Blessed Are the Forgiven
A MASKIL OF DAVID.
Psalm 32 1 Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven,
whose sin is covered.
2 Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity,
and in whose spirit there is no deceit.
3 For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
4 For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah
5 I acknowledged my sin to you,
and I did not cover my iniquity;
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,”
and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah
6 Therefore let everyone who is godly
offer prayer to you at a time when you may be found;
surely in the rush of great waters,
they shall not reach him.
7 You are a hiding place for me;
you preserve me from trouble;
you surround me with shouts of deliverance. Selah
8 I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you with my eye upon you.
9 Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding,
which must be curbed with bit and bridle,
or it will not stay near you.
10 Many are the sorrows of the wicked,
but steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the LORD.
11 Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, O righteous,
and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!
The Steadfast Love of the LORD
Psalm 33 1 Shout for joy in the LORD, O you righteous!
Praise befits the upright.
2 Give thanks to the LORD with the lyre;
make melody to him with the harp of ten strings!
3 Sing to him a new song;
play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts.
4 For the word of the LORD is upright,
and all his work is done in faithfulness.
5 He loves righteousness and justice;
the earth is full of the steadfast love of the LORD.
6 By the word of the LORD the heavens were made,
and by the breath of his mouth all their host.
7 He gathers the waters of the sea as a heap;
he puts the deeps in storehouses.
8 Let all the earth fear the LORD;
let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him!
9 For he spoke, and it came to be;
he commanded, and it stood firm.
10 The LORD brings the counsel of the nations to nothing;
he frustrates the plans of the peoples.
11 The counsel of the LORD stands forever,
the plans of his heart to all generations.
12 Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD,
the people whom he has chosen as his heritage!
13 The LORD looks down from heaven;
he sees all the children of man;
14 from where he sits enthroned he looks out
on all the inhabitants of the earth,
15 he who fashions the hearts of them all
and observes all their deeds.
16 The king is not saved by his great army;
a warrior is not delivered by his great strength.
17 The war horse is a false hope for salvation,
and by its great might it cannot rescue.
18 Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear him,
on those who hope in his steadfast love,
19 that he may deliver their soul from death
and keep them alive in famine.
20 Our soul waits for the LORD;
he is our help and our shield.
21 For our heart is glad in him,
because we trust in his holy name.
22 Let your steadfast love, O LORD, be upon us,
even as we hope in you.
Taste and See That the LORD Is Good
OF DAVID, WHEN HE CHANGED HIS BEHAVIOR BEFORE ABIMELECH, SO THAT HE DROVE HIM OUT, AND HE WENT AWAY.
Psalm 34 1 I will bless the LORD at all times;
his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
2 My soul makes its boast in the LORD;
let the humble hear and be glad.
3 Oh, magnify the LORD with me,
and let us exalt his name together!
4 I sought the LORD, and he answered me
and delivered me from all my fears.
5 Those who look to him are radiant,
and their faces shall never be ashamed.
6 This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him
and saved him out of all his troubles.
7 The angel of the LORD encamps
around those who fear him, and delivers them.
8 Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good!
Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!
9 Oh, fear the LORD, you his saints,
for those who fear him have no lack!
10 The young lions suffer want and hunger;
but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.
11 Come, O children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the LORD.
12 What man is there who desires life
and loves many days, that he may see good?
13 Keep your tongue from evil
and your lips from speaking deceit.
14 Turn away from evil and do good;
seek peace and pursue it.
15 The eyes of the LORD are toward the righteous
and his ears toward their cry.
16 The face of the LORD is against those who do evil,
to cut off the memory of them from the earth.
17 When the righteous cry for help, the LORD hears
and delivers them out of all their troubles.
18 The LORD is near to the brokenhearted
and saves the crushed in spirit.
19 Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
but the LORD delivers him out of them all.
20 He keeps all his bones;
not one of them is broken.
21 Affliction will slay the wicked,
and those who hate the righteous will be condemned.
22 The LORD redeems the life of his servants;
none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned.
Great Is the LORD
Psalm 35 1 Contend, O LORD, with those who contend with me;
fight against those who fight against me!
2 Take hold of shield and buckler
and rise for my help!
3 Draw the spear and javelin
against my pursuers!
Say to my soul,
“I am your salvation!”
4 Let them be put to shame and dishonor
who seek after my life!
Let them be turned back and disappointed
who devise evil against me!
5 Let them be like chaff before the wind,
with the angel of the LORD driving them away!
6 Let their way be dark and slippery,
with the angel of the LORD pursuing them!
7 For without cause they hid their net for me;
without cause they dug a pit for my life.
8 Let destruction come upon him when he does not know it!
And let the net that he hid ensnare him;
let him fall into it—to his destruction!
9 Then my soul will rejoice in the LORD,
exulting in his salvation.
10 All my bones shall say,
“O LORD, who is like you,
delivering the poor
from him who is too strong for him,
the poor and needy from him who robs him?”
11 Malicious witnesses rise up;
they ask me of things that I do not know.
12 They repay me evil for good;
my soul is bereft.
13 But I, when they were sick—
I wore sackcloth;
I afflicted myself with fasting;
I prayed with head bowed on my chest.
14 I went about as though I grieved for my friend or my brother;
as one who laments his mother,
I bowed down in mourning.
15 But at my stumbling they rejoiced and gathered;
they gathered together against me;
wretches whom I did not know
tore at me without ceasing;
16 like profane mockers at a feast,
they gnash at me with their teeth.
17 How long, O Lord, will you look on?
Rescue me from their destruction,
my precious life from the lions!
18 I will thank you in the great congregation;
in the mighty throng I will praise you.
19 Let not those rejoice over me
who are wrongfully my foes,
and let not those wink the eye
who hate me without cause.
20 For they do not speak peace,
but against those who are quiet in the land
they devise words of deceit.
21 They open wide their mouths against me;
they say, “Aha, Aha!
Our eyes have seen it!”
22 You have seen, O LORD; be not silent!
O Lord, be not far from me!
23 Awake and rouse yourself for my vindication,
for my cause, my God and my Lord!
24 Vindicate me, O LORD, my God,
according to your righteousness,
and let them not rejoice over me!
25 Let them not say in their hearts,
“Aha, our heart’s desire!”
Let them not say, “We have swallowed him up.”
26 Let them be put to shame and disappointed altogether
who rejoice at my calamity!
Let them be clothed with shame and dishonor
who magnify themselves against me!
27 Let those who delight in my righteousness
shout for joy and be glad
and say evermore,
“Great is the LORD,
who delights in the welfare of his servant!”
28 Then my tongue shall tell of your righteousness
and of your praise all the day long.
What I'm Reading
Christians and Justice
By N.T. Wright in Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense
“Well,” I can hear someone say at this point, “the followers of Jesus haven’t made much progress so far, have they? What about the Crusades? What about the Spanish Inquisition? Surely the church has been responsible for more than its own fair share of injustice? What about the people who bomb abortion clinics? What about the fundamentalists who think Armageddon is coming soon so it doesn’t matter if they wreck the planet in the meantime? Haven’t Christians been part of the problem rather than part of the solution?”
Yes and no.
Yes: from very early on there have always been people who have done terrible things in the name of Jesus. There have also been Christians who have done terrible things knowing them to be terrible things, without claiming that Jesus was supporting them. There’s no point hiding from this truth, however uncomfortable it may be.
But also no: because again and again, when we look at the wicked things Christians have done (whether or not they were claiming that God was on their side), we can see in retrospect at least that they were muddled and mistaken about what Christianity actually is. It’s no part of Christian belief to say that the followers of Jesus have always got everything right. Jesus himself taught his followers a prayer which includes a clause asking God for forgiveness. He must have thought we would go on needing it.
But at the same time one of the biggest problems with the credibility of the Christian faith in the world today is that a great many people still think of Christianity as identified with “the West” (an odd phrase, since it normally includes Australia and New Zealand, which are about as far east as you can go!)—that is, western Europe and North America in particular, and the cultures which have grown from their earlier colonial settlements. Then, when (as has happened recently) “the West” makes war on some other part of the world, particularly when that part happens to be largely Muslim in religion, it’s easy for people to say “the Christians” are making war on “the Muslims.” In fact, of course, most people in the Western world are not Christians, and most Christians in today’s world do not live in “the West.” Most, actually, live in Africa or Southeast Asia. Most “Western” governments do not attempt to put the teaching of Jesus into practice in their societies, and many of them are proud of the fact. But that doesn’t stop people putting two and two together and making five—in other words, blaming Christianity for what “the West” chooses to do. The so-called Christian world continues to get bad press, much of it well deserved.
That, actually, is one of the reasons why I have begun this book by talking about justice. It is important to see, and to say, that those who follow Jesus are committed, as he taught us to pray, to God’s will being done “on earth as it is in heaven.” And that means that God’s passion for justice must become ours, too. When Christians use their belief in Jesus as a way of escaping from that demand and challenge, they are abandoning a central element in their own faith. That way danger lies.
Equally, we should not be shy about telling the stories which many skeptics in the Western world have done their best to forget. When the slave trade was at its height, with many people justifying it on the grounds that slaves are mentioned in the Bible, it was a group of devout Christians, led by the unforgettable William Wilberforce in Britain and John Woolman in America, who got together and made it their life’s business to stop it. When, with slavery long dead and buried, racial prejudice still haunted the United States, it was the Christian vision of Martin Luther King Jr. that drove him to peaceful, but highly effective, protest. Wilberforce was grasped by a passion for God’s justice on behalf of the slaves, a passion which cost him what might otherwise have been a dazzling political career. Martin Luther King’s passion for justice for African Americans cost him his life. Their tireless campaigning grew directly and explicitly out of their loyalty to Jesus.
In the same way, when the apartheid regime in South Africa was at its height (with many people justifying it on the grounds that the Bible speaks of different races living different lives), it was the long campaign of Christian leaders like Desmond Tutu that brought about change with remarkably little bloodshed. (I well remember how, in the 1970s, politicians and news commentators took it for granted that change could only come through massive violence.) Tutu and many others did a lot of praying, a lot of reading the Bible with leaders and government officials, a good deal of risky speaking out against the many evil facets of apartheid, and a large amount of equally risky confrontation with black leaders and followers who believed that only violence would work.
Again and again Tutu was caught in the middle, distrusted and hated by both sides. But under the new post-apartheid government he chaired the most extraordinary commission ever to grace the political scene: the South African Commission for Truth and Reconciliation, which has begun the long and painful process of healing the memory and imagination of a whole country, of allowing grief to take its proper course and anger to be expressed and dealt with. Who in the 1960s or even the 1980s would have thought such a thing possible? Yet it happened; and all because of people whose passion for justice and loyalty to Jesus combined to bring it about.
These stories, and many others like them, need to be told and retold. They recount the sort of thing that can and often does happen when people take the Christian message seriously. Sometimes taking it seriously, and speaking out as a result, has gotten people into deep trouble, has even led to a violent death: the twentieth century saw a great many Christians martyred not only for their stance on matters of faith but more especially because their faith led them to fearless action in the cause of justice. Think of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, killed by the Nazis toward the end of the Second World War. Think of Oscar Romero, shot by an assassin because he was speaking out on behalf of the poor in El Salvador. Think, again, of Martin Luther King Jr.
They and nine others are commemorated in statues on the west front of London’s Westminster Abbey. They are a reminder to our contemporary world that the Christian faith still makes waves in the world, and that people are prepared to risk their lives out of the passion for justice which it sustains.
That passion, I have been arguing in this chapter, is a central feature of all human life. It is expressed in different ways, and it can sometimes get twisted and go horribly wrong. There are still mobs, and even individuals, who are prepared to kill someone—anyone—in the distorted belief that, as long as someone gets killed, some kind of justice is being done. But all people know, in cooler moments, that this strange thing we call justice, this longing for things to be put right, remains one of the great human goals and dreams. Christians believe that this is so because all humans have heard, deep within themselves, the echo of a voice which calls us to live like that. And they believe that in Jesus that voice became human and did what had to be done to bring it about.
According to Wikipedia: Nicholas Thomas Wright (born 1 December 1948) is a leading British New Testament scholar, Pauline theologian, and retired Anglican bishop. In academia, he is published as N. T. Wright, but is otherwise known as Tom Wright. Between 2003 and his retirement in 2010, he was the Bishop of Durham. He then became Research Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at St Mary’s College in the University of St Andrews in Scotland. He writes prolifically about theology, Christian life, and the relationship of these two things. He advocates a biblical re-evaluation of and fresh approach to theological matters such as justification, women's ordination, and popular Christian views about life after death. He has also criticised the idea of a literal Rapture. Alternate source: Fulcrum website. The author of over seventy books, Wright is highly regarded in academic and theological circles primarily for his "Christian Origins and the Question of God" series.The third volume, The Resurrection of the Son of God, is considered by many pastors and theologians to be a seminal Christian work on the resurrection of the historical Jesus, while the most recently released fourth volume, Paul and the Faithfulness of God, is hailed as Wright's magnum opus.[
He writes prolifically about theology, Christian life, and the relationship of these two things. He advocates a biblical re-evaluation of and fresh approach to theological matters such as justification, women's ordination, and popular Christian views about life after death. He has also criticised the idea of a literal Rapture. Alternate source: Fulcrum website. The author of over seventy books, Wright is highly regarded in academic and theological circles primarily for his "Christian Origins and the Question of God" series.The third volume, The Resurrection of the Son of God, is considered by many pastors and theologians to be a seminal Christian work on the resurrection of the historical Jesus, while the most recently released fourth volume, Paul and the Faithfulness of God, is hailed as Wright's magnum opus.[N.T. Wright Books | Go to Books Page
Psalm 32 Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892)
By Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892)TITLE. A Psalm of David, Maschil. That David wrote this gloriously evangelic Psalm is proved not only by this heading, but by the words of the apostle Paul, in Ro 4:6-8. "Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, "&c. Probably his deep repentance over his great sin was followed by such blissful peace, that he was led to pour out his spirit in the soft music of this choice song. In the order of history it seems to follow the fifty-first. Maschil is a new title to us, and indicates that this is an instructive or didactic Psalm. The experience of one believer affords rich instruction to others, it reveals the footsteps of the flock, and so comforts and directs the weak. Perhaps it was important in this case to prefix the word, that doubting saints might not imagine the Psalm to be the peculiar utterance of a singular individual, but might appropriate it to themselves as a lesson from the Spirit of God. David promised in the fifty-first Psalm to teach transgressors the Lord's ways, and here he does it most effectually. Grotius thinks that this Psalm was meant to be sung on the annual day of the Jewish expiation, when a general confession of their sins was made.
DIVISION. In our reading we have found it convenient to note the benediction of the pardoned, Ps 32:1-2; David's personal confession, Ps 32:3-5; and the application of the case to others, Ps 32:6-7. The voice of God is heard by the forgiven one in Ps 32:8-9; and the Psalm then concludes with a portion for each of the two great classes of men, Ps 32:10-11.
Verse 1. Blessed. Like the sermon on the mount on the mount, this Psalm begins with beatitudes. This is the second Psalm of benediction. The first Psalm describes the result of holy blessedness, the thirty-second details the cause of it. The first pictures the tree in full growth, this depicts it in its first planting and watering. He who in the first Psalm is a reader of God's book, is here a suppliant at God's throne accepted and heard. Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven. He is now blessed and ever shall be. Be he ever so poor, or sick, or sorrowful, he is blessed in very deed. Pardoning mercy is of all things in the world most to be prized, for it is the only and sure way to happiness. To hear from God's own Spirit the words, "absolvo te" is joy unspeakable. Blessedness is not in this case ascribed to the man who has been a diligent law keeper, for then it would never come to us, but rather to a lawbreaker, who by grace most rich and free has been forgiven. Self righteous Pharisees have no portion in this blessedness. Over the returning prodigal, the word of welcome is here pronounced, and the music and dancing begin. A full, instantaneous, irreversible pardon of transgression turns the poor sinner's hell into heaven, and makes the heir of wrath a partaker in blessing. The word rendered forgiven is in the original taken off or taken away, as a burden is lifted or a barrier removed. What a lift is here! It cost our Saviour a sweat of blood to bear our load, yea, it cost him his life to bear it quite away. Samson carried the gates of Gaza, but what was that to the weight which Jesus bore on our behalf? Whose sin is covered. Covered by God, as the ark was covered by the mercyseat, as Noah was covered from the flood, as the Egyptians were covered by the depths of the sea. What a cover must that be which hides away for ever from the sight of the all seeing God all the filthiness of the flesh and of the spirit! He who has once seen sin in its horrible deformity, will appreciate the happiness of seeing it no more for ever. Christ's atonement is the propitiation, the covering, the making an end of sin; where this is seen and trusted in, the soul knows itself to be now accepted in the Beloved, and therefore enjoys a conscious blessedness which is the antepast of heaven. It is clear from the text that a man may know that he is pardoned: where would be the blessedness of an unknown forgiveness? Clearly it is a matter of knowledge, for it is the ground of comfort. "Pause, my soul, adore and wonder,
Verse 2. Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity. The word blessed is in the plural, oh, the blessednesses! the double joys, the bundles of happiness, the mountains of delight! Note the three words so often used to denote our disobedience: transgression, sin, and iniquity, are the three headed dog at the gates of hell, but our glorious Lord has silenced his barkings for ever against his own believing ones. The trinity of sin is overcome by the Trinity of heaven. Non imputation is of the very essence of pardon: the believer sins, but his sin is not reckoned, not accounted to him. Certain divines froth at the mouth with rage against imputed righteousness, be it ours to see our sin not imputed, and to us may there be as Paul words it, "Righteousness imputed without works." He is blessed indeed who has a substitute to stand for him to whose account all his debts may be set down. And in whose spirit there is no guile. He who is pardoned, has in every case been taught to deal honestly with himself, his sin, and his God. Forgiveness is no sham, and the peace which it brings is not caused by playing tricks with conscience. Self deception and hypocrisy bring no blessedness, they may drug the soul into hell with pleasant dreams, but into the heaven of true peace they cannot conduct their victim. Free from guilt, free from guile. Those who are justified from fault are sanctified from falsehood. A liar is not a forgiven soul. Treachery, double dealing, chicanery, dissimulation, are lineaments of the devil's children, but he who is washed from sin is truthful, honest, simple, and childlike. There can be no blessedness to tricksters with their plans, and tricks, and shuffling, and pretending: they are too much afraid of discovery to be at ease; their house is built on the volcano's brink, and eternal destruction must be their portion. Observe the three words to describe sin, and the three words to represent pardon, weigh them well, and note their meaning.
Verses 3-5. David now gives us his own experience: no instructor is so efficient as one who testifies to what he has personally known and felt. He writes well who like the spider spins his matter out of his own bowels.
Verse 3. When I kept silence. When through neglect I failed to confess, or through despair dared not do so, my bones, those solid pillars of my frame, the stronger portions of my bodily constitution, waxed old, began to decay with weakness, for my grief was so intense as to sap my health and destroy my vital energy. What a killing thing is sin! It is a pestilent disease! A fire in the bones! While we smother our sin it rages within, and like a gathering wound swells horribly and torments terribly. Through my roaring all the day long. He was silent as to confession, but not as to sorrow. Horror at his great guilt, drove David to incessant laments, until his voice was no longer like the articulate speech of man, but so full of sighing and groaning, that it resembled to hoarse roaring of a wounded beast. None knows the pangs of conviction but those who have endured them. The rack, the wheel, the flaming fagot are ease compared with the Tophet which a guilty conscience kindles within the breast: better suffer all the diseases which flesh is heir to, than lie under the crushing sense of the wrath of almighty God. The Spanish inquisition with all its tortures was nothing to the inquest which conscience holds within the heart.
Verse 4. For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me. God's finger can crush us — what must his hand be, and that pressing heavily and continuously! Under terrors of conscience, men have little rest by night, for the grim thoughts of the day dog them to their chambers and haunt their dreams, or else they lie awake in a cold sweat of dread. God's hand is very helpful when it uplifts, but it is awful when it presses down: better a world on the shoulder, like Atlas, than God's hand on the heart, like David. My moisture is turned into the drought of summer. The sap of his soul was dried, and the body through sympathy appeared to be bereft of its needful fluids. The oil was almost gone from the lamp of life, and the flame flickered as though it would soon expire. Unconfessed transgression, like a fierce poison, dried up the fountain of the man's strength and made him like a tree blasted by the lightning, or a plant withered by the scorching heat of a tropical sun. Alas! for a poor soul when it has learned its sin but forgets its Saviour, it goes hard with it indeed. Selah. It was time to change the tune, for the notes are very low in the scale, and with such hard usage, the strings of the harp are out of order: the next verse will surely be set to another key, or will rehearse a more joyful subject.
Verse 5. I acknowledged my sin unto thee. After long lingering, the broken heart bethought itself of what it ought to have done at the first, and laid bare its bosom before the Lord. The lancet must be let into the gathering ulcer before relief can be afforded. The least thing we can do, if we would be pardoned, is to acknowledge our fault; if we are too proud for this we double deserve punishment. And mine iniquity have I not hid. We must confess the guilt as well as the fact of sin. It is useless to conceal it, for it is well known to God; it is beneficial to us to own it, for a full confession softens and humbles the heart. We must as far as possible unveil the secrets of the soul, dig up the hidden treasure of Achan, and by weight and measure bring out our sins. I said. This was his fixed resolution. I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord. Not to my fellow men or to the high priest, but unto Jehovah; even in those days of symbol the faithful looked to God alone for deliverance from sin's intolerable load, much more now, when types and shadows have vanished at the appearance of the dawn. When the soul determines to lay low and plead guilty, absolution is near at hand; hence we read, And thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. Not only was the sin itself pardoned, but the iniquity of it; the virus of its guilt was put away, and that at once, so soon as the acknowledgment was made. God's pardons are deep and thorough: the knife of mercy cuts at the roots of the ill weed of sin. Selah. Another pause is needed, for the matter is not such as may be hurried over.
Ask, O why such love to me?
Grace has put me in the number
Of the Saviour's family.
Thanks, eternal thanks, to thee."
Verse 7. Thou art my hiding place. Terse, short sentences make up this verse, but they contain a world of meaning. Personal claims upon our God are the joy of spiritual life. To lay our hand upon the Lord with the clasp of a personal "my" is delight at its full. Observe that the same man who in the fourth verse was oppressed by the presence of God, here finds a shelter in him. See what honest confession and full forgiveness will do! The gospel of substitution makes him to be our refuge who otherwise would have been our judge. Thou shalt preserve me from trouble. Trouble shall do me no real harm when the Lord is with me, rather it shall bring me much benefit, like the file which clears away the rust, but does not destroy the metal. Observe the three tenses, we have noticed the sorrowful past, the last sentence was a joyful present, this is a cheerful future. Thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance. What a golden sentence! The man is encircled in song, surrounded by dancing mercies, all of them proclaiming the triumphs of grace. There is no breach in the circle, it completely rings him round; on all sides he hears music. Before him hope sounds the cymbals, and behind him gratitude beats the timbrel. Right and left, above and beneath, the air resounds with joy, and all this for the very man who, a few weeks ago, was roaring all the day long. How great a change! What wonders grace has done and still can do! Selah. There was a need of a pause, for love so amazing needs to be pondered, and joy so great demands quiet contemplation, since language fails to express it.
Verse 8. I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go. Here the Lord is the speaker, and gives the psalmist an answer to his prayer. Our Saviour is our instructor. The Lord himself deigns to teach his children to walk in the way of integrity, his holy word and the monitions of the Holy Spirit are the directors of the believer's daily conversation. We are not pardoned that we may henceforth live after our own lusts, but that we may be educated in holiness and trained for perfection. A heavenly training is one of the covenant blessings which adoption seals to us: "All thy children shall be taught by the Lord." Practical teaching is the very best of instruction, and they are thrice happy who, although they never sat at the feet of Gamaliel, and are ignorant of Aristotle, and the ethics of the schools, have nevertheless learned to follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. I will guide thee with mine eye. As servants take their cue from the master's eye, and a nod or a wink is all that they require, so should we obey the slightest hints of our Master, not needing thunderbolts to startle our incorrigible sluggishness, but being controlled by whispers and love touches. The Lord is the great overseer, whose eye in providence overlooks everything. It is well for us to be the sheep of his pasture, following the guidance of his wisdom.
Verse 9. Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding. Understanding separates man from a brute — let us not act as if we were devoid of it. Men should take counsel and advice, and be ready to run where wisdom points them the way. Alas! we need to be cautioned against stupidity of heart, for we are very apt to fall into it. We who ought to be as the angels, readily become as the beasts. Whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle, lest they come near unto thee. It is much to be deplored that we so often need to be severely chastened before we will obey. We ought to be as a feather in the wind, wafted readily in the breath of the Holy Spirit, but alas! we lie like motionless logs, and stir not with heaven itself in view. Those cutting bits of affliction show how hard mouthed we are, those bridles of infirmity manifest our headstrong and wilful manners. We should not be treated like mules if there was not so much of the ass about us. If we will be fractious, we must expect to be kept in with a tight rein. Oh, for grace to obey the Lord willingly, lest like the wilful servant, we are beaten with many stripes. Calvin renders the last words, "Lest they kick against thee, "a version more probable and more natural, but the passage is confessedly obscure — not however, in its general sense.
Verse 10. Many sorrows shall be to the wicked. Like refractory horses and mules, they have many cuts and bruises. Here and hereafter the portion of the wicked is undesirable. Their joys are evanescent, their sorrows are multiplying and ripening. He who sows sin will reap sorrow in heavy sheaves. Sorrows of conscience, of disappointment, of terror, are the sinner's sure heritage in time, and then for ever sorrows of remorse and despair. Let those who boast of present sinful joys, remember the shall be of the future and take warning. But he that trusteth in the Lord, mercy shall compass him about. Faith is here placed as the opposite of wickedness, since it is the source of virtue. Faith in God is the great charmer of life's cares, and he who possesses it, dwells in an atmosphere of grace, surrounded with the bodyguard of mercies. May it be given to us of the Lord at all times to believe in the mercy of God, even when we cannot see traces of its working, for to the believer, mercy is as all surrounding as omniscience, and every thought and act of God is perfumed with it. The wicked have a hive of wasps around them, many sorrows; but we have a swarm of bees storing honey for us.
Verse 11. Be glad. Happiness is not only our privilege, but our duty. Truly we serve a generous God, since he makes it a part of our obedience to be joyful. How sinful are our rebellious murmurings! How natural does it seem that a man blest with forgiveness should be glad! We read of one who died at the foot of the scaffold of overjoy at the receipt of his monarch's pardon; and shall we receive the free pardon of the King of kings, and yet pine in inexcusable sorrow? "In the Lord." Here is the directory by which gladness is preserved from levity. We are not to be glad in sin, or to find comfort in corn, and wine, and oil, but in our God is to be the garden of our soul's delight. That there is a God and such a God, and that he is ours, ours for ever, our Father and our reconciled Lord, is matter enough for a never ending psalm of rapturous joy. And rejoice, ye righteous, redouble your rejoicing, peal upon peal. Since God has clothed his choristers in the white garments of holiness, let them not restrain their joyful voices, but sing aloud and shout as those who find great spoil. And shout for joy, all ye that are upright in heart. Our happiness should be demonstrative; chill penury of love often represses the noble flame of joy, and men whisper their praises decorously where a hearty outburst of song would be far more natural. It is to be feared that the church of the present day, through a craving for excessive propriety, is growing too artificial; so that enquirers' cries and believers' shouts would be silenced if they were heard in our assemblies. This may be better than boisterous fanaticism, but there is as much danger in the one direction as the other. For our part, we are touched to the heart by a little sacred excess, and when godly men in their joy over leap the narrow bounds of decorum, we do not, like Michal, Saul's daughter, eye them with a sneering heart. Note how the pardoned are represented as upright, righteous, and without guile; a man may have many faults and yet be saved, but a false heart is everywhere the damning mark. A man of twisting, shifty ways, of a crooked, crafty nature, is not saved, and in all probability never will be; for the ground which brings forth a harvest when grace is sown in it, may be weedy and waste, but our Lord tells us it is honest and good ground. Our observation has been that men of double tongues and tricky ways are the least likely of all men to be saved: certainly where grace comes it restores man's mind to its perpendicular, and delivers him from being doubled up with vice, twisted with craft, or bent with dishonesty. Reader, what a delightful Psalm! Have you, in perusing it, been able to claim a lot in the goodly land? If so, publish to others the way of salvation.
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.
"Pause, my soul, adore and wonder,
Psalm 33 Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892)
By Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892)TITLE. This song of praise bears no title or indication of authorship; to teach us, says Dickson, "to look upon Holy Scripture as altogether inspired of God, and not put price upon it for the writers thereof."
SUBJECT AND DIVISION. The praise of Jehovah is the subject of this sacred song. The righteous are exhorted to praise him, Ps 33:1-3; because of the excellency of his character, Ps 33:4-5; and his majesty in creation, Ps 33:6-7. Men are bidden to fear before Jehovah because his purposes are accomplished in providence, Ps 33:8-11. His people are proclaimed blessed, Ps 33:12. The omniscience and omnipotence of God, and his care for his people are celebrated, in opposition to the weakness of an arm of flesh, Ps 33:13-19; and the Psalm concludes with a fervent expression of confidence, Ps 33:20-21, and an earnest prayer, Ps 33:22.
Verse 1. Rejoice in the Lord. Joy is the soul of praise. To delight ourselves in God is most truly to extol him, even if we let no notes of song proceed from our lips. That God is, and that he is such a God, and our God, ours for ever and ever, should wake within us an unceasing and overflowing joy. To rejoice in temporal comforts is dangerous, to rejoice in self is foolish, to rejoice in sin is fatal, but to rejoice in God is heavenly. He who would have a double heaven must begin below to rejoice like those above. O ye righteous. This is peculiarly your duty, your obligations are greater, and your spiritual nature more adapted to the work, be ye then first in the glad service. Even the righteous are not always glad, and have need to be stirred up to enjoy their privileges. For praise is comely for the upright. God has an eye to things which are becoming. When saints wear their choral robes, they look fair in the Lord's sight. A harp suits a blood washed hand. No jewel more ornamental to a holy face than sacred praise. Praise is not comely from unpardoned professional singers; it is like a jewel of gold in a swine's snout. Crooked hearts make crooked music, but the upright are the Lord's delight. Praise is the dress of saints in heaven, it is meet that they should fit it on below. "Why should I complain of want of distress,
Verse 2. Praise the Lord with harp. Men need all the help they can get to stir them up to praise. This is the lesson to be gathered from the use of musical instruments under the old dispensation. Israel was at school, and used childish things to help her to learn; but in these days, when Jesus gives us spiritual manhood, we can make melody without strings and pipes. We who do not believe these things to be expedient in worship, lest they should mar its simplicity, do not affirm them to be unlawful, and if any George Herbert or Martin Luther can worship God better by the aid of well tunes instruments, who shall gainsay their right? We do not need them, they would hinder than help our praise, but if others are otherwise minded, are they not living in gospel liberty? Sing unto him. This is the sweetest and best of music. No instrument like the human voice. As a help to singing the instrument is alone to be tolerated, for keys and strings do not praise the Lord. With the psaltery and an instrument of ten strings. The Lord must have a full octave, for all notes are his, and all music belongs to him. Where several pieces of music are mentioned, we are taught to praise God with all the powers which we possess.
Verse 3. Sing unto him a new song. All songs of praise should be unto him. Singing for singing's sake is nothing worth; we must carry our tribute to the King, and not cast it to the winds. Do most worshippers mind this? Our faculties should be exercised when we are magnifying the Lord, so as not to run in an old groove without thought; we ought to make every hymn of praise a new song. To keep up the freshness of worship is a great thing, and in private it is indispensable. Let us not present old worn out praise, but put life, and soul, and heart, into every song, since we have new mercies every day, and see new beauties in the work and word of our Lord. Play skilfully. It is wretched to hear God praised in a slovenly manner. He deserves the best that we have. Every Christian should endeavour to sing according to the rules of the art, so that he may keep time and tune with the congregation. The sweetest tunes and the sweetest voices, with the sweetest words, are all too little for the Lord our God; let us not offer him limping rhymes, set to harsh tunes, and growled out by discordant voices. With a loud noise. Heartiness should be conspicuous in divine worship. Well bred whispers are disreputable here. It is not that the Lord cannot hear us, but that it is natural for great exultation to express itself in the loudest manner. Men shout at the sight of their kings: shall we offer no loud hosannahs to the Son of David?
Verse 4. For the word of the Lord is right. His ordinances both natural, moral, and spiritual, are right, and especially his incarnate Word, who is the Lord our righteousness. Whatever God has ordained must be good, and just, and excellent. There are no anomalies in God's universe, except what sin has made; his word of command made all things good. When we look at his word of promise, and remember its faithfulness, what reasons have we for joy and thankfulness! And all his works are done in truth. His work is the outflow of his word, and it is true to it. He neither doth nor saith anything ill; in deed and speech he agrees with himself and the purest truth. There is no lie in God's word, and no sham in his works; in creation, providence, and revelation, unalloyed truth abounds. To act truth as well as to utter it is divine. Let not children of God ever yield their principles in practice any more than in heart. What a God we serve! The more we know of him, the more our better natures approve his surpassing excellence; even his afflicting works are according to his truthful word.
Afflictions or pain? he told me no less;
The heirs of salvation, I know from his word,
Through much tribulation must follow their Lord."
Verse 5. He loveth righteousness and judgment. The theory and practice of right he intensely loves. He doth not only approve the true and the just, but his inmost soul delights therein. The character of God is a sea, every drop of which should become a wellhead of praise for his people. The righteousness of Jesus is peculiarly dear to the Father, and for its sake he takes pleasure in those to whom it is imputed. Sin, on the other hand, is infinitely abhorrent to the Lord, and woe unto those who die in it; if he sees no righteousness in them, he will deal righteously with them, and judgment stern and final will be the result. The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord. Come hither, astronomers, geologists, naturalists, botanists, chemists, miners, yea, all of you who study the works of God, for all your truthful stories confirm this declaration. From the midge in the sunbeam to leviathan in the ocean all creatures own the bounty of the Creator. Even the pathless desert blazes with some undiscovered mercy, and the caverns of ocean conceal the treasures of love. Earth might have been as full of terror as of grace, but instead thereof it teems and overflows with kindness. He who cannot see it, and yet lives in it as the fish lives in the water, deserves to die. If earth be full of mercy, what must heaven be where goodness concentrates its beams?
Verse 6. By the word of the Lord were the heavens made. The angelic heavens, the sidereal heavens, and the firmament or terrestrial heavens, were all made to start into existence by a word; what if we say by the Word, "For without him was not anything made that is made." It is interesting to note the mention of the Spirit in the next clause, and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth; the breath is the same as is elsewhere rendered Spirit. Thus the three persons of the Godhead unite in creating all things. How easy for the Lord to make the most ponderous orbs, and the most glorious angels! A word, a breath could do it. It is as easy for God to create the universe as for a man to breathe, nay, far easier, for man breathes not independently, but borrows the breath in his nostrils from his Maker. It may be gathered from this verse that the constitution of all things is from the infinite wisdom, for his word may mean his appointment and determination. A wise and merciful Word has arranged, and a living Spirit sustains all the creation of Jehovah.
Verse 7. He gathereth the waters of the sea together as an heap. The waters were once scattered like corn strewn upon a threshing floor: they are now collected in one spot as an heap. Who else could have gathered them into one channel but their great Lord, at whose bidding the waters fled away? The miracle of the Red Sea is repeated in nature day by day, for the sea which now invades the shore under the impulse of sun and moon, would soon devour the land if bounds were not maintained by the divine decree. He layeth up the depth in storehouses. The depths of the main are God's great cellars and storerooms for the tempestuous element. Vast reservoirs of water are secreted in the bowels of the earth, from which issue our springs and wells of water. What a merciful provision for a pressing need? May not the text also refer to the clouds, and the magazines of hail, and snow, and rain, those treasures of merciful wealth for the fields of earth? These aqueous masses are not piled away as in lumber rooms, but in storehouses for future beneficial use. Abundant tenderness is seen in the foresight of our heavenly Joseph, whose granaries are already filled against earth's time of need. These stores might have been, as once they were, the ammunition of vengeance, they are now a part of the commissariat of mercy.
Verse 8. Let all the earth fear the Lord. Not only Jews, but Gentiles. The psalmist was not a man blinded by national prejudice, he did not desire to restrict the worship of Jehovah to the seed of Abraham. He looks for homage even to far off nations. If they are not well enough instructed to be able to praise, at least let them fear. There is an inferior kind of worship in the trembling which involuntarily admits the boundless power of the thundering God. A defiant blasphemer is out of place in a world covered with tokens of the divine power and Godhead: the whole earth cannot afford a spot congenial for the erection of a synagogue of Atheism, nor a man in whom it is becoming to profane the name of God. Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him. Let them forsake their idols, and reverently regard the only living God. What is here placed as a wish may also be read as a prophecy: the adoration of God will yet be universal.
Verse 9. For he spake, and it was done. Creation was the fruit of a word. Jehovah said, "Light be, "and light was. The Lord's acts are sublime in their ease and instantaneousness. "What a word is this?" This was the wondering enquiry of old, and it may be ours to this day. He commanded, and it stood fast. Out of nothing creation stood forth, and was confirmed in existence. The same power which first uplifted, now makes the universe to abide; although we may not observe it, there is as great a display of sublime power in confirming as in creating. Happy is the man who has learned to lean his all upon the sure word of him who built the skies!
Verse 10. The Lord bringeth the counsel of the heathen to nought. While his own will is done, he takes care to anticipate the wilfulness of his enemies. Before they come to action he vanquishes them in the council chamber; and when, well armed with craft, they march to the assault, he frustrates their knaveries, and makes their promising plots to end in nothing. Not only the folly of the heathen, but their wisdom too, shall yield to the power of the cross of Jesus: what a comfort is this to those who have to labour where sophistry, and philosophy, falsely so called, are set in opposition to the truth as it is in Jesus. He maketh the devices of the people of none effect. Their persecutions, slanders, falsehoods, are like puff balls flung against a granite wall—they produce no result at all; for the Lord overrules the evil, and brings good out of it. The cause of God is never in danger: infernal craft is outwitted by infinite wisdom, and Satanic malice held in check by boundless power.
Verse 11. The counsel of the Lord standeth for ever. He changes not his purpose, his decree is not frustrated, his designs are accomplished. God has a predestination according to the counsel of his will, and none of the devices of his foes can thwart his decree for a moment. Men's purposes are blown to and from like the thread of the gossamer or the down of the thistle, but the eternal purposes are firmer than the earth. The thoughts of his heart to all generations. Men come and go, sons follow their sires to the grave, but the undisturbed mind of God moves on in unbroken serenity, producing ordained results with unerring certainty. No man can expect his will or plan to be carried out from age to age; the wisdom of one period is the folly of another, but the Lord's wisdom is always wise, and his designs run on from century to century. His power to fulfil his purposes is by no means diminished by the lapse of years. He who was absolute over Pharaoh in Egypt is not one whit the less today the King of kings and Lord of lords; still do his chariot wheels roll onward in imperial grandeur, none being for a moment able to resist his eternal will.
Verse 12. Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord. Israel was happy in the worship of the only true God. It was the blessedness of the chosen nation to have received a revelation from Jehovah. While others grovelled before their idols, the chosen people were elevated by a spiritual religion which introduced them to the invisible God, and led them to trust in him. All who confide in the Lord are blessed in the largest and deepest sense, and none can reverse the blessing. And the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance. Election is at the bottom of it all. The divine choice rules the day; none take Jehovah to be their God till he takes them to be his people. What an ennobling choice this is! We are selected to no mean estate, and for no ignoble purpose: we are made the peculiar domain and delight of the Lord our God. Being so blessed, let us rejoice in our portion, and show the world by our lives that we serve a glorious Master.
Verse 13. The Lord looketh from heaven. The Lord is represented as dwelling above and looking down below; seeing all things, but peculiarly observing and caring for those who trust in him. It is one of our choicest privileges to be always under our Father's eye, to be never out of sight of our best Friend. He beholdeth all the sons of men. All Adam's sons are as well watched as was Adam himself, their lone progenitor in the garden. Ranging from the frozen pole to the scorching equator, dwelling in hills and valleys, in huts and palaces, alike doth the divine eye regard all the members of the family of man.
Verse 14. From the place of his habitation he looketh upon all the inhabitants of the earth. Here the sentiment is repeated: it is worth repeating, and it needs repeating, for man is most prone to forget it. As great men sit at their windows and watch the crowd below, so doth the Lord; he gazes intently upon his responsible creatures, and forgets nothing of what he sees.
Verse 15. He fashioneth their hearts alike. By which is meant that all hearts are equally fashioned by the Lord, kings' hearts as well as the hearts of beggars. The text does not mean that all hearts are created originally alike by God, such a statement would scarcely be true, since there is the utmost variety in the constitutions and dispositions of men. All men equally owe the possession of life to the Creator, and have therefore no reason to boast themselves. What reason has the vessel to glorify itself in presence of the potter? He considereth all their words. Not in vain doth God see men's acts: he ponders and judges them. He reads the secret design in the outward behaviour, and resolves the apparent good into its real elements. This consideration foretokens a judgment when the results of the divine thoughts will be meted out in measures of happiness or woe. Consider thy ways, O man, for God considereth them!
Verse 16. There is no king saved by the multitude of an host. Mortal power is a fiction, and those who trust in it are dupes. Serried ranks of armed men have failed to maintain an empire, or even to save their monarch's life when a decree from the court of heaven has gone forth for the empire's overthrow. The all seeing God preserves the poorest of his people when they are alone and friendless, but ten thousand armed men cannot ensure safety to him whom God leaves to destruction. A mighty man is not delivered by much strength. So far from guarding others, the valiant veteran is not able to deliver himself. When his time comes to die, neither the force of his arms nor the speed of his legs can save him. The weakest believer dwells safely under the shadow of Jehovah's throne, while the most mighty sinner is in peril every hour. Why do we talk so much of our armies and our heroes? the Lord alone has strength, and let him alone have praise.
Verse 17. An horse is a vain thing for safety. Military strength among the Orientals lay much in horses and scythed chariots, but the psalmist calls them a lie, a deceitful confidence. Surely the knight upon his gallant steed may be safe, either by valour or by flight? Not so, his horse shall bear him into danger or crush him with its fall. Neither shall he deliver any by his great strength. Thus the strongest defences are less than nothing when most needed. God only is to be trusted and adored. Sennacherib with all his calvary is not a match for one angel of the Lord, Pharaoh's horses and chariots found it vain to pursue the Lord's anointed, and so shall all the leaguered might of earth and hell find themselves utterly defeated when they rise against the Lord and his chosen.
Verse 18. Behold. For this is a greater wonder than hosts and horses, a surer confidence than chariots or shields. The eye of the Lord is upon them that fear him. That eye of peculiar care is their glory and defence. None can take them at unawares, for the celestial watcher foresees the designs of their enemies, and provides against them. They who fear God need not fear anything else; let them fix their eye of faith on him, and his eye of love will always rest upon them. Upon them that hope in his mercy. This one would think to be a small evidence of grace, and yet it is a valid one. Humble hope shall have its share as well as courageous faith. Say, my soul, is not this an encouragement to thee? Dost thou not hope in the mercy of God in Christ Jesus? Then the Father's eye is as much upon thee as upon the elder born of the family. These gentle words, like soft bread, are meant for babes in grace, who need infant's food.
Verse 19. To deliver their soul from death. The Lord's hand goes with his eye; he sovereignly preserves those whom he graciously observes. Rescues and restorations hedge about the lives of the saints; death cannot touch them till the King signs his warrant and gives him leave, and even then his touch is not so much mortal as immortal; he doth not so much kill us as kill our mortality. And to keep them alive in famine. Gaunt famine knows its master. God has meal and oil for his Elijahs somewhere. "Verily thou shalt be fed" is a divine provision for the man of faith. The Preserver of men will not suffer the soul of the righteous to famish. Power in human hands is outmatched by famine, but God is good at a pinch, and proves his bounty under the most straitened circumstances. Believer, wait upon thy God in temporals. His eye is upon thee, and his hand will not long delay.
Verse 20. Our soul waits for the Lord. Here the godly avow their reliance upon him whom the Psalm extols. To wait is a great lesson. To be quiet in expectation, patient in hope, single in confidence, is one of the bright attainments of a Christian. Our soul, our life, must hang upon God; we are not to trust him with a few gewgaws, but with all we have and are. He is our help and our shield. Our help in labour, our shield in danger. The Lord answereth all things to his people. He is their all in all. Note the three "ours" in the text. These holdfast words are precious. Personal possession makes the Christian man; all else is mere talk.
Verse 21. For our hearts shall rejoice in him. The duty commended and commanded in the first verse is here presented to the Lord. We, who trust, cannot but be of a glad heart, our inmost nature must triumph in our faithful God. Because we have trusted in his holy name. The root of faith in due time bears the flower of rejoicing. Doubts breed sorrow, confidence creates joy.
Verse 22. Here is a large and comprehensive prayer to close with. It is an appeal for mercy, which even joyful believers need; and it is sought for in a proportion which the Lord has sanctioned. "According to your faith be it unto you, "is the Master's word, and he will not fall short of the scale which he has himself selected. Yet, Master, do more than this when hope is faint, and bless us far above what we ask or even think.
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.
"Why should I complain of want of distress,
The Sheer Sound of a Still Small Voice
By Carl McColman 9/24/2012
"God speaks to us in a whisper," or so said an Episcopal priest I once knew. It was one of his trademark sayings, and the idea was obvious enough: if we want to discern the voice (will) of God in our lives, we had better listen carefully, because it won't come with any amplification.
While I can't say so for sure, my hunch is that all this came from a reading of 1 Kings 19. In this passage, Elijah, alone on Mount Horeb after fleeing for his life from the rage of Queen Jezebel, encounters a series of awe-inspiring events—a great wind, an earthquake, and a fire—but each time, we are told, God was not in the particular force of nature. And then, after the fire, in the words of the King James Version, comes a "still small voice."
The narrative goes on to say that at this point Elijah "wrapped his face in his mantle" and went out from where he had been hiding. Then he hears a voice that speaks to him, asks him a question, and gives him direction about what his next move should be.
The story as found in the KJV seems a bit disjointed. Elijah hears a voice, steps out from the cave, and then hears a voice that speaks to him about what he is doing and where he should be going. Is it the same voice? Was God just sort of clearing his throat the first time?
Carl McColman is the author of The Big Book of Christian Mysticism: The Essential Guide to Contemplative Spirituality and The Lion, the Mouse and the Dawn Treader: Spiritual Lessons from C. S. Lewis’s Narnia. His blog (www.anamchara.com) is one of the leading online resources devoted to Christian spirituality and mysticism. He regularly conducts retreats and speaks at churches, seminaries, monasteries and other locations on various aspects of both Christian and interfaith spirituality and contemplative practice.
Carl is a Lay Cistercian — a layperson receiving formal spiritual guidance from Trappist monks in the spirit of both ancient and medieval monastic practice. He first received training in Christian meditation and contemplation at the Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation. Later he received additional training in the art of spiritual direction through the Institute for Pastoral Studies in Atlanta. Carl is also active with the interfaith community in Atlanta, where he is the co-facilitator of an interfaith meditation group.
Valuing Humanity In A Secular Society
By Schluder23 3/22/2015
I recently had a conversation with a co-worker over lunch about abortion and its current political status in America. It was an interesting discussion but ultimately it ended up with him continually defaulting to his pro-choice position because he “just feels that way.” When asked for the justification for his position, he could not provide anything further than “that’s just how I feel.” Before long it became overwhelmingly clear that he had never heard any of the pro-life arguments that I had been putting forward. He never questioned the pro-choice status quo and couldn’t articulate a reasoned response for his position. He was caught flat-footed and unprepared so he resorted to the emotional plea, “I just feel that way.” For me, it’s incomprehensible how anyone could adamantly hold a position that allows for the destruction of innocent human life. In the end, while he still “felt that way”, he did admit that the unborn were human, abortion was the unjustified killing of an innocent human life, and the act of abortion was immoral. Regardless of these concessions, he felt that a woman should still “have the right” to choose to end the life of the innocent unborn child living within her. He didn’t know why but he “just did.”
In this brief exchange between Christian philosopher Dr. William Lane Craig and the late atheist Christopher Hitchens concerning the value of humanity, you’ll notice that Hitchens is making the mistake that many atheists make in regardless to their perspective towards religion. It is grossly misplaced. Hitchens complains that the church is politically advocating for causes to ban things like same-sex marriage and abortion in an attempt to “gain power”. Hitchens uses Fyodor Dostoevsky’s quote, “If there is no God, all things are permitted”, but attempts to argue that it can also be said that, “With God, all things are thinkable” because, he reasons, that if God truly exists, why do Christians care what happens in the present because God would ultimately bring justice to those who perform injustices? He’s essentially implying that Christians should sit back and relax because….God’s got this. Well, that answer is much easier than you may think…
As Dr. Craig brilliantly responded, if God made us in His image and humanity has been endowed with unalienable rights and intrinsic moral value, we should value all life. When Hitchens quoted Dostoevsky, it hurt his point. Hitchens was debating from the atheistic position, and he was morally objecting to how he perceives Christians politically interfering with an immoral agenda that would seek to abolish abortion and same-sex marriage. If Hitchens’ position of atheism is the right position, Dostoevsky’s quote would also be true. Given the truth behind Dostoevsky’s quote describing the philosophical implications of atheism, Hitchens would not be in a position to object to any moral behavior because “all things are permitted.” Hitchens has placed a self-destruct button on his argument by quoting Fyodor Dostoevsky.
From the historical evidence that we can present for the credibility of the resurrection of Jesus Christ to all other philosophical and scientific evidence presented in a cumulative form, the case for Christian theism is truly a death by one thousand paper cuts. Meaning, all the evidence, presented accumulatively, make Christian theism the most likely conclusion of the available worldviews. This Christian apologetic case has the power to transform the way we all view the world we are in. If everyone followed the evidence where it leads, people would be able to open their hearts to the Holy Spirit and let it lead them into a personal relationship with Christ. If our hearts and minds were open to the facts, social issues like abortion and same-sex marriage wouldn’t be controversial any longer. We would be able to openly speak out against these behaviors without being harshly condemned as someone who’s filled with hate, bigotry, and intolerance.
Interesting Still Small Voice Discussion
By Sermon Index
Several interesting comments
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Predictions Fulfilled: Declaring the Things to Come
By Mike Robinson 5/3/2017
Let them bring forth and show us what will happen; let them show the former things, what they were… Or declare to us things to come. Show the things that are to come hereafter… Thus says the LORD … I am the First and I am the Last; besides Me, there is no God. And who can proclaim as I do? … I have declared the former things from the beginning; … Suddenly I did them, and they came to pass... Even from the beginning I have declared it to you; before it came to pass I proclaimed it to you... (Isaiah 41:22-23, 44:6-8, 48:3-20).
Another segment of “proof” for Christianity is the messianic prophecies that were fulfilled by Jesus Christ. The Old Testament foretold the coming of the Messiah in precise detail. The text was written centuries before the coming of Jesus and predicted more than three hundred prophecies about Him. No other founder of any religion can provide a similar prophetic record of their life written down centuries before their birth. Joseph Smith, Ellen G. White, David Berg, Muhammad, and Buddha did not supply a widely transmitted, pre-existing written record that accurately predicted the specific details of their lives. Even though proof and evidence are our main apologetics, the evidence is still amazing.
But Saul increased all the more in strength and confounded the Jews who dwelt in Damascus, proving that this Jesus is the Christ (Acts 9:22; italics mine).
The hundreds of prophecies concerning the coming Messiah, including dozens that were specifically clear, were predicted and foreordained by God (Acts 2:23). The Bible foretold events and historical details about the coming of Jesus prior to His birth. All these predictions came true in the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. No other spiritual leader or prophet had predictive material written about their lives recorded before they were born. Jesus Christ had more than three hundred predictions about His life that were fulfilled in exact detail. An agent on The X-Files once said: “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” And only one with extreme power (God’s omnipotence qualifies) to perfectly arrange history could create a future where one man could fulfill hundreds of predictions—most of which were out of a normal man’s control to arrange.
Then He (Jesus) said to them, “These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me” (Luke 24:44).
Here are some of the prophecies God gave in the Old Testament concerning Christ:
Mike Robinson | Minister at CCC | christian apologetics, presuppositional apologetics, applied apologetics, christian philosophy, van til, greg bahnsen, william craig, lee strobel, josh mcdowell, norman geisler, timothy keller. Lives in Granbury.
Can Science Disprove God? 10 Quick Points
By David Glass 2/3/2016
Even the most ardent proponents of the idea that science is in conflict with God do not think that science and God are incompatible in the sense that accepting one (science say) logically requires you to reject the other (God). Faith Versus Fact: Why Science and Religion Are Incompatible:
”I don’t mean logical incompatibility: that the existence of religion is simply and a priori incompatible with the practice of science. That’s clearly wrong, for in principle there could be both science and a god to be worshipped.”
So if science and God aren’t incompatible, what is the nature of the conflict supposed to be? Well, perhaps science undermines belief in God because science explains God away.
David Glass has particular interests in the relationship between science and Christianity and in how evidence should be used in debates about the existence of God. He is a member of Glenabbey Church where he is involved in the apologetics team. He is a lecturer in the School of Computing and Mathematics at the University of Ulster where he does research on topics at the interface between computing and philosophy. (For details about academic qualifications and current work see here.) Originally from Armagh, he now lives in Greenisland with his wife Cathy and their six children.
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 66How Awesome Are Your Deeds
66 To The Choirmaster. A Song. A Psalm.
8 Bless our God, O peoples;
let the sound of his praise be heard,
9 who has kept our soul among the living
and has not let our feet slip.
10 For you, O God, have tested us;
you have tried us as silver is tried.
11 You brought us into the net;
you laid a crushing burden on our backs;
12 you let men ride over our heads;
we went through fire and through water;
yet you have brought us out to a place of abundance.
13 I will come into your house with burnt offerings;
I will perform my vows to you,
14 that which my lips uttered
and my mouth promised when I was in trouble.
15 I will offer to you burnt offerings of fattened animals,
with the smoke of the sacrifice of rams;
I will make an offering of bulls and goats. Selah
The Institutes of the Christian Religion
Translated by Henry Beveridge
23. In one thing they are more than rigid and inexorable--in not
permitting priests to marry. It is of no consequence to mention with
what impunity whoredom prevails among them, and how, trusting to their
vile celibacy, they have become callous to all kinds of iniquity. The
prohibition, however, clearly shows how pestiferous all traditions are,
since this one has not only deprived the Church of fit and honest
pastors, but has introduced a fearful sink of iniquity, and plunged
many souls into the gulf of despair. Certainly, when marriage was
interdicted to priests, it was done with impious tyranny, not only
contrary to the word of God, but contrary to all justice. First, men
had no title whatever to forbid what God had left free; secondly, it is
too clear to make it necessary to give any lengthened proof that God
has expressly provided in his Word that this liberty shall not be
infringed. I omit Paul's injunction, in numerous passages, that a
bishop be the husband of one wife; but what could be stronger than his
declaration, that in the latter days there would be impious men
"forbidding to marry"? (1 Tim. 4:3) Such persons he calls not only
impostors, but devils. We have therefore a prophecy, a sacred oracle of
the Holy Spirit, intended to warn the Church from the outset against
perils, and declaring that the prohibition of marriage is a doctrine of
devils. They think that they get finely off when they wrest this
passage, and apply it to Montanus, the Tatians, the Encratites, and
other ancient heretics. These (they say) alone condemned marriage; we
by no means condemn it, but only deny it to the ecclesiastical order,
in whom we think it not befitting. As if, even granting that this
prophecy was primarily fulfilled in those heretics, it is not
applicable also to themselves; or, as if one could listen to the
childish quibble that they do not forbid marriage, because they do not
forbid it to all. This is just as if a tyrant were to contend that a
law is not unjust because its injustice presses only on a part of the
24. They object that there ought to be some distinguishing mark between the clergy and the people; as if the Lord had not provided the ornaments in which priests ought to excel. Thus they charge the apostle with having disturbed the ecclesiastical order, and destroyed its ornament, when, in drawing the picture of a perfect bishop, he presumed to set down marriage among the other endowments which he required of them. I am aware of the mode in which they expound this--viz. that no one was to be appointed a bishop who had a second wife. This interpretation, I admit, is not new; but its unsoundness is plain from the immediate context, which prescribes the kind of wives whom bishops and deacons ought to have. Paul enumerates marriage among the qualities of a bishop; those men declare that, in the ecclesiastical order, marriage is an intolerable vice; and, indeed, not content with this general vituperation, they term it, in their canons, the uncleanness and pollution of the flesh (Siric. ad Episc. Hispaniar.). Let every one consider with himself from what forge these things have come. Christ deigns so to honour marriage as to make it an image of his sacred union with the Church. What greater eulogy could be pronounced on the dignity of marriage? How, then, dare they have the effrontery to give the name of unclean and polluted to that which furnishes a bright representation of the spiritual grace of Christ?
25. Though their prohibition is thus clearly repugnant to the word of God, they, however, find something in the Scriptures to defend it. The Levitical priests, as often as their ministerial course returned, behoved to keep apart from their wives, that they might be pure and immaculate in handling sacred things; and it were therefore very indecorous that our sacred things, which are more noble, and are ministered every day, should be handled by those who are married: as if the evangelical ministry were of the same character as the Levitical priesthood. These, as types, represented Christ, who, as Mediator between God and men, was, by his own spotless purity, to reconcile us to the Father. But as sinners could not in every respect exhibit a type of his holiness, that they might, however, shadow it forth by certain lineaments, they were enjoined to purify themselves beyond the manner of men when they approached the sanctuary, inasmuch as they then properly prefigured Christ appearing in the tabernacle, an image of the heavenly tribunal, as pacificators, to reconcile men to God. As ecclesiastical pastors do not sustain this character in the present day, the comparison is made in vain. Wherefore the apostle declares distinctly, without reservation, "Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled; but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge" (Heb. 13:4). And the apostles showed, by their own example, that marriage is not unbefitting the holiness of any function, however excellent; for Paul declares, that they not only retained their wives, but led them about with them (1 Cor. 9:5).
26. Then how great the effrontery when, in holding forth this ornament of chastity as a matter of necessity, they throw the greatest obloquy on the primitive Church, which, while it abounded in admirable divine erudition, excelled more in holiness. For if they pay no regard to the apostles (they are sometimes wont strenuously to contemn them), what, I ask, will they make of all the ancient fathers, who, it is certain, not only tolerated marriage in the episcopal order, but also approved it? They, forsooth, encouraged a foul profanation of sacred things when the mysteries of the Lord were thus irregularly performed by them. In the Council of Nice, indeed, there was some question of proclaiming celibacy: as there are never wanting little men of superstitious minds, who are always devising some novelty as a means of gaining admiration for themselves. What was resolved? The opinion of Paphnutius was adopted, who pronounced legitimate conjugal intercourse to be chastity (Hist. Trip. Lib. 2 c. 14). The marriage of priests, therefore, continued sacred, and was neither regarded as a disgrace, nor thought to cast any stain on their ministry.
27. In the times which succeeded, a too superstitious admiration of celibacy prevailed. Hence, ever and anon, unmeasured encomiums were pronounced on virginity, so that it became the vulgar belief that scarcely any virtue was to be compared to it. And although marriage was not condemned as impurity, yet its dignity was lessened, and its sanctity obscured; so that he who did not refrain from it was deemed not to have a mind strong enough to aspire to perfection. Hence those canons which enacted, first, that those who had attained the priesthood should not contract marriage; and, secondly, that none should be admitted to that order but the unmarried, or those who, with the consent of their wives, renounced the marriage-bed. These enactments, as they seemed to procure reverence for the priesthood, were, I admit, received even in ancient times with great applause. But if my opponents plead antiquity, my first answer is, that both under the apostles, and for several ages after, bishops were at liberty to have wives: that the apostles themselves, and other pastors of primitive authority who succeeded them, had no difficulty in using this liberty, and that the example of the primitive Church ought justly to have more weight than allow us to think that what was then received and used with commendation is either illicit or unbecoming. My second answer is, that the age, which, from an immoderate affection for virginity, began to be less favourable to marriage, did not bind a law of celibacy on the priests, as if the thing were necessary in itself, but gave a preference to the unmarried over the married. My last answer is, that they did not exact this so rigidly as to make continence necessary and compulsory on those who were unfit for it. For while the strictest laws were made against fornication, it was only enacted with regard to those who contracted marriage that they should be superseded in their office.
28. Therefore, as often as the defenders of this new tyranny appeal to antiquity in defence of their celibacy, so often should we call upon them to restore the ancient chastity of their priests, to put away adulterers and whoremongers, not to allow those whom they deny an honourable and chaste use of marriage, to rush with impunity into every kind of lust, to bring back that obsolete discipline by which all licentiousness is restrained, and free the Church from the flagitious turpitude by which it has long been deformed. When they have conceded this, they will next require to be reminded not to represent as necessary that which, being in itself free, depends on the utility of the Church. I do not, however, speak thus as if I thought that on any condition whatever effect should be given to those canons which lay a bond of celibacy on the ecclesiastical order, but that the better-hearted may understand the effrontery of our enemies in employing the name of antiquity to defame the holy marriage of priests. In regard to the Fathers, whose writings are extant, none of them, when they spoke their own mind, with the exception of Jerome, thus malignantly detracted from the honour of marriage. We will be contented with a single passage from Chrysostom, because he being a special admirer of virginity, cannot be thought to be more lavish than others in praise of matrimony. Chrysostom thus speaks: "The first degree of chastity is pure virginity; the second, faithful marriage. Therefore, a chaste love of matrimony is the second species of virginity" (Chrysost. Hom. de Invent. Crucis.).
 French, "J'use de ce mot de Cleres pource qu'il est commun, combien qu'il soit impropre; par lequel j'entens ceux qui ont office et ministere en l'Eglise."--I use this word Clergy because it is common, though it is improper; by it I mean those who have an office and ministry in the Church.
 Vide Cyril in Joann. cap. 50, et Luther, de Commun. Populi, tom. 2
 Cyprian, Lib. 1 Ep. 2; Lib. 3 Ep. 14, 26.
 Ambros. Lib. 1 Ep. 3; et Oratio habita in Funere Theodosii.
 French, "Il y a danger, que de discipline nous ne tombions en une maniere de gehene, et que de correcteurs nous ne devenions bourreaux."--There is a danger, lest instead of discipline we fall into a kind of gehenna, and instead of correctors become executioners.
 See a lengthened refutation in Calv. Instructio adv. Anabap. Art. 2. See also Calv. de Coena Domini.
 See a striking instance in Ezra 8:21, on the appointment of a fast at the river Ahava, on the return of the people from the Babylonish captivity.
 French "Quand il advient quelque different en Chretienté, qui tire grande consequence."--When some difference on a matter of great consequence takes place in Christendom.
 1 Sam. 7:6; 31:13; 2 Kings 1:12; Jonah 3:5.
 August de Morib. Manich. Lib. 2 c. 13; et cont. Faustum, Lib. 30
 See Chrysostom. Homil. sub. initium Quadragesimæ, where he terms fasting a cure of souls and ablution for sins.
 Bernard in Serm. 1 in die Paschæ, censures, among others, princes also, for longing, during the season of Lent, for the approaching festival of our Lord's resurrection, that they might indulge more freely.
 121 D121 Bernard censures, among others, princes also, for longing, during the season of Lent, for the approaching festival of our Lord's resurrection, that they might indulge more freely.
Christian Classics Ethereal Library / Public Domain
Institutes of the Christian Religion
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
2/1/2012 True Love
God is love, and love never fails because God never fails. Love cannot be separated from God and cannot exist without Him. God’s love is the foundation and definition of love, just as He is the source, fountain, sustainer, and enabler of love. God gives meaning to love, and without Him, love isn’t only worthless but meaningless. Without God as its source and center, that which humans conceive of as love is impatient and unkind, envious and boastful, arrogant and rude, always insisting on its own way, irritable, resentful, rejoicing in wrongdoing and falsehood. Without God, love is nothing more than a hateful lie of Satan.
Every day we hear people talk about love as if it were some sort of impersonal force and independent energy that alone has the power to change hearts, restore homes, cure diseases, rebuild communities, and unite nations. The world is infatuated with the idea of love. Even the word itself, love, has degenerated into an all-encompassing, catch-all term that seems to be at the heart of a rising one-religion-politically-correct world language—a language of love that has become a religion unto itself. And although the world, the flesh, and the Devil would love to strip love of all its beauty and character in order to make it adaptable to every conceivable context and theology, such would be a futile attempt. For just as God defines God, God defines love.
In the end, the one, true definition of love will, indeed, win because truth will win, and truth will win because Christ has won, and Christ has won because God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him would not perish but have everlasting life. To be sure, we deserve to perish—not just today but for eternity—and we don’t deserve life—neither the life we have today nor life for eternity. The wages of my rebellious sin is death. Consequently, I deserve eternal condemnation just as much as Mahatma Ghandi, Adolf Hitler, and my own children. Every man, woman, and child—no matter how good or bad we think we are—will perish without repenting from self-trust and trusting in Jesus Christ, who is the only truth, the only life, and the only way to the Father. True love means proclaiming the truth. True love means proclaiming the gospel. True love means proclaiming the love of God and the wrath of God, and the most unloving thing we could possibly do is withhold the truth from those who are perishing without Christ—the truth about God’s love, holiness, justice, and grace; the truth about man’s sin, death, and hell; the truth about faith, forgiveness, and an eternal life coram Deo, before the face of God in heaven, where God’s love will reign over us forever.
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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
The first formal “Father’s Day” was celebrated on this day, June 19, 1910. It began in Spokane, Washington, when a woman named Sonora Louise Smart Dodd heard a Mother’s Day sermon at church. She wanted to honor her father, who had raised all six children by himself after his wife died. Sonora drew up a petition, which was immediately supported by the Young Men’s Christian Association and the ministers of Spokane. In 1972, President Richard M. Nixon established Father’s Day as a permanent national observance of on the third Sunday of June.
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
Life is a tapestry: We are the warp;
angels, the weft;
God, the weaver.
Only the Weaver sees the whole design.
--- Eileen Elias Freeman
The Angels' Little Instruction Book: Learning from God's Heavenly Messengers
The man who comes to a right belief about God is relieved of ten thousand temporal problems, for he sees at once that these have to do with matters which at the most cannot concern him for very long.
-- A.W. Tozer
The Knowledge of the Holy: The Attributes of God: Their Meaning in the Christian Life
If we do not maintain Justice, Justice will not maintain us.
--- Francis Bacon
The Works of Francis Bacon, Lord Chancellor of England, Volume 2
There is no form of conviction more intimate and irresistible than that which arises from the inward teaching of the Spirit. --- Charles Hodge
Systematic Theology - (3-Volume Set)
... from here, there and everywhere
CHAPTER 11 / Maharal on “You Shall Love”
Rabbi Judah Loew of Prague (CA. 1512–1609), popularly known by his acronym, Maharal, was a singular fountainhead of Jewish ideas. He influenced many of the most important Jewish thinkers of succeeding generations, perhaps most especially those associated with Hasidism, beginning in the last half of the eighteenth century. Indeed, his seminal thought had a profound influence on a number of Jewish religious thinkers in the twentieth century as well. We should therefore not be surprised that he brings original insights to the question of ahavat Hashem, the love for God.
We find a number of different definitions and interpretations of this idea in various places in the Maharal’s prodigious work. In one passage he draws a well-known distinction between love and fear, namely, that love motivates us to observe the positive commandments, whereas fear restrains us from transgressing the negative commandments1—essentially a restatement of Naḥmanides’ famous distinction between the two. (2)
(2) See Naḥmanides’ commentary on the Torah, to Exod. 20:8.
Elsewhere, he delineates two types of fear: one that is independent of love, and the other—the more common—that is but the disguised face of love and therefore only another facet of our love of God:
The major part of fear derives from love, for one who loves another strives to fulfill his wishes in every possible way, so that the love will be indivisible. He therefore fears to violate [his beloved’s] will even in small matters, for that would negate his love. That is why it is said of Abraham, “for now I know that you are a God-fearing man” (Gen. 22:12). (3)
(3) Maharal, Netivot Olam, Netiv Yirat Hashem, chapter 1. What motivates this interpretation is the author’s awareness that Abraham is usually presented as the archetype of God-lover rather than God-fearer; see Isa. 41:8, 2 Chron. 20:7.
The Maharal considers this second type of fear, which derives from love, superior to that which is independent of love. (4)
(4) It is interesting to compare this structuring of fear by Maharal to a similar dichotomy in the analysis of love by R. Baḥya Ibn Pakuda (c. 1050–c. 1156) in the last section of his Ḥovot ha-Levavot (“Duties of the Heart”). Baḥya holds that the love for God is the acme of all religious life, and all other virtues are prerequisite for and preparatory to it. There are two kinds of love, he avers: The lower kind, accessible to most humans, derives from fear. The higher kind, which is independent of fear and of any intended personal benefit, material or spiritual, is reserved for the elite who are prepared to surrender everything, including life itself, for the love of God. Even then, such love is granted to these few individuals only as an act of divine grace; see chapters 4–6 of Ḥovot ha-Levavot.
What is most significant and novel in the Maharal’s interpretation of ahavat Hashem is his version of the acosmic idea of God, which seems to anticipate, by about two centuries, that developed more elaborately by R. Shneur Zalman and R. Ḥayyim. He writes:
The love of man for God that issues from man alone is of no account. For man comes from God, and man returns to Him, just as everything must return to Him. There is nothing other than God; He is one, and there is nothing else.…
From this point of view we can understand love. This is why it is said, “the Lord is our God, the Lord is one” (and immediately thereafter) “You shall love the Lord your God” etc. (Deut. 6:4, 5). Because He is one, there is nothing in existence in the world that is separate from Him, for all depends upon and is attached to Him, for He is the foundation of all. And that is why love is relevant to God. (6)
(6) Netivot Olam, Netiv Ahavat Hashem, chapter 1.
This interpretation is consistent with the Maharal’s general thinking, for he often writes of the longing of the effect to return to its Cause.
Despite the humanistic bent of the Maharal, which has been much commented upon in recent years, he here discounts the “natural” human religious urge. He dismisses the love for God that emerges from within us, the innate part of the natural life of man as Homo religiosis, as “of no account.” Rather, our spiritual dimension, expressed in our love of God, can be attributed only to the bond of shared reality that ties us to our Creator, the Source of all existence. Only in this metaphysical sense of our ontological indebtedness to God, and in this sense alone, can we be defined as naturally religious beings. The religion we practice to satisfy a psychological need is inferior to the religion that derives from our awareness of humanity’s nothingness without God as the core of existence itself. According to this interpretation, we can now understand the sequence in our passage. The Shema’s proclamation of divine unity leads directly to the commandment to love God. Yiḥud Hashem implies ahavat Hashem.
Yet here a question naturally arises: given the infinite distance and dissimilarity between God and human beings, how can we be commanded to love God? Indeed, says the Maharal, we are commanded to fear and honor but never to love father, mother, or teacher. The reason is self-evident: love is only possible between equals or near-equals, not between those who are essentially unequal. How, then, is it at all possible to speak of loving God?
The Shema: Spirituality and Law in Judaism
Thanks to Meir Yona
Calumnies Against The Sons Of Mariamne. Antipateris Preferred Before Them. They Are Accused Before Caesar, And Herod Is Reconciled To Them.
1. Now Mariamne's sons were heirs to that hatred which had been borne their mother; and when they considered the greatness of Herod's crime towards her, they were suspicious of him as of an enemy of theirs; and this first while they were educated at Rome, but still more when they were returned to Judea. This temper of theirs increased upon them as they grew up to be men; and when they were Come to an age fit for marriage, the one of them married their aunt Salome's daughter, which Salome had been the accuser of their mother; the other married the daughter of Archelaus, king of Cappadocia. And now they used boldness in speaking, as well as bore hatred in their minds. Now those that calumniated them took a handle from such their boldness, and certain of them spake now more plainly to the king that there were treacherous designs laid against him by both his sons; and he that was son-in-law to Archelaus, relying upon his father-in-law, was preparing to fly away, in order to accuse Herod before Caesar; and when Herod's head had been long enough filled with these calumnies, he brought Antipater, whom he had by Doris, into favor again, as a defense to him against his other sons, and began all the ways he possibly could to prefer him before them.
2. But these sons were not able to bear this change in their affairs; but when they saw him that was born of a mother of no family, the nobility of their birth made them unable to contain their indignation; but whensoever they were uneasy, they showed the anger they had at it. And as these sons did day after day improve in that their anger, Antipater already exercised all his own abilities, which were very great, in flattering his father, and in contriving many sorts of calumnies against his brethren, while he told some stories of them himself, and put it upon other proper persons to raise other stories against them, till at length he entirely cut his brethren off from all hopes of succeeding to the kingdom; for he was already publicly put into his father's will as his successor. Accordingly, he was sent with royal ornaments, and other marks of royalty, to Caesar, excepting the diadem. He was also able in time to introduce his mother again into Mariamne's bed. The two sorts of weapons he made use of against his brethren were flattery and calumny, whereby he brought matters privately to such a pass, that the king had thoughts of putting his sons to death.
3. So the father drew Alexander as far as Rome, and charged him with an attempt of poisoning him before Caesar. Alexander could hardly speak for lamentation; but having a judge that was more skillful than Antipater, and more wise than Herod, he modestly avoided laying any imputation upon his father, but with great strength of reason confuted the calumnies laid against him; and when he had demonstrated the innocency of his brother, who was in the like danger with himself, he at last bewailed the craftiness of Antipater, and the disgrace they were under. He was enabled also to justify himself, not only by a clear conscience, which he carried within him, but by his eloquence; for he was a shrewd man in making speeches. And upon his saying at last, that if his father objected this crime to them, it was in his power to put them to death, he made all the audience weep; and he brought Caesar to that pass, as to reject the accusations, and to reconcile their father to them immediately. But the conditions of this reconciliation were these, that they should in all things be obedient to their father, and that he should have power to leave the kingdom to which of them he pleased.
4. After this the king came back from Rome, and seemed to have forgiven his sons upon these accusations; but still so that he was not without his suspicions of them. They were followed by Antipater, who was the fountain-head of those accusations; yet did not he openly discover his hatred to them, as revering him that had reconciled them. But as Herod sailed by Cilicia, he touched at Eleusa, 38 where Archelaus treated them in the most obliging manner, and gave him thanks for the deliverance of his son-in-law, and was much pleased at their reconciliation; and this the more, because he had formerly written to his friends at Rome that they should be assisting to Alexander at his trial. So he conducted Herod as far as Zephyrium, and made him presents to the value of thirty talents. 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
but ADONAI’s plan will prevail.
22 A man’s lust is his shame,
and a poor man is better than a liar.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
The service of passionate devotion
Lovest thou Me? Feed My sheep. --- John 21:16.
Jesus did not say—Make converts to your way of thinking, but look after My sheep, see that they get nourished in the knowledge of Me. We count as service what we do in the way of Christian work; Jesus Christ calls service what we are to Him, not what we do for Him. Discipleship is based on devotion to Jesus Christ, not on adherence to a belief or a creed. “If any man come to Me and hate not …, he cannot be My disciple.” There is no argument and no compulsion, but simply—‘If you would be My disciple, you must be devoted to Me.’ A man touched by the Spirit of God suddenly says—‘Now I see Who Jesus is,’ and that is the source of devotion.
Today we have substituted credal belief for personal belief, and that is why so many are devoted to causes and so few devoted to Jesus Christ. People do not want to be devoted to Jesus, but only to the cause He started. Jesus Christ is a source of deep offence to the educated mind of today that does not want Him in any other way than as a Comrade. Our Lord’s first obedience was to the will of His Father, not to the needs of men; the saving of men was the natural outcome of His obedience to the Father. If I am devoted to the cause of humanity only, I will soon be exhausted and come to the place where my love will falter; but if I love Jesus Christ personally and passionately, I can serve humanity though men treat me as a door-mat. The secret of a disciple’s life is devotion to Jesus Christ, and the characteristic of the life is its unobtrusiveness. It is like a corn of wheat, which falls into the ground and dies, but presently it will spring up and alter the whole landscape.
(Cf. John 12:24.)
My Utmost for His Highest
the Poetry of RS Thomas
St. Julien and the Leper
Though all ran from him, he did not
Run, but awaited
Him with his arms
Out, his ears stopped
To his bell, his alarmed
Crying. He lay down
With him there, sharing his sores'
Stench, the quarantine
Of his soul; contaminating
himself with a kiss,
With the love that
Our science has disinfected.
At the very beginning of Shaḥarit, the Morning service, the following berakhah is found in the traditional siddur: “Praised are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who has not made me a woman.” Why would the liturgy direct a man to recite such a blessing? A standard explanation is offered: Men are obligated to observe all the mitzvot found in the Torah. Women, however, are exempt from those commandments that are to be performed at a specific time. (The rationale is that a woman, as a mother, could not simply set aside her children’s needs to do a mitzvah; her responsibility to her children came first.)
Apologists for the tradition say that the berakhah is merely a formulaic way for men to proclaim to God: We love Your commandments, and we are honored to have been given the responsibility of doing all of them, unlike women, whose exemption means that they only have to do some of them! Others, however, are not swayed by the explanations. “If that’s what the tradition wanted to say, then that’s what it should have said! The blessing, as it has come down to us is offensive, demeaning, and sexist, and has helped to perpetuate the unfortunate impression that women are considered inferior to men!” Beginning in 1946, Conservative Judaism, based on a talmudic variation, rephrased the blessing in its prayer books to a positive formulation: “Praised are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who made me in His image.” Both men and women can recite this berakhah, and both are reminded that men as well as women are created in God’s image.
Perhaps what Rabbi (Yehudah ha-Nasi) meant to say was that men and women are different, and they each have their own natures, and their own roles in life. But what comes across in his proverb (“There is a need for wine and a need for vinegar”) is that women are inferior to men and are sour and bitter. Perhaps what he meant to say about daughters in general was “May you be blessed with much happiness and no sadness.” But what comes across in his prayer (“May there not be for you [a reason to] return here!”) is a father’s desire not to see his child or grandchild again.
What is actually in our hearts when we say something to another person may be less important than the words that they hear us say. Another proverb tells us that “wise people are very careful about their choice of words.”
The following never actually appears in the traditional collection of midrashic literature, although it could have and, some would say, should have.
When Rabbi [Yehudah ha-Nasi] got old, he needed someone to take care of him—to lead him to the outhouse, guide him to the door, help him dress and eat. His daughter Dena accepted this role, even though it was very difficult. Each Morning, she helped him out of bed and waited while he recited the Morning blessings at his bedside. She then aided him in putting on his tallit and tefillin, allowing him to wrap the strap of the tefillah shel yad by himself. While he recited the Morning prayers, she sat close by, reciting her own. Dena served her father each meal personally, and would not clean the dishes right after the meal, for fear of taking away his study time. Rather, she cleaned up late at night, after her father had gone to sleep.
While Rabbi Yehudah was too old to leave his home, his son, Rabbi Shimon, spent his days at the study house. Dena never asked her brother to give up his study time to help with their father, even though she sensed the unfairness of the arrangement. And she never showed any resentment toward her father. Rather, Dena felt blessed for every moment she and Rabbi Yehudah spent together.
When he was on his deathbed, Rabbi Yehudah ha-Nasi asked for a few moments to speak to Dena privately. He took her hand in his and whispered gently into her ear, “I know that you are familiar with my teachings, that you have memorized much of what I have taught. Years ago, I said, ‘Even though there is a need for wine and a need for vinegar, the need for wine is greater than that for vinegar.’ It was wrong of me to compare daughters to vinegar. You have been a good daughter to me. You have taken care of my every need with only love and respect. If I could travel once more to the study house, I would teach, ‘There are many types of wine, and God rejoices in them all.’ ”
Searching for Meaning in Midrash: Lessons for Everyday Living
W. W. Wiersbe
"The phrase “bring again the captivity” (3:1) means “reverse the fortunes” or “restore the fortunes” (NIV). Because of the judgments set during the “Day of the Lord,” Israel’s situation in the world will be dramatically changed, and God will deal justly with the nations of the world for the way they have treated His people Israel. Joel gives three important announcements.
“Nations, prepare for judgment!” (Joel 3:1–8) This great battle will take place in the Valley of Jehoshaphat (vv. 2, 12), a site mentioned nowhere else in Scripture. In verse 14, it’s called “the valley of decision,” referring to God’s decision (decree) to punish the nations. (To make the “valley of decision” a place where lost sinners decide to follow Christ is to twist the Scripture. It is God who makes the decision, and His decision (decree) is to judge and not save. The nations have had their opportunity; now it is too late.) Since the name “Jehoshaphat” means “the Lord judges,” the name “Valley of Jehoshaphat” might well be symbolic, but some students believe it refers to the Plain of Esdraelon where the “battle of Armageddon” will be fought (Rev. 16:16).
Joel lists some of the sins that the Gentiles have committed against the Jews: scattering them among the nations; selling them into slavery; treating them like cheap merchandise for which people cast lots; plundering the land of its wealth; and taking what belonged to the Lord and using it for their own gods. Of course, many of the tragic experiences that came to the Jewish people were disciplines from God because they had violated His covenant, but the Gentile nations went beyond discipline to exploitation. Jeremiah said to the Babylonians, “[Y]ou rejoice and are glad, you who pillage my inheritance, because you frolic like a heifer threshing grain and neigh like stallions” (Jer. 50:11, NIV).
It’s worth noting that God refers to the Jews as “My people” and to the land as “My land.” The wealth is “My silver and My gold.” Even though the Jews have not obeyed the covenant or sought to please the Lord, He has not abandoned them. Even when they rejected their Messiah, God was merciful to them. He has preserved them as a nation and will one day come to their aid and defeat their enemies.
“Nations, prepare for war!” (Joel 3:9–15) This passage describes what is generally called “the battle of Armageddon,” when the armies of the nations unite against the Lord and His Christ (Ps. 2:1–3) and gather to destroy Jerusalem (Joel 3:16; Zech. 12–14). Joel compares the battle to the harvesting of grain and grapes, when God will defeat the enemy as easily as a farmer wields a sickle or plucks grapes and crushes them to make wine (Joel 3:13). You will find a similar image in Revelation 14:14–20 when God reaps “the harvest of the earth” and “the vine of the earth” and crushes armies like clusters of grapes.
Frightening signs from the Lord will accompany this battle (Joel 3:15; see 2:10, 30–31), signs that Jesus mentioned in His prophetic discourse on the Mount of Olives (Matt. 24:29–31; Mark 13:19–27; Luke 21:25–28). Jesus taught that these signs would prepare the way for His personal coming to earth when He will defeat Israel’s enemies, cleanse His people, and establish His kingdom (Zech. 12–14; Rev. 19:11ff).
Joel 3:10 commands the nations to arm for battle, even to the point of turning farm tools into weapons, but Isaiah 2:4 and Micah 4:3 describe a different scene: “they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks” (Isa. 2:4). But Isaiah and Micah are describing the future kingdom, when people will learn war no more and no longer need weapons; while Joel is describing the battle that ushers in that peaceful kingdom.
“Nations, prepare for defeat!” (Joel 3:16) The name “Armageddon” is found only in Revelation 16:16, referring to the Plain of Esdraelon where many major battles were fought in Old Testament times. Revelation 16:13–16 informs us that Satan, through his demonic powers, gathers the armies of the nations to fight against God at Jerusalem. But the invasion will fail, because Jesus will return in power and slaughter the enemy, turning the whole “battle” into a supper of flesh for the scavengers of the earth (19:17–19).
Like a fierce lion, God will “roar out of Zion” and conquer the enemy (see Amos 1:2, Hosea 11:10–11). When the Lamb becomes a Lion, the nations had better tremble (Rev. 5:5). The lost nations of the earth will perish when He utters His voice in judgment, but to His own people the Lord will be a refuge and a stronghold. “Come, My people, enter your chambers, and shut your doors behind you; hide yourself as it were, for a little moment, until the indignation is past. For behold, the Lord comes out of His place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity” (Isa. 26:20–21, NKJV). (Pretribulationists believe that the church will be taken to heaven (raptured) before the Day of the Lord breaks upon the world (1 Thes. 1:10; 5:9–10). This event is described in 1 Thessalonians 4:13–18. The saints will then return to the earth with Jesus when He returns in glory to defeat His enemies and establish His kingdom (Rev. 19:11ff; 2 Thes. 2). Prophetic students differ as to the details of the end-times scenario, but they agree that the world will grow hostile against God, the people of God will suffer persecution, and the Lord will return to conquer His enemies and rescue His people. This is what we are asking when we pray, “Thy kingdom come.”)
A Jewish proverb says, “No misfortune avoids a Jew.” No people have suffered more at the hands of their fellow men than have the Jews. Pharaoh tried to drown the Jews, but instead, his own army was drowned by God (Ex. 14–15). Balaam tried to curse the Jews, but God turned the curse into a blessing (Num. 22:25; Deut. 23:5; Neh. 13:2). The Assyrians and Babylonians captured the Jews and put them in exile, but both of those great kingdoms are no more, while the Jews are still with us. Haman tried to exterminate the Jews, but he and his sons ended up hanging on the gallows (the Book of Esther). Nebuchadnezzar put three Jews into a fiery furnace, only to discover that their God was with them and was able to deliver them (Dan. 3).
My friend, the late Dr. Jacob Gartenhaus, gifted missionary to his own people, used to say, “We Jews are waterproof and fireproof; God has blessed us so that nobody can successfully curse us, and we shall be here long after our enemies have perished.” God knows what the nations have done to the Jews, and He will one day settle accounts. Meanwhile, believers must pray for the peace of Jersusalem (Ps. 122:6) and lovingly witness to them in word and deed that Jesus is indeed their Messiah and Lord.
Be Amazed (Minor Prophets): Restoring an Attitude of Wonder and Worship (The BE Series Commentary)
The Divine Utterance at Christ’s Baptism
To take another instance, difficulty is found in the matter of the words spoken by God the Father out of Heaven when Christ was baptized. Matthew’s record of the words is somewhat different from those of Mark and Luke, and the difficulty seems to lie in this, that each narrative is said to be inspired, and yet two variants of the same utterance are put on record. There is really no difficulty at all, however. Mark and Luke give the actual words, “Thou art My beloved Son, in Thee I am well pleased” (Mark 1:11; Luke 3:22). Matthew gives the import of the declaration rather than the actual words, thus laying emphasis on the fact, while the other writers emphasize the words. Instead of inaccuracy we can observe the work of the Spirit of God in causing Matthew to state the fact in a way appropriate to the character of his Gospel, which sets forth in a special manner the dignity of Christ as the King of Israel. Moreover, the utterances recorded in the Gospel, being in Greek, are translations of the actual utterance, a fact which allows of both variation in form and of Inspiration in the variation.
The Parable of the Wicked Husbandmen
Another difficulty is in the difference between Matthew’s record of the parable of the wicked husbandmen and those of Mark and Luke. Mark and Luke make the Lord answer His own question as to what the Lord of the vineyard will do (Mark 12:9 and Luke 20:15, 16). Matthew makes His hearers give the answer (Matt. 21:41). The two passages taken together are consistent with the probable facts. It is quite natural to suppose that after the Lord’s question had been answered by His hearers He Himself repeated the answer. Such an occurrence is not infrequent in open-air testimony.
Jeremiah or Zechariah?
Matthew is charged with inaccuracy because in reference to the death of Judas and the price paid for the potter’s field he gives as a statement of Jeremiah the prophet what is supposed to be a quotation from Zechariah because the words are something like the words Zechariah wrote (Matt. 27:9, cp. Zech. 11:12, 13). Now in the first place there is considerable difference between the words which Matthew writes and the actual words of Zechariah. It is a curious course of procedure to suppose that Matthew is quoting Zechariah if he is not actually doing so, and then to charge him with lapse of memory or some such mistake because he attributes the statement to Jeremiah. If Matthew had said, “Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Zechariah the prophet,” a charge of inaccuracy might have been made against him, but he does not say so. It is quite reasonable to suppose that Jeremiah uttered this prophecy orally, and that when Matthew says that it was spoken by him he is simply quoting nonrecorded but well-known words of Jeremiah. Paul quotes words of the Lord Jesus which are not previously written in the Bible (Acts 20:35), and Jude quotes a prophecy of Enoch which is not recorded elsewhere. As to whether Zechariah was himself quoting Jeremiah, that is another matter. Zechariah himself does say, “Should ye not hear the words which the Lord had cried by the former prophets?” (chap. 7:7). The later prophet indeed expressed himself more than once in language like that of the former. Moreover, it was commonly held among the Jews that the spirit of Jeremiah rested upon Zechariah, but apart from all this the so-called inaccuracy is purely imaginary. Certainly there is nothing in this passage that need puzzle anybody very long.
The Collected Writings of W.E. Vine: Boxed Five Volume Set
Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism
The controversy over the use of the Pseudepigrapha in the reconstruction of early Judaism is due in large part to the prominence of apocalyptic literature. Even pseudepigraphic books that are not formally apocalypses, such as the Sibylline Oracles, the Psalms of Solomon, or the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs have much in common with them, especially in their view of history and eschatology. Only one apocalyptic writing, the book of Daniel, was included in the Hebrew Bible, and the apocalyptic tradition was rejected by rabbinic Judaism. The noncanonical apocalypses were transmitted by Christians, and were not preserved in Hebrew or Aramaic, although Aramaic fragments of 1 Enoch and Hebrew fragments of Jubilees have been found in the Dead Sea Scrolls. It has been said that apocalypticism is the mother of Christian theology. R. H. Charles saw it as the link between biblical prophecy and early Christianity, and the view that it was “the child of prophecy” has always been popular in English-language scholarship (Rowley 1944). Bousset, in contrast, attributed its rise to Zoroastrian influence. Other sources, both biblical (wisdom literature, von Rad 1965: 2:315–30) and foreign (Babylonian traditions, e.g., Kvanvig 1988) have occasionally been proposed. Only in the last quarter of the twentieth century has apocalypticism been recognized as a phenomenon in its own right rather than as a mutation (or degeneration) of something else (Collins 1998: 26–42).
After the great burst of creative energy expended on the Pseudepigrapha in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, this literature received little scholarly attention for more than half a century. (This neglect must be seen in the context of a general shift in focus from history of religion to biblical theology in this period.) Many of the more influential scholars who addressed it, such as Rowley and von Rad, were biblical scholars who naturally enough tried to assimilate the strange noncanonical material to biblical categories. Much of the scholarship that purported to deal with “apocalyptic” actually dealt with postexilic prophecy or with the letters of Paul. The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, however, led to renewed interest in Judaism between the Bible and the Mishnah. From the 1970s onward there was extensive work on the Pseudepigrapha both in the United States and in Europe, which bore fruit in the two-volume translation of Old Testament Pseudepigrapha edited by Charlesworth (1983–1985), which included much more material than the older edition of Charles, and the German series of fascicles Jüdische Schriften aus hellenistisch-römischer Zeit. Now the apocalypses came to be studied in the context of the contemporary pseudepigraphic literature and the Dead Sea Scrolls. This in turn led to a change in focus from “apocalyptic” as a kind of theology, usually studied with an eye to its relevance for the New Testament, to the literary genre apocalypse (Koch 1972; Collins ed. 1979).
Three results of the study of the genre are noteworthy. First, apocalypses are not only concerned with historical eschatology (the end of the present age) in the way familiar from Daniel and the book of Revelation. They are also, even primarily, revelations of heavenly mysteries (Rowland 1983). A whole subtype of the genre is concerned with otherworldly journeys, and this material is important for the early history of Jewish mysticism (Himmelfarb 1993). Second, since only one book in the Hebrew Bible, Daniel, could be said to exemplify the genre, discussion of “apocalyptic” or “protoapocalyptic” in the prophetic literature became increasingly dubious. Third, the genre is not peculiar to Judaism and Christianity, but has important parallels in Persian tradition and throughout the Greco-Roman world, especially in the case of the heavenly journeys (Hellholm 1983).
Another byproduct of the focus on the genre apocalypse and on the context of the Pseudepigrapha was increased interest in the collection of writings known as 1 Enoch. Charles had already realized that some parts of 1 Enoch were older than Daniel. Interest was greatly increased by the publication of the Aramaic fragments found among the Dead Sea Scrolls (Milik 1976). The Italian scholar Paolo Sacchi argued that the root of apocalypticism should be found in the Book of the Watchers (1 Enoch 1–36), one of the earliest segments of the tradition (Sacchi 1997). The generative question was the origin of evil, and the answer was that it was brought to earth by fallen angels. Sacchi tended to identify apocalypticism with the Enochic tradition, in contrast even to the book of Daniel. His student, Gabriele Boccaccini, has proceeded to argue, in Neusnerian fashion, that 1 Enoch testifies to “Enochic Judaism,” which he further identifies with the Essenes, whom he regards as the parent movement of the Qumran sect (Boccaccini 1998).
Even if one were to grant that the Book of the Watchers is the earliest Jewish apocalypse, the whole phenomenon cannot be defined only on the basis of its earliest exemplar. The differences between Daniel and Enoch show only that there was some diversity within apocalypticism, and that it should not be restricted to a single social movement. Again, while the books of Enoch were preserved at Qumran (except for the Similitudes), they were not the only, or even the primary source of sectarian ideology, and there is no evidence whatever that would warrant identifying them with the Essenes. Nonetheless, the early Enoch books attest to a kind of Judaism that is significantly different from the covenantal nomism of “common Judaism.” As George Nickelsburg has argued, “the general category of covenant was not important for these authors” (Nickelsburg 1998: 125). Enoch rather than Moses is the mediator of revelation. Unlike the book of Jubilees, which is closely related to Enoch in some respects, there is no attempt to read back Mosaic legislation into the primeval period. Even the Animal Apocalypse, which touches on the exodus and the ascent of Mt. Sinai in the course of a “prophecy” of the history of Israel, conspicuously fails to mention either the making of a covenant or the giving of the Law. In all of this there is no polemic against the Mosaic Torah, but the Torah is not the explicit frame of reference. Moreover, the Enoch literature attests to a soli-lunar calendar different from the lunar calendar that was observed in the Jerusalem Temple (at least in later times), but similar to the one found in Jubilees and the Dead Sea Scrolls.
The idea of a movement within Judaism that is not centered on the Mosaic Torah may seem anomalous in the context of the Hellenistic age, but it was not without precedent. The biblical wisdom literature is distinguished precisely by its lack of explicit reference to either the Mosaic Torah or the history of Israel, and it retains this character as late as the book of Qoheleth, which may be roughly contemporary with the early Enoch literature. Charles, then, was not correct when he claimed that “apocalyptic Judaism” “started with the unreserved recognition of the supremacy of the Law.” At least in the case of the early Enoch literature, this was not the case.
What is true of the Enoch literature, however, is not necessarily true of all the Pseudepigrapha, or even of all apocalyptic literature. The book of Jubilees adapts the myth of the fallen angels from 1 Enoch (Segal 2007: 103–43), and shares with it the solar (364-day) calendar. It can be viewed as an example of “rewritten Bible,” or biblical paraphrase, but it is also an apocalypse, in the sense that it is a revelation mediated by an angel. But the recipient of the revelation is none other than Moses, and the content is a paraphrase of the book of Genesis. Moreover, this paraphrase is informed throughout by a keen interest in halakic issues. The sectarian writings of the Dead Sea Scrolls are at once apocalyptic and focused on the exact interpretation of the Law of Moses. The Torah also plays a central role in the apocalypses of 4 Ezra and 2 Baruch, which were composed after the destruction of the Temple, at the end of the first century C.E. The relationship between apocalyptic literature and the Torah is illustrated most vividly by 4 Ezra. At the end of the book, Ezra is commissioned to replace the books of the Law that had been burnt. He is given a fiery liquid to drink, and inspired to dictate the books. In all, ninety-four books are written. Of these, twenty-four are made public so that the worthy and unworthy may read them. But the seventy others are kept secret, in order that they may be given to the wise among the people. The extra or hidden books contain “the spring of understanding, the fountain of wisdom and the river of knowledge.” 4 Ezra is neither critical of the Torah nor opposed to it, but it claims to have further revelation, which provides the context within which the Torah must be understood. This claim of higher revelation is one of the defining characteristics of apocalyptic literature. In the words of Seth Schwartz, “it was a way of compensating for the deficiencies of the covenantal system” (Schwartz 2001: 83). The covenant promised life and prosperity to those who observed it and threatened disaster to those who did not, but life evidently did not work this way. One of the major topics of apocalyptic revelation was judgment after death and the contrasting fates of the righteous and wicked in the hereafter. Belief in life after death was not confined to apocalyptic literature; the immortality of the soul was widely accepted in Greek-speaking Judaism, and the Pharisees, who may have subscribed to apocalyptic ideas to various degrees, believed in resurrection. But belief in the judgment of the dead and a differentiated afterlife is first attested in Judaism in the books of Enoch and Daniel, and it is the primary factor that distinguishes apocalyptic eschatology from that of the prophets (Collins 1997b: 75–97).
The Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism
And [Peter] went outside and wept bitterly.… Then [Judas] went away and hanged himself.
--- Matthew 26:75; 27:5.
Simon of Bethsaida and Judas of Kerioth had possessed all things in common: common opportunities, common associations, common trials and dangers. (Sermons Preached in St Paul's Cathedral) They had witnessed the same works and listened to the same words. They had lived in the same Presence. They had received the same revelation of the same Father from the same hallowed lips. Altogether it might have been thought that their characters must have been cast in the same mold. From what then came this difference?
From what but in the use or misuse of that mysterious, that fatal, that magnificent gift of God to humanity—free will?
Both were tempted. Both yielded to the temptation. The same night was fatal to the one and to the other. Just at this moment it might have seemed as if there were little to choose between Peter and Judas. How is it then that Peter rises again, while Judas sinks down, sinks suddenly, sinks irretrievably, sinks forever?
It was not what Judas had done but what Judas had become that prevented his rising. His guilt was great, but God’s mercy is greater. His guilt was great, but God’s pardon does not nicely calculate less or more.
Faith and hope are the two requisites without which restoration is impossible—faith in God and hope for the future. With these is life-giving repentance; without these is crushing remorse.
As long as we look only to ourselves, pardon seems wholly beyond our reach. There is nothing in our own hearts, nothing in our past lives that suggests it. It is well that we should grieve over our sins; it is not well that we should give ourselves up to overmuch self-dissection. Our failings must be our stepping-stones; they must not be our stumbling blocks. We cannot suffer them to cripple our energies or to bar our path. But this will always be the case so long as our gaze is directed solely within. For here we find only feebleness, only vacillation, only ignorance, only failure and sin. Our strength, our consolation, our renewal are elsewhere. It is only when our hearts go forth in faith to God the all wise and almighty, God the merciful, God our Father that the pardon comes, that the pure heart is made and the steadfast spirit renewed within us. This faith Judas did not realize. He knew God only as an avenging judge. He did not know him as a loving Father.
--- J. B. Lightfoot
Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
The Nicene Creed June 19
During the first three centuries of its life, the church suffered waves of persecution—the shackles, the lash, the sword, the teeth of lions. With the conversion of Emperor Constantine in 312, the persecution ended, and the church considered a problem worse than persecution—heresy. A teacher named Arius from North Africa was denying that Jesus was both fully man and fully God. “There was a time when the Son was not,” taught Arius. He claimed that Jesus is not eternal, not divine, not God. The heresy grew, alarming Constantine. The emperor didn’t understand the debate, but he desired unity in the church. “These questions are the idle cobwebs of contention, spun by curious wits,” he said.
Constantine called a general council of the church in the small town of Nicaea. Eighteen hundred bishops were invited from across the empire, and each bishop was allowed to bring two other church leaders and three slaves. Traveling conditions were difficult, and fewer than 400 bishops assembled, most from the eastern realm. Many bore marks of persecution. Some were scholars; some were shepherds. Into this motley crew stepped Emperor Constantine, wearing high-heeled scarlet boots, a purple robe, long hair, and a short beard.
The delegates were soon at each other’s throats. Arius presented his views. Alexander and Athanasius retaliated with orthodox teaching. Finally Hosius, a bishop from Cordova, suggested drawing up a creed. The statement of faith was developed, and Hosius announced it on June 19, 325. It described Jesus Christ as “God from very God, begotten not made, of the same substance as the Father, through whom all things were made … who for us men, and for our salvation, came down and was made flesh, was made man, suffered and rose again. … ”
The creed was adopted, and the doctrine of Christ’s divine nature—a belief both essential and unique to Christianity—was formally affirmed for the first time.
Christ is exactly like God, who cannot be seen. He is the first-born Son, superior to all creation. Everything was created by him, everything in heaven and on earth, everything seen and unseen, including all forces and powers, and all rulers and authorities. … He is the head of his body … the church.
On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - June 19
“And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost.” --- Acts 2:4.
Rich were the blessings of this day if all of us were filled with the Holy Ghost. The consequences of this sacred filling of the soul it would be impossible to overestimate. Life, comfort, light, purity, power, peace; and many other precious blessings are inseparable from the Spirit’s benign presence. As sacred oil, he anoints the head of the believer, sets him apart to the priesthood of saints, and gives him grace to execute his office aright. As the only truly purifying water he cleanses us from the power of sin and sanctifies us unto holiness, working in us to will and to do of the Lord’s good pleasure. As the light, he manifested to us at first our lost estate, and now he reveals the Lord Jesus to us and in us, and guides us in the way of righteousness. Enlightened by his pure celestial ray, we are no more darkness but light in the Lord. As fire, he both purges us from dross, and sets our consecrated nature on a blaze. He is the sacrificial flame by which we are enabled to offer our whole souls as a living sacrifice unto God. As heavenly dew, he removes our barrenness and fertilizes our lives. O that he would drop from above upon us at this early hour! Such Morning dew would be a sweet commencement for the day. As the dove, with wings of peaceful love he broods over his Church and over the souls of believers, and as a Comforter he dispels the cares and doubts which mar the peace of his beloved. He descends upon the chosen as upon the Lord in Jordan, and bears witness to their sonship by working in them a filial spirit by which they cry Abba, Father. As the wind, he brings the breath of life to men; blowing where he listeth he performs the quickening operations by which the spiritual creation is animated and sustained. Would to God, that we might feel his presence this day and every day.
Evening - June 19
“My Beloved is mine, and I am his: he feedeth among the lilies. Until the day break, and the shadows flee away, turn, my Beloved, and be thou like a roe or a young hart upon the mountains of Bether.” --- Song of Solomon 2:16, 17.
Surely if there be a happy verse in the Bible it is this—“My Beloved is mine, and I am his.” So peaceful, so full of assurance, so overrunning with happiness and contentment is it, that it might well have been written by the same hand which penned the twenty-third Psalm. Yet though the prospect is exceeding fair and lovely—earth cannot show its superior—it is not entirely a sunlit landscape. There is a cloud in the sky which casts a shadow over the scene. Listen, “Until the day break, and the shadows flee away.”
There is a word, too, about the “mountains of Bether,” or, “the mountains of division,” and to our love, anything like division is bitterness. Beloved, this may be your present state of mind; you do not doubt your salvation; you know that Christ is yours, but you are not feasting with him. You understand your vital interest in him, so that you have no shadow of a doubt of your being his, and of his being yours, but still his left hand is not under your head, nor doth his right hand embrace you. A shade of sadness is cast over your heart, perhaps by affliction, certainly by the temporary absence of your Lord, so even while exclaiming, “I am his,” you are forced to take to your knees, and to pray, “Until the day break, and the shadows flee away, turn, my Beloved.”
“Where is he?” asks the soul. And the answer comes, “He feedeth among the lilies.” If we would find Christ, we must get into communion with his people, we must come to the ordinances with his saints. Oh, for an Evening glimpse of him! Oh, to sup with him to-night!
Morning and Evening
NOW I BELONG TO JESUS
Words and Music by Norman J. Clayton, 1903–1992
If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. (Romans 14:8)
God is FOR us—that is good.
God is WITH us—that is better.
God is IN us—that is best!
We hear much these days about the problem of homeless people—people of the street with no place to go and no one who cares. Can we really appreciate the terrible state of despair and loneliness experienced by these masses? Man was created by God to enjoy His fellowship and the fellowship of family and friends. All of us have a need to belong to someone and something.
The greatest “belonging” in life is described by the Heidelberg Catechism, which begins its instruction in this way:
Question—“What is your only comfort in life and death?”
Answer—“That I, with body and soul, am not my own, but belong body and soul, in life and in death, to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ …”
This popular Gospel song by Norman Clayton speaks so well about this truth of the mystical union that exists between Christ and the believer—Christ in the believer and the believer in Christ. Who can fathom the mystery of a mortal believer’s spirit being united with the divine Christ—a glorious relationship that begins for the believer at the moment of genuine response to the call of Christ and one that will last for eternity?
Norman Clayton has authored and composed numerous other fine Gospel hymns, but “Now I Belong to Jesus” is still his most widely used song. This inspiring Gospel song first appeared in Word of Life Melodies No. 1 in 1943. Mr. Clayton writes that one of his greatest thrills in life was hearing a 10-year-old deaf girl sing his song at a camp for handicapped children.
Jesus my Lord will love me forever, from Him no pow’r of evil can sever; He gave His life to ransom my soul—Now I belong to Him!
Once I was lost in sin’s degradation; Jesus came down to bring me salvation, lifted me up from sorrow and shame—Now I belong to Him!
Joy floods my soul, for Jesus has saved me, freed me from sin that long had enslaved me; His precious blood He gave to redeem—Now I belong to Him!
Chorus: Now I belong to Jesus; Jesus belongs to me—Not for the years of time alone, but for eternity.
For Today: Song of Solomon 2:16; John 10:28; Colossians 1:27.
Rise above the circumstances of this day and rejoice in the glorious truth that you and Christ are united for eternity. Carry this musical testimony with you ---
Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
Martin Luther | (1483-1546)
Sect. LX. — IN these passages, our friend Diatribe makes no distinction whatever, between the voice of the Law and the voice of the Gospel: because, forsooth, it is so blind and so ignorant, that it knows not what is the Law and what is the Gospel. For out of all the passages from Isaiah, it produces no one word of the law, save this, ‘If thou wilt;’ all the rest is Gospel, by which, as the word of offered grace, the bruised and afflicted are called unto consolation. Whereas, the Diatribe makes them the words of the law. But, I pray thee, tell me, what can that man do in theological matters, and the Sacred Writings, who has not even gone so far as to know what is Law and what is Gospel, or, who, if he does know, condemns the observance of the distinction between them? Such an one must confound all things, heaven with hell, and life with death; and will never labour to know any thing of Christ. Concerning which, I shall put my friend Diatribe a little in remembrance, in what follows.
Look then, first, at that of Jeremiah and Malachi “If thou wilt turn, then will I turn thee:” and, “turn ye unto me, and I will turn unto you.” Does it then follow from “turn ye” — therefore, ye are able to turn? Does it follow also from “Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart” — therefore, thou art able to love with all thine heart? If these arguments stand good, what do they conclude, but that “Free-will” needs not the grace of God, but can do all things of its own power? And then, how much more right would it be that the words should be received as they stand — ‘If thou shalt turn, then will I also turn thee?’ That is; — if thou shalt cease from sinning, I also will cease from punishing; and if thou shalt be converted and live well, I also will do well unto thee in turning away thy captivity and thy evils. But even in this way, it does not follow, that man can turn by his own power, nor do the words imply this; but they simply say, “If thou wilt turn;” by which, a man is admonished of what he ought to do. And when he has thus known and seen what he ought to do but cannot do, he would ask how he is to do it, were it not for that Leviathan of the Diatribe (that is, that appendage, and conclusion it has here tacked on) which comes in and between and says, — ‘therefore, if man cannot turn of his own power, “turn ye” is spoken in vain:’ But, of what nature all such conclusion is, and what it amounts to, has been already fully shewn.
It must, however, be a certain stupor or lethargy which can hold, that the power of “Free-will” is confirmed by these words “turn ye,” “if thou wilt turn,” and the like, and does not see, that for the same reason, it must be confirmed by this Scripture also, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart,” seeing that, the meaning of Him who commands and requires is the same in both instances. For the loving of God, is not less required than our conversion, and the keeping of all the commandments; because, the loving of God is our real conversion. And yet, no one attempts to prove “Free-will” from that command ‘to love,’ although from those words “if thou wilt,” “if thou wilt hear,” “turn ye”, and the like, all attempt to prove it. If therefore from that word, “love the Lord thy God with all thy heart,” it does not follow that “Free-will” is any thing or can do anything, it is certain that it neither follows from these words, “if thou wilt,” “if thou wilt hear,” “turn ye,” and the like, which either require less, or require with less force of importance, than these words “Love God!” “Love the Lord!”
Whatever, therefore, is said against drawing a conclusion in support of “Free-will” from this word “love God,” the same must be said against drawing a conclusion in support of “Free-will” from every other word of command or requirement. For, if by the command ‘to love,’ the nature of the law only be shewn, and what we ought to do, but not the power of the will or what we can do, but rather, what we cannot do, the same is shewn by all the other Scriptures of requirement. For it is well known, that even the schoolmen, except the Scotinians and moderns, assert, that man cannot love God with all his heart. Therefore, neither can he perform any one of the other precepts, for all the rest, according to the testimony of Christ, hang on this one. Hence, by the testimony even of the doctors of the schools, this remains as a settled conclusion: — that the words of the law do not prove the power of “Free-will,” but shew what we ought to do, and what we cannot do. .
The Bondage of the Will or Christian Classics Ethereal Library
The Faith Once for All Delivered Jude 3 | Burk Parsons
How the Early Church Used Apologetics | W. Robert Godfrey
Applied Apologetics| Stephen Nichols
Origin, Meaning, Morality, Destiny Gen. 1:26–28 | Ravi Zacharias
Is Truth Dead? | Ravi Zacharias
Preaching & Apologetics | Steven Lawson
The Word Became Flesh | W. Robert Godfrey
Apologetics & the Local Church | Burk Parsons
God’s Unchanging Word | Steven Lawson
Brett Meador | Athey Creek
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