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6/22/2023     Yesterday     Tomorrow

Psalm 46 - 50

Psalm 46

God Is Our Fortress


 Psalm 46:1     God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
2  Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
3  though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah

4  There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
5  God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;
God will help her when morning dawns.
6  The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;
he utters his voice, the earth melts.
7  The LORD of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

8  Come, behold the works of the LORD,
how he has brought desolations on the earth.
9  He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the chariots with fire.
10  “Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!”
11  The LORD of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

Psalm 47

God Is King over All the Earth


 Psalm 47:1     Clap your hands, all peoples!
Shout to God with loud songs of joy!
2  For the LORD, the Most High, is to be feared,
a great king over all the earth.
3  He subdued peoples under us,
and nations under our feet.
4  He chose our heritage for us,
the pride of Jacob whom he loves. Selah

5  God has gone up with a shout,
the LORD with the sound of a trumpet.
6  Sing praises to God, sing praises!
Sing praises to our King, sing praises!
7  For God is the King of all the earth;
sing praises with a psalm!

8  God reigns over the nations;
God sits on his holy throne.
9  The princes of the peoples gather
as the people of the God of Abraham.
For the shields of the earth belong to God;
he is highly exalted!

Psalm 48

Zion, the City of Our God


 Psalm 48:1     Great is the LORD and greatly to be praised
in the city of our God!
His holy mountain, 2 beautiful in elevation,
is the joy of all the earth,
Mount Zion, in the far north,
the city of the great King.
3  Within her citadels God
has made himself known as a fortress.

4  For behold, the kings assembled;
they came on together.
5  As soon as they saw it, they were astounded;
they were in panic; they took to flight.
6  Trembling took hold of them there,
anguish as of a woman in labor.
7  By the east wind you shattered
the ships of Tarshish.
8  As we have heard, so have we seen
in the city of the LORD of hosts,
in the city of our God,
which God will establish forever. Selah

9  We have thought on your steadfast love, O God,
in the midst of your temple.
10  As your name, O God,
so your praise reaches to the ends of the earth.
Your right hand is filled with righteousness.
11  Let Mount Zion be glad!
Let the daughters of Judah rejoice
because of your judgments!

12  Walk about Zion, go around her,
number her towers,
13  consider well her ramparts,
go through her citadels,
that you may tell the next generation
14  that this is God,
our God forever and ever.
He will guide us forever.

Psalm 49

Why Should I Fear in Times of Trouble?


 Psalm 49:1     Hear this, all peoples!
Give ear, all inhabitants of the world,
2  both low and high,
rich and poor together!
3  My mouth shall speak wisdom;
the meditation of my heart shall be understanding.
4  I will incline my ear to a proverb;
I will solve my riddle to the music of the lyre.

5  Why should I fear in times of trouble,
when the iniquity of those who cheat me surrounds me,
6  those who trust in their wealth
and boast of the abundance of their riches?
7  Truly no man can ransom another,
or give to God the price of his life,
8  for the ransom of their life is costly
and can never suffice,
9  that he should live on forever
and never see the pit.

10  For he sees that even the wise die;
the fool and the stupid alike must perish
and leave their wealth to others.
11  Their graves are their homes forever,
their dwelling places to all generations,
though they called lands by their own names.
12  Man in his pomp will not remain;
he is like the beasts that perish.

13  This is the path of those who have foolish confidence;
yet after them people approve of their boasts. Selah
14  Like sheep they are appointed for Sheol;
death shall be their shepherd,
and the upright shall rule over them in the morning.
Their form shall be consumed in Sheol, with no place to dwell.
15  But God will ransom my soul from the power of Sheol,
for he will receive me. Selah

16  Be not afraid when a man becomes rich,
when the glory of his house increases.
17  For when he dies he will carry nothing away;
his glory will not go down after him.
18  For though, while he lives, he counts himself blessed
—and though you get praise when you do well for yourself—
19  his soul will go to the generation of his fathers,
who will never again see light.
20  Man in his pomp yet without understanding is like the beasts that perish.

Psalm 50

God Himself Is Judge


 Psalm 50:1     The Mighty One, God the LORD,
speaks and summons the earth
from the rising of the sun to its setting.
2  Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty,
God shines forth.

3  Our God comes; he does not keep silence;
before him is a devouring fire,
around him a mighty tempest.
4  He calls to the heavens above
and to the earth, that he may judge his people:
5  “Gather to me my faithful ones,
who made a covenant with me by sacrifice!”
6  The heavens declare his righteousness,
for God himself is judge! Selah

7  “Hear, O my people, and I will speak;
O Israel, I will testify against you.
I am God, your God.
8  Not for your sacrifices do I rebuke you;
your burnt offerings are continually before me.
9  I will not accept a bull from your house
or goats from your folds.
10  For every beast of the forest is mine,
the cattle on a thousand hills.
11  I know all the birds of the hills,
and all that moves in the field is mine.

12  “If I were hungry, I would not tell you,
for the world and its fullness are mine.
13  Do I eat the flesh of bulls
or drink the blood of goats?
14  Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving,
and perform your vows to the Most High,
15  and call upon me in the day of trouble;
I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.”

16  But to the wicked God says:
“What right have you to recite my statutes
or take my covenant on your lips?
17  For you hate discipline,
and you cast my words behind you.
18  If you see a thief, you are pleased with him,
and you keep company with adulterers.

19  “You give your mouth free rein for evil,
and your tongue frames deceit.
20  You sit and speak against your brother;
you slander your own mother’s son.
21  These things you have done, and I have been silent;
you thought that I was one like yourself.
But now I rebuke you and lay the charge before you.

22  “Mark this, then, you who forget God,
lest I tear you apart, and there be none to deliver!
23  The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me;
to one who orders his way rightly
I will show the salvation of God!”

ESV Study Bible

What I'm Reading

How Open-Mindedness Opens the Door to the Gospel

By J. Warner Wallace 5/8/2015

     In my last blog post, I talked about the importance of jury selection in any criminal trial. The secret of our success in cold case investigations and prosecutions has been simple: the majority of criminal (and civil) cases are won or lost well before the opening statements or closing arguments. Most cases are decided at jury selection. As the case agent and investigating detective in many high profile criminal trials, I’ve learned to look for three things in every juror, and these are the same attributes I seek in those with whom I share the case for Christianity: I’m looking for people who are passionate about the issues, open to hearing the case and humble enough not to let their ego get in the way. Today I want to talk about the importance of open-mindedness in criminal trials and in making the case for what you believe as a Christian.

     Open-Minded Jurors | We ask jurors if they can be fair when making a decision, even though we know they have opinions and potentially dangerous biases. As humans, all of us are profoundly affected by our experiences and personal histories. Some jurors, for example, have law enforcement members or prosecutors in their family; some have family members who have been arrested. When these relationships come to light during the jury selection process, we ask jurors if they will be able to make a fair decision based purely on the evidence presented, in spite of the fact they may have had some past experience with law enforcement (either positive or negative). My son, for example, became a juror (and even served as the foreman) in spite of the fact his father and grandfather were detectives and his best family friend was a criminal prosecutor. Some people are able to put their feelings aside and some are not. If you can’t remain open-minded, you won’t be able to serve on a jury. Everyone has an opinion and a set of experiences. I want jurors who are capable of examining the evidence fairly, regardless of their relationships and past histories. I’m looking for open-minded jurors.

     As a Christian case maker, I want to be as effective as possible but I know there are people who have deeply entrenched biases they are unwilling (or presently unable) to resist. They simply cannot be fair. It would be unwise to place someone like this on a criminal jury, and it may be equally unwise to set your sights on someone like this as the focus of your Christian case making. Don’t get me wrong, I still find myself sharing the truth with loved ones who are hostile toward Christianity. After all, when you care for someone it’s hard to resist the temptation to do whatever you can to reach them with the truth. But given my experience with jurors, I am far more realistic now in my expectations. I still look for opportunities, but I know when enough is enough. As Jesus told his disciples in the Gospel of Matthew (Chapter 7, verse 6), “Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.” I try to identify people who are capable of examining the evidence fairly, regardless of their relationships and past histories. I’m looking for open-minded jurors.

     If you’re like me, you’ve probably encountered your fair share of people who are hostile toward Christianity. Unlike apathetic jurors, people who are unwilling to evaluate our claims fairly have often had a bad experience with Christianity (or, more likely, with Christians). When I encounter people like this, I recognize my responsibility as yet another Christian in their midst. Am I contributing to a negative perception? I don’t want to be yet another reason they dislike Christians. But more importantly, I’ve come to understand the power of prayer in situations like this. Only after God removed my enmity was I ready to hear what anyone had to say about Him. Once I became a Christian, several of my Christian friends and co-workers told me they had been praying for me for years. Whenever I become frustrated with people who are unreceptive to Christianity, I ask myself, “When was the last time I prayed for this person and asked God to remove this hostility?” I’ve learned to pray, watch for God’s activity, and play my role as a good case maker.

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James "Jim" Warner Wallace (born June 16, 1961) is an American homicide detective and Christian apologist. Wallace is a Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview and an Adjunct Professor of Apologetics at Biola University in La Mirada, California. He has authored several books, including Cold-Case Christianity, God’s Crime Scene, and Forensic Faith, in which he applies principles of cold case homicide investigation to apologetic concerns such as the existence of God and the reliability of the Gospels.

Un-Coloring Race

By Victor Sharpe 6/20/2017

     Winston Churchill repeatedly warned the British Nation of what would happen before that fateful act of appeasement towards Hitler and the Nazis by the British Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, took place at Munich. As Churchill feared, it inexorably led to the catastrophe of World War Two.

     Churchill's words ring eerily true for all of us – be it in Britain, the United States or what is left of Western Europe – as we now face the rising peril of unbridled Islamo-Nazi supremacy and infiltration. His words most certainly rang unnervingly true as we witnessed and endured the appalling political correctness and appeasement towards Islam during the eight long years of the Barack Hussein Obama presidency.

     It was desolating to witness the descent of the United States of America; a victorious nation that truly was – and is – a shining beacon in an often dark and frightening world but was fundamentally being changed for the worse by a foreboding presence in the White House.

     But political correctness and the insanity of multiculturalism still continues, led by the European Union and by so many Western failed democracies as they act like dhimmies towards the barbaric Islamic scourge of jihad and terror that threatens to destroy all that is left of freedom and Judeo-Christian civilization.

     We will soon mark the 16 year old anniversary of that other fateful day in September, 2001; the day when a horrific atrocity in the name of Allah was perpetrated against two of America's icons: the Pentagon and the World Trade Center.

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     Victor Sharpe is a freelance writer with many published articles and essays in leading national and international conservative websites and magazines. Born and educated in England, he is now a U.S. citizen and lives in the Pacific Northwest. He has been a broadcaster and has authored several books including a collection of short stories under the title The Blue Hour. His highly acclaimed two-volume set of in-depth studies on the threats from resurgent Islam to Israel and Judeo-Christian civilization is titled Politicide. When not writing, he is also an accomplished Jazz musician and performer.

Victor Sharpe Books:

The Blue Hour
Politicide - Volume Three
Politicide - Volume Two

As assisted suicide bill goes to Lords, Dutch watchdog who once backed euthanasia warns UK of 'slippery slope' to mass deaths

By Steve Doughty 7/10/2014

  • Theo Boer, a European assisted suicide watchdog, said 'don't do it'
  • In Netherlands euthanasia has been legal since 2002
  • However, in six years the numbers of deaths have doubled
  • Peers are preparing to debate the Assisted Dying Bill
  • Bill has been promoted by Lord Falconer, a Labour former Lord Chancellor

     Legalising assisted suicide is a slippery slope toward widespread killing of the sick, MPs and peers were told yesterday.

     A former euthanasia supporter warned of a surge in deaths if Parliament allowed doctors to give deadly drugs to their patients.

     ‘Don’t do it Britain,’ said Theo Boer, a veteran European watchdog in assisted suicide cases. ‘Once the genie is out of the bottle, it is not likely ever to go back in again.’

     His native Netherlands, where euthanasia has been legal since 2002, has seen deaths double in just six years and this year’s total may reach a record 6,000.

     Professor Boer’s intervention comes as peers prepare to debate the Assisted Dying Bill, promoted by Lord Falconer, a Labour former Lord Chancellor.

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     I could not find any bio on this writer.

The Prayer I Have Prayed Most

By John Piper 6/19/2017

     I suppose, in my little prayer nook in my study, where I have a little prayer bench that I built in 1975, as I’ve bent over that bench thousands of times, the most common prayer has been, “Lead me not into temptation. Deliver me from evil (see Matthew 6:13). Keep me. Keep me. I feel so utterly unable to do the next thing. My kids are at the breakfast table. I have nothing. I’m supposed to model joyful fatherhood, and I’m so depressed I can hardly remember their names. Help me.”

     And you know what’s happening there? God is keeping me. It says, “Pray by the Holy Spirit” (Jude 20). Not by yourself, by your own energies. If you’re crying out, “Abba, help,” the Holy Spirit is witnessing with your spirit, you’re the child of God (Romans 8:16), and you’re being kept by God giving you the means of being kept.

     “From him and through him and to him” — I am so thankful — “are all things” (Romans 11:36). The psalm that maybe I’ve prayed this with most often is, “Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge” (Psalm 16:1). Pray, believe. Pray, believe. Pray, believe. “Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge. I say to the Lord, ‘You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.’ As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight. The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply; their drink offerings [or libations] of blood I will not pour out or take their names on my lips. The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup” (Psalm 16:1–5), even if I can’t even move. I won’t let him go — “Oh, don’t let me go. Don’t let me let you go!” That’s the way it works.

     Here I am, amazed. Amazed. I mean, how many days in this weird emotional cauldron called Me there have been when it felt, “I cannot do it. I can’t go on. I can’t go to the meeting, I can’t preach the sermon, I can’t meet my family. I have no idea when the preparation’s going to happen. I don’t know how it’s going to do.” And here I am. I mean, I look back and say, “How did that happen? How did that happen?” God. Kneeling to him. And my praying and trusting doesn’t rob him of any of his glory and majesty and power and authority, which are decisively effective in my keeping, because it says, “Pray by the Spirit.”

     If we asked him, I’m sure he would agree with Paul. How about faith? Is that also by the Spirit? Jude would say with Paul, “Your faith is a gift, not your own doing. Not by works lest anyone should boast.”

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      (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

     John Piper Books |  Go to Books Page

Lessons from the UK for American Evangelicals

By Jake Meador 6/16/2017

     You’ll have to forgive my sounding like something of a broken record by this point, but I couldn’t let this news pass without flagging it for Mere O readers:

     Tim Farron has announced his resignation as Liberal Democrat leader after he was repeatedly pressed during the general election over his personal beliefs on issues including homosexuality.

     Farron issued a statement on Wednesday night saying he felt “remaining faithful to Christ” was incompatible with leading his party. It is understood several senior figures in the party had visited Farron in recent days to attempt to persuade him to step down, though he was initially reluctant.

     There is a certain class of evangelicals in the US, mostly young, middle class, and white, that dismisses things like Rod Dreher’s Benedict Option and other related books as alarmist. While I am sympathetic to concerns about Rod’s tone, I am much less sympathetic to the idea that Rod is over-stating the challenges confronting the western church today.

     Consider: Tim Farron actually supports same-sex marriage. On policy issues, he was blameless in the eyes of progressives. But even that concession was not sufficient. He was consistently grilled during the campaign season about his personal beliefs regarding homosexuality. One member of the party resigned over his views and many have speculated that part of the reason the Lib Dems underperformed in this election was a general mistrust of Farron because of his religious beliefs.

     Pair this with last week’s Bernie story and, well, you understand why American Christians who are paying attention are a bit anxious. The issue in at least these two cases does not seem to be anything about the actual policies a person supports or how they would do in their specific job within the political system. The issue is personal convictions informed by traditional religious beliefs. There are all sorts of bad ways that Christians might respond to this fact, but denying that this is happening does not help us either.

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     Jake Meador is a 2010 graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln where he studied English and History. He lives in Lincoln, NE with his wife Joie, their daughter Davy, and son Wendell. Jake's writing has appeared in Christianity Today, Fare Forward, the University Bookman, Books and Culture, First Things, Front Porch Republic, and The Run of Play.

We All Need Adversity and Affliction

By Jon Bloom 6/20/2017

     My oldest child just celebrated his twenty-first birthday, and it has me thinking about the priceless benefits of adversity, affliction, and deep spiritual wrestling.

     I’m thinking about them for two reasons. First, my most beneficial, faith-forging, character-developing, endurance-training, and joy-producing experiences have resulted from my most difficult, painful, fearful, dark, and doubt-inducing experiences. And second, my first real immersion into this reality happened when I was twenty-one.

     What I learned was so important, so life shaping, that I long for my son — for all my children, for all who are young (and old) — to receive the same priceless benefits, even though they come through experiences parents often try to shield their children from. I want them to experience real, substantial, deep happiness, and not merely the thin, ephemeral pleasure-buzzes that masquerade as happiness. And like most treasures, such happiness is almost always discovered in the dark places.

     Flabby Faith | I grew up in Middle America, spending most of my childhood in the 70s, and coming of age in the mid-80s. Which means my life was easy. Not that it was altogether easy. My working-class family had, like most families, plenty of spiritual, physical, and relational brokenness, sin, and pain. But I had parents who loved me, some really good friends, a solid church, and a decent, if deficient, public education. Above all that, God mercifully brought me to faith in Christ around age eleven. This provided me a spiritual and moral keel as I sailed the volatile waters of adolescence.

     But I lived immersed in American affluence, which meant that even at the working-class level, I enjoyed an abundance of discretionary resources and time that had been unprecedented in human history until about a decade before my birth. I watched too much TV, ate too much food, and spent too much time and money on idle entertainment. Which meant I developed very little “grit.”

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     John R.W. Stott Books |  Go to Books Page

Motherhood Is a Calling

By Rachel Jankovic 7/14/2011

     A few years ago, when I just had four children and when the oldest was still three, I loaded them all up to go on a walk. After the final sippy cup had found a place and we were ready to go, my two-year-old turned to me and said, “Wow! You have your hands full!”

     She could have just as well said, “Don’t you know what causes that?” or “Are they all yours?!”

     Everywhere you go, people want to talk about your children. Why you shouldn’t have had them, how you could have prevented them, and why they would never do what you have done. They want to make sure you know that you won’t be smiling anymore when they are teenagers. All this at the grocery store, in line, while your children listen.

     A Rock-Bottom Job? | The truth is that, years ago, before this generation of mothers was even born, our society decided where children rank in the list of important things. When abortion was legalized, we wrote it into law.

     Children rank way below college. Below world travel for sure. Below the ability to go out at night at your leisure. Below honing your body at the gym. Below any job you may have or hope to get. In fact, children rate below your desire to sit around and pick your toes, if that is what you want to do. Below everything. Children are the last thing you should ever spend your time doing.

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     Rachel Jankovic is a wife, homemaker, and mother. She is the author of Loving the Little Years: Motherhood in the Trenches and Fit to Burst: Abundance, Mayhem, and the Joys of Motherhood. She and her husband Luke have six children.

     Rachel Jankovic Books:

The Courage of Joseph of Arimathea

By Lydia McGrew

     All four Gospels say that, after Jesus died, a man named Joseph of Arimathea requested and buried his body. There will be one other undesigned coincidence about Joseph of Arimathea in a later chapter, and in general the Gospels’ varied treatment of him is quite interesting. The particular point for this coincidence arises from the Gospel of Mark:

(Mk 15:42–45) 42 And when evening had come, since it was the day of Preparation, that is, the day before the Sabbath, 43 Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, who was also himself looking for the kingdom of God, took courage and went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. 44 Pilate was surprised to hear that he should have already died. And summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he was already dead. 45 And when he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the corpse to Joseph. ESV

     The word translated “took courage” in this verse is translated elsewhere as “dared” or “ventured” (see, e.g., Mark 12.34 and Acts 7.32).

(Mk 12:34) And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And after that no one dared to ask him any more questions. ESV

(Acts 7:32) I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham and of Isaac and of Jacob.’ And Moses trembled and did not dare to look. ESV

     Such an explanation for an emphasis on Joseph’s boldness is forthcoming in the Gospel of John, which does not speak quite so positively about Joseph of Arimathea.

(Jn 19:38–39) 38 After these things Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus, and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took away his body. 39 Nicodemus also, who earlier had come to Jesus by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds in weight. ESV

     John does not emphasize Joseph’s courage, but what he does say explains why someone else writing about him might be moved to note it. According to John, Joseph had previously been a secret disciple for fear of the Jews; John implies that this was the first time that he had openly shown himself to be sympathetic to Jesus. As if to emphasize the point still further, John states that Joseph was joined in the work of burial by Nicodemus, who had previously come to Jesus by night (John 3), presumably out of a similar fear.

     What we have in the two accounts is an interesting case of two reporters with the same facts giving those facts a different spin. Mark accentuates the positive. He speaks of Joseph as “looking for the kingdom of God” (always considered a good thing in the New Testament) and calls him courageous for asking for Jesus’ body. Yet this very praise of Joseph raises the question I have already noted— why Mark’s emphasis upon “taking courage”? Does this imply that it was unlikely that Joseph would take courage to ask for the body? John’s report tells of Joseph’s previous lack of boldness (not mentioned in any of the Synoptic Gospels), which the twelve disciples may well have known about and had different opinions about. John respects Joseph and Nicodemus only insofar as they finally step forward and make their discipleship known, which John may consider to be the least they could do. Mark, on the other hand, is more sympathetic and inclined to praise Joseph for “taking courage.”

     One may even conjecture (though I would not lean heavily on this) that, if Peter were the eyewitness source for much of Mark (as Christian tradition says), Peter would be inclined not to be too hard on one who was at first afraid but later “took courage,” since Peter himself denied Jesus out of fear. If John the beloved disciple were the author of John, he would have no such motive to mercy, much less praise, since he never denied Jesus. According to the Gospel of John, the beloved disciple even followed Jesus to the cross.

     In general, the Gospels’ varying treatment of Joseph of Arimathea is a fascinating example of their independence of perspective and to some extent their independence of information. In Chapter IV, I will examine one aspect that is unique to Matthew, so I will not mention it here, but here are a few other details that differ from one account to another: Matthew alone says that Joseph was rich (Matt 27.57). Matthew says that Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, while Mark and Luke do not say this. Matthew does not mention that Joseph was a member of the council or that he was looking for the kingdom of God; these are mentioned in both Mark (see above) and Luke 23.50– 51. Mark alone says that Joseph “took courage.” Luke heaps the highest praise of any of the Gospels on Joseph. He calls him a “good and righteous man” (Luke 23.50). Luke also, alone among the Gospels, is careful to say that Joseph of Arimathea had “not consented” to the “decision and action” of the rest of the council, though he does not give any further details about exactly what happened. (Is he implying that the night-time meeting of the Sanhedrin was called in Joseph’s absence? Or does Luke believe that Joseph spoke up for Jesus and got out-voted? Or had Luke simply heard, without detail, that Joseph was not involved in Jesus’ condemnation by the council?) John alone, as I have already pointed out, mentions Joseph’s previous secrecy and the involvement of Nicodemus.

     The miscellaneously varied accounts in the four Gospels of Jesus’ burial by Joseph of Arimathea provide an especially good opportunity to see that the relationship among the Gospels is not one of gradual accretion or development. Nor is it easy to find any sort of pattern in the inclusions and omissions, which is very much what one expects from varying testimonies. The different Gospel writers show independence of judgment and of detail in their portraits.

Hidden in Plain View: Undesigned Coincidences in the Gospels and Acts

     Lydia McGrew

Isn’t the Bible Full of Errors?

By John Piper 8/8/2018

     The New Testament as we have it was originally written in Greek. The first printed Greek New Testament coming off a printing press happened in the year 1516, which means that for 1,500 years, the text that John and other biblical authors wrote was passed down by handwritten copies. It was copied by hand and passed on and on and on. That’s significant.

     When the New Testament was printed in 1516, it simply turned the world upside down. And I should just pause here and say if you want to read one of the best biographies that I’ve ever read, read William Tyndale: A Biography to learn about that era and the heroism, and sacrifice, and reformation that this printing took so that anybody could read it — not just a few monks tucked away making faithful copies, but anybody who took the time could have it in their hands. It simply turned the world upside down in 1516 and beyond.

     But for 1,500 years, it came down to us in handwritten form. We do not have the original manuscript of any of the New Testament books; that is, the very piece of parchment or paper that John or Paul or Matthew or Mark or Luke wrote on. We don’t have that piece of paper. Everything we have is copies, and the question is: Did they get it right? Were they faithful with it? And frankly, I think it’s probably just as well that we don’t have those originals because we’d make idols out of them and charge money probably for people to come worship at the shrine of the original manuscript of the apostle Paul. So the books of the New Testament are all preserved by these faithful, hardworking scribes and copyists for all those centuries.

     Let me describe those manuscripts to you and give you some amazing facts. There are four ways that those manuscripts appear. One is a group called uncials, which are capital letters in the Greek. These are very old manuscripts. The next group is minuscules, and they’re little Greek letters. So some were written in all caps and some were written in little letters, and then there’s a group called papyri. These are the oldest fragments, written on papyrus, which was a plant common along the Nile in Egypt. The other group is lectionaries, which are collections of text used in public worship, not in the order they were written necessarily, but it lays out what you read on a particular Sunday.

     Now, here’s what’s simply amazing: The abundance of those manuscripts in those four different forms is so startling compared to the oldest manuscripts of any other manuscript coming from the first century. It’s simply breathtaking. Caesar’s Gallic Wars was written about 50 BC. It has ten surviving manuscripts in the language in which it was written, and all of them date from AD 900 and after. Livy’s History of Rome has twenty surviving manuscripts, which are all late. Two manuscripts survive of Tacitus’s Histories and Annals, written about AD 100. There are only two manuscripts and they’re all from the AD ninth and eleventh century. Eight manuscripts exist for Thucydides’s history, which was written around 400 BC.

     So, typically when you’re a historian working with manuscripts that come from the period that we’re talking about — the very early first century or so — you have up to twenty manuscripts to work with, and they’re all from the ninth and tenth century, not earlier. And virtually all those historians working in universities around the world are confident they’re interpreting Caesar, Thucydides, and Tacitus.

     Compare the numbers of the manuscripts that we have of the New Testament. And these numbers all come from the main think tank called the Institute for New Testament Textual Research in Münster, Germany, who have the data all collated. These manuscripts exist in libraries around the world, but of course they’ve been digitized now. And the numbers of these are plain for everybody to see. There are 322 of the uncial texts, there are 2,907 miniscule texts, there are 2,445 lectionary portions, and there are 127 papyri, adding up to about 5,801 manuscripts or fragments. They’re not all complete New Testaments, but they are either whole or fragments of the New Testament. So these handwritten copies of the New Testament are in existence today and now are visible to the scholars who want to work with them to try to discern what the original words were that the biblical authors wrote.

     Now, as you can imagine, the copying of those texts produced variations for all kinds of human reasons. So the multiplicity of the numbers of manuscripts increases the problem of variations, and also increases the powers of control by which we can assess which are the most original. The more you have, the more you can test which were the original ones. If we only had two manuscripts of the Gospel of John and one of them included the story about the woman caught in adultery, and one of them omitted it, and they’re both old, what would we do? It would be very difficult to decide.

     That’s not the situation with any text in the Bible. The variations are many, but we have hundreds of texts. So we can say, “Here it is in these, but here — the number of these texts, the antiquity of these texts, the geographical distribution of these texts — it makes it crystal clear: that’s the original right there.” The number of manuscripts, while creating more variations, also creates the very control that scholars are able to use in order to decide which is original.

     Here’s the way F.F. Bruce from a generation ago put it. He wrote this in 1943:

     If the great number of manuscripts increases the number of scribal errors, it increases proportionately the means of correcting such errors, so that the margin of doubt left in the process of recovering the exact original wording is . . . in truth remarkably small. (The New Testament Documents, 19)

     What’s most significant for the reliability and the authority of the New Testament is that the variations that remain, that we still wonder about, do not affect any biblical doctrine. Here’s the way Bruce puts it: “The variant readings about which any doubt remains among textual critics of the New Testament affects no material question of historic fact or of Christian faith and practice” (The New Testament Documents, 20). Now, nothing in the last seventy years or so since he wrote that has changed in my judgment, except the fact that some very popular teachers, especially Bart Erhman, have become renowned for calling the New Testament into question precisely on the basis of textual critical issues.

     On the other hand, Paul Wegner, writing in 2006, reaffirms Bruce’s judgment: “It is important to keep in perspective the fact that only a very small part of the text is in question. . . . Of these, most variants make little difference to the meaning of any passage.” And then he closes his book with this quote from Fredric Kenyon: “It is reassuring at the end to find that the general result of all these discoveries and all this study is to strengthen the proof of the authenticity of the Scriptures, and our conviction that we have in our hands, in substantial integrity, the veritable word of God” (A Student’s Guide to Textual Criticism of the Bible, 301).

     I agree with Don Carson and the others that the story of the woman caught in adultery was not in the Gospel of John when he wrote it. When I say that, I don’t at all mean for you to respond, “Oh, everything then is up for grabs,” or “How can I count on any text?” On the contrary, you and I should be very thankful that in God’s sovereign providence over the centuries, these thousands and thousands of manuscripts are so abundant today — that in the science of textual criticism, as they are compared one with the other, there is a high degree of certainty that we have the original wording. And where there isn’t a degree of certainty, it affects no doctrine of the Christian faith.

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      (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

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Read The Psalms In "1" Year

Psalm 68

God Shall Scatter His Enemies
68 To The Choirmaster. A Psalm Of David. A Song.

1 God shall arise, his enemies shall be scattered;
and those who hate him shall flee before him!
2 As smoke is driven away, so you shall drive them away;
as wax melts before fire,
so the wicked shall perish before God!
3 But the righteous shall be glad;
they shall exult before God;
they shall be jubilant with joy!

4 Sing to God, sing praises to his name;
lift up a song to him who rides through the deserts;
his name is the LORD;
exult before him!
5 Father of the fatherless and protector of widows
is God in his holy habitation.
6 God settles the solitary in a home;
he leads out the prisoners to prosperity,
but the rebellious dwell in a parched land.

ESV Study Bible

By Gleason Archer Jr.

Song of Solomon

     The Hebrew title of this book is Šɩ̂r haš-šɩ̄rɩ̂m, that is, “ The Song of the Songs, ” or “The Best of Songs.” The LXX rendered this title literally as asrna asmatōn, and the Vulgate as Canticum Canticorum, both of which mean the “song of songs.” It is from the Latin title that the term Canticles is derived as a designation of this book.

     The theme of Canticles is the love of Solomon for his Shulamite bride and her deep affection for him. This love affair is understood to typify the warm, personal relationship which God desires with His spiritual bride, composed of all redeemed believers who have given their hearts to Him. From the Christian perspective, this points to the mutual commitment between Christ and His church and the fullness of fellowship which ought to subsist between them.

Outline of the  Song of Solomon

     A simple and adequate outline is furnished by Delitzsch, who divides the book into six acts:

I.     Mutual affection of the lovers,  1:2–2:7
II.     Mutual seeking and finding of the lovers,  2:8–3:5
III.     Fetching of the bride, and the marriage,  3:6–5:1
IV.     Love scorned but won again,  5:2–6:9
V.     The Shulamite as the attractively fair but humble princess,  6:10–8:4
VI.     Ratification of the love covenant in her home,  8:5–14

Authorship and Date of Composition of the  Song of Solomon

     The opening verse of the book attributes authorship to King Solomon, using the formula “which is of Solomon” (ašer li-Šelomoh). Some scholars have interpreted this phrase as a formula of dedication rather than a true attribution of authorship (essentially the same issue involved as in the le-Dāwɩ̂d of the psalm titles), but it should be understood that this preposition le, “to,” is the only convenient way of expressing possession or authorship in Hebrew where the same author may have composed many other works. It has been the uniform tradition of the Christian church until modern times that Canticles is a genuine Solomonic production. Even in more recent times, Delitzsch, Raven, Steinmueller, and Young have shown little hesitation is assigning the authorship of Canticles to Solomon.

     A Survey of Old Testament Introduction

The Continual Burnt Offering Mark 1:4, 9

By H.A. Ironside - 1941

June 22
Mark 1:4 John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

Mark 1:9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.

     John’s baptism was unto repentance. He announced the near approach of the kingdom of God and called upon the people of Israel to get right with God that they might be ready to receive and enter into it. Those who confessed their sins were baptized (Luke 7:29). Jesus had no sins to confess; He had nothing of which to repent, yet He came to John for baptism, much to the desert preacher’s surprise (Matthew 3:13-14). But Jesus reassured him. He submitted to baptism as the divinely appointed way of declaring His interest in and identification with the godly remnant in Israel, who were waiting for His coming. His baptism was a pledge to fulfill every righteous demand of the throne of God on behalf of those who owned their guilt and took the place of repentance before Him. They were like debtors giving their notes to a creditor - acknowledging a debt they could not pay. He, by His baptism, endorsed all their notes and made Himself responsible to pay all they owed. On the cross He settled for all when He endured the baptism of judgment in our place.

Luke 7:29 (When all the people heard this, and the tax collectors too, they declared God just, having been baptized with the baptism of John,

Matthew 3:13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. 14 John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”

Lord Jesus, we remember
The travail of Thy soul,
When in Thy love’s deep pity
The waves did o’er Thee roll.
Baptized in death’s dark waters,
For us Thy blood was shed,
For us, Thou Lord of glory,
Wast numbered with the dead.
--- J. G. Deck

The Continual Burnt Offering: Daily Meditations on the Word of God

The Institutes of the Christian Religion

Translated by Henry Beveridge

     16. By this contrast between ancient and modern monasticism, I trust I have gained my object, which was to show that our cowled monks falsely pretend the example of the primitive Church in defence of their profession; since they differ no less from the monks of that period than apes do from men. Meanwhile I disguise not that even in that ancient form which Augustine commends, there was something which little pleases me. I admit that they were not superstitious in the external exercises of a more rigorous discipline, but I say that they were not without a degree of affectation and false zeal. It was a fine thing to cast away their substance, and free themselves from all worldly cares; but God sets more value on the pious management of a household, when the head of it, discarding all avarice, ambition, and other lusts of the flesh, makes it his purpose to serve God in some particular vocation. It is fine to philosophise in seclusion, far away from the intercourse of society; but it ill accords with Christian meekness for any one, as if in hatred of the human race, to fly to the wilderness and to solitude, and at the same time desert the duties which the Lord has especially commanded. Were we to grant that there was nothing worse in that profession, there is certainly no small evil in its having introduced a useless and perilous example into the Church.

17. Now, then, let us see the nature of the vows by which the monks of the present day are initiated into this famous order. First, as their intention is to institute a new and fictitious worship with a view to gain favour with God, I conclude from what has been said above, that everything which they vow is abomination to God. Secondly, I hold that as they frame their own mode of life at pleasure, without any regard to the calling of God, or to his approbation, the attempt is rash and unlawful; because their conscience has no ground on which it can support itself before God; and "whatsoever is not of faith is sin" (Rom. 14:23). Moreover, I maintain that in astricting themselves to many perverse and impious modes of worship, such as are exhibited in modern monasticism, they consecrate themselves not to God but to the devil. For why should the prophets have been permitted to say that the Israelites sacrificed their sons to devils and not to God (Deut. 32:17; Ps. 106:37), merely because they had corrupted the true worship of God by profane ceremonies; and we not be permitted to say the same thing of monks who, along with the cowl, cover themselves with the net of a thousand impious superstitions? Then what is their species of vows? They offer God a promise of perpetual virginity, as if they had previously made a compact with him to free them from the necessity of marriage. They cannot allege that they make this vow trusting entirely to the grace of God; for, seeing he declares this to be a special gift not given to all (Mt. 19:11), no man has a right to assume that the gift will be his. Let those who have it use it; and if at any time they feel the infirmity of the flesh, let them have recourse to the aid of him by whose power alone they can resist. If this avails not, let them not despise the remedy which is offered to them. If the faculty of continence is denied, the voice of God distinctly calls upon them to marry. By continence I mean not merely that by which the body is kept pure from fornication, but that by which the mind keeps its chastity untainted. For Paul enjoins caution not only against external lasciviousness, but also burning of mind (1 Cor. 7:9). It has been the practice (they say) from the remotest period, for those who wished to devote themselves entirely to God, to bind themselves by a vow of continence. I confess that the custom is ancient, but I do not admit that the age when it commenced was so free from every defect that all that was then done is to be regarded as a rule. Moreover, the inexorable rigour of holding that after the vow is conceived there is no room for repentance, crept in gradually. This is clear from Cyprian. "If virgins have dedicated themselves to Christian faith, let them live modestly and chastely, without pretence. Thus strong and stable, let them wait for the reward of virginity. But if they will not, or cannot persevere, it is better to marry, than by their faults to fall into the fire." In the present day, with what invectives would they not lacerate any one who should seek to temper the vow of continence by such an equitable course? Those, therefore, have wandered far from the ancient custom who not only use no moderation, and grant no pardon when any one proves unequal to the performance of his vow, but shamelessly declare that it is a more heinous sin to cure the intemperance of the flesh by marriage, than to defile body and soul by whoredom.

18. But they still insist and attempt to show that this vow was used in the days of the apostles, because Paul says that widows who marry after having once undertaken a public office, "cast off their first faith" (1 Tim. 5:12). I by no means deny that widows who dedicated themselves and their labours to the Church, at the same time came under an obligation of perpetual celibacy, not because they regarded it in the light of a religious duty, as afterwards began to be the case, but because they could not perform their functions unless they had their time at their own command, and were free from the nuptial tie. But if, after giving their pledge, they began to look to a new marriage, what else was this but to shake off the calling of God? It is not strange, therefore, when Paul says that by such desires they grow wanton against Christ. In further explanation he afterwards adds, that by not performing their promises to the Church, they violate and nullify their first faith given in baptism; one of the things contained in this first faith being, that every one should correspond to his calling. Unless you choose rather to interpret that, having lost their modesty, they afterwards cast off all care of decency, prostituting themselves to all kinds of lasciviousness and pertness, leading licentious and dissolute lives, than which nothing can less become Christian women. I am much pleased with this exposition. Our answer then is, that those widows who were admitted to a public ministry came under an obligation of perpetual celibacy, and hence we easily understand how, when they married, they threw off all modesty, and became more insolent than became Christian women that in this way they not only sinned by violating the faith given to the Church, but revolted from the common rule of pious women. But, first, I deny that they had any other reason for professing celibacy than just because marriage was altogether inconsistent with the function which they undertook. Hence they bound themselves to celibacy only in so far as the nature of their function required. Secondly, I do not admit that they were bound to celibacy in such a sense that it was not better for them to marry than to suffer by the incitements of the flesh, and fall into uncleanness. Thirdly, I hold that what Paul enjoined was in the common case free from danger, because he orders the selection to be made from those who, contented with one marriage, had already given proof of continence. Our only reason for disapproving of the vow of celibacy is, because it is improperly regarded as an act of worship, and is rashly undertaken by persons who have not the power of keeping it.

19. But what ground can there be for applying this passage to nuns? For deaconesses were appointed, not to soothe God by chantings or unintelligible murmurs, and spend the rest of their time in idleness; but to perform a public ministry of the Church toward the poor, and to labour with all zeal, assiduity, and diligence, in offices of charity. They did not vow celibacy, that they might thereafter exhibit abstinence from marriage as a kind of worship rendered to God, but only that they might be freer from encumbrance in executing their office. In fine, they did not vow on attaining adolescence, or in the bloom of life, and so afterwards learn, by too late experience, over what a precipice they had plunged themselves, but after they were thought to have surmounted all danger, they took a vow not less safe than holy. But not to press the two former points, I say that it was unlawful to allow women to take a vow of continence before their sixtieth year, since the apostle admits such only, and enjoins the younger to marry and beget children. Therefore, it is impossible, on any ground, to excuse the deduction, first of twelve, then of twenty, and, lastly, of thirty years. Still less possible is it to tolerate the case of miserable girls, who, before they have reached an age at which they can know themselves, or have any experience of their character, are not only induced by fraud, but compelled by force and threats, to entangle themselves in these accursed snares. I will not enter at length into a refutation of the other two vows. This only I say, that besides involving (as matters stand in the present day) not a few superstitions, they seem to be purposely framed in such a manner, as to make those who take them mock God and men. But lest we should seem, with too malignant feeling, to attack every particular point, we will be contented with the general refutation which has been given above.

20. The nature of the vows which are legitimate and acceptable to God, I think I have sufficiently explained. Yet, because some ill-informed and timid consciences, even when a vow displeases, and is condemned, nevertheless hesitate as to the obligation, and are grievously tormented, shuddering at the thought of violating a pledge given to God, and, on the other hand, fearing to sin more by keeping it,--we must here come to their aid, and enable them to escape from this difficulty. And to take away all scruple at once, I say that all vows not legitimate, and not duly conceived, as they are of no account with God, should be regarded by us as null. (See Calv. ad Concil. Trident.) For if, in human contracts, those promises only are binding in which he with whom we contract wishes to have us bound, it is absurd to say that we are bound to perform things which God does not at all require of us, especially since our works can only be right when they please God, and have the testimony of our consciences that they do please him. For it always remains fixed, that "whatsoever is not of faith is sin" (Rom. 14:23). By this Paul means, that any work undertaken in doubt is vicious, because at the root of all good works lies faith, which assures us that they are acceptable to God. Therefore, if Christian men may not attempt anything without this assurance, why, if they have undertaken anything rashly through ignorance, may they not afterwards be freed, and desist from their error? Since vows rashly undertaken are of this description, they not only oblige not, but must necessarily be rescinded. What, then, when they are not only of no estimation in the sight of God, but are even an abomination, as has already been demonstrated? It is needless farther to discuss a point which does not require it. To appease pious consciences, and free them from all doubt, this one argument seems to me sufficient--viz. that all works whatsoever which flow not from a pure fountain, and are not directed to a proper end, are repudiated by God, and so repudiated, that he no less forbids us to continue than to begin them. Hence it follows, that vows dictated by error and superstition are of no weight with God, and ought to be abandoned by us.

21. He who understands this solution is furnished with the means of repelling the calumnies of the wicked against those who withdraw from monasticism to some honest kind of livelihood. They are grievously charged with having perjured themselves, and broken their faith, because they have broken the bond (vulgarly supposed to be indissoluble) by which they had bound themselves to God and the Church. But I say, first, there is no bond when that which man confirms God abrogates; and, secondly, even granting that they were bound when they remained entangled in ignorance and error, now, since they have been enlightened by the knowledge of the truth, I hold that they are, at the same time, free by the grace of Christ. For if such is the efficacy of the cross of Christ, that it frees us from the curse of the divine law by which we were held bound, how much more must it rescue us from extraneous chains, which are nothing but the wily nets of Satan? There can be no doubt, therefore, that all on whom Christ shines with the light of his Gospel, he frees from all the snares in which they had entangled themselves through superstition. At the same time, they have another defence if they were unfit for celibacy. For if an impossible vow is certain destruction to the soul, which God wills to be saved and not destroyed, it follows that it ought by no means to be adhered to. Now, how impossible the vow of continence is to those who have not received it by special gift, we have shown, and experience, even were I silent, declares: while the great obscenity with which almost all monasteries teem is a thing not unknown. If any seem more decent and modest than others, they are not, however, chaste. The sin of unchastity urges, and lurks within. Thus it is that God, by fearful examples, punishes the audacity of men, when, unmindful of their infirmity, they, against nature, affect that which has been denied to them, and despising the remedies which the Lord has placed in their hands, are confident in their ability to overcome the disease of incontinence by contumacious obstinacy. For what other name can we give it, when a man, admonished of his need of marriage, and of the remedy with which the Lord has thereby furnished, not only despises it, but binds himself by an oath to despise it?


[604] See Ps. 119:106. "I have sworn, and I will perform it, that I will keep thy righteous judgments." Calvin observes on these words, that the vow and oath to keep the law cannot be charged with rashness, because it trusted to the promises of God concerning the forgiveness of sins, and to the spirit of regeneration.

[605] On the vow of celibacy. see Calv. de Fugiend. Micit. sacris, Adv. Theolog. Paris. De Necessit. Reform. Eccl.; Præfat. Antidoti ad Concil. Trident.; Vera Eccles. Reform. Ratio; De Scandalis.

[606] Bernard, de Convers. ad Clericos, cap. 29, inveighing against the crimes of the clergy, says, "Would that those who cannot contain would fear to take the vow of celibacy! For it is a weighty saying, that all cannot receive it. Many are either unable to conceal from the multitude, or seek not to do it. They abstain from the remedy of marriage, and thereafter give themselves up to all wickedness."

[607] Latin, "Catechism."--French, "En faisant protestation de notre foy;"--in making profession of our faith.

[608] At the same place, he admirably says, "Dearly beloved, love ease, but with the view of restraining from all worldly delight, and remember that there is no place where he who dreads our return to God is not able to lay his snares."

[609] Laurentius, defending his written assertion, that the monks falsely imagined that by means of their profession they merited more than others, admirably concludes, "There is no safer, no better way than that taught by Christ, and in it no profession is enjoined."

[610] French, ",Par ce moyen ils attirent farine au moulin et vendent leur sainteté tres cherement; cependant cette glose est cachee et comme ensevelie en peu de livres;"--by this means they bring grist to their mill, and sell their holiness very dear; meanwhile, the gloss is concealed, and is, as it were, buried in a few books.

[611] Chrysostom, in his Homily on the words of Paul, "Salute Prisca," &c., says, "All who retire to monasteries separate themselves from the Church, seeing they plainly assert that their monasticism is the form of a second baptism."

[612] See Bernard. ad Guliel. Abbat.. "I wonder why there is so much intemperance among monks. O vanity of vanities! but not more vain than insane." See also August. de Opere Monach. in fin


     Christian Classics Ethereal Library / Public Domain

     Institutes of the Christian Religion

  • Psalm 46
  • Psalm 47
  • Psalm 48

#1     Psalm 46 | David Guzik


#2     Psalm 47 | David Guzik


#3     Psalm 48 | David Guzik


     Devotionals, notes, poetry and more

coram Deo
     5/1/2012 | Through Many Toils

     John Newton (1725–1807) is perhaps best known for his hymn “Amazing Grace,” but what many do not know is that Newton was also a faithful churchman who served as a pastor in England from 1764 until a month before his death in 1807. His mother died when he was seven years old, and, upon his father’s remarriage, young John was sent to school. In 1795, Newton reflected on his relationship with his father: “I am persuaded he loved me, but he seemed not willing that I should know it. I was with him in a state of fear and bondage.”

     At eleven, Newton became a seaman aboard his father’s ship. Then, in 1743, under compulsion, Newton became a midshipman with the Royal Navy, and, later, he was traded for goods and became the property of a slave trader’s wife who abused him and treated him like one of her slaves, who ate only the scraps from her table. After his rescue, Newton himself became a notorious African slave trader. He was a self-admitted sinful wretch who lived a life of debauchery and described himself by saying, “I was very wicked, and therefore very foolish; and, being my own enemy, I seemed determined that nobody should be my friend.” On March 10, 1748, the twenty-two-year-old Newton was converted to Christ while making a trip between England and Sierra Leone.

     Years after his conversion, he joined his friend William Wilberforce and became one of England’s most outspoken abolitionists. On account of his bold stand against slavery, and on account of his thoroughgoing Calvinism, Newton became well acquainted with the right and wrong ways of engaging in controversy. In 1771, he was asked to write an article for the British periodical Gospel Magazine in order to provide pastoral counsel regarding the ongoing controversy between Calvinists and Arminians. Since its publication under the title “On Controversy,” Newton’s article has become one of the church’s most well-known and wellloved writings on Christian polemics.

     Newton’s letter beautifully sets forth a principled Christian ethic for engaging in controversy. At the outset, he explains why controversy exists and why we as Christians must love and earnestly contend for truth. He then offers three rules of engagement that we would do well to consider before entering a controversy, namely, consider our opponent, consider our audience, and consider ourselves. In the conclusion of his letter, Newton directs us to focus our eyes on God’s kingdom and God’s glory as the ultimate end of any controversies in which we must engage. It is to that end that we have published this issue of Tabletalk, so that when we find it necessary to engage in controversy, we do so with humility, charity, and grace as wretches converted by God’s amazing grace.

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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)

On Controversy
     John Newton    from Nathan W. Bingham

     A minister, about to write an article criticizing a fellow minister for his lack of orthodoxy, wrote to John Newton of his intention. Read Newton’s response below or browse the May 2012 issue of Tabletalk magazine that was dedicated to the subject of controversy.

Dear Sir,

     As you are likely to be engaged in controversy, and your love of truth is joined with a natural warmth of temper, my friendship makes me solicitous on your behalf. You are of the strongest side; for truth is great, and must prevail; so that a person of abilities inferior to yours might take the field with a confidence of victory. I am not therefore anxious for the event of the battle; but I would have you more than a conqueror, and to triumph, not only over your adversary, but over yourself. If you cannot be vanquished, you may be wounded. To preserve you from such wounds as might give you cause of weeping over your conquests, I would present you with some considerations, which, if duly attended to, will do you the service of a great coat of mail; such armor, that you need not complain, as David did of Saul’s, that it will be more cumbersome than useful; for you will easily perceive it is taken from that great magazine provided for the Christian soldier, the Word of God. I take it for granted that you will not expect any apology for my freedom, and therefore I shall not offer one. For method’s sake, I may reduce my advice to three heads, respecting your opponent, the public, and yourself.

          Consider Your Opponent

     As to your opponent, I wish that before you set pen to paper against him, and during the whole time you are preparing your answer, you may commend him by earnest prayer to the Lord’s teaching and blessing. This practice will have a direct tendency to conciliate your heart to love and pity him; and such a disposition will have a good influence upon every page you write.

     If you account him a believer, though greatly mistaken in the subject of debate between you, the words of David to Joab concerning Absalom, are very applicable: “Deal gently with him for my sake.” The Lord loves him and bears with him; therefore you must not despise him, or treat him harshly. The Lord bears with you likewise, and expects that you should show tenderness to others, from a sense of the much forgiveness you need yourself. In a little while you will meet in heaven; he will then be dearer to you than the nearest friend you have upon earth is to you now. Anticipate that period in your thoughts; and though you may find it necessary to oppose his errors, view him personally as a kindred soul, with whom you are to be happy in Christ forever.

     But if you look upon him as an unconverted person, in a state of enmity against God and his grace (a supposition which, without good evidence, you should be very unwilling to admit), he is a more proper object of your compassion than of your anger. Alas! “He knows not what he does.” But you know who has made you to differ. If God, in his sovereign pleasure, had so appointed, you might have been as he is now; and he, instead of you, might have been set for the defense of the gospel. You were both equally blind by nature. If you attend to this, you will not reproach or hate him, because the Lord has been pleased to open your eyes, and not his.

     Of all people who engage in controversy, we, who are called Calvinists, are most expressly bound by our own principles to the exercise of gentleness and moderation. If, indeed, they who differ from us have a power of changing themselves, if they can open their own eyes, and soften their own hearts, then we might with less inconsistency be offended at their obstinacy: but if we believe the very contrary to this, our part is, not to strive, but in meekness to instruct those who oppose. “If peradventure God will give them repentance to the acknowledgment of the truth.” If you write with a desire of being an instrument of correcting mistakes, you will of course be cautious of laying stumbling blocks in the way of the blind or of using any expressions that may exasperate their passions, confirm them in their principles, and thereby make their conviction, humanly speaking, more impracticable.

          Consider the Public

     By printing, you will appeal to the public; where your readers may be ranged under three divisions: First, such as differ from you in principle. Concerning these I may refer you to what I have already said. Though you have your eye upon one person chiefly, there are many like-minded with him; and the same reasoning will hold, whether as to one or to a million.

     There will be likewise many who pay too little regard to religion, to have any settled system of their own, and yet are preengaged in favor of those sentiments which are at least repugnant to the good opinion men naturally have of themselves. These are very incompetent judges of doctrine; but they can form a tolerable judgment of a writer’s spirit. They know that meekness, humility, and love are the characteristics of a Christian temper; and though they affect to treat the doctrines of grace as mere notions and speculations, which, supposing they adopted them, would have no salutary influence upon their conduct; yet from us, who profess these principles, they always expect such dispositions as correspond with the precepts of the gospel. They are quick-sighted to discern when we deviate from such a spirit, and avail themselves of it to justify their contempt of our arguments. The scriptural maxim, that “the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God,” is verified by daily observation. If our zeal is embittered by expressions of anger, invective, or scorn, we may think we are doing service of the cause of truth, when in reality we shall only bring it into discredit. The weapons of our warfare, and which alone are powerful to break down the strongholds of error, are not carnal, but spiritual; arguments fairly drawn from Scripture and experience, and enforced by such a mild address, as may persuade our readers, that, whether we can convince them or not, we wish well to their souls, and contend only for the truth’s sake; if we can satisfy them that we act upon these motives, our point is half gained; they will be more disposed to consider calmly what we offer; and if they should still dissent from our opinions, they will be constrained to approve our intentions.

     You will have a third class of readers, who, being of your own sentiments, will readily approve of what you advance, and may be further established and confirmed in their views of the Scripture doctrines, by a clear and masterly elucidation of your subject. You may be instrumental to their edification if the law of kindness as well as of truth regulates your pen, otherwise you may do them harm. There is a principle of self, which disposes us to despise those who differ from us; and we are often under its influence, when we think we are only showing a becoming zeal in the cause of God.

     I readily believe that the leading points of Arminianism spring from and are nourished by the pride of the human heart; but I should be glad if the reverse were always true; and that to embrace what are called the Calvinistic doctrines was an infallible token of a humble mind. I think I have known some Arminians, that is, persons who for want of a clearer light, have been afraid of receiving the doctrines of free grace, who yet have given evidence that their hearts were in a degree humbled before the Lord.

     And I am afraid there are Calvinists, who, while they account it a proof of their humility, that they are willing in words to debase the creature and to give all the glory of salvation to the Lord, yet know not what manner of spirit they are of. Whatever it be that makes us trust in ourselves that we are comparatively wise or good, so as to treat those with contempt who do not subscribe to our doctrines, or follow our party, is a proof and fruit of a self-righteous spirit. Self-righteousness can feed upon doctrines as well as upon works; and a man may have the heart of a Pharisee, while his head is stored with orthodox notions of the unworthiness of the creature and the riches of free grace. Yea, I would add, the best of men are not wholly free from this leaven; and therefore are too apt to be pleased with such representations as hold up our adversaries to ridicule, and by consequence flatter our own superior judgments. Controversies, for the most part, are so managed as to indulge rather than to repress his wrong disposition; and therefore, generally speaking, they are productive of little good. They provoke those whom they should convince, and puff up those whom they should edify. I hope your performance will savor of a spirit of true humility, and be a means of promoting it in others.

          Consider Yourself

     This leads me, in the last place, to consider your own concern in your present undertaking. It seems a laudable service to defend the faith once delivered to the saints; we are commanded to contend earnestly for it, and to convince gainsayers. If ever such defenses were seasonable and expedient they appear to be so in our own day, when errors abound on all sides and every truth of the gospel is either directly denied or grossly misrepresented.

     And yet we find but very few writers of controversy who have not been manifestly hurt by it. Either they grow in a sense of their own importance, or imbibe an angry, contentious spirit, or they insensibly withdraw their attention from those things which are the food and immediate support of the life of faith, and spend their time and strength upon matters which are at most but of a secondary value. This shows, that if the service is honorable, it is dangerous. What will it profit a man if he gains his cause and silences his adversary, if at the same time he loses that humble, tender frame of spirit in which the Lord delights, and to which the promise of his presence is made?

     Your aim, I doubt not, is good; but you have need to watch and pray for you will find Satan at your right hand to resist you; he will try to debase your views; and though you set out in defense of the cause of God, if you are not continually looking to the Lord to keep you, it may become your own cause, and awaken in you those tempers which are inconsistent with true peace of mind, and will surely obstruct communion with God.

     Be upon your guard against admitting anything personal into the debate. If you think you have been ill treated, you will have an opportunity of showing that you are a disciple of Jesus, who “when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not.” This is our pattern, thus we are to speak and write for God, “not rendering railing for railing, but contrariwise blessing; knowing that hereunto we are called.” The wisdom that is from above is not only pure, but peaceable and gentle; and the want of these qualifications, like the dead fly in the pot of ointment, will spoil the savor and efficacy of our labors.

     If we act in a wrong spirit, we shall bring little glory to God, do little good to our fellow creatures, and procure neither honor nor comfort to ourselves. If you can be content with showing your wit, and gaining the laugh on your side, you have an easy task; but I hope you have a far nobler aim, and that, sensible of the solemn importance of gospel truths, and the compassion due to the souls of men, you would rather be a means of removing prejudices in a single instance, than obtain the empty applause of thousands. Go forth, therefore, in the name and strength of the Lord of hosts, speaking the truth in love; and may he give you a witness in many hearts that you are taught of God, and favored with the unction of his Holy Spirit.

Excerpt from The Works of John Newton, Letter XIX “On Controversy.”

click here for article source


American Minute
     by Bill Federer

     As of this date, June 22, 1970, eighteen-year-olds could begin voting in elections, thanks to President Richard M. Nixon signing the Voting Rights Act. The Supreme Court limited this right, so the following year the 26th Amendment was passed to confirm it. This was spurred by the protests during the Vietnam War, where students declared “If we’re old enough to fight, we’re old enough to vote.” In his Inaugural Address, President Nixon stated: “The laws have caught up with our conscience. What remains is… to insure… that as all are born equal in dignity before God, all are born equal in dignity before man.”

American Minute

Lean Into God
     Compiled by Richard S. Adams

Availability is better than ability for God.
--- Author Unknown
The Ability of God: Prayers of the Apostle Paul

I will insist the Hebrews have [contributed] more to civilize men than any other nation. If I was an atheist and believed in blind eternal fate, I should still believe that fate had ordained the Jews to be the most essential instrument for civilizing the nations ... They are the most glorious nation that ever inhabited this Earth. The Romans and their empire were but a bubble in comparison to the Jews. They have given religion to three-quarters of the globe and have influenced the affairs of mankind more and more happily than any other nation, ancient or modern.
--- John Adams
A History of the Jews

He does not lead me year by year,
nor even day by day;
But step by step my path unfolds;
my Lord directs the way.
--- Unknown
Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions

It is a heretic which builds a fire, not she who burns in't.
--- Shakespeare
The Winter's Tale (Folger Shakespeare Library)

... from here, there and everywhere

The Shema: Spirituality and Law in Judaism
     CHAPTER 12 / R. Shneur Zalman on
     “You Shall Love”

     Furthermore, ahavah tiv’it u-mesuteret is superior to ahavah sikhlit because it is constant, whereas Rational Love is present only when the mind actively focuses on the greatness of God. However, when the mind is preoccupied—as inevitably it must be—with other, more prosaic matters, Rational Love is inactive. Such is not the case with natural and hidden love, whose source is in our soul—today we would say, our “unconscious.” This love is always with us, independent of conscious mental processes.

     R. Shneur Zalman now turns to the other side of the ledger and presents us, in many of his works, with the superior qualities of ahavah sikhlit. For one thing, Rational Love is shaveh le’khol nefesh, uniformly available to all Jews, no matter what their native dispositions. Even those whose indigenous spiritual capacity is limited can bring themselves, via intellectual contemplation (each on his own level, of course), to ahavat Hashem. Not so with ahavah tiv’it u-mesuteret, which, although “natural,” is also “hidden” and therefore accessible only to the spiritual elite in whom the love has emerged from obscurity into full consciousness. And here we encounter a paradox: this natural but deeply concealed love can be revealed only by means of contemplation; thus, Rational Love becomes the means for attaining Natural and Hidden Love and, because it is indispensable to it, is therefore superior to it. In other words, though religion is natural, the consciousness of our religious yearnings is not; it requires a special measure of wisdom and self-awareness to appreciate both the presence of spiritual strivings within ourselves and their universality.

     Moreover, this spiritual triumph of self-awareness is an either-or condition, not a matter of degree or level. Not so with cognitive abilities, possessed in common by all humanity. All humans are aware of their ability to reason, even though the quality or level of such ability varies considerably from individual to individual. It is through this universal faculty of reason that we discover and manifest our instinctive spiritual capacities.

     Further, the ahavah sikhlit, because it is intellectual, has the potential to grow. The more intense our mental effort, the greater will be our love of God. Ahavah tiv’it u-mesuteret, however, because it is natural, is circumscribed by its very naturalness: it cannot exceed the limits of its preexistence in the soul. It is a fact, a given. It cannot expand beyond its outer limit even with effort.

     It is for this reason that we must never be satisfied with the degree of love we feel for God, but must combine ahavah sikhlit with ahavah tiv’it u-mesuteret. On the one hand, our emotional expression of religious experience is inadequate without an intellectual component; on the other hand, even when Rational Love has, by means of contemplation, revealed to us our innate natural and hidden love, we must bear in mind that the ultimate source of that religious experience is not the fruit of intellect alone but issues from a Source that transcends it. After all is said and done, religion springs from God, not man. (3)

(3)     Compare this with the Maharal’s view on the “naturalness” of religious feeling and expression; see chapter 11.

     Often R. Shneur Zalman uses two other terms for the love of God, which make for some confusion. The first, ahavah rabbah (literally, “great love”) more or less corresponds to ahavah tiv’it u-mesuteret; the second, ahavat olam (literally, “eternal love”), to ahavah sikhlit. Ahavah rabbah originates from beyond the “worlds,” i.e., it is mysterious in its origin, as is the “naturalness” of ahavah tiv’it u-mesuteret. Ahavat olam, in contrast, results from meditation upon the “world” (olam) or “worlds,” which reveal the greatness of the Creator. (4) These two pairs of terms encompass between them the commandment to love God.

(4)     This definition of ahavat olam by R. Shneur Zalman is based upon the equivocal meaning of olam. In biblical Hebrew it means “forever,” and that indeed is how the term is conventionally translated: an eternal love. In rabbinic Hebrew, however, the word olam changes from a time-to a space-oriented meaning: world rather than eternity. It is this latter meaning that R. Shneur Zalman attributes to it.

  The Shema: Spirituality and Law in Judaism

History of the Destruction of Jerusalem
     Thanks to Meir Yona

     4. Now upon these accounts, though Herod was somewhat afraid of the young men's high spirit, yet did he not despair of reducing them to a better mind; but before he went to Rome, whither he was now going by sea, he called them to him, and partly threatened them a little, as a king; but for the main, he admonished them as a father, and exhorted them to love their brethren, and told them that he would pardon their former offenses, if they would amend for the time to come. But they refuted the calumnies that had been raised of them, and said they were false, and alleged that their actions were sufficient for their vindication; and said withal, that he himself ought to shut his ears against such tales, and not be too easy in believing them, for that there would never be wanting those that would tell lies to their disadvantage, as long as any would give ear to them.

     5. When they had thus soon pacified him, as being their father, they got clear of the present fear they were in. Yet did they see occasion for sorrow in some time afterward; for they knew that Salome, as well as their uncle Pheroras, were their enemies; who were both of them heavy and severe persons, and especially Pheroras, who was a partner with Herod in all the affairs of the kingdom, excepting his diadem. He had also a hundred talents of his own revenue, and enjoyed the advantage of all the land beyond Jordan, which he had received as a gift from his brother, who had asked of Caesar to make him a tetrarch, as he was made accordingly. Herod had also given him a wife out of the royal family, who was no other than his own wife's sister, and after her death had solemnly espoused to him his own eldest daughter, with a dowry of three hundred talents; but Pheroras refused to consummate this royal marriage, out of his affection to a maidservant of his. Upon which account Herod was very angry, and gave that daughter in marriage to a brother's son of his, [Joseph,] who was slain afterward by the Parthians; but in some time he laid aside his anger against Pheroras, and pardoned him, as one not able to overcome his foolish passion for the maid-servant.

     6. Nay, Pheroras had been accused long before, while the queen [Mariamne] was alive, as if he were in a plot to poison Herod; and there came then so great a number of informers, that Herod himself, though he was an exceeding lover of his brethren, was brought to believe what was said, and to be afraid of it also. And when he had brought many of those that were under suspicion to the torture, he came at last to Pheroras's own friends; none of which did openly confess the crime, but they owned that he had made preparation to take her whom he loved, and run away to the Parthians. Costobarus also, the husband of Salome, to whom the king had given her in marriage, after her former husband had been put to death for adultery, was instrumental in bringing about this contrivance and flight of his. Nor did Salome escape all calumny upon herself; for her brother Pheroras accused her that she had made an agreement to marry Silleus, the procurator of Obodas, king of Arabia, who was at bitter enmity with Herod; but when she was convicted of this, and of all that Pheroras had accused her of, she obtained her pardon. The king also pardoned Pheroras himself the crimes he had been accused of.

     7. But the storm of the whole family was removed to Alexander, and all of it rested upon his head. There were three eunuchs who were in the highest esteem with the king, as was plain by the offices they were in about him; for one of them was appointed to be his butler, another of them got his supper ready for him, and the third put him into bed, and lay down by him. Now Alexander had prevailed with these men, by large gifts, to let him use them after an obscene manner; which, when it was told to the king, they were tortured, and found guilty, and presently confessed the criminal conversation he had with them. They also discovered the promises by which they were induced so to do, and how they were deluded by Alexander, who had told them that they ought not to fix their hopes upon Herod, an old man, and one so shameless as to color his hair, unless they thought that would make him young again; but that they ought to fix their attention to him who was to be his successor in the kingdom, whether he would or not; and who in no long time would avenge himself on his enemies, and make his friends happy and blessed, and themselves in the first place; that the men of power did already pay respects to Alexander privately, and that the captains of the soldiery, and the officers, did secretly come to him.

     8. These confessions did so terrify Herod, that he durst not immediately publish them; but he sent spies abroad privately, by night and by day, who should make a close inquiry after all that was done and said; and when any were but suspected [of treason], he put them to death, insomuch that the palace was full of horribly unjust proceedings; for every body forged calumnies, as they were themselves in a state of enmity or hatred against others; and many there were who abused the king's bloody passion to the disadvantage of those with whom they had quarrels, and lies were easily believed, and punishments were inflicted sooner than the calumnies were forged. He who had just then been accusing another was accused himself, and was led away to execution together with him whom he had convicted; for the danger the king was in of his life made examinations be very short. He also proceeded to such a degree of bitterness, that he could not look on any of those that were not accused with a pleasant countenance, but was in the most barbarous disposition towards his own friends. Accordingly, he forbade a great many of them to come to court, and to those whom he had not power to punish actually he spake harshly. But for Antipater, he insulted Alexander, now he was under his misfortunes, and got a stout company of his kindred together, and raised all sorts of calumny against him; and for the king, he was brought to such a degree of terror by those prodigious slanders and contrivances, that he fancied he saw Alexander coming to him with a drawn sword in his hand. So he caused him to be seized upon immediately, and bound, and fell to examining his friends by torture, many of whom died [under the torture], but would discover nothing, nor say any thing against their consciences; but some of them, being forced to speak falsely by the pains they endured, said that Alexander, and his brother Aristobulus, plotted against him, and waited for an opportunity to kill him as he was hunting, and then fly away to Rome. These accusations though they were of an incredible nature, and only framed upon the great distress they were in, were readily believed by the king, who thought it some comfort to him, after he had bound his son, that it might appear he had not done it unjustly.

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

The War of the Jews: The History of the Destruction of Jerusalem (complete edition, 7 books)

Proverbs 19:26-27
     by D.H. Stern

26     One who mistreats his father and evicts his mother
is a son who brings them shame and disgrace.

27     My son, if you stop heeding discipline,
you will stray from the principles of knowledge.

Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
My Utmost For The Highest
     A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers

                The undeviating test

     For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged; and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. --- Matthew 7:2.

     This statement is not a haphazard guess, it is an eternal law of God. Whatever judgment you give, it is measured to you again. There is a difference between retaliation and retribution. Jesus says that the basis of life is retribution —“with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.” If you have been shrewd in finding out the defects in others, remember that will be exactly the measure given to you. Life serves back in the coin you pay. This law works from God’s throne downwards (cf. Psalm 18:25–26).

     Romans 2 applies it in a still more definite way, and says that the one who criticizes another is guilty of the very same thing. God looks not only at the act, He looks at the possibility. We do not believe the statements of the Bible to begin with. For instance, do we believe this statement, that the things we criticize in others we are guilty of ourselves? The reason we see hypocrisy and fraud and unreality in others is because they are all in our own hearts. The great characteristic of a saint is humility—‘Yes, all those things and other evils would have been manifested in me but for the grace of God; therefore I have no right to judge.’

     Jesus says—“Judge not, that ye be not judged”; if you do judge, it will be measured to you exactly as you have judged. Who of us would dare to stand before God and say—‘My God, judge me as I have judged my fellow men’? We have judged our fellow men as sinners; if God should judge us like that we would be in hell. God judges us through the marvellous Atonement of Jesus Christ.

My Utmost for His Highest

     the Poetry of RS Thomas


Cars pass him by; he'll never own one.
  Men won't believe in him for this.
  Let them come into the hills
  And meet him wandering a road,
  Fenced with rain, as I have now;
  The wind feathering his hair;
  The sky's ruins, gutted with fire
  Of the late sun, smouldering still.

Nothing is his, neither the land
  Nor the land's flocks. Hired to live
  On hills too lonely, sharing his hearth
  With cats and hens, he has lost all
  Property but the grey ice
  Of a face splintered by life's stone.

Selected poems, 1946-1968

Searching For Meaning In Midrash

     Two women meet for coffee. “So how did your date go?” the first asks.

     “Not so good,” her friend answers. “He wore a fancy tie with a tie tack. A tie tack?! I haven’t seen one of those since I was in high school.”

     “So he wore a tie tack. Big deal! Tell me something else about him, something good about him. Bobby, the guy at work who told me about him, says that he’s good looking. So when you looked past the tie tack, was he cute?”

     “I don’t know. There just wasn’t any chemistry there. We just didn’t hit it off. There was just something about him. I don’t know …”

     “What is it with you? Every guy you go out with, there’s something wrong with him. That guy you met at the Federation singles weekend, he had bad dandruff.”

     “He did.”

     “Come on. I met him. He was terrific. And I didn’t see any dandruff. And how about that guy from your health club?”

     “He’s a mama’s boy.”

     “Just because he went home for the Passover seder, he’s a mama’s boy? I bet if you had invited him to your seder he would’ve dumped his mama in a second.”

     “I don’t know. It’s so hard to find the right guy.”

     “Maybe it’s because you’re looking for Mr. Perfect?”

     “I’m not looking for Mr. Perfect, but I do have very high standards. How could I spend the rest of my life with a man who wears a tie tack with his initials on it?”

     “Look, sweetie, maybe this is gonna hurt, but you’re my friend, so you might as well hear it from me: If you’re waiting for Mr. Perfect, then you’re going to be a pretty lonely person. No one is perfect. There is no one absolute person, no Mr. Right. Every person has flaws, idiosyncrasies, quirks. That’s human nature. Unless you’re willing to fall in love with someone who’s flawed, you’re going to be very lonely. You know, ‘A sealed jar of perfume still smells good in a graveyard. Imagine how good it would smell if it were opened in your house.’ ”

     “What the heck does that mean?”

     “I don’t know what it means. But it sure sounds romantic. I heard it from the guy who took me out Saturday night. He told me that his rabbi used it in his sermon last Saturday. And by the way, he asked me out again—this Saturday night!”

     “I guess that compared to a lot of the other guys out there, ‘Mr. Tie Tack’ isn’t so bad.”

Searching for Meaning in Midrash: Lessons for Everyday Living
Jonah 1–2 / Patience and Pardon
     W. W. Wiersbe

     "Most people are so familiar with the story of Jonah that nothing in it surprises them anymore, including the fact that it begins with the word “and.” (The KJV translates the Hebrew connective “now,” while the NIV and NASB ignore it completely.) If I opened one of my books with the word “and,” the editor would probably wonder if something had been lost, including my ability to use the English language.

     Jonah is one of fourteen Old Testament books that open with the little word “and.” These books remind us of God’s “continued story” of grace and mercy. Though the Bible is comprised of sixty-six different books, it tells only one story; and God keeps communicating that message to us, even though we don’t always listen too attentively. How long-suffering He is toward us!

     What is the Book of Jonah about? Well, it’s not simply about a great fish (mentioned only four times), or a great city (named nine times), or even a disobedient prophet (mentioned eighteen times). It’s about God! God is mentioned thirty-eight times in these four short chapters, and if you eliminated Him from the book, the story wouldn’t make sense. The Book of Jonah is about the will of God and how we respond to it. It’s also about the love of God and how we share it with others.

     In these first two chapters, Jonah has three experiences.

     1. Rebellion (
Jonah 1:1–17)

     Jonah must have been a popular man in Israel, because his prediction had been fulfilled that the nation would regain her lost territory from her enemies (
2 Kings 14:25). Those were days of peace and prosperity for Israel, but they were autumn days just before the terrible winter of judgment.

     Jonah the prophet disobeys God’s call (
Jonah 1:1–3). Jonah got into trouble because his attitudes were wrong. To begin with, he had a wrong attitude toward the will of God. Obeying the will of God is as important to God’s servant as it is to the people His servants minister to. It’s in obeying the will of God that we find our spiritual nourishment
John 4:34), enlightenment (7:17), and enablement
Heb. 13:21). To Jesus, the will of God was food that satisfied Him; to Jonah, the will of God was medicine that choked him.

     Jonah’s wrong attitude toward God’s will stemmed from a feeling that the Lord was asking him to do an impossible thing. God commanded the prophet to go to Israel’s enemy, Assyria, and give the city of Nineveh opportunity to repent, and Jonah would much rather see the city destroyed. The Assyrians were a cruel people who had often abused Israel and Jonah’s narrow patriotism took precedence over his theology. (Jonah’s hometown of Gath Hepher was on the border of Zebulun, one of the northernmost tribes, and therefore extremely vulnerable to the attacks of invaders. Perhaps he had seen what the Assyrians could do.) Jonah forgot that the will of God is the expression of the love of God (
Ps. 33:11), and that God called him to Nineveh because He loved both Jonah and the Ninevites.

     Jonah also had a wrong attitude toward the Word of God. When the Word of the Lord came to him, Jonah thought he could “take it or leave it.” However, when God’s Word commands us, we must listen and obey. Disobedience isn’t an option.
“But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46, (NKJV).

     Jonah forgot that it was a great privilege to be a prophet, to hear God’s Word, and know God’s will. That’s why he resigned his prophetic office and fled in the opposite direction from Nineveh. (Tarshish was probably in Spain, over 1,000 miles west of Joppa. Jonah was supposed to travel east to Nineveh. The Jews weren’t seafarers, but Jonah forgot his prejudices and fears in his attempt to escape doing God’s will.) Jonah knew that he couldn’t run away from God’s presence (
Ps. 139:7–12), but he felt he had the right to turn in his resignation. He forgot that “God’s gifts and His call are irrevocable” (Rom. 11:29, NIV). At one time or another during their ministries, Moses, Elijah, and Jeremiah felt like giving up, but God wouldn’t let them. Jonah needed Nineveh as much as Nineveh needed Jonah. It’s in doing the will of God that we grow in grace and become more like Christ.

     Jonah had a wrong attitude toward circumstances; he thought they were working for him when they were really working against him. He fled to Joppa (It was at Joppa that Peter got his divine call to go the Gentiles with the message of the Gospel (
Acts 10). Though he protested somewhat at first, unlike Jonah, he obeyed God’s call and opened the door of faith to the Gentiles. What a privilege!) and found just the right ship waiting for him! He had enough money to pay the fare for his long trip, and he was even able to go down into the ship and fall into a sleep so deep that the storm didn’t wake him up. It’s possible to be out of the will of God and still have circumstances appear to be working on your behalf. You can be rebelling against God and still have a false sense of security that includes a good night’s sleep. God in His providence was preparing Jonah for a great fall.

     Finally, Jonah had a wrong attitude toward the Gentiles. Instead of wanting to help them find the true and living God, he wanted to abandon them to their darkness and spiritual death. He not only hated their sins—and the Assyrians were ruthless enemies—but he hated the sinners who committed the sins. Better that Nineveh should be destroyed than that the Assyrians live and attack Israel.

     Jonah the Jew becomes a curse instead of a blessing
Jonah 1:4–10). God called the Jews to be a blessing to all the nations of the earth (Gen. 12:1–3), but whenever the Jews were out of the will of God, they brought trouble instead of blessing. (One exception is when the fall of the Jews brought salvation to the Gentiles (Rom. 11:11ff). Israel was out of God’s will when they rejected Christ and opposed the Gospel, but this opened the door of salvation to the Gentiles.) Twice Abraham brought trouble to people because he lied (vv. 10–20; 20:1–18); Achan brought trouble to Israel’s army because he robbed God (Josh. 7); and Jonah brought trouble to a boatload of pagan sailors because he fled. Consider all that Jonah lost because he wasn’t a blessing to others.

     First of all, he lost the voice of God (
Jonah 1:4). We don’t read that “the word of the Lord came to Jonah,” but that a great storm broke loose over the waters. God was no longer speaking to Jonah through His word; He was speaking to him through His works: the sea, the wind, the rain, the thunder, and even the great fish. Everything in nature obeyed God except His servant! God even spoke to Jonah through the heathen sailors (vv. 6, 8, 10) who didn’t know Jehovah. It’s a sad thing when a servant of God is rebuked by pagans.

     Jonah also lost his spiritual energy (
v. 5b). He went to sleep during a fierce storm and was totally unconcerned about the safety of others. The sailors were throwing the ship’s wares and cargo overboard, and Jonah was about to lose everything, but he still slept on. “A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest—and poverty will come on you like a bandit and scarcity like an armed man”
Prov. 24:33, NIV).

     He lost his power in prayer (
Jonah 1:5a, 6). The heathen sailors were calling on their gods for help while Jonah slept through the prayer meeting, the one man on board who knew the true God and could pray to Him. Of course, Jonah would first have had to confess his sins and determine to obey God, something he wasn’t willing to do. “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me” (Ps. 66:18). (The word translated “regard” means “to look upon with knowledge and approval.” It isn’t only knowing that we’ve sinned that hinders prayer, but holding onto that sin, approving of it, and protecting it. (See 1 John 1:5–10.) ) If Jonah did pray, his prayer wasn’t answered. Loss of power in prayer is one of the first indications that we’re far from the Lord and need to get right with Him.

     Sad to say, Jonah lost his testimony (
Jonah 1:7–10). He certainly wasn’t living up to his name, (It appears that the sailors gave Jonah a nickname: “he who is responsible for causing all this trouble” (Jonah 1:8, NIV). Since the lot had already fallen on Jonah, the crew didn’t need to ask him who was to blame. He was to blame, and they knew it; and that’s why they gave him that embarrassing nickname. The KJV, NASB, and NIV all make the nickname into an unnecessary question.) for Jonah means “dove,” and the dove is a symbol of peace. Jonah’s father’s name was Ammitai, which means “faithful, truthful,” something that Jonah was not. We’ve already seen that he wasn’t living up to his high calling as a Jew, for he had brought everybody trouble instead of blessing, nor was he living up to his calling as a prophet, for he had no message for them from God. When the lot pointed to Jonah as the culprit, he could no longer avoid making a decision.

     Jonah had already told the crew that he was running away from God, but now he told them he was God’s prophet, the God who created the heaven, the earth, and the sea. This announcement made the sailors even more frightened. The God who created the sea was punishing His servant and that’s why they were in danger!

     Jonah the rebel suffers for his sins (
Jonah 1:11–17). Charles Spurgeon said that God never allows His children to sin successfully, and Jonah is proof of the truth of that statement. “For whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives” (Heb. 12:6, NKJV).

     We must not make the mistake of calling Jonah a martyr, for the title would be undeserved. Martyrs die for the glory of God, but Jonah offered to die because selfishly he would rather die than obey the will of God! He shouldn’t be classified with people like Moses (
Ex. 32:30–35), Esther
Es. 4:13–17), and Paul (Rom. 9:1–3) who were willing to give their lives to God in order to rescue others. Jonah is to be commended for telling the truth but not for taking his life in his own hands. He should have surrendered his life to the Lord and let Him give the orders. Had he fallen to his knees and confessed his sins to God, Jonah might have seen the storm cease and the door open to a great opportunity for witness on the ship.

     It’s significant that the heathen sailors at first rejected Jonah’s offer and began to work harder to save the ship. They did more for Jonah than Jonah had been willing to do for them. When they saw that the cause was hopeless, they asked Jonah’s God for His forgiveness for throwing Jonah into the stormy sea. Sometimes unsaved people put believers to shame by their honesty, sympathy, and sacrifice.

     However, these pagan sailors knew some basic theology: the existence of Jonah’s God, His judgment of sin, their own guilt before Him, and His sovereignty over creation. They confessed, “For you, O Lord, have done as You pleased” (
Jonah 1:14, NIV). However, there’s no evidence that they abandoned their old gods; they merely added Jehovah to their “god shelf.” They threw themselves on God’s mercy and then threw Jonah into the raging sea, and God stopped the storm.

     When the storm ceased, the men feared God even more and made vows to Him. How they could offer an animal sacrifice to God on board ship is a puzzle to us, especially since the cargo had been jettisoned, but then we don’t know what the sacrifice was or how it was offered. Perhaps the sense of
verse 16 is that they offered the animal to Jehovah and vowed to sacrifice it to Him once they were safe on shore.

     The seventeenth-century English preacher Jeremy Taylor said, “God threatens terrible things if we will not be happy.” He was referring, of course, to being happy with God’s will for our lives. For us to rebel against God’s will, as Jonah did, is to invite the chastening hand of God. That’s why the Westminster Catechism states that “the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” We glorify God by enjoying His will and doing it from our hearts (
Eph. 6:6), and that’s where Jonah failed.

     Jonah could say with the psalmist, “The Lord has chastened me severely, but He has not given me over to death” (
Ps. 118:18, NKJV). God prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah and protect his life for three days and three nights. (Jonah 1:17 in the English versions is Jonah 2:1 in the Hebrew text.) We’ll consider the significance of this later in this study.)

Be Amazed (Minor Prophets): Restoring an Attitude of Wonder and Worship (The BE Series Commentary)

W. E. Vine
     Variations in the Records of the Parable of the Sower

     As another instance of variations in the similar records by the Synoptists in which not only is the discrepancy merely apparent, but which, on the contrary, gives evidence of the divine inspiration of the very wording in each case, we may take the parable of the sower. Matthew describes the one who brings forth fruit as “he that heareth the word, and understandeth it” (Matt. 13:23). The word in Mark’s Gospel corresponding to “understandeth” is “accept” (Mark 4:20), while that used by Luke is “hold fast” (Luke 8:15). The difference between the Aramaic in which the Lord spoke and the Greek of the Gospel records at once accounts, to some extent, for the variety of rendering. A little consideration, however, shows that, while the writers could not have agreed together as to the variety of expression, the Spirit of God, knowing beforehand that the writings would be bound together to form part of the Volume committed to the Church, so ordered that there would be harmony and progression of thought in the three words used. In order to bear fruit one must first understand the word, then accept it, and then hold it fast. Accordingly, while one idea pervades the whole, and the words give each a translation of what the Lord Himself said, the different expressions convey additional teaching to that of the facts of the parable itself. No doubt one word might have sufficed to translate that used by the Lord, but the Spirit of God had other purposes in view, and so ordered the three different translations for the sake of imparting instruction in their variety. Moreover, when we recall the purpose which Matthew had in view, the special class of people for whom he was immediately writing, we see the appropriateness of the thought to which he gave expression. Here, then, is a good illustration of the careful selection of words by a Master Mind working through three different human agents, it being impossible for the writers to consult one with another as to the choice of their phraseology.

     Other Instances

     We might compile a number of instances like this. To take another, in reporting the departure of Christ from Capernaum in the early Morning, Mark records His having said to the disciples, as a reason for His departure, “To this end came I forth” (Mark 1:38); Luke records Him as saying “therefore was I sent” (Luke 4:43). The critic may point to this as a discrepancy, yet he has to show that the Lord did not say both things to the disciples. It is quite probable that He did, judging from the records of His utterances in general. There is nothing necessarily inconsistent in the narratives. Both are in accordance with probable facts, but they give together a variety of teaching, which is valuable to those who have the Gospels side by side in one volume. For other instances see the records concerning the wineskins, Mark 2:19, Matthew 9:15, Luke 5:34; the leaven of the Pharisees, Mark 8:15, Matthew 16:6; Peter’s denial, Matthew 26:34, Mark 14:30, Luke 22:34, John 13:38. In each case we have gained by the variety. The reports, so far from being given word for word, may have been purposely abbreviated or rearranged. In each case they are consistent and accurate, as divinely inspired translations of what was said. Variations of this kind are often found to be appropriate to that particular aspect of our Lord’s life and ministry which the Gospel writers were respectively guided to present.

The Collected Writings of W. E. Vine- 5 Volume Set Complete

Judaism and Hellenism
     Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism

     Throughout the period under consideration in this volume, Jews lived in a world permeated by Hellenistic culture. The pervasiveness of Hellenistic influence can be seen even in the Dead Sea Scrolls where there is little evidence of conscious interaction with the Greek world), for example, in the analogies between the sectarian communities and voluntary associations.

     Modern scholarship has often assumed an antagonistic relationship between Hellenism and Judaism. This is due in large part to the received account of the Maccabean Revolt, especially in 2 Maccabees. The revolt was preceded by an attempt to make Jerusalem into a Hellenistic polis. Elias Bickerman (1937) even argued that the persecution was instigated by the Hellenizing high priest Alcimus, and in this he was followed by Martin Hengel (1974). Yet the revolt did not actually break out until the Syrian king, Antiochus IV Epiphanes, had disrupted the Jerusalem cult and given the Temple over to a Syrian garrison. The revolt was not directed against Hellenistic culture but against the policies of the king, especially with regard to the cult. Judas allegedly sent an embassy to Rome and availed of the services of one Eupolemus, who was sufficiently proficient in Greek to write an account of Jewish history. The successors of the Maccabees, the Hasmoneans, freely adopted Greek customs and even Greek names. Arnaldo Momigliano wrote that “the penetration of Greek words, customs, and intellectual modes in Judaea during the rule of the Hasmoneans and the following Kingdom of Herod has no limits” (Momigliano 1994: 22; see also Hengel 1989; Levine 1998). Herod established athletic contests in honor of Caesar and built a large amphitheater, and even established Roman-style gladiatorial contests. He also built temples for pagan cults, but not in Jewish territory, and he had to yield to protests by removing trophies, which involved images surrounded by weapons, from the Temple. In all cases where we find resistance to Hellenism in Judea, the issue involves cult or worship (Collins 2005: 21–43). Many aspects of Greek culture, including most obviously the language, were inoffensive. The revolt against Rome was sparked not by cultural conflict but by Roman mismanagement and social tensions.

     Because of the extensive Hellenization of Judea, the old distinction between “Palestinian” Judaism and “Hellenistic” (= Diaspora) Judaism has been eroded to a great degree in modern scholarship. Nonetheless, the situation of Jews in the Diaspora was different in degree, as they were a minority in a pagan, Greek-speaking environment, and the Greek language and cultural forms provided their natural means of expression (Gruen 1998, 2002). The Greek community in Alexandria, the Diaspora community of which we are most fully informed, regarded themselves as akin to the Greeks, in contrast to the Egyptians and other Barbaroi. The Torah was translated into Greek already in the third century B.C.E. Thereafter, Jewish authors experimented with Greek genres—epic, tragedy, Sibylline oracles, philosophical treatises (Goodman in Vermes et al. 1973–1987: 3:1.470–704; Collins 2000). This considerable literary production reached its apex in the voluminous work of the philosopher Philo in the early first century C.E. This Greco-Jewish literature has often been categorized as apologetic, on the assumption that it was addressed to Gentiles. Since the work of Victor Tcherikover (1956), it is generally recognized that it is rather directed to the Jewish community. Nonetheless, it has a certain apologetic dimension (Collins 2005: 1–20). It is greatly concerned to claim Gentile approval for Judaism. In the Letter of Aristeas, the Ptolemy and his counselors are greatly impressed by the wisdom of the Jewish sages. Aristeas affirms that these people worship the same God that the Greeks know as Zeus, and the roughly contemporary Jewish philosopher Aristobulus affirms that the Greek poets refer to the true God by the same name. The Sibyl praises the Jews alone among the peoples of the earth. Philo, and later Josephus, is at pains to show that Jews exhibit the Greek virtue of philanthrōpia.

     To some degree, Hellenistic Jewish authors wrote to counteract perceptions of Jews that circulated in the Hellenistic world (Berthelot 2003). Already at the beginning of the Hellenistic era, Hecataeus of Abdera wrote that Moses had introduced “a somewhat unsocial and inhospitable mode of life.” He told a garbled story of Jewish origins which conflated the Jews with the Hyksos, the Syrian invaders of the second millennium B.C.E. whose memory in Egypt was accursed. The story was elaborated by the Egyptian historian Manetho. It is unlikely that either Manetho or Hecataeus knew the exodus story in its biblical form, or that either had more than an incidental interest in the Jews. The association of the Jews with this tradition was highly negative. Many of the negative stereotypes and calumnies of the Jews were collected by the Alexandrian grammarian Apion in the first century C.E. We owe their preservation, ironically, to the refutation by Josephus, in his tract Against Apion.

     There has been a tendency in modern scholarship to find in this material the roots of anti-Semitism (Gager 1983; Schäfer 1997). But the portrayal of Jews was not uniformly negative (Feldman 1993: 177–287). Moses was often praised as a lawgiver, even already by Hecataeus. Moreover, we should bear in mind that the Jews were by no means the only ethnic group in the Hellenistic world who were subjected to ridicule (Isaac 2004). In the first century C.E., however, antagonism moved beyond ridicule to violence, in the form of a virtual pogrom in 38 C.E. Violent conflict would eventually consume the Jewish Egyptian community in the revolt under Trajan (Pucci ben Zeev 2005). The alleged anti-Semitism in Alexandria must be seen in the concrete historical and social circumstances of this conflict

     Jews had prospered in Egypt in the Ptolemaic period, despite occasional tensions. Some had served as generals in Ptolemaic armies. Philo’s family became wealthy bankers. In the Roman era, however, their fortunes declined, and there were pogroms in Alexandria in the time of Caligula and again in 66 C.E. The classic explanation of this conflict was offered by Tcherikover, who made good use of papyrological evidence (1959: 296–332; Tcherikover and Fuks 1957–1964; cf. Modrzejewski 1995). For purposes of taxation, the Romans drew a sharper line between citizen and noncitizen than was the case the Ptolemaic era. Jews responded by trying to infiltrate the gymnasium, as a way of attaining citizenship. The Alexandrians resisted, and conflict ensued. The evidence for this construction of events is admittedly fragile, as Erich Gruen especially has pointed out (Gruen 2002: 54–83). It is doubtful whether the Jews actually sought citizenship, which would presumably have entailed some acknowledgment of the Greek gods (Kasher 1985). Rather, they wanted a status equal to that of citizens. What is apparent is that the Roman conquest of Egypt intensified ethnic rivalry in Alexandria. The Alexandrian citizens were jealous of their diminished status. Jews resented being classified with Egyptians. The role of the Roman governor in manipulating the conflict for his own ends is less than clear. The details of the case are a subject of ongoing debate (Collins 2005: 181–201).

     Diaspora Judaism, no less than its counterpart in the land of Israel, had its frame of reference in the Torah, which in its Greek translation is the great wellspring of Greco-Jewish literature. Many of the fragmentary writings can be described as parabiblical, even if they are cast in Greek forms. The retelling of the exodus in the form of a Greek tragedy by one Ezekiel is a case in point. There has been growing appreciation in recent years of the role of exegesis of the Torah as a unifying element across the full spectrum of ancient Judaism (Kugel 1998).

     Egyptian Judaism, however, was distinctive in important ways. Philo, the greatest exegete of Alexandrian Judaism, viewed the Torah through a prism of Greek philosophy, which led to a very different understanding from anything we find in Hebrew or Aramaic sources. Few Alexandrian Jews would have shared Philo’s philosophical sophistication, but virtually all the writings we have from this community use Greek literary forms and categories to appropriate the biblical tradition. In contrast to the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Diaspora literature makes minimal reference to halakhic issues or purity laws. It does, however, insist on Jewish monotheism, and frequently ridicules pagan idolatry. It also insists on the superiority of Jewish sexual ethics and the fact that Jews refrain from infanticide. These were matters which enlightened Greeks could, in principle, appreciate, and they are indicative of the self-image cultivated by Diaspora Jewry. Complete assimilation to the Gentile way of life certainly occurred. (The most famous example is Philo’s nephew, Tiberius Julius Alexander, who became prefect of Egypt and assisted in putting down the Jewish revolt against Rome.) But the Jewish community as a whole preserved a distinct identity, even while embracing most aspects of Hellenistic culture other than idolatry. (On the degrees of assimilation and acculturation, see Barclay 1996.)

The Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism

Calling on Elijah
     IVP New Testament commentary series

     Jesus’ own people did not recognize what was happening; they knew that rabbis in distress sometimes looked to Elijah for help, and they assumed that Jesus was doing likewise. Clearly they expected no supernatural intervention—expectations seemingly confirmed because Elijah would not come. The narrative again bristles with irony: far from being able to help Jesus, Elijah was his forerunner in martyrdom. The wine vinegar (27:48) was probably an attempt to revive him, perhaps to prolong the torment in mocking pretense that Elijah had come to relieve him. But Jesus had come to drink the cup of suffering
(26:39), the cup of God’s wrath (Jer 25:15–29). Our Lord is both our model, obedient and uncomplaining as he serves the Father no matter what the cost, and our Savior, who offers himself for the sins of the world.

The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament

The Veil
     and the sacrifice

     This was the thick and gorgeously wrought veil which was hung between the “holy place” and the “holiest of all,” shutting out all access to the presence of God as manifested “from above the mercy seat and from between the cherubim”—“the Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest” (Heb 9:8). Into this holiest of all none might enter, not even the high priest, save once a year, on the great day of atonement, and then only with the blood of atonement in his hands, which he sprinkled “upon and before the mercy seat seven times” (Lev 16:14)—to signify that access for sinners to a holy God is only through atoning blood. But as they had only the blood of bulls and of goats, which could not take away sins
(Heb 10:4), during all the long ages that preceded the death of Christ the thick veil remained; the blood of bulls and of goats continued to be shed and sprinkled; and once a year access to God through an atoning sacrifice was vouchsafed—in a picture, or rather, was dramatically represented, in those symbolical actions—nothing more. But now, the one atoning Sacrifice being provided in the precious blood of Christ, access to this holy God could no longer be denied; and so the moment the Victim expired on the altar, that thick veil which for so many ages had been the dread symbol of separation between God and guilty men was, without a hand touching it, mysteriously “rent in twain from top to bottom”—“the Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was now made manifest!” How emphatic the statement, from top to bottom; as if to say, Come boldly now to the Throne of Grace; the veil is clean gone; the mercy seat stands open to the gaze of sinners, and the way to it is sprinkled with the blood of Him—“who through the eternal Spirit hath offered Himself without spot to God!” Before, it was death to go in, now it is death to stay out.
(Heb 10:19–22)

A Commentary Critical, Experimental and Practical on the Old and New Testaments in 6 volumes (complete)

     and the Sadducees

     That the Sanhedrin included pious members like Joseph, and not just the sort who appeared in the trial narrative (as pious as even they may have supposed themselves), fits the known diversity within even the Jewish aristocracy of the period. Because he awaited the future kingdom, (This term means “rule,” “reign” or “authority” (not a king’s people or land, as connotations of the English term could imply). Jewish people recognized that God rules the universe now, but they prayed for the day when he would rule the world unchallenged by idolatry and disobedience. The coming of this future aspect of God’s reign was generally associated with the Messiah and the resurrection of the dead. Because Jesus came and will come again, Christians believe that the kingdom has been inaugurated but awaits consummation or completion. “Kingdom of heaven” is another way (Matthew’s usual way) of saying “kingdom of God.” “Heaven” was a standard Jewish way of saying “God” (as in Lk 15:21).) Joseph was probably not a Sadducee, (Most belonged to the priestly aristocracy that had prospered due to its good relationship with the Romans; they pacified the people for the Romans and the Romans for the people. They controlled the prosperous temple cult, were skeptical of Pharisaic traditions and super-naturalistic emphasis on angels and other spirits, and most of all were disturbed by talk of the resurrection of the dead and other end-time beliefs. (Sounds like some post-moderns I know; very liberal, don't accept the Biblical meta-narrative (or any meta-narrative) and are skeptical of miracles) Messianic beliefs about the end time could—and ultimately did—challenge the stability of their own position in Palestine.) unlike many of his colleagues.

The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament

Take Heart
     June 22

     Jesus replied, “Have I not chosen you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is a devil!” (He meant Judas… who, though one of the Twelve, was later to betray him.) --- John 6:70–71.

     It is the often-told tale of a single sin springing up and luxuriating in secret, till in its rank growth it has twined itself around the fibers of the heart and choked and killed with its poisonous embrace whatever there was of pure and noble and good in the soul. (Sermons Preached in St Paul's Cathedral) [Judas] had, as everyone whether good or bad has in some form or other, an evil tendency in his heart. Here was his trial; here might have been his moral education. But he made it his master, and it plunged him in headlong ruin. There was, first of all, the pleasure of fingering the coin; then there was the desire of accumulating; then there was the reluctant hand and the grudging heart in distributing alms; then there was the silent appropriation of some trifling sum as indemnification for a real or imagined personal loss; then there was the first unmistakable act of petty fraud—and so it went on and on, until the disciple became the thief, the trusted became the traitor, the apostle of Christ [became] the son of perdition.

     For there was no external check on him. The moral checks—the influences, the companionships, the divine presence—ought to have been more than a compensation for the absence of material checks. The incomings and the outgoings of the common purse were alike precarious. There was no balancing of ledgers, no auditing of accounts in the little company. No one knew what was received and what was spent. Each trusted and each was trusted by the other.

     Up to the time of his fall Judas had been avaricious, miserly, fraudulent. Let us use the plain language of the Evangelist, he had been a thief. But a traitor, an archtraitor—this was far from his thoughts.

     The opportunity came.

     The end we know. He flung back the accursed coin, the seal of his guilt, to those who had tempted to the fatal act. He could not bear the light, could not bear life, could not bear himself.

     Only his history remains as a warning to us how the greatest spiritual privileges may be neutralized by the indulgence of one illicit passion, and the life that is lived in the face of the unclouded sun may set at last in the night of despair.
--- J. B. Lightfoot

Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers

On This Day
     A Simpler Lifestyle  June 22

     June 22 on the church calendar honors the memory of Paulinus—a wealthy man who gave away his money, a married man who became a priest, a lawyer who became a poet.

     Paulinus was born in Bordeaux, Gaul (France), into a noble and wealthy family. His mind was good, his education advanced, his future bright. He was admitted to the bar at a young age and entered political life in his twenties. He traveled widely and acquired homes in Gaul, Italy, and Spain. The empire’s most prominent people sought his friendship, and he was one of Europe’s most eligible bachelors. He fell in love with a Spanish lady named Theresia. They were married and retired to private life on their French estate.

     Theresia, a Christian, shared the Gospel freely with her new husband. He listened and sought out the local bishop with whom he became friends. As Paulinus investigated Christianity, he was impressed with its truthfulness and relevance. At age 34, he gave his life to Christ and was baptized alongside his brother about the year 393.

     Then tragedy made a visit. After years of childlessness, Theresia became pregnant and bore a son. When the baby died within a week, the couple was heartbroken. They reconsidered their values and decided on a far simpler lifestyle. Most of their possessions were sold, the money going to the poor.

     The couple moved to Nola, a small town near Naples, and purchased a long, two-story building. They devoted the lower floor to the homeless, and turned the upper floor into an informal monastery where they lived, taught Scripture, and encouraged God’s people. Paulinus built a church for the community and funded a needed aqueduct. In time Paulinus was chosen to lead the church. He spent the rest of his life preaching there, overseeing the ministry, writing poetry, penning prayers, and corresponding with the most famous Christians of his generation. He encouraged Christian art as a tool for understanding Scripture. And according to tradition he was the first to introduce bells into Christian worship.

     Warn the rich people of this world not to be proud or to trust in wealth that is easily lost. Tell them to have faith in God, who is rich and blesses us with everything we need to enjoy life. Instruct them to do as many good deeds as they can and to help everyone. Remind the rich to be generous and share what they have. This will lay a solid foundation for the future, so that they will know what true life is like.
1 Timothy 6:17-19.

On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes

Morning and Evening
     Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON

          Morning - June 22

     “He shall build the temple of the Lord; and he shall bear the glory.” --- Zechariah 6:13.

     Christ himself is the builder of his spiritual temple, and he has built it on the mountains of his unchangeable affection, his omnipotent grace, and his infallible truthfulness. But as it was in Solomon’s temple, so in this; the materials need making ready. There are the “Cedars of Lebanon,” but they are not framed for the building; they are not cut down, and shaped, and made into those planks of cedar, whose odoriferous beauty shall make glad the courts of the Lord’s house in Paradise. There are also the rough stones still in the quarry, they must be hewn thence, and squared. All this is Christ’s own work. Each individual believer is being prepared, and polished, and made ready for his place in the temple; but Christ’s own hand performs the preparation-work. Afflictions cannot sanctify, excepting as they are used by him to this end. Our prayers and efforts cannot make us ready for heaven, apart from the hand of Jesus, who fashioneth our hearts aright.

     As in the building of Solomon’s temple, “there was neither hammer, nor axe, nor any tool of iron, heard in the house,” because all was brought perfectly ready for the exact spot it was to occupy—so is it with the temple which Jesus builds; the making ready is all done on earth. When we reach heaven, there will be no sanctifying us there, no squaring us with affliction, no planing us with suffering. No, we must be made meet here—all that Christ will do beforehand; and when he has done it, we shall be ferried by a loving hand across the stream of death, and brought to the heavenly Jerusalem, to abide as eternal pillars in the temple of our Lord.

     “Beneath his eye and care,
     The edifice shall rise,
     Majestic, strong, and fair,
     And shine above the skies.”

          Evening - June 22

     "That those things which cannot be shaken may remain." --- 2 Hebrews 12:27.

     We have many things in our possession at the present moment which can be shaken, and it ill becomes a Christian man to set much store by them, for there is nothing stable beneath these rolling skies; change is written upon all things. Yet, we have certain “things which cannot be shaken,” and I invite you this Evening to think of them, that if the things which can be shaken should all be taken away, you may derive real comfort from the things that cannot be shaken, which will remain. Whatever your losses have been, or may be, you enjoy present salvation. You are standing at the foot of his cross, trusting alone in the merit of Jesus’ precious blood, and no rise or fall of the markets can interfere with your salvation in him; no breaking of banks, no failures and bankruptcies can touch that. Then you are a child of God this Evening. God is your Father. No change of circumstances can ever rob you of that. Although by losses brought to poverty, and stripped bare, you can say, “He is my Father still. In my Father’s house are many mansions; therefore will I not be troubled.” You have another permanent blessing, namely, the love of Jesus Christ. He who is God and Man loves you with all the strength of his affectionate nature—nothing can affect that. The fig tree may not blossom, and the flocks may cease from the field, it matters not to the man who can sing, “My Beloved is mine, and I am his.” Our best portion and richest heritage we cannot lose. Whatever troubles come, let us play the man; let us show that we are not such little children as to be cast down by what may happen in this poor fleeting state of time. Our country is Immanuel’s land, our hope is above the sky, and therefore, calm as the summer’s ocean; we will see the wreck of everything earthborn, and yet rejoice in the God of our salvation.

Morning and Evening

Amazing Grace
     June 22

          IN JESUS

     James Procter, dates unknown

     The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” (Psalm 14:1)

     This song is the testimonial hymn of an avowed atheist who led others in a vain search for the true meaning of life before finding his answer in Jesus. James Proctor grew up in a Christian home and attended church and Sunday school regularly in Manchester, England. In his teens, however, he began to read extensively the writing of infidels and a group called The Free Thinkers. Gradually his faith in God began to be shaken. Eventually James renounced all interest in Christianity. He joined the Free Thinkers’ Society and soon became its president.

     Some time later, James Procter became seriously ill and feared that he would not live. Finally in desperation, he called for a minister of the Gospel, who came to Procter’s bedside and led him to a definite conversion. Soon after this, as Procter’s sister sat beside his bed, he asked her to locate in his dresser two verses he had written earlier. Then he dictated to her with great excitement the closing two verses of “In Jesus.” James wanted these lines to be particularly meaningful to his many friends in the Free Thinkers’ Society as they would read his personal testimony.

     Procter’s faithful sister took her brother’s poem to the well-known musician and composer, Robert Harkness, while he was assisting R. A. Torrey in an evangelistic campaign at the time in Manchester. Mr. Harkness soon completed the music while traveling to another meeting in London.
     Every man has a god—even the atheist—a “no-god.” The tragedy is that man becomes like his god—he grows into the image of what he worships and serves. That’s why we must be “In Jesus.

     I’ve tried in vain a thousand ways my fears to quell, my hopes to raise; but what I need, the Bible says, is ever, only Jesus.
     My soul is night, my heart is steel—I cannot see, I cannot feel; for light, for life I must appeal in simple faith to Jesus.
     He died, He lives, He reigns, He pleads; there’s love in all His words and deeds; there’s all a guilty sinner needs forever more in Jesus.

     Tho’ some should sneer, and some should blame, I’ll go with all my guilt and shame; I’ll go to Him because His name, above all names is Jesus.

     For Today: Deuteronomy 4:29; Psalm 10; 34:6; 94:3; John 17:3.

     Be prepared to enter into a conversation with someone who is struggling with doubts about the existence of God and a personal faith in Him. In a non-judgmental way, seek to answer these questions from your own experience. Learn and sing this little testimonial song written by a former atheist ---

Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions

De Servo Arbitrio “On the Enslaved Will” or The Bondage of the Will
     Martin Luther | (1483-1546)

     Sect. LXIII. — NOTHING, therefore, could be more absurdly adduced in support of “Free-will” than this passage of Ezekiel, nay, it makes with all possible force directly against “Free-will.” For it is here shewn, in what state “Free-will” is, and what it can do under the knowledge of sin, and in turning itself from it: — that is, that it can only go on to worse, and add to its sins desperation and impenitency, unless God soon come in to help, and to call back, and raise up by the word of promise. For the concern of God in promising grace to recall and raise up the sinner, is itself an argument sufficiently great and conclusive, that “Free-will,” of itself, cannot but go on to worse, and (as the Scripture saith) ‘fall down to hell:’ unless, indeed, you imagine that God is such a trifler, that He pours forth so great an abundance of the words of promise, not from any necessity of them unto our salvation, but from a mere delight in loquacity! Wherefore, you see, that not only all the words of law stand against “Free-will,” but also, that all the words of the promise utterly confute it; that is, that, the whole Scripture makes directly against it.

     Hence, you see, this word, “I desire not the death of a sinner,” does nothing else but preach and offer divine mercy to the world, which none receive with joy and gratitude but those who are distressed and exercised with the fears of death, for they are they in whom the law has now done its office, that is, in bringing them to the knowledge of sin. But they who have not yet experienced the office of the law, who do not yet know their sin nor feel the fears of death, despise the mercy promised in that word.

The Bondage of the Will   or   Christian Classics Ethereal Library

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