Job 24 - 28
Job 24:1 “Why are not times of judgment kept by the Almighty,
and why do those who know him never see his days?
2 Some move landmarks;
they seize flocks and pasture them.
3 They drive away the donkey of the fatherless;
they take the widow’s ox for a pledge.
4 They thrust the poor off the road;
the poor of the earth all hide themselves.
5 Behold, like wild donkeys in the desert
the poor go out to their toil, seeking game;
the wasteland yields food for their children.
6 They gather their fodder in the field,
and they glean the vineyard of the wicked man.
7 They lie all night naked, without clothing,
and have no covering in the cold.
8 They are wet with the rain of the mountains
and cling to the rock for lack of shelter.
9 (There are those who snatch the fatherless child from the breast,
and they take a pledge against the poor.)
10 They go about naked, without clothing;
hungry, they carry the sheaves;
11 among the olive rows of the wicked they make oil;
they tread the winepresses, but suffer thirst.
12 From out of the city the dying groan,
and the soul of the wounded cries for help;
yet God charges no one with wrong.
13 “There are those who rebel against the light,
who are not acquainted with its ways,
and do not stay in its paths.
14 The murderer rises before it is light,
that he may kill the poor and needy,
and in the night he is like a thief.
15 The eye of the adulterer also waits for the twilight,
saying, ‘No eye will see me’;
and he veils his face.
16 In the dark they dig through houses;
by day they shut themselves up;
they do not know the light.
17 For deep darkness is morning to all of them;
for they are friends with the terrors of deep darkness.
18 “You say, ‘Swift are they on the face of the waters;
their portion is cursed in the land;
no treader turns toward their vineyards.
19 Drought and heat snatch away the snow waters;
so does Sheol those who have sinned.
20 The womb forgets them;
the worm finds them sweet;
they are no longer remembered,
so wickedness is broken like a tree.’
21 “They wrong the barren, childless woman,
and do no good to the widow.
22 Yet God prolongs the life of the mighty by his power;
they rise up when they despair of life.
23 He gives them security, and they are supported,
and his eyes are upon their ways.
24 They are exalted a little while, and then are gone;
they are brought low and gathered up like all others;
they are cut off like the heads of grain.
25 If it is not so, who will prove me a liar
and show that there is nothing in what I say?”
Bildad Speaks: Man Cannot Be RighteousJob 25:1 Then Bildad the Shuhite answered and said:
2 “Dominion and fear are with God;
he makes peace in his high heaven.
3 Is there any number to his armies?
Upon whom does his light not arise?
4 How then can man be in the right before God?
How can he who is born of woman be pure?
5 Behold, even the moon is not bright,
and the stars are not pure in his eyes;
6 how much less man, who is a maggot,
and the son of man, who is a worm!”
Job Replies: God’s Majesty Is UnsearchableJob 26:1 Then Job answered and said:
2 “How you have helped him who has no power!
How you have saved the arm that has no strength!
3 How you have counseled him who has no wisdom,
and plentifully declared sound knowledge!
4 With whose help have you uttered words,
and whose breath has come out from you?
5 The dead tremble
under the waters and their inhabitants.
6 Sheol is naked before God,
and Abaddon has no covering.
7 He stretches out the north over the void
and hangs the earth on nothing.
8 He binds up the waters in his thick clouds,
and the cloud is not split open under them.
9 He covers the face of the full moon
and spreads over it his cloud.
10 He has inscribed a circle on the face of the waters
at the boundary between light and darkness.
11 The pillars of heaven tremble
and are astounded at his rebuke.
12 By his power he stilled the sea;
by his understanding he shattered Rahab.
13 By his wind the heavens were made fair;
his hand pierced the fleeing serpent.
14 Behold, these are but the outskirts of his ways,
and how small a whisper do we hear of him!
But the thunder of his power who can understand?”
Job Continues: I Will Maintain My IntegrityJob 27:1 And Job again took up his discourse, and said:
2 “As God lives, who has taken away my right,
and the Almighty, who has made my soul bitter,
3 as long as my breath is in me,
and the spirit of God is in my nostrils,
4 my lips will not speak falsehood,
and my tongue will not utter deceit.
5 Far be it from me to say that you are right;
till I die I will not put away my integrity from me.
6 I hold fast my righteousness and will not let it go;
my heart does not reproach me for any of my days.
7 “Let my enemy be as the wicked,
and let him who rises up against me be as the unrighteous.
8 For what is the hope of the godless when God cuts him off,
when God takes away his life?
9 Will God hear his cry
when distress comes upon him?
10 Will he take delight in the Almighty?
Will he call upon God at all times?
11 I will teach you concerning the hand of God;
what is with the Almighty I will not conceal.
12 Behold, all of you have seen it yourselves;
why then have you become altogether vain?
13 “This is the portion of a wicked man with God,
and the heritage that oppressors receive from the Almighty:
14 If his children are multiplied, it is for the sword,
and his descendants have not enough bread.
15 Those who survive him the pestilence buries,
and his widows do not weep.
16 Though he heap up silver like dust,
and pile up clothing like clay,
17 he may pile it up, but the righteous will wear it,
and the innocent will divide the silver.
18 He builds his house like a moth’s,
like a booth that a watchman makes.
19 He goes to bed rich, but will do so no more;
he opens his eyes, and his wealth is gone.
20 Terrors overtake him like a flood;
in the night a whirlwind carries him off.
21 The east wind lifts him up and he is gone;
it sweeps him out of his place.
22 It hurls at him without pity;
he flees from its power in headlong flight.
23 It claps its hands at him
and hisses at him from its place.
Job Continues: Where Is Wisdom?
Job 28:1 “Surely there is a mine for silver,
and a place for gold that they refine.
2 Iron is taken out of the earth,
and copper is smelted from the ore.
3 Man puts an end to darkness
and searches out to the farthest limit
the ore in gloom and deep darkness.
4 He opens shafts in a valley away from where anyone lives;
they are forgotten by travelers;
they hang in the air, far away from mankind; they swing to and fro.
5 As for the earth, out of it comes bread,
but underneath it is turned up as by fire.
6 Its stones are the place of sapphires,
and it has dust of gold.
7 “That path no bird of prey knows,
and the falcon’s eye has not seen it.
8 The proud beasts have not trodden it;
the lion has not passed over it.
9 “Man puts his hand to the flinty rock
and overturns mountains by the roots.
10 He cuts out channels in the rocks,
and his eye sees every precious thing.
11 He dams up the streams so that they do not trickle,
and the thing that is hidden he brings out to light.
12 “But where shall wisdom be found?
And where is the place of understanding?
13 Man does not know its worth,
and it is not found in the land of the living.
14 The deep says, ‘It is not in me,’
and the sea says, ‘It is not with me.’
15 It cannot be bought for gold,
and silver cannot be weighed as its price.
16 It cannot be valued in the gold of Ophir,
in precious onyx or sapphire.
17 Gold and glass cannot equal it,
nor can it be exchanged for jewels of fine gold.
18 No mention shall be made of coral or of crystal;
the price of wisdom is above ppearls.
19 The topaz of Ethiopia cannot equal it,
nor can it be valued in pure gold.
20 “From where, then, does wisdom come?
And where is the place of understanding?
21 It is hidden from the eyes of all living
and concealed from the birds of the air.
22 Abaddon and Death say,
‘We have heard a rumor of it with our ears.’
23 “God understands the way to it,
and he knows its place.
24 For he looks to the ends of the earth
and sees everything under the heavens.
25 When he gave to the wind its weight
and apportioned the waters by measure,
26 when he made a decree for the rain
and a way for the lightning of the thunder,
27 then he saw it and declared it;
he established it, and searched it out.
28 And he said to man,
‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom,
and to turn away from evil is understanding.’ ”
What I'm Reading
What the Earliest Non-Biblical Authors Say About Jesus
By J. Warner Wallace 11/26/2014
What would we know about Jesus if we lost every Biblical manuscript on the planet? Could we have any certainty Jesus actually lived, and would we be able to re-capture any of the details of his life or nature? As it turns out, there are several ancient sources of information about Jesus. Some of these are from pagan, non-Christian authors (I’ve written about these sources here at Cold-Case Christianity). But there are even more compelling early non-Biblical accounts we can reference in an effort to understand who Jesus is (and was). We can still read the accounts of those early Christians who learned directly from the Biblical authors. Ignatius and Polycarp were direct students of the Apostle John; Clement was a direct student of the Apostle Paul. These students later became leaders in the early Christian Church and wrote their own letters to local congregations. Seven letters from Ignatius still survive, along with one letter from Polycarp and Clement. These are the earliest non-Biblical accounts we have describing the life and nature of Jesus. They are not in your Bible, but the information provided by these students of the Biblical authors is compelling. It provides us with the earliest snapshot of Jesus, and demonstrates the story of Jesus was not distorted or modified in the centuries between Jesus’ ministry and the first Church Councils. Here is a brief summary of what we can know about Jesus from the earliest Non-Biblical authors:
The Old Testament Prophets Predicted Jesus as the Messiah | Ignatius said the prophets predicted and waited for Jesus who was in the line of King David. Clement also said the prophets predicted the life and ministry of Jesus.
Jesus Was Born Miraculously | Ignatius said Jesus was (and is) the “Son of God.” He was conceived by the Holy Spirit and a star announced His birth. Jesus came forth from God the Father and was born of the Virgin Mary.
Jesus Had a Powerful Earthly Ministry | Ignatius said Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist. He was the “perfect” man and manifested the will and knowledge of God the Father. He taught and had a “ministry” on earth. He was the source of wisdom and taught many commandments, speaking the words of God. Ointment was poured on Jesus’s head. Polycarp also said Jesus was sinless. According to Polycarp, Jesus taught commandments and preached the Sermon on the Mount. Clement also said Jesus provided His disciples with important instruction. According to Clement, Jesus taught principles as described by Mark and Luke. He was humble and unassuming.
James "Jim" Warner Wallace (born June 16, 1961) is an American homicide detective and Christian apologist. Wallace is a Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview and an Adjunct Professor of Apologetics at Biola University in La Mirada, California. He has authored several books, including Cold-Case Christianity, God’s Crime Scene, and Forensic Faith, in which he applies principles of cold case homicide investigation to apologetic concerns such as the existence of God and the reliability of the Gospels.
What Were the Crusades? Busting Some Myths
By Lenny Esposito 2/6/2015
Just what were the Crusades? In his speech at the National Prayer Breakfast yesterday, President Obama likened the evil savagery that ISIS has been perpetrating in the name of Islam to Christianity and the Crusades. First, it makes no sense to with a wave of one's rhetorical hand dismiss one evil because of another. In logic, that is known as the tu quoque (Latin for "you too!") fallacy. Yet, there is another problem with the president's comparison: it's based on a very common, very popular, but very wrong misconception about what the Crusades were about and what actually happened historically.
I want to take a moment to play myth-buster and show why the modern assumptions are very much backwards and why the Crusades are not parallel with the ISIS killings we read in the headlines today.
What Were the Crusades? Myth – Christians Unilaterally Attacked Muslim Lands
This seems to be the foundational myth in misunderstanding what were the Crusades. Many believe that Christians gathered their armies from the various parts of Europe to march into Muslim territory and conquer anyone believing in Islam. Usually, Christians are painted as religious bigots trying to stamp out the unbeliever through warfare and violence. In a supplemental text to the video game "Crusade of Kings, " R. Scott Peoples writes "The soldiers of the First Crusade appeared basically without warning, storming into the Holy Land with the avowed—literally—task of slaughtering unbelievers."1 This is a popular picture, but one that's dead wrong.
What Were the Crusades? Reality –Hundreds of Years of Muslim Aggression
Lenny Esposito is president and founder of Come Reason Ministries, a Christian apologetics organization, and author of the popular www.comereason.org Web site. He has taught apologetics and Christian worldview for over 17 years and has authored hundreds articles dealing with intellectually strenuous topics such as the existence of God, theology, philosophy, social issues and Biblical difficulties.
Lenny is an in-demand speaker, teaching at conferences, churches, and schools across the nation. He is a contributor to the popular Apologetics Study Bible for Students and his articles have appeared in the Los Angeles Times and the Southern California Christian Times. He has debated many topics on faith and reason and the rationality of the Christian worldview; his most recent debate being against well-known atheists and author Dr. Richard Carrier on the question "Does God Exist?"
Lenny is a pioneer in online ministry efforts when he began using the Web to reach others near its beginnings in 1995. He produces one of the top 16 apologetics podcasts according to Apologetics 315 and his site has been viewed millions of times by visitors from nearly every country in the world.
Lenny is a member of the Evangelical Philosophical Society and the Evangelical Theological Society.
The Case for the Mistranslation of “Still Small Voice”
By Nate Sala 10/8/2014
One of my all-time favorite songs is “The Kingdom” by a Christian band named Starfield. If you haven’t heard the song, please take a listen. The music and harmonies are tender yet powerful, and the lyrics enjoin the listener to earnestly long for God (Psalm 63:1) in a heartfelt and passionate way. I cannot commend the song enough. One of the lines from the chorus reads: “I am desperate to hear your still small voice.” This is a reference to 1 Kings 19:12 where the Lord presents Himself to Elijah at Mount Horeb in, what the KJV translates, “a still small voice.” Other translations read “a sound. Thin. Quiet” (CEB); “sound of a low whisper” (ESV); and “sound of a gentle blowing” (NASB).
A currently popular strain among the Christian community believes that this still, small voice is an experience located inside you and is an ability that can only be developed by removing various mental distractions and maintaining a spirit conducive to “hearing” the Lord. Charles Stanley writes, “If we are to listen to God, we must be quiet and let Him do the talking… God’s voice is still and quiet and easily buried under an avalanche of clamor.”[ How to Listen to God ] It turns out, however, that Stanley is not using the word “voice” literally but rather figuratively to mean feeling, urge, desire, etc. As a matter of fact, he spends an entire chapter trying to sort out God’s speaking from all the other thoughts in your mind, what he refers to as “other voices.”[ How to Listen to God ]
I must confess that, when I first became a believer, I thought it was crucial to develop this skill. A number of brothers and sisters around me (as well as Stanley and other prominent figures) affirmed this method of divine communication. So I figured all Christians needed to develop the art of hearing God’s voice. As I began to study Scripture, however, I noticed a problem: The notion of developing the ability to hear God’s still, small voice is unbiblical. What I mean is: there is no explicit instruction nor is there a model given in Scripture to cultivate this ability. On the contrary the biblical model for living and making decisions is rooted in wisdom; that is, developing the knowledge to apply God’s moral will to our lives and, in morally neutral areas, having the freedom to choose what we want.[ Decision Making and the Will of God: A Biblical Alternative to the Traditional View ]
Besides the fact that developing the art of “hearing” God is unbiblical, as it turns out, the still, small voice of 1 Kings 19:12 might not even be properly translated. According to Johan Lust, there is a three-pronged case suggesting another interpretation. First, “The [Hebrew] expression qôl demamâ daqâ is unique in the Bible. Both the qualifying terms added to qôl [voice] are very rare.” Specifically, Lust argues that the qualifier demamâ is not derived from the root “to speak softly, to be silent;” rather, it is derived from “the Accadian root damamu which basically appears to refer to the roaring or moaning of animals…” As a matter of fact, we find a contextual coherence in other scriptural usages of demamâ if we employ the Accadian root as an interpretive constant, so to speak. Consider Psalm 107:29. While it traditionally reads, “He caused the storm to be still” (NASB), the alternative “He raised the storm into a thundering roar” fits as well. Lust’s proposed interpretation also reflects the thrust of v. 25, “For He spoke and raised up a stormy wind” (NASB), while the traditional translation does not.
Second, the qualifier daqâ is derived from the same root as daka found in Psalm 93:3 “The floods lift up their pounding waves” (NASB). Lust characterizes this “pounding” as a crushing, thunderous sound. It would be difficult to suggest that daqâ must translate into “thin” or “scarce” (according to tradition) since qôl demamâ daqâ would then literally read “roaring scarce voice” which is an oxymoron. Rather, qôl demamâ daqâ makes more sense to read “roaring and thundering voice” to be consistent with the theme of God’s communication.
English and Forensics Teacher. B.Sc., M.Ed. University of Nevada Las Vegas. Lives in Las Vegas with his wife, two sons, and dogs.
The Politics of Man’s Exaltation—Psalm 8
By Alastair Roberts 6/5/2017
1O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens.
2 Out of the mouths of babes and infants you have founded a bulwark because of your foes,
to silence the enemy and the avenger.
3 When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars that you have established;
4 what are human beings that you are mindful of them,
mortals that you care for them?
5 Yet you have made them a little lower than God,
and crowned them with glory and honor.
6 You have given them dominion over the works of your hands;
you have put all things under their feet,
7 all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field,
8 the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea,
whatever passes along the paths of the seas.
9 O Lord, our Sovereign,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
Psalm 8 proclaims the sovereignty of YHWH in creation, and expresses the remarkable fact of the vicegerency of mortal man against the backdrop of the greatness of YHWH’s handiwork. The profile of this psalm within the wider scriptural canon is significant: it explores the creation themes of Genesis in the context of Israel’s kingship and reverberates into the New Testament as it is related to the ascension and Lordship of Christ (1 Corinthians 15:27; Ephesians 1:22; Hebrews 2:5-9).
Chiastically structured, the psalm is bookended by the exclamation, ‘O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth!’ While this statement frames the psalm as a declaration of YHWH’s lordship, the psalm itself focuses upon the power and rule that he has established through mankind. In this manner, divine and human rule are brought into direct relation with each other.
The psalmist highlights the weakness of the instruments that YHWH uses for the manifestation of his strength. By YHWH’s strength, he has established babes and infants as a means to silence the enemy and the avenger (verse 2), much as he established the land as a barricade against the tumult of the sea. Likewise, it is by means of the frailty of the ‘human being’ and the ‘mortal’ that YHWH establishes dominion over his works.
The psalmist lightly sketches the cosmology that we encounter in more detail in Genesis 1 as the background for his exploration of the crowning events of verses 26-28, within which the creation and establishment of humankind is narrated. From the ‘glory above the heavens’ to YHWH’s powerful bounding of the restive forces of creation, from the celestial bodies to the beasts, the birds, and the fish that teem in the oceans, the psalmist gives us a sense of the grandeur of YHWH’s works.
5 Ways to Deal with Emotional Doubt
By Carey Bryant 4/12/2017
I recently bumped into my old nemesis again.
My family has never really experienced death that much. Over the past two months, however, I have had two family members pass away. This year has been as hard of a time as I can remember. I know that I am experiencing a mix of grief and emotional doubt, but it’s sometimes hard to draw a line between the two.
According to Gary Habermas, emotional doubt is where “the factual data is judged by how one feels about it, rather than on its own merits. Thus, instead of coming to grips with the strength of the evidence, the one experiencing the quandary often responds by emoting about it.” This differs from intellectual doubt, which is where a person has reservations about the truthfulness of Christianity. Many of the resources here at A Clear Lens are for those struggling with intellectual doubt. But what are some ways that we can deal with emotional doubt?
I want to share 5 practices that have helped me deal with this in the past and that are helping me get through this season now. I pray that they would also be useful to you in your journey.
My name is Carey Bryant. I was born and raised in Chattanooga, Tennessee. I married my beautiful wife, Brittany, on May 3, 2015. I graduated from Bryan College with a BA in Biblical Studies in 2012. I love playing the drums and listening to music. I also enjoy playing sports and being active (when I feel like it). I am an introvert who loves to read books, usually about topics that bore most people. I am extremely obsessed with all things related to Batman and I can actually be seen in the Dark Knight Rises (if you pause the movie at just the right moment and have a magnifying glass handy).
I am a follower of Christ and I seek to live out God’s Word as revealed to us in the Bible. God has given me a passion to study His Word and this blog is an outcome of this passion.
Why Do We Think the Bible is Against Same-Sex Marriage?
By Wesley Hill 5/8/2017
I’ve just returned from Calgary, Alberta where Justin Lee, the founder of the Gay Christian Network (GCN), and I had a public dialogue on All Things Gay and Christian for the Anglican Church of Canada diocese there. It’s not the first time he and I have done something like this, but we both agreed that this one seemed to touch on all the major issues—debates over biblical interpretation, the church’s need for repentance for its treatment of LGBTQ persons, the need to celebrate singleness, to name just a few—in a way we felt was particularly effective. And it helps that Justin such a gracious and generous friend.
(Why do I agree to do these sorts of dialogues? The first reason is that Justin is “family.” We’re both baptized in the same Triune Name. We both confess the same creed. We both believe the weirdest thing is the deepest truth of the universe: that the crucified and risen Jesus is Lord. I think Justin’s Side A view is wrong and that it is wrong in a way that touches on first-order Christian claims about creation, Christology, and redemption; I also think that when family members hold views you think are that wrong, you keep on loving them and talking with them and seeking to bear witness to what you believe is true and life-giving. Second, for those who are worried, like I am at times, that this sort of dialogue may be a form of capitulation, a form of saying, “I’m convinced of the truth of my view but not so convinced,” let me just add that another reason I want to dialogue with people like Justin is that I want, in whatever minuscule way I can, to help see my own Anglican Communion, and the church more broadly, through its current crisis on sexual ethics. “Dialogue,” so easy to criticize as wishy-washy, need not entail compromise of one’s convictions; it may instead be a way of signaling hope that some future unity-in-truth may be realized in a way I can’t yet fathom. As the Anglican ethicist Oliver O’Donovan has written, “The only thing I concede in committing myself to such a process [of dialogue between ‘gay-affirming’ Christians and ‘traditionalist’ Christians] is that if I could discuss the matter through with an opponent sincerely committed to the church’s authorities, Scripture chief among them, the Holy Spirit would open up perspectives that are not immediately apparent, and that patient and scrupulous pursuit of these could lead at least to giving the problem a different shape—a shape I presume will be compatible with, though not precisely identical to, the views I now hold, but which may also be compatible with some of the views my opponent now holds, even if I cannot yet see how. I do not have to think I may be mistaken about the cardinal points of which I am convinced. The only thing I have to think—and this, surely, is not difficult on such a subject!—is that there are things still to be learned by one who is determined to be taught by Scripture how to read the age in which we live.”)
There’s so much I could say about our conversation, and maybe I will say a bit more in the coming days and weeks, but I simply want to offer one thought for now.
I had a sort of “aha” moment as Justin was speaking. In the middle of the portion of the event when he and I were debating how the Bible speaks to these matters, Justin made a statement to the effect of, “I think the only reason we are having this debate is because of the so-called ‘clobber passages’ [Genesis 19:1-29; Leviticus 18:22; 20:13; Romans 1:26-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; 1 Timothy 1:10-11] each one of which is somewhat obscure and addresses specific cultural matters of its time. If those passages weren’t in the Bible, nothing else that’s in the Bible would make us think God was against same-sex marriage.” (Again: that’s the gist of what he said, and he can correct me if I got him wrong.)
Assistant Professor of Biblical Studies | BA, Wheaton College (IL), 2004, MA, Durham University, 2008, MA in Biblical and Pastoral Studies, Bethlehem College and Seminary, 2012, PhD, Durham University, 2012
I discovered a love for Scripture and theology while an undergraduate at Wheaton College where I majored in Ancient Languages. From there, I began a long and winding journey into the Anglican fold and was confirmed in the Church of England while in graduate school at Durham University. My teaching and research interests are shaped by the conviction that the study of Scripture and attention to the church’s creedal and doctrinal traditions belong together in the theological task. I try to help my students understand how attention to Scripture formed the church’s creedal heritage and, likewise, how that heritage can now help us to read Scripture afresh as the word of the Triune God for us today.
Wesley Hill Books:
Paul and the Trinity: Persons, Relations, and the Pauline Letters
Spiritual Friendship: Finding Love in the Church as a Celibate Gay Christian
Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality
7 Reasons You’ll Be Glad You Saw The Case for Christ
By Tom Gilson 4/7/2017
The Pure Flix film The Case for Christ opens nationwide tonight. I saw it last night in an advance screening. My word to you: Go see it! You’ll be glad you did.
Directed by Jon Gunn, this movie tells the true story of Lee Strobel, legal editor at the Chicago Tribune in the late 1970s and early 80s. His marriage fell into crisis after his wife, Leslie, chose a path in life totally unlike his own.
"She knew their marriage was in trouble, but she wasn’t about to give up the new life she had found."
Moved by the apparent coincidence of a Christian nurse being nearby to save their daughter from choking to death, she began inquiring into the woman’s faith. Before long she chose to follow Christ herself.
Lee would have none of it. His desk was in a newsroom with the sign plastered on the wall, “If your mom says she loves you, check it out.” He was sure that the story of Christ wouldn’t check out. He was just as certain that with the right facts in hand, he could save Leslie from her new delusion.
Tom Gilson is a senior editor of The Stream, author of the new 2016 parent-friendly guide to keeping kids in the faith, titled Critical Conversations: A Christian Parents' Guide to Discussing Homosexuality with Teens, the chief editor of True Reason: Confronting the Irrationality of the New Atheism, and Peter Boghossian, Atheist Tactician: A Preliminary Response To "A Manual For Creating Atheists" the author/host of the Thinking Christian blog.
He lives in southwest Ohio with Sara, his wife, and their two 20-something children. He has received a B.Mus. in Music Education with a specialty in performance from Michigan State University and an M.S. in Organizational Psychology from the University of Central Florida. When he’s not writing he loves drinking coffee, canoeing, walking in the woods, and playing his trombones.
Holding the Rope
By John Piper 11/1/2008
A shared vision for world missions is crucial in the life of the church. Why should world missions be fundamental in the ministry of the church? What do we mean by it? How do we go about it? What is your place in it? Consider these five points for building a vision of world missions in our congregations.
First, we must understand that the Word of God is the foundation of world missions. Let us be a church that builds our missionary vision on the Word of God, which has to do with the truths about God and His way of salvation and His way of life revealed in the Bible. This also has to do with doctrine — not the less central ones but the crucial, central doctrines of the Bible. When we choose and send missionaries, let us send those who can preach and teach the truth about God with an understanding of central biblical doctrines. The apostles built their lives and missions on these great truths. So should we.
Second, world missions are God’s work. What this means is not that He does it instead of us but that He does it through us. But He really does it. Missions are fundamentally supernatural. They are really God’s doing, God’s work in and through us. Thus, missions are not mainly a human enterprise but a divine one. It is God’s work based on God’s Word. We speak and we do. But in and through us God speaks and God does, or all is in vain. We rely on Him. Our job is to obey and be faithful and trust Him. Just as Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 3:6–7: “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So then neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.”
Next, consider the aim of world missions. It is, simply put, the worship of God. The reason the universe exists is that creatures might have the joy of worshiping God. Therefore, missions exist where worship doesn’t. Missionaries are seeking to awaken worship for the true and living God through His Son, Jesus Christ. Consider how Paul describes his missionary service in Romans 15:15–16. He says it is like a priest preparing an offering for God. Grace was “given me by God, to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.” So the aim of missions is to be like priests of God who prepare an offering acceptable to Him among the peoples of the world. What does that mean? How are the Gentiles an offering to God?
Romans 12:1 explains: “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” The Gentiles are an acceptable offering to God when their lives are an act of worship to God.
In Romans 15:9 Paul says that the aim of Christ’s coming into the world (as the model foreign missionary) was “for the Gentiles to glorify God for His mercy.” Then Paul supports this claim with a string of Old Testament quotations in verses 9–11. This is how Paul thought about his mission. It was a fulfillment of Old Testament expectations that the Gentiles — the nations — would praise the Lord by rejoicing in Him above all other joys. That is the goal of missions: the worship of God.
Fourth, the way to do world missions is to go to unreached peoples. In other words, the way to do world missions is not to settle down with the peoples that already have churches (even if they are across the ocean), but to keep going to the unreached peoples until all the peoples are reached and have their own Christ-worshiping churches.
In Romans 15:19–23 Paul says that the gospel is fulfilled in a region where there are tens of thousands of unconverted people. How? Answer: The task of frontier missions was done, not the task of evangelism. What this means for us is that there must always be missionaries like Paul if we are going to finish the Great Commission, which is not just to reach more and more people, but more and more peoples — people groups — until they all have churches and can evangelize their own people. We call this frontier missions. This must always be a high priority for our missionary endeavors.
Finally, God calls some to be wardens of the mission who watch over it from home. “Wardens” ought to be understood as “senders.” Consider Romans 15:24. Paul says he aims to go to Spain, which was wholly unreached as far as we know: “I hope to see you in passing…and to be helped on my journey there by you, once I have enjoyed your company for a while.”
This is important because of what he does not say and what he does say. He does not say: “Everyone in Rome who is obedient to the Great Commission will go with me to Spain, or will go to some other unreached place or people group.” What he does say, in effect, is: “My hope is that you will refresh me and then help me in my mission to Spain.” In other words, he calls the church in Rome to be senders, wardens of the mission. He wants them to be partners in his mission, supporters of this God-exalting work.
So, you have three possibilities in world missions. You can be a goer, a sender, or disobedient. The Bible does not assume that everyone goes. But it does assume that the ones who do not go care about goers and support goers and pray for goers and hold the rope of the goers. Paul was linked with many churches, and they sent support to him over and over again. So it should be with every church and its missionaries.
John Piper (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota.
John Piper Books | Go to Books Page
By Douglas F. Kelly 11/1/2008
As a father of five children, and now a grandfather, I have spent three and a half decades seeking to pass down the Christian faith to the next generation. Let me deal with only one area of this vast work — one, I believe, that appears to have had some effectiveness in bringing up our little ones “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord,” so that now as adults they all confess Christ.
I take for granted the general atmosphere in which Christians are to raise their children: faithful church attendance, some kind of daily family worship, love of parents one to another and to the children, a sincere and arduous effort to live lives of integrity (including the honesty to apologize when we are in the wrong), time spent talking to our children, instructing them in biblical truth (and perhaps the Catechism), as well as playing with them, and taking them to visit extended family and other friends — including needy people in the region. This kind of practical, active familial piety forms the necessary background for the opportunity I wish to raise here for all who desire to communicate the faith to the next generation.
It is this: taking some individual time each night, with each child, after they have gotten into bed, to tell them some kind of story that might be of interest and encouragement to them. If you do so, you will have this natural advantage: every child is glad to postpone for as long as possible having to go to sleep, and so will follow your story with interest, and will probably interject further comments or questions in order to postpone the inevitable!
What kind of stories will we tell them? That depends of course on the experience and interests of the parents. It goes without saying that the story is to be adapted to their level of maturity, so that it will hold their attention, and might — at least in an indirect and long-term sense — become part of the “mental furniture” that shapes their inner life. It is unnecessary, and possibly counterproductive, always to append an immediate moral lesson. Let them pass it through their imaginations, and then the story teller quietly trusts the Holy Spirit to use it in due season to refine their insight, and to draw connections that may be far better than anything the parent could have done. This sort of parental effort is subject to the law of gradual growth: “first the blade, then the ear, then the full corn in the ear.” Our trust in the Holy Spirit, our affection, and our patience form the healthy context in which the seeds we plant in these evening stories take root, and, by and by, produce beautiful fruit.
As for me, coming from an old Christian family that had lived on the same land for some 250 years, where we were surrounded by old houses, moldy books, faded documents, family cemeteries, and a vast cousinage in the district, we may have had a tendency “to live in the past” (as my wife remarked after she came into the family), so it seemed natural and easy for me to tell each child some kind of story from the huge treasury of family history. My parents, grandparents, and elderly cousins had done this to me from earliest memory, and never having moved, nor having had our houses and papers burned in the various American wars, the store of all kinds of personalities and events was so large that it kept me going from the time my children were three or four, until they reached their early teens, when that sort of work has reached its conclusion.
Every family has its own experiences, and these will usually be of interest to your offspring, simply because they perceive that we are part of our ancestors and our ancestors are part of us. It does not have to be anything grand or sublime, but just tell them about what your people were like: good and bad experiences, prayers that were answered, difficulties overcome, or weaknesses that need to be avoided. Tell them about marriages, births, deaths, wars, depressions, good and bad crop years, wonderful relatives and morose ones. Pass on sayings that have been handed down over the generations. Family lore can be used for a higher purpose: to convey in a very tender way the divine call in Proverbs: “My son, give me thy heart.”
I told them about an ancestor in 1790 who stepped on a log to cross a small Carolina stream and suddenly saw the eyes of a black panther glaring at him. He had a muzzle loader, dry powder, and one ball, and was swift and accurate enough to bring down the beast. I told each child that if the panther had killed this ancestor, none of us would be alive today (for all his children were born after that experience). I told them about another ancestor who was disciplined by the church for profanity, and about a grandmother who reported seeing Christ before she died in childbirth.
Is not story telling a way of calling our children to share in the long family heritage of Psalm 16:8? “I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.”
Dr. Douglas F. Kelly is Richard Jordan Professor of Systematic Theology at Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte, N.C. and author of Systematic Theology: Grounded in Scripture and Understood in Light of the Church as well as other books listed below.
Douglas F. Kelly Books:
- 1 Creation And Change: Revised & Updated
- 2 Creation And Change: Genesis 1.1-2.4 in the Light of Changing Scientific Paradigms
- 3 Revelation: A Mentor Expository Commentary
- 4 A Guide to the Westminster Confession of Faith: Commentary
- 5 Carolina Scots, An Historical and Genealogical Study of Over 100 Years of Emigration
- 6 The Emergence of Liberty in the Modern World: The Influence of Calvin on Five Governments from the 16th Through 18th Centuries
- 7 The Westminster Shorter Catechism in Modern English
- 8 If God Already Knows Why Pray?
- 9 New Life in the Wasteland: 2 Corinthians on the Cost and Glory of Christian Ministry
- 10 Systematic Theology (Volume 1): Grounded in Holy Scripture and understood in light of the Church (Systematic Theology (Mentor))
- 11 The Scottish Blue Family in North America
The Old Mission Field
By Gene Edward Veith 11/1/2008
Missionaries from Europe and America took Christianity to the ends of the earth and evangelized Africa and Asia. Now, as Christianity declines in the West, churches from the old mission field are the ones defending historic Christianity and are evangelizing Europe and America.
Now that the American Episcopal church is embracing homosexuality and rejecting historic Christianity, many conservative congregations from that body are breaking away and affiliating instead with a North American mission from the Anglican churches of Nigeria and Rwanda.
When the liberal state church of Sweden refused to ordain pastors who would not accept the ordination of women, the Lutheran bishop of Kenya stepped in and ordained a cadre of new conservative pastors.
At the Methodists’ recent General Assembly, in which congregations from all around the world had equal representation, an American-led attempt to revise the denomination’s moral teachings against homosexuality was thwarted by Methodists from the Third World.
Meanwhile Korea, which may have more Calvinists than anywhere else in the world, has nearly caught up with the United States as the world’s leader in sending out foreign missionaries.
Whereas Europeans become ever more secular and Americans, while still religious, tend to be eager to water down Christianity, Christians in the so-called “Third World” affirm traditional morality and historic Christian doctrines. They are standing strong even as they face brutal persecution and martyrdom. The violence against Christians comes mostly at the hands of Muslims, particularly in Africa. Nevertheless, African Christians are winning the battle with Islam. They are doing so with the gospel, even though Muslims have historically been considered the most resistant of all peoples to Christian evangelism.
As Christianity declines in the West and the North, it is accelerating in the East and the South. We should not be surprised.
Christianity is not a cultural religion. Other religions of the world are. To become a Muslim is to adopt a new culture. Under paganism, from animism with its tribal customs to the more sophisticated Hinduism with its caste system, religion serves to sanctify the culture and its practices.
Christianity, in contrast to nearly every other world religion, is a universal faith that proclaims a gospel for “every tribe and language and people and nation” (Rev. 5:9).
The temptation has been to turn Christianity into just another cultural religion, one that gives supernatural sanction to the cultural status quo. That is what happened, arguably, with medieval Catholicism. It continued with state churches and American civil religion.
True Christianity, though, resists cultural captivity. It posits a transcendent moral law that is above and beyond human laws and customs, giving a framework by which cultures can be judged. In doing so, trans-cultural Christianity has managed to shape and transform human cultures.
When Christianity comes to a culture, it changes that culture. It made the Greeks and Romans stop their custom of infanticide. It challenged the barbarian cult of the warrior, which it channeled into Christian chivalry. Christianity did have a profound influence in the rise of Western civilization and America in particular. It did so not by sanctifying a particular society but by criticizing its evils, inspiring its ideals, and providing a spiritual infrastructure for self-government, education, and civic virtues.
Today, Christianity must work against the Africans’ predilection for tribal revenge codes, Asian group conformity, and American consumerism.
Even though biblical Christianity must resist cultural conformity, many American churches have actually embraced cultural conformity as a strategy for church growth. They do not see that surrendering to the culture means instead the disappearance of the church. That the current American culture is swallowing up the church — effacing its doctrines, ignoring its morality, and erasing its history — is precisely why the churches of the Third World see us as in need of their help.
Christianity is a missionary religion. Europeans learned the gospel from missionaries just as the Africans did. Evangelized Europeans and their American forebears would then send missionaries themselves, and now we are coming around full circle.
But we would do well to think of ourselves in the same way we used to think about the lost people of the mission field. We have become the new heathen. We Americans are the ones now in thrall to primitive superstitions, such as believing in the power of positive thinking and having faith in ourselves. We are the ones held back by a materialistic worldview that has little conception of the supernatural. We are the ones with brutal customs, such as aborting our infants, neglecting our children, and abandoning and sometimes euthanizing our elders. We have simple, pounding music, and we are uneducated about the realities outside of our tribe. With our limited mind-set, we have trouble grasping the truths of Scripture.
But the grace of God brings the light of Jesus Christ into heathen darkness — even into our heathen darkness.
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
An Epic in the Making
By Gene Edward Veith 12/1/2008
The theme of this month’s Tabletalk is Paradise Lost, which is the title of what most critics would agree is the greatest poem in the English language. John Milton was an English puritan revolutionary who helped overthrow King Charles I but whose hopes for a free republic were dashed with the restoration of the monarchy. Narrowly avoiding the death penalty, Milton lost everything. His first marriage was unhappy. After his wife died, he married again, only to have her die in childbirth. He also went blind. In his enforced leisure, Milton, trying to justify the ways of God to himself, turned to Scripture and began an epic meditation on the fall, imagining as no one had done before or since what Eden must have been like, why Satan hates us so, why Eve and Adam ate the fruit, and how the Son of God restores us to a “paradise regained.”
Milton begins, as all epics do, with an invocation to the muse, but his muse is the one who taught Moses “how the Heav’ns and Earth rose out of chaos,” that is, the Holy Spirit. He includes all of the necessary battles, but they are spiritual battles. He creates a compelling character, Satan, whose pride and spite goes beyond Achilles and whose deception exceeds that of Odysseus. Satan, who would rather rule in hell than serve in heaven, may well be the hero according to pagan readings, but Milton repudiates that kind of heroism in favor of the “better fortitude / Of patience and heroic martyrdom.” The heroism of patience that bears suffering with courage is evident in the repentant Adam and Eve, though both kinds of heroism are fulfilled in the Son of God, who blows away the rebel angels on the battlefield and who volunteers to take upon Himself man’s penalty for the fall by suffering death on the cross.
As Milton imagines it, Satan’s fall preceded man’s fall. The angel Satan rebels out of a sense of “injured merit” in response to the Father’s manifestation of His Son. He seduces other angels and wages war against heaven. When they are all cast out into hell — imagined not as the center of the earth but as something akin to a planet, whose surface of fiery liquid reminds a modern reader of Jupiter — Satan devises one way of striking back at an enemy who is omnipotent: destroy those whom He loves. Or better, destroy the loving relationship between the newly-created mankind and God. He will “Seduce them to our party, that their God / May prove their foe.”
Meanwhile, Adam and Eve are living in a luxuriant, sensual, glorious Paradise. Their mutual love for each other is fervent and passionate. Their innocence is not childlike, but wise and strong. An angel visits them, recounting how God created the universe, describing Satan’s fall, and giving them fair warning, emphasizing that they must not partake of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Adam and Eve are “sufficient to have stood, though free to fall.”
As Milton imagines it, Satan is “imbruted” as a serpent — in contrast to the Son of God who will be incarnate as a human being — and speaks praises to a surprised Eve. Knowing that animals cannot talk, Eve asks how it attained rationality and language. The serpent says that it simply ate the fruit of the tree.
Satan’s attempt to persuade Eve to eat of the forbidden fruit is basically an argument from evolution. A beast ate the fruit and became like a human being; therefore, a human being who eats it will likewise ascend to the next level and become like a god. Satan’s arguments — that being like a god and knowing good and evil are worthy goals, that this is surely what God wants them to attain as part of their growth and progress — seem plausible to the point that readers tend to agree that they too would have fallen for Satan’s lies, proving their own complicity in the fall.
After Eve eats the fruit, she offers some to Adam. Appalled and recognizing what she has done, Adam eats the fruit in clear knowledge, undeceived, simply because he loves her. He does not want to live without Eve, or with some other woman whom God might make from another rib; so, faced with a choice of God or his wife, he eats the fruit. This misplaced romanticism, however, soon turns into bitter hatred, until, after hearing God’s judgment, Eve initiates their repentant reconciliation. Whereupon they reject the temptations of suicide and of not having children, remembering God’s promise that one of Eve’s descendants will crush Satan’s head and undo their fall.
Milton would later take up this theme in his sequel Paradise Regained, a much shorter “brief epic” that is not read nearly as often as his account of how Paradise was lost. Milton focuses not on the end of Jesus’s ministry but at the very beginning when He too endured Satan’s temptation. But whereas Eve and Adam gave in to temptation, Jesus did not. He fulfilled all of the Law. He bore our sins on the cross, and in the great exchange, imputed to us His righteousness.
Satan tempts Jesus with food, pride, and the kingdoms of the world. But on the pinnacle of the temple, Jesus replies, “It is written, ‘tempt not the Lord thy God.’” At this revelation, “Satan, smitten with amazement, fell.” Now, not man but Satan falls when he realizes with whom he is dealing.
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
By R.C. Sproul
Nadab and Abihu were priests. They were sons of Aaron, the High Priest. God had personally selected Aaron to be the first High Priest. Together with Moses, Aaron had led the people of Israel through the wilderness. If anyone in Israel had a close relationship with God, it was Moses and Aaron. One might expect a little leeway from God in dealing with the sons of Aaron. There was none. For one transgression at the altar God reacted swiftly and violently, wiping them out on the spot. It was not as though they profaned the altar with prostitutes or offered human sacrifices as the Moloch cult. All they did was offer some “strange fire” there. We are not sure exactly what the strange fire was. It sounds as if it was merely a question of young priests doing some creative experimenting with the liturgy. A censurable offense, perhaps. But the death penalty? Without the benefit of a trial? Immediate summary execution? Robert Charles Sproul, 2/13/1939 – 12/14/2017 was an American theologian, author, and ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America. Dr. R.C. Sproul was founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries, an international Christian education and discipleship organization located near Orlando, Fla. He was also copastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., chancellor of Reformation Bible College, and executive editor of Tabletalk magazine. Dr. Sproul has contributed dozens of articles to national evangelical publications, has spoken at conferences, churches, and schools around the world, and has written more than one hundred books. He also served as general editor of the Reformation Study Bible.
A scientist friend of Albert Einstein’s shocked the geological world with his theories arguing against a gradual change in the earth’s forms through eons of erosion and the movement of giant glaciers. Immanuel Velikovsky offered a theory that also provided an explanation for the story of Nadab and Abihu.
Velikovsky was of the opinion that changes in the earth’s surface were made suddenly by a catastrophic upheaval caused by a planet or giant comet that came so close to the earth it reversed the magnetic poles and forced the earth to start spinning in the opposite direction. Imagine a top spinning as fast as it can. Then, instantly, it is made to spin in the opposite direction. If there were water inside the top, what would happen to it? It would become a tidal wave in the opposite direction. Part of the theory is that a meteoric shower bombarded the earth that included within its content great volumes of petroleum, filling the fissures on the earth’s surface and causing great deposits of oil to form under the earth. (Consider the oil rich region of the Middle East.) The tail of this huge comet could be seen for years, causing people to view it as a sign in the sky and actually follow its serpentine path as the Jews did for forty years, wandering in a strange direction all over the desert. This was, according to Velikovsky, Israel’s pillar of smoke and pillar of cloud.
Nadab and Abihu found some oil lying around and wondered what it was. They were the prototypes for Jed Clampett. They decided to see how it worked if it were mixed with the burning substances at the altar. When they put it in the fire, whoosh, it ignited and exploded, killing the priests instantly. In a primitive society this would be viewed as a sudden act of judgment by the gods.
Velikovsky offered a natural explanation to account for the story. In his view, the deaths of Nadab and Abihu were accidents, a tragic case of children playing with unknown fire.
The Bible views it differently. It records it as a supernatural judgment of God. It may have been enacted through natural means, but it is clear that the death of Nadab and Abihu was no accident. It must be ascribed to the wrath and judgment of God.
How did Aaron view it? The Bible says, “And Aaron was displeased.” We can be sure of that. Aaron was obviously furious. He had dedicated his entire life to the service of God. His sons were following in his footsteps. He could remember the day of their consecration and the pride he felt when they were set apart for the priesthood. It was a family matter. What thanks did he get from the God he served? God summarily executed his sons for what appeared to be a minor infraction of the rules of the altar.
Aaron rushed to see Moses and tell him about it. It was as if Aaron were saying, “OK God. I’m going to tell on you. I’m going straight to Moses. You’re going to have to deal with us both on this one.” So Aaron went to Moses and pled his case: (Lev 10:3)
Moses gave Aaron the answer of the LORD. He reminded him of the original consecration of the priests. They had been set apart for a sacred task and solemnly charged with the precise requirements of their office. They had the privilege of ministering before a holy God. Each vessel in the tabernacle was made to precise specifications and each item was sanctified by elaborate measures commanded by God. There was no ambiguity to be found in these commands. With respect to the altar of incense, Aaron and his sons were specifically instructed in the proper procedures. God had spoken: Exodus 30:9-10
The instructions had been clear. The altar of incense was declared by God to be most holy. When Nadab and Abihu offered strange or unauthorized fire upon it, they were acting in clear defiance of God. Theirs was an act of blatant rebellion, an inexcusable profaning of the holy place. They committed a sin of arrogance, an act of treason against God: They profaned a most holy place.
God’s judgment was swift. His explanation to Moses was clear: “I will show myself holy; in the sight of all the people I will be honored.” These were not words of future prophecy or prediction. When God said, “I will …” He meant it as a divine command, a command no man dare countermand.
The capstone of this episode is found in the last clause of Leviticus 10:3: “Aaron remained silent.”
What else could Aaron do? The debate was over. The evidence was in and God had rendered His verdict. The sons of Aaron had been explicitly forbidden from offering such fire. They committed an act of disobedience and God lowered the gavel of His justice on them. So Aaron was silent. He held his peace. He could think of no excuse to offer, no protest to make. Like sinners at the Last Judgment, his mouth was stopped.
Here is an example of God’s punitive justice, the justice by which He punishes the guilty. Is this punishment cruel and unusual? Does it in fact go beyond the limits of justice and cross the border into injustice?
Built into our concept of justice is the idea that the punishment must fit the crime. If the punishment is more severe than the crime, then an injustice has been committed. The Bible makes it clear that Nadab and Abihu could not plead ignorance as an excuse for their sin. God had made his instructions clear to them. They knew that they were not allowed to offer unauthorized fire on the altar. That they sinned is easy for us to see. But they never dreamed their sin was so serious that it would prompt God to execute them on the spot. Here we meet an example that screams of harshness from the hand of God, of a punishment that is far too cruel and unusual for the crime. Such a measure of punishment not only puzzles us, it staggers us.
How do we square this narrative with what Genesis teaches earlier about the character of God’s justice? Genesis declares, “The judge of heaven and earth must do right.” The basic assumption of Israel is that God’s judgments are always according to righteousness. His justice is never unfair, never whimsical, nor tyrannical. It is impossible for God to be unjust because his justice is holy.
... There is a reason why we are offended, indeed angered, by the story of Uzzah and the story of Nadab and Abihu. We find these things difficult to stomach because we do not understand four vitally important biblical concepts: holiness, justice, sin, and grace. We do not understand what it means to be holy. We do not understand what justice is. We do not understand what sin is. We do not understand what grace is.
Robert Charles Sproul, 2/13/1939 – 12/14/2017 was an American theologian, author, and ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America. Dr. R.C. Sproul was founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries, an international Christian education and discipleship organization located near Orlando, Fla. He was also copastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., chancellor of Reformation Bible College, and executive editor of Tabletalk magazine. Dr. Sproul has contributed dozens of articles to national evangelical publications, has spoken at conferences, churches, and schools around the world, and has written more than one hundred books. He also served as general editor of the Reformation Study Bible.R.C. Sproul Books | Go to Books Page
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 60He Will Tread Down Our Foes
60 To The Choirmaster: According To Shushan Eduth. A Miktam Of David; For Instruction; When He Strove With Aram-Naharaim And With Aram-Zobah, And When Joab On His Return Struck Down Twelve Thousand Of Edom In The Valley Of Salt.
6 God has spoken in his holiness:
“With exultation I will divide up Shechem
and portion out the Vale of Succoth.
7 Gilead is mine; Manasseh is mine;
Ephraim is my helmet;
Judah is my scepter.
8 Moab is my washbasin;
upon Edom I cast my shoe;
over Philistia I shout in triumph.”
9 Who will bring me to the fortified city?
Who will lead me to Edom?
10 Have you not rejected us, O God?
You do not go forth, O God, with our armies.
11 Oh, grant us help against the foe,
for vain is the salvation of man!
12 With God we shall do valiantly;
it is he who will tread down our foes.
By Gleason Archer Jr.
Psalms: Musical Terms in the Titles
1. Lam-menaṣṣēaḥ, as explained above, probably means “to the choir leader.” It has plausibly been suggested that this term was affixed to those Psalms which were included in a special anthology made by the temple choir leader for the convenience of his singers-rather than including the entire group of 150 in the complete repertoire of the Psalter. Fifty-five Psalms are so labeled.
2. Negɩ̂nôṯ means “stringed instruments” or “songs to be sung to the accompaniment of stringed instruments.” (Pss. 4:1, 6:1, 54:1, 55:1, 61:1, 67:1, 69:18, 76:1; also Job 30:9; Isa. 38:20; Lam 3:14, 5:14; Hab 3:19 )
3. Neḥillôṯ means “wind instruments” (cf. hālɩ̂l flute). (Ps. 5 )
4. Šemɩ̄nɩ̂ṯ seems to mean either an “eight-stringed lute”, or possibly an “octave” (i.e., an octave lower than the soprano or ˓alamôṯ). (Pss. 6, 12 )
5. ˓alamôṯ, or “maidens,” may mean “soprano” or “high pitch” (cf. 1 Chron. 15:20; Ps. 46 ).
6. Maḥalaṯ means “sickness” and/or “grief” and may imply therefore a song of lament (Pss. 53, 88 ). Alternatively, it may have been the name of a woman singer, as R. K. Harrison suggests (IOT, p. 979).
Psalms: Melody Indicators
Some of the cryptic words in the Psalm titles may indicate either the occasion on which the Psalm was originally composed; or, as is more likely, the opening words of a well-known melody, according to which the Psalm was to be sung (just as we might say, “Sing to the tune of the ‘The Battle Hymn of the Republic’ ”).
1. ˓al m t lab-bēn in Ps. 9 may indicate some well-known song beginning with the words, The death of a son (the preposition ˓al being construed as “according to”).
2. ˓al ˓ayyeleṯ haš-šaḥar means “according to the hind of the morning” (Ps. 22 ).
3. Šūšān or ˓al šôšannɩ̂m would refer to the lily and perhaps signified “to the lilies.” (Pss. 60, 69, 80 ).
4. ʾal tašḥêṯ seems to mean “do not destroy” or “do not corrupt.” Apparently a well-known song began with these words, and its melody was to be followed here (Pss. 57, 58, 59, 75 ).
5. ˓al Yônaṯ ʾēlem reḥōqɩ̂m apparently means “according to a dove of silence those who are afar off.” Some have suggested that it should be repointed to read ʾēlɩ̂m reḥōqɩ̂m, or, “terebinths afar off” (Ps. 56 ).
A technical term which does not occur in the Psalm titles is the perplexing Selah., which appears often in the body of the text. While many explanations have been given for this word the most plausible is that which derives it from the root sālal meaning “to lift up.” The LXX renders it diapsalma, which means “musical interlude.” Selah then is not a word to be read aloud, but simply a notice to the reciter that at this point he should pause in his utterance and permit the musical accompaniment to strike up; or else it is a direction for him to lift up his voice to a higher intensity or pitch, or possibly even to lift up his heart to pious contemplation or meditation. Psalm 67:1–2 contains Selah in the middle of the sentence, and this makes it difficult to construe as pause for musical interlude. However, in most other instances this interpretation seems quite appropriate.
Psalms 120–134 bear in their titles the expression “the song of the ascents” (“degrees,” KJV; šɩ̂r hamma˓alôṯ, Hebrew). An old Jewish tradition explains this as referring to a semicircular flight of steps leading up to the court of men in the temple (Mishnah: Middoth 2:5). A more likely explanation is that these “ascents” referred to the stages of pilgrimage up to Jerusalem (the word ma˓alôṯ being derived from the verb ˓ālâ “go up,” i.e., to Jerusalem). Some prefer to interpret as “processions” (of pilgrims), by metonymy from “ascent.” Thus these would be pilgrim songs, to be sung on the way to Jerusalem for the annual feast days. This explanation also seems preferable to that of Gesenius and Delitzsch, who refer it to the steplike, progressive movement of the thoughts expressed in the Psalms themselves; unfortunately for this theory, some of this group do not show this characteristic at all (e.g., Pss. 125 and 133 ).
The Continual Burnt Offering (Matthew 16:16-18)
By H.A. Ironside - 1941
June 8Matthew 16:16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. ESV
The truth embodied in Peter’s great confession, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God,” is the rock of our salvation. Upon this the church is built. Apart from a divine Savior there would be no church of God in the world. It is noticeable that Jesus Himself elicited this confession by direct questioning. He knew well both the attitude of men in general regarding His true character and also that which His disciples knew Him to be. But He would have them put themselves on record, and so Peter was led to speak for them all. It meant much to the Lord Jesus to discern the working of grace in their souls, and their growth in spiritual intelligence. On the other hand, it grieved Him deeply when they failed to enter into the truth concerning the work of redemption as readily as they had grasped something of the glory of His person. Hence His severe rebuke when Peter would have turned Him aside, had it been possible, from the death of the cross. Peter’s blunder might well have us pause, as we realize how untrustworthy are the views of even the best of men unless they are the recipients of divine revelation. How good that God has given us His Word, thus revealing wondrous mysteries kept secret from the world’s foundation!
If asked what of Jesus I think,
Though still my best thoughts are but poor,
I say, He’s my meat and my drink,
My life and my strength and my store;
My Shepherd, my trust and my friend.
My Saviour from sin and from thrall;
My Hope from beginning to end,
My Portion, my Lord and my All.
--- John Newton
The Institutes of the Christian Religion
Translated by Henry Beveridge
8. Moreover, since the whole question depends on this, that God being
the only lawgiver, it is unlawful for men to assume that honour to
themselves, it will be proper to keep in mind the two reasons for which
God claims this solely for himself. The one reason is, that his will is
to us the perfect rule of all righteousness and holiness, and that thus
in the knowledge of it we have a perfect rule of life. The other reason
is, that when the right and proper method of worshipping him is in
question, he whom we ought to obey, and on whose will we ought to
depend, alone has authority over our souls. When these two reasons are
attended to, it will be easy to decide what human constitutions are
contrary to the word of the Lord. Of this description are all those
which are devised as part of the true worship of God, and the
observance of which is bound upon the conscience, as of necessary
obligation. Let us remember then to weigh all human laws in this
balance, if we would have a sure test which will not allow us to go
astray. The former reason is urged by Paul in the Epistle to the
Colossians against the false apostles who attempted to lay new burdens
on the churches. The second reason he more frequently employs in the
Epistle to the Galatians in a similar case. In the Epistle to the
Colossians, then, he maintains that the doctrine of the true worship of
God is not to be sought from men, because the Lord has faithfully and
fully taught us in what way he is to be worshipped. To demonstrate
this, he says in the first chapter, that in the gospel is contained all
wisdom, that the man of God may be made perfect in Christ. In the
beginning of the second chapter, he says that all the treasures of
wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Christ, and from this he concludes
that believers should beware of being led away from the flock of Christ
by vain philosophy, according to the constitutions of men (Col. 2:10).
In the end of the chapter, he still more decisively condemns all
ethelothreskeias that is, fictitious modes of worship which men
themselves devise or receive from others, and all precepts whatsoever
which they presume to deliver at their own hand concerning the worship
of God. We hold, therefore, that all constitutions are impious in the
observance of which the worship of God is pretended to be placed. The
passages in the Galatians in which he insists that fetters are not to
be bound on the conscience (which ought to be ruled by God alone), are
sufficiently plain, especially chapter 5. Let it, therefore, suffice to
refer to them.
9. But that the whole matter may be made plainer by examples, it will be proper, before we proceed, to apply the doctrine to our own times. The constitutions which they call ecclesiastical, and by which the Pope, with his adherents, burdens the Church, we hold to be pernicious and impious, while our opponents defend them as sacred and salutary. Now there are two kinds of them, some relating to ceremonies and rites, and others more especially to discipline. Have we, then, any just cause for impugning both? Assuredly a juster cause than we could wish. First, do not their authors themselves distinctly declare that the very essence of the worship of God (so to speak) is contained in them? For what end do they bring forward their ceremonies but just that God may be worshipped by them? Nor is this done merely by error in the ignorant multitude, but with the approbation of those who hold the place of teachers. I am not now adverting to the gross abominations by which they have plotted the adulteration of all godliness, but they would not deem it to be so atrocious a crime to err in any minute tradition, did they not make the worship of God subordinate to their fictions. Since Paul then declares it to be intolerable that the legitimate worship of God should be subjected to the will of men, wherein do we err when we are unable to tolerate this in the present day? especially when we are enjoined to worship God according to the elements of this world--a thing which Paul declares to be adverse to Christ (Col 2:20). On the other hand, the mode in which they lay consciences under the strict necessity of observing whatever they enjoin, is not unknown. When we protest against this, we make common cause with Paul, who will on no account allow the consciences of believers to be brought under human bondage.
10. Moreover, the worst of all is, that when once religion begins to be composed of such vain fictions, the perversion is immediately succeeded by the abominable depravity with which our Lord upbraids the Pharisees of making the commandment of God void through their traditions (Mt. 15:3). I am unwilling to dispute with our present legislators in my own words;--let them gain the victory if they can clear themselves from this accusation of Christ. But how can they do so, seeing they regard it as immeasurably more wicked to allow the year to pass without auricular confession, than to have spent it in the greatest iniquity: to have infected their tongue with a slight tasting of flesh on Friday, than to have daily polluted the whole body with whoredom: to have put their hand to honest labour on a day consecrated to some one or other of their saintlings, than to have constantly employed all their members in the greatest crimes: for a priest to be united to one in lawful wedlock, than to be engaged in a thousand adulteries: to have failed in performing a votive pilgrimage, than to have broken faith in every promise: not to have expended profusely on the monstrous, superfluous, and useless luxury of churches, than to have denied the poor in their greatest necessities: to have passed an idol without honour, than to have treated the whole human race with contumely: not to have muttered long unmeaning sentences at certain times, than never to have framed one proper prayer? What is meant by making the word of God void by tradition, if this is not done when recommending the ordinances of God only frigidly and perfunctorily, they nevertheless studiously and anxiously urge strict obedience to their own ordinances, as if the whole power of piety was contained in them;--when vindicating the transgression of the divine Law with trivial satisfactions, they visit the minutest violation of one of their decrees with no lighter punishment than imprisonment, exile, fire, or sword?--When neither severe nor inexorable against the despisers of God, they persecute to extremity, with implacable hatred, those who despise themselves, and so train all those whose simplicity they hold in thraldom, that they would sooner see the whole law of God subverted than one iota of what they call the precepts of the Church infringed. First, there is a grievous delinquency in this, that one contemns, judges, and casts off his neighbour for trivial matters,--matters which, if the judgment of God is to decide, are free. But now, as if this were a small evil, those frivolous elements of this world (as Paul terms them in his Epistle to the Galatians, Gal. 4:9) are deemed of more value than the heavenly oracles of God. He who is all but acquitted for adultery is judged in meat; and he to whom whoredom is permitted is forbidden to marry. This, forsooth, is all that is gained by that prevaricating obedience, which only turns away from God to the same extent that it inclines to men.
11. There are other two grave vices which we disapprove in these constitutions. First, They prescribe observances which are in a great measure useless, and are sometimes absurd; secondly, by the vast multitude of them, pious consciences are oppressed, and being carried back to a kind of Judaism, so cling to shadows that they cannot come to Christ. My allegation that they are useless and absurd will, I know, scarcely be credited by carnal wisdom, to which they are so pleasing, that the Church seems to be altogether defaced when they are taken away. But this is just what Paul says, that they "have indeed a show of wisdom in will-worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body" (Col. 2:23); a most salutary admonition, of which we ought never to lose sight. Human traditions, he says, deceive by an appearance of wisdom. Whence this show? Just that being framed by men, the human mind recognises in them that which is its own, and embraces it when recognised more willingly than anything, however good, which is less suitable to its vanity. Secondly, That they seem to be a fit training to humility, while they keep the minds of men grovelling on the ground under their yoke; hence they have another recommendation. Lastly, Because they seem to have a tendency to curb the will of the flesh, and to subdue it by the rigour of abstinence, they seem to be wisely devised. But what does Paul say to all this? Does he pluck off those masks lest the simple should be deluded by a false pretext? Deeming it sufficient for their refutation to say that they were devices of men, he passes all these things without refutation, as things of no value. Nay, because he knew that all fictitious worship is condemned in the Church, and is the more suspected by believers, the more pleasing it is to the human mind--because he knew that this false show of outward humility differs so widely from true humility that it can be easily discerned; --finally, because he knew that this tutelage is valued at no more than bodily exercise, he wished the very things which commended human traditions to the ignorant to be regarded by believers as the refutation of them.
12. Thus, in the present day, not only the unlearned vulgar, but every one in proportion as he is inflated by worldly wisdom, is wonderfully captivated by the glare of ceremonies, while hypocrites and silly women think that nothing can be imagined better or more beautiful. But those who thoroughly examine them, and weigh them more truly according to the rule of godliness, in regard to the value of all such ceremonies, know, first, that they are trifles of no utility; secondly, that they are impostures which delude the eyes of the spectators with empty show. I am speaking of those ceremonies which the Roman masters will have to be great mysteries, while we know by experience that they are mere mockery. Nor is it strange that their authors have gone the length of deluding themselves and others by mere frivolities, because they have taken their model partly from the dreams of the Gentiles, partly, like apes, have rashly imitated the ancient rites of the Mosaic Law, with which we have nothing more to do than with the sacrifices of animals and other similar things. Assuredly, were there no other proof, no sane man would expect any good from such an ill-assorted farrago. And the case itself plainly demonstrates that very many ceremonies have no other use than to stupify the people rather than teach them. In like manner, to those new canons which pervert discipline rather than preserve it, hypocrites attach much importance; but a closer examination will show that they are nothing but the shadowy and evanescent phantom of discipline.
13. To come to the second fault, who sees not that ceremonies, by being heaped one upon another, have grown to such a multitude, that it is impossible to tolerate them in the Christian Church? Hence it is, that in ceremonies a strange mixture of Judaism is apparent, while other observances prove a deadly snare to pious minds. Augustine complained that in his time, while the precepts of God were neglected, prejudice everywhere prevailed to such an extent, that he who touched the ground barefoot during his octave was censured more severely than he who buried his wits in wine. He complained that the Church, which God in mercy wished to be free, was so oppressed that the condition of the Jews was more tolerable (August. Ep. 119). Had that holy man fallen on our day, in what terms would he have deplored the bondage now existing? For the number is tenfold greater, and each iota is exacted a hundred times more rigidly than then. This is the usual course; when once those perverse legislators have usurped authority, they make no end of their commands and prohibitions until they reach the extreme of harshness. This Paul elegantly intimated by these words,--"If ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances? Touch not, taste not, handle not" (Col. 2:20, 21). For while the word a'ptesthai signifies both to eat and to touch, it is doubtless taken in the former sense, that there may not be a superfluous repetition. Here, therefore, he most admirably describes the progress of false apostles. The way in which superstition begins is this: they forbid not only to eat, but even to chew gently; after they have obtained this, they forbid even to taste. This also being yielded to them, they deem it unlawful to touch even with the finger.
14. We justly condemn this tyranny in human constitutions, in consequence of which miserable consciences are strangely tormented by innumerable edicts, and the excessive exaction of them. Of the canons relating to discipline, we have spoken elsewhere (supra, sec. 12; also chapter 12). What shall I say of ceremonies, the effect of which has been, that we have almost buried Christ, and returned to Jewish figures? "Our Lord Christ (says Augustine, Ep. 118) bound together the society of his new people by sacraments, very few in number, most excellent in signification, most easy of observance." How widely different this simplicity is from the multitude and variety of rites in which we see the Church entangled in the present day, cannot well be told. I am aware of the artifice by which some acute men excuse this perverseness. They say that there are numbers among us equally rude as any among the Israelitish people, and that for their sakes has been introduced this tutelage, which though the stronger may do without, they, however, ought not to neglect, seeing that it is useful to weak brethren. I answer, that we are not unaware of what is due to the weakness of brethren, but, on the other hand, we object that the method of consulting for the weak is not to bury them under a great mass of ceremonies. It was not without cause that God distinguished between us and his ancient people, by training them like children by means of signs and figures, and training us more simply, without so much external show. Paul's words are, "The heir, as long as he is a child,"--"is under tutors and governors" (Gal. 4:1, 2). This was the state of the Jews under the law. But we are like adults who, being freed from tutory and curatory, have no need of puerile rudiments. God certainly foresaw what kind of people he was to have in his Church, and in what way they were to be governed. Now, he distinguished between us and the Jews in the way which has been described. Therefore, it is a foolish method of consulting for the ignorant to set up the Judaism which Christ has abrogated. This dissimilitude between the ancient and his new people Christ expressed when he said to the woman of Samaria, "The hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth" (John 4:23). This, no doubt, had always been done; but the new worshippers differ from the old in this, that while under Moses the spiritual worship of God was shadowed, and, as it were, entangled by many ceremonies, these have been abolished, and worship is now more simple. Those, accordingly, who confound this distinction, subvert the order instituted and sanctioned by Christ. Therefore you will ask, Are no ceremonies to be given to the more ignorant, as a help to their ignorance? I do not say so; for I think that help of this description is very useful to them. All I contend for is the employment of such a measure as may illustrate, not obscure Christ. Hence a few ceremonies have been divinely appointed, and these by no means laborious, in order that they may evince a present Christ. To the Jews a greater number were given, that they might be images of an absent Christ. In saying he was absent, I mean not in power, but in the mode of expression. Therefore, to secure due moderation, it is necessary to retain that fewness in number, facility in observance, and significancy of meaning which consists in clearness. Of what use is it to say that this is not done? The fact is obvious to every eye.
Christian Classics Ethereal Library / Public Domain
Institutes of the Christian Religion
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
3/1/2011 Our Liberating God
Why would anyone love the law of God? Why would we love that which constantly tells us what miserable wretches we are, daily points out all our shortcomings, relentlessly reminds us of all our death-deserving sins, and keeps knocking us down to our knees, leaving us crying out for help?
The truth of the matter is that not just anyone loves the law of God but only those who have been set free by our law-giving, law-keeping, and law-liberating Savior. We love the law of God not because we possess some sort of inherent self-inflicting, self-deprecating sadistic disposition towards our sin but because, in His electing grace, God set His glorious and enduring love upon us, laid His eternal claim upon us, took hold of us and clutched us in His strong hands, and made us His dutiful bondslaves that we might be free to delight in His law (Rom. 7:22) and in all the commands of Christ (Matt. 28:20), who by no means abolished the Law but in fact fulfilled it perfectly in our behalf (Matt. 5:17). His death is our life. His fulfillment is our freedom. His duty is our delight.
Our abundant life of freedom in Christ is not simply a freedom to do anything we want to do but to have the uninterrupted, Spirit-sustaining power to do what we know we ought to do as God the Holy Spirit changes our wants and daily transforms our God-given duties into God-glorifying delights. If we are genuinely to cherish the three uses of the law, we must first cherish the law itself — not merely as a means to an end but by virtue of its very existence and its authorship. That is to say, we must primarily see the law itself as a gracious gift from our Lord. It’s crucial to understand that we don’t simply love the law because of what it does for us. We love the law of God because in itself it is precious and altogether lovely (Ps. 119:72). Only from this vantage point of loving the law for what it is will we truly love what the law does for us, to us, and in us.
The Holy Spirit sovereignly uses the law in manifold ways — to teach us about our Creator, to give us a glimpse of His righteousness, holiness, and justice, to restrain our sin and the sin of all people, to reflect our heinous sin in order to give us a glimpse of it, to reveal the narrow road to life as a lamp to our feet and a light to our path, to drive us to our knees in liberating repentance, to cry out daily for help, and to lift our eyes to Jesus Christ, the only mediator between God and man, who alone is our righteousness and in whom by faith alone we are perfectly righteous coram Deo, before the face of God.
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Dr. Burk Parsons (@BurkParsons) is editor of Tabletalk magazine, senior pastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., a visiting lecturer at Reformed Theological Seminary, and a Ligonier Ministries teaching fellow. He is editor of John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, and Doxology.
Ligonier coram Deo (definition)
by Bill Federer
On June 8, 1845, "Old Hickory" died. Wounded by a sword during the Revolutionary War, he later fought the Seminole Indians, and in the War of 1812 defeated the British at New Orleans. He was governor of the Florida Territory, and is credited with having proposed the name "Tennessee" at that State's first convention. His beloved wife Rachel died just three months before he took office as the seventh President of the United States. His name? Andrew Jackson. In reference to the Bible, President Jackson stated: "That book, Sir, is the Rock upon which our republic rests."
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
I talk to God
but the sky is empty.
--- Sylvia Plath
The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath
I do not believe in God,
for that implies an effort of the will -
I see God everywhere!
--- Jean Favre
Les changes dépréciés études théoriques et pratiques: préface par Raphaël-Georges Lévy (French Edition)
Heart-work is hard work indeed. To shuffle over religious duties with a loose and heedless spirit will cost no great pains; but to set yourself before the Lord and tie up your loose and vain thoughts to a constant and serious attendance upon him; this will cost you something. To attain a facility and dexterity of language in prayer and put your meaning into apt and decent expressions is easy; but to get your heart broken for sin, while you are confessing it; melted with free grace, while you are blessing God for it; to be really ashamed and humbled through the apprehensions of God’s infinite holiness and to keep your heart in this frame, not only in but after duty, will surely cost you some groans and pains of soul. To repress the outward acts of sin and compose the external part of your life in a laudable manner is no great matter; even carnal persons by the force of common principles can do this: but to kill the root of corruption within, to set and keep up an holy government over your thoughts, to have all things lie straight and orderly in the heart, this is not easy.
--- John Flavel
Works of John Flavel (6 Vol. Set)
Thinking is another attribute of the soul; and here I discover what properly belongs to myself. This alone is inseparable from me. I am--I exist: this is certain;
--- Rene Descartes
Meditations and Other Metaphysical Writings (Penguin Classics)
... from here, there and everywhere
CHAPTER 6 / “The Lord Is One”:
All and Only
All: The Comprehensiveness View
The Sifre, as we have seen, reserves for Israel alone the full commitment to yiḥud Hashem and considers the universal acceptance of divine unity a matter of eschatological realization: only in the Messianic era will all humankind acknowledge the oneness of God. The Talmud, however, takes our central verse, “Hear O Israel,” more literally, interpreting it as affirming the comprehensive divine unity without making a distinction between the days of the Messiah and our own time:
R. Jeremiah was once sitting before R. Ḥiyya b. Abba, and the latter saw that [R. Jeremiah, who was reading the Shema,] was prolonging (the word eḥad, “one”) very much. He said to him: Once you have declared Him king over [all that is] above and below and over the four corners of the heaven, no more is required (Berakhot 13b). (1)
(1) The terms “above and below,” according to Rashi, refer to heaven and earth.
The content of R. Ḥiyya’s recommended kavvanah is clear: the sovereignty of God at all times, present as well as future.
Thus, whereas the Sifre sees a fragmented unity now and holds out hope for full unity only at the End of Days, the Talmud makes no mention of the distant future but maintains that divine unity is complete even in the present.
Which view is “correct”? Which kavvanah is to be preferred in practice? Further, why did R. Ḥiyya b. Abba object to more than the minimum meditation?
Immediately before the above passage about R. Jeremiah and R. Ḥiyya, the Talmud records:
Symmakhus says: Whoever prolongs the word eḥad has his days and years prolonged. R. Ạha b. Jacob said: [He must dwell] on the dalet. R. Ashi said: Provided he does not slur over the ḥet.
(The two letters mentioned, dalet and ḥet, refer to their preceding vowels in the word eḥad, not to the consonants themselves. Thus, R. Ạha b. Jacob recommends lengthening the second syllable of eḥad, and R. Ashi cautions against a resultant tendency to shorten or slur over the first syllable.) (2)
(2) Rashi, Maimonides, and others consider the whole meditation as one kavvanah that should be maintained at the second syllable. Talmidei R. Yonah and others (and so codified in the Shulḥan Arukh) hold that “above and below” should be meditated at the ḥet, and the “four corners” at the dalet.
Rabbenu Yonah (3) elaborates:
(3) Sefer ha-Yirah, p. 20. The authorship is generally attributed to R. Yonah, but that has now been questioned by contemporary scholars. He should prolong the dalet until he meditates that the Creator of the world is king above and below, in heaven and on earth and its four corners, east and west and north and south, in the great abyss, and in his own 248 organs. But if he cannot keep so much in mind, he should think: the Lord who is now our God will one day be One (for all the world). (4)
(4) On this last clause of R. Yonah, that if one cannot keep in mind the entire meditation of the Talmud he should resort to the Sifre’s interpretation, Rabbi M. M. Kasher in his Shema Yisrael, 244, maintains that R. Yonah refers not only to the untutored person as opposed to the scholar, but also to the more knowledgeable person who may feel pressed for time.
Thus, R. Yonah prefers the Talmud’s recommendation over that of the Sifre, but the latter is permissible in the event of need or exigency.
But we are still left with an apparent disagreement between our two major sources. R. Ḥiyya b. Abba’s decision in the Talmud that “no more is required” indicates that he considers his recommended meditation as the maximum. To add to it an eschatological meditation, even in case of need, i.e., lack of time or learning, is not allowed.
However, this apparent contradiction between the Talmud and the Sifre disappears if we consider a slight variant to our printed talmudic text. The version recorded by R. Isaac Alfasi gives us new insight into which kavvanah is appropriate for the first verse of the Shema. The text according to Alfasi reads:
R. Jeremiah was once sitting, etc. [R. Ḥiyya b. Abba] said to [R. Jeremiah]: Why so long? Said [R. Jeremiah]: what then [is the proper length of meditation]? Said [R. Ḥiyya b. Abba]: So that you declare Him king over heaven and earth and over the four corners of the world.
What is significant here is the added bit of dialogue missing in the standard text: R. Ḥiyya b. Abba asks R. Jeremiah why he is taking so much time reading the Shema, and he replies: what then? To which R. Ḥiyya b. Abba responds, “So that” (rather than “Once you have”), etc., as if to say: whatever thoughts are running through your mind at this time, they should not exceed the time it takes to meditate on the divine sovereignty over heaven and earth in all directions. Hence, in this variant of our text, the question is not what to meditate on, but for how long; for by spending too much time on the first verse of the Shema, one thereby imposes upon others in the congregation (tirḥa de’tzibbura), distracting those who may not have the capacity for or interest in more extended meditation. (5) Alternatively, R. Ḥiyya may be cautioning against yuhara, excessive pride in performing religious obligations.
(5) It appears that Rashi was working with the Alfasi text rather than our printed one. Thus, Rashi uses the words “heaven and earth” in place of “above and below”; the former is the Alfasi reading; the latter, the printed version. More important: Rashi comments, “You have prolonged the period in which you can meditate that the Lord is One in heaven and earth and its four corners.” Clearly, we are dealing with a time rather than a content problem. This may well explain why Rashi, in his commentary on the Torah, offers only the Sifre interpretation and ignores the Talmud’s. Quite simply, he read the talmudic passage as referring to the duration of the meditation rather than exclusively to its substance.
Interpreted this way, the two texts do not conflict with each other and thus require no resolution. The Talmud text simply recommends that a meditation—not one specific meditation—be considered the time limit to finish reciting the word eḥad. We are free to choose, for that meditation, from among a number of interpretations of our critical verse; those mentioned in the Sifre and Talmud are but two of many. A number have been proposed by more recent authorities. (6)
(6) There is one alternative reading of our text that provides an instructive psychological insight: The Munich Manuscript contains a variant cited also by R. Asher and others, which includes one additional word: alekha, i.e., “so that you declare Him king over yourself and over heaven,” etc. In all probability, the other variants skip the alekha because it is comprehended in the universality of “heaven and earth,” etc. Yet it deserves emphasis because of a wise insight by the great ethicist R. Israel Salanter, founder of the Musar movement that it is easy enough to intend that He rules over heaven and earth and the four corners of the world, but to make Him king, alekha, over yourself—now, that’s considerably more difficult.…
Interpreted this way, the two texts do not conflict with each other and thus require no resolution. The Talmud text simply recommends that a meditation—not one specific meditation—be considered the time limit to finish reciting the word eḥad. We are free to choose, for that meditation, from among a number of interpretations of our critical verse; those mentioned in the Sifre and Talmud are but two of many. A number have been proposed by more recent authorities. (7)
(7) There is one alternative reading of our text that provides an instructive psychological insight: The Munich Manuscript contains a variant cited also by R. Asher and others, which includes one additional word: alekha, i.e., “so that you declare Him king over yourself and over heaven,” etc. In all probability, the other variants skip the alekha because it is comprehended in the universality of “heaven and earth,” etc. Yet it deserves emphasis because of a wise insight by the great ethicist R. Israel Salanter, founder of the Musar movement that it is easy enough to intend that He rules over heaven and earth and the four corners of the world, but to make Him king, alekha, over yourself—now, that’s considerably more difficult.…
The Shema: Spirituality and Law in Judaism
Thanks to Meir Yona
Herod Takes Sepphoris And Subdues The Robbers That Were In The Caves; He After That Avenges Himself Upon Machaerus, As Upon An Enemy Of His And Goes To Antony As He Was Besieging Samosata.
1. So the Romans lived in plenty of all things, and rested from war. However, Herod did not lie at rest, but seized upon Idumea, and kept it, with two thousand footmen, and four hundred horsemen; and this he did by sending his brother Joseph thither, that no innovation might be made by Antigonus. He also removed his mother, and all his relations, who had been in Masada, to Samaria; and when he had settled them securely, he marched to take the remaining parts of Galilee, and to drive away the garrisons placed there by Antigonus.
2. But when Herod had reached Sepphoris, 23 in a very great snow, he took the city without any difficulty; the guards that should have kept it flying away before it was assaulted; where he gave an opportunity to his followers that had been in distress to refresh themselves, there being in that city a great abundance of necessaries. After which he hasted away to the robbers that were in the caves, who overran a great part of the country, and did as great mischief to its inhabitants as a war itself could have done. Accordingly, he sent beforehand three cohorts of footmen, and one troop of horsemen, to the village Arbela, and came himself forty days afterwards 24 with the rest of his forces Yet were not the enemy affrighted at his assault but met him in arms; for their skill was that of warriors, but their boldness was the boldness of robbers: when therefore it came to a pitched battle, they put to flight Herod's left wing with their right one; but Herod, wheeling about on the sudden from his own right wing, came to their assistance, and both made his own left wing return back from its flight, and fell upon the pursuers, and cooled their courage, till they could not bear the attempts that were made directly upon them, and so turned back and ran away. 3. But Herod followed them, and slew them as he followed them, and destroyed a great part of them, till those that remained were scattered beyond the river [Jordan;] and Galilee was freed from the terrors they had been under, excepting from those that remained, and lay concealed in caves, which required longer time ere they could be conquered. In order to which Herod, in the first place, distributed the fruits of their former labors to the soldiers, and gave every one of them a hundred and fifty drachmae of silver, and a great deal more to their commanders, and sent them into their winter quarters. He also sent to his youngest brother Pheroas, to take care of a good market for them, where they might buy themselves provisions, and to build a wall about Alexandrium; who took care of both those injunctions accordingly.
4. In the mean time Antony abode at Athens, while Ventidius called for Silo and Herod to come to the war against the Parthians, but ordered them first to settle the affairs of Judea; so Herod willingly dismissed Silo to go to Ventidius, but he made an expedition himself against those that lay in the caves. Now these caves were in the precipices of craggy mountains, and could not be come at from any side, since they had only some winding pathways, very narrow, by which they got up to them; but the rock that lay on their front had beneath it valleys of a vast depth, and of an almost perpendicular declivity; insomuch that the king was doubtful for a long time what to do, by reason of a kind of impossibility there was of attacking the place. Yet did he at length make use of a contrivance that was subject to the utmost hazard; for he let down the most hardy of his men in chests, and set them at the mouths of the dens. Now these men slew the robbers and their families, and when they made resistance, they sent in fire upon them [and burnt them]; and as Herod was desirous of saving some of them, he had proclamation made, that they should come and deliver themselves up to him; but not one of them came willingly to him; and of those that were compelled to come, many preferred death to captivity. And here a certain old man, the father of seven children, whose children, together with their mother, desired him to give them leave to go out, upon the assurance and right hand that was offered them, slew them after the following manner: He ordered every one of them to go out, while he stood himself at the cave's mouth, and slew that son of his perpetually who went out. Herod was near enough to see this sight, and his bowels of compassion were moved at it, and he stretched out his right hand to the old man, and besought him to spare his children; yet did not he relent at all upon what he said, but over and above reproached Herod on the lowness of his descent, and slew his wife as well as his children; and when he had thrown their dead bodies down the precipice, he at last threw himself down after them.
by D.H. Stern
1 Better to be poor and live one’s life uprightly
than engage in crooked speech, for such a one is a fool.
2 To act without knowing how you function is not good;
and if you rush ahead, you will miss your goal.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
Determine to know more than others. If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them. --- John 13:17.
If you do not cut the moorings, God will have to break them by a storm and send you out. Launch all on God, go out on the great swelling tide of His purpose, and you will get your eyes open. If you believe in Jesus, you are not to spend all your time in the smooth waters just inside the harbour bar, full of delight, but always moored; you have to get out through the harbour bar into the great deeps of God and begin to know for yourself, begin to have spiritual discernment.
When you know you should do a thing, and do it, immediately you know more. Revise where you have become ‘stodgy’ spiritually, and you will find it goes back to a point where there was something you knew you should do, but you did not do it because there seemed no immediate call to, and now you have no perception, no discernment; at a time of crisis you are spiritually distracted instead of spiritually self-possessed. It is a dangerous thing to refuse to go on knowing.
The counterfeit of obedience is a state of mind in which you work up occasions to sacrifice yourself; ardour is mistaken for discernment. It is easier to sacrifice yourself than to fulfil your spiritual destiny, which is stated in Romans 12:1–2 . It is a great deal better to fulfil the purpose of God in your life by discerning His will than to perform great acts of self-sacrifice. “To obey is better than sacrifice.” Beware of harking back to what you were once when God wants you to be something you have never been. “If any man will do …, he shall know.…”
My Utmost for His Highest
the Poetry of RS Thomas
In a Country Church
To one kneeling down no word came,
Only the wind' s song, saddening the lips
Of the grave saints, rigid in glass;
Or the dry whisper of unseen wings,
Bats not angels, in the high roof.
Was he balked by silence? He kneeled long
And saw love in a dark crown
Of thorns blazing, and a winter tree
Golden with fruit of a man's body.
Collected Poems : R S Thomas
What Is Midrash?
Exodus 19:16–17 / On the third day, as Morning dawned, there was thunder, and lightning, and a dense cloud upon the mountain, and a very loud blast of the horn; and all the people who were in the camp trembled. Moses led the people out of the camp toward God, and they took their places at the foot of the mountain.
MIDRASH TEXT / Yalkut Shimoni, Yitro 283 / And they took their places at the foot of [lit., under] the mountain
(Exodus 19:17). Rabbi Avdimi bar Ḥama bar Ḥasa said, "This teaches that the Holy One, praised is He, suspended the mountain over them like a cask, saying to them,
'If you accept the Torah, good; and if not,
there will be your graves!' "
"His name was Avdimi, or more properly Avdemus, which was a hebraized form of the Greek name Eudemos. We don't know for certain where he lived—Israel or Babylonia. We don't even know when: Was it early third century, or late fourth? We know that his father's name was Ḥama, and that his grandfather's was probably Ḥasa. We also know that Avdimi was a Rabbi.
"Unlike Rabbi Akiva, about whom there are so many stories and legends, Avdimi remains a mystery to us. He is mentioned only a few times in the Talmud and in the Midrash. Yet perhaps it is because we know so little about him that he seems so fascinating. We can speculate about his life, his appearance, and his personality. And as we try to imagine who this Avdimi really was, we put a little of ourselves into the portrait, so that what emerges is an ancient figure with all of our modern sensibilities.
"He grew up on Bible stories—the creation in seven days, Adam and Eve, Noah's Ark, Abraham almost sacrificing Isaac, Jacob and Esau, Joseph's "coat of many colors," Moses at the "burning bush." Then, later, he learned about the laws in the Torah: "You shall not murder"; "Six days you shall labor …
but the seventh day is a Sabbath of the Lord …"; circumcision on the eighth day; no leavened bread during Passover; fringes on the corners of one's clothes; "You shall not reap all the way to the edges of your field"; caring for the widow and orphan.
"And with the stories and laws that Avdimi had heard from his parents and his teachers came questions. So many questions: Is this really true? Could that actually have happened? How could God have allowed this to take place? Why did the Jews do what they did? What is the meaning of this law? What is the point of that ritual? Why don't the promises of the Torah come to pass?
"As he grew older, Avdimi came to realize that so much of his Jewish tradition and his religious heritage was to be found not only in the Torah, or even in the rest of the Bible. Rather, there were stories and RS Thomas, tales and lessons, interpretations, explanations, and commentaries that were attributed to a class of wise men and scholars known as "the Rabbis." He heard these Rabbinic insights in the Shabbat D'rashot, or RS Thomas, in the synagogue, and he learned even more as he sat as a student in the study house.
"As he learned more and more, and as he heard the words of Midrash and Mishnah repeated over and over again, Avdimi began to ask more questions: Who were these Rabbis? Where did all these stories they told come from? Did they have a source of secret knowledge or did they just make up and invent all their information? And if so, how dare they add to or change the sacred tradition! Yet, if they did, why did they do it? And what methods did they use?
"As Avdimi reached manhood, he decided to devote himself to the ancient traditions, to study and to teach the sacred texts, to become a "Master," a Rabbi. He taught in the beit midrash and preached in the synagogue. People came to him seeking his instruction: how to observe Shabbat and holidays; what to do after mistakenly mixing dairy and meat; who owned an article of clothing claimed by two different people? And they also came to him seeking his counsel, his advice, and his wisdom in matters both religious and personal.
"Over and over again, "our" Rabbi Avdimi met with Jews who (as we in the twenty-first century imagine them) were ambivalent about their Judaism and about their ties to the Torah itself:
• the young man who was afraid of the many obligations and
responsibilities that had been placed on his shoulders;
• the young woman who wanted to study about and accept
these many obligations and responsibilities of the Jew
but who couldn't;
• the convert who, while eager to become a Jew, was also
concerned with being truly accepted as a full member of
the Jewish people;
• the man who would have liked to spend more time
learning the sacred texts but who was so busy making a
living and trying to support his family that he never got
around to it.
In the days before the Torah portion containing the revelation at Mount Sinai was to be read in the synagogue, Rabbi Avdimi sat and studied it. He read its words over and over. And he couldn't help but think of the Jews in his community who came to pray each Shabbat (and those who didn't!) who brought him their questions, their doubts, and their challenges. As he prepared his weekly D'rashah, he had them in mind. On Shabbat Morning, as the Torah was taken from the ark, Rabbi Avdimi began his sermon by reading from the story of the giving of the Torah at Sinai. He emphasized one verse in particular: "And they took their places at the foot of the mountain" (Exodus 19:17).
"This verse teaches us," Rabbi Avdimi began, "that the Holy One, praised is He, suspended the mountain over them like a cask, saying to them, 'If you accept the Torah, good; and if not, there will be your graves!' "
Those sitting in the congregation looked at one another, puzzled. They had never heard this version of the story before. As far as they knew, the Israelites had willingly accepted the Torah at Mount Sinai. According to RS Thomas they had heard in previous years, the Israelites told Moses before the Torah was given, "All that the Lord has spoken we will do!" (Exodus 19:8). Then immediately after the Ten Commandments were proclaimed, they reaffirmed: "All the things that the Lord has commanded we will do!"
(Exodus 24:3). But now, Rabbi Avdimi had completely changed the story. God was threatening the Israelites by holding a mountain over their heads: If they chose to accept the Torah, God would return the mountain back where it belonged; if they rejected the Torah, God would drop Mount Sinai on top of their heads, killing them and burying them all in one fell swoop.
"What chutzpah!" one congregant whispered.
"Where is that written?" another wanted to know.
"How does he know what happened at Sinai. Was he there?" another objected.
Rabbi Avdimi continued. "Let me explain.… The Torah uses a peculiar Hebrew phrase, 'And they took their places בְּתַחְתִּית הָהָר/b'taḥtit ha-har, at the foot of the mountain.' But the word תַּחְתִּית/taḥtit actually means 'under' or 'beneath.' Now, of course, the P'shat, the simple meaning of the verse, is that the people were gathered at the bottom of the mountain. But I began to think: Maybe God chose this particular word precisely because it could be understood two ways—idiomatically as well as literally. The people stood at the foot of the mountain. And, the people stood underneath the mountain. I asked myself: How could the people stand underneath the mountain? Only if God uprooted Mount Sinai and held it over their heads! But why would God do such a thing? Perhaps it was to threaten the Israelites. Why would God want to do that? Perhaps because the Israelites were not really so willing to accept the Torah!
"But you might say to me: 'Rabbi! Doesn't it say, both before and after they received the Torah, how willing the Israelites were to accept it?' And of course, you're right. But maybe that's the point: Both understandings of the story may be true. The Israelites wanted the Torah and yet, at the same time, they had to be forced to accept it.
"I'm sure the young man who had his first Aliyah to the Torah this Morning trembled, just as the Israelites did at Mount Sinai. He is, no doubt, happy to have come of age and to no longer be considered a child. But at the same time, he is afraid of the responsibilities that maturity demands of him.
"What Jewish homemaker does not look forward with joy to her family gathered around the table for the Passover Seder? And yet at the same time, she dreads all the hard work and preparation that the holiday requires.
"I know that many of you desperately want to come and learn Torah, and aggadah, and Mishnah with me, but you are also afraid that you won't know enough and you won't be able to keep up, and that you are afraid of appearing foolish.
"And this mixture of opposite feelings applies to all aspects of our lives. Remember how when we were little, and we got sick, our mothers made us—forced us!—to take the bitter medicine. We knew it would make us well, and we were desperate to get better and go outside again to play. But at the same time, had we not been forced, we might not have taken the medicine.
"Well, apparently God had to do the same thing for the children of Israel. 'Yes,' God said, 'the Torah is difficult. Yes, accepting the mitzvot, all of the commandments, is a very weighty matter. But sometimes, the hard things that at first seem unpleasant turn out to be good for you in the long run.' Sometimes in life we need to be forced to do the right thing. Only later do we understand, and appreciate, what it was that we were forced to do.
"The P'shat of the verse is that the Israelites stood at the foot of the mountain and gladly accepted the Torah. But as I searched into the words, and then as I looked at the world, I came to this Midrash: God suspended the mountain over the heads of the people, and forced them to do what otherwise they might not have done.
"We are not so different from our ancestors at Sinai who had a mountain hanging over them. At times, we feel put-upon, or we feel afraid of what our tradition requires of us. Those feelings are quite normal. The key is not running away, recognizing that in the end we will be better off because of the Torah.
"As we now read the story of our people at Mount Sinai and hear the Ten Commandments, let us imagine that we are there as well. Let us imagine that we stand at the foot of Sinai, but let us also understand that the mountain is being held over our heads. Let us therefore accept the Torah willingly, even as we are being forced to do so."
The congregation sat quietly for a moment, digesting the Rabbi's D'rashah.
"I don't get it," one congregant whispered to his friend. "Explain to me again how he came up with that story."
"I don't like it," another congregant objected. "The Torah is very clear about what happened. Where does he get off making up this new version?"
"It's brilliant!" a third congregant uttered in admiration. "What the Rabbi described is exactly how I've always felt! But I was too guilty to ever say it out loud. Now he's told us that it's perfectly normal. I feel much better about my fears and doubts. And to think that the answer was right there all along, in the words of the Torah. You just have to know where to look, and how to search.…"
In 1992, the two of us began to meet weekly, as a ḥavruta, studying Talmud. Sitting together, we tried to figure out how we could teach these same texts to our congregants and students who were constantly asking us, in many different ways, the critical question: "What does Judaism have to say to us about the issues we face today?" We believed that the classic texts of the Jewish people offer much wisdom and guidance; the more we studied together, the more we were convinced of that. The problem was that the texts were inaccessible to most Jews. There was, of course, the language problem: most of our congregants were not fluent in Hebrew or Aramaic. But there was a deeper problem: Rabbinic texts were composed in a different time and place, and even in translation they seemed unfathomable because they were written in a style that was so foreign and dealt with topics that were so arcane. Gradually, we developed an approach to teaching that explained the classic texts and showed how they offered much that was still relevant to us today.
We presented brief sections of Talmud text; each segment contained a pitgam, a maxim. We explained the context of the section, trying to bring all the background material that would be necessary for understanding it. We then offered a D'rash, a contemporary application of that text. After trying out this approach to Talmud with our students, we put the results into a book, Swimming in the Sea of Talmud: Lessons for Everyday Living, published by The Jewish Publication Society in 1997.
Having taught our students how to begin to "swim in the sea of Talmud," we wanted to continue to introduce contemporary Jews—and others—to the beauty of the classic Jewish heritage. At the same time, we had gained so much from our ḥavruta study experience that the two of us looked forward to the opportunity of studying together again, of poring over Rabbinic texts and searching for their contemporary meaning. We put our new focus on another great genre of Rabbinic literature, Midrash.
The Talmud is a record of the discussions of the amora'im, the Rabbis who studied and discussed the Mishnah from about the third century to approximately the seventh century. The Mishnah and Gemara, the two parts of the Talmud, are organized by theme under six major topical headings.
The Midrash, on the other hand, is organized not by topic but, for the most part, as commentaries to individual books of the Bible. There are dozens of different collections of Midrash. Sometimes they are a verse-by-verse explication of the text; at other times they use a particular verse as the basis for a short sermon.
We have adopted for this book a similar approach to the one we used in Swimming in the Sea of Talmud. A selection of Midrash text with its pitgam (maxim) is presented. We then explain the text, and bring our own applications in the D'rash sections. We have organized the book following the order of the Ḥumash, the five books of the Torah.
We have entitled this book Searching for Meaning in Midrash. The Hebrew word מִדְרָשׁ/Midrash comes from a root that means "to search." Our search has led us to invaluable finds. We have searched for, and have found, a closer relationship as friends and study partners. We have searched for, and have found, a fuller understanding of the world of the Rabbis where the Midrash texts were written. And we have searched for, and have found, a deeper appreciation of the incredible wisdom in these sacred Midrash texts. We pray that you, too, will search, and will find.
Searching for Meaning in Midrash: Lessons for Everyday Living
W. W. Wiersbe
The three children have taught us about the grace of God, and Gomer has taught us about the holiness of God. Now Hosea will teach us about the love of God.
"Hosea takes his place among the greatest lovers of all the ages," wrote Kyle M. Yates. "His love was so strong that the vilest behavior could not dull it.… Gomer broke his heart but she made it possible for him to give to the world a picture of the heart of the divine Lover." (Preaching from the Prophets) God's love promised (Hosea 2:14–23). The repeated "I will" statements in these verses assure us that God has a wonderful future planned for the Jewish people. Let's note His promises.
He begins with "I will allure" (v. 14). God doesn't try to force His people to love him. Instead, He "allures" (woos) them as a lover woos his beloved, seeking her hand in marriage. Certainly God spoke tenderly to His people through His Word and through the manifold blessings He bestowed on them in their land. Just as He led her through the wilderness and "married" her at Sinai, so God will meet His beloved in the wilderness in the last days and lead her into her land and her glorious kingdom.
The next promise is "I will give" (v. 15) as the Lord guarantees a return to their land and a restoration of their prosperity. Once again, the Lord changes the meaning of a name, this time, "the Valley of Achor." To Israel, the Valley of Achor ("trouble") was the place where Achan stole from God and brought shameful defeat to Israel's army (Josh. 7), but that memory would be erased from their minds. The valley would become a "door of hope" through which Israel would enter into a new life. The experience would produce singing, as when Israel escaped from Egypt and saw her enemies defeated before their very eyes (Ex. 14–15). "And Sharon shall be a fold of flocks, and the valley of Achor a place for the herds to lie down in, for My people that have sought Me" (Isa. 65:10). This is an Old Testament version of Romans 8:28, for only the Lord can take defeat and shame and turn it into victory and glory.
God's third promise is "I will take away" (Hosea 2:16–17). God declares an end to idolatry among His people. They would have a new vocabulary and the "baals" would never be named again. "Ishi" means "my husband" in Hebrew and "Baali" means "my master." Both terms were used by Jewish wives when addressing their husbands, but in the future kingdom, every Jew will call God "my Husband," for the divine marriage relationship will be restored. Israel will no longer prostitute herself before idols, but will love and serve the true living God.
God's fourth promise is "I will betroth" (vv. 18–20). God's wooing of Israel will result in her yielding to Him and entering into a covenant relationship that would never end. This new covenant will include a restored creation (see Gen. 9:1–10; Rom. 8:18–22) and peace among the nations. Among the "wedding gifts" will be such blessings as righteousness, justice, love, compassion, and faithfulness—everything that Israel had lacked during her years of separation from her Husband, Jehovah God.
The fifth promise is "I will respond" (Hosea 2:21–22, NIV), (KJV, "I will hear"). These two verses describe a tremendous cosmic conversation in which the Lord speaks to the heavens and the earth and they respond to each other and bring blessings to God's people. The heavens send the rain, the earth brings forth the produce, and the Lord sends His rich blessings. It's the picture of a restored universe where sin and death no longer reign (Rom. 5:12–21).
The final promise in this text is "I will plant" (Hosea 2:23, NIV). The word "Jezreel" means "God sows." The image is that of God sowing His people in their land the way a farmer sows seed. He says to them, "You are My people!" They respond, "You are my God!" (NIV) This relates back to the names of the children that God in His grace had changed.
God's love pictured (Hosea 3:1–5). This is another "action sermon" as Hosea reclaims his estranged wife and brings her home to himself. Gomer had left Hosea and was living with a lover, another picture of the way Israel had treated the Lord. Hosea had to buy her back at a cost of fifteen pieces of silver (half the price of a slave, Ex. 21:32) and about ten bushels of barley. This was not an exorbitant price, but she had cheapened herself by her sins. We need to remember that God has purchased us at the tremendous cost of the precious blood of His only Son (1 Peter 1:18–19).
Hosea 3:3 suggests that Hosea didn't immediately enter into intimate relations with Gomer, but waited awhile to make sure she would be true to him. It's also possible that he wanted to make sure she wasn't pregnant with another man's child. But even this has a spiritual message attached to it: Israel today, though purchased by their Messiah (John 11:47–52; Isa. 53:8), has not yet returned to the Lord.
Israel today is without a king because she rejected her King and therefore has no kingdom. "We will not have this man to reign over us" (Luke 19:14). "We have no king but Caesar" (John 19:15). She has no prince because there is no reigning dynasty in Israel. All the records were destroyed when the Romans captured Jerusalem in A.D. 70, and nobody can prove to which tribe he or she belongs.
The Israelites have no sacrifice because they have no temple, altar, or priesthood. They don't have a pillar (image) or a household god (teraphim), because idolatry was purged from their culture during the Babylonian Captivity. (Like the Gentiles, they may have other kinds of idols in their hearts!) They lack an ephod (Ex. 28:1–14), because they have no high priest. The only High Priest God will acknowledge is the interceding Son of God in heaven.
But there is an "afterward"! Israel won't stay "without," for she will see her Messiah, repent of her sins, and say, "You are my God!" They will enter into that blessed relationship in which the Lord says, "You are My people!" This will occur in "the latter days" when the messianic King sits on David's throne and judges righteously (Matt. 19:28; Luke 1:32–33).
The key word is "return" (Hosea 3:5), a word that's used twenty-two times in Hosea's prophecy. When Israel repents and returns to the Lord, then the Lord will return to bless Israel (2:7–8). God has returned to His place and left Israel to herself (5:15) until she seeks Him and says, "Come, and let us return to the Lord" (6:1, NKJV).
This is Hosea's message: "O Israel, return to the Lord thy God.… Take with you words, and turn to the Lord: say unto Him, 'Take away all iniquity, and receive us graciously' " (14:1–2).
That prayer is good for any sinner, Jew or Gentile. To summarize:
God is gracious, and no matter what "name" our birth has given to us, He can change it and give us a new beginning. Even the "valley of trouble" can become a "door of hope."
God is holy and He must deal with sin. The essence of idolatry is enjoying the gifts but not honoring the Giver. To live for the world is to break God's heart and commit "spiritual adultery."
God is love and promises to forgive and restore all who repent and return to Him. He promises to bless all who trust him.
Be Amazed (Minor Prophets): Restoring an Attitude of Wonder and Worship (The BE Series Commentary)
The Gospels are to be viewed as four testimonies in one Gospel; as Origen said, “The Gospel writers are four, but the Gospel is one.” And it is consistent with this that the four books have been called the Gospel according to Matthew, the Gospel according to Mark, etc. There is a variety characterized by harmony. The four writers have again and again been charged with inconsistency and discrepancy, the charge only serves to make us consider the evidences. The so-called discrepancies vanish when the circumstances recorded are duly examined. To quote the words of Dean Burgon, “A single word of explanation, the discovery of one minute circumstance, … serves to remove the difficulty which before seemed insurmountable; … when this has been done the entire consistency of the account becomes apparent, while the harmony which is established is even of the most beautiful character.” Let us recall the fact, too, that variations in the records only show that there was no collusion on the part of the Gospel writers; they could not have agreed together to write the same things about the subjects which they handle. The difference in their accounts shows the individuality of their work. The harmony reveals the operation of the Spirit of God in each of them. Moreover, the effects of the Spirit’s work are manifest in the very variations in detail, both in the circumstances narrated and in the phraseology employed. As to any apparent inaccuracies, as the above-mentioned writer says, “it must be admitted that any possible solution of a difficulty, however improbable it may seem, any possible explanation of the story of a competent witness, is enough logically and morally to exempt that man from the imputation of an incorrect statement.”
The Collected Writings of W.E. Vine: Boxed Five Volume Set
Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism
Isolated Interpretive Insertions
Learned scribes occasionally inserted into the text they were copying what they considered an appropriate piece of additional material. Comparisons between the Scrolls, the MT, the SP, and the LXX highlight insertions of up to eight verses now in one text, now in another. Depending upon the genre of book being copied, the insertions provided information (2 Sam. 5:4–5 in MT vs. 4QSama), offered instruction (Isa. 2:22 in 1QIsaa MT vs. LXX), solved nomistic inconsistencies (Lev. 17:4 in 4QLevd SP vs. 11QpaleoLeva MT), stemmed from piety (Isa 2:9b in 4QIsaa 4QIsab MT LXX vs. 1QIsaa), added prophetic apparitions (Judg. 6:7–10 in MT vs. 4QJudga), introduced apocalyptic tendencies (Isa. 2:10 in 4QIsaa 4QIsab MT LXX vs. 1QIsaa, plus many “on that day” passages in Isaiah), or simply added similar material (Isa. 34:17b–35:2 in MT LXX vs. 1QIsaa; Jer. 7:30–8:3 in MT 4QJera 2m vs. 4QJera*) or contrasting material (Jer. 10:6–8, 10 in MT vs. 4QJerb LXX). The prophetic books especially are replete with such expansions, and results of this activity have penetrated all texts; indeed, it seems to have been a widespread factor in the development of all the biblical books. If such interpretive insertions are isolated and not linked as part of a series, they are classified in this category. If there are a number of coordinated patterned sets showing substantial harmonizations, revisions, or insertions, these would form a new edition of a book.
New and Expanded Editions of Biblical Books
The most influential method by which the texts developed in major ways was through successive revised and expanded editions of each book. From their earliest, shadowy beginnings the texts solidified and developed by faithful repetition but also by occasional creative, updated editions to form the books as we begin to see them when manuscript evidence becomes available. Source-critical examples, such as the retheologizing of the older monarchic traditions in light of the destruction and exile (traditional P), and more specifically the insertion of the P flood story into the older J story in Genesis 6–9, help illustrate the phenomenon. Those new editions were achieved not through displacement of the old but through combination of the new with the old. A more sustained and documented example is the four or five successive editions of the book of Exodus. Exodus 35–40 is preserved in two successive editions; the OG is presumably the earlier edition (edition n + 1) and the MT the later (edition n + 2), developed from the Hebrew parent text used by the OG. Then 4QpaleoExodm displayed an expanded edition (edition n + 3) based on but expanding the edition as in the MT, while the SP exhibited the same general edition as 4QpaleoExodm but with such significant theological changes (albeit not significant quantitative changes) that it could be regarded as a fourth edition (edition n + 4). There is now even a fifth, if 4QRP is considered 4QPentateuch (edition n + 5). A similar pair of successive editions for Numbers was seen in 4QNumb, while for Genesis the MT, SP, and LXX all clearly show intentionally revised editions of the two extended passages in chaps. 5 and 11.
The Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism
My meditation of him shall be sweet. --- Psalm 104:34. KJV
It is simple fact. (Classic Sermons on Suffering (Kregel Classic Sermons Series)) There is a heaven, whether we reach it or not. There is a vision of God, whether it ever dilate and enrapture our eyes or not. God is infinite blessedness and glory, and no good being can see him without partaking of it. The more clear and full our vision, the more overwhelming and boundless is the influx of heaven into us. We may know something of this here on earth. The more we meditate on God and divine things, the happier we will become in our own minds.
In the saints’ everlasting rest, there is an unending contemplation and sight of God. Who of us are certain that we will not turn away when we find that this, and this alone, is heaven. For this vision of God, this sight of him face-to-face, this contemplation of his perfections is the substance of paradise.
Meditation on God and divine things elevates, sanctifies, and blesses. But though this Christian habit produces such great and good fruits, there is probably no duty that is more neglected. We find it easier to read our Bibles than to ponder on them, easier to listen to preaching than to digest it, easier to respond to the calls of benevolence and engage in external service in the church than to go into our closets. And isn’t this the secret of the faint and sickly life in our souls? Do you think that if we often entered the presence of God and obtained a view of things unseen and eternal, earthly temptation would have such a strong power over us? Do you think that if we received every day a distinct and bold impression from the attributes of God, we would be so distant from him in our hearts? Can’t we trace our neglect of duty, our lukewarm feelings, and our great worldliness of heart to our lack of the vision of God?
The success of Christians mainly depends on habitual communion with God. No spasmodic resolutions can be a substitute for it. If holy communion and prayer are interrupted, we will surely fall into sin. In this world of continual temptation and lethargic consciences, we need to be awakened and awed by the splendor of God’s holy face. But we cannot see that amidst the vapors and smoke of everyday life. We must go into our closets and close the door and pray to our Father who sees what is done in secret. Then will we know how power to resist temptation comes from companionship with God. Then we will know what a Sabbath that soul enjoys who looks long and steadily at the divine perfections.
--- William G. T. Shedd
Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
A New Trinity June 8
The French Revolution was not a crusade for religious freedom but an effort to replace religion with reason and rationalism. France, boasting the largest population in Europe, had trouble feeding its masses. Multitudes, including local clergy, lived in direst poverty while royalty and high church officials—cardinals, archbishops, bishops, and abbots—lived richly.
On June 8, 1794, a disciple of Rousseau named Robespierre and the French National Convention formally inaugurated a new religion. It was a form of deism, the belief that there is a God who, having created the universe, more or less disappeared. The Convention ordered people to recognize the existence of a supreme being and the immortality of the soul, but to reject the “superstition” of Christianity. The seven-day Christian week was exchanged for a ten-day week, and new holidays were commissioned celebrating the great events of the Revolution. Saints were replaced with political heroes. Churches were designated “Temples of Reason.” A statue called the Goddess of Reason was erected in Notre Dame. The salaries of Catholic clergy were stopped, and priests were forbidden to teach. June 8 became France’s “Holy Day,” the “Festival of the Supreme Being.” The revolutionaries vowed to replace the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost with a new trinity—“Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity.”
It didn’t work. “Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity” deteriorated into fear, bloodshed, and the guillotine. The weeks following June 8, 1794 saw the heads of 1,400 people fall “like slates from a roof.” Chaos paved the way for Napoleon Bonaparte who, on May 18, 1804, recognized the church once again. He planned to be consecrated by Pope Pius VII. But at the last moment the little dictator took the crown from the pope and set it on his own head. Pius excommunicated Napoleon, and Napoleon imprisoned Pius.
“Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity” proved inadequate gods, as did Rousseau, Robespierre, and the Revolution—and Napoleon himself. In the end they offered only misery.
Be silent! I am the LORD God. … I will punish national leaders And sons of the king, Along with all who follow foreign customs. I will punish worshipers of pagan gods And cruel palace officials who abuse their power.
--- Zephaniah 1:7a,8,9.
On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - June 8
“There fell down many slain, because the war was of God.” --- 1 Chronicles 5:22.
Warrior, fighting under the banner of the Lord Jesus, observe this verse with holy joy, for as it was in the days of old so is it now, if the war be of God the victory is sure. The sons of Reuben, and the Gadites, and the half tribe of Manasseh could barely muster five and forty thousand fighting men, and yet in their war with the Hagarites, they slew “men, an hundred thousand,” “for they cried to God in the battle, and he was entreated of them, because they put their trust in him.” The Lord saveth not by many nor by few; it is ours to go forth in Jehovah’s name if we be but a handful of men, for the Lord of Hosts is with us for our Captain. They did not neglect buckler, and sword, and bow, neither did they place their trust in these weapons; we must use all fitting means, but our confidence must rest in the Lord alone, for he is the sword and the shield of his people. The great reason of their extraordinary success lay in the fact that “the war was of God.” Beloved, in fighting with sin without and within, with error doctrinal or practical, with spiritual wickedness in high places or low places, with devils and the devil’s allies, you are waging Jehovah’s war, and unless he himself can be worsted, you need not fear defeat. Quail not before superior numbers, shrink not from difficulties or impossibilities, flinch not at wounds or death, smite with the two-edged sword of the Spirit, and the slain shall lie in heaps. The battle is the Lord’s and he will deliver his enemies into our hands. With steadfast foot, strong hand, dauntless heart, and flaming zeal, rush to the conflict, and the hosts of evil shall fly like chaff before the gale.
Stand up! stand up for Jesus!
The strife will not be long;
This day the noise of battle,
The next the victor’s song:
To him that overcometh,
A crown of life shall be;
He with the King of glory
Shall reign eternally.
Evening - June 8
“Thou shalt see now whether my word shall come to pass unto thee or not.” --- Numbers 11:23.
God had made a positive promise to Moses that for the space of a whole month he would feed the vast host in the wilderness with flesh. Moses, being overtaken by a fit of unbelief, looks to the outward means, and is at a loss to know how the promise can be fulfilled. He looked to the creature instead of the Creator. But doth the Creator expect the creature to fulfil his promise for him? No; he who makes the promise ever fulfils it by his own unaided omnipotence. If he speaks, it is done—done by himself. His promises do not depend for their fulfilment upon the co-operation of the puny strength of man. We can at once perceive the mistake which Moses made. And yet how commonly we do the same! God has promised to supply our needs, and we look to the creature to do what God has promised to do; and then, because we perceive the creature to be weak and feeble, we indulge in unbelief. Why look we to that quarter at all? Will you look to the north pole to gather fruits ripened in the sun? Verily, you would act no more foolishly if ye did this than when you look to the weak for strength, and to the creature to do the Creator’s work. Let us, then, put the question on the right footing. The ground of faith is not the sufficiency of the visible means for the performance of the promise, but the all-sufficiency of the invisible God, who will most surely do as he hath said. If after clearly seeing that the onus lies with the Lord and not with the creature, we dare to indulge in mistrust, the question of God comes home mightily to us: “Has the Lord’s hand waxed short?” May it happen, too, in his mercy, that with the question there may flash upon our souls that blessed declaration, “Thou shalt see now whether my word shall come to pass unto thee or not.”
Morning and Evening
DEPTH OF MERCY
Charles Wesley, 1707–1788
You are kind and forgiving, O Lord, abounding in love to all who call on You. (Psalm 86:5)
Although Charles Wesley had been trained for the Anglican church ministry and had been active in religious activities, there came a time when he realized that he had never personally experienced God’s love and mercy. His crisis experience occurred on May 20, 1738, as he met with a small group of Moravian believers in the Aldersgate Hall in London, England. That Evening he wrote in his journal:
At midnight I gave myself to Christ, assured that I was safe, whether sleeping or waking. I had the continual experience of His power to overcome all temptation, and confessed, with joy and surprise, that He was able to do exceedingly abundantly for me above what I can ask or think.
Following his “heart-warming” experience at Aldersgate, Charles with his brother John developed an intense desire to bring others to a personal conversion experience and to teach the great truths of the Scripture. To aid in these endeavors, Charles Wesley wrote more than 6,500 hymn texts on every aspect of the Christian life, fitting them to any popular tune that suited the meter and message of the lines.
The Wesleys spread their message of God’s mercy and His power to transform lives to all social classes. They spent much time ministering to the cruelly treated prisoners of Newgate Prison in London and visited the dreadful Bedlam, a dungeon for the insane.
“Depth of Mercy” first appeared in the Wesley hymnal, Hymns and Sacred Poems, in 1741. It has 13 stanzas and was titled “After a Relapse Into Sin.” These words suggest the personal experience of Charles before and after his “heart-warming” spiritual experience at Aldersgate.
Depth of mercy! can there be mercy still reserved for me? Can my God His wrath forbear—me, the chief of sinners spare?
I have long withstood His grace, long provoked Him to His face, would not harken to His calls, grieved Him by a thousand falls.
Now incline me to repent; let me now my sins lament; now my foul revolt deplore, weep, believe, and sin no more.
There for me my Savior stands, holding forth His wounded hands; God is love! I know, I feel, Jesus weeps and loves me still.
For Today: Psalm 136:1; Isaiah 55:6, 7; Micah 7:18–20; Romans 2:4.
The Hebrew word for “mercy” literally means “to get inside another’s skin,” to be completely identified with that person. This is what Christ has done for us. Now He asks that we demonstrate this same quality to others.
Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
Martin Luther | (1483-1546)
Sect. XLIX. — BUT perhaps the Diatribe is dreaming this, that between these two ‘can will good’ and ‘cannot will good’ there may be a medium; seeing that, to will is absolute, both in respect of good, and evil. So that thus, by a certain logical subtlety, we may steer clear of the rocks, and say, in the will of man there is a certain willing, which cannot indeed will good without grace, but which, nevertheless, being without grace, does not immediately will nothing but evil, but is a sort of mere abstracted willing, vertible, upwards unto good by grace, and downwards unto evil by sin. But then, what will become of that which you have said, that, ‘when it has lost its liberty it is compelled to serve sin?’ What will become of that desire and endeavour which are left? Where will be that power of ‘applying itself to those things which pertain unto eternal salvation?’ For that power of applying itself unto salvation, cannot be a mere willing, unless the salvation itself be said to be a nothing. Nor, again, can that desire and endeavour be a mere willing; for desire must strive and attempt something, (as good perhaps,) and cannot go forth into nothing, nor be absolutely inactive.
In a word, which way soever the Diatribe turns itself, it cannot keep clear of inconsistencies and contradictory assertions; nor avoid making that very “Free-will” which it defends, as much a bond-captive as it is a bond-captive itself. For, in attempting to liberate “Free-will,” it is so entangled, that it is bound, together with “Free-will,” in bonds indissoluble.
Moreover, it is a mere logical figment that in man there is a medium, a mere willing, nor can they who assert this prove it; it arose from an ignorance of things and an observance of terms. As though the thing were always in reality, as it is set forth in terms; and there are with the Sophists many such misconceptions. Whereas the matter rather stands as Christ saith, “He that is not with Me is against Me.” (Matt. xii. 30.) He does not say, He that is not with Me is yet not against Me, but in the medium. For if God be in us, Satan is from us, and it is present with us to will nothing but good. But if God be not in us, Satan is in us, and it is present with us to will evil only, Neither God nor Satan admit of a mere abstracted willing in us; but, as you yourself rightly said, when our liberty is lost we are compelled to serve sin: that is, we will sin and evil, we speak sin and evil, we do sin and evil.
Behold then! invincible and all-powerful truth has driven the witless Diatribe to that dilemma, and so turned its wisdom into foolishness, that whereas, its design was to speak against me, it is compelled to speak for me against itself; just in the same way as “Free-will” does any thing good; for when it attempts so to do, the more it acts against evil the more it acts against good. So that the Diatribe is, in saying, exactly what “Freewill” is in doing. Though the whole Diatribe itself, is nothing else but a notable effort of “Free-will,” condemning by defending, and defending by condemning: that is, being a twofold fool, while it would appear to be wise.
This, then, is the state of the first opinion compared with itself: — it denies that a man can will any thing good; but yet that a desire remains; which desire, however, is not his own!
The Bondage of the Will or Christian Classics Ethereal Library
Dr. Michael Vlach and Prof. Jesse Johnson | The Master's Seminary
Dr. Keith Essex | The Master's Seminary