks that you bend,
bend and do not complain.
He is making you more flexible,
and for this be thankful.
--- Terri Guillemets
Chicken Soup for the Soul: Reader's Choice 20th Anniversary Edition: The Chicken Soup for the Soul Stories that Changed Your Lives
Operationally, God is beginning to resemble not a ruler
but the last fading smile of a cosmic Cheshire cat.
--- Julian Huxley
Honest to God
Mercy. “Wonderful! Musick in the House, Musick in the heart, and Musick also in Heaven, for joy that we are here.” That night Mercy laughed in her sleep.
--- John Bunyan
The Pilgrim's Progress (Oxford World's Classics)
Nothing is lost that is done for the Lord,
Let it be ever so small;
The smile of the Savior approves of the deed
As though it were greatest of all.
Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
... from here, there and everywhere
PART II / The Second Verse
Maimonides on “You Shall Love”
Note the implicit relationship between love and fear: our first reaction as we contemplate Nature is, instinctively and impulsively, to feel love. But our reaching out to know the Creator is, intuitively and instinctively, countered and curtailed by the limiting impulse of fear. Maimonides’ use of mi-yad, which we have translated in its usual sense of “immediately,” applied both to love and to fear, fittingly captures this sense of an intuitive reaction, immediate because it is unmediated. (6)
(6) The role of intuition is significant in the works of Maimonides. In the introduction to the Guide, he speaks of momentary flashes of intuition—unmediated by any cognitive act—as both the mode of apprehension of metaphysical knowledge and of prophecy. This epistemology, of course, presents a problem because of Maimonides’ high esteem for metaphysical deduction and clear, logical analysis. Julius Guttmann, who raises this issue, offers no solution; see his Philosophies of Judaism, trans. David W. Silverman (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1964), pp. 156f. The most obvious answer, however, is provided by a close reading of our key passage. Here, Maimonides does not speak of the intuitive (mi-yad, “immediately”) reaction as the first response to Nature, but the second. Thus, the love for God comes about after one “contemplates” the wonders of creation and “sees” in them the infinite wisdom of the Divine, and only then does he “immediately” love Him, etc. The same pattern holds for the fear of God: when man “considers” these matters, i.e., the wonders of creation, he “immediately” withdraws into himself in fear, etc. What we have here is a two-step process: first one studies Nature; then this evokes the latent intuitive response of the appropriate religious emotions. Hence, the study of natural science leads to the intuitive reaction of love and fear to the creation. It is later left for the philosopher to elaborate on these responses in the language of metaphysics. This philosophical elaboration, too, involves a flash of insight that is, however, different from the love and fear reactions; it is, as it were, a “normal” epistemological act and one that must then be set down according to all the rules of metaphysical argument.
Yet, despite the fact that love is immediately constrained by fear, Maimonides obviously agrees with the Sages that “love is greater than fear”—thus, he concludes, the halakha focuses on love alone, explaining that the Creator does certain things in order to grant us the opportunity (or will) to love Him. Thus, fear serves a vital but ancillary role to love: it is love that remains the most significant and valuable religious quality.
Let us return briefly to our first observation, that both love and fear emerge from our contemplating the divine wisdom in God’s creation. While Maimonides here points to the creation or Nature as the focus of our contemplation in order to arrive at love, he elsewhere includes more than the cosmos as the object of such contemplation. Thus, in Hilkhot Teshuvah, 10:6, he presents his severely rationalistic view of the love for God, declaring our love to be proportional to our knowledge of Him: “One loves the Holy One only with the mind, thus knowing Him; for love is in accordance with knowledge, whether little or much.” He then advises his reader to immerse himself intellectually in the various branches of wisdom that lead to knowing God (and, thus, to loving Him):
Therefore must a man set aside [time] to understand and comprehend the [various branches of] wisdom and learning that impart to him knowledge of his Creator, depending on man’s capacity to understand and apprehend, etc.
The branches of “wisdom and learning” are not necessarily limited to the natural sciences, although they certainly include them. According to Maimonides, our responses to nature must lead us to and be shaped by proper and correct philosophical speculation.
In his work on the commandments, he broadens the canvas even further: “for He has commanded us to love Him; and that [means] to understand and comprehend His mitzvot and His actions.”7 Here Maimonides includes not only God’s actions—which may well embrace the divine guidance of history as well as His governance of nature—but also “His mitzvot,” His commandments. Maimonides may here be referring indirectly to the study of Torah, repository of the commandments, as a source of inspiration to love God. Writing in his own name, the author of Sefer ha-Ḥinukh, who follows Maimonides, states: “That is, along with reflection in Torah necessarily comes a strengthening of love in the heart.”
To confirm our interpretation that Maimonides did indeed regard study of Torah as a vital source of ahavat Hashem, and not merely an afterthought to his major argument, we need only read further in the same passage, where he cites a proof-text from the Sifre. Maimonides writes, following the aforementioned:
This is the text of the Sifre: It is said, “You shall love the Lord your God” (Deut. 6:4). But [from this] I do not know how one loves Him; therefore is it said, “And these words which I command you this day shall be in your heart” (ibid. 6:6)—as a result of this you will come to know Him by whose word the world came into being.
The antecedent of “as a result of this” is obviously “these words”; this undoubtedly refers to the words of Torah (or, at the very least, the words of the Shema), not to the contemplation of Nature.
However, we still face a dilemma in the interpretation of Maimonides’ thought. Is Nature, the divine creation of the cosmos, the sole object whose contemplation leads to the love and fear of God—or is the Torah, the direct revelation of the divine Will, equally a source of such love and fear? In the two passages from his legal code, the Mishneh Torah, the first from Hilkhot Yesodei ha-Torah (“Laws of the Foundations of the Torah”) and the second from Hilkhot Teshuvah (“Laws of Repentance”), he clearly stipulates that Nature is the source that inspires us to love and fear God. Yet in Sefer ha-Mitzvot, his work on the commandments, he identifies that inspirational source both as the commandments (using two synonyms) and as His works, i.e., Nature. Thus, in the Mishneh Torah he mentions only Nature as the source of the two fundamental religious emotions, whereas in Sefer ha-Mitzvot (“Book of the Commandments”) he points to both Torah and Nature, emphasizing the former. (10)
(10) There is no justification for the inclusion of Torah alongside Nature as the source of love and fear by reading this into the closing phrase of Maimonides in his Hilkhot Yesodei Ha-Torah, cited above, or as an addition to it. The same uncertainty about the correct interpretation of the Sifre will be noticed in the comment of Netziv in his Haamek Davar to Deut. 6:7, especially in the addenda to this commentary taken from the author’s manuscript. In the commentary proper he cites the Sifre and takes it clearly to imply that the study of Torah is the means to achieve the love for God. In the addenda, however, he concedes that the plain sense of the Sifre passage would indicate that the contemplation of the creation and Nature are the vehicles to ahavat Hashem and that Maimonides, in the above passage from Hilkhot Yesodei ha-Torah, supports that understanding. However, the Netziv adds, one cannot derive ahavat Hashem from the study of Nature alone; such exclusive contemplation may well lead to an appreciation of the greatness of the Creator, but hardly to loving Him. It may be compared to one who knows that another person is great and worthy of love, but he does not know him personally, so that even if he sees him he cannot love him because he does not truly know him. So, the study of natural science can lead to love only if it is preceded by the study of Torah, for then, to continue the analogy, one knows the other person directly and can then learn to love him. Note the intellectual honesty and also the breadth of Netziv’s own approach—he points to the inadequacy of Nature as a source of ahavat Hashem without disqualifying it altogether and recommends that both study of science and study of Torah together provide the entree to love for God, with Torah taking priority over science (a point he makes often; see e.g., op. cit. to Deut. 4:2). Such breadth and intellectual capaciousness, with the accompanying sensitivity to complexity and subtle nuances, should not be confused with the kind of ambivalence that bespeaks an inability to make up one’s mind for fear of making the wrong choice. For more on the attitude of Netziv on this issue, see my Torah Umadda, pp. 40–1, 44, and 72, note 2. Also see Hannah Katz, Mishnat ha-Netziv (Jerusalem: n.p., 1990), pp. 109–16; however, her use of the term “ambivalent” for Netziv’s breadth of scope and sensitivity to complexity is unfortunate because it implies indecisiveness, which clearly was not part of Netziv’s personality.
Which, then, does Maimonides consider the primary object whose contemplation leads to love: Nature (and, by extension, philosophy, which elaborates upon our love and fear inspired by Nature) or Torah and mitzvot? Is there perhaps a double focus, each holding equal value? Is Sefer ha-Ḥinukh offering a valid interpretation of Maimonides’ view, or is he imposing his own—and apologetic—view?
We now turn to Maimonides’ major philosophical work, the Guide for the Perplexed. Here, our guide Maimonides identifies the cosmos as the source of the intuition and subsequent philosophizing that leads us to love and fear. The two most important passages in the Guide appear in part III. In chapter 28 of this section, he explains that the Torah, “in regard to the correct opinions through which the ultimate perfection may be attained”—ideas such as God’s existence, unity, and power—speaks only in general and apodictic terms, without going into much detail:
With regard to all the other correct opinions concerning the whole of being … the Torah, albeit it does not … direct attention toward them in detail … does so in summary fashion by saying, “To love the Lord” (Deut. 11:13). You know how this is confirmed in the dictum regarding love: “With all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” (Deut. 6:5). We have already explained in the Mishneh Torah that this love becomes valid only through the apprehension of the whole of being as it is and through the consideration of His wisdom as it is manifested in it.
Here, then, Maimonides points to Nature, its study and philosophical interpretation, as the source of love—as he did in the various passages in the Mishneh Torah.
In chapter 52 of part III of the Guide, Maimonides distinguishes between two categories of commandments: the practical ones, the do’s and the don’ts of scriptural legislation; and the “opinions” or theological propositions taught by the Torah. The former lead to fear of God, the latter to love.
As for the opinions the Torah teaches us—namely, the apprehension of His being and His unity, may He be exalted—these opinions teach us love, as we have explained several times. You know to what extent the Torah lays stress upon love: “With all your heart,” etc. For these two ends, namely, love and fear, are achieved through two things: love through opinions taught by the Torah, which include apprehension of His being as He is in truth; while fear is achieved by means of all actions prescribed by the Torah, as we have explained.
Thus, the Mishneh Torah and the Guide for the Perplexed assert that Nature and the correct philosophical ideas resulting from its contemplation serve as the source of our love for God, while Sefer ha-Mitzvot includes, and appears to emphasize, Torah and the commandments. Is this a trivial inconsistency, or is there something behind Maimonides’ apparent contradictions that reconciles and resolves them? I believe that the latter is the case. The principle operating here is one that characterizes much of Maimonides’ thought, namely, the distinction between ordinary people and the learned elite. (11)
The Shema: Spirituality and Law in Judaism
Thanks to Meir Yona
8. He also built the other edifices, the amphitheater, and theater, and market-place, in a manner agreeable to that denomination; and appointed games every fifth year, and called them, in like manner, Caesar's Games; and he first himself proposed the largest prizes upon the hundred ninety-second olympiad; in which not only the victors themselves, but those that came next to them, and even those that came in the third place, were partakers of his royal bounty. He also rebuilt Anthedon, a city that lay on the coast, and had been demolished in the wars, and named it Agrippeum. Moreover, he had so very great a kindness for his friend Agrippa, that he had his name engraved upon that gate which he had himself erected in the temple.
9. Herod was also a lover of his father, if any other person ever was so; for he made a monument for his father, even that city which he built in the finest plain that was in his kingdom, and which had rivers and trees in abundance, and named it Antipatris. He also built a wall about a citadel that lay above Jericho, and was a very strong and very fine building, and dedicated it to his mother, and called it Cypros. Moreover, he dedicated a tower that was at Jerusalem, and called it by the name of his brother Phasaelus, whose structure, largeness, and magnificence we shall describe hereafter. He also built another city in the valley that leads northward from Jericho, and named it Phasaelis.
10. And as he transmitted to eternity his family and friends, so did he not neglect a memorial for himself, but built a fortress upon a mountain towards Arabia, and named it from himself, Herodium 35 and he called that hill that was of the shape of a woman's breast, and was sixty furlongs distant from Jerusalem, by the same name. He also bestowed much curious art upon it, with great ambition, and built round towers all about the top of it, and filled up the remaining space with the most costly palaces round about, insomuch that not only the sight of the inner apartments was splendid, but great wealth was laid out on the outward walls, and partitions, and roofs also. Besides this, he brought a mighty quantity of water from a great distance, and at vast charges, and raised an ascent to it of two hundred steps of the whitest marble, for the hill was itself moderately high, and entirely factitious. He also built other palaces about the roots of the hill, sufficient to receive the furniture that was put into them, with his friends also, insomuch that, on account of its containing all necessaries, the fortress might seem to be a city, but, by the bounds it had, a palace only.
11. And when he had built so much, he showed the greatness of his soul to no small number of foreign cities. He built palaces for exercise at Tripoli, and Damascus, and Ptolemais; he built a wall about Byblus, as also large rooms, and cloisters, and temples, and market-places at Berytus and Tyre, with theatres at Sidon and Damascus. He also built aqueducts for those Laodiceans who lived by the sea-side; and for those of Ascalon he built baths and costly fountains, as also cloisters round a court, that were admirable both for their workmanship and largeness. Moreover, he dedicated groves and meadows to some people; nay, not a few cities there were who had lands of his donation, as if they were parts of his own kingdom. He also bestowed annual revenues, and those for ever also, on the settlements for exercises, and appointed for them, as well as for the people of Cos, that such rewards should never be wanting. He also gave corn to all such as wanted it, and conferred upon Rhodes large sums of money for building ships; and this he did in many places, and frequently also. And when Apollo's temple had been burnt down, he rebuilt it at his own charges, after a better manner than it was before. What need I speak of the presents he made to the Lycians and Samnians? or of his great liberality through all Ionia? and that according to every body's wants of them. And are not the Athenians, and Lacedemonians, and Nicopolitans, and that Pergamus which is in Mysia, full of donations that Herod presented them withal? And as for that large open place belonging to Antioch in Syria, did not he pave it with polished marble, though it were twenty furlongs long? and this when it was shunned by all men before, because it was full of dirt and filthiness, when he besides adorned the same place with a cloister of the same length.
12. It is true, a man may say, these were favors peculiar to those particular places on which he bestowed his benefits; but then what favors he bestowed on the Eleans was a donation not only in common to all Greece, but to all the habitable earth, as far as the glory of the Olympic games reached. For when he perceived that they were come to nothing, for want of money, and that the only remains of ancient Greece were in a manner gone, he not only became one of the combatants in that return of the fifth-year games, which in his sailing to Rome he happened to be present at, but he settled upon them revenues of money for perpetuity, insomuch that his memorial as a combatant there can never fail. It would be an infinite task if I should go over his payments of people's debts, or tributes, for them, as he eased the people of Phasaelis, of Batanea, and of the small cities about Cilicia, of those annual pensions they before paid. However, the fear he was in much disturbed the greatness of his soul, lest he should be exposed to envy, or seem to hunt after greater filings than he ought, while he bestowed more liberal gifts upon these cities than did their owners themselves.
13. Now Herod had a body suited to his soul, and was ever a most excellent hunter, where he generally had good success, by the means of his great skill in riding horses; for in one day he caught forty wild beasts: 36 that country breeds also bears, and the greatest part of it is replenished with stags and wild asses. He was also such a warrior as could not be withstood: many men, therefore, there are who have stood amazed at his readiness in his exercises, when they saw him throw the javelin directly forward, and shoot the arrow upon the mark. And then, besides these performances of his depending on his own strength of mind and body, fortune was also very favorable to him; for he seldom failed of success in his wars; and when he failed, he was not himself the occasion of such failings, but he either was betrayed by some, or the rashness of his own soldiers procured his defeat.
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)
by D.H. Stern
and he will repay him for his good deed.
18 Discipline your child while there is hope,
but don’t get so angry that you kill him!
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
The uncritical temper
Judge not, that ye be not judged. --- Matthew 7:1.
Jesus says regarding judging—Don’t. The average Christian is the most penetratingly critical individual. Criticism is a part of the ordinary faculty of man; but in the spiritual domain nothing is accomplished by criticism. The effect of criticism is a dividing up of the powers of the one criticized; the Holy Ghost is the One in the true position to criticize, He alone is able to show what is wrong without hurting and wounding. It is impossible to enter into communion with God when you are in a critical temper; it makes you hard and vindictive and cruel, and leaves you with the flattering unction that you are a superior person. Jesus says, as a disciple, cultivate the uncritical temper. It is not done once and for all. Beware of anything that puts you in the superior person’s place.
There is no getting away from the penetration of Jesus. If I see the mote in your eye, it means I have a beam in my own. Every wrong thing that I see in you, God locates in me. Every time I judge, I condemn myself (see Romans 2:17–20). Stop having a measuring rod for other people. There is always one fact more in every man’s case about which we know nothing. The first thing God does is to give us a spiritual spring-cleaning; there is no possibility of pride left in a man after that. I have never met the man I could despair of after discerning what lies in me apart from the grace of God.
My Utmost for His Highest
Origins and Authority of NT
"Canon Revisited: Establishing the Origins and Authority of the New Testament Books
When we do apply the Scripture to the question of which books belong in the canon, we shall see that it testifies to the fact that God has created the proper epistemic environment wherein belief in the New Testament canon can be reliably formed. This epistemic environment includes three components:
Providential exposure. In order for the church to be able to recognize the books of the canon, it must first be providentially exposed to these books. The church cannot recognize a book that it does not have.
Attributes of canonicity. These attributes are basically characteristics that distinguish canonical books from all other books. There are three attributes of canonicity: (1) divine qualities (canonical books bear the “marks” of divinity), (2) corporate reception (canonical books are recognized by the church as a whole), and (3) apostolic origins (canonical books are the result of the redemptive-historical activity of the apostles).
Internal testimony of the Holy Spirit. In order for believers to rightly recognize these attributes of canonicity, the Holy Spirit works to overcome the noetic effects of sin and produces belief that these books are from God.
These three components must all be in place if we are to have knowledge of the canon. We cannot know canonical books unless we have access to those books (providential exposure); we need some way to distinguish canonical books from other books (attributes of canonicity); and we need to have some basis for thinking we can rightly identify these attributes (internal work of the Spirit).
Canon Revisited: Establishing the Origins and Authority of the New Testament Books
the Poetry of RS Thomas
The Ancients of the World
The salmon lying in the depths of Llyn Llifon
Secretly as a thought in a dark mind,
Is not so old as the owl of Cwm Cowlyd
Who tells her sorrow nightly on the wind.
The ousel singing in the woods of Cilgwri,
Tirelessly as a stream over the mossed stones,
Is not so old as the toad of Cors Fochno
Who feels the cold skin sagging round his bones.
The toad and the ousel and the stag of Rhedynfre,
That has cropped each leaf from the tree of life,
Are not so old as the owl of Cwm Cowlyd,
That the proud eagle would have to wife.
The real issue, hidden between the lines of (yesterday’s) Midrash text, is not sex but the future. And questions about the future are asked by every generation of humanity, not only by the generations before the flood. Will we have a posterity? What do we feel when we imagine the problems our descendants will face in the future? Is it a sense of futility—“Tomorrow a flood will come”—or a feeling of possibility—“Do yours and the Holy One, praised is He, will do His”? A sense of powerlessness, or a feeling of potency?
The issue of creating a positive future for ourselves and our children is the subject of the book A Good Enough Parent by the renowned psychoanalyst Bruno Bettelheim. His point about parenting is simple: we don’t have to be the best parents in the world. And, in fact, trying to achieve perfection may stop us dead in our tracks and prevent us from ever living up to our potential. We just have to be “good enough parents.” Do your best; the rest is out of your hands.
Judaism demands of us to be “good enough people.” We don’t have to be perfect, and we should not judge others for their imperfections. Rather, we must be as fully human as possible, to “do yours” and leave what we cannot do to others, or to the Other. That is to say, we should not let our limited power, our finite years, and our human frailty be excuses for not acting. Rather, we should use our creativity to its fullest potential. While that may not seem like a lot, it will be good enough.
The Bible merely tells us that Lamech’s two wives were Adah and Zillah. We know nothing more about them, or about their relationships with their husband. Our Midrash, however, tells a more elaborate tale: Like many men of his time, Lamech married two wives. One woman would drink a potion that rendered her sterile, so that pregnancy would never ruin her figure. She was the “trophy wife,” kept for her good looks. The other woman’s role was for procreation, as breeding stock. What is the basis of this fantastic tale? As it turns out, it is their names that provide the clues to Adah’s and Zillah’s domestic arrangement. The Talmud Yerushalmi (Yevamot 6:5) gives us the following information:
עָדָה/Adah—for he used to “luxuriate” (מִתְעַדֵּן/mit-ah-den) in her body;
צִלָּה/Zillah—for he used to sit in the “shade” (צִלָּה/zillah) of her children.
So it seems that, in the absence of any other information, the Rabbis made a pun on the women’s names and created a story out of a wordplay. Or did they?
Classical Jewish tradition saw names as much more than just random labels. They were “windows to the soul” that described the very essence of a person. In the words of the Bible, “For he is just what his name says …” (1 Samuel 25:25). You want to learn about a person? Look to his or her name.
The modern Hebrew poet Zelda has written a beautiful poem that speaks of all the “names” that are imposed upon an individual throughout life. This reflects the traditional Jewish view that a person’s name, given by others, conveys his very destiny:
Searching for Meaning in Midrash: Lessons for Everyday Living
W. W. Wiersbe
"Now that he had their attention, Joel told the people to stop looking around at the locusts and to start looking ahead to the fulfillment of what the locust plague symbolized: the invasion of a fierce army from the north (v. 20). Unless Joel had some other attack in mind, about which we know nothing, he was probably referring to the Assyrian invasion, during the reign of King Hezekiah, which took place in 701 B.C. (Isa. 36–37). God allowed the Assyrians to ravage the land, but He miraculously delivered Jerusalem from being taken captive. (Why should Joel call the people to repent in order to avoid an invasion that would take place a century later? But they didn’t know when the invasion would come, and their brokenness before God was the means of postponing it. We look back and see that Isaiah 36–37 fulfilled what Joel wrote, but the people of Judah were looking ahead into an unknown future. It’s always right to repent and submit to the will of God. That’s the best way to secure the future.) The prophet gave the people three timely instructions.
“Blow the trumphet!” (Joel 2:1–11) This was real war, so Joel commanded the watchmen to blow their trumpets and warn the people. The Jews used trumpets to call assemblies, announce special events, mark religious festivals, and warn the people that war had been declared (Num. 10; Jer. 4:5; 6:1; Hosea 5:8). In this case, they blew the trumpet to announce war and to call a fast (Joel 2:15). Their weapons against the invading enemy would be repentance and prayer; the Lord would fight for them.
Twice in this passage, Joel tells us that invasion is “the Day of the Lord” (vv. 1, 11), meaning a very special period that God had planned and would direct. “The Lord thunders at the head of His army” (v. 11, NIV). It was God who brought the locusts of the land and God would allow the Assyrians to invade the land (Isa. 7:17–25; 8:7). He would permit them to ravage Judah just as the locusts had done, only the Assyrians would also abuse and kill people. “Woe to Assyria, the rod of My anger and the staff in whose hand is My indignation. I will send him against an ungodly nation … to seize the spoil, to take the prey, and to tread them down like mire in the streets” (Isa. 10:5–6).
In his vivid account of the invading army, Joel sees them coming in great hordes, “like dawn spreading across the mountains” (Joel 2:2, NIV). Once again, he uses the locusts to describe the soldiers. Just as the locusts had destroyed everything edible before them, so the army would use a “scorched earth policy” and devastate the towns and the land (Isa. 36:10; 37:11–13, 18). The locusts looked like miniature horses, but the Assyrians would ride real horses and conquer the land. (The repeated use of the word “like” in 2:4–7 indicates that Joel is using a simile and not describing the actual army. The locusts looked and acted like an army, and the invading Assyrian army would be like them: numerous, ruthless, destructive, and invincible. When you get to 2:8–11, you are reading about real soldiers in a real battle: for locusts don’t worry about swords.)
The prophet makes it clear that the Lord will be in charge of this invasion; this is His army fulfilling His Word (Joel 2:11). God can use even heathen nations to accomplish His purposes on this earth (Isa. 10:5–7; Jer. 25:9). The awesome cosmic disturbances described in Joel 2:10 are Joel’s way of announcing that the Lord is in charge, for these signs accompany “the Day of the Lord” (3:15; see Zeph. 1:14).
“Rend your hearts!” (Joel 2:12–17) Once again, Joel called for a solemn assembly where God’s people would repent of their sins and seek the Lord’s help. The nation didn’t know when this invasion would occur, so the important thing was for them to turn to the Lord now. But they must be sincere. It’s easy to participate in a religious ceremony, tear your garments, and lament, but quite something else to humbly confess your sins and bring to God a repentant heart (Matt. 15:8–9). “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart—these, O God, You will not despise” (Ps. 51:17, NKJV).
The one thing that encourages us to repent and return to the Lord is the character of God. Knowing that He is indeed “gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love (Joel 2:13, NIV) ought to motivate us to seek His face. This description of the attributes of God goes back to Moses’ meeting with the Lord on Mt. Sinai, when he interceded for the sinful nation of Israel (Ex. 34:6–7). You find echoes of it in Numbers 14:18 (another scene of Moses’ intercession); Nehemiah 9:17; Psalms 86:15, 103:8, and 145:8; and Jonah 4:2. Such a gracious God would “turn and have pity” (Joel 2:14, NIV). (God is said to “repent” when from man’s point of view He changes His attitude and turns away His wrath. The word “relent” might be a better choice.) Note that Joel’s concern was that the people would once again have offerings to bring to the Lord, not just food on their tables.
But all the people must assemble and then turn to the Lord (vv. 15–17). This includes elders and children, nursing babies and priests, and even the newlyweds who were not supposed to be disturbed during their first year of marriage, not even because of war (Deut. 24:5). The prophet even gave them a prayer to use (Joel 2:17) that presents two reasons why God should deliver them: (1) Israel’s covenant privileges as God’s heritage and (2) the glory of God’s name before the other nations. Moses used these same arguments when he pled for the people (Ex. 32:11–13; 33:12–23).
The Jews are indeed God’s special treasure and heritage (Ex. 15:17; 19:5–6; Ps. 94:5; Jer. 2:7; 12:7–9). To Israel, He gave His laws, His covenants, the temple and priesthood, a special land, and the promise that they would bless the whole world (Gen. 12:1–3; Rom. 9:1–5). From Israel came the written Word of God and the gift of the Savior (John 4:22).
Israel was called to bear witness to the other nations that their God was the only true God. How could God be glorified if His people were destroyed and the pagans could gleefully ask, “Where is their God?” (See Pss. 79:10 and 115:2; also Micah 7:10.) The nation had to choose between revival (getting right with God) or reproach (robbing God of glory).
“Believe his promises!” (Joel 2:18–27) Joel now looks beyond the invasion to the time when God would heal His land and restore his blessings to His people. Just as He blew the locusts into the depths of the Dead Sea and the Mediterranean Sea (eastern and western seas), so He could drive the invading army out of the land. In one night, God killed 185,000 Assyrian soldiers, and Sennacherib went home a defeated king (Isa. 37:36–38). The corpses must have created quite a stench before they were buried.
Some Bible scholars believe that Psalm 126 grew out of this event, for it describes a sudden and surprising deliverance that startled the nation. (Judah’s return from Babylonian Captivity was neither sudden or surprising.) “The Lord hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad” (v.3) is echoed in Joel 2:21, “Be glad and rejoice; for the Lord will do great things.” Both Joel 2:23–27 and Psalm 126:5–6 describe the restoration of the ravaged earth and the return of the harvests. This fulfilled what Isaiah promised to King Hezekiah (Isa. 37:30).
Without the former rain (March-April) and the latter rain (October-November), the land could not bear its crops; and one way God disciplined His people was to shut off the rain (Deut. 11:13–17). But the Lord promised to give such bumper crops that the harvest would more than compensate for all the people lost during the locust plague and the drought. “I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten” (Joel 2:25, NIV) is a word of promise to all who return to the Lord with sincere and broken hearts.
“You cannot have back your time,” said Charles Spurgeon, “but there is a strange and wonderful way in which God can give back to you the wasted blessings, the unripened fruits of years over which you mourned.… It is a pity that they should have been locust-eaten by your folly and negligence; but if they have been so, be not hopeless concerning them.” (Charles H. Spurgeon, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit (Pasadena, Texas: Pilgrim Publications), vol. 35, 217.)
And why will God do this for His deserving people? So that they will praise His name and never again be shamed before the heathen. “Then you will know that I am in Israel, that I am the Lord your God, and that there is no other, never again will my people be shamed” (v. 27, NIV). (There may be a hint here that some of the people were involved in idolatry and needed to turn from heathen vanities and worship only the Lord (Ex. 20:1–6).)
As never before, our lands today need healing. They are polluted by the shedding of innocent blood and the exploiting of both resources and people. We can claim God’s promise in 2 Chronicles 7:14 because we are “His people.”
Be Amazed (Minor Prophets): Restoring an Attitude of Wonder and Worship (The BE Series Commentary)
Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism
The censure which Jewish scholars have unanimously passed on Die Religion des Judentums is that the author uses as his primary sources almost exclusively the writings commonly called Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha, with an especial penchant for the apocalypses; and only secondarily, and almost casually the writings which represent the acknowledged and authoritative teachings of the school and the more popular instruction of the synagogue. This is much as if one should describe early Christianity using indiscriminately for his principal sources the Apocryphal Gospels and Acts, the Apocalypses of John and Peter, and the Clementine literature. (Moore 1921: 243)
While acknowledging the problem of the date of the rabbinic material, Moore insisted: “it is clear that the author ought not to have called his book Die Religion des Judentums, for the sources from which his representation is drawn are those to which, so far as we know, Judaism never conceded any authority, while he discredits and largely ignores those which it has always regarded as normative” (244).
But as F. C. Porter pointed out in his review of Moore’s own masterwork (Moore 1927–1930), “When Moore speaks of the sources which Judaism has always regarded as authentic, he means ‘always’ from the third century A.D. onward.… Was there then no other type of Judaism in the time of Christ that may claim such names as ‘normative,’ ‘normal,’ ‘orthodox’?” (Porter 1928; cf. Neusner 1981: 9). More fundamentally, one might question whether notions of normativity are appropriate to a discussion of the history of a religion at all. As Jacob Neusner, with all due appreciation for Moore’s goodwill, pointed out: “Moore’s is to begin with not really a work in the history of religions at all.… His research is into theology. It is organized in theological categories, not differentiated by historical periods at all” (Neusner 1981: 7). Neusner was no less critical of Jewish scholarship at the beginning of the twentieth century. The attempt to draw a direct line from the Hebrew Bible to a “normative” Judaism defined by the rabbis was an anachronism, motivated by apologetics (Neusner 1984: 101; Wiese 2005: 213).
The mantle of Moore was taken up half a century later by E. P. Sanders, with some qualifications. Sanders recognizes that the tannaitic literature (i.e., literature traditionally ascribed to the period between 70 and 200 C.E.) cannot be assumed to provide “an accurate picture of Judaism or even of Pharisaism in the time of Jesus and Paul, although it would be surprising if there were no connection” (Sanders 1977: 60). He also recognizes that Jewish literature from this period, including the tannaitic literature, is very varied. Yet he argues that “a common pattern can be discerned which underlies otherwise disparate parts of tannaitic literature” (Sanders 1977: 70), which he describes as “covenantal nomism.” The Law must be seen in the context of election and covenant. It provides for a means of atonement, so that the covenantal relationship can be reestablished or maintained. All who are maintained in the covenant will be saved. Salvation, then, does not depend on purely individual observance of the Law. Sanders finds this pattern not only in tannaitic literature but also in the Dead Sea Scrolls, Apocrypha, and Pseudepigrapha, with the single exception of 4 Ezra (Sanders 1977: 422–23). He concludes that his study “lends no support to those who have urged that apocalypticism and legalism constitute substantially different religious types or streams in the Judaism of the period” (Sanders 1977: 423) and denies that apocalypticism constituted a distinct type of religion (Sanders 1992: 8). The case for the compatibility of concern for the Law with apocalyptic beliefs finds strong support in the Dead Sea Scrolls.
In Sanders’s view, “covenantal nomism does not cover the entirety of Jewish theology, much less the entirety of Judaism” (Sanders 1992: 262). It is nonetheless an aspect of “common” or “normal” Judaism. Mindful of the criticism directed at Moore, Sanders is careful to qualify the word “normative”: “whatever we find to have been normal was based on internal assent and was ‘normative’ only to the degree that it was backed up by common opinion—which has a good deal of coercive power, but which allows individuals who strongly dissent to break away” (Sanders 1992: 47). The pillars of common Judaism were the belief in one God, the Scriptures, especially the Torah, and the Temple. Within a common framework, considerable variation was possible. Sanders’s approach is focused on practice rather than belief. Even when he draws his data from Josephus or other Second Temple sources, the kinds of issues on which he focuses are generally similar to those that predominate in the Mishnah. Apocalyptic speculations about the heavens or the end of history tell us little about the authors’ daily observances.
Sanders’s portrait of common Judaism is less vulnerable to critique than Moore’s normative Judaism, and it enjoys wide acceptance (see, e.g., Goodman 2002: 38). It does not deny that diversity existed but places the emphasis on what all (or at least most) Jews had in common. One could also place more emphasis on diversity with equal validity. The other end of the spectrum from Sanders is occupied by Jacob Neusner, who insists on speaking of “Judaisms” rather than “Judaism” (e.g., Neusner, Green, and Frerichs 1987: ix). The plural has been adopted by some scholars (e.g., Boccaccini) but is infelicitous: to speak of “a Judaism” requires the overarching concept of “Judaism” in the singular. While Neusner’s insistence that each corpus of Jewish literature (say, the Dead Sea Scrolls) be analyzed in its own right and not read through the lens of another corpus (say, the Mishnah) is salutary, it does not follow that each corpus represents a distinct religious system. Insistence on radical diversity distorts the data just as much as an essentialist approach that would exclude ostensibly Jewish material that does not conform to a norm (see the remarks of Green 1994: 298 on Sanders’s Paul and Palestinian Judaism: “Paul’s writings are analyzed in juxtaposition to Judaism rather than as part of it”).
In his recent attempt at a sweeping characterization of early Judaism, Seth Schwartz is sharply critical of Neusner: “I reject the characterization of Judaism as multiple, as well as the atomistic reading of the sources that justifies it” (Schwartz 2001: 9). He continues: “The notion that each piece of evidence reflects a discrete social organization is obviously wrong.” It is not apparent, however, that Neusner associates his different “Judaisms” with “discrete social organizations.” Schwartz goes on to distinguish broadly between “apocalyptic mythology” and “covenantal ideology” (Schwartz 2001: 78–82). He regards these as “incongruous systems”: “The covenant imagines an orderly world governed justly by the one God. The apocalyptic myth imagines a world in disarray, filled with evil; a world in which people do not get what they deserve. God is not in control in any obvious way; indeed the cosmology of the myth is dualist or polytheist.…” The accuracy of this sketch of “the apocalyptic myth” might be questioned, especially with regard to whether God is in control, but there is no doubt that there are real differences here. Schwartz notes “the repeated juxtaposition of the covenant and the myth in ancient Jewish writing” and infers that “though the systems are logically incongruous, they did not for the most part generate social division.” Thus he agrees with Sanders that “apocalyptic Judaism” was not a separate entity. He is also dubious about “covenantal Judaism.” Rather, he supposes that “the apocalyptic myth” was “a more or less fully naturalized part of the ideology of Judaism.” Insofar as he recognizes “incongruous systems,” Schwartz may not be as far removed from Neusner as he thinks, although the latter would surely insist on a greater variety of systems. At the same time, Schwartz can avoid the impression of fragmentation that is conveyed by Neusner’s insistence on multiple Judaisms.
The Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism
In all these things we are more than conquerors.
--- Romans 8:37.
God is in it with you, and you are in it with God—that is the message of the Cross on the mystery of suffering. (Classic Sermons on Suffering (Kregel Classic Sermons Series)) And that message means victory. The crucified figure of Christ looks, at first glance, pathetically like defeat. It looks like the climax of all the pathos of the world. But you do not see the Cross aright at first glance. You have to gaze and gaze again. And those who do that make a marvelous discovery. They see, not Christ the pain-drenched sufferer, but Christ the mighty victor. They see the blackest tragedy of this earth becoming earth’s most dazzling triumph.
Isn’t there a wonderful sense of mastery right through the passion narrative? “No one takes [my life] from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again” (John 10:18). Isn’t there royalty in that? See him marching to Jerusalem. Mark well his serenity through the last terrible days. Watch his bearing before Pilate. See him on the cross refusing the drug they offered. Hear the shout that broke on the darkness: “It is finished!” Is that defeat? Yes, it is, but not Christ’s defeat—certainly not that! But the defeat of suffering. The defeat of the mystery of evil and of all the dark tragic powers of life—and Christ’s victory! You are King of glory, O Christ—Conqueror renowned!
“But what has all this to do with me?” you ask.
Surely the answer is clear. If evil at its worst has already been met and mastered, if God has turned suffering’s most awful triumph into uttermost defeat—if that in fact has happened, and on that scale, are you to say it cannot happen on the infinitely lesser scale of your own life, by union with Christ through faith? If you will only open your nature to the invasion of Christ’s Spirit, you will do as he did. “In all these things”—these desolating, heartbreaking things that happen to us, these physical pains, these mental agonies, these spiritual midnights of the soul—“we are more than conquerors,” not through our own valor or stoic resolution, not through a creed or code or philosophy, but “through him who loved us.”
That is the only answer to the mystery of suffering, and the answer is a question: Will you let God reign? The answer is not a theory. It is a life. It is a dedicated spirit, a fully surrendered soul. May that answer be ours!
--- James S. Stewart
Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
Links in the Chain June 17
Edward Kimball was determined to win his Sunday school class to Christ. A teenager named Dwight Moody tended to fall asleep on Sundays, but Kimball, undeterred, set out to reach him at work. His heart was pounding as he entered the store where the young man worked. “I put my hand on his shoulder, and as I leaned over I placed my foot upon a shoebox. I asked him to come to Christ.” But Kimball left thinking he had botched the job. Moody, however, left the store that day a new person and eventually became the most prominent evangelist in America.
On June 17, 1873, Moody arrived in Liverpool, England, for a series of crusades. The meetings went poorly at first, but then the dam burst and blessings began flowing. Moody visited a Baptist chapel pastored by a scholarly man named F. B. Meyer, who at first disdained the American’s unlettered preaching. But Meyer was soon transfixed and transformed by Moody’s message.
At Moody’s invitation, Meyer toured America. At Northfield Bible Conference, he challenged the crowds saying, “If you are not willing to give up everything for Christ, are you willing to be made willing?” That remark changed the life of a struggling young minister named J. Wilber Chapman.
Chapman proceeded to become a powerful traveling evangelist in the early 1900s, and he recruited a converted baseball player named Billy Sunday. Under Chapman’s eye, Sunday became one of the most spectacular evangelists in American history. His campaign in Charlotte, North Carolina, produced a group of converts who continued praying for another such visitation of the Spirit. In 1934 they invited evangelist Mordecai Ham to conduct a citywide crusade. On October 8th Ham, discouraged, wrote a prayer to God on the stationery of his Charlotte hotel: “Lord, give us a Pentecost here. … Pour out thy Spirit tomorrow. … ”
His prayer was answered beyond his dreams when a Central High School student named Billy Graham gave his heart to Jesus.
And Edward Kimball thought he had botched the job!
I am not praying just for these followers. I am also praying for everyone else who will have faith because of what my followers will say about me. I want all of them to be one with each other, just as I am one with you and you are one with me.
--- John 17:20,21a.
On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - June 17
“Help, Lord.” --- Psalm 12:1.
The prayer itself is remarkable, for it is short, but seasonable, sententious, and suggestive. David mourned the fewness of faithful men, and therefore lifted up his heart in supplication—when the creature failed, he flew to the Creator. He evidently felt his own weakness, or he would not have cried for help; but at the same time he intended honestly to exert himself for the cause of truth, for the word “help” is inapplicable where we ourselves do nothing. There is much of directness, clearness of perception, and distinctness of utterance in this petition of two words; much more, indeed, than in the long rambling outpourings of certain professors. The Psalmist runs straight-forward to his God, with a well-considered prayer; he knows what he is seeking, and where to seek it. Lord, teach us to pray in the same blessed manner.
The occasions for the use of this prayer are frequent. In providential afflictions how suitable it is for tried believers who find all helpers failing them. Students, in doctrinal difficulties, may often obtain aid by lifting up this cry of “Help, Lord,” to the Holy Spirit, the great Teacher. Spiritual warriors in inward conflicts may send to the throne for reinforcements, and this will be a model for their request. Workers in heavenly labour may thus obtain grace in time of need. Seeking sinners, in doubts and alarms, may offer up the same weighty supplication; in fact, in all these cases, times, and places, this will serve the turn of needy souls. “Help, Lord,” will suit us living and dying, suffering or labouring, rejoicing or sorrowing. In him our help is found, let us not be slack to cry to him.
The answer to the prayer is certain, if it be sincerely offered through Jesus. The Lord’s character assures us that he will not leave his people; his relationship as Father and Husband guarantee us his aid; his gift of Jesus is a pledge of every good thing; and his sure promise stands, “Fear not, I WILL HELP THEE.”
Evening - June 17
“Then Israel sang this song, Spring up, O well; sing ye unto it.” --- Numbers 21:17.
Famous was the well of Beer in the wilderness, because it was the subject of a promise: “That is the well whereof the Lord spake unto Moses, Gather the people together, and I will give them water.” The people needed water, and it was promised by their gracious God. We need fresh supplies of heavenly grace, and in the covenant the Lord has pledged himself to give all we require. The well next became the cause of a song. Before the water gushed forth, cheerful faith prompted the people to sing; and as they saw the crystal fount bubbling up, the music grew yet more joyous. In like manner, we who believe the promise of God should rejoice in the prospect of divine revivals in our souls, and as we experience them our holy joy should overflow. Are we thirsting? Let us not murmur, but sing. Spiritual thirst is bitter to bear, but we need not bear it—the promise indicates a well; let us be of good heart, and look for it. Moreover, the well was the centre of prayer. “Spring up, O well.” What God has engaged to give, we must enquire after, or we manifest that we have neither desire nor faith. This Evening let us ask that the Scripture we have read, and our devotional exercises, may not be an empty formality, but a channel of grace to our souls. O that God the Holy Spirit would work in us with all his mighty power, filling us with all the fulness of God. Lastly, the well was the object of effort. “The nobles of the people digged it with their staves.” The Lord would have us active in obtaining grace. Our staves are ill adapted for digging in the sand, but we must use them to the utmost of our ability. Prayer must not be neglected; the assembling of ourselves together must not be forsaken; ordinances must not be slighted. The Lord will give us his peace most plenteously, but not in a way of idleness. Let us, then, bestir ourselves to seek him in whom are all our fresh springs.
Morning and Evening
JESUS IS ALL THE WORLD TO ME
Words and Music by Will L. Thompson, 1847–1909
I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him. (Philippians 3:8, 9)
The author and composer of this hymn, Will L. Thompson, was known as the “Bard of Ohio” for his respected musical talents. He wrote many successful secular and sacred songs and he edited and published numerous collections. But it is said of him that his greatest joy was writing and performing simple Gospel songs about his Lord. He has provided Christian hymnody with two such enduring songs that have been mightily used by God: A testimony song for Christians, “Jesus Is All the World to Me,” and an invitation song that has been influential in directing non-Christians to the Savior, “Softy and Tenderly.”
The story is told of a visit that Will Thompson made to D. L. Moody’s bedside as the famed evangelist lay dying. All visitation had been stopped, but when Moody heard that Will Thompson had called, he insisted upon seeing him. “Will,” said Moody, “I would rather have written ‘Softly and Tenderly Jesus Is Calling’ than anything I have been able to do in my whole life!” Soon the well-known evangelist entered His eternal rest with these words of invitation that had been used so many times in his evangelistic campaigns once again upon his lips: “Come home, come home, ye who are weary, come home; earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling—calling, ‘O sinner, come home.’ ”
And the words of this hymn by Will Thompson, published in his hymnal collection of 1904, have since been widely used by believers to express devotion to Christ and dependency upon Him for all of life’s needs:
Jesus is all the world to me, my life, my joy, my all; He is my strength from day to day, without Him I would fall. When I am sad to Him I go; no other one can cheer me so; when I am sad He makes me glad—He’s my friend.
Jesus is all the world to me, my friend in trials sore; I go to Him for blessings, and He gives them o’er and o’er. He sends the sunshine and the rain; He sends the harvest’s golden grain; sunshine and rain, harvest of grain—He’s my friend.
Jesus is all the world to me; I want no better friend; I trust Him now, I’ll trust Him when life’s fleeting days shall end. Beautiful life with such a friend, beautiful life that has no end; eternal life, eternal joy—He’s my friend.
For Today: John 15:14, 15; Philippians 1:21; 4:12; 1 Peter 2:21; 1 John 2:25.
Reflect on this statement—There are three essentials for a happy life: (1) A faith to live by, (2) a self to live with, and (3) a purpose to live for. Carry this musical truth with you ---
Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
Martin Luther | (1483-1546)
Sect. LVIII. — WHEREFORE I observe, finally, the passages of Scripture adduced by you are imperative, and neither prove any thing, nor determine any thing concerning the ability of man, but enjoin only what things are to be done, and what are not to be done. And as to your conclusions or appendages, and similitudes, if they prove any thing they prove this: — that “Free-will” can do all things without grace. Whereas this you did not undertake to prove, nay, it is by you denied. Wherefore, these your proofs are nothing else but the most direct confutations.
For, (that I may, if I can, rouse the Diatribe from its lethargy) suppose I argue thus — If Moses say, ‘Choose life and keep the commandment’, unless man be able to choose life and keep the commandment, Moses gives that precept to man ridiculously. — Have I by this argument proved my side of the subject, that “Free-will” can do nothing good, and that it has no external endeavour separate from its own power? Nay, on the contrary, I have proved, by an assertion sufficiently forcible, that either man can choose life and keep the commandment as it is commanded, or Moses is a ridiculous law-giver? But who would dare to assert that Moses was a ridiculous law-giver? It follows therefore, that man can do the things that are commanded.
This is the way in which the Diatribe argues throughout, contrary to its own purposed design; wherein, it promised that it would not argue thus, but would prove a certain endeavour of “Freewill;” of which however, so far from proving it, it scarcely makes mention in the whole string of its arguments; nay, it proves the contrary rather; so that it may itself be more properly said to affirm and argue all things ridiculously.
And as to its making it, according to its own adduced similitude, to be ridiculous, that a man ‘having his right arm bound, should be ordered to stretch forth his right hand when he could only stretch forth his left.’ — Would it, I pray, be ridiculous, if a man, having both his arms bound, and proudly contending or ignorantly presuming that he could do any thing right or left, should be commanded to stretch forth his hand right and left, not that his captivity might be derided, but that he might be convinced of his false presumption of liberty and power, and might be brought to know his ignorance of his captivity and misery?
The Diatribe is perpetually setting before us such a man, who either can do what is commanded, or at least knows that he cannot do it. Whereas, no such man is to be found. If there were such an one, then indeed, either impossibilities would be ridiculously commanded, or the Spirit of Christ would be in vain.
The Scripture, however, sets forth such a man, who is not only bound, miserable, captive, sick, and dead, but who, by the operation of his lord, Satan, to his other miseries, adds that of blindness: so that he believes he is free, happy, at liberty, powerful, whole, and alive. For Satan well knows that if men knew their own misery he could retain no one of them in his kingdom: because, it could not be, but that God would immediately pity and succour their known misery and calamity: seeing that, He is with so much praise set forth, throughout the whole Scripture as, being near unto the contrite in heart, that Isaiah lxi. 1-3, testifies, that Christ was sent “to preach the Gospel to the poor, and to heal the broken hearted.”
Wherefore, the work of Satan is, so to hold men, that they come not to know their misery, but that they presume that they can do all things which are enjoined. But the work of Moses the legislator is the contrary, even that by the law he might discover to man his misery, in order that he might prepare him, thus bruised and confounded with the knowledge of himself, for grace, and might send him to Christ to be saved. Wherefore, the office of the law is not ridiculous, but above all things serious and necessary.
Those therefore who thus far understand these things, understand clearly at the same time, that the Diatribe, by the whole string of its arguments effects nothing whatever; that it collects nothing from the Scriptures but imperative passages, when it understands, neither what they mean nor wherefore they are spoken; and that, moreover, by the appendages of its conclusions and carnal similitudes it mixes up such a mighty mass of flesh, that it asserts and proves more than it ever intended, and argues against itself. So that there were no need to pursue particulars any further, for the whole is solved by one solution, seeing that the whole depends on one argument. But however, that it may be drowned in the same profusion in which it attempted to drown me, I will proceed to touch upon a few particulars more.
The Bondage of the Will or Christian Classics Ethereal Library
Be exalted, O Lord,
in your strength!
Psalm 22 • A Prophecy
of the Crucifixion and Victory
The Lord is my Shepherd
Hymn to the King of Glory
Let me not be put to shame
Paul LeBoutillier | Calvary Chapel Ontario, Oregon
Brett Meador | Athey Creek