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Job 11 - 13

Job 11

Zophar Speaks: You Deserve Worse

Job 11:1     Then Zophar the Naamathite answered and said:

2  “Should a multitude of words go unanswered,
and a man full of talk be judged right?
3  Should your babble silence men,
and when you mock, shall no one shame you?
4  For you say, ‘My doctrine is pure,
and I am clean in God’s eyes.’
5  But oh, that God would speak
and open his lips to you,
6  and that he would tell you the secrets of wisdom!
For he is manifold in understanding.
Know then that God exacts of you less than your guilt deserves.

7  “Can you find out the deep things of God?
Can you find out the limit of the Almighty?
8  It is higher than heaven—what can you do?
Deeper than Sheol—what can you know?
9  Its measure is longer than the earth
and broader than the sea.
10  If he passes through and imprisons
and summons the court, who can turn him back?
11  For he knows worthless men;
when he sees iniquity, will he not consider it?
12  But a stupid man will get understanding
when a wild donkey’s colt is born a man!

13  “If you prepare your heart,
you will stretch out your hands toward him.
14  If iniquity is in your hand, put it far away,
and let not injustice dwell in your tents.
15  Surely then you will lift up your face without blemish;
you will be secure and will not fear.
16  You will forget your misery;
you will remember it as waters that have passed away.
17  And your life will be brighter than the noonday;
its darkness will be like the morning.
18  And you will feel secure, because there is hope;
you will look around and take your rest in security.
19  You will lie down, and none will make you afraid;
many will court your favor.
20  But the eyes of the wicked will fail;
all way of escape will be lost to them,
and their hope is to breathe their last.”

Job 12

Job Replies: The LORD Has Done This

Job 12:1     Then Job answered and said:

2  “No doubt you are the people,
and wisdom will die with you.
3  But I have understanding as well as you;
I am not inferior to you.
Who does not know such things as these?
4  I am a laughingstock to my friends;
I, who called to God and he answered me,
a just and blameless man, am a laughingstock.
5  In the thought of one who is at ease there is contempt for misfortune;
it is ready for those whose feet slip.
6  The tents of robbers are at peace,
and those who provoke God are secure,
who bring their god in their hand.

7  “But ask the beasts, and they will teach you;
the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you;
8  or the bushes of the earth, and they will teach you;
and the fish of the sea will declare to you.
9  Who among all these does not know
that the hand of the LORD has done this?
10  In his hand is the life of every living thing
and the breath of all mankind.
11  Does not the ear test words
as the palate tastes food?
12  Wisdom is with the aged,
and understanding in length of days.

13  “With God are wisdom and might;
he has counsel and understanding.
14  If he tears down, none can rebuild;
if he shuts a man in, none can open.
15  If he withholds the waters, they dry up;
if he sends them out, they overwhelm the land.
16  With him are strength and sound wisdom;
the deceived and the deceiver are his.
17  He leads counselors away stripped,
and judges he makes fools.
18  He looses the bonds of kings
and binds a waistcloth on their hips.
19  He leads priests away stripped
and overthrows the mighty.
20  He deprives of speech those who are trusted
and takes away the discernment of the elders.
21  He pours contempt on princes
and loosens the belt of the strong.
22  He uncovers the deeps out of darkness
and brings deep darkness to light.
23  He makes nations great, and he destroys them;
he enlarges nations, and leads them away.
24  He takes away understanding from the chiefs of the people of the earth
and makes them wander in a trackless waste.
25  They grope in the dark without light,
and he makes them stagger like a drunken man.

Job 13

Job Continues: Still I Will Hope in God

Job 13:1     “Behold, my eye has seen all this,
my ear has heard and understood it.
2  What you know, I also know;
I am not inferior to you.
3  But I would speak to the Almighty,
and I desire to argue my case with God.
4  As for you, you whitewash with lies;
worthless physicians are you all.
5  Oh that you would keep silent,
and it would be your wisdom!
6  Hear now my argument
and listen to the pleadings of my lips.
7  Will you speak falsely for God
and speak deceitfully for him?
8  Will you show partiality toward him?
Will you plead the case for God?
9  Will it be well with you when he searches you out?
Or can you deceive him, as one deceives a man?
10  He will surely rebuke you
if in secret you show partiality.
11  Will not his majesty terrify you,
and the dread of him fall upon you?
12  Your maxims are proverbs of ashes;
your defenses are defenses of clay.

13  “Let me have silence, and I will speak,
and let come on me what may.
14  Why should I take my flesh in my teeth
and put my life in my hand?
15  Though he slay me, I will hope in him;

Why do ye complain of waters going over your soul, and that the smoke of the terrors of a wrathful God do almost suffocate you and bring you to death’s brink? I know that the fault is in your eyes, not in Him. It is not the rock that fleeth and moveth, but the green sailor.… Now, give God as large a measure of charity as ye have of sorrow. Now, see faith to be faith indeed, if ye can make your grave betwixt Christ’s feet, and say, Though He should slay me, I will trust in Him. --- Samuel Rutherford

yet I will argue my ways to his face.
16  This will be my salvation,
that the godless shall not come before him.
17  Keep listening to my words,
and let my declaration be in your ears.
18  Behold, I have prepared my case;
I know that I shall be in the right.
19  Who is there who will contend with me?
For then I would be silent and die.
20  Only grant me two things,
then I will not hide myself from your face:
21  withdraw your hand far from me,
and let not dread of you terrify me.
22  Then call, and I will answer;
or let me speak, and you reply to me.
23  How many are my iniquities and my sins?
Make me know my transgression and my sin.
24  Why do you hide your face
and count me as your enemy?
25  Will you frighten a driven leaf
and pursue dry chaff?
26  For you write bitter things against me
and make me inherit the iniquities of my youth.
27  You put my feet in the stocks
and watch all my paths;
you set a limit for the soles of my feet.
28  Man wastes away like a rotten thing,
like a garment that is moth-eaten.

The Reformation Study Bible

What I'm Reading

Limits - Zophar Speaks

By Joseph Parker circa 1910 or earlier

Job 11:8 (ESV)
8  It is higher than heaven — what can you do?
Deeper than Sheol—what can you know?

     These questions were put by an extraordinary contradiction of human manner. They were put by Zophar, a citizen of the fair Naamath — a lovely place, full of flowers: a place that the summer might have haunted, and have lingered until the last beam of light faded behind the hills. Yet this was one of the most rough-spoken men of his day; in this respect the environment and the man were mismatched. Zophar was an accuser, a man of rough tongue; he could not be civil until after he had been rude. He told Job that he, the wasted one, was ‘a man of lips,’ in the Hebrew tongue, a word-chopper, a gabbler in the face of heaven’s patience, and that Job knew nothing about his own case. The ideal and poetic Eliphaz had spoken, and Bildad — the sort of middleman that interprets poetry to prose, and makes the dull dog try to understand a word here and there — and Zophar comes up with the climax of brutality. There is a candour that is not lovely, there is an outspokenness that had better have choked itself before it began to speak. Yet every now and then — for we have called the man a self-contradiction — Zophar comes squarely down on the bedrock of fact and experience, and treats the whole deitic question with wonderful pith, setting it out in glittering generalizations and stunning Job as if by new proverbs.

     I. Zophar called Job back to beginnings, to realities, to limitations. Said he in effect, See thee, this is the length of thy tether; thou hast seen a dog straining his neck as if he would get beyond the length of his iron chain, and he could not do it, but he nearly choked himself in the process; be wise; this thing deitic is higher than heaven; what canst thou do? deeper than hell; what canst thou know? ‘Do,’ ‘know’ — nearly all the verbs in one couplet.

     II. We cannot know the Godhead, for it is higher than heaven, deeper than Hades; it belongs to all the unmeasured space, all the infinite intellectual territory, which has not yet been crushed into maps and made part of some elementary geography. But though I cannot measure the sun, I can enjoy the sunlight. That is my province, then; I cannot measure his diameter, but I can hail his summer and welcome his morning and bathe my cold life in his warm radiance. That is what we can do, and that we are called upon to do. We cannot count the sands upon the seashore, but we can walk over the golden path, and let the blue waves break in white laughter on our feet as we traverse that highway of beauty and vision. We cannot put the Atlantic into a thimble, but we can traverse it, sail upon it, turn it into a highway, utilize it, and make it not the separater, but the uniter of the nations.

     So our not knowing and our not being able to do need not prevent our enjoyment and our service and our discipline. Do not imagine that you can get rid of religion by any intellectual act: there still remain the moral duties, the ten commandments, the eternal Sinai. Fool is he who thinks that there is no field beyond his own hedge, and that he has really nothing to do with religion because he cannot find out unto perfection the Almighty Father and Creator of all. To know that we do not know, that is wisdom; to know just where we ought to end, that is understanding.

     ‘What canst thou do? What canst thou know?’ We can know Jesus; He speaks the language of little children; we have heard Him say, ‘Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest,’ and it was just like our mother talking.

     ‘What canst thou do?’ We can do the commandments; at least, we can begin to do them; it will take us a long time to penetrate into their metaphysic, but we can begin to do their practical commands at once; we can make an effort in that direction. If Christianity had scented pillows to offer on which the head of weariness could rest, and if it could have some comfortable provision made on its return from slumber, Christianity would become quite a popular religion, but it is known by the badge called the Cross; its home is in Gethsemane and on Golgotha; its command is, Do justly, love mercy, walk humbly with God.

     Let us not, therefore, think that we are called upon to give great intellectual answers to unfathomable questions, but we are called upon to do good according to our opportunities, and to redeem the time, and to wait patiently for the Lord, who will give us wider horizons and more enduring suns. --- Joseph Parker, City Temple Pulpit, vol. II. p. 98.

W. Robertson Nicoll, Jane T. Stoddart, and James Moffatt, eds., Expositor's Dictionary of Texts Volume One Genesis To St. Mark (New York: Hodder and Stoughton; George H. Doran Company, 1910), 328–329.

A Different Kind of Power

By John Hutchinson 9/1/2008

     I had just moved to the Washington D.C. area when the call came from a Christian organization on Capitol Hill, asking if I would be the evangelical along with a Jewish rabbi, Roman Catholic priest, and members of Congress in a press conference intended to foster support for a bill coming before the Senate. I thought that if ever there were an issue to which I should speak, surely this was it. I said “yes!” But then I thought that it might be wise to get counsel from one of our church members, who at the time was a sitting senator. He called back immediately and said, “John, I’m not going to tell you what to do, and I share your convictions on a subject that is very important. But as you pray about your decision, remember that you will have no control over how the press will quote you, and you will be labeled as a conservative advocate. You have been called here to be a minister of the Gospel of the kingdom that transcends political conservatism or liberalism. And as a minister you will have the opportunity over the years to give that Gospel to both conservatives and liberals.” Now, ten years later, I realize how wise his counsel was.

     Our calling to preach and teach the Gospel of the kingdom from the whole counsel of God to a complex and broken world, especially to the world of politics, involves living and ministering in the tension of a difficult and delicate balance. We must teach and preach that we live in two kingdoms. Augustine described it as living in two cities — the city of God and the city of man. As Christians we are citizens of the kingdom of God (Phil. 3:20) but are also called to be responsible citizens in our native countries (Rom. 13:1–7). Accordingly, we live in the often painful reality of the imperfect and broken present world, while longing for and looking forward to the perfect and blessed future world of the new heavens and new earth (Rev. 21: 1–5). This balanced tension of two-kingdom living should make Christians both passionately hopeful for their certain future and practically helpful in their present context. One day there will be “heaven on earth” but not now — not yet.

     So, in the meantime, we must faithfully teach Christians to be helpfully involved in the public square without becoming over-involved and intoxicated with the political power. There is no question but that our Savior expects us to be “the salt of the earth” and the “light of the world” (Matt 5:13–14). Thus, it would be unfaithful and disastrous for Christians to be absent from the public square. But on the other hand, we must resist the temptation to become obsessed with the power of politics and begin to think that we can usher in the king’s kingdom. Though politics is a worthy pursuit, Christ’s kingdom is not dependent upon who’s elected and/or which laws are passed or repealed. In Washington D.C. it’s easy to catch “Potomac Fever,” and Christians are not immune to such a distorted view of power. The power of the Gospel of the kingdom of heaven, though weak in this world’s eyes (Matt 13:31–32; 1 Cor. 1:27) is more powerful than the power of any nation. It’s a different kind of power — the power of the Spirit of God through the Word of God in the people of God. As a pastor in D.C. over the years I have been “lobbied” by Christian interest groups to support their worthy causes. But often I have concluded, that though I may personally share their convictions, it would be imprudent and unbiblical for us as a church to join their cause. Sadly, I’ve gotten an “earful” from very disappointed Christians who even questioned my commitment and faithfulness to Christ.

     Certainly we must be bold and careful to teach the clear principles of the Word of God, but we dare not teach and preach what Scripture does not teach. We must teach and preach the absolute truth of the Word, though we may not be absolutely clear about how those principles apply in the complex world of political platforms and public policy. Recently as I was preaching through the Sermon on the Mount, I was on the text: “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, do not resist the one who is evil” (Matt. 5:38–39). I explained in my exposition that Jesus was addressing individuals, not institutions. The lex talionis was not intended to justify personal retaliation. As I was greeting worshipers after the service one said to me, “Thanks so much for the sermon, now I just need to go figure out how it applies to the war on terrorism.” So, we urge our people as responsible citizens of this earthly kingdom to vote and become involved in the public square with biblically informed conviction.

     Finally, as a pastor I must realize that I wear “two hats.” I’m an individual Christian and a leader of a congregation that includes the full political spectrum. Thankfully, faithfulness in preaching the gracious Gospel of the kingdom of heaven enables me to minister to both, which is why I’m now glad I called back and declined to participate in that press conference ten years ago.

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     Dr. John R. Hutchinson is senior minister of McLean Presbyterian Church inside the Capital Beltway in McLean, Virginia.

Respectable Sins

By Keith Mathison 9/1/2008

     Have you ever found yourself so caught up and concerned with the rampant sinfulness of our culture that you forget about the subtle sins in your own heart? If so, Jerry Bridges has written a book for you. Respectable Sins: Confronting the Sins We Tolerate takes aim at the sins many Christians consciously or unconsciously consider “acceptable” behavior. For those who take the lordship of Jesus Christ seriously and seek to be like Him, this book is required reading.  By the way, this web page has several video messages by Jerry Bridges.

     The first chapters of the book set the stage by describing the true nature of sin as God sees it. Tragically, the idea of sin has disappeared in many churches, and where the concept remains, it is sometimes deflected. In other words, we readily condemn those outside of the church for flagrant sins, all the while silently condoning our own sins such as gossip, envy, and discontentment. We do not realize that sin, all sin, is a malignant spiritual cancer that, left unchecked, will destroy us and corrupt those around us.

     Bridges, however, does not leave it at this. He does not stop with the bad news. He places his discussion of sin in the context of the Gospel of Christ — the only remedy for sin. He reminds us that the reason Christ died on the cross was in order to atone for the sins of His people. In order to deal effectively with sin, whether flagrant or “respectable,” Christians need to preach this Gospel to themselves every day. Bridges also reminds us that in order to deal with sin, we must depend on the Holy Spirit. This does not mean taking a quietistic “let go and let God” approach, because our action is still required, but our action apart from the work of the Holy Spirit will be ineffective.

     After dealing with these necessary introductory matters, Bridges moves to a chapter-by-chapter analysis of “respectable sins.” Bridges considers the root sin to be ungodliness: “living one’s everyday life with little or no thought of God, or of God’s will, or of God’s glory, or of one’s dependence on God.” Christians often live in this way, as if God is essentially irrelevant in their day-to-day lives. Bridges turns next to the common sins of anxiety and worry. Both are sin because both betray a basic lack of trust in God.

     Another sin that is widespread among Christians is the sin of discontentment, which arises from unchanging circumstances that we can do nothing about. Unthankfulness is also persistent among Christians, who sometimes do not realize how serious a sin it is. Bridges suggests that one reason for the decadence of our culture may be the judgment of God for our failure to honor and thank Him. An entire chapter is devoted to the sin of pride. Bridges focuses on four specific kinds of pride: moral self-righteousness, theological self-righteousness, pride of achievement, and the pride of an independent spirit. He then examines the sin of selfishness, which can also manifest itself in different ways. We can be selfish about our interests in conversation, about money, about time, and we can demonstrate selfishness by simply being inconsiderate.

     Self-control, as Bridges explains, is “a governance or prudent control of one’s desires, cravings, impulses, emotions, and passions.” Lack of self-control is another common sin among Christians. Bridges offers as examples our lack of self control in regard to food, tempers, personal finances, and activities such as watching television. Bridges then looks at those sins closely related to anger, sins such as irritability, resentment, and bitterness. Sadly, these sins are often directed at those whom we should love the most, including our spouses and our children.

     The final chapters deal with the “respectable sins” of judgmentalism, envy, gossip, slander, lying, and worldliness. Gossip is among the most prevalent “respectable sins” while at the same time being among the most destructive. Worldliness may require definition. It may be defined as “being attached to, engrossed in, or preoccupied with the things of this temporal life.” Bridges deals with three types of worldliness: a worldly attitude toward money, vicarious immorality, and idolatry of the heart.

     A word of warning is required when reading this book. If while reading you catch yourself thinking, “I really wish so-and-so would read this book,” then it is especially for you. We are all guilty of at least some of these sins some of the time. We all need reminding that every time we sin, we despise God (2 Sam. 12:9–10). Most of all, we all need reminding that Jesus died on the cross that all of our sins might be forgiven.

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Per Amazon, Keith A. Mathison (MA, Reformed Theological Seminary; PhD, Whitefield Theological Seminary) is dean of the Ligonier Academy of Biblical and Theological Studies and an associate editor of Tabletalk magazine at Ligonier Ministries. He is editor of When Shall These Things Be: A Reformed Response to Hyper-Preterism and associate editor of The Reformation Study Bible. He lives in Lake Mary, Florida, with his wife and children.

Keith Mathison Books:

Sweet Land of Liberty

By Gene Edward Veith 9/1/2008

     America is mad for liberty. Ours is a free country. We enjoy freedom of speech and of religion, the freedom of the press, and the freedom to bear arms. And rightly so. But though Americans love freedom, many of them have forgotten what it means.

     Today many of us assume that freedom means getting to do whatever we want. Any restrictions on our behavior — whether from the state, the church, or some other person — violate our freedom. And, for many of us, freedom above all means the liberty to sin.

     But, according to the Bible, this is the opposite of freedom. Sin has nothing to do with liberty. Sin destroys freedom. Sin enslaves.

     Jesus Himself makes that point: “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin” (John 8:34). The apostle Paul also talks about how sin turns us into slaves (Rom. 6:16–22).

     If we are honest, we can see this truth in our own experience. An alcoholic may want to be free to get drunk. A drug addict may demand his liberty to take drugs. But alcoholics and drug addicts are not free. Their appetites enslave them. The same is true of people addicted to pornography or in thrall to some other sexual compulsion. As the sin takes away the sinner’s self-respect, his money, and his happiness, the sinner may even want to stop doing what he has been doing. But he cannot.

     On some level, all sins are like this. Anger takes us over. Pride prevents us from treating others as we should. Stealing, lying, disrespect, hate — you name it — they all enslave us.

     Though we might learn to control our worst impulses through external constraints — whether of shame, fear of discovery, or self-discipline — sin continues to lurk deep inside. We try to exert our will power. But what if the problem is precisely with our will?

     Luther wrote a book entitled The Bondage of the Will.   Note, this book is on this web site. It starts here, April 19, and there is a short daily reading every day after to the conclusion.  His point was that our will is in bondage to sin. What we want to do, if we give in to our primal desires, is to sin. The laws of church and state, our rational awareness of consequences, our conscience and other restrictions on our external conduct can make possible a social order made up of sinful human beings. But morally and also spiritually, we are slaves to sin.

     But after Jesus talked about how sinners are enslaved, He gives the good news: “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36).

     Jesus, through the power of His sacrificial death and resurrection, frees sinners from the bondage of sin. By the power of the Holy Spirit through the Gospel, we are set free. Though while we are still in the flesh we may still struggle with sin, we are free from sin’s dominion. To the extent we are in Christ, through faith, we no longer even need the external Law to keep us in line. We voluntarily — freely — do God’s will, not out of compulsion or threats, but because we really want to please Him, and, because we are in God’s love, we really do love our neighbors.

     Luther also wrote a book entitled The Freedom of a Christian. “A Christian man is the most free lord of all, and subject to none,” he wrote. At the same time, “a Christian man is the most dutiful servant of all, and subject to every one.”

     In the Gospel, the Christian is spiritually free: “As regards kingship, every Christian is by faith so exalted above all things that, in spiritual power, he is completely lord of all things, so that nothing whatever can do him any hurt; yea, all things are subject to him, and are compelled to be subservient to his salvation.” And yet, in the Christian life, the man of faith voluntarily makes himself a servant to his neighbors:

     “Here is the truly Christian life, here is faith really working by love, when a man applies himself with joy and love to the works of that freest servitude in which he serves others voluntarily and for nought, himself abundantly satisfied in the fullness and riches of his own faith…. And as our heavenly Father has freely helped us in Christ, so ought we freely to help our neighbor by our body and works, and each should become to other a sort of Christ, so that we may be mutually Christ’s, and that the same Christ may be in all of us; that is, that we may be truly Christians.”

     The Bible exalts freedom. “For freedom Christ has set us free,” says the apostle Paul. “Stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Gal. 5:1). Notice that He has set us free “for freedom.” Freedom is an end in itself. Furthermore, freedom is a sign of the Holy Spirit’s presence. “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Cor. 3:17).

     People who are slaves of sin require laws, authorities, police officers, and government control to prevent them from harming other people. But people who have been freed from sin do not need external controls on their behavior. They internalize the moral law. They voluntarily — of their own free will — do what they should. They govern themselves, freely directing their own behavior; therefore, they are capable of governing themselves in a free political order.

     That free political order is not just for Christians, of course, and others who can, by whatever external means, govern their desires can also enjoy its liberties. But laws — and prisons — will still be necessary for those who refuse to govern themselves. Meanwhile, those who wish to preserve their freedom must be on guard against both tyrants and their own sin.

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     Dr. Gene Edward Veith is provost emeritus and professor of literature emeritus at Patrick Henry College and director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Ind.

     Gene Edward Veith Books |  Go to Books Page

Elders for the Church

By Phil Newton 9/1/2008

     Over the past decade I’ve engaged a wide-range of Christians on the subject of elders. Some, in desperation, want to change dysfunctional church leadership structures. Others have grown tired of side-stepping the biblical teaching on elders. Some long to adopt elder leadership yet realize many of their congregants would resist change. A mission leader told me that elder plurality was a major issue in his region; nationals, unfamiliar with traditions and arguments against elder plurality, saw it in Scripture and wanted to obey.

     Christ gave elder leadership to the church for its growth, development, and unity. Yet tradition often tugs stronger than biblical order for those refusing elder leadership. Others have elders but neglect applying biblical standards to them. Paul’s letter to Titus offers great help for both cases (Titus 1:5-9).

     First, plural leadership is the norm for every church: “appoint elders in every city as I directed you.” “Elders” is plural and “in every town” is singular. It indicates multiple elders serving each church on Crete (1:5). Each reference to local church elders demonstrates plurality as the New Testament practice (see Acts 14:23; 15:22; 20:17 that show this same pattern of plurality). Paul’s reason for plurality within even small congregations makes sense. It provides accountability, support, and encouragement, increased wisdom, and diversity of gifts to increase ministry effectiveness.

     Second, elders are necessary for the proper ordering of the church. Titus was to “put what remained into order” (Titus 1:5). He would begin by appointing “elders in every town.” Elders would engage in the work of ongoing church reformation. What needed reforming? Slick teachers whom Paul called “empty talkers and deceivers,” undermined families “by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach” (vv. 10–11). Elders must correct the false teaching, remove the false teachers, and reiterate the sufficiency of the Gospel. Some Cretan Christians were acting like “Cretans,” not Christians! “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons” (v. 12); elders must teach the right application of law and gospel to daily life, exemplify Christian living, and lead in discipline when necessary. Still others were turning away from the truth by “devoting themselves to Jewish myths and the commands of people,” defiling themselves in mind and conscience (vv. 14–15). Again, the elders must be the means of putting what remained into the order of sound teaching and godly practice.

     Third, elders set an example for the church at home, in personal conduct, and in relationships (vv. 6–8). An elder is to be “the husband of one wife,” singularly devoted to his wife, seeking to love her as Christ does the church (Eph. 5:25). His children are to be “faithful” (nasb; pistos seems best translated as “faithful” or “trustworthy,” see 1 Tim. 1:12, 15; 3:1; 4:9; 2 Tim. 2:11, 13; Titus 1:9; 3:8), “and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination.”

     In personal conduct, an elder is to be “above reproach” because he is “God’s steward” or manager over God’s flock. He is to be conscientious in conduct with no dangling areas discrediting Christ or the Gospel. Further, “he must not be arrogant or quick-tempered,” so he guards against trampling others with attitude or outbursts. He must not be “a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain,” so he exercises self-restraint in appetites, self-control in responses, and self-discipline in finances (v. 7).

     The elder also sets an example in relationships by being “hospitable” through accepting and befriending others; “a lover of good” by affirming what’s best; and “self-controlled” by keeping his head when life comes unraveled. In his dealings with others he is to be “upright,” in his personal piety — “holy,” and in his natural impulses — “disciplined” (v. 8). He keeps in mind that he is an “overseer,” not an owner, a servant not a lord (v. 7). Just as Jesus Christ came not to be served but to serve (Mark 10:45), even so must God’s steward be in the church.

     Finally, the shepherding role of elders is distinguished from deacons by requiring elders to be able to teach (Titus 1:9; 1 Tim. 3:1–13). Elders must be steadfast in knowing and applying the Word personally: “he must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught.” They live and breathe Gospel, delight in digging into Scripture, and test their grasp of doctrine by the Word. Elders must be committed to doctrinal teaching: “so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine.” Doctrine matters to elders. They recognize “sound doctrine” as the heart of biblical understanding, essential to the vitality of the church. Neglect it, and the church might still have an outward form of Christianity but inwardly dies, breeding all manner of deceit and sin. Elders must be ready and willing to reprove those opposing sound doctrine: “also to rebuke those who contradict it.” Anyone that enjoys confrontation has to be a little demented! Yet when the Gospel is at stake, when the health and unity of the church hangs in the balance, and when someone totters on the brink of spiritual or moral ruin, elders must rise to the challenge. Like a S.W.A.T. team, elders must remain doctrinally alert, ready to engage any that would threaten to divide or damage the body of Christ (Titus 1:9).

     As Christ’s gift to the church, elders value character as they focus on the church’s maturity and unity. Whether by denial or misuse, neglecting Christ’s design for elder leadership deprives the church of this priceless asset for its spiritual health.

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     Dr. Phil Newton is senior minister of South Woods Baptist Church in Memphis, Tennessee, and is author of Elders in Congregational Life.

Deuteronomy 8

By Don Carson 6/4/2018

     Deuteronomy 8 provides an important theological perspective on the forty years of wandering in the wilderness. Because God is a personal God, one can tell the story of those years in terms of the interaction between God and his people: he meets their need, they rebel, he responds in judgment, they repent — and then the cycle repeats itself. On the other hand, one can look at the whole account from the perspective of God’s transcendent and faithful sovereignty. He remains in charge. That is the vantage offered here.

     Of course, God could have given them everything they wanted before they had even bothered to articulate their desires. He could have spoiled them rotten. Instead, his intention was to humble them, to test them, even to let them hunger before eventually feeding them with manna (Deut. 8:2-3). The purpose of this latter exercise, Moses insists, was that God might teach them “that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD” (Deut. 8:3). More generally: “Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the LORD your God disciplines you” (Deut. 8:5).

     Why all this discipline? The sad reality is that fallen people like you and me readily fixate on God’s gifts and ignore their Giver. At some point, this degenerates into worshiping the created thing rather than the Creator (cf. Rom. 1:25). God knows that is Israel’s danger. He is bringing them into a land with agricultural promise, adequate water, and mineral wealth (Deut. 8:6-9). What likelihood would there be at that point of learning that “man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD”?

     Even after these forty years of discipline, the dangers will prove enormous. So Moses spells the lessons out to them. Once the people have settled in the Promised Land and are enjoying its considerable wealth, the dangers will begin. “Be careful that you do not forget the LORD your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees” (Deut. 8:11). With wealth will come the temptation to arrogance, prompting the people to forget the Lord who brought them out of slavery (Deut. 8:12-14). In the end, not only will they value the wealth above the words of God, they may even justify themselves, proudly declaiming, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me” (Deut. 8:17) — conveniently forgetting that even the ability to produce wealth is a gracious gift from God (Deut. 8:18).

     In what ways does your life show you cherish every word that comes from the mouth of God, above all the blessings and even the necessities of this life?

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Don Carson is research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, and co-founder (with Tim Keller) of The Gospel Coalition. He has authored numerous books, and recently edited The Enduring Authority of the Christian Scriptures (Eerdmans, 2016).

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Read The Psalms In "1" Year

Psalm 59

Deliver Me from My Enemies
59 To The Choirmaster: According To Do Not Destroy. A Miktam Of David, When Saul Sent Men To Watch His House In Order To Kill Him.

1 Deliver me from my enemies, O my God;
protect me from those who rise up against me;
2 deliver me from those who work evil,
and save me from bloodthirsty men.

3 For behold, they lie in wait for my life;
fierce men stir up strife against me.
For no transgression or sin of mine, O LORD,
4 for no fault of mine, they run and make ready.
Awake, come to meet me, and see!
5 You, LORD God of hosts, are God of Israel.
Rouse yourself to punish all the nations;
spare none of those who treacherously plot evil. Selah

ESV Study Bible

By Gleason Archer Jr.

Reliability of the Hebrew  Psalm Titles

     The critics generally regard the Hebrew  Psalm titles as very late and unreliable, usually being derived by inference from the internal evidence of the  Psalms themselves. This conclusion is often based upon two lines of evidence: the occasional discrepancies between the  Psalm titles in the MT and those in the LXX, and the lack of correspondence between statements of historical background and the situation presupposed in the  Psalms themselves. An example of this supposed discrepancy is found in  Ps. 7, the title of which states that David sang this  Psalm to the Lord “concerning the words of Cush the Benjamite”; or again, the title of the title of  Ps. 34 is thought to accord very poorly with the mood and sentiments conveyed by the text.

     Mature reflection, however, should lead the investigator to quite an opposite conclusion. It is impossible to explain how any “later rabbis” would have ventured to attach titles of this sort to  Psalms whose text does not clearly reflect the situations in David’s life which are assigned as settings for the compositions. Many of the titles contain allusions to incidents in David’s career of which we have no other knowledge. For example, in  Ps. 60 biographical details appear concerning battles fought with Aram-naharaim, Aram-zobah, and Edom which are not recorded at all in the books of  Samuel. As Wilhelm Moeller points out (GATE, p. 273), the supplemental details constitute a powerful argument for the antiquity of the  Psalm title itself. A later editor would never have ventured to manufacture new details not contained in the books of  Samuel or  Chronicles. It is also significant that several of the “orphan”  Psalms (i.e.,  Psalms that bear no title) teem with historical allusions and references to recent events or contemporary situations which would have furnished ample ground for later rabbinical conjecture.

     The LXX furnishes conclusive evidence that the titles were added to the Hebrew Psalter at a date long before Hellenistic times. That is to say, there are several technical terms appearing in the Hebrew titles the meanings of which had been completely forgotten by the time the Alexandrian translation was made (ca. 150–100 B.C.). For example, the expression “to the choir leader” (lam-menaṣṣēaḥ) is nonsensically rendered by the LXX translator “unto the end” (eis to telos). (Cf., e.g.,  Ps. 44, equivalent to the LXX  Ps. 43 ). Apparently the Alexandrian scholar conjectured the vocalization to be le-min-nēṣaḥ — “to from the end.” Jerome in his commentary on  Daniel (par. 620) suggests that the proper translation of this Hebrew expression should be “to the victor”; he was probably influenced in this by the rendering of Theodotion, eis to nikos, “to the victory”; or else by Aquila’s tō nikopoiō, “to the victory winner”; or possibly even by Symmachus’s epinikion, “song of triumph.” Another example is the title of  Ps. 80, which contains el-šōšannɩ̂m, “to the lilies,” which is rendered by the Septuagint, “For those who will suffer alteration” (hyper tōn alloiōthēsomenōn) as if it had come from el-šeššōnɩ̂m (“to those who change”) — a mistaken interpretation followed by Jerome’s Commentary on  Daniel (par. 653). A third example is ˓al-˓alāmôṯ ( Ps. 46 ), which probably means “According to maidens,” that is, to be sung at a soprano pitch. The LXX renders it, “Concerning the hidden things” (hyper tōn kryphiōn) as if derived from the verb ˓ālam, “to hide.”

     The fact that these Hebrew technical terms were no longer understood can only lead to the conclusion that these particular words had fallen out of use so long before the second century B.C.; that the true meaning had been completely forgotten. In view of the fact that many scholars like Duhm, Eissfeldt, and Pfeiffer have confidently assigned many of the  Psalms to the Maccabean period (i.e., 165 B.C. or thereabouts), it is important to understand the significance of this evidence from the Greek version. Admittedly the  Psalm titles were added after the composition of the  Psalms to which they were attached; yet the titles themselves — at least those that contain the phrases above mentioned — must have been added so long before the Septuagint translation that their meaning was already forgotten. It necessarily follows that such  Psalms themselves must have been written long before the Greek period.

     In regard to the once favored theory of Maccabean origin of the  Psalms, it is interesting to note that in 1 Macc. 7:17 a passage from  Ps. 79:3 is quoted as Holy Scripture. This would indicate that there was already a canonical collection of  Psalms in the Hebrew Bible by the time of the Maccabees. The more recent trend among rationalist critics has been away from the extremes of late dating. Bentzen states: “The result of the investigations carried on since the beginning of the twentieth century must however be that we have to leave behind us the a priori presupposition that the  Psalms were post-exilic. Psalmody was known in Israel from its earliest days. The oldest Israelite poem which we are able to date approximately, the Song of Deborah ( Judg. 5 ), is a  Psalm, and  Psalms were composed in the Old Testament style in other parts of the Near East before we know anything of Israel” (IOT, 2:167). Engnell adds, “Speaking candidly, there is merely one  Psalm in the whole Psalter of which I am quite convinced that it is post-Exilic: number 137. And as far as I can determine, no other psalm is comparable p 493 with it in contents and style. Should this be a mere coincidence?”4 In his Fresh Approach to the Psalms (1957) Oesterley cites numerous Babylonian and Egyptian parallels to the Psalms as indicating the necessity of finding a pre-exilic origin for much of the Psalter.

     The most significant evidence of the antiquity of the Psalms as a literary genre comes from the poetry of ancient Ugarit. Perhaps the most reliable listing of their parallels in poetic phraseology and verse structure is to be found in the footnotes of the Ugaritic portion of Pritchard’s ANET. Typical examples are:

     Psalm 104:3: “Who maketh the clouds his chariot”; cf. the common Ugaritic title of Aleyan Baal: rkb ˓rpt (i.e., rākib ˓urpāti or “Rider upon the clouds”).

     Psalm 6:6: “I water my couch with my tears” resembles Krt 28–30: “His tears are shed like shekels earthward, like fifth-shekels on the bed as he weeps.”

     The Ugaritic “Thou wilt take thine everlasting kingdom, thy sovereignty of generation (after) generation (d-r-k-t d-t d-r-d-r-k)” (Text 68:10) is quite similar to Ps. 145:13: “Thy kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and thy dominion endureth throughout all generations.”

     “O El, haste thee, O El, come to my help” is very similar to Ps. 40:13: “Make haste to help me, O Yahweh.”

     These are but samples of the very large number of striking parallels in Ugarit poetry and they lead to the conclusion that the Hebrews adapted a poetic genre which they found already highly developed among the Canaanite peoples whom they conquered.

     A Survey of Old Testament Introduction

The Continual Burnt Offering (Matthew 13:3)

By H.A. Ironside - 1941

June 4
Matthew 13:3 And he told them many things in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow.   ESV

     This parable of the sower and the seed should be both a warning and an encouragement to all who endeavor to labor in the gospel: a warning against the folly of taking at face value every profession of faith in Christ, but an encouragement when many who profess prove unreal. We remember that even when the divine-human preacher was the sower of the gospel seed there were many who heard in vain and who never brought forth fruit unto perfection. It is our business to sow under all circumstances (Ecclesiastes 11:6), knowing that the seed is incorruptible (1 Peter 1:23). Though many give but momentary thought to the message, it will accomplish the purpose of God (Isaiah 55:11) and all who hear in faith will be saved (John 5:24).

     The Word tests as well as saves. Where the heart is occupied with other things — such as the cares of this world or the deceitfulness of riches — there will be little appreciation of that message that speaks of another life altogether and of riches that can never pass away. Where possible, the preacher is to break up the fallow ground and sow not among thorns (Jeremiah 4:3). On the other hand, he is to be ready in season and out of season (2 Timothy 4:2) even though this involves some seed falling on hard, unprepared hearts, only to be devoured by the birds of the air. These birds are fit pictures of Satan and his demon host, who are ever on the alert to hinder the gospel.

Ecclesiastes 11:6 In the morning sow your seed, and at evening withhold not your hand, for you do not know which will prosper, this or that, or whether both alike will be good.

1 Peter 1:23 since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God;

Isaiah 55:11  so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

John 5:24 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.

Jeremiah 4:3 For thus says the LORD to the men of Judah and Jerusalem:

“Break up your fallow ground,
and sow not among thorns.

2 Timothy 4:2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.   ESV

We plough the fields and scatter
The good seed o’er the land,
But it is fed and watered
By God’s almighty hand;
He sends the snow in winter,
The warmth to swell the grain.
The breezes and the sunshine.
The soft, refreshing rain.
--- M. Claudius

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

The Institutes of the Christian Religion

Translated by Henry Beveridge

     9. Accordingly, Peter, who was perfectly instructed by his Master as to the extent of what was permitted to him, leaves nothing more to himself or others than to dispense the doctrine delivered by God. "If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God" (1 Peter 4:11); that is, not hesitatingly, as those are wont whose convictions are imperfect, but with the full confidence which becomes a servant of God, provided with a sure message. What else is this than to banish all the inventions of the human mind (whatever be the head which may have devised them), that the pure word of God may be taught and learned in the Church of the faithful,--than to discard the decrees, or rather fictions of men (whatever be their rank), that the decrees of God alone may remain steadfast? These are "the weapons of our warfare," which "are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds; casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ" (2 Cor. 10:4, 5). Here is the supreme power with which pastors of the Church, by whatever name they are called, should be invested-- namely, to dare all boldly for the word of God, compelling all the virtue, glory, wisdom, and rank of the world to yield and obey its majesty; to command all from the highest to the lowest, trusting to its power to build up the house of Christ and overthrow the house of Satan; to feed the sheep and chase away the wolves; to instruct and exhort the docile, to accuse, rebuke, and subdue the rebellious and petulant, to bind and loose; in fine, if need be, to fire and fulminate, but all in the word of God. Although, as I have observed, there is this difference between the apostles and their successors, they were sure and authentic amanuenses of the Holy Spirit; [577] and, therefore, their writings are to be regarded as the oracles of God, whereas others have no other office than to teach what is delivered and sealed in the holy Scriptures. We conclude, therefore, that it does not now belong to faithful ministers to coin some new doctrine, but simply to adhere to the doctrine to which all, without exception, are made subject. When I say this, I mean to show not only what each individual, but what the whole Church, is bound to do. In regard to individuals, Paul certainly had been appointed an apostle to the Corinthians, and yet he declares that he has no dominion over their faith (2 Cor. 1:24). Who will now presume to arrogate a dominion to which the apostle declares that he himself was not competent? But if he had acknowledged such licence in teaching, that every pastor could justly demand implicit faith in whatever he delivered, he never would have laid it down as a rule to the Corinthians, that while two or three prophets spoke, the others should judge, and that, if anything was revealed to one sitting by, the first should be silent (1 Cor. 14:29, 30). Thus he spared none, but subjected the authority of all to the censure of the word of God. But it will be said, that with regard to the whole Church the case is different. I answer, that in another place Paul meets the objection also when he says, that faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Rom. 10:17). In other words, if faith depends upon the word of God alone, if it regards and reclines on it alone, what place is left for any word of man? He who knows what faith is can never hesitate here, for it must possess a strength sufficient to stand intrepid and invincible against Satan, the machinations of hell, and the whole world. This strength can be found only in the word of God. Then the reason to which we ought here to have regard is universal: God deprives man of the power of producing any new doctrine, in order that he alone may be our master in spiritual teaching, as he alone is true, and can neither lie nor deceive. This reason applies not less to the whole Church than to every individual believer.

10. But if this power of the church which is here described be contrasted with that which spiritual tyrants, falsely styling themselves bishops and religious prelates, have now for several ages exercised among the people of God, there will be no more agreement than that of Christ with Belial. It is not my intention here to unfold the manner, the unworthy manner, in which they have used their tyranny; I will only state the doctrine which they maintain in the present day, first, in writing, and then, by fire and sword. Taking it for granted, that a universal council is a true representation of the Church, they set out with this principle, and, at the same time, lay it down as incontrovertible, that such councils are under the immediate guidance of the Holy Spirit, and therefore cannot err. But as they rule councils, nay, constitute them, they in fact claim for themselves whatever they maintain to be due to councils. Therefore, they will have our faith to stand and fall at their pleasure, so that whatever they have determined on either side must be firmly seated in our minds; what they approve must be approved by us without any doubt; what they condemn we also must hold to be justly condemned. Meanwhile, at their own caprice, and in contempt of the word of God, they coin doctrines to which they in this way demand our assent, declaring that no man can be a Christian unless he assent to all their dogmas, affirmative as well as negative, if not with explicit, yet with implicit faith, because it belongs to the Church to frame new articles of faith.

11. First, let us hear by what arguments they prove that this authority was given to the Church, and then we shall see how far their allegations concerning the Church avail them. The Church, they say, has the noble promise that she will never be deserted by Christ her spouse, but be guided by his Spirit into all truth. But of the promises which they are wont to allege, many were given not less to private believers than to the whole Church. For although the Lord spake to the twelve apostles, when he said, "Lo! I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world" (Mt. 28:20); and again, "I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever: even the Spirit of truth" (John 14:16, 17), he made these promises not only to the twelve, but to each of them separately, nay, in like manner, to other disciples whom he already had received, or was afterwards to receive. When they interpret these promises, which are replete with consolation, in such a way as if they were not given to any particular Christian but to the whole Church together, what else is it but to deprive Christians of the confidence which they ought thence to have derived, to animate them in their course? I deny not that the whole body of the faithful is furnished with a manifold variety of gifts, and endued with a far larger and richer treasure of heavenly wisdom than each Christian apart; nor do I mean that this was said of believers in general, as implying that all possess the spirit of wisdom and knowledge in an equal degree: but we are not to give permission to the adversaries of Christ to defend a bad cause, by wresting Scripture from its proper meaning. Omitting this, however, I simply hold what is true--viz. that the Lord is always present with his people, and guides them by his Spirit. He is the Spirit, not of error, ignorance, falsehood, or darkness, but of sure revelation, wisdom, truth, and light, from whom they can, without deception, learn the things which have been given to them (1 Cor. 2:12); in other words, "what is the hope of their calling, and what the riches of the glory of their inheritance in the saints" (Eph. 1:18). But while believers, even those of them who are endued with more excellent graces, obtain in the present life only the first-fruits, and, as it were, a foretaste of the Spirit, nothing better remains to them than, under a consciousness of their weakness, to confine themselves anxiously within the limits of the word of God, lest, in following their own sense too far, they forthwith stray from the right path, being left without that Spirit, by whose teaching alone truth is discerned from falsehood. For all confess with Paul, that "they have not yet reached the goal" (Phil. 3:12). Accordingly, they rather aim at daily progress than glory in perfection.

12. But it will be objected, that whatever is attributed in part to any of the saints, belongs in complete fulness to the Church. Although there is some semblance of truth in this, I deny that it is true. God, indeed, measures out the gifts of his Spirit to each of the members, so that nothing necessary to the whole body is wanting, since the gifts are bestowed for the common advantage. The riches of the Church, however, are always of such a nature, that much is wanting to that supreme perfection of which our opponents boast. Still the Church is not left destitute in any part, but always has as much as is sufficient, for the Lord knows what her necessities require. But to keep her in humility and pious modesty, he bestows no more on her than he knows to be expedient. I am aware, it is usual here to object, that Christ hath cleansed the Church "with the washing of water by the word: that he might present it to himself a glorious Church, not having spot or wrinkle" (Eph. 5:26, 27), and that it is therefore called the "pillar and ground of the truth" (1 Tim. 3:15). But the former passage rather shows what Christ daily performs in it, than what he has already perfected. For if he daily sanctifies all his people, purifies, refines them, and wipes away their stains, it is certain that they have still some spots and wrinkles, and that their sanctification is in some measure defective. How vain and fabulous is it to suppose that the Church, all whose members are somewhat spotted and impure, is completely holy and spotless in every part? It is true, therefore, that the Church is sanctified by Christ, but here the commencement of her sanctification only is seen; the end and entire completion will be effected when Christ, the Holy of holies, shall truly and completely fill her with his holiness. It is true also, that her stains and wrinkles have been effaced, but so that the process is continued every day, until Christ at his advent will entirely remove every remaining defect. For unless we admit this, we shall be constrained to hold with the Pelagians, that the righteousness of believers is perfected in this life: like the Cathari and Donatists we shall tolerate no infirmity in the Church. [578] The other passage, as we have elsewhere seen (chap. 1 sec. 10), has a very different meaning from what they put upon it. For when Paul instructed Timothy, and trained him to the office of a true bishop, he says, he did it in order that he might learn how to behave himself in the Church of God. And to make him devote himself to the work with greater seriousness and zeal, he adds, that the Church is the pillar and ground of the truth. And what else do these words mean, than just that the truth of God is preserved in the Church, and preserved by the instrumentality of preaching; as he elsewhere says, that Christ "gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;" "that we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, who is the head, even Christ"? (Eph. 4:11, 14, 15) The reason, therefore, why the truth, instead of being extinguished in the world, remains unimpaired, is, because he has the Church as a faithful guardian, by whose aid and ministry it is maintained. But if this guardianship consists in the ministry of the Prophets and Apostles, it follows, that the whole depends upon this--viz. that the word of the Lord is faithfully preserved and maintained in purity.

13. And that my readers may the better understand the hinge on which the question chiefly turns, I will briefly explain what our opponents demand, and what we resist. When they deny that the Church can err, their end and meaning are to this effect: Since the Church is governed by the Spirit of God, she can walk safely without the word; in whatever direction she moves, she cannot think or speak anything but the truth, and hence, if she determines anything without or beside the word of God, it must be regarded in no other light than if it were a divine oracle. If we grant the first point--viz. that the Church cannot err in things necessary to salvation--our meaning is, that she cannot err, because she has altogether discarded her own wisdom, and submits to the teaching of the Holy Spirit through the word of God. Here then is the difference. They place the authority of the Church without the word of God; we annex it to the word, and allow it not to be separated from it. And is it strange if the spouse and pupil of Christ is so subject to her lord and master as to hang carefully and constantly on his lips? In every well-ordered house the wife obeys the command of her husband, in every well-regulated school the doctrine of the master only is listened to. Wherefore, let not the Church be wise in herself, nor think any thing of herself, but let her consider her wisdom terminated when he ceases to speak. In this way she will distrust all the inventions of her own reason; and when she leans on the word of God, will not waver in diffidence or hesitation but rest in full assurance and unwavering constancy. Trusting to the liberal promises which she has received, she will have the means of nobly maintaining her faith, never doubting that the Holy Spirit is always present with her to be the perfect guide of her path. At the same time, she will remember the use which God wishes to be derived from his Spirit. "When he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth" (John 16:13). How? "He shall bring to your remembrance all things whatsoever I have said unto you." He declares, therefore, that nothing more is to be expected of his Spirit than to enlighten our minds to perceive the truth of his doctrine. Hence Chrysostom most shrewdly observes, "Many boast of the Holy Spirit, but with those who speak their own it is a false pretence. As Christ declared that he spoke not of himself (John 12:50; 14:10), because he spoke according to the Law and the Prophets; so, if anything contrary to the Gospel is obtruded under the name of the Holy Spirit, let us not believe it. For as Christ is the fulfilment of the Law and the Prophets, so is the Spirit the fulfilment of the Gospel" (Chrysost. Serm. de Sancto et Adorando Spiritu.) Thus far Chrysostom. We may now easily infer how erroneously our opponents act in vaunting of the Holy Spirit, for no other end than to give the credit of his name to strange doctrines, extraneous to the word of God, whereas he himself desires to be inseparably connected with the word of God; and Christ declares the same thing of him, when he promises him to the Church. And so indeed it is. The soberness which our Lord once prescribed to his Church, he wishes to be perpetually observed. He forbade that anything should be added to his word, and that anything should be taken from it. This is the inviolable decree of God and the Holy Spirit, a decree which our opponents endeavour to annul when they pretend that the Church is guided by the Spirit without the word.

14. Here again they mutter that the Church behoved to add something to the writings of the apostles, or that the apostles themselves behoved orally to supply what they had less clearly taught, since Christ said to them, "I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now" (John 16:12), and that these are the points which have been received, without writing, merely by use and custom. But what effrontery is this? The disciples, I admit, were ignorant and almost indocile when our Lord thus addressed them, but were they still in this condition when they committed his doctrine to writing, so as afterwards to be under the necessity of supplying orally that which, through ignorance, they had omitted to write? If they were guided by the Spirit of truth unto all truth when they published their writings, what prevented them from embracing a full knowledge of the Gospel, and consigning it therein? But let us grant them what they ask, provided they point out the things which behoved to be revealed without writing. Should they presume to attempt this, I will address, them in the words of Augustine, "When the Lord is silent, who of us may say, this is, or that is? or if we should presume to say it, how do we prove it?" (August. in Joann. 96) But why do I contend superfluously? Every child knows that in the writings of the apostles, which these men represent as mutilated and incomplete, is contained the result of that revelation which the Lord then promised to them.

15. What, say they, did not Christ declare that nothing which the Church teaches and decrees can be gainsayed, when he enjoined that every one who presumes to contradict should be regarded as a heathen man and a publican? (Mt. 18:17.) First, there is here no mention of doctrine, but her authority to censure, for correction is asserted, in order that none who had been admonished or reprimanded might oppose her judgment. But to say nothing of this, it is very strange that those men are so lost to all sense of shame, that they hesitate not to plume themselves on this declaration. For what, pray, will they make of it, but just that the consent of the Church, a consent never given but to the word of God, is not to be despised? The Church is to be heard, say they. Who denies this? since she decides nothing but according to the word of God. If they demand more than this, let them know that the words of Christ give them no countenance. I ought not to seem contentious when I so vehemently insist that we cannot concede to the Church any new doctrine; in other words, allow her to teach and oracularly deliver more than the Lord has revealed in his word. Men of sense see how great the danger is if so much authority is once conceded to men. They see also how wide a door is opened for the jeers and cavils of the ungodly, if we admit that Christians are to receive the opinions of men as if they were oracles. We may add, that our Saviour, speaking according to the circumstances of his times, gave the name of Church to the Sanhedrim, that the disciples might learn afterwards to revere the sacred meetings of the Church. Hence it would follow, that single cities and districts would have equal liberty in coining dogmas.

16. The examples which they bring do not avail them. They say that pædobaptism proceeds not so much on a plain command of Scripture, as on a decree of the Church. It would be a miserable asylum if, in defence of pædobaptism, we were obliged to betake ourselves to the bare authority of the Church; but it will be made plain enough elsewhere (chap. 16) that it is far otherwise. In like manner, when they object that we nowhere find in the Scriptures what was declared in the Council of Nice--viz. that the Son is consubstantial with the Father (see August. Ep. 178)--they do a grievous injustice to the Fathers, as if they had rashly condemned Arius for not swearing to their words, though professing the whole of that doctrine which is contained in the writings of the Apostles and Prophets. I admit that the expression does not exist in Scripture, but seeing it is there so often declared that there is one God, and Christ is so often called true and eternal God, one with the Father, what do the Nicene Fathers do when they affirm that he is of one essence, than simply declare the genuine meaning of Scripture? Theodoret relates that Constantine, in opening their meeting, spoke as follows: "In the discussion of divine matters, the doctrine of the Holy Spirit stands recorded. The Gospels and apostolical writings, with the oracles of the prophets, fully show us the meaning of the Deity. Therefore, laying aside discord, let us take the exposition of questions from the words of the Spirit" (Theodoret. Hist. Eccles. Lib. 1 c. 5). There was none who opposed this sound advice; none who objected that the Church could add something of her own, that the Spirit did not reveal all things to the apostles, or at least that they did not deliver them to posterity, and so forth. If the point on which our opponents insist is true, Constantine, first, was in error in robbing the Church of her power; and, secondly, when none of the bishops rose to vindicate it, their silence was a kind of perfidy, and made them traitors to Ecclesiastical law. But since Theodoret relates that they readily embraced what the Emperor said, it is evident that this new dogma was then wholly unknown.


[573] The French adds, "Vision receue du Seigneur; Le Seigneur des armees l'a dit,"--A vision received from the Lord; The Lord of hosts hath spoken it.

[574] 116 D116 This section admirably expresses Calvin's view concerning the centrality of Christ in divine revelation. From Creation to Consummation, Christ is God's only wisdom, light, and truth, the only mirror in which God has Himself as Redeemer, the only fountain of heavenly doctrine, and the only way by which man can come to know God. Here there is no room for the concept that Christ was completely concealed in the Old Testament, whereas He is completely revealed in the New; nor for the idea that Old Testament saints trusted in God, whereas New Testament saints trust in Christ.

[575] 117 D117 Although Calvin uses the term "dictated" in connection with this explanation of the manner in which the body of Old Testament Scripture was formed, this should not be taken to express the mode of Inspiration, but rather to call attention to the result of Inspiration. That this is his intention may be seen in the previous assertion that historical details "are also the composition of prophets," which assertion takes into account the human factor in the process of the inscripturation of revelation.

[576] 118 D118 This assertion that the Spirit of Christ "in a manner dictated words to them" implies at least three ideas: (1) The guidance of the Spirit in the inspiration of Scripture extends to the very words which the apostles and prophets employed; (2) The words of Scripture express the very thoughts which God wished expressed, so that the result of the Spirit's inspiration is, in regard to truth, the same as if the words had been dictated; (3) Yet the words of Scripture were only "in a manner" dictated, since the Spirit used the faculties peculiar to the human instruments, thereby ensuring a Scripture characterized by differences of vocabulary, syntax, grammar, literary style, historical setting, and theological approach.

[577] 119 D119 The expression, "sure and authentic amanuenses," would at first glance, seem to imply that the apostles were mere scribes and copyists, and that Inspiration should be defined as "infallible supernatural superintendence of mechanical human reproduction of divinely communicated words." But Calvin would have subscribed to such a "dictation theory" of Inspiration is abundantly clear from the many relevant portions of the Institutes. (See also notes on sections 6 and 8 of this chapter.)

[578] The French adds, "Or, nos adversaires mesmes tiennent tous ceux-la pour heretiques."--Now, our opponents themselves regard all those as heretics.


     Christian Classics Ethereal Library / Public Domain

     Institutes of the Christian Religion

  • Gad The Seer
  • Gad The Seer 2
  • Gad The Seer 14

#1     November 17, 2016 | Ken Johnson


#2     January 31, 2017 | Ken Johnson


#3     November 23, 2016 | Ken Johnson


     Devotionals, notes, poetry and more

coram Deo
     11/1/2010    Deus Pro Nobis

     As we enter the second decade of the twenty-first century, we have reached an all-time low in terms of our expectations for college students. Both parents and students seem to have ingested a lowest-common-denominator sedative that has led many to enter college with an overwhelming feeling of doubt and desperation. Many parents are content simply to see their children get through college without becoming dropouts, drunks, or drug addicts. In turn, students are content to graduate without their parents finding out how close they came to becoming all three.

     Although this is not true everywhere, many institutions have lowered their academic standards while we have been reducing our expectations for our students. But what is most disheartening is not the diminishing academic standards but the degree to which Christian parents and students have increasingly set their expectations on things below rather than things above.

     We have been besieged with doubt by the naturalistic, humanistic god of this world rather than trusting the supernatural, sovereign God of yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Christian parents and their covenant children, whether enrolled at Christian colleges or secular universities, Ivy League or state schools, have all but eliminated their great expectations by failing to trust the Author and Finisher of our faith to protect the hearts and minds of those who have been His from before the foundation of the earth.

     Although Christ has declared victory over the Enemy and has declared us more than conquerors in Him, we have become a retreating, defensive, overpowered, and frightened religious splinter group rather than the gospel-advancing, Spiritempowered, God-fearing, and valiant church of Christ against which the gates of hell shall not prevail. While the Devil’s professors are on a religious crusade to demythologize and deconstruct the beliefs of Christian students, we must not forget that greater is He who is in us than he who is in the world, remembering always this ancient and eternal truth: Deus pro nobis — “God is for us.” If our reigning and ever-present God is for us, then who can ever truly be against us?

     Let us not fear man but trust God as we strive to equip humble Christians to be the best doctors and lawyers, the wisest CEOs, the finest governors and presidents, the most sacrificial missionaries, the most godly pastors, and the most faithful fathers and mothers the world, and the Devil, has ever seen — all by God’s grace.

     click here for article source

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

Ligonier     coram Deo (definition)

American Minute
     by Bill Federer

     The turning point in the Pacific War began today, June 4, 1942. American intelligence intercepted Japan's plans to capture Midway Island and from there Hawaii. The outnumbered U.S. Fleet ambushed the Japanese armada, but was losing badly. It was not until American dive bombers, navigating by guess and by God, sighted the Japanese carriers below at the precise moment their planes had left to attack the Yorktown. In just five minutes, the screeching dive bombers sank three Japanese carriers, and a fourth shortly after. This providential event turned the War, as Japan was never again able to go on the offensive.

American Minute

Lean Into God
     Compiled by Richard S. Adams

How important the concept of God is,
and how instead of valuing what has been given us,
we with light hearts spurn it
because of absurdities
that have been attached to it.
--- Leo Tolstoy
Last Diaries by Leo Tolstoy

No pillow so soft as God's promise.
No skin, no hair;
No grace, no prayer.
--- Author Unknown
The Salt-Cellars: Being a Collection of Proverbs, Together with Homely Notes Theron, Volume 2 - Primary Source Edition

You may as soon find a living man that does not breathe,
as a living Christian that does not pray.
--- Matthew Henry
A Commentary Upon The Holy Bible, Volume 5 - Primary Source Edition (Afrikaans Edition)

The heart has reasons that reason does not understand.
--- Jacques Benigne Bossuel
So You're A Christian, Who Knew?

... from here, there and everywhere

The Shema: Spirituality and Law in Judaism
     CHAPTER 4 / “The Lord Is Our God”:
     Names Make a Difference Pt. 2

     On yet a higher level of abstraction is the distinction between the transcendent and the immanent dimensions of God. Elohim refers to the former; Hashem, the latter. Elohim, the attribute of din, God as a generic term, His universal qualities—all this points to a transcendental view of Divinity: God as aloof, beyond, remote. In contrast, Hashem—the attribute of raḥamim, of love and compassion, God’s specific relations with Israel, His functioning as the God of a singular nation as well as Sovereign of the cosmos and all humanity—points toward a more immanentist conception: God as available, close to us, involved with us, caught up in a web of relationships with us. Until the advent of human beings in the story of
Genesis, the Torah uses no Name other than Elohim; only with the appearance of Adam and his developing religious consciousness does the Name Hashem emerge—first in conjunction with Elohim and then standing by itself.

     Of course, all of this can be captured in a more familiar dichotomy: Hashem as a personal God, Elohim as an impersonal One. By virtue of all we have said about Elohim, it is obvious that, in this guise, God is impersonal (or beyond personality) in His role as Creator and in His relation to His non-human creation. At the same time, Hashem speaks of personal contact and involvement. God is never to be conceived of as a person, yet He does possess personality; who can deny Him the very attribute that distinguishes His creatures created in His image?

     Various attributes connected to divine acts change in nuance depending on the context of the divine Names. Thus, for instance, the word tov, “good,” means one thing when used in the context of the natural world created by Elohim, another in the context of the historical universe presided over by Hashem. The words ki tov, “it is good,” as they appear in the first chapter of
Genesis (e.g., 1:4, “and God saw the light that it was [or is] good”) refer to the perfection of the natural order, to God as the One who establishes the organizing principles of the cosmos—the orderly governance of the world, both the power and the limitations of the creation.

     (Maimonides defines tov in the scriptural context, as the realization of the divine will for the sake of the particular object so described, rather than as a means to some other created object; Guide for the Perplexed, 3:13.)

     Contrast this use of tov to its connotation in
Psalms: “The Lord (Hashem) is good to all, and His tender mercies are over all His works” (Ps. 145:9). Here, Scripture alludes to God’s goodness in its aspect of raḥamim, “tender mercies.” Unlike its metaphysical connotation in the creation narrative, the word tov used in this Psalm is much more recognizable to us. We encounter here God’s moral goodness; significantly, the name Hashem is parallel to God’s “tender mercies.” This is God who is involved with His creatures, who cares for them, worries over them—in other words, this is the Lord of history whose goodness manifests itself in the affairs of humankind.

     (R. Yaakov Zevi Mecklenburg, in his Ha-Ketav ve’ha-Kabbalah, tries to synthesize these two dimensions of tov. For him, it signifies not that the creation was good—as if God were an artist stepping back in self-congratulating appreciation of his handiwork—but an explanation of why the Creator created, namely, because He (God) is good. This is based on the retranslation of va-yera not as “He saw,” but as “He brought into being.” Although, he maintains, the usual translation is “he saw,” the form of the verb is unusual—hif’il, causative—and therefore legitimately lends itself to “he made visible” or “he brought into being.” The effort, while admirable, is not totally successful. God’s tov as overflowing love, ḥesed or the effluence of “giving-ness,” is still metaphysical and not necessarily moral or personalistic. See my The Good Society: Jewish Ethics in Action (New York: Viking Press, 1974), pp. 3–9.)

     The two divine Names draw to themselves separate clusters of ideas and nuances, like a magnet attracting iron filings around its opposite poles. On the one hand, Elohim is God’s generic name. It represents din, judgment; His universal aspects; His transcendence; His impersonal attributes; His role as Creator; and His metaphysical goodness. Hashem, on the other hand, is God’s “Jewish name,” associated with mercy and love; His specific adoption by the Children of Israel as their own God; the particularistic dimensions of that relationship; His immanence; His personal and relational qualities; His role as the Lord of History; and the Source of moral goodness, the Revealer of Torah.

     These distinctions were never meant to imply different essences, that is, beings ontologically independent of each other, for that would border on idolatry. No, in the end “the Lord is One”; the distinctions are solely in the eyes of the human beholder and must never be ascribed to God. The two poles, however we define them, are complementary, never contradictory. The ancient world, however, often regarded these two poles as conflicting with each other rather than representing different aspects of one reality. In the cultures surrounding Israel, polytheistic and dualistic religions abounded. The Zoroastrians of Persia posited a god of light and goodness, and another of evil and darkness. It was in order to counter this form of paganism that the prophet Isaiah characterized Israel’s God as the One who proclaims “I form the light and create darkness; I make peace and create evil” (
Isa. 45:7). Early Christianity, too, had to contend with heretical sects such as the Manicheans, who saw life in starkly dualistic terms. In such heresies, “Satan” was regarded as a real and independent power over and against God, rather than as a symbol or metaphor of evil.

     This virus of dualism still infects humankind even today. Our metaphysical and psychological limitations incline us toward a fragmented philosophy in which the world is conceived of in over-against terms. This is, of course, not an altogether bad thing. It is the very stuff of analysis, without which neither philosophy nor science can make much headway. As the Sages put it, im ein da’at havdalah minayin; without understanding no distinctions can be made. And the converse is true as well: in the absence of distinctions there is a dearth of understanding. But when we impose this fractionated vision onto our religious quest and conceive of the duality as ontological, that is, as possessing ultimate reality, we flirt with paganism.

     (The tendency of primitive man to personalize the forces of Nature, and his internal drives as well, conceiving of them as independent and autonomous powers that he then apotheosized, comes to mind as we read of the rash of psychiatric cases of “multiple personalities” that have attracted public attention in recent years. It is a psychological illustration of the dangers of absolutizing the relative (which is really what idolatry is all about) in a pathological manner. In an ironic revival of the “possessions” and exorcisms of our recent superstitious past—the phenomenon of “the dybbuk” comes to mind—psychiatrists have identified more and more cases of people who not only develop different facets of personality (we all do that) but transform them into independent personalities which inhabit their body. (I am indebted to my son Joshua, which has been professionally involved with a number of such cases, for the information on the psychiatry of multiple personalities.) These “persons” are not a matter of metaphor or rhetoric; they are experienced by the patient as very real indeed. A patient may have a large number of such separate personalities inhabiting his—usually her—body and often be only dimly or sporadically or not at all aware of some or all of them. Like the gods who populated the theological universe of the ancient pagans, these personalities may form alliances with each other, strive with each other, and indeed often attempt to harm and even kill each other—and sometimes succeed, and the patient is lost. Though we are not in possession of an adequate scientific explanation for this phenomenon, it appears that the human mind proves to be a wonderful, awe-inspiring entity as it helps the individual survive inhuman assaults on the vulnerable ego by personalizing the various forces in life, both friendly and hostile, and conceiving of them as different people—with different names, genders, voices, handwriting, dispositions, etc. The old phylogeny-ontogeny scheme that used to be popular in embryology—that the developing human foetus and the evolution of the species parallel each other—seems to find its analogue here: the patient exhibits the psychiatric equivalent of the underlying theology of the primitive religions of mankind. The equation reads the other way as well: the tendency toward pagan dualism is the theological equivalent of the very serious disease called multiple personality disorder. And if so, manifestations of such dualism in our contemporary lives may also be understood as invalid and unauthentic responses to the pressures and threats of the world about us. To retain both our spiritual integrity and our mental health, it is important for us to recognize and affirm, regularly, that the various personalities we assume for different times and occasions are but masks we put on or take off in a socially acceptable manner (indeed, the word personality derives from the persona or mask that actors would don to represent different roles in the early history of drama); that the joys of life and its frustrations and disappointments, the bliss and the grief, are not merely chance events that buffet us arbitrarily, but that they, and all life, issue from one Source and are thus ultimately coherent. It is the limited native intelligence of our species that does not permit us to fully comprehend the details of that coherence. But it objectively exists. And it is this unifying coherence, originating in the oneness of existence itself, and the awareness that such oneness indeed exists that make life meaningful and valuable.)

     The Torah—recognizing that our reason inclines toward dualism even when contemplating our own Creator—affirms in the Shema that all such dichotomies and distinctions are purely subjective, expressive of our human limitations. Beyond all such divisions there is but one objective Reality: God is One.

     Finally, we come to still another shade of meaning pertaining to the Tetragrammaton in the first verse of the Shema: the element of divine lordship, God’s mastery and sovereignty in the world. The English translation of the Tetragrammaton as “Lord” is only approximate, representing a direct translation of the Hebrew euphemism Adonai, literally, “my Lord.” However, this substitute term has no necessary connection to the ineffable Tetragrammaton.

     But is it really so arbitrary a substitution? The Halakha offers us an interesting commentary on the matter: The Babylonian Talmud (Ḥagigah 4a) teaches that a slave is exempt from the law of re’iyah, that is, the requirement to make the pilgrimage to Jerusalem and attend the Holy Temple during the three major festivals. Why this exemption? Because the relevant verse in Scripture reads, “Three times in the year all your males shall appear before the Lord God” (
Exod. 23:17). The word for “Lord” here is adon, which is quite literally “master” or “lord.” The Talmud adds, “This refers to one who has only one adon; but this one (i.e., the slave) has another adon.” Thus, only a free man—one who has but one Master, the Creator—is obligated to make the pilgrimage to the Temple. This sacred duty is reserved for those who acknowledge but one Master.

     The Jerusalem Talmud similarly interprets the first verse of the Shema:

     How do we know that a slave is exempt from the obligation to recite the Shema? For it is written, “Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is one”—this refers to one who has no other adon other than the Holy One. This therefore excludes the slave who has more than one adon. (J. Berakhot 25a)6

     Therefore, the standard English translation of the Tetragrammaton as “Lord” is indeed quite apt. And so, the Shema can be seen as a clarion call for human freedom under God’s sovereignty. It is to be recited only by one “who has no master other than God.” And in reciting the first verse of the Shema, we thereby proclaim our spiritual dignity: we affirm the oneness of God as free men and free women, for God is our one and only adon.

  The Shema: Spirituality and Law in Judaism

History of the Destruction of Jerusalem
     Thanks to Meir Yona

     CHAPTER 13.

     The Parthians Bring Antigonus Back Into Judea, And Cast Hyrcanus And Phasaelus Into Prison. The Flight Of Herod, And The Taking Of Jerusalem And What Hyrcanus And Phasaelus Suffered.

     1. Now two years afterward, when Barzapharnes, a governor among the Parthians, and Paeorus, the king's son, had possessed themselves of Syria, and when Lysanias had already succeeded upon the death of his father Ptolemy, the son of Menneus, in the government [of Chalcis], he prevailed with the governor, by a promise of a thousand talents, and five hundred women, to bring back Antigonus to his kingdom, and to turn Hyrcanus out of it. Pacorus was by these means induced so to do, and marched along the sea-coast, while he ordered Barzapharnes to fall upon the Jews as he went along the Mediterranean part of the country; but of the maritime people, the Tyrians would not receive Pacorus, although those of Ptolemais and Sidon had received him; so he committed a troop of his horse to a certain cup-bearer belonging to the royal family, of his own name [Pacorus], and gave him orders to march into Judea, in order to learn the state of affairs among their enemies, and to help Antigonus when he should want his assistance.

     2. Now as these men were ravaging Carmel, many of the Jews ran together to Antigonus, and showed themselves ready to make an incursion into the country; so he sent them before into that place called Drymus, [the woodland 18 ] to seize upon the place; whereupon a battle was fought between them, and they drove the enemy away, and pursued them, and ran after them as far as Jerusalem, and as their numbers increased, they proceeded as far as the king's palace; but as Hyrcanus and Phasaelus received them with a strong body of men, there happened a battle in the market-place, in which Herod's party beat the enemy, and shut them up in the temple, and set sixty men in the houses adjoining as a guard to them. But the people that were tumultuous against the brethren came in, and burnt those men; while Herod, in his rage for killing them, attacked and slew many of the people, till one party made incursions on the other by turns, day by day, in the way of ambushes, and slaughters were made continually among them.

     3. Now when that festival which we call Pentecost was at hand, all the places about the temple, and the whole city, was full of a multitude of people that were come out of the country, and which were the greatest part of them armed also, at which time Phasaelus guarded the wall, and Herod, with a few, guarded the royal palace; and when he made an assault upon his enemies, as they were out of their ranks, on the north quarter of the city, he slew a very great number of them, and put them all to flight; and some of them he shut up within the city, and others within the outward rampart. In the mean time, Antigonus desired that Pacorus might be admitted to be a reconciler between them; and Phasaelus was prevailed upon to admit the Parthian into the city with five hundred horse, and to treat him in an hospitable manner, who pretended that he came to quell the tumult, but in reality he came to assist Antigonus; however, he laid a plot for Phasaelus, and persuaded him to go as an ambassador to Barzapharnes, in order to put an end to the war, although Herod was very earnest with him to the contrary, and exhorted him to kill the plotter, but not expose himself to the snares he had laid for him, because the barbarians are naturally perfidious. However, Pacorus went out and took Hyrcanus with him, that he might be the less suspected; he also 19 left some of the horsemen, called the Freemen, with Herod, and conducted Phasaelus with the rest.

     4. But now, when they were come to Galilee, they found that the people of that country had revolted, and were in arms, who came very cunningly to their leader, and besought him to conceal his treacherous intentions by an obliging behavior to them; accordingly, he at first made them presents; and afterward, as they went away, laid ambushes for them; and when they were come to one of the maritime cities called Ecdippon, they perceived that a plot was laid for them; for they were there informed of the promise of a thousand talents, and how Antigonus had devoted the greatest number of the women that were there with them, among the five hundred, to the Parthians; they also perceived that an ambush was always laid for them by the barbarians in the night time; they had also been seized on before this, unless they had waited for the seizure of Herod first at Jerusalem, because if he were once informed of this treachery of theirs, he would take care of himself; nor was this a mere report, but they saw the guards already not far off them.

     5. Nor would Phasaelus think of forsaking Hyrcanus and flying away, although Ophellius earnestly persuaded him to it; for this man had learned the whole scheme of the plot from Saramalla, the richest of all the Syrians. But Phasaelus went up to the Parfilian governor, and reproached him to his face for laying this treacherous plot against them, and chiefly because he had done it for money; and he promised him that he would give him more money for their preservation, than Antigonus had promised to give for the kingdom. But the sly Parthian endeavored to remove all this suspicion by apologies and by oaths, and then went [to the other] Pacorus; immediately after which those Parthians who were left, and had it in charge, seized upon Phasaelus and Hyrcanus, who could do no more than curse their perfidiousness and their perjury.

          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 18:16-17
     by D.H. Stern

16     A person’s gift clears his way
and gives him access to the great.

17     The first to state his case seems right,
till the other one comes and cross-examines.

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 never-failing God

     For He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. ---
Hebrews 13:5.

     What line does my thought take? Does it turn to what God says or to what I fear? Am I learning to say not what God says, but to say something after I have heard what He says? "He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me."

     "I will in no wise fail thee"—not for all my sin and selfishness and stubbornness and waywardness. Have I really let God say to me that He will never fail me? If I have listened to this say-so of God's, then let me listen again.

     "Neither will I in any wise forsake thee." Sometimes it is not difficulty that makes me think God will forsake me, but drudgery. There is no Hill Difficulty to climb, no vision given, nothing wonderful or beautiful, just the commonplace day in and day out—can I hear God's say-so in these things?

     We have the idea that God is going to do some exceptional thing, that He is preparing and fitting us for some extraordinary thing by and by, but as we go on in grace we find that God is glorifying Himself here and now, in the present minute. If we have God's say-so behind us, the most amazing strength comes, and we learn to sing in the ordinary days and ways.

My Utmost for His Highest

     the Poetry of RS Thomas


  It was the other way round:
  God waved his slow wand
  And the creature became a woman,
  Imperceptibly, retaining its body,
  Nose, brow, lips, eyes,
  And the face that was like a flower
  On the neck's stem. The man turned to her
  Crazy with the crushed smell
  Of her hair; and her eyes warned him
  To keep off. And she spoke to him with the voice
  Of his own conscience, and rippled there
  In the shade. So he put his hands
  To his face, while her forked laughter
  Played on him, and his leaves fell
  Silently round him, and he hung there
  On himself, waiting for the God to see.

Opening up Psalms
     Psalm 73

     Written by Asaph, a Levite musician appointed by David to serve in the tabernacle (1 Chron. 6:31–32, 39), this psalm deals with a problem that is just as up to date as when it was written, namely, the problem of the wicked flourishing while the righteous languish.

     The Prosperity Of The Wicked

     "Asaph says the wicked ‘are not in trouble as other men; nor are they plagued like other men’ (v.
5). It seemed to him that the wicked did not struggle in life. He says, ‘They have more than heart could wish’ (v. 7). And they did not even appear to struggle in death. Asaph notes that there were ‘no pangs in their death; but their strength is firm’ (v. 4).

     Perhaps most disconcerting to Asaph was the attitude of the wicked in all of this. One would at least expect them to realize something of the degree of their blessing and to show a smidgen of gratitude and a dash of humility. But such was not the case. They showed no appreciation for their blessings and no concern for those around them who were not so blessed. Instead, they went about brandishing pride as though it were a chain about their necks (v.
6). Further, they did not hesitate to speak ‘loftily’ (v. 8). Instead of thanking God for their tranquillity and affluence, they ‘set their mouth against the heavens’ (v. 9).

     The Difficulty Of The Righteous

     Asaph would have been satisfied if he had been able to see the people of God doing as well as the wicked. But he says that they were drinking all day and each day out of a full cup of affliction (vv.
10, 14).

     Caught in the vice of the prosperity of the wicked and the adversity of the righteous, Asaph finally gave way to this melancholy cry of despair: ‘Surely I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocence’ (v.
13). He had reached his lowest point.

     The Way Of Relief

     What Asaph refused to do

     Asaph refused to infect the people of God with his doubt and despair (v.
15). By writing this psalm, Asaph finally shared his despair with all future generations of believers, but only after he had worked through it. We might say he refrained from writing when he had only the first fourteen verses to write. He took up his pen only when he had the last fourteen verses.

     Our first conclusions regarding our problems are seldom our best, and if we quickly share those initial conclusions we may do considerable harm to the faith of others.

     What Asaph did

     Asaph says he ‘went into the sanctuary of God’ (v.
17). This was the decisive thing, the turning point, in this crisis. There he found what he needed.

     What was there about the house of God that helped Asaph? Was it the public reading of the Word of God? Was it the exposition of that Word? Was it something he heard in his conversation with other believers? It could have been one or more of these things. The important thing is that the answer came to him while he was engaged in the public worship of God.

     There in the Lord’s house, Asaph realized he had been content to look solely at the here and now. He had failed to consider all the facts. When he went to public worship, he began to think in terms of eternity. (The house of the Lord does have a wonderful way of bringing the eternal to bear upon the temporal.)

     As Asaph pondered the end of the wicked, he came to see that this is really the decisive thing. It is the end that makes the difference. It did not matter how happy and prosperous they appeared to be in this life. The immensely important matter was what lay ahead of them. Asaph began to understand that with all their care-free days and ways, the wicked were standing on a slippery slope and would ultimately be plunged into eternal destruction.

     Asaph’s experience should lead us to understand that the righteous on his worst day is far better off than the unrighteous on his best day.

Opening up Psalms (Opening up the Bible)

Opening up Psalms
     Psalm 77

     The first thing that we note about this psalm is that its author, Asaph, was a very unhappy man. In verse 2, he mentions the day of his trouble. In the same verse, he tells us that this trouble was so deep and serious that his soul refused to be comforted. In verse 3 he affirms that even the thought of God did not comfort him. He also describes himself as being ‘overwhelmed’ in that same verse.

4 adds even more dark strokes to his description. His trouble was such that he could find no respite in sleep, and he found himself to be incapable of even talking about it. Most of us find relief from sharing our troubles with others, but Asaph could not even do this.

     "Why was he so deeply disturbed? It all came about from his considering the past (v.
5). And what was there about the past that caused him to be so despondent? Was there some glaring failure there? Surprisingly enough, the past was good. It was a time in which he had enjoyed ‘a song in the night’ (v. 6).

     This is puzzling. Why would a good past cause Asaph to be so exercised? And the answer is that it made him sharply conscious of how his present circumstances did not measure up. He could look at the past and see marvellous instances of God at work in his life and in the lives of those around him. But the present seemed to be utterly devoid of such instances. It was of such a nature that it appeared as if God had cast him off for ever (v.
7), had decided to be favourable no more (v. 7), had caused his mercy to cease for ever (v. 8), had failed to keep what he had promised
8), had forgotten to be gracious (v. 9) and had, in anger, locked up all his tender mercies and thrown away the key

     The good news is that Asaph did not continue in his distress. In verse
10 he turns the corner and begins to come out of his misery and woe. As he reflected on the past, he began to realize that he had been looking at it in the wrong way. Instead of letting past glory depress him, he should have been letting it bless him. The fact that God had worked mightily in the past meant there was hope for the future. The God of the past had not changed! He is the same God. No matter how great the darkness of present circumstances, it is not greater than God.

     There are two phrases in this
psalm that never fail to catch my eye. One is in verse 13 and the other in verse 19. In the former, we are told that God’s way is in the sanctuary. In the latter, we are told that his way is in the sea. We have a tendency to want to track God through the sea. We want to know why he does this and why he doesn’t do that. We should rather focus on seeking him in the sanctuary. In public worship, we can so meet God that we become satisfied with the fact that he is God. When we are satisfied with God as he is, we will find ourselves no longer troubled by what he does.

Opening up Psalms (Opening up the Bible)
Chapter 3
     Accommodating Quotations

     It has been contended that writers of the New Testament make use of the Old Testament in order to accommodate the latter to the circumstances about which they were writing, or to suit the prejudices of the age in which they lived. Modern criticism, for instance, which, as we have stated, gives evidence of an effort to eliminate the supernatural character of Old Testament predictions, supposes that Matthew, who constantly refers in his Gospel to prophecy as having been fulfilled, was merely making use of the Old Testament in an arbitrary manner, and that really the Scripture he quotes did not refer to circumstances in the life and death of Christ as he states they did. For example, when Matthew states that the sojourn of Joseph and Mary to Egypt took place that the prophecy might be fulfilled “Out of Egypt have I called my son,” a Higher Critical Commentator remarks, “It looks as if Matthew made the incident fit the quotation.” If that were so, Matthew, instead of writing by divine inspiration, was under a misapprehension. The critic overlooks the fact that to accommodate Old Testament prophecies to incidents, in such a way as to carry conviction of the fulfillment of prophecy to those who were not easily to be convinced, would be far more incredible than that the incident should be the fulfillment of prophecy.

     As to the passage in
Matthew 2:15, there are many evidences in the New Testament that Christ takes up the history of Israel afresh ideally in His own Person, and embodied in Himself the fulfillment of much which that history foreshadowed. For instance, Israel is described in Isaiah 5:1–7 as the Vine brought out of Egypt, and Christ describes Himself as the true Vine (John 15:1). In
Isaiah 41:8, 9, Israel is the servant of Jehovah; in chapter 42 Messiah is so described. So again, while Israel is spoken of as God’s Son (Ex. 4:22, 23), in the New Testament the Son is Christ. In each case Christ is the “true,” the real, Vine, Servant, Son.

     "Everything goes to show that Matthew found in the past history of Israel, as referred to by Hosea, a prophetic import which had its fulfillment in the sojourn of Christ as a child in Egypt. There is certainly nothing in Matthew’s use of the passage from
Hosea, nor in any other of his quotations, that is inconsistent with divine inspiration. To consider him as having made an incident fit the quotation is an unwarranted assumption.

     If we were to look at the matter from the purely naturalistic point of view we might see in Matthew’s quotation nothing more than that he found certain words in
Hosea and appropriated them to Christ. But we cannot both accept the evidences of Scripture and adopt the naturalistic view.

     The suggestion has been made that Matthew, finding certain words in
Hosea, appropriated them to this use in the Gospel. We must judge of this in the light of the testimony of Scripture. Hosea himself was no doubt thinking of the historical event of the deliverance of Israel from Egypt. Now Scripture shows that in many cases the history of Israel was prophetically illustrative of future events. Paul states that certain things happened to Israel by way of example and were written for our admonition (1 Cor. 10:1–11). He shows again that there is far more in the history of the sons of Abraham than what would be gathered by the reader from the record in Genesis (Gal. 4:21–31). The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews makes clear that the history of Melchizedek foreshadowed details of the priesthood of Christ, and conveyed teachings far beyond the mere statements of fact in the Genesis narrative. These are only a few of many instances showing that in the conception of the writers of the New Testament there was a wider range of meaning in Old Testament narratives than what could have been apprehended by the Old Testament writers themselves. At the same time there are intimations in the Old Testament that the writers, at all events in some cases, had this wider significance in view. Thus the writer of
Psalm 78 says, “I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings of old: which we have heard and known, and our fathers have told us.” Now what the Psalmist writes about consists of a simple narrative of events which took place in the history of Israel from the time of the Exodus till the reign of David, and he describes this history as “a parable” and speaks of himself as uttering dark sayings. This suggests that there was something more than history in what he was about to narrate.

     To this must be added Peter’s statement that Old Testament prophets searched into their own writings regarding events of the future which formed the subject of their testimony (
1 Pet. 1:10–12).

The Collected Writings of W. E. Vine- 5 Volume Set Complete
God As Host
     Dictionary of Biblical Imagery

     The Bible’s picture of God as a host is rooted in the actions of human hosts: as a divine host, God performs the same activities as human hosts do. The context for the biblical image of God as host is the extreme value that the ancient world placed on the obligations of hosts to their guests. The ancient Greeks made hospitality a mark of civilization itself, the Romans made it a sacred obligation, and the Hebrews evolved an elaborate code of hospitality in response to the conditions of nomadic life, where travel required a different type of accommodation from a stationary inn. Human hosts offered their guests protection, lodging and food. The actions of God that are described by the metaphor of the host follow the same pattern, with references to the provision of food being most numerous. The discussion that follows limits its focus to passages where God extends beneficence to his creatures, often issuing an invitation or command to accept the provision in such a way as to suggest the actions of a host.

     Physical Provision. God’s extension of food to his creatures begins with the creation of the world. The climax of
Genesis 1 is God’s statement that to all animals of the earth he has “given every green plant for food”
Gen 1:30 RSV). Later OT references picture God as a host who provides for animals (Ps 104:27–28; Job 38:39–41). But of course it is the human creature that is usually pictured as the recipient of God’s provision of food.

     Such provision begins in the garden.
Genesis 2 is governed by the motif of God’s wonderful provision for the human race, and the content of that provision is partly what a host provides-a secure and attractive place in which to live and rest, food and companionship. The first words that God speaks to Adam are “You may freely eat [or, more strongly, you shall eat] of every tree of the garden” (Gen 2:16 RSV).

     The metaphor of God as host is not overtly stated in the story of the exodus, but it is evoked as we read. With the nation of Israel utterly dependent on God for its survival in the wilderness, God provides both protection and food. Notable instances are manna and water from the rock
Ex 17:1–7), as well quail (Ex 16). Although the writer of Exodus does not use the image of God as host, the retrospective reflection of the psalmist comes closer to doing so: Psalm 78:19 pictures God as spreading a table in the wilderness, and Psalm 105:39–41 is even more specific in its references to hosting:

     He spread a cloud for a covering,
     and fire to give light by night.
     They asked, and he brought quails,
     and gave them bread from heaven in abundance.
     He opened the rock, and water gushed forth;
     it flowed through the desert like a river. (RSV)

     This experience of special provision in the wilderness, however, was preparatory for life in the Promised Land, which typically carries the description land flowing with milk and honey (twenty times). Hardly limited to the abundance of cattle, goats and bees, this phrase pictures the whole experience of living in the Promised Land as eating a rich banquet from God’s own table (
Deut 6:3).

     The climax of OT references to God as host is without doubt
Psalm 23. This poem begins by comparing God’s provision to that of a shepherd for his sheep, but already here the provisions thus metaphorically portrayed remind one of what a human host provides for a guest. In the last two verses of the Psalm, moreover, the imagery becomes that of the host-guest relationship, with references to preparing a table, anointing a head for purposes of refreshment, providing an overflowing cup and dwelling in a house.

     In the NT Jesus is a literal host on several recorded occasions. He turned water into wine to keep festivities going at a wedding party (
Jn 2:1–10). Twice he miraculously fed thousands of people (Mt 14:15–21; 15:32–38), and he taught that he himself was the bread of life, the true manna sent from heaven (Jn 6:30–51). After his resurrection he served bread to disciples from Emmaus (Lk 24:30) and prepared a breakfast of bread and fish for Peter and the other disciples (Jn 21:9–14).

     Sacred Meals. Among the five offerings of the sacrificial system, the peace offering is unique in that the priest would burn a portion of it on the altar “as food” for the Lord
Lev 3:11, 16). The name of this particular offering is related to the Hebrew word for peace and well-being. These offerings were made in response to a vow or voluntarily, as well as in response to answered prayer (Lev 7:11, 16). At the heart of the ritual was a meal of celebration to be shared together by those who brought the sacrifice, the priests and the Lord. This communion prefigures the fellowship that Christians enjoy with Christ, who gives them his “flesh” and “blood” to consume (Jn 6:53–58).

     The fulfillment of this prefiguring sacrifice is the Lord’s Supper, instituted by Jesus. Here, surely, is the supreme instance of God as a host who provides the materials for a meal and invites people to participate. At the Last Supper itself (Mt 26:26–29) Jesus served his disciples bread and wine, using the host’s language of invitation: “Take, eat . . . drink of it.” The same terminology is picked up in the instructions for the Lord’s Supper in 1 Corinthians 11:23–26. A leading motif that enters the picture at this point is the obligation of human guests to accept the divine host’s invitation.

     The Banquet of Salvation. The most numerous cluster of references to God as host are metaphoric ones in which the language of physical food and drink is used to portray spiritual salvation. The motif reaches back to the OT.
Isaiah portrays God as inviting people to help themselves free of charge to water, wine, milk and bread (Is 55:1–2) and as making “for all peoples a feast of fat things, a feast of wine” (Is 25:6 RSV). Equally evocative are the millennial pictures of the mountains dripping with wine and the hills flowing with milk (Joel 3:18; Amos 9:13). The composite picture evokes a sense of abundance, satisfaction and joyful celebration all made possible by the lavish generosity of God.

     The metaphoric feast of salvation to which God invites reaches its high point in parables and sayings of Jesus. One thinks at once of the parable of the banquet that God insists must be well attended (
Lk 14:15–24)—a parable occasioned by someone’s glib statement, “Blessed is he who shall eat bread in the kingdom of God” (Lk 14:15). Twice we read about people who will “sit at table in the kingdom of heaven/God” (Mt 8:11; Lk 13:29), to which can be added Jesus’ statement about “those who have continued with me in my trials” being allowed to “eat and drink at my table in my kingdom” (Lk 22:18–30). In the parable of the prodigal son, the forgiving father throws a lavish banquet to which he invites the neighborhood (Lk 15:22–24).

     Jesus tells the Samaritan woman at the well that he can provide water that brings eternal life (
Jn 4:13–14) and invites the thirsty to come and drink from him (Jn 7:37–39). In washing the disciples’ feet Jesus performs a host’s function (Jn 13:1–17). In an eschatological saying Jesus compares the coming day to a marriage feast, picturing the reward of “those servants whom the master finds awake” as having the master “gird himself and have them sit at table, and he will come and serve them” (Lk 12:36–37 RSV).

     As some of these passages show, it is impossible to separate the eschatological references from references to salvation. The heavenly banquet begins on earth at the moment of belief in Christ as savior, and it is consummated in a coming heavenly kingdom. The book of
Revelation brings the eschatological references to their culmination, with its pictures of a celestial “marriage supper of the Lamb,” to which the redeemed are invited (Rev 19:9), and an invitation to anyone who is thirsty to “take the water of life without price” (Rev 22:17).

     Summary. Throughout the Bible, God is clearly the one who provides food for all life. Beyond this comprehensive care for creation, God issues an invitation to enjoy the benefits of redemption that are often poetically depicted in terms of abundant food or a banquet. Actual food is a tangible blessing and is sometimes provided by miracles that reveal a facet of God’s nature, but words for food also stand as metaphors of the good life God grants to his own people. The fellowship and rich provision lost in Eden is fully restored only in the New Jerusalem, but the present experience of God’s goodness sustains his people who live according to the promise of a happy future.

Dictionary of Biblical Imagery
Surprising Texts
     from the Late Second Temple Period
     Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism


     The oldest manuscript of the book of Judges (4QJudga), dating from about 50–25 B.C.E., survives in but a single small fragment. It contains
Judg. 6:2–6 followed directly by vv. 11–13. It lacks 6:7–10, a separate unit whose style differs from the preceding and following verses and appears to be a later theological insertion. Thus, again, the Qumran text of Judges exhibits an early, short form of Judges 6, and the MT has a secondary, theologically expanded version.


     4QSama, dating from near the mid-first century B.C.E., contains a form of text that included a complete paragraph that is not present in the MT, the LXX, or any other extant version. It narrates the oppression by Nahash the Ammonite that introduces the material now found in
1 Sam. 11:1 in the MT and other texts. The fragment itself contains a case of a scribal skip of the eye (parablepsis), which lends support to the probability that the passage was lost in the MT tradition through the same kind of error. Parallel to Josephus’ agreement with 4QJosha, he also shows he used a text of Samuel like 4QSama, since he also narrates the content, details, and wording of that otherwise lost paragraph
(Ant. 6.68–69).


     The Great
Isaiah Scroll (1QIsaa) was the first and most dramatic biblical manuscript to gain widespread fame. Especially because the text displays multifaceted disagreement with the traditional MT, the assumption was made that it was a Qumran text of Isaiah, that is, that its unusual features were specifically due to the “sect” that lived at Qumran and copied it there. A second Isaiah scroll (1QIsab) was also found in Cave 1 and by contrast was nearly identical with the MT. It did indeed show that the medieval MT of Isaiah had been copied with great accuracy over the intervening thousand years. But whereas the two scrolls were first categorized as one authentic text and one “vulgar” Qumran text, in fact they demonstrated—though scholars could not yet realize it—the two principal lessons for the biblical text from the new discoveries. The MT is, for the most part, an accurate copy of some ancient text for each book; but importantly, there were also valuable variant editions of many books in antiquity that had been lost, discarded, or rejected. Though the linguistic and orthographic profile of 1QIsaa is generally secondary to that of the MT, its textual profile is earlier in numerous cases. 1QIsaa demonstrates that the MT displays a recurring pattern of a sentence or more added to the text; in seven instances the MT inserts secondary expansions of up to four verses where 1QIsaa preserves the earlier short text.

The Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism

Take Heart
     June 4

     “You are Simon the son of Jonah. You shall be called Cephas” (which is translated, A Stone).
--- John 1:42. NKJV

     I [can] not discover a more beautiful illustration of the charity and hopefulness of our blessed Lord than I find in his first words to Peter. (Classic RS Thomas on the Apostle Peter (Kregel Classic RS Thomas Series)) For when Simon came to him that day he was anything but a rock. He was a man of sand that day and for many a day after that. It took a lifetime to turn Simon into Peter—to turn the man of sand into the man of rock.

     It is the man of sand who ran away in the garden and who denied Christ. But in the book of the Acts, on the day of Pentecost, at the temple gate called Beautiful, before the Sanhedrin—he is Peter, the Rock.

     And this first I get from Simon Peter’s history: a new and subduing idea of the forgiving grace of Christ. Friends may cast you off, parents may disown you, but there is mercy with Jesus Christ. Men and women laden with iniquities, sinning and sinning and sinning again, I know of One who has not despaired of you; I know of One whose patience has not failed. Come to Peter’s Savior.

     And this second thing I learn from Peter’s story. I get a new idea of the restoring power of Christ. To turn Simon—the unstable, unreliable, vacillating Simon—into a rock! What a work was that! There is not a person, however wicked and broken and helpless, that Jesus cannot restore.

     And Peter’s chief virtue, his saving grace, was his love. Peter loved the Lord with all the strength of his eager, impetuous heart. It was love that made him leave all and follow him at the first. It was mistaken love—but still love—that would have saved Christ from the Via Dolorosa. It was love that made him say at the supper, in his own impulsive way, “You shall never wash my feet,” and then, when he knew what the act signified, “Not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!” Yes, whatever charges may be brought against Peter, this at any rate may be said in his favor: he loved his Lord with a deep, passionate, enthusiastic love.

     Do you love the Lord Jesus Christ? Can you say as did Peter, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you”? Then blessed are you and when you leave this earth the gates of the city will open to welcome you and the trumpets will sound for you on the other side.
---J. D. Jones

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

On This Day
     Wireless Witness  June 4

     Invisible beams of evangelism flash day and night across sky and sea, penetrating nations and hearts where missionaries cannot go. Such are the shortwave ministries of ventures like HCJB, TransWorld Radio, and Far East Broadcasting Company.

     The FEBC began in 1945 when three Christians pooled their resources and formed a nonprofit corporation to broadcast the Gospel through the Orient. One of the men, John Broger, set out for Shanghai searching for a spot for a transmitter. He sailed to Manila to explore the possibility of locating the transmitter in the Philippines.

     While completing paperwork for the Philippine government, Broger requested permission for 10,000 watts. Imagine his thrill when officials marked out the amount and wrote: “Unlimited Power.”

     But the Philippine government insisted the station go on the air by June 4 or not at all. Meanwhile in the U.hair., the founders frantically tried to raise funds as bills came due. One delay after another tore at the project, but government officials refused to extend the timetable. Nail-biting difficulties arose, and three days before the deadline, transmission problems developed. When June 4 dawned, high-voltage wires crisscrossed the station and workers stepped through ankle-deep water from heavy rains. Broger rushed downtown to make a final plea for an extension. He was refused.

     He had no choice but to rush back through cart-congested streets, weaving through traffic jams, racing against the clock. He came to a screeching halt in front of the station, rushed in and shouted, “We’ll test on the air.” The switch was flipped, the transmitters hummed with power, and the winded staff began singing All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name. It was 6 P.M., June 4, 1948, and FEBC was on the air. Almost immediately reports arrived of barbers, atheists, thieves, housewives, and teenagers being saved. Today FEBC is still on the air, serving every country in Asia with local and/or international services in more than 150 languages.

     Praise God! He can make you strong by means of my good news, which is the message about Jesus Christ. For ages and ages this message was kept secret, but now at last it has been told. … And now, because of Jesus Christ, we can praise the only wise God forever! Amen.
--- Romans 16:25,27.

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

Morning and Evening
     Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON

          Morning - June 4

     “The kindness and love of God our Saviour.” --- Titus 3:4.

     How sweet it is to behold the Saviour communing with his own beloved people! There can be nothing more delightful than, by the Divine Spirit, to be led into this fertile field of delight. Let the mind for an instant consider the history of the Redeemer’s love, and a thousand enchanting acts of affection will suggest themselves, all of which have had for their design the weaving of the heart into Christ, and the intertwisting of the thoughts and emotions of the renewed soul with the mind of Jesus. When we meditate upon this amazing love, and behold the all-glorious Kinsman of the Church endowing her with all his ancient wealth, our souls may well faint for joy. Who is he that can endure such a weight of love? That partial sense of it which the Holy Spirit is sometimes pleased to afford, is more than the soul can contain; how transporting must be a complete view of it! When the soul shall have understanding to discern all the Saviour’s gifts, wisdom wherewith to estimate them, and time in which to meditate upon them, such as the world to come will afford us, we shall then commune with Jesus in a nearer manner than at present. But who can imagine the sweetness of such fellowship? It must be one of the things which have not entered into the heart of man, but which God hath prepared for them that love him. Oh, to burst open the door of our Joseph’s granaries, and see the plenty which he hath stored up for us! This will overwhelm us with love. By faith we see, as in a glass darkly, the reflected image of his unbounded treasures, but when we shall actually see the heavenly things themselves, with our own eyes, how deep will be the stream of fellowship in which our soul shall bathe itself! Till then our loudest sonnets shall be reserved for our loving benefactor, Jesus Christ our Lord, whose love to us is wonderful, passing the love of women.

          Evening - June 4

     “Received up into glory.” --- 1 Timothy 3:16.

     We have seen our well-beloved Lord in the days of his flesh, humiliated and sore vexed; for he was “despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.” He whose brightness is as the Morning, wore the sackcloth of sorrow as his daily dress: shame was his mantle, and reproach was his vesture. Yet now, inasmuch as he has triumphed over all the powers of darkness upon the bloody tree, our faith beholds our King returning with dyed garments from Edom, robed in the splendour of victory. How glorious must he have been in the eyes of seraphs, when a cloud received him out of mortal sight, and he ascended up to heaven! Now he wears the glory which he had with God or ever the earth was, and yet another glory above all—that which he has well earned in the fight against sin, death, and hell. As victor he wears the illustrious crown. Hark how the song swells high! It is a new and sweeter song: “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain, for he hath redeemed us unto God by his blood!” He wears the glory of an Intercessor who can never fail, of a Prince who can never be defeated, of a Conqueror who has vanquished every foe, of a Lord who has the heart’s allegiance of every subject. Jesus wears all the glory which the pomp of heaven can bestow upon him, which ten thousand times ten thousand angels can minister to him. You cannot with your utmost stretch of imagination conceive his exceeding greatness; yet there will be a further revelation of it when he shall descend from heaven in great power, with all the holy angels—“Then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory.” Oh, the splendour of that glory! It will ravish his people’s hearts. Nor is this the close, for eternity shall sound his praise, “Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever!” Reader, if you would joy in Christ’s glory hereafter, he must be glorious in your sight now. Is he so?

Morning and Evening

Amazing Grace
     June 4


     Philip Doddridge, 1702–1751 (verses 1, 3)

     Augustus Toplady, 1740–1778 (verses 2, 4, 5)

     For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8, 9)

     “Jesus died for all mankind”—every race and nation—and yet, He “died for me.” And now the benefits of that death, a personal salvation and restored fellowship with Almighty God, are available to all who respond in faith and appropriate that truth. With the author of this hymn we cry out with heartfelt gratitude, “Saved by grace alone! This is all my plea.”

     Grace is the gift of God freely given to those who never deserved it. No merit or goodness precedes the forgiving love of God. Not only does God’s grace relate to our eternal redemption, but it is a divine provision for our every daily need—spiritual, material, emotional, and physical.

     “Grace ! ’Tis a Charming Sound” is the work of two well-known 18th century English ministers, Philip Doddridge and Augustus Toplady. Doddridge was known as a man of great ability and learning, authoring almost 400 hymns. Toplady was known for his strong Calvinistic convictions. Although he was converted as a young man through the influence of John Wesley and his Methodist followers, Augustus Toplady in later life became an ardent critic of the Wesleys and their Arminian or “free will” theology. Yet today Toplady is best remembered for his hymns such as this and “Rock of Ages,” which transcend such theological barriers.

     Grace! tis a charming sound, harmonious to the ear; Heav’n with the echo shall resound and all the earth shall hear.

     ’Twas grace that wrote my name in life’s eternal book; ’twas grace that gave me to the Lamb, who all my sorrows took.

     Grace taught my wand’ring feet to tread the heav’nly road; and new supplies each hour I meet, while pressing on to God.

     Grace taught my soul to pray, and made mine eyes o’er-flow; ’twas grace which kept me to this day, and will not let me go.

     O let Thy grace inspire my soul with strength divine; may all my pow’rs to Thee aspire, and all my days be Thine.

     Chorus: Saved by grace alone! This is all my plea; Jesus died for all mankind, and Jesus died for me.

     For Today: Acts 15:11; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Titus 3:7; Hebrews 4:16; 1 Peter 5:10.

     Go forth joyfully with this musical testimony ---

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. XLV. — DO you see, friend Erasmus, that by this definition, you (though unwittingly I presume,) betray yourself, and make it manifest that you either know nothing of these things whatever, or that, without any consideration, and in a mere air of contempt, you write upon the subject, not knowing what you say nor whereof you affirm? And as I said before, you say less about, and attribute more to “Free-will,” than all others put together; for you do not describe the whole of “Free-will,” and yet you assign unto it all things. The opinion of the Sophists, or at least of the father of them, Peter Lombard, is far more tolerable: he says, ‘“Free-will” is the faculty of discerning, and then choosing also good, if with grace, but evil if grace be wanting.’ He plainly agrees in sentiment with Augustine, that ‘“Freewill,” of its own power, cannot do any thing but fall, nor avail unto any thing but to sin.’ Wherefore Augustine also, Book ii., against Julian, calls “Free-will” ‘under bondage,’ rather than ‘free.’ — But you make the power of “Free-will” equal in both respects: that it can, by its own power, without grace, both apply itself unto good, and turn itself from evil. For you do not imagine how much you assign unto it, by this pronoun itself, and by itself, when you say ‘can apply itself:’ for you utterly exclude the Holy Spirit with all His power, as a thing superfluous and unnecessary. Your definition, therefore, is condemnable even by the Sophists; who, were they not so blinded by hatred and fury against me, would be enraged at your book rather than at mine. But now, as your intent is to oppose Luther, all that you say is holy and catholic, even though you speak against both yourself and them, — so great is the patience of holy men!

     Not that I say this, as approving the sentiments of the Sophists concerning “Free-will,” but because I consider them more tolerable, for they approach nearer to the truth. For though they do not say, as I do, that “Free-will” is nothing at all, yet since they say that it can of itself do nothing without grace, they militate against Erasmus, nay, they seem to militate against themselves, and to be tossed to and fro in a mere quarrel of words, being more earnest for contention than for the truth, which is just as Sophists should be. But now, let us suppose that a Sophist of no mean rank were brought before me, with whom I could speak upon these things apart, in familiar conversation, and should ask him for his liberal and candid judgment in this way: — ‘If any one should tell you, that that was free, which of its own power could only go one way, that is, the bad way, and which could go the other way indeed, that is, the right way, but not by its own power, nay, only by the help of another — could you refrain from laughing in his face, my friend?’ — For in this way, I will make it appear, that a stone, or a log of wood has “Freewill,” because it can go upwards and downwards; although, by its own power, it can go only downwards, but can go upwards only by the help of another. And, as I said before, by meaning at the same time the thing itself, and also something else which may be joined with it or added to it, I will say, consistently with the use of all words and languages — all men are no man, and all things are nothing!

     Thus, by a multiplicity of argumentation, they at last make “Free-will,” free by accident; as being that, which may at some time be set free by another. But our point in dispute is concerning the thing itself, concerning the reality of “Free-will.” If this be what is to be solved, there now remains nothing, let them say what they will, but the empty name of “Free-will.”

     The Sophists are deficient also in this — they assign to “Free-will,” the power of discerning good from evil. Moreover, they set light by regeneration, and the renewing of the Spirit, and give that other external aid, as it were, to “Freewill:” but of this hereafter. — Let this be sufficient concerning the definition. Now let us look into the arguments that are to exalt this empty thing of a TERM.

The Bondage of the Will   or   Christian Classics Ethereal Library

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