Job’s Summary Defense
Job 29 1 And Job again took up his discourse, and said:
2 “Oh, that I were as in the months of old,
as in the days when God watched over me,
3 when his lamp shone upon my head,
and by his light I walked through darkness,
4 as I was in my prime,
when the friendship of God was upon my tent,
5 when the Almighty was yet with me,
when my children were all around me,
6 when my steps were washed with butter,
and the rock poured out for me streams of oil!
7 When I went out to the gate of the city,
when I prepared my seat in the square,
8 the young men saw me and withdrew,
and the aged rose and stood;
9 the princes refrained from talking
and laid their hand on their mouth;
10 the voice of the nobles was hushed,
and their tongue stuck to the roof of their mouth.
11 When the ear heard, it called me blessed,
and when the eye saw, it approved,
12 because I delivered the poor who cried for help,
and the fatherless who had none to help him.
13 The blessing of him who was about to perish came upon me,
and I caused the widow’s heart to sing for joy.
14 I put on righteousness, and it clothed me;
my justice was like a robe and a turban.
15 I was eyes to the blind
and feet to the lame.
16 I was a father to the needy,
and I searched out the cause of him whom I did not know.
17 I broke the fangs of the unrighteous
and made him drop his prey from his teeth.
18 Then I thought, ‘I shall die in my nest,
and I shall multiply my days as the sand,
19 my roots spread out to the waters,
with the dew all night on my branches,
20 my glory fresh with me,
and my bow ever new in my hand.’
21 “Men listened to me and waited
and kept silence for my counsel.
22 After I spoke they did not speak again,
and my word dropped upon them.
23 They waited for me as for the rain,
and they opened their mouths as for the spring rain.
24 I smiled on them when they had no confidence,
and the light of my face they did not cast down.
25 I chose their way and sat as chief,
and I lived like a king among his troops,
like one who comforts mourners.
Job 30 1 "But now they laugh at me,
men who are younger than I,
whose fathers I would have disdained
to set with the dogs of my flock.
2 What could I gain from the strength of their hands,
men whose vigor is gone?
3 Through want and hard hunger
they gnaw the dry ground by night in waste and desolation;
4 they pick saltwort and the leaves of bushes,
and the roots of the broom tree for their food.
5 They are driven out from human company;
they shout after them as after a thief.
6 In the gullies of the torrents they must dwell,
in holes of the earth and of the rocks.
7 Among the bushes they bray;
under the nettles they huddle together.
8 A senseless, a nameless brood,
they have been whipped out of the land.
9 “And now I have become their song;
I am a byword to them.
10 They abhor me; they keep aloof from me;
they do not hesitate to spit at the sight of me.
11 Because God has loosed my cord and humbled me,
they have cast off restraint in my presence.
12 On my right hand the rabble rise;
they push away my feet;
they cast up against me their ways of destruction.
13 They break up my path;
they promote my calamity;
they need no one to help them.
14 As through a wide breach they come;
amid the crash they roll on.
15 Terrors are turned upon me;
my honor is pursued as by the wind,
and my prosperity has passed away like a cloud.
16 “And now my soul is poured out within me;
days of affliction have taken hold of me.
17 The night racks my bones,
and the pain that gnaws me takes no rest.
18 With great force my garment is disfigured;
it binds me about like the collar of my tunic.
19 God has cast me into the mire,
and I have become like dust and ashes.
20 I cry to you for help and you do not answer me;
I stand, and you only look at me.
21 You have turned cruel to me;
with the might of your hand you persecute me.
22 You lift me up on the wind; you make me ride on it,
and you toss me about in the roar of the storm.
23 For I know that you will bring me to death
and to the house appointed for all living.
24 “Yet does not one in a heap of ruins stretch out his hand,
and in his disaster cry for help?
25 Did not I weep for him whose day was hard?
Was not my soul grieved for the needy?
26 But when I hoped for good, evil came,
and when I waited for light, darkness came.
27 My inward parts are in turmoil and never still;
days of affliction come to meet me.
28 I go about darkened, but not by the sun;
I stand up in the assembly and cry for help.
29 I am a brother of jackals
and a companion of ostriches.
30 My skin turns black and falls from me,
and my bones burn with heat.
31 My lyre is turned to mourning,
and my pipe to the voice of those who weep.
Job’s Final Appeal
Job 31 1 “I have made a covenant with my eyes;
how then could I gaze at a virgin?
2 What would be my portion from God above
and my heritage from the Almighty on high?
3 Is not calamity for the unrighteous,
and disaster for the workers of iniquity?
4 Does not he see my ways
and number all my steps?
5 “If I have walked with falsehood
and my foot has hastened to deceit;
6 (Let me be weighed in a just balance,
and let God know my integrity!)
7 if my step has turned aside from the way
and my heart has gone after my eyes,
and if any spot has stuck to my hands,
8 then let me sow, and another eat,
and let what grows for me be rooted out.
9 “If my heart has been enticed toward a woman,
and I have lain in wait at my neighbor’s door,
10 then let my wife grind for another,
and let others bow down on her.
11 For that would be a heinous crime;
that would be an iniquity to be punished by the judges;
12 for that would be a fire that consumes as far as Abaddon,
and it would burn to the root all my increase.
13 “If I have rejected the cause of my manservant or my maidservant,
when they brought a complaint against me,
14 what then shall I do when God rises up?
When he makes inquiry, what shall I answer him?
15 Did not he who made me in the womb make him?
And did not one fashion us in the womb?
16 “If I have withheld anything that the poor desired,
or have caused the eyes of the widow to fail,
17 or have eaten my morsel alone,
and the fatherless has not eaten of it
18 (for from my youth the fatherless grew up with me as with a father,
and from my mother’s womb I guided the widow),
19 if I have seen anyone perish for lack of clothing,
or the needy without covering,
20 if his body has not blessed me,
and if he was not warmed with the fleece of my sheep,
21 if I have raised my hand against the fatherless,
because I saw my help in the gate,
22 then let my shoulder blade fall from my shoulder,
and let my arm be broken from its socket.
23 For I was in terror of calamity from God,
and I could not have faced his majesty.
24 “If I have made gold my trust
or called fine gold my confidence,
25 if I have rejoiced because my wealth was abundant
or because my hand had found much,
26 if I have looked at the sun when it shone,
or the moon moving in splendor,
27 and my heart has been secretly enticed,
and my mouth has kissed my hand,
28 this also would be an iniquity to be punished by the judges,
for I would have been false to God above.
29 “If I have rejoiced at the ruin of him who hated me,
or exulted when evil overtook him
30 (I have not let my mouth sin
by asking for his life with a curse),
31 if the men of my tent have not said,
‘Who is there that has not been filled with his meat?’
32 (the sojourner has not lodged in the street;
I have opened my doors to the traveler),
33 if I have concealed my transgressions as others do
by hiding my iniquity in my heart,
34 because I stood in great fear of the multitude,
and the contempt of families terrified me,
so that I kept silence, and did not go out of doors—
35 Oh, that I had one to hear me!
(Here is my signature! Let the Almighty answer me!)
Oh, that I had the indictment written by my adversary!
36 Surely I would carry it on my shoulder;
I would bind it on me as a crown;
37 I would give him an account of all my steps;
like a prince I would approach him.
38 “If my land has cried out against me
and its furrows have wept together,
39 if I have eaten its yield without payment
and made its owners breathe their last,
40 let thorns grow instead of wheat,
and foul weeds instead of barley.”
The words of Job are ended.
What I'm Reading
Can The Existence and Nature of Hell Be Defended?
By J. Warner Wallace 7/1/2014
While the Bible clearly describes Hell as a reality, many of our non-believing friends and family members are unsurprisingly repulsed by the idea. Why would God create such a place, and what would ever provoke Him to send people there? As Christians, we know our ultimate authority is God’s Word, so it’s tempting to simply trust what God has revealed without any further philosophical investigation. But we can prepare ourselves for those who reject the authority or teaching of the Bible by examining the evidence from Scripture along with the rational explanations and philosophical foundations supporting the Biblical claims. God has commanded us to be ready to defend the tough truths of the Christian worldview as we share our hope in Jesus:
1 Peter 3:15-16 …but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence
So let’s take a look at some common objections to the existence and nature of Hell as we defend the truth of the Christian Worldview.
Why Would A Good God Create Hell in the First Place? | The idea anything as vile and repulsive as Hell could come from a good God is a stumbling block for many people. In fact, Christian claims related to Hell are enough for some to reject the Christian God altogether. How could a supposedly good God create such a place?
Mercy Requires Justice | The answer here is directly connected to the nature of God. The Christian God of the Bible is the perfect balance of mercy and justice. The Bible repeatedly describes God with these characteristics:
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.
- Forensic Faith: A Homicide Detective Makes the Case for a More Reasonable, Evidential Christian Faith
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.
By Peter J. Leithart 6/2/2017
Samson is the most Spiritual man in the Old Testament, the most Pentecostal of Israel’s heroes. Given his reputation for lechery and bravado, my thesis seems counterintuitive to say the least. But it’s an easy case to make, provided we insist on the capital S in “Spirituality.”
Early in the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit is active as the wind of the Creator (Gen. 1:2) and as muse of the sacred craftsman Bezalel (Ex. 31:3). He comes into his own during the time of judges and early kings. He empowers Othniel (Judg. 3:10), Gideon (Judg. 6:34), and Jephthah (Judg. 11:29). Saul fights in the power of the Spirit (1 Sam. 11:16) until the Spirit abandons him to help David (1 Sam. 16:13).
No one in the Hebrew Bible, though, encounters the Spirit as often or as dramatically as Samson. The Spirit of Yahweh stirs (Judg. 13:25), sending Samson down to Timnah to court a Philistine woman who has caught his eye. When a lion attacks, the Spirit rushes on Samson and he kills the lion barehanded (Judg. 14:6). The Spirit comes again and Samson kills thirty Philistines in Ashkelon and plunders their clothes (Judg. 14:19). The Philistines try to bind him, but the Spirit melts the ropes like flax in a fire and drives Samson to kill another thousand Philistines with the jawbone of a donkey (Judg. 15:14). The Spirit leaves him when he breaks his Nazirite vow and allows his hair to be cut, but we can surmise that the Spirit is back when Samson breaks down the house of Dagon, killing more in his death than during his lifetime.
You can put money on it: When the Spirit comes, things get broken and people get hurt.
With pneumatology, the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, Christians have an unfortunate tendency to ignore the Old Testament, starting with Matthew rather than Genesis. Older theologians institutionalized this tendency by distinguishing between the Spirit’s “theocratic-official” work in Israel and his “ethical” or “soteriological” work in the church.
That contrast is semi-heretical or worse, and can’t be supported from the New Testament. Jesus is the Spiritual man from the moment of his conception by the Spirit (Lk. 1:35). The Spirit descends on him at his baptism (Lk. 3:22), then drives him out into the wilderness to battle the devil (Lk. 4:1). Anointed by the Spirit, Jesus announces release to captives and freedom to prisoners, opens blind eyes, and drives disease from human bodies (Lk. 4:18). The Spirit is the finger of God by whom Jesus casts out demons (Lk. 11:20).
Jesus receives the Spirit to finish what Samson started—to take out the enemies of God, which are the enemies of the human race. By the Spirit, he follows Samson’s path, defeating more enemies by his death than in his life.
The same Spirit who empowers Jesus to fight devils, battle disease, and break chains rushes onto the disciples at Pentecost so they can carry on his mission. Jesus tells his disciples that they will receive “power” when the Spirit comes (Acts 1:8). Filled with the Spirit, Peter preaches repentance to Israel and confronts Israel’s leaders (Acts 4:8). Powered by the Spirit, the apostles deliver the demon-oppressed and heal the sick (Acts 5:16). Stephen is so full of the Spirit that he is irrefutable in debate (Acts 6:10), and his success provokes murderous outrage.
When Ananaias baptizes Saul, he becomes Paul, an apostle who carries on his missionary work by the Spirit (Acts 13:2–4). Filled with the Spirit, Paul blinds the magician Elymas with a rebuke, an act of power that so impresses the Roman proconsul Sergius Paulus that he converts on the spot (Acts 13:4–12). Bound by the Spirit, Paul makes his final journey to Jerusalem (Acts 20:22), where he follows Jesus to arrest and trial and, so tradition has it, a martyr’s death.
There is a difference between the Spirit’s work in ancient Israel and in the church. The church is a company of new Samsons, armed not with jawbones but with weapons that destroy fortresses of speculation and take captives for Christ (2 Cor. 10:3–6). Samson killed in the power of the Spirit, but at Pentecost, the Spirit of Jesus equips the church with power to raise the dead.
Peter J. Leithart is President of the Theopolis Institute, Birmingham, Alabama, and an adjunct Senior Fellow at New St. Andrews College.
Books by Peter J. Leithart
The Four: A Survey of the Gospels
Defending Constantine: The Twilight of an Empire and the Dawn of Christendom
The Kingdom and the Power: Rediscovering the Centrality of the Church
The End of Protestantism: Pursuing Unity in a Fragmented Church
A House for My Name: A Survey of the Old Testament
1 & 2 Kings (Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible)
Wise Words: Family Stories That Bring the Proverbs to Life
Gratitude: An Intellectual History
The Epistles of John Through New Eyes: From Behind the Veil
Shining Glory: Theological Reflections on Terrence Malicks Tree of Life
The Promise of His Appearing: An Exposition of Second Peter
The Baptized Body
Brightest Heaven of Invention: A Christian Guide To Six Shakespeare Plays
Four Views on the Church's Mission (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology)
A Son to Me: An Exposition of 1 & 2 Samuel
Between Babel and Beast: America and Empires in Biblical Perspective (Theopolitical Visions)
Blessed Are the Hungry: Meditations on the Lord's Supper
Delivered from the Elements of the World: Atonement, Justification, Mission
Unique Evidence for the New Testament
By Sean McDowell 2/24/2017
Lydia McGrew has written a fascinating book in defense of the reliability of the New Testament called Hidden in Plain View: Undesigned Coincidences in the Gospels and Acts. I first heard about it because she gave me the privilege of endorsing it along with William Lane Craig, J. Warner Wallace, Craig Keener, and others. To be honest, I was blown away with her reasoning and conclusions. Even though I have been studying apologetics for over two decades, her approach in this book was new to me. My father and I were so impressed that we have included (with her permission) a small section from the book in the upcoming update of The New Evidence That Demands A Verdict: Evidence I & II Fully Updated in One Volume To Answer The Questions Challenging Christians in the 21st Century..
Lydia was kind enough to briefly answer a few of my questions, as you can see below. Check out this interview, and--whether you are a skeptic or a believer--consider getting a copy of her excellent book and studying it carefully (the publisher is offering free shipping through Feb 28). She makes a fresh, unique, and weighty argument in favor of the reliability of the NT that deserves to be heard far and wide.
SEAN MCDOWELL: How did you come up with the idea of unintended coincidences as support for the reliability of the NT?
LYDIA MCGREW: I learned about it from my husband, Tim McGrew. He discovered the argument in old writers and has been reintroducing it through his lectures.
Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, a best-selling author of over 18 books, an internationally recognized speaker, a part-time high school teacher, and the Resident Scholar for Summit, California. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell and his blog: seanmcdowell.org.Books By Sean McDowell
Books By Sean McDowell
Is God Just a Human Invention? And Seventeen Other Questions Raised by the New Atheists
A New Kind of Apologist: *Adopting Fresh Strategies *Addressing the Latest Issues *Engaging the Culture
The Beauty of Intolerance: Setting a Generation Free to Know Truth and Love
Same-Sex Marriage: A Thoughtful Approach to God's Design for Marriage (Thoughtful Response)
ETHIX: Being Bold in a Whatever World
More Than a Carpenter
Dreams of Paradise
By Robert Field 12/1/2008
Hawaii has often been advertised as one of those classic dreams of paradise. When streets on the mainland clog with snow and temperatures plummet far below zero, thoughts are enticed by Hawaii’s warm tropical waves lapping upon beaches saturated with sun. Clouds drift by on perfumed trade winds. Cares melt away. The mind is filled with peace as you walk down a sandy shoreline. Ah, paradise found! At least, that’s what we believe we have discovered in those winter daydreams. Here is the eternal quest of man. He tries to find a quiet sanctuary that would bring him peace. Yet even in Hawaii, such a goal in the material world is impossible to find.
When we fell in the garden, paradise was lost and could never be regained through any of our efforts. It is not that we don’t try. Our imaginations fashion dreams of that perfect, happy place. Our philosophies and sciences work toward building a golden city. We seek its perfections in art and music. Every pursuit of man is aimed at finding the elusive paradise. Our lives are like the Tower of Babel, hoping to reach God in heaven. Yet in every generation the building crumbles, for there is no man-made solution that can put paradise back together again. Even the Christian sometimes passes into that dangerous sin of building a home for himself in this world. We are especially tempted by the prosperity of this nation. It lures us in with its promises of comfort and joy. Yet God has warned us never to be content here, nor to think of this unrestored place as home.
How does He point us in the direction of true paradise? He begins by showing us the hopelessness and emptiness of the place in which we live. Here in this fallen world there is no lasting joy or peace. We have tasted its finite pleasures, but they have left us miserable, lonely, and dissatisfied. Sin has corrupted everything. The city of man is collapsing and will be destroyed; hence, we are compelled to flee the wrath that is coming and to seek the restoration of God’s eternal home.
The Lord then directs us to Jesus Christ, the foundation of paradise. Here is the new Adam whose holy life and sacrificial death have provided forgiveness and justification to all who trust in Him and His work. He is the door to the eternal city. He is the fountain of love, joy, and peace for all who call upon Him. He is the way, the truth, and the life. He is the essence of paradise.
When a man becomes a child of God through faith in Christ, he no longer finds a suitable place in this world to rest. God has redeemed him from the realm of sin and placed him in the dominion of grace. All that he once loved becomes empty. He sees the vanity of pursuing earthly goals and pleasures. He finds himself in opposition to his former friends — the world, the flesh, and the Devil. Every step he takes in this life seems to be burdened with trial and test. God has done this so that we are never comfortable in this place. We are compelled to press on to the eternal city, for this unrestored world is no longer our home.
How does a Christian journey to the final paradise? Every day he wakes up in this world as a warrior pilgrim, fighting the temptations to root him here while pressing on to his eternal reward. On this voyage, he draws close to his Savior through prayer and Scripture. He dresses himself with the armor of God in order to face his conflicts. He finds fellow pilgrims who are heading in the same direction and loves their fellowship along the way. He keeps his eyes on the eternal and does not become trapped in the finite. He takes the members of his body and uses them for righteousness. Though he sees life decaying all around him, including his own mortal body, he has the hope of resurrection and life in the new heavens and earth. Here he finds everything changing. Friends pass away, circumstances make life unpredictable. Yet in himself he sees the seed of new life springing up in hope. He stores up treasures in that paradise that will never rust or decay. In essence, he lives here in this finite world as if he were already living in that holy paradise. His blessed Savior gives him a foretaste of what is to come, a peace that passes understanding, a joy that does not fade, and a love that is eternal.
One day we shall pass from this world. The Christian, like Abraham, waits patiently for the promises to be fulfilled. He knows it is coming. He knows that he will see and hear things that he has never imagined. He knows he will be transformed completely in holiness. He knows he will see Jesus, and on that day sin and mortality will be swallowed up in the perfection and victory of the Son of God. Thus, he presses on to his final rest. Which paradise are you seeking? Is it a daydream that will vanish away or is it the eternal hope laid up in God whose promises are certain? Press on Christian. The night is past and the day has already dawned upon the eternal city where we are heading.
Rev. Robert W. Field was senior minister of Honolulu Bible Church in Honolulu, Hawaii, for twenty years.
By Iain Campbell 12/1/2008
I would be devastated if my Christian teenage daughter became pregnant outside of marriage. It wouldn’t be the unforgivable sin, I know, but in a world of enticements we are never out of danger. Today’s young Christians are more vulnerable to Satan’s attacks than ever before and in need of the power of resistant grace.
I can’t help wondering what it must have been like for Mary’s father to learn that his beautiful, believing, teenage daughter had fallen pregnant? His world, like hers, changed forever the day her first child was conceived in her womb. She had maintained her virginal purity, but became pregnant nonetheless. She would never, not until her dying day, be free from the stigma of those who were ready to taunt Jesus with the words: “We were not born of sexual immorality” (John 8:41).
Jesus, of course, was not born of sexual immorality; but the self-blinded religious leaders couldn’t see that. Locked into faithless natural reason, all they could see was a young teenage girl suddenly expecting a baby. There was a man in the picture, but he was not the child’s father. “The Son of Man,” as Ralph Erskine puts it, “was no man’s son.” Joseph, of course, proved himself to be every bit as noble as Mary; he had planned eventually to marry her, but was prepared to abort his plans so that Mary could keep her baby. How different than so many modern couples who are prepared to abort their baby in order to keep their plans.
And there, in an infinitesimally minute corner of Mary’s body, something bigger than Mary’s world was stirring. God the Father had prepared a body for God the Son through the power of God the Holy Spirit. In the empty darkness of Mary’s womb, the Spirit of God had hovered over her, and the last Adam was formed out of His mother’s dust. “Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh” (1 Tim. 3:16).
So Mary is the chosen vessel in which Jesus is carried for the first nine months of His humiliation, her body the factory for His, her pregnancy full of the potential of His life and the salvation of the world.
I often think of Mary, and I seem to see in her a profound and deep symbolism. In some ways she mirrors the whole of the Old Testament, which was pregnant with Jesus at every point. The prophets were filled with the Spirit of Christ (1 Peter 1:11); the old writings witnessed to Him (John 5:39); the Psalms praised Him (Acts 2:29-31; Heb. 1:8); the covenant promises were fulfilled in Him (Heb. 13:20).
The Old Testament, like Mary, anticipated the day when the holy child would appear, no longer a promise but a reality, not a potential but an actual presence. That is why the Old Testament enriches Christian faith and leads us into the heart of the Savior Himself.
I also imagine Mary as a symbol of the church. Her life was the theatre of the Holy Spirit; He overshadowed her (Luke 1:35), so that the angel could report to Joseph: “that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 1:20). The same Holy Spirit is now gifted by the risen Lord to His own people, so that the church now becomes the theatre of the Spirit’s work, glorifying Christ.
The Spirit was the agent through whom Jesus was conceived and His life sustained in the womb; yet all the time it was the baby, not the agent, who was prominent in the thoughts of the mother. In the same way the Spirit is at work in the church, that Christ might be glorified (John 16:14).
Within the fragile body of this young post-resurrection church was a power that would turn the world upside down. Our weak, fragile, delicate Christianity needs to re-discover its potential: there is a power that has impregnated the people of God, which means that the church carries the Savior to a lost generation. God had glory in Mary through Christ for nine months precisely so that He would have glory in the church and in Christ through all generations, according to the power at work within us (Eph. 3:20).
Christ has been formed in us, as we have been begotten in Him. He is in us, the hope of glory (Col. 1:27). This is the great mystery: that as He filled Mary’s womb, so He fills our souls, and we are called to make Him known.
As Christians, we are in Christ and Christ is in us (Rom. 6:8 Gal. 2:20; Col. 3:3). We carry the Savior with us wherever we go, and we must tell others what God has done for us and what God has done in us. We too can sing the Magnificat: “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant…he who is mighty has done great things for me” (Luke 1:46–49).
Could there be a greater resolution for us to make than to tell others of the great things the mighty God has done in our lives?
Dr. Iain D. Campbell was minister of Point Free Church in Isle of Lewis, Scotland, and editor of The Record, the official publication of the Free Church of Scotland.
The Prevailing Church (Pt. 1)
By Simon Kistemaker 12/1/2008
The word church is fundamentally a Christian word and belongs exclusively to Christianity. Although other religions have terms such as synagogue and mosque, only Christians legitimately call their house of worship “church.”
There are churches that are named after places and people, but they can never claim origin or ownership, because Christ owns the church. Actually, Jesus told Simon Peter: “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church” (Matt. 16:18; see also 18:17). The Greek word for church is ekklesia, which means being called out of this world of humanity to form a body of believers that belongs exclusively to Jesus. This is not to say that there is no continuity with God’s people of the Old Testament era. Of course there is. It is better to say that the church consists of a new company of believers guided by the message of both prophets and apostles. In other words, these believers find their origin in both the Old and New Testaments. There is a golden thread that is woven throughout the Scriptures from Genesis to Revelation with this divine message: “I will be your God and you shall be my people.”
The church is universal and exists throughout the world in spite of oppression and persecution. All believers everywhere recite the words of the Apostles’ Creed: “I believe… in the holy catholic (universal) church, the communion of saints.” And that church will remain until this world comes to an end. It received the promise Jesus gave the church as a last word before His ascension: “I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20). Indeed, this is a reassuring promise to every believer. Jesus accompanies us every step on life’s way and during every moment of each day.
In His parting words Jesus said much more to His disciples and to all His followers. He gave the church the words that are known as the Great Commission (vv. 19–20). In effect He said, after you have gone out into the world with the gospel of salvation, you are to make disciples of all nations. He did not intend to say that Jewish apostles had to go out only to fellow Jews living in dispersion but rather that the gospel should be preached to all people worldwide.
Paul, who was called the Apostle to the Gentiles, established churches that admitted both Jews and Gentiles. Indeed, during his first missionary journey he established the churches of Lystra and Derbe in the central part of Turkey, which was completely Gentile. And while Paul was a prisoner in Rome for two years in his own rented house that became a mission headquarters, he sent missionaries throughout the Roman Empire, that is, to the end of the world (Acts 28:28–31; compare 1:8). Similarly, the apostle Thomas went as far as the southwestern coast of India to the state of Kerala. Even today the Christians there bear the name of Saint Thomas in their language, Mar Thoma. Their tradition goes back to the middle of the first century and provides the information that Thomas established seven churches there.
The apostles understood the command of Jesus literally: “make disciples of all nations.” This command is an imperative with continued force. The word disciple is not to be realized by merely making converts, for this term actually means being a learner, that is, one who receives adequate training. It is telling indeed that in the book of Acts, Luke introduces various people with the term disciple. For instance, in Acts 9:10 he identified Ananias of Damascus as a disciple whom Jesus sent as an emissary to Paul. In other words, in the four Gospels the immediate followers of Jesus are known as the twelve disciples. But after Pentecost, these twelve are designated as apostles and new converts become known as disciples.
When Jesus said, “Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:19), He told us to do this by following two steps: first, by baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit; and second, by teaching them to observe all that Jesus commanded. After an initial period of instruction, prospective members are baptized in the name of the triune God and become an essential part of the church that gives them both privileges and duties.
We are in a vital relationship with the triune God, which means that the Father calls us His sons and daughters, that the Son regards us as His brothers and sisters, and that the Holy Spirit dwells within us. There is still more, for Paul mentions that we are heirs and fellow heirs with Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:17). What a source of comfort! This means that any time of day or night we may call on the Father’s name and ask Him to help us with insight, wisdom, and understanding because we are His offspring. We can call on Jesus anytime and anywhere because He is our brother. And we are able to call on the Holy Spirit to fill us with courage and to protect us from evil and harm.
Dr. Simon J. Kistemaker is professor emeritus of New Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida.
The Prevailing Church (pt. 2)
By Simon Kistemaker 1/1/2009
As we saw in last month’s installment of “Pro Ecclesia,” privileges and duties go together. In making disciples, Jesus commanded they be baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and to teach them to observe all that He commanded. The second aspect of this commission (we dealt with the first last month), teaching disciples to obey Jesus, is first and foremost the duty of pastors and teachers — to teach the people the Scriptures and secondly to exhort them to faithfully commit the Word to heart. To put it in simple terms, the people look to their pastor for instruction; they see him as the key person in the church.
It is a fact of life that people come to the worship service usually for only one hour, half of which is taken up by singing and praying. This implies that the second half is for biblical instruction for a period that lasts more or less for thirty minutes. As a result, unless there is diligent Scripture reading at home, a knowledge of the Bible’s content leaves much to be desired. The well-known statistician George Barna conducted a survey of Bible knowledge among American church- goers and came to this conclusion.
It is also quite striking that the aspect of church life that receives the greatest amounts of time, attention, and energy — that of teaching people the content of the Bible — is one of the two areas in which people feel least equipped. The recent trend toward the adoption of technology to help in the teaching of important biblical truths is a welcome addition to the toolbox of our preachers and religious educators. Yet the research still suggests that most people do not feel as if they are learning enough about God, the Christian faith, or their role in the world — and most of them don’t seem to care.
There is more. Last year the successful preacher Bill Hybels, pastor of the Willow Creek Community Church, Note, Willow Creek is what is called a Seeker Sensitive Church. Church is supposed to be about worshipping God. reported that he had failed the twelve thousand members of his mega-church. He acknowledged that he made a mistake in not producing spiritually mature Christians. He reached people by the thousands, but he did not make them disciples. Hybels is not alone. Upon self-examination, pastors agree with him. The goal of every pastor is to equip church members to go into the workaday week with the knowledge of God’s Word and apply it to every facet of life. That is, the one who buys and sells must realize that God’s all-seeing eye always observes every transaction. To put it differently, all of us are always in the presence of God, a concept encapsulated in the Latin coram Deo.
On October 10, 1898, the Dutch theologian and statesman Dr. Abraham Kuyper delivered his Stone Lectures at Princeton Theological Seminary. In them he set out a Christian worldview by stating that there is not so much as the space of a square inch of which Christ has not said, “It is mine.” Therefore, anyone who fills a respectable occupation in life must always be subservient to Jesus in that occupation. Because in Him, so Paul writes, are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Col. 2:3). This means that all life’s facts and figures are the property of Christ.
A distinction must be made between the concept that the church is an organization or an organism. In most organizations individual members are asked to pay annual dues, but when a member at some time fails to contribute the money, his membership is dropped as a matter of fact. This illustrates that an organization is not a living entity, as there is a businesslike approach to membership. By contrast, to say that the church is an organism, we immediately sense that an organism is alive. An organism throbs with life and constantly grows and expands. It takes an all-encompassing approach to life: the rearing of children in a Christian home; the relationship of husband and wife in an atmosphere of love and trust; the guiding and directing of teenagers to live a life that honors God; reaching out to those who are in need and supplying their wants; visiting the sick and the elderly; praying fervently for the coming of God’s kingdom.
In other words, the church is not merely a place where people gather on Sunday morning for an hour or two. It is not merely listening to the pastor’s sermon, which often is forgotten within twenty-four hours. It is taking the Word of God seriously into all the components of everyday life and applying Scripture’s teachings to business and labor, to the relation of medical doctors and patients, to lawyers and their clients, to teachers and students, to the duties of government officials and ordinary citizens, to presidents, prime ministers, and legislators, and to every one of us in respect to those who have been given authority over us.
How then shall we live and look to the future? By trusting the Lord our God and by obeying His precepts. Living with Him day by day spells a future that is bright with radiant glory, for it is God who is leading us along life’s pathway. With the psalmist we say, “Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture” (Ps. 100:3).
Dr. Simon J. Kistemaker is professor emeritus of New Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida.
By Don Carson 1/1/2018
(1) How can you spot a false prophet? The Bible offers several complementary criteria. For instance, in Deuteronomy 18:22 we are told that if an ostensible prophet predicts something and that thing does not take place, the prophet is false. Of course, that criterion does not help very much if what the prophet has predicted is far into the future. Moreover, here in Deuteronomy 13 we are warned that the inverse does not prove the prophet is trustworthy. If what the ostensible prophet predicts takes place, or if he manages to perform some sort of miraculous sign or wonder, another criterion must be brought to bear. Is this prophet’s message enticing people to worship some god other than the Lord who brought the people out of Egypt?
What this criterion presupposes is a thorough grasp of antecedent revelation. You have to know what God has revealed about himself before you can determine whether or not the prophet is leading you to a false god. For the false god may still be given the biblical names of God (as in, say, Mormonism, or the christology of Jehovah’s Witnesses). John’s first epistle offers this same criterion: if what an ostensible prophet (1 John 4:1-6) teaches cannot be squared with what the believers have heard “from the beginning” (1 John 2:7; 2 John 9), it is not of God (so also Paul in Gal. 1:8-9).
(2) Why are false prophets dangerous? Apart from the obvious reason, viz. that they teach false doctrine that leads people astray from the living God and therefore ultimately attracts his judgment, there are two reasons. First, their very description — “false prophet” — discloses the core problem. They profess to speak the word of God, and this can be seductive. If they came along and said, “Let us sin disgustingly,” most would not be attracted. The seduction of false prophecy is its ostensible spirituality and truthfulness. Second, although false prophets may enter a community from outside (e.g., Acts 20:29 — and if it is the “right” outside, this makes them very attractive), they may arise from within the community (e.g., Acts 20:30), as here—for example, a family member (13:6). I know of more than one Christian institution that went bad doctrinally because of nepotism. (3) What should be done about them? Three things. First, recognize that these testing events do not escape the bounds of God’s sovereignty. Allegiance is all the more called for (13:3-4). Second, learn the truth, learn it well, or you will always lack discernment. Third, purge the community of false prophets (a process that takes a different form under the new covenant: e.g., 2 Cor. 10—13; 1 John 4:1-6), or they will gradually win credence and do enormous damage.
Don Carson is research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, and co-founder (with Tim Keller) of The Gospel Coalition. He has authored numerous books, and recently edited The Enduring Authority of the Christian Scriptures (Eerdmans, 2016).Don Carson Books | Go to Books Page
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 61Lead Me to the Rock
61 To The Choirmaster: With Stringed Instruments. Of David.
1 Hear my cry, O God,
listen to my prayer;
2 from the end of the earth I call to you
when my heart is faint.
Lead me to the rock
that is higher than I,
3 for you have been my refuge,
a strong tower against the enemy.
4 Let me dwell in your tent forever!
Let me take refuge under the shelter of your wings! Selah
5 For you, O God, have heard my vows;
you have given me the heritage of those who fear your name.
6 Prolong the life of the king;
may his years endure to all generations!
7 May he be enthroned forever before God;
appoint steadfast love and faithfulness to watch over him!
8 So will I ever sing praises to your name,
as I perform my vows day after day.
ESV Study Bible
The Institutes of the Christian Religion
Translated by Henry Beveridge
15. I here say nothing of the pernicious opinions with which the minds of men are imbued, as that these are sacrifices by which propitiation is made to God, by which sins are expiated, by which righteousness and salvation are procured. It will be maintained that things good in
themselves are not vitiated by errors of this description, since in acts expressly enjoined by God similar errors may be committed. There
is nothing, however, more unbecoming than the fact, that works devised by the will of man are held in such estimation as to be thought worthy
of eternal life. The works commanded by God receive a reward, because the Lawgiver himself accepts of them as marks of obedience. They do
not, therefore, take their value from their own dignity or their own
merit, but because God sets this high value on our obedience toward
him. I am here speaking of that perfection of works which is commanded
by God, but is not performed by men. The works of the law are accepted
merely by the free kindness of God, because the obedience is infirm and
defective. But as we are not here considering how far works avail
without Christ, let us omit that question. I again repeat, as properly
belonging to the present subject, that whatever commendation works
have, they have it in respect of obedience, which alone God regards, as
he testifies by the prophet, "I spake not unto your fathers, nor
commanded them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt,
concerning burnt-offerings or sacrifices: but this thing commanded I
them, saying, Obey my voice " (Jer. 7:22). Of fictitious works he
elsewhere speaks, "Wherefore do you spend your money for that which is
not bread"? (Isa. 55:2; 29:13). Again, "In vain do they worship me,
teaching for doctrines the commandments of men" (Mt. 15:9). They
cannot, therefore, excuse themselves from the charge of allowing
wretched people to seek in these external frivolities a righteousness
which they may present to God, and by which they may stand before the
celestial tribunal. Besides, is it not a fault deservedly stigmatised,
that they exhibit unmeaning ceremonies as a kind of stage-play or
magical incantation? For it is certain that all ceremonies are corrupt
and noxious which do not direct men to Christ. But the ceremonies in
use in the Papacy are separated from doctrine, so that they confine men
to signs altogether devoid of meaning. Lastly (as the belly is an
ingenious contriver), it is clear, that many of their ceremonies have
been invented by greedy priests as lures for catching money. But
whatever be their origin, they are all so prostituted to filthy lucre,
that a great part of them must be rescinded if we would prevent a
profane and sacrilegious traffic from being carried on in the Church.
16. Although I seem not to be delivering the general doctrine concerning human constitutions, but adapting my discourse wholly to our own age, yet nothing has been said which may not be useful to all ages. For whenever men begin the superstitious practice of worshipping God with their own fictions, all the laws enacted for this purpose forthwith degenerate into those gross abuses. For the curse which God denounces--viz. to strike those who worship him with the doctrines of men with stupor and blindness--is not confined to any one age, but applies to all ages. The uniform result of this blindness is, that there is no kind of absurdity escaped by those who, despising the many admonitions of God, spontaneously entangle themselves in these deadly fetters. But if, without any regard to circumstances, you would simply know the character belonging at all times to those human traditions which ought to be repudiated by the Church, and condemned by all the godly,  the definition which we formerly gave is clear and certain--viz. That they include all the laws enacted by men, without authority from the word of God, for the purpose either of prescribing the mode of divine worship, or laying a religious obligation on the conscience, as enjoining things necessary to salvation. If to one or both of these are added the other evils of obscuring the clearness of the Gospel by their multitude, of giving no edification, of being useless and frivolous occupations rather than true exercises of piety, of being set up for sordid ends and filthy lucre, of being difficult of observance, and contaminated by pernicious superstitions, we shall have the means of detecting the quantity of mischief which they occasion.
17. I understand what their answer will be--viz. that these traditions are not from themselves, but from God. For to prevent the Church from erring, it is guided by the Holy Spirit, whose authority resides in them. This being conceded, it at the same time follows, that their traditions are revelations by the Holy Spirit, and cannot be disregarded without impiety and contempt of God. And that they may not seem to have attempted anything without high authority, they will have it to be believed that a great part of their observances is derived from the apostles. For they contend, that in one instance they have a sufficient proof of what the apostles did in other cases. The instance is, when the apostles assembled in council, announced to all the Gentiles as the opinion of the council, that they should "abstain from pollution of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood" (Acts 15:20, 29). We have already explained, how, in order to extol themselves, they falsely assume the name of Church (Chap. 8 sec. 10-13). If, in regard to the present cause, we remove all masks and glosses (a thing, indeed, which ought to be our first care, and also is our highest interest), and consider what kind of Church Christ wishes to have, that we may form and adapt ourselves to it as a standard, it will readily appear that it is not a property of the Church to disregard the limits of the word of God, and wanton and luxuriate in enacting new laws. Does not the law which was once given to the Church endure for ever? "What things soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it" (Deut. 12:32). And in another place, "Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar" (Prov. 30:6). Since they cannot deny that this was said to the Church, what else do they proclaim but their contumacy, when, notwithstanding of such prohibitions, they profess to add to the doctrine of God, and dare to intermingle their own with it? Far be it from us to assent to the falsehood by which they offer such insult to the Church. Let us understand that the name of Church is falsely pretended wherever men contend for that rash human licence which cannot confine itself within the boundaries prescribed by the word of God, but petulantly breaks out, and has recourse to its own inventions. In the above passage there is nothing involved, nothing obscure, nothing ambiguous; the whole Church is forbidden to add to, or take from the word of God, in relation to his worship and salutary precepts. But that was said merely of the Law, which was succeeded by the Prophets and the whole Gospel dispensation! This I admit, but I at the same time add, that these are fulfilments of the Law, rather than additions or diminutions. Now, if the Lord does not permit anything to be added to, or taken from the ministry of Moses, though wrapt up, if I may so speak, in many folds of obscurity, until he furnish a clearer doctrine by his servants the Prophets, and at last by his beloved Son, why should we not suppose that we are much more strictly prohibited from making any addition to the Law, the Prophets, the Psalms, and the Gospel? The Lord cannot forget himself, and it is long since he declared that nothing is so offensive to him as to be worshipped by human inventions. Hence those celebrated declarations of the Prophets, which ought continually to ring in our ears, "I spake not unto your fathers, nor commanded them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt-offerings or sacrifices; but this thing commanded I them, saying, Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and ye shall be my people: and walk ye in all the ways that I have commanded you" (Jer. 7:22, 23). "I earnestly protested unto your fathers, in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, even unto this day, rising early and protesting, saying, Obey my voice" (Jer. 11:7). There are other passages of the same kind, but the most noted of all is, "Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt-offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry" (1 Sam. 15: 22, 23). It is easy, therefore, to prove, that whenever human inventions in this respect are defended by the authority of the Church, they cannot be vindicated from the charge of impiety, and that the name of Church is falsely assumed.
18. For this reason we freely inveigh against that tyranny of human traditions which is haughtily obtruded upon us in the name of the Church. Nor do we hold the Church in derision (as our adversaries, for the purpose of producing obloquy, unjustly accuse us), but we attribute to her the praise of obedience, than which there is none which she acknowledges to be greater. They themselves rather are emphatically injurious to the Church, in representing her as contumacious to her Lord, when they pretend that she goes farther than the word of God allows, to say nothing of their combined impudence and malice, in continually vociferating about the power of the Church, while they meanwhile disguise both the command which the Lord has given her, and the obedience which she owes to the command. But if our wish is as it ought to be, to agree with the Church, it is of more consequence to consider and remember the injunction which the Lord has given both to us and to the Church, to obey him with one consent. For there can be no doubt that we shall best agree with the Church when we show ourselves obedient to the Lord in all things. But to ascribe the origin of the traditions by which the Church has hitherto been oppressed to the apostles is mere imposition, since the whole substance of the doctrine of the apostles is, that conscience must not be burdened with new observances, nor the worship of God contaminated by our inventions. Then, if any credit is to be given to ancient histories and records, what they attribute to the apostles was not only unknown to them, but was never heard by them. Nor let them pretend that most of their decrees, though not delivered in writing, were received by use and practice, being things which they could not understand while Christ was in the world, but which they learned after his ascension, by the revelation of the Holy Spirit. The meaning of that passage has been explained elsewhere (Chap. 8 sec. 14). In regard to the present question, they make themselves truly ridiculous, seeing it is manifest that all those mysteries which so long were undiscovered by the apostles, are partly Jewish or Gentile observances, the former of which had anciently been promulgated among the Jews, and the latter among all the Gentiles, partly absurd gesticulations and empty ceremonies, which stupid priests, who have neither sense nor letters, can duly perform; nay, which children and mountebanks perform so appropriately, that it seems impossible to have fitter priests for such sacrifices. If there were no records, men of sense would judge from the very nature of the case, that such a mass of rites and observances did not rush into the Church all at once, but crept in gradually. For though the venerable bishops, who were nearest in time to the apostles, introduced some things pertaining to order and discipline, those who came after them, and those after them again, had not enough of consideration, while they had too much curiosity and cupidity, he who came last always vying in foolish emulation with his predecessors, so as not to be surpassed in the invention of novelties. And because there was a danger that these inventions, from which they anticipated praise from posterity, might soon become obsolete, they were much more rigorous in insisting on the observance of them. This false zeal has produced a great part of the rites which these men represent as apostolical. This history attests.
19. And not to become prolix, by giving a catalogue of all, we shall be contented with one example. Under the apostles there was great simplicity in administering the Lord's Supper. Their immediate successors made some additions to the dignity of the ordinance, which are not to be disapproved. Afterwards came foolish imitators, who, by ever and anon patching various fragments together, have left us those sacerdotal vestments which we see in the mass, those altar ornaments, those gesticulations, and whole farrago of useless observances.  But they object, that in old time the persuasion was, that those things which were done with the consent of the whole Church proceeded from the apostles. Of this they quote Augustine as a witness. I will give the explanation in the very words of Augustine. "Those things which are observed over the whole world we may understand to have been appointed either by the apostles themselves, or by general councils, whose authority in the Church is most beneficial, as the annual solemn celebration of our Lord's passion, resurrection, and ascension to heaven, and of the descent of the Holy Spirit, and any other occurrence observed by the whole Church wherever it exists" (August. Ep. 118). In giving so few examples, who sees not that he meant to refer the observances then in use to authors deserving of faith and reverence;--observances few and sober, by which it was expedient that the order of the Church should be maintained? How widely does this differ from the view of our Roman masters, who insist that there is no paltry ceremony among them which is not apostolical?
20. Not to be tedious, I will give only one example. Should any one ask them where they get their holy water, they will at once answer,--from the apostles. As if I did not know who the Roman bishop is, to whom history ascribes the invention, and who, if he had admitted the apostles to his council, assuredly never would have adulterated baptism by a foreign and unseasonable symbol; although it does not seem probable to me that the origin of that consecration is so ancient as is there recorded. For when Augustine says (Ep. 118) that certain churches in his day rejected the formal imitation of Christ in the washing of feet, lest that rite should seem to pertain to baptism, he intimates that there was then no kind of washing which had any resemblance to baptism. Be this as it may, I will never admit that the apostolic spirit gave rise to that daily sign by which baptism, while brought back to remembrance, is in a manner repeated. I attach no importance to the fact, that Augustine elsewhere ascribes other things to the apostles. For as he has nothing better than conjecture, it is not sufficient for forming a judgment concerning a matter of so much moment. Lastly, though we should grant that the things which he mentions are derived from the apostolic age, there is a great difference between instituting some exercise of piety, which believers may use with a free conscience, or may abstain from if they think the observance not to be useful, and enacting a law which brings the conscience into bondage. Now, indeed, whoever is the author from whom they are derived, since we see the great abuses to which they have led, there is nothing to prevent us from abrogating them without any imputation on him, since he never recommended them in such a way as to lay us under a fixed and immovable obligation to observe them.
21. It gives them no great help, in defending their tyranny, to pretend the example of the apostles. The apostles and elders of the primitive Church, according to them, sanctioned a decree without any authority from Christ, by which they commanded all the Gentiles to abstain from meat offered to idols, from things strangled, and from blood (Acts 15:20). If this was lawful for them, why should not their successors be allowed to imitate the example as often as occasion requires? Would that they would always imitate them both in this and in other matters! For I am ready to prove, on valid grounds, that here nothing new has been instituted or decreed by the apostles. For when Peter declares in that council, that God is tempted if a yoke is laid on the necks of the disciples, he overthrows his own argument if he afterwards allows a yoke to be imposed on them. But it is imposed if the apostles, on their own authority, prohibit the Gentiles from touching meat offered to idols, things strangled, and blood. The difficulty still remains, that they seem nevertheless to prohibit them. But this will easily be removed by attending more closely to the meaning of their decree. The first thing in order, and the chief thing in importance, is, that the Gentiles were to retain their liberty, which was not to be disturbed, and that they were not to be annoyed with the observances of the Law. As yet, the decree is all in our favour. The reservation which immediately follows is not a new law enacted by the apostles, but a divine and eternal command of God against the violation of charity, which does not detract one iota from that liberty. It only reminds the Gentiles how they are to accommodate themselves to their brother, and to not abuse their liberty for an occasion of offence. Let the second head, therefore, be, that the Gentiles are to use an innoxious liberty, giving no offence to the brethren. Still, however, they prescribe some certain thing--viz. they show and point out, as was expedient at the time, what those things are by which they may give offence to their brethren, that they may avoid them; but they add no novelty of their own to the eternal law of God, which forbids the offence of brethren.
Christian Classics Ethereal Library / Public Domain
Institutes of the Christian Religion
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
4/1/2011 The Christ of the Old and New
We have all heard the ancient maxim about the relationship between the Old and New Testaments: “The new is in the old concealed, and the old is in the new revealed.” While the words concealed and revealed do not entirely accurately describe the relationship between the testaments, they do help us grasp the fundamental truth that the New Testament is found in seed form throughout the pages of the Old Testament and that the Old Testament blossoms forth as a flower in the New Testament.
Nevertheless, the New Testament is called the “New Testament” for the simple reason that it is, in fact, new. It is new revelation, not merely commentary on previous revelation. It is not simply a collection of apostolic reflections on the Old Testament from the first century. In real space and real time, in the history of God’s redemption of His people and by His superintendence of His appointed, sinful, human authors, God revealed to us His new testament, accompanying our long-awaited Messiah and His promised kingdom. However, it’s not as if the coming of the Christ and the continued revelation of God was a surprise to those who understood the Old Testament and, more importantly, the God of the Old Testament.
On nearly every page of the New Testament, God sovereignly reminds us that everything He has done, is doing, and will do is in accordance with the Scriptures of the Old Testament. The common refrain of the New Testament, “according to the Scriptures,” is by no means to be taken lightly but is to drive us over and over again to behold the faithfulness of God, the trustworthiness of His revelation, and the beautiful harmony of the testaments as God shows forth His sovereignly woven scarlet thread of redemption from creation to glorification, all according to the covenant of redemption of our triune God. In each of the three portions of the Old Testament — the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings — the Lord majestically sets forth that which Jesus Himself set forth when He was with the two men on the road to Emmaus interpreting to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.
That doesn’t mean, however, that Jesus is hiding under every stone in the Old Testament, nor does it mean that we need to overturn every stone in our pursuit to find Him at the cost of sound exegesis. Nevertheless, it does mean that every stone points to Christ and beckons us to examine the manifold ways in which Christ is in the foreground and background of the landscape of every stone in all the Scriptures, by God’s sovereign orchestration and for our redemption in Christ, who is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
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Dr. Burk Parsons (@BurkParsons) is editor of Tabletalk magazine, senior pastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., a visiting lecturer at Reformed Theological Seminary, and a Ligonier Ministries teaching fellow. He is editor of John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, and Doxology.
Ligonier coram Deo (definition)
by Bill Federer
Withholding taxes from people's paychecks began this day, June 9, 1943. Congress passed it as an emergency measure to get money to fight Hitler. The idea came from Beardsley Ruml, treasurer of Macy's and chairman of New York's Federal Reserve Bank. He called it the "pay-as-you-go" tax. So much money came in with so few complaints that it was continued after the war. But Americans weren't always taxed. In 1830, President Andrew Jackson wrote: "Through the favor of… Providence our country is blessed with… prosperity and our citizens exempted from the pressure of taxation."
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
I believe in God;
I just don't trust anyone who works for him.
--- Author Unknown
The Evolution of God (Back Bay Readers' Pick)
God will not look you over for medals, degrees, or diplomas,
but for scars.
--- Elbert Hubbard
Writing Out the Storm: Reading and Writing Your Way Through Serious Illness or Injury
The busier we are, the more important we seem to ourselves and, we imagine, to others. To be unavailable to our friends and family, to be unable to find time for the sunset (or even to know that the sun has set at all), to whiz through our obligations without time for a single mindful breath, this has become the model of a successful life.
--- Wayne Muller
Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in Our Busy Lives
Yea, Amen! Let all adore thee,
High on thine eternal throne;
Saviour, take the power and glory:
Claim the Kingdom for thine own:
O come quickly!
Alleluia! Come, Lord, Come!
--- Charles Wesley
... from here, there and everywhere
CHAPTER 6 / “The Lord Is One”:
All and Only
Some of these interpretations follow the Talmud’s lead in focusing on divine omnipresence: God’s unity suffuses all of space so that, in the words of the Zohar, let atar panui mineih, “there is no place that is without Him”—above, below, indeed everywhere. No place is without God—but what of time? Does God fill all eternity as well?
Rav Kook8 infers this aspect from our talmudic passage. Apparently following Rashi rather than Talmidei R. Yonah in limiting the entire talmudic meditation to the dalet, the last syllable of ẹhad, he locates an interpretive vacuum in the Talmud’s exhortation, “as long as he does not slur over the ḥet.” What, if anything, must we bear in mind while reciting that first syllable? Rav Kook’s answer is that ḥet, the eighth letter of the Hebrew alphabet (with the numerical value of eight), represents the seven days of the week—a human cycle of time—and “what is above it,” i.e., seven plus one. Thus, eight is a symbol of eternity. Therefore, for Rav Kook, the ḥet represents God’s unity throughout all time: both mundane time and eternity. The unity of God, then, not only encompasses all space, but all time as well: God is One both in our time and beyond all time.9
We now turn to three cases, all found in the prayer book, where the Shema is placed in eschatological contexts. In the daily Morning service, after the recitation of the Song at the Red Sea (Exod. 15:1–20), the section concludes with our verse from Zechariah, “And the Lord will be king over all the earth,” etc. In some versions, this is followed by: “And in Your Torah it is written, Hear O Israel, the Lord is your God, the Lord is one.” This same passage is often appended as well to the Alenu prayer that marks the formal end of every service. So, too, at the end of Malkhuyot (Kings), the first of the three major sections of the Rosh Hashanah Musaf service, this same passage concludes a sequence of verses on the theme of divine sovereignty10—again, suggesting an intimate bond between the Shema’s proclamation of divine unity and Judaism’s eschatological vision.
In particular, the two paragraphs of the Alenu prayer encapsulate the two interpretations of divine unity in the Shema: the comprehensive and the eschatological.
The first paragraph, Alenu le’shabe’aḥ, expresses in spirit the talmudic view: God is the exclusive One to whom all praise is due and who “abides” everywhere: “in heaven above and earth below.” Although it does not explicitly deny an eschatological vision, it makes almost no mention of the other (pagan) nations of the world or their ultimate fate except in a negative sense: “for He has not made us like unto them,” etc. Rather than project its vision into the future, it focuses on God’s comprehensive unity here and now.
In contrast, the second part of the prayer, Al ken nekaveh, emphasizes the themes we have associated with the Sifre: an eschatological, universalist vision of the End of Days when idolatry and paganism will be banished and all humans will turn to God, and the divine kingdom will exercise exclusive control over all the universe. Furthermore, we find an explicit link to the very heart of the Shema through the notion of kabbalat ‘ol malkhut shamayim, “the acceptance of the yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven,” for the paragraph with the key verse of Zechariah, “And the Lord will be king over all the earth,” etc.
Thus, just as the universalist and particularist emphases, reflected both in the two divine Names in the Shema as well as in the two blessings preceding it, are complementary to each other rather than in conflict, so too with the two rabbinic meditations suggested as appropriate when reciting the first verse of the Shema as well as the two paragraphs of Alenu and Al ken nekaveh: whether we contemplate God’s sovereignty in the context of infinite space and time or in the context of the End of Days, we are still rendering homage to the One.
Only: The Exclusivist Interpretation
A number of Rishonim—Rashbam, Ibn Ezra, and Albo among others—offer yet a third and the most concise definition of eḥad. God is one in the sense of levado: He alone is God. A later authority, Shadal (R. Samuel David Luzzatto, nineteenth-century Italy), connects this particular interpretation to the following verse: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your might.” That is, because Y-H-V-H is the only God, therefore you shall love Him with all your heart and soul and might. You do not have to share that love for Him with other gods. The well-known neo-Kantian philosopher, Hermann Cohen, presents an even more intense form of this same concept of eḥad as “the one and only” Deity. Cohen translates God’s oneness as Einzigkeit (uniqueness) rather than as Einheit (oneness).11
One of the earliest sources to suggest this exclusivist definition of eḥad is the Mekhilta, an ancient midrash on the Book of Exodus (Ba-ḥodesh, 5). On the opening words of the Ten Commandments, “I am the Lord your God,” the Mekhilta comments that these words were proclaimed in order to discredit polytheism. For though God appears in different guises, He remains the One and Only God. Thus, “ ‘I am the Lord your God’—the same One who was in Egypt, at the Red Sea, at Sinai, in the past and in the future, in this world and in the world-to-come.” The Mekhilta concludes by invoking a verse from Isaiah (44:6), “Thus says the Lord king of Israel and its Redeemer, the Lord of hosts, ‘I am first and I am last and besides Me there is no god.’ ”
(2) We also find support for this exclusivist interpretation of divine unity in the term yiḥud Hashem, commonly translated as God’s unification. Why yiḥud and not aḥdut, “unity,” from the word eḥad? Setting aside the more mystical teachings of the Kabbalists regarding yiḥud Hashem, we can draw a convincing parallel from the paradigm of human marriage. The Talmud (Kiddushin 6a), discussing the laws concerning the key word mekudeshet in the conventional marriage formula, harei at mekudeshet li, “you are hereby betrothed (mekudeshet) to me,” asks: which synonyms of this word are valid and which are invalid for use in betrothal? One of the terms considered is meyuḥedet, a transitive verbal form of yiḥud. Since meyuḥedet, like mekudeshet, denotes setting aside or designating for a special purpose, is it a legally proper term for effecting marriage?12
Although the Talmud fails to resolve this question conclusively, it is significant that the term meyuḥedet is proposed as the equivalent of mekudeshet. Now, since the husband designates his wife as meyuchedet (set aside for him), he thereby becomes her yaḥid, her only beloved. In the essential structure of the Halakha, polygamy is not considered adultery and was banned by special edict for Ashkenazi communities only about a thousand years ago; polyandry has never been permitted. So too, yiḥud Hashem means not only that we set God for us, but that we submit to being set aside by Him, that we participate existentially in the acknowledgment of his aḥdut, His exclusive claim on us.
Thus, yiḥud Hashem is the human component of aḥdut Hashem.
The Shema: Spirituality and Law in Judaism
Thanks to Meir Yona
5. By this means Herod subdued these caves, and the robbers that were in them. He then left there a part of his army, as many as he thought sufficient to prevent any sedition, and made Ptolemy their general, and returned to Samaria; he led also with him three thousand armed footmen, and six hundred horsemen, against Antigonus. Now here those that used to raise tumults in Galilee, having liberty so to do upon his departure, fell unexpectedly upon Ptolemy, the general of his forces, and slew him; they also laid the country waste, and then retired to the bogs, and to places not easily to be found. But when Herod was informed of this insurrection, he came to the assistance of the country immediately, and destroyed a great number of the seditions, and raised the sieges of all those fortresses they had besieged; he also exacted the tribute of a hundred talents of his enemies, as a penalty for the mutations they had made in the country.
6. By this time [the Parthians being already driven out of the country, and Pacorus slain] Ventidius, by Antony's command, sent a thousand horsemen, and two legions, as auxiliaries to Herod, against Antigonus. Now Antigonus besought Machaerus, who was their general, by letter, to come to his assistance, and made a great many mournful complaints about Herod's violence, and about the injuries he did to the kingdom; and promised to give him money for such his assistance; but he complied not with his invitation to betray his trust, for he did not contemn him that sent him, especially while Herod gave him more money [than the other offered]. So he pretended friendship to Antigonus, but came as a spy to discover his affairs; although he did not herein comply with Herod, who dissuaded him from so doing. But Antigonus perceived what his intentions were beforehand, and excluded him out of the city, and defended himself against him as against an enemy, from the walls; till Machaerus was ashamed of what he had done, and retired to Emmaus to Herod; and as he was in a rage at his disappointment, he slew all the Jews whom he met with, without sparing those that were for Herod, but using them all as if they were for Antigonus.
7. Hereupon Herod was very angry at him, and was going to fight against Machaerus as his enemy; but he restrained his indignation, and marched to Antony to accuse Machaerus of maladministration. But Machaerus was made sensible of his offenses, and followed after the king immediately, and earnestly begged and obtained that he would be reconciled to him. However, Herod did not desist from his resolution of going to Antony; but when he heard that he was besieging Samosata 25 with a great army, which is a strong city near to Euphrates, he made the greater haste; as observing that this was a proper opportunity for showing at once his courage, and for doing what would greatly oblige Antony. Indeed, when he came, he soon made an end of that siege, and slew a great number of the barbarians, and took from them a large prey; insomuch that Antony, who admired his courage formerly, did now admire it still more. Accordingly, he heaped many more honors upon him, and gave him more assured hopes that he should gain his kingdom; and now king Antiochus was forced to deliver up Samosata.
The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Wars of the Jews or History of the Destruction of Jerusalem, by Flavius Josephus Translator: William Whiston
The War of the Jews: The History of the Destruction of Jerusalem (complete edition, 7 books)
by D.H. Stern
3 A person’s own folly is what ruins his way,
but he rages in his heart against ADONAI.
4 Wealth brings in many friends,
but the poor man loses the one friend he has.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
The next best thing to do
Ask if you have not Received. For everyone that asketh receiveth. --- Luke 11:10.
There is nothing more difficult than to ask. We will long and desire and crave and suffer, but not until we are at the extreme limit will we ask. A sense of unreality makes us ask. Have you ever asked out of the depths of moral poverty? “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God …” but be sure that you do lack wisdom. You cannot bring yourself up against Reality when you like. The next best thing to do if you are not spiritually real, is to ask God for the Holy Spirit on the word of Jesus Christ (see Luke 11:13). The Holy Spirit is the One Who makes real in you all that Jesus did for you.
“For every one that asketh receiveth.” This does not mean you will not get if you do not ask (cf. Mat. 5:45), but until you get to the point of asking you won’t receive from God. To receive means you have come into the relationship of a child of God, and now you perceive with intelligent and moral appreciation and spiritual understanding that these things come from God.
“If any of you lack wisdom …” If you realize you are lacking, it is because you have come in contact with spiritual reality; do not put your reasonable blinkers on again. People say—Preach us the simple Gospel: don’t tell us we have to be holy, because that produces a sense of abject poverty, and it is not nice to feel abjectly poor. “Ask” means beg. Some people are poor enough to be interested in their poverty, and some of us are like that spiritually. We will never receive if we ask with an end in view; if we ask, not out of our poverty but out of our lust. A pauper does not ask from any other reason than the abject panging condition of his poverty, he is not ashamed to beg. Blessed are the paupers in spirit.
My Utmost for His Highest
the Poetry of RS Thomas
Often I try
To analyze the quality
Of its silences. Is this where God hides
From my searching? I have stopped to listen,
After the few people have gone,
To the air recomposing itself
For vigil. It has waited like this
Since the stones grouped themselves about it.
These are the hard ribs
Of a body that our prayers have failed
To animate. Shadows advance
From their corners to take possession
Of places the light held
For an hour. The bats resume
Their business. The uneasiness of the pews
Ceases. There is no other sound
In the darkness but the sound of a man
Breathing, testing his faith
On emptiness, nailing his questions
One by one to an untenanted cross.
Collected Poems : R S Thomas
What Is Midrash?
The word Midrash derives from the Hebrew root ד־ר־ש/d-r-sh, which means "to search," "to examine," or "to investigate." Midrash can refer to several things:
• the literary techniques used by the Rabbis to search the
Bible for hidden or deeper meaning (wordplays and
gematria [Hebrew numerology] are just two of the many
methods of Midrash utilized by the Rabbis);
• the literary product that resulted from such readings
and interpretations (the Rabbi began his sermon by
quoting Rabbi Avdimi's Midrash on the giving of the
• a collection of such interpretations (Midrash Shir HaShirim
Rabbah is a book containing Rabbinic commentaries
on the biblical Song of Songs).
"The term D'rash (from the same Hebrew root) is often used—as it is in this book—to denote a short interpretive piece that is based on a sacred text.
"In one sense, the process of Midrash began the very first time the Torah was read. In the legal sections, there were always questions about just exactly what the text meant and what was expected of the listener or reader. In the Ten Commandments, for example, we are told "You shall not murder." At first, that law seems pretty clear. But upon further reflection, we realize that many questions might arise: Is self-defense included in the prohibition? Is suicide? What about warfare? The Rabbinic discussions and answers to such legal questions constitute what is known as מִדְרָשׁ הֲלָכָה/Midrash Halakhah.
"In the narrative portions of the Bible, on the other hand, there was always a curiosity about what was left out of the story. A classic case is the story of Abraham's life, which begins in the Book of Genesis when he was seventy-five years old. We can't help but wonder about his childhood, youth, and middle age, and about how he came to be the person who influenced so much of world religion. The famous tale of how a young Abraham smashed the idols in his father's shop (brought as a Midrash text in this volume) is a response to the desire of the reader to have more information. In addition, Midrash often attempts to smooth over a textual oddity or harmonize contradictory texts. These stories passed down by the Rabbis are known as מִדְרָשׁ אַגָּדָה/Midrash Aggadah.
"The process of interpretation, which culminates in the midrashic literature, begins in the Bible itself. The entire Book of Deuteronomy is really an explication of the Genesis–Numbers narrative. In Deuteronomy, Moses not only reviews Jewish history but also expands upon it. Thus, the Bible contains the first seeds of its own commentary, with later books often expanding on ideas contained in the Torah. Once the Bible was in its final form, the process of discussions and explanations, which we now call Midrash, began. Readers of the Bible always searched for meaning much as we do today.
"It is impossible to know for certain when these midrashim (plural of Midrash) were first taught, first written down, first collected, and first edited. Some traditionalists believe that the midrashim are part of the תּוֹרָה שֶׁבְּעַל פֶּה/Torah she-b'al peh, "the Oral Torah," given by God to Moses at Mount Sinai along with the תּוֹרָה שֶׁבִּכְתָב/Torah she-bi-khetav, "the Written Torah"; they were then transmitted orally from generation to generation until they were finally committed to writing so that they would not be lost. Modernists, on the other hand, say that the Midrash is the literary product of brilliant teachers and creative, imaginative writers who lived over several centuries.
"One of the earliest midrashic texts is familiar to many of us: it is the Haggadah used at the Passover seder. The central portion of the traditional Haggadah is actually a lengthy interpretation of four verses from the Bible, Deuteronomy 26:5–8. These sentences speak of the Israelites' bondage in Egypt and God's rescuing them from their oppression. The Rabbis, in their midrashim, elaborate on the brief tale and flesh out the story of slavery and liberation. A well-known passage (though puzzling to many readers) has Rabbi Yosé ha-G'lili, Rabbi Elazar, and Rabbi Akiva debating how many plagues afflicted the Egyptians at the sea. Their answers—50, 200, and 250—are derived in classic midrashic style by careful scrutiny of other biblical verses. The point of this Midrash might have been to showcase God's great power and to tell the reader that the punishment that befell the enemies of the Israelites was even greater than imagined. This was a theme that may have touched a chord among the Jews living under Roman persecution.
Searching for Meaning in Midrash: Lessons for Everyday Living
W. W. Wiersbe
"Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just."
Thomas Jefferson wrote those words about the United States of America, and as the Prophet Hosea surveyed the kingdom of Israel, he would have agreed. From his bitter experience with his wife, Hosea knew that sin not only breaks the heart of God, but also offends the holiness of God, for "righteousness and justice are the foundation of [His] throne" (Ps. 89:14, NKJV).
God wanted to forgive the sins of His people and restore their fellowship with Him, but they weren't ready. They not only would not repent, they wouldn't even admit that they had sinned! So God conducted a trial and brought them to the bar of justice. It's a basic spiritual principle that until people experience the guilt of conviction, they can't enjoy the glory of conversion.
1. God Convenes the Court (Hosea 4:1–5:15)
Just as Hosea had experienced a quarrel with his wife, so God had a quarrel with His estranged wife, the people of Israel. But it wasn't a personal quarrel; it was an official controversy: "The Lord has a charge to bring against you who live in the land" (4:1, NIV). The picture of God bringing men and nations to trial in His courtroom is a familiar one in Scripture (see Isa. 1:13; Jer. 2:9, 29; 25:31; Micah 6:2; Rom. 3:19). "Rise up, O Judge of the earth; pay back to the proud what they deserve" (Ps. 94:2, NIV).
The Judge read the charges to the accused as they stood before him.
The nation as a whole (Hosea 4:1b–3). The basis for judgment was the holy law of God, the covenant God made with Israel at Mt. Sinai. "All that the Lord has spoken we will do," was their promise (Ex. 19:8), but that promise was soon broken. Just as Gomer didn't take her marriage vows seriously but went to live with another man, so Israel reneged on her promises to God and turned to pagan idols. There was no faithfulness (truth) in the land, no loyal love to the Lord.
When people reject God's covenant, they begin to exploit each other, for the Ten Commandments deal with our relationship with our neighbor as well as with the Lord. If we love the Lord, we will also love our neighbor (Matt. 22:34–40; Rom. 13:8–10). But there was no mercy in the land, no love for one's neighbor, no compassion for the poor and needy. People were falsehearted toward God and hardhearted toward one another.
The basic sin was ignorance; there was "no knowledge of God in the land." "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge" (Hosea 4:6).1 This means much more than knowledge about God; it refers to a personal knowledge of God. The Hebrew word describes a husband's most intimate relationship with his wife (Gen. 4:1; 19:8). To know God is to have a personal relationship with Him through faith in Jesus Christ (John 17:3).
The Judge pointed to the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20:1–17) and reminded the people of how they had violated His law by pronouncing curses, telling lies, murdering, stealing, and committing adultery. As a result, they had brought suffering to themselves, to the land, and even to the animals. God's covenant promise was that He would bless the land if the people obeyed Him, but that He would punish the land if they disobeyed (Lev. 26; Deut. 27–28).
The land belonged to God (Lev. 25:23) and the sins of the people polluted the land (18:25–28; 26:32–33). Natural calamities like droughts, famines, and the devastations of war were sometimes sent by God to discipline His people. Whether to bless or to judge, God always keeps His covenant promises. (Compare Hosea 4:3 with Genesis 9:8–11 and Revelation 4:7–11 and you will see that God takes seriously His covenant with creation. He will one day judge those who destroy the earth (Rev. 11:18). The basis for ecology is not politics or comfort but the holy law of God. We are stewards of God's creation.)
The priests (Hosea 4:4–14). When Jeroboam I set up his own religious system in Israel, many of the true priests fled to Judah; so the king ordained priests of his own choosing (2 Chron. 11:13–15). Of course, these counterfeit priests knew neither the Lord nor His law. They were primarily interested in having an easy job that would provide them with food, clothing, and pleasure, especially opportunities to be with the shrine prostitutes. "Don't blame the people for what's happening," Hosea said to the corrupt priests, "because they're only following your bad example!"
When you obey God's word, you walk in the light and don't stumble (Prov. 3:21–26; 4:14–19), but when you reject the Word, you walk in the darkness and can't find your way (Isa. 8:20). Worldly and ignorant spiritual leaders produce worldly and ignorant people, and this brings destruction to the land. The phrase "your mother" in Hosea 4:5 refers to the nation of Israel (2:2, 5). As goes spiritual leadership, so goes the church; as goes the church, so goes morality; and as goes morality, so goes the nation. God's people are both salt and light in society (Matt. 5:13–16); when they are corrupt, society becomes corrupt.
God rejected Jeroboam's man-made religion (Jesus said to the Samaritan woman at Jacob's well, "You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews" (John 4:22, NKJV). So much for the Samaritan religion or for any other man-made system of worship!) and warned the priests that their easy jobs would soon end in disaster. Instead of seeking God's will, they consulted their idols. ("A stick of wood" (Hosea 4:12, NIV; KJV, "their staff") may refer to the idol or to the heathen practice called rhabdomancy. (The Greek word rhabdos means "a rod.") The priest drew a circle on the ground and divided it into sections, with each section assigned a meaning. A rod was held in the center and then allowed to fall, and where it fell revealed the future.) The more the people sinned, the more food the priests enjoyed. The more shrines the people built, the more they and the priests could indulge in lustful pleasures as they participated in the fertility rites. But the rites wouldn't accomplish anything, because God would cause the population and the produce to decrease instead of increase. Furthermore, the priests' own daughters and daughters-in-law would become shrine prostitutes and commit adultery!(Hosea 4:14 is a clear statement that God expects sexual purity and marital faithfulness from both men and women. In Israel, the men often got away with their sexual sins while the women were punished. See Genesis 38 and John 8 for tragic examples of an unbiblical one-sided morality. Where was the man who assisted the woman in committing adultery? Wasn't he also supposed to be punished? See Leviticus 20:10 and Deuteronomy 22:22.) Their sins would bring judgment to their families and to the land.
The spectators in the court (Hosea 4:15–19). Now the prophet turns to the people of the Southern Kingdom of Judah who were carefully watching events in Israel. Hosea's warning is clear: don't meddle in the affairs of Israel because their doom is sure! "Ephraim is joined to idols: let him alone" (v. 17). The people of Judah were supposed to worship in Jerusalem and not go to the hill shrines in Israel or to the special shrines at Gilgal (At one time, Gilgal was a sacred place where the Word of God was taught (2 Kings 2:1; 4:38). How quickly religious institutions can drift from their mooring and abandon the faith!) and Bethel. (Hosea calls Bethel "Bethaven," which means "house of evil or deceit." Bethel means "house of God.") Israel was like a stubborn heifer, not a submissive lamb; and God's whirlwind of judgment would sweep the kingdom away.
Priests, rulers, and people (Hosea 5:1–7). This is a summation of the evidence that the Judge applied to all the accused. He condemned the leaders for trapping innocent people and exploiting them. There was no justice in the land. They were sinking deep in sin and lacked the power to repent and turn back to God, for their sins had paralyzed them.
God is love and promises to forgive and restore all who repent and return to Him. He promises to bless all who trust him.
What was the cause? They did not know the Lord
(5:4; 6:3) and their arrogance only led them to stumble and fall (5:5; Prov. 16:18). Even if they came to the Lord with entire flocks and herds to sacrifice, God would not meet them; for He had withdrawn Himself from them. He rejected their illegitimate children,(This may mean literal illegitimate children because of sexual promiscuity or children who were not a part of the covenant because of the sins of their parents during the pagan fertility rites. The sins of the fathers bring tragic consequences in the lives of the children.) and their monthly feasts would soon become funerals.
The sentence is pronounced (Hosea 5:8–15). There could be only one verdict: "Guilty!" A day of judgment was coming when the cities of Israel would be conquered by the invading Assyrian army and the citizens taken into capitivity. "Ephraim will be laid waste on the day of reckoning" (5:9, NIV). (Even Judah will be included in this discipline (Hosea 5:10). The Assyrians devastated Judah but were unable to capture Jerusalem, for God delivered King Hezekiah and his people in a miraculous way. See Isaiah 36–37. The sin of Judah, according to Hosea, was that of seizing territory that wasn't rightfully theirs, like people who moved the boundary markers in order to increase their holding (Deut. 19:14; Isa. 5:8; Micah 2:2).) The inner decay of the nation was like the slow hidden destruction caused by a moth (v. 12), but the coming of the Assyrians was like the sudden open attack of a lion (v. 14). Both were unavoidable and both brought ruin.
Israel and Judah were weak, sick nations (Isa. 1:5–6;
Jer. 30:12–13), but instead of turning to the Lord for healing, both of them turned to the king of Assyria for help
(Hosea 5:13). (The phrase "King Jareb" in Hosea 5:13 (KJV, NASB) is translated "the great king" in the NIV. The Hebrew word means "to contend, to strive." This could be a nickname for the king of Assyria, such as "King Contention." Israel and Judah turned to the King of Assyria for help and all he did was pick a fight!) They needed prayer and true repentance, but instead, they trusted politics and useless treaties. All the Lord could do was withdraw and wait for them to seek His face in truth and humility.
Be Amazed (Minor Prophets): Restoring an Attitude of Wonder and Worship (The BE Series Commentary)
The Healing of the Centurion’s Servant
There are considerable differences, for instance, between the accounts by Matthew and by Luke of the healing of the centurion’s servant. Matthew says that the centurion himself came to Christ; Luke that he sent some elders of the Jews asking Him to come, that Jesus went with the elders, and that when He was not far from the house the centurion sent friends to him. See
Matthew 8:5–13 and Luke 7:1–10. There is not necessarily any discrepancy at all. We may well suppose that what Matthew records as to the personal application of the centurion took place after the two companies of messengers had come as mentioned by Luke. In that case what took place would be as follows. First the elders of the Jews came. As a result of their appeal Christ went some distance with them. Then came the centurion’s friends with their message, which he had commissioned them to take. There is no difficulty in supposing that the centurion eventually decided to come himself. Such a step is what anyone might make up his mind to take. He would naturally say the same thing as what he had told his friends to say. So Matthew’s narrative simply follows on after what Luke states. Then comes the Lord’s reply, which Matthew gives more fully than Luke, and without any discrepancy. There is complete harmony also in the closing detail. The Lord says to the centurion, “Go thy way; as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee” (Matt. 8:13). The servants, returning home, find the servant healed (Luke 7:10).
The Collected Writings of W.E. Vine: Boxed Five Volume Set
Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism
The Nature of the Biblical Text
Before the discovery of the scrolls in 1947, scholars generally viewed the MT, the SP, and the LXX as three main, but not equal, text types. The MT, in a purified form, was seen as the “original” Bible; Gesenius had shown that the SP was derivative from the MT and thus farther from the “original,” and the LXX was usually denigrated as an inaccurate translation where it disagreed with the MT. The SP and the LXX were occasionally helpful, to be sure, but the prevailing mentality was that the MT represented the closest extant form of the Urtext. The Urtext theory was championed by Paul de Lagarde in the late nineteenth century. It envisioned a single original Hebrew text that was no longer extant in its pure form but that could largely be recovered through the MT with comparative analysis of the SP, the LXX, and the versions. Paul Kahle in the middle of the twentieth century unsuccessfully challenged it with his Vulgärtexte theory, seeing a plethora of variant texts overshadowed by the MT, the SP, and the LXX; but the genetic relationship between all texts argued strongly against it. The Urtext theory probably emerged from three factors: (1) the absence of evidence, because only a single Hebrew text form had been transmitted to posterity after the Second Jewish Revolt in 132–135 C.E.; (2) the traditional religious view, that the biblical text was the word that God spoke to Moses and the Prophets and the Sages, and thus was unique; and (3) early scholarly views, that the books were “documents” or major written compositions by single authors or compilers. Thus, the purified MT was ultimately God’s word, and the diverse manuscripts that survive attest to the errors that human scribes have allowed to penetrate it.
But just as the invention of the telescope and accurate observation of astronomical data allowed the Copernican heliocentric cosmology to eclipse the unquestioned Ptolemaic-medieval geocentric cosmology, so too the discovery of the biblical scrolls and accurate observation of the data they provide have eclipsed the view of the MT as the textual center of the Hebrew Bible. Though the biblical scrolls from the Judean Desert were early assumed to be sectarian, the more they are studied, the more it is obvious that there is nothing sectarian about them; they constitute the most ancient and authentic witness to what the texts of the Jewish Scriptures were like at the time of the origins of Christianity and rabbinic Judaism.
The Qumran biblical manuscripts—and in their light, the LXX, the expanded Jewish text used as the basis for the SP, the biblical texts used by Josephus, and citations in the New Testament and rabbinic writings—make it clear that the MT was not the textual center. A number of lessons have emerged. First, the scrolls did confirm that the medieval codices of the MT had for over a millennium been very accurately hand-copied from texts like 4QGenb, 1QIsab, and 4QJera, c. But they also confirmed that the SP (in light of 4QpaleoExodm and 4QNumb) and the LXX (in light of 4QDeutq, 4QSama, b, and 4QJerb, d) preserved equally important witnesses to alternate ancient forms of the biblical text otherwise lost.
Second, scholars realized not only that the MT is not “the original text” or the Urtext of the Hebrew Bible, but that it is not “a text” at all. Like the LXX, it is a varied collection of texts—a different type of text for each of the books—each being simply a copy of one of the editions of that book that was circulating in late Second Temple Jewish circles. Again, the MT is not “the original text”; it is rather the only collection of texts in the original language that had been preserved (beyond the Samaritan community) since the second century C.E.
Third, there was a revival of theories making major advances in charting the history of the biblical text. The discoveries at first supported the position of the three main text types, since various scrolls agreed with the MT, the LXX, and the SP. Large fragments of 4QSama,b (agreeing with the LXX) and 4QpaleoExodm (agreeing with the SP) were published early, and thus W. F. Albright and, more substantially, Frank Moore Cross posited three localities as producing the three local text types, seeing a textual development of “one-into-three”—the presumed original into the MT, the LXX, and the SP. But numerous differences in the scrolls from these three types led to further theories. Shemaryahu Talmon, noting the pluriformity, saw rather a “many-into-three” situation, noting that out of the many textual traditions only three survived. Socio-religiously only three communities survived the Roman destruction: the rabbis, the Samaritans, and the Christians, each preserving their own set of texts. But the numerous disagreements in the scrolls also dethroned the LXX and the SP from their positions as the other two “main text types.” Seeing the numerous disagreements as well as the agreements, Emanuel Tov expanded the view, proposing two other types of “nonaligned” texts and “texts written in the Qumran practice.”
Prior to the Jewish revolts against Rome, however, there was no “standard text”—whether MT, LXX, or SP—with which texts should be “aligned” or judged “non-aligned,” and thus those four categories appeared anachronistic for classifying the scrolls. Furthermore, some texts in “the Qumran practice” (e.g., 1QIsaa) may well have been copied prior to the settlement at Qumran and may simply exhibit late Second Temple scribal practice. Thus, the present author proposed a series of successive revised and expanded editions of each of the biblical books, noting that the pluriformity and great variation in the texts were not chaotic, but patterned in the four principal categories of variation discussed above. Each book had its own history and developed along its own trajectory. The main lines of development resulted from the creative revised and expanded editions of each book. Each copy of whichever edition displayed its own particular individual textual variants, and further copies would either reproduce the orthographic profile of the source text or show modernizing tendencies in spelling practices. Occasionally, scribes would put into the text isolated interpretive insertions that had become either customary oral supplements or marginal glosses, and these would become an accepted part of the transmitted text. Each of the four kinds of variation took place independently of the other three. The MT, the LXX, and the SP should not be regarded as “the three main text types” but are merely manuscript copies for each book in their collection, each copied more or less accurately from one or other of the available editions of that book. Thus, the Masoretic texts must be judged on a par with and according to the same criteria by which the LXX, the SP, the scrolls, the versions, and all other texts are judged, word by word.
The Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism
My meditation of him shall be sweet. --- Psalm 104:34. KJV
Will the eagle that has soared in the open sky, that has gazed into the sun, endure to dwell in the dark cavern of the bat? (Classic Sermons on Suffering (Kregel Classic Sermons Series)) If the vision of God were glorious to our minds, wouldn’t a return to the things of earth be reluctant?
It should, therefore, be a diligent practice to meditate on God and divine things. But the inclination is greatly lacking. The avocations of our daily lives do not require the whole of our mental energy and reflection. Time should be set apart and used for this sole purpose. It is startling to consider how much of our lives pass without any thought of God, without any recognition of his presence and his character. And how much of [life] might be spent in sweet and profitable meditation. Wouldn’t thought on God steal through and suffuse all our other thinking, as sunset does the Evening sky, giving a pure and saintly hue to all our feelings and pervading our entire experience?
It is still not so easy and pleasant as it ought to be to walk with God. It is still too difficult for us to be happy in heaven. A foundation for heaven in our own minds is required in order to enjoy the heaven that is on high. That rational being who does not practice the meditations and enjoy the experiences of heaven will not be at home there and, therefore, will not go there. Is it supposable that a soul who never here on earth contemplated the divine character with pleasure will see that character in eternity, in peace and joy? Is it supposable that a human spirit filled with self-seeking and worldliness, destitute of devout and adoring meditations, will be taken among seraphim and cherubim when taken out of time? We will know then what we really love and what we really loathe. For whatever we think of with most relish here in time we will think of with most relish in eternity. Those who love to think of wealth and fame and sensual pleasure will think of wealth and fame and sensual pleasure in eternity. But those who, in any degree, love to think of God and Christ will think of God and Christ in eternity—where all such thought is music and peace and rest.
If our meditation on God is sweet here, it will be sweeter in eternity. And then our blessedness will be certain and secure, for no spirit can be made unblessed in any part of God’s vast dominions, if it really finds joy in the contemplation of the ever-present God.
--- William G. T. Shedd
Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
Hot Head, Strong Heart June 9
Hotheaded people can become strong-hearted saints, for the same passions that drive our tempers can be harnessed by the Spirit for good. We learn this from Columba, born in Ulster, Ireland, on December 7, 521. His grandfather had been baptized by St. Patrick himself, and Columba’s parents were believers of royal stock. Though he had a yearning for learning and for the Lord, Columba was strong-willed and combative. He possessed a powerful presence with strong features and an authoritative voice; but his fiery temper and iron will lingered, even after becoming a home missionary to his fellow Irish. One day Columba copied the contents of a book without permission, and when the owner requested the copy Columba refused. The argument took on a life of its own, involving more and more people. Eventually a war erupted in which 3,000 men lost their lives.
Full of remorse, Columba committed himself to win as many to Christ as had died in the war. Thus he left Ireland at age 42 to become a missionary to Scotland. With 12 companions, he established himself on Iona, a bleak, foggy island just off the Scottish coast, three miles long and a mile and a half wide. He built a crude monastery which soon became a training center for missionaries, one of the most venerable and interesting spots in the history of Christian missions. It was a lighthouse against heathenism.
From Iona Columba made missionary forays into Scotland, converting large numbers. An entire tribe of pagans, the Picts, were won to the faith. He confronted the druids, contesting with them over their alleged magical arts and demonic powers. Legend suggests he performed miracles to counter theirs, convincing the populace of the Gospel’s superior power. He spent the rest of his life as the apostle to Scotland and as a trainer of missionaries.
On June 8, 597, Columba, 75 years old, spent the day transcribing the Psalms, then joined his brothers for midnight devotions. He collapsed at the altar and died peacefully during the wee hours of June 9, 597, his face bearing an expression of seeing holy angels coming to meet him.
People with bad tempers are always in trouble,
And they need help over and over again.
Pay attention to advice and accept correction,
So you can live sensibly.
We may make a lot of plans,
But the LORD will do what he has decided.
What matters most is loyalty.
--- Proverbs 19:19-22a.
On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - June 9
“The Lord hath done great things for us, whereof we are glad.” --- Psalm 126:3.
Some Christians are sadly prone to look on the dark side of everything, and to dwell more upon what they have gone through than upon what God has done for them. Ask for their impression of the Christian life, and they will describe their continual conflicts, their deep afflictions, their sad adversities, and the sinfulness of their hearts, yet with scarcely any allusion to the mercy and help which God has vouchsafed them. But a Christian whose soul is in a healthy state, will come forward joyously, and say, “I will speak, not about myself, but to the honour of my God. He hath brought me up out of an horrible pit, and out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings: and he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God. The Lord hath done great things for me, whereof I am glad.” Such an abstract of experience as this is the very best that any child of God can present. It is true that we endure trials, but it is just as true that we are delivered out of them. It is true that we have our corruptions, and mournfully do we know this, but it is quite as true that we have an all-sufficient Saviour, who overcomes these corruptions, and delivers us from their dominion. In looking back, it would be wrong to deny that we have been in the Slough of Despond, and have crept along the Valley of Humiliation, but it would be equally wicked to forget that we have been through them safely and profitably; we have not remained in them, thanks to our Almighty Helper and Leader, who has brought us “out into a wealthy place.” The deeper our troubles, the louder our thanks to God, who has led us through all, and preserved us until now. Our griefs cannot mar the melody of our praise, we reckon them to be the bass part of our life’s song, “He hath done great things for us, whereof we are glad.”
Evening - June 9
“Search the Scriptures.” --- John 5:39.
The Greek word here rendered search signifies a strict, close, diligent, curious search, such as men make when they are seeking gold, or hunters when they are in earnest after game. We must not rest content with having given a superficial reading to a chapter or two, but with the candle of the Spirit we must deliberately seek out the hidden meaning of the word. Holy Scripture requires searching—much of it can only be learned by careful study. There is milk for babes, but also meat for strong men. The rabbis wisely say that a mountain of matter hangs upon every word, yea, upon every title of Scripture. Tertullian exclaims, “I adore the fulness of the Scriptures.” No man who merely skims the book of God can profit thereby; we must dig and mine until we obtain the hid treasure. The door of the word only opens to the key of diligence. The Scriptures claim searching. They are the writings of God, bearing the divine stamp and imprimatur— who shall dare to treat them with levity? He who despises them despises the God who wrote them. God forbid that any of us should leave our Bibles to become swift witnesses against us in the great day of account. The word of God will repay searching. God does not bid us sift a mountain of chaff with here and there a grain of wheat in it, but the Bible is winnowed corn—we have but to open the granary door and find it. Scripture grows upon the student. It is full of surprises. Under the teaching of the Holy Spirit, to the searching eye it glows with splendour of revelation, like a vast temple paved with wrought gold, and roofed with rubies, emeralds, and all manner of gems. No merchandise like the merchandise of Scripture truth. Lastly, the Scriptures reveal Jesus: “They are they which testify of me.” No more powerful motive can be urged upon Bible readers than this: he who finds Jesus finds life, heaven, all things. Happy he who, searching his Bible, discovers his Saviour.
Morning and Evening
THERE’S A WIDENESS IN GOD’S MERCY
Frederick W. Faber, 1814–1863
But Thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion, and gracious longsuffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth. (Psalm 86:15 KJV)
A wealth of truth about the depth of God’s love and mercy is expressed simply but eloquently in this choice two-line hymn text written by Frederick William Faber in the middle of the 19th century. In addition to being known as a man with unusual personal charm, persuasive preaching ability, and excellent writing skills, Faber made his most lasting contribution with the 150 hymn texts he composed during his brief life of 49 years.
Frederick Faber had an unusual spiritual journey. Raised as a strict Calvinist, he strongly opposed the Roman Catholic Church. After education at Oxford, he became an ordained Anglican minister. Gradually, however, he was influenced by the Oxford Movement, which stressed that Anglican churches had become too evangelical—with too little emphasis on formal and liturgical worship. Eventually Faber renounced the Anglican State Church, became a Catholic priest, and spent his remaining years as Superior of the Catholic Brompton Oratory in London.
Faber had always realized the great influence that hymn singing had in Protestant evangelical churches. Determined to provide material for Catholics to use in the same way, he worked tirelessly in writing hymns and publishing numerous collections of them. In 1854 the Pope honored Frederick Faber with an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree in recognition of his many accomplishments. Today we are still grateful for this memorable declaration of the boundless love and mercy of our God to all mankind:
There’s a wideness in God’s mercy, like the wideness of the sea; there’s a kindness in His justice, which is more than liberty.
There is welcome for the sinner, and more graces for the good; there is mercy with the Savior; there is healing in His blood.
For the love of God is broader than the measure of man’s mind; and the heart of the Eternal is most wonderfully kind.
If our love were but more simple, we should take Him at His word; and our lives would be all sunshine in the sweetness of our Lord.
For Today: Psalm 36:5; 103:8–13; Ephesians 1:6–8; 1 John 1:7.
Let yourself become immersed in the joy of realizing and accepting in a simple, trusting manner the great mercy of God. Praise and thank Him by singing as you go knowing that ---
Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
Martin Luther | (1483-1546)
Sect. L. — NOW let us compare this opinion with the remaining two.
The next of these, is that opinion ‘more severe still,’ which holds, that “Free-will” avails unto nothing but to sin. And this indeed is Augustine’s opinion, expressed, as well in many other places, as more especially, in his book “Concerning the Spirit and the Letter;” in (if I mistake not) the fourth or fifth chapter, where he uses those very words.
The third, is that ‘most severe’ opinion; that “Free-will” is a mere empty term, and that every thing which we do, is done from necessity under the bondage of sin. — It is with these two that the Diatribe conflicts.
I here observe, that perhaps it may be, that I am not able to discuss this point intelligibly, from not being sufficiently acquainted with the Latin or with the German. But I call God to witness, that I wish nothing else to be said or to be understood by the words of the last two opinions than what is said in the first opinion: nor does Augustine wish any thing else to be understood, nor do I understand any thing else from his words, than that which the first opinion asserts: so that, the three opinions brought forward by the Diatribe are with me nothing else than my one sentiment. For when it is granted and established, that “Free-will,” having once lost its liberty, is compulsively bound to the service of sin, and cannot will any thing good: I, from these words, can understand nothing else than that “Free-will” is a mere empty term, whose reality is lost. And a lost liberty, according to my grammar, is no liberty at all. And to give the name of liberty to that which has no liberty, is to give it an empty term. If I am wrong here, let him set me right who can. If these observations be obscure or ambiguous, let him who can, illustrate and make them plain. I for my part, cannot call that health which is lost, health; and if I were to ascribe it to one who was sick, I should think I was giving him nothing else than an empty name.
But away with these enormities of words. For who would bear such an abuse of the manner of speaking, as that we should say a man has “Free-will,” and yet at the same time assert, that when that liberty is once lost, he is compulsively bound to the service of sin, and cannot will any thing good? These things are contrary to common sense, and utterly destroy the common manner of speaking. The Diatribe is rather to be condemned, which in a drowsy way, foists forth its own words without any regard to the words of others. It does not, I say, consider what it is, nor how much it is to assert, that man, when his liberty is lost, is compelled to serve sin and cannot will any thing good. For if it were at all vigilant or observant, it would plainly see, that the sentiment contained in the three opinions is one and the same, which it makes to be diverse and contrary. For if a man, when he has lost his liberty, is compelled to serve sin, and cannot will good, what conclusion concerning him can be more justly drawn, than that he can do nothing but sin, and will evil? And such a conclusion, the Sophists themselves would draw, even by their syllogisms. Wherefore, the Diatribe, unhappily, contends against the last two opinions, and approves the first; whereas, that is precisely the same as the other two; and thus again, as usual, it condemns itself and approves my sentiments, in one and the same article.
The Bondage of the Will or Christian Classics Ethereal Library
Dr. Michael Vlach & Prof. Jesse Johnson
The Master's Seminary
Dr. John Feinberg | The Master's Seminary
Brett Meador | Athey Creek
m2-214 | 6-6-2018