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3/12/2023     Yesterday     Tomorrow

Joshua 5 - 8

Joshua 5

The New Generation Circumcised

Joshua 5:1     As soon as all the kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan to the west, and all the kings of the Canaanites who were by the sea, heard that the Lord had dried up the waters of the Jordan for the people of Israel until they had crossed over, their hearts melted and there was no longer any spirit in them because of the people of Israel.

2 At that time the Lord said to Joshua, “Make flint knives and circumcise the sons of Israel a second time.” 3 So Joshua made flint knives and circumcised the sons of Israel at Gibeath-haaraloth. 4 And this is the reason why Joshua circumcised them: all the males of the people who came out of Egypt, all the men of war, had died in the wilderness on the way after they had come out of Egypt. 5 Though all the people who came out had been circumcised, yet all the people who were born on the way in the wilderness after they had come out of Egypt had not been circumcised. 6 For the people of Israel walked forty years in the wilderness, until all the nation, the men of war who came out of Egypt, perished, because they did not obey the voice of the Lord; the Lord swore to them that he would not let them see the land that the Lord had sworn to their fathers to give to us, a land flowing with milk and honey. 7 So it was their children, whom he raised up in their place, that Joshua circumcised. For they were uncircumcised, because they had not been circumcised on the way.

8 When the circumcising of the whole nation was finished, they remained in their places in the camp until they were healed. 9 And the Lord said to Joshua, “Today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you.” And so the name of that place is called Gilgal to this day.

First Passover in Canaan

10 While the people of Israel were encamped at Gilgal, they kept the Passover on the fourteenth day of the month in the evening on the plains of Jericho. 11 And the day after the Passover, on that very day, they ate of the produce of the land, unleavened cakes and parched grain. 12 And the manna ceased the day after they ate of the produce of the land. And there was no longer manna for the people of Israel, but they ate of the fruit of the land of Canaan that year.

The Commander of the Lord's Army

13 When Joshua was by Jericho, he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing before him with his drawn sword in his hand. And Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?” 14 And he said, “No; but I am the commander of the army of the Lord. Now I have come.”   This is Jesus. He answers no, because his answer depends on their obedience to God. If He were just an angel He would not allow Joshua to worship Him.   And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped and said to him, “What does my lord say to his servant?” 15 And the commander of the Lord's army said to Joshua, “Take off your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so.

Joshua 6

The Fall of Jericho

Joshua 6:1     Now Jericho was shut up inside and outside because of the people of Israel. None went out, and none came in. 2 And the LORD said to Joshua, “See, I have given Jericho into your hand, with its king and mighty men of valor. 3 You shall march around the city, all the men of war going around the city once. Thus shall you do for six days. 4 Seven priests shall bear seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark. On the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets. 5 And when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, when you hear the sound of the trumpet, then all the people shall shout with a great shout, and the wall of the city will fall down flat, and the people shall go up, everyone straight before him.” 6 So Joshua the son of Nun called the priests and said to them, “Take up the ark of the covenant and let seven priests bear seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark of the LORD.” 7 And he said to the people, “Go forward. March around the city and let the armed men pass on before the ark of the LORD.”

8 And just as Joshua had commanded the people, the seven priests bearing the seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the LORD went forward, blowing the trumpets, with the ark of the covenant of the LORD following them. 9 The armed men were walking before the priests who were blowing the trumpets, and the rear guard was walking after the ark, while the trumpets blew continually. 10 But Joshua commanded the people, “You shall not shout or make your voice heard, neither shall any word go out of your mouth, until the day I tell you to shout. Then you shall shout.” 11 So he caused the ark of the LORD to circle the city, going about it once. And they came into the camp and spent the night in the camp.

12 Then Joshua rose early in the morning, and the priests took up the ark of the LORD. 13 And the seven priests bearing the seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark of the LORD walked on, and they blew the trumpets continually. And the armed men were walking before them, and the rear guard was walking after the ark of the LORD, while the trumpets blew continually. 14 And the second day they marched around the city once, and returned into the camp. So they did for six days.

15 On the seventh day they rose early, at the dawn of day, and marched around the city in the same manner seven times. It was only on that day that they marched around the city seven times. 16 And at the seventh time, when the priests had blown the trumpets, Joshua said to the people, “Shout, for the LORD has given you the city. 17 And the city and all that is within it shall be devoted to the LORD for destruction. Only Rahab the prostitute and all who are with her in her house shall live, because she hid the messengers whom we sent. 18 But you, keep yourselves from the things devoted to destruction, lest when you have devoted them you take any of the devoted things and make the camp of Israel a thing for destruction and bring trouble upon it. 19 But all silver and gold, and every vessel of bronze and iron, are holy to the LORD; they shall go into the treasury of the LORD.” 20 So the people shouted, and the trumpets were blown. As soon as the people heard the sound of the trumpet, the people shouted a great shout, and the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they captured the city. 21 Then they devoted all in the city to destruction, both men and women, young and old, oxen, sheep, and donkeys, with the edge of the sword.

22 But to the two men who had spied out the land, Joshua said, “Go into the prostitute’s house and bring out from there the woman and all who belong to her, as you swore to her.” 23 So the young men who had been spies went in and brought out Rahab and her father and mother and brothers and all who belonged to her. And they brought all her relatives and put them outside the camp of Israel. 24 And they burned the city with fire, and everything in it. Only the silver and gold, and the vessels of bronze and of iron, they put into the treasury of the house of the LORD. 25 But Rahab the prostitute and her father’s household and all who belonged to her, Joshua saved alive. And she has lived in Israel to this day, because she hid the messengers whom Joshua sent to spy out Jericho.

26 Joshua laid an oath on them at that time, saying, “Cursed before the LORD be the man who rises up and rebuilds this city, Jericho.

“At the cost of his firstborn shall he
lay its foundation,
and at the cost of his youngest son
shall he set up its gates.”

27 So the LORD was with Joshua, and his fame was in all the land.

Joshua 7

Israel Defeated at Ai

Joshua 7:1     But the people of Israel broke faith in regard to the devoted things, for Achan the son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of the devoted things. And the anger of the Lord burned against the people of Israel.

2 Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai, which is near Beth-aven, east of Bethel, and said to them, “Go up and spy out the land.” And the men went up and spied out Ai. 3 And they returned to Joshua and said to him, “Do not have all the people go up, but let about two or three thousand men go up and attack Ai. Do not make the whole people toil up there, for they are few.” 4 So about three thousand men went up there from the people. And they fled before the men of Ai, 5 and the men of Ai killed about thirty-six of their men and chased them before the gate as far as Shebarim and struck them at the descent. And the hearts of the people melted and became as water.

6 Then Joshua tore his clothes and fell to the earth on his face before the ark of the Lord until the evening, he and the elders of Israel. And they put dust on their heads. 7 And Joshua said, “Alas, O Lord God, why have you brought this people over the Jordan at all, to give us into the hands of the Amorites, to destroy us? Would that we had been content to dwell beyond the Jordan! 8 O Lord, what can I say, when Israel has turned their backs before their enemies! 9 For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land will hear of it and will surround us and cut off our name from the earth. And what will you do for your great name?”

The Sin of Achan

10 The Lord said to Joshua, “Get up! Why have you fallen on your face? 11 Israel has sinned; they have transgressed my covenant that I commanded them; they have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen and lied and put them among their own belongings. 12 Therefore the people of Israel cannot stand before their enemies. They turn their backs before their enemies, because they have become devoted for destruction.[a] I will be with you no more, unless you destroy the devoted things from among you. 13 Get up! Consecrate the people and say, ‘Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow; for thus says the Lord, God of Israel, “There are devoted things in your midst, O Israel. You cannot stand before your enemies until you take away the devoted things from among you.” 14 In the morning therefore you shall be brought near by your tribes. And the tribe that the Lord takes by lot shall come near by clans. And the clan that the Lord takes shall come near by households. And the household that the Lord takes shall come near man by man. 15 And he who is taken with the devoted things shall be burned with fire, he and all that he has, because he has transgressed the covenant of the Lord, and because he has done an outrageous thing in Israel.’”

16 So Joshua rose early in the morning and brought Israel near tribe by tribe, and the tribe of Judah was taken. 17 And he brought near the clans of Judah, and the clan of the Zerahites was taken. And he brought near the clan of the Zerahites man by man, and Zabdi was taken. 18 And he brought near his household man by man, and Achan the son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, was taken. 19 Then Joshua said to Achan, “My son, give glory to the Lord God of Israel and give praise[b] to him. And tell me now what you have done; do not hide it from me.” 20 And Achan answered Joshua, “Truly I have sinned against the Lord God of Israel, and this is what I did: 21 when I saw among the spoil a beautiful cloak from Shinar, and 200 shekels of silver, and a bar of gold weighing 50 shekels,[c] then I coveted them and took them. And see, they are hidden in the earth inside my tent, with the silver underneath.”

22 So Joshua sent messengers, and they ran to the tent; and behold, it was hidden in his tent with the silver underneath. 23 And they took them out of the tent and brought them to Joshua and to all the people of Israel. And they laid them down before the Lord. 24 And Joshua and all Israel with him took Achan the son of Zerah, and the silver and the cloak and the bar of gold, and his sons and daughters and his oxen and donkeys and sheep and his tent and all that he had. And they brought them up to the Valley of Achor. 25 And Joshua said, “Why did you bring trouble on us? The Lord brings trouble on you today.” And all Israel stoned him with stones. They burned them with fire and stoned them with stones. 26 And they raised over him a great heap of stones that remains to this day. Then the Lord turned from his burning anger. Therefore, to this day the name of that place is called the Valley of Achor.

Joshua 8

The Fall of Ai

Joshua 8:1     And the Lord said to Joshua, “Do not fear and do not be dismayed. Take all the fighting men with you, and arise, go up to Ai. See, I have given into your hand the king of Ai, and his people, his city, and his land. 2 And you shall do to Ai and its king as you did to Jericho and its king. Only its spoil and its livestock you shall take as plunder for yourselves. Lay an ambush against the city, behind it.”

3 So Joshua and all the fighting men arose to go up to Ai. And Joshua chose 30,000 mighty men of valor and sent them out by night. 4 And he commanded them, “Behold, you shall lie in ambush against the city, behind it. Do not go very far from the city, but all of you remain ready. 5 And I and all the people who are with me will approach the city. And when they come out against us just as before, we shall flee before them. 6 And they will come out after us, until we have drawn them away from the city. For they will say, ‘They are fleeing from us, just as before.’ So we will flee before them. 7 Then you shall rise up from the ambush and seize the city, for the Lord your God will give it into your hand. 8 And as soon as you have taken the city, you shall set the city on fire. You shall do according to the word of the Lord. See, I have commanded you.” 9 So Joshua sent them out. And they went to the place of ambush and lay between Bethel and Ai, to the west of Ai, but Joshua spent that night among the people.

10 Joshua arose early in the morning and mustered the people and went up, he and the elders of Israel, before the people to Ai. 11 And all the fighting men who were with him went up and drew near before the city and encamped on the north side of Ai, with a ravine between them and Ai. 12 He took about 5,000 men and set them in ambush between Bethel and Ai, to the west of the city. 13 So they stationed the forces, the main encampment that was north of the city and its rear guard west of the city. But Joshua spent that night in the valley. 14 And as soon as the king of Ai saw this, he and all his people, the men of the city, hurried and went out early to the appointed place toward the Arabah to meet Israel in battle. But he did not know that there was an ambush against him behind the city. 15 And Joshua and all Israel pretended to be beaten before them and fled in the direction of the wilderness. 16 So all the people who were in the city were called together to pursue them, and as they pursued Joshua they were drawn away from the city. 17 Not a man was left in Ai or Bethel who did not go out after Israel. They left the city open and pursued Israel.

18 Then the Lord said to Joshua, “Stretch out the javelin that is in your hand toward Ai, for I will give it into your hand.” And Joshua stretched out the javelin that was in his hand toward the city. 19 And the men in the ambush rose quickly out of their place, and as soon as he had stretched out his hand, they ran and entered the city and captured it. And they hurried to set the city on fire. 20 So when the men of Ai looked back, behold, the smoke of the city went up to heaven, and they had no power to flee this way or that, for the people who fled to the wilderness turned back against the pursuers. 21 And when Joshua and all Israel saw that the ambush had captured the city, and that the smoke of the city went up, then they turned back and struck down the men of Ai. 22 And the others came out from the city against them, so they were in the midst of Israel, some on this side, and some on that side. And Israel struck them down, until there was left none that survived or escaped. 23 But the king of Ai they took alive, and brought him near to Joshua.

24 When Israel had finished killing all the inhabitants of Ai in the open wilderness where they pursued them, and all of them to the very last had fallen by the edge of the sword, all Israel returned to Ai and struck it down with the edge of the sword. 25 And all who fell that day, both men and women, were 12,000, all the people of Ai. 26 But Joshua did not draw back his hand with which he stretched out the javelin until he had devoted all the inhabitants of Ai to destruction. 27 Only the livestock and the spoil of that city Israel took as their plunder, according to the word of the Lord that he commanded Joshua. 28 So Joshua burned Ai and made it forever a heap of ruins, as it is to this day. 29 And he hanged the king of Ai on a tree until evening. And at sunset Joshua commanded, and they took his body down from the tree and threw it at the entrance of the gate of the city and raised over it a great heap of stones, which stands there to this day.

Joshua Renews the Covenant

30 At that time Joshua built an altar to the Lord, the God of Israel, on Mount Ebal, 31 just as Moses the servant of the Lord had commanded the people of Israel, as it is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, “an altar of uncut stones, upon which no man has wielded an iron tool.” And they offered on it burnt offerings to the Lord and sacrificed peace offerings. 32 And there, in the presence of the people of Israel, he wrote on the stones a copy of the law of Moses, which he had written. 33 And all Israel, sojourner as well as native born, with their elders and officers and their judges, stood on opposite sides of the ark before the Levitical priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord, half of them in front of Mount Gerizim and half of them in front of Mount Ebal, just as Moses the servant of the Lord had commanded at the first, to bless the people of Israel. 34 And afterward he read all the words of the law, the blessing and the curse, according to all that is written in the Book of the Law. 35 There was not a word of all that Moses commanded that Joshua did not read before all the assembly of Israel, and the women, and the little ones, and the sojourners who lived among them.

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What I'm Reading

Roman Historian Tacitus Mentions Jesus: Our Best Secular Source

By J. P. Holding 3/10/20172017

     By J.P. Holding| Tacitus was a Roman historian writing early in the 2nd century A.D. His Annals provide us with a single reference to Jesus of considerable value. Rather frustratingly, much of his work has been lost, including a work which covers the years 29-32, where the trial of Jesus would have been had he recorded it [Meie.MarJ, 89].

     Here is a full quote of the cite of our concern, from Annals 15.44. Jesus and the Christians are mentioned in an account of how the Emperor Nero went after Christians in order to draw attention away from himself after Rome’s fire of 64 AD:

     But not all the relief that could come from man, not all the Bounties that the prince could bestow, nor all the atonements Which could be presented to the gods, availed to relieve Nero From the infamy of being believed to have ordered the Conflagration, the fire of Rome. Hence to suppress the rumor, he Falsely charged with the guilt, and punished Christians, who were Hated for their enormities.

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     James Patrick Holding holds a Masters in Library Science from Florida State University. He is a published author in Christian Research Journal, and his website (www.tektonics.org) is the largest apologetics site run by a single individual and contains over 1500 articles. His ministry is committed to providing scholarly answers to serious questions which are often posed on major and minor elements of the Christian faith. He is also a Certified Apologetics Instructor.

How to Erase Logical Fallacies

By Kenneth Samples 2/14/2017

     An essential skill to develop—particularly if you intend to discuss the truth of your faith with others—is how to understand, evaluate, and present a logical argument. Though it might seem complex and rather intimidating, an argument in logic is really a very simple thing. To have an argument you must make a claim (called the conclusion, or the central point of the argument) and provide support (called premises, or evidence, facts, and reasons) for believing the claim to be true or correct. To have a good argument (logically sound or cogent), your premises must be (1) true, (2) pertinent to your central claim, and (3) sufficient to justify the conclusion.

     What Are Fallacies?

     A fallacy occurs when a logical argument contains a specific defect. A defect is a mistake in the reasoning process which causes an argument to break down (or fail to adequately support the conclusion). Left unrecognized and uncorrected, that failure leads to a defeated (unsound or not cogent) argument. Bad arguments provide no logical justification for their claims. Thus the person who reasons carefully will attempt to understand and thus avoid committing the common fallacies that serve to shipwreck arguments.

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Books by Kenneth Richard Samples
God among Sages: Why Jesus Is Not Just Another Religious Leader
A World of Difference: Putting Christian Truth-Claims to the Worldview Test (Reasons to Believe)
God among Sages: Why Jesus Is Not Just Another Religious Leader
Christian Endgame: Careful Thinking about the End Times
Christianity's Most Dangerous Idea (Ebook Shorts)

     About Kenneth Richard Samples: I believe deeply that "all truth is God’s truth." That historic affirmation means that when we discover and grasp truth in the world and in life we move closer to its divine Author.

     As an RTB scholar I have a great passion to help people understand and see the truth and relevance of Christianity's truth-claims. My writings and lectures at RTB focus on showing how the great doctrinal truths of the faith (the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Atonement, creation ex nihilo, salvation by grace, etc.) are uniquely compatible with reason.

     I work to help myself and others fulfill Peter's words in 2 Peter 3:18: "But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen."

What Happens When We Divorce Faith from Reason?

By Rob Lundberg 12/26/2016

     Atheists, skeptics and critics attack Christianity saying that it is unreasonable. Faith, they say contradicts reason. Many of us have heard their rhetoric, "Faith is a blind leap in the dark"; Faith requires one to check your brains at the door"; "Faith has been rendered meaningless in this age of science and reason." Sadly more and more Christians sitting in our pews with doubts, week in and week out, have heard this rhetoric, and are slowly divorcing faith from reason.

     This view is not consistent with historic Christianity, let alone biblical. The Early Church Fathers, the Medieval Scholars, and the Protestant Reformers believed that faith fits the biblical view of reason. In this posting, I want us to consider the reasonableness of faith, keeping in mind that our finite human intellect is not able to fully grasp infinite divine truth. At the same time, let us also bear in mind that something cannot be fully understood by reason does not mean that it is unreasonable. There are some things that we cannot comprehend, but with a little effort, that which is not fully understood can be apprehended.

     That being said, let's consider four points about the relationship between faith and reason.

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     The Real Issue Apologetics Ministry is a Christian apologetics and equipping ministry founded by Rob Lundberg.

     Rob understands today’s issues from a worldview perspective, knowing how to communicate on various levels the truth claims of the Christian faith. Whether it is being his normal "down to earth self," or discussing the rigorous issues for why the Christian faith is true, he knows what it means to incorporate Christian apologetics as a spiritual discipline that undergirds the ministry of evangelism into daily living. His target is always the gospel.

     Rob currently serves as a Chapter Director and Community Apologist with Ratio Christi. Rob has served as an adjunct professor, and has written courses for a local Bible seminary. His view of the world does not just target the local coffee shops and venues, but he also has a global focus having participated in mission work in the Republic of Moldova and conducting Skype meetings for groups and fellowships in India.

     He is available to speak to your church, or participate in or hold conferences, break out sessions, training events and other venues. To schedule him in your church or to speak to your organization, contact him by sending an email or call 540.424.2305. He would love to speak to you about how you can reach your loved one who has become a skeptic or your church and how to reach the culture with the gospel.

     Rob, his wife, Kathy and their daughter Christine live in Fredericksburg, VA.

The “New Alarmism” is not new and is not alarmism.

By Jake Meador 3/10/2017

     When asked about the Holy Roman Empire the French philosophe Voltaire once quipped that said empire was neither holy, nor Roman, nor an empire. I had something like that thought while reading Dr. James K. A. Smith’s piece for the Washington Post. That said, Dr. Smith’s post is far from the first to raise this concern. As mentioned previously, Katelyn Beaty and Emma Green’s reviews also critiqued Rod’s project for alarmism, though Green was more fair about it than Smith or Beaty. Rachel Held Evans also made this attack in her Twitter thread on the book.

     In one sense, I should be more sympathetic to the critique than I probably am: Both Rod and Dr. Esolen invite that critique with some of their rhetoric, as I noted in my review of Dr. Esolen’s book earlier today. (Archbishop Chaput is another matter.)1

     That said, it’s difficult to be too terribly sympathetic for a relatively simple reason. Virtually nothing that any of these guys are saying is new and, given how long it has been said and how accurate previous generations have been in their predictions, it’s difficult to dismiss this talk as alarmism

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

Read The Psalms In "1" Year

Psalm 30

Joy Comes with the Morning
30 A Psalm Of David. A Song At The Dedication Of The Temple

6 As for me, I said in my prosperity,
“I shall never be moved.”
7 By your favor, O LORD,
you made my mountain stand strong;
you hid your face;
I was dismayed.

8 To you, O LORD, I cry,
and to the Lord I plead for mercy:
9 “What profit is there in my death,
if I go down to the pit?
Will the dust praise you?
Will it tell of your faithfulness?
10 Hear, O LORD, and be merciful to me!
O LORD, be my helper!”

11 You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
you have loosed my sackcloth
and clothed me with gladness,
12 that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent.
O LORD my God, I will give thanks to you forever!

ESV Study Bible

A Couple of Reasons to Think Theism Best Explains Moral Obligations

By Jonathan Pruitt 4/27/2015

     Here is a moral fact: It is wrong to torture babies for fun. (Let T stand for “torture babies for fun.”)

     But in what sense is it wrong to T? One answer, and a quite popular one, is that T’ing is wrong because it is irrational to do so. Why it is irrational can be explained a several different ways. One option is the egoist option. It is wrong to T because it is not in my self-interest to do so. It may not be in my self-interest because if I T, others might torture me back or otherwise degrade me in retaliation for my T’ing. The idea here is that it is in my self-interest to live in a world where people don’t torture each other for fun, so, in order to bring about that world, I ought to act in a way consistent with the world I want to bring about. Or perhaps we could say it is irrational to T because it is inherently degrading to myself. I destroy my own soul if I go around T’ing and that is not good for me so it is irrational for me to do so.

     We might also say that it is wrong to T because it lowers the aggregate human happiness. Since living in a society where, on the whole, there is more happiness than less, I should not T because it is better to live in a more happy society than a less happy one. Or possibly it is wrong to T because there is an implicit social contract being broken when I T. By virtue of living in a society, I implicitly agree to follow certain norms and T’ing counts as a violation of those norms.

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     Jonathan Pruitt is a PhD candidate at Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary. He has an MA in philosophy and ethics from the Talbot School of Theology and an MA in apologetics from LBTS. His master’s thesis is an abductive moral argument for the truth of Christianity against a Buddhist context.

Not just about sex: throughout our bodies, thousands of genes act differently in men and women

By Jenny Graves 10/31/2017

     Most of us are familiar with the genetic differences between men and women.

     Men have X and Y sex chromosomes, and women have two X chromosomes. We know that genes on these chromosomes may act differently in men and women.

     But a recent paper claims that beyond just genes on X and Y, a full third of our genome is behaving very differently in men and women.

     These new data pose challenges for science, medicine and maybe even gender equity.

     Final paragraph in article What do these new insights mean for our progress toward gender equity? A bad outcome could be appeals to return to outdated sexual stereotypes. A good outcome will be recognition of sex differences in medicine and treatment.

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     Jenny Graves is an evolutionary geneticist whose research exploits the genetic diversity of Australia's unique mammals as a source of genetic variation to study the organisation, function and evolution of mammalian genomes. This has lead to new theories of the origin and evolution of human sex chromosomes and sex determining genes.

     Jenny is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science, and served on the Executive for eight years, first as Foreign Secretary, then as Secretary for Education and Public Affairs. She is Distinguished Professor at La Trobe University, Professor Emeritus at ANU and Thinker-in-Residence at the University of Canberra. Jenny is an international L'Oreal-UNESCO Laureate (2006) and was made an Officer in the Order of Australia in 2009. She won the Prime Minister's Prize for Science in 2017.

By Gleason Archer Jr.


      It’s true enough, to be sure, that the embryos of all mammals develop from single-celled ova which appear to be quite identical, and that during the earlier stages this close resemblance continues. But does this fact require a theory that all mammals developed from the same common, pre-mammalian ancestors? A far more obvious and plausible explanation is that in the development of any embryo from its initial stage as a one-celled ovum, its simpler parts must be formed before the more complicated parts can be developed. We can hardly expect fine adjustments and complicated organs to come into being before the main structure to which they are to be attached. But to explain the earlier similarities of form by common ancestral origin is as implausible (as Clark pungently puts it) as to imagine that raindrops are derived from pebbles because both are round. “The connection is real enough, but it is a mathematical connection, inherent in the nature of the universe, and is not due to any direct connection between the objects.”

      It is safe to say that there is no datum from embryology which does not betray the operation of deliberate design and purpose by an all-wise Creator, rather than the mechanical operation of natural selection. Very occasionally in the growth of an embryo the mechanism of growth seems to malfunction. Then it is found that a totally new mechanism may take over and produce the desired structure. Sometimes two or three of these “double assurance” mechanisms are called into play in order to insure the proper development of the fetus; yet inexplicably enough, they go into action when needed. But since such malfunctions are exceedingly rare, it is almost impossible to account for them by any principle of the “survival of the fittest.” It looks much more like the intervention of a divine intelligence. This, of course, is not to deny that some fetuses do develop improperly and turn out to be defective specimens which can scarcely survive or perform any useful function. In the case of human beings, the results can be quite tragic and difficult to explain. But on Darwinian presuppositions it is impossible to explain even the sense of pathos engendered by this example of dysteleology. The consistent Darwinian can only shrug his shoulders and remark, “It is only surprising that there aren’t more of these.” For to the Darwinian there is no answer beyond mechanistic natural selection and the “survival of the fittest.”

      3. Natural selection is unable to explain innumerable instances of adaptation in which there was evidently no transitional stage. Natural selection would lead us to expect that ants and termites learned to associate together in colonies because they found from experience that this increased their chances of survival. But there are no fossil evidences whatever of either ants or termites prior to their organized life together in colonies. Or, to take an anatomical example, we have to consider how any supposed transitional stages toward the development of the organ of sight could possibly have conferred any advantage in the battle for survival until the eye had actually been fully formed. If the animal had possessed (in its transitional phase) a mere patch of skin especially sensitive to light, and then the process of natural selection had been brought to bear upon its successive mutations, how would anything short of actual sight have fitted the creature to survive more successfully than competitors who lacked such light-sensitive patches? And yet the Darwinian hypothesis necessarily implies that at every stage of the development of new and more complicated organisms, even before they were at all usable, the animal so developing must have enjoyed thereby some specific advantage over its competitors. As for the much-cited example of the growth cycle of the frog, the principle of natural selection is of only limited help. That is, it might conceivably explain why tadpoles learned to swim, feed, and run away from their enemies more efficiently than less capable ancestors. But how does it throw any light upon why they finally turned into frogs? Can it seriously be contended that frogs are more fitted to survival than fish are? Clearly some more sophisticated explanation must be found than mere mechanistic natural selection.

      In short, the Darwinian theory accounts for the data of biology far less adequately than does the sublimely simple affirmation of  Genesis 1, that all species of plant and animal came into being in response to the creative will of an omnipotent and all-wise God, and that their development has in every stage been governed by His design. All the structural resemblances (such as the skeletal resemblances so relied upon to indicate a genetic relationship between man and the lower orders of vertebrates) may be satisfactorily accounted for by a directive force operating from without (or from above), rather than by mechanical forces operating from within living tissue as such. Even the phenomenon of apparently useless vestigial parts, such as the coccyx at the end of the human spine, does not demonstrate an ancestry tracing back to tail-bearing simians. Such vestiges only attest a general or basic plan followed by the creative force (or the divine intelligence) which fashioned the various vertebrate phyla.

      A similar carry-over of engineering design is traceable in the year-by-year development of the modern automobile, from the 1901 Ford sedan (let us say) to the 1994 model. In some cases vestigial remains (like the retention of a crank opening at the base of the radiator for many years after self-starters had been introduced) marked the evolution of this make of car. The same thing is true of the “portholes” of the Buick models between the 1940s and 1950s (until the final token vestige of the 1957 model). But it can hardly be said that the earlier models made themselves more advanced or more complicated; this was the work of the designers and engineers who produced the new model for each successive year. There is nothing in the data of geology, or of biology in general, to indicate any essential difference in the procedure followed by the Creator Himself. Once the model, or species, had been set up, it then was ready for mass production through the built-in system of procreation and reproduction with which all animals are endowed — each species being controlled within Mendelian limits by its own particular set of genes.

      4. The modern abandonment of the Darwinian theory of gradual differentiation as the mechanism by which all classes and orders of life have evolved has led to the substitution of a new type of evolution (the quantum theory of emergent evolution) which commands the allegiance of most foremost scientists today. But emergent evolution involves factors of sudden mutation or change so radical as to put it into the category of a mere philosophical credo incapable of verification by laboratory methods or of explanation on strictly mechanistic principles. In Darwin’s generation it was confidently expected that more extended geological and biological research in subsequent decades would uncover the transitional forms of life which would bridge the gap between the various orders and phyla. But most twentieth-century scientists have completely despaired of this search.

      Austin H. Clark (The New Evolution [1930], p. 189), for example, remarked on “the entire lack of any intermediates between the major groups of animals — as, for instance, between the backboned animals or vertebrates, the echinoderms, the mollusks and the arthropods.” He went on to say, “If we are willing to accept the facts, we must believe that there never were such intermediates, or in other words, that these major groups have from the very first borne the same relationship to each other that they have today.” Similarly G. G. Simpson pointed out that each of the thirty-two known orders of mammals appeared quite suddenly in the paleontological record. He stated, “The earliest and most primitive known members of every order already have the basic ordinal characters, and in no case is an approximately continuous sequence from one order to another known.”

     A Survey of Old Testament Introduction

The Institutes of the Christian Religion

Translated by Henry Beveridge

     24. The whole comes to this, [354] when they wish to make God the author of this fictitious confession their vanity is proved as I have shown their falsehood in expounding the few passages which they cite. But while it is plain, that the law was imposed by men, I say that it is both tyrannical and insulting to God, who, in binding consciences to his word, would have them free from human rule. Then when confession is prescribed as necessary to obtain pardon, which God wished to be free, I say that the sacrilege is altogether intolerable, because nothing belongs more peculiarly to God than the forgiveness of sins, in which our salvation consists. I have, moreover, shown that this tyranny was introduced when the world was sunk in shameful barbarism. [355] Besides, I have proved that the law is pestiferous, inasmuch as when the fear of God exists, it plunges men into despair, and when there is security soothing itself with vain flattery, it blunts it the more. Lastly, I have explained that all the mitigations which they employ have no other tendency than to entangle, obscure, and corrupt the pure doctrine, and cloak their iniquities with deceitful colors.

25. In repentance they assign the third place to satisfaction, all their absurd talk as to which can be refuted in one word. They say, [356] that it is not sufficient for the penitent to abstain from past sins, and change his conduct for the better, unless he satisfy God for what he has done; and that there are many helps by which we may redeem sins, such as tears, fastings oblations, [357] and offices of charity; that by them the Lord is to be propitiated; by them the debts due to divine justice are to be paid; by them our faults are to be compensated; by them pardon is to be deserved: for though in the riches of his mercy he has forgiven the guilt, he yet, as a just discipline, retains the penalty, and that this penalty must be bought off by satisfaction. The sum of the whole comes to this: that we indeed obtain pardon of our sins from the mercy of God, but still by the intervention of the merit of works, by which the evil of our sins is compensated, and due satisfaction made to divine justice. To such false views I oppose the free forgiveness of sins, one of the doctrines most clearly taught in Scripture. [358] First, what is forgiveness but a gift of mere liberality? A creditor is not said to forgive when he declares by granting a discharge, that the money has been paid to him; but when, without any payment, through voluntary kindness, he expunges the debt. And why is the term gratis (free) afterwards added, but to take away all idea of satisfaction? With what confidence, then, do they still set up their satisfactions, which are thus struck down as with a thunderbolt? What? When the Lord proclaims by Isaiah, "I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins," does he not plainly declare, that the cause and foundation of forgiveness is to be sought from his goodness alone? Besides, when the whole of Scripture bears this testimony to Christ, that through his name the forgiveness of sins is to be obtained (Acts 10:43), does it not plainly exclude all other names? How then do they teach that it is obtained by the name of satisfaction? Let them not deny that they attribute this to satisfactions, though they bring them in as subsidiary aids. [359] For when Scripture says, by the name of Christ, it means, that we are to bring nothing, pretend nothing of our own, but lean entirely on the recommendation of Christ. Thus Paul, after declaring that "God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them," immediately adds the reason and the method, "For he has made him to be sin for us who knew no sin," (2 Cor. 5:19, 20).

26. But with their usual perverseness, they maintain that both the forgiveness of sins and reconciliation take place at once when we are received into the favor of God through Christ in baptism; that in lapses after baptism we must rise again by means of satisfactions; that the blood of Christ is of no avail unless in so far as it is dispensed by the keys of the Church. I speak not of a matter as to which there can be any doubt; for this impious dogma is declared in the plainest terms, in the writings not of one or two, but of the whole Schoolmen. Their master (Sent. Lib. 3, Dist. 9), after acknowledging, according to the doctrine of Peter, that Christ "bare our sins in his own body on the tree," (1 Pet. 2:24), immediately modifies the doctrine by introducing the exception, that in baptism all the temporal penalties of sin are relaxed; but that after baptism they are lessened by means of repentance, the cross of Christ and our repentance thus co-operating together. St. John speaks very differently, "If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the propitiation for our sins." "I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name's sake," (1 John 2:1, 2, 12). He certainly is addressing believers, and while setting forth Christ as the propitiation for sins, shows them that there is no other satisfaction by which an offended God can be propitiated or appeased. He says not: God was once reconciled to you by Christ; now, seek other methods; but he makes him a perpetual advocate, who always, by his intercession, reinstates us in his Fathered favour--a perpetual propitiation by which sins are expiated. For what was said by another John will ever hold true, "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sins of the world," (John 1:29). He, I say, took them away, and no other; that is, since he alone is the Lamb of God, he alone is the offering for our sins; he alone is expiation; he alone is satisfaction. For though the right and power of pardoning properly belongs to the Father, when he is distinguished from the Son, as has already been seen, Christ is here exhibited in another view, as transferring to himself the punishment due to us, and wiping away our guilt in the sight of God. Whence it follows that we could not be partakers of the expiation accomplished by Christ, were he not possessed of that honor of which those who try to appease God by their compensations seek to rob him.

27. Here it is necessary to keep two things in view: that the honor of Christ be preserved entire and unimpaired, and that the conscience, assured of the pardon of sin, may have peace with God. Isaiah says that the Farther "has laid on him the iniquity of us all;" that "with his stripes we are healed," (Isa. 53:5, 6). Peter repeating the same thing, in other words says, that he "bare our sins in his own body on the tree," (1 Pet. 2:24). Paul's words are, "God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin condemned sin in the flesh," "being made a curse for us," (Rom. 8:3; Gal. 3:13); in other words, the power and curse of sin was destroyed in his flesh when he was offered as a sacrifice, on which the whole weight of our sins was laid, with their curse and execration, with the fearful judgment of God, and condemnation to death. Here there is no mention of the vain dogma, that after the initial cleansing no man experiences the efficacy of Christ's passion in any other way than by means of satisfying penance: we are directed to the satisfaction of Christ alone for every fall. Now call to mind their pestilential dogma: that the grace of God is effective only in the first forgiveness of sins; but if we afterwards fall, our works co-operate in obtaining the second pardon. If these things are so, do the properties above attributed to Christ remain entire? How immense the difference between the two propositions--that our iniquities were laid upon Christ, that in his own person he might expiate them, and that they are expiated by our works; that Christ is the propitiation for our sins, and that God is to be propitiated by works. Then, in regard to pacifying the conscience, what pacification will it be to be told that sins are redeemed by satisfactions? How will it be able to ascertain the measure of satisfaction? It will always doubt whether God is propitious; will always fluctuate, always tremble. Those who rest satisfied with petty satisfactions form too contemptible an estimate of the justice of God, and little consider the grievous heinousness of sin, as shall afterwards be shown. Even were we to grant that they can buy off some sins by due satisfaction, still what will they do while they are overwhelmed with so many sins that not even a hundred lives, though wholly devoted to the purpose, could suffice to satisfy for them? We may add, that all the passages in which the forgiveness of sins is declared refer not only to catechumens, [360] but to the regenerate children of God; to those who have long been nursed in the bosom of the Church. That embassy which Paul so highly extols, "we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God," (2 Cor. 5:20), is not directed to strangers, but to those who had been regenerated long before. Setting satisfactions altogether aside, he directs us to the cross of Christ. Thus when he writes to the Colossians that Christ had "made peace through the blood of his cross," "to reconcile all things unto himself," he does not restrict it to the moment at which we are received into the Church but extends it to our whole course. This is plain from the context, where he says that in him "we have redemption by his blood, even the forgiveness of sins," (Col. 1:14). It is needless to collect more passages, as they are ever occurring.

28. Here they take refuge in the absurd distinction that some sins are venial and others mortal; that for the latter a weighty satisfaction is due, but that the former are purged by easier remedies; by the Lord's Prayer, the sprinkling of holy water, and the absolution of the Mass. Thus they insult and trifle with God. [361] And yet, though they have the terms venial and mortal sin continually in their mouth, they have not yet been able to distinguish the one from the other, except by making impiety and impurity of heart [362] to be venial sin. We, on the contrary, taught by the Scripture standard of righteousness and unrighteousness, declare that "the wages of sin is death;" and that "the soul that sinneth, it shall die," (Rom. 6:23; Ezek. 18:20). The sins of believers are venial, not because they do not merit death, but because by the mercy of God there is "now no condemnation to those which are in Christ Jesus" their sin being not imputed, but effaced by pardon. I know how unjustly they calumniate this our doctrine; for they say it is the paradox of the Stoics concerning the equality of sins: but we shall easily convict them out of their own mouths. I ask them whether, among those sins which they hold to be mortal, they acknowledge a greater and a less? If so, it cannot follow, as a matter of course, that all sins which are mortal are equal. Since Scripture declares that the wages of sin is death,--that obedience to the law is the way to life,--the transgression of it the way to death,--they cannot evade this conclusion. In such a mass of sins, therefore, how will they find an end to their satisfactions? If the satisfaction for one sin requires one day, while preparing it they involve themselves in more sins; since no man, however righteous, passes one day without falling repeatedly. While they prepare themselves for their satisfactions, number, or rather numbers without number, will be added. [363] Confidence in satisfaction being thus destroyed, what more would they have? How do they still dare to think of satisfying?

29. They endeavor, indeed, to disentangle themselves, but it is impossible. They pretend a distinction between penalty and guilt, holding that the guilt is forgiven by the mercy of God; but that though the guilt is remitted, the punishment which divine justice requires to be paid remains. Satisfactions then properly relate to the remission of the penalty. How ridiculous this levity! They now confess that the remission of guilt is gratuitous; and yet they are ever and anon telling as to merit it by prayers and tears, and other preparations of every kind. Still the whole doctrine of Scripture regarding the remission of sins is diametrically opposed to that distinction. But although I think I have already done more than enough to establish this, I will subjoin some other passages, by which these slippery snakes will be so caught as to be afterwards unable to writhe even the tip of their tail: "Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah." "I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more," (Jer. 31:31, 34). What this means we learn from another Prophet, when the Lord says, "When the righteous turneth away from his righteousness" "all his righteousness that he has done shall not be mentioned." "Again, when the wicked man turneth away from his wickedness that he has committed, and does that which is lawful and right, he shall save his soul alive," (Ezek. 18:24, 27). When he declares that he will not remember righteousness, the meaning is, that he will take no account of it to reward it. In the same way, not to remember sins is not to bring them to punishment. The same thing is denoted in other passages, [364] by casting them behind his back, blotting them out as a cloud, casting them into the depths of the sea, not imputing them, hiding them. By such forms of expression the Holy Spirit has explained his meaning not obscurely, if we would lend a willing ear. Certainly if God punishes sins, he imputes them; if he avenges, he remembers; if he brings them to judgment, he has not hid them; if he examines, he has not cast them behind his back; if he investigates, he has not blotted them out like a cloud; if he exposes them, he has not thrown them into the depths of the sea. In this way Augustine clearly interprets: "If God has covered sins, he willed not to advert to them; if he willed not to advert, he willed not to animadvert; if he willed not to animadvert, he willed not to punish: he willed not to take knowledge of them, he rather willed to pardon them. Why then did he say that sins were hid? Just that they might not be seen. What is meant by God seeing sins but punishing them?" (August. in Ps. 32:1). But let us hear from another prophetical passage on what terms the Lord forgives sins: "Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool," (Isa. 1:18). In Jeremiah again we read: "In those days, and in that time, saith the Lord, the iniquity of Israel shall be sought for, and there shall be none; and the sins of Judah, they shall not be found: for I will pardon them whom I reserve," (Jer. 50:20). Would you briefly comprehend the meaning of these words? Consider what, on the contrary, is meant by these expressions, "that transgression is sealed up in a bag;" "that the iniquity of Ephraim is bound up; his sin is hid;" that "the sin of Judah is written with a pen of iron, and with the point of a diamond." [365] If they mean, as they certainly do, that vengeance will be recompensed, there can be no doubt that, by the contrary passages, the Lord declares that he renounces all thought of vengeance. Here I must entreat the reader not to listen to any glosses of mine, but only to give some deference to the word of God.

30. What, pray, did Christ perform for us if the punishment of sin is still exacted? For when we say that he "bare our sins in his own body on the tree," (1 Pet. 2:24), all we mean is, that he endured the penalty and punishment which was due to our sins. This is more significantly declared by Isaiah, when he says that the "chastisement (or correction) of our peace was upon him," (Isaiah 53:5). But what is the correction of our peace, unless it be the punishment due to our sins, and to be paid by us before we could be reconciled to God, had he not become our substitute? Thus you clearly see that Christ bore the punishment of sin that he might thereby exempt his people from it. And whenever Paul makes mention of the redemption procured by him, [366] he calls it apolu'trosis, by which he does not simply mean redemption, as it is commonly understood, but the very price and satisfaction of redemption. [367] For which reason, he also says, that Christ gave himself an anti'lutron (ransom) for us. "What is propitiation with the Lord (says Augustine) but sacrifice? And what is sacrifice but that which was offered for us in the death of Christ?" But we have our strongest argument in the injunctions of the Mosaic Law as to expiating the guilt of sin. The Lord does not there appoint this or that method of satisfying, but requires the whole compensation to be made by sacrifice, though he at the same time enumerates all the rites of expiation with the greatest care and exactness. How comes it that he does not at all enjoin works as the means of procuring pardon, but only requires sacrifices for expiation, unless it were his purpose thus to testify that this is the only kind of satisfaction by which his justice is appeased? For the sacrifices which the Israelites then offered were not regarded as human works, but were estimated by their anti type, that is, the sole sacrifice of Christ. The kind of compensation which the Lord receives from us is elegantly and briefly expressed by Hosea: "Take with you words, and turn to the Lord: say unto him, Take away all iniquity, and receive us graciously," here is remission: "so will we render the calves of our lips," here is satisfaction (Hos. 14:2). I know that they have still a more subtile evasion, [368] by making a distinction between eternal and temporal punishment; but as they define temporal punishment to be any kind of infliction with which God visits either the body or the soul, eternal death only excepted, this restriction avails them little. The passages which we have quoted above say expressly that the terms on which God receives us into favor are these--viz. he remits all the punishment which we deserved by pardoning our guilt. And whenever David or the other prophets ask pardon for their sins, they deprecate punishment. Nay, a sense of the divine justice impels them to this. On the other hand, when they promise mercy from the Lord, they almost always discourse of punishments and the forgiveness of them. Assuredly, when the Lord declares in Ezekiel, that he will put an end to the Babylonish captivity, not "for your sakes, O house of Israel, but for mine holy name's sake," (Ezek. 36:22), he sufficiently demonstrates that both are gratuitous. In short, if we are freed from guilt by Christ, the punishment consequent upon guilt must cease with it.

     Christian Classics Ethereal Library / Public Domain

     Institutes of the Christian Religion

By James Orr 1907


3. Taking the Book of  Genesis by itself, we may confidently affirm that, apart from the few words and phrases commonly adduced, as “The Canaanite was then in the land,” “Before there reigned any king over the children of Israel,” there are no indications which point necessarily beyond the Mosaic age, and even these do not point later than the early days of the kingdom — if they do even this. “The Book of  Genesis,” says Kuenen himself, in words already quoted, “may here be left out of account, since the picture it contains of the age of the patriarchs gives no unequivocal indications of the period at which it was produced.” On the other hand, there are not a few indications in the book, as well as references to it in other books, which imply a high antiquity — this, also, especially in its Elohistic parts. There is reason for believing that the narratives of the creation and the flood in the P sections are very old. The Fourth Commandment in  Exodus is based, both in  Exodus 20:11 and  Exodus chap. 31:17, on the sabbath rest of God in  Gen. 2:1–3 — a fact doubly significant if, as Graf allows, “the Decalogue in the form in which it appears handed down in  Ex. 20 is manifestly older and more original than that in  Deut. 5.” Deut. 4:32 seems to be a clear reference to the Elohistic account of the creation, with its characteristic word bara (“in the day when Elohim created man upon the earth”). The list of the eight kings of Edom in  Gen. 36, which stops with Hadar (ver.  39 ), apparently a person still living, points to a date considerably earlier than Saul or David, when the independence of the kingdom ceased. Colenso, who is our ally here against the post-exilian theory of the P narrative, points out quite a number of other expressions which look back to  Genesis. He mentions, e.g., the phrase in  Deuteronomy, “Unto them and to their seed after them” (chaps.  1:8, 4:37, 10:15 ), in which there seems allusion to the recurring P formula in  Gen. 17:8; 35:12; 48:2; cf. chaps.  9:19, 17:7, 10, 19; the words in  Deut. 29:13, “that He may be to thee an Elohim,” which seems distinctly to refer to  Gen. 17:7, 8, where alone we have such a promise under solemn covenant; the declaration in  Isa. 54:9 (at least not post-exilian), “I have sworn that as the waters of Noah should no more go over the earth,” etc., which refers to the P phraseology and covenant in  Gen. 9:11. The cumulative effect of these allusions, as against the modern theory, is very great.

4. We have not attempted to go into detailed argument on the history of the language, nor to rebut objections, more frequently heard earlier than now, on the supposed ignorance of the Hebrews in the Mosaic age of the art of writing. The discussion of the language lies beyond our province; and discovery, as already seen, has thrown such remarkable light on the existence, and wide diffusion of writing, in antiquity, specially among the peoples with whom the Hebrews were brought most closely into contact (Babylonia, Egypt, Palestine), as to place the possibility of such literary labours as we have been supposing beyond reasonable doubt. Few, therefore, now found on the assumption that writing was unknown, or not practised, among the early Hebrews; less even is heard of the unlikelihood of an “undisciplined horde” of nomads possessing a knowledge of letters. Every indication shows that the Hebrews, as they came up out of Egypt, were not a people of this character, but had a good knowledge of the arts and ways of civilised life. The Pentateuch, we saw before, assumes a knowledge of the art of writing; and if such knowledge was possessed by Moses, and those about him, there can be little doubt but that it would be used. There seems, accordingly, no bar in the way of the supposition that in the age of Moses the main features of the language as a vehicle of literary expression were already established, and, in some form of script, the use of writing may go back much earlier. On this point Dr. Driver says: “It is not denied that the patriarchs possessed the art of writing”; but he thinks that the use of documents from the patriarchal age is “a mere hypothesis, for the truth of which no positive grounds can be alleged.” Even if it were so, it would be in no worse case than much in the critical view itself, which, if anything in the world ever was, is hypothesis built on hypothesis. The value of a hypothesis is the degree in which it explains facts, and, in the silence of the Book of  Genesis, we can only reason from general probabilities. But the probabilities, derived from the state of culture at the time, from the fixed and circumstantial character of the tradition, and from the archæological notices embedded in the book, are, we think, strong, that the Hebrews, even in the patriarchal age, were to some extent acquainted with books and writing. If so, we may believe that at an early period, in Egypt under Joseph, if not before, attempts would be made to set down things in writing.

5. We have used the terms “collaboration” and “co-operation” to express the kind and manner of the activity which, in our view, brought the Pentateuchal books into their present shape, less, however, as suggesting a definite theory of origin, than as indicating the labour of original composers, working with a common aim, and towards a common end, in contrast with the idea of late irresponsible redactors, combining, altering, manipulating, enlarging at pleasure. It has been shown how the critical theory itself tends to approximate to this idea of “co-operation” in the production of the Hexateuch, though at the other end of the development. What it puts at the end, we are disposed to transfer to the beginning.

Beyond this we do not feel it possible to go with any degree of confidence. It may very well be — though everything here is more or less conjectural — that, as already hinted, the original JEP history and Code embraced, not simply the Book of the Covenant, but a brief summary of the Levitical ordinances, analogous, as Dillmann thinks, to the so-called Law of Holiness; possibly also, as Delitzsch supposes, a short narrative, in its proper place, of the last discourses of Moses, and of his death. We have seen that  Deuteronomy, in its original form, was probably an independent work; the priestly laws, also, would be at first chiefly in the hands of the priests. Later, but still, in our opinion, early — possibly in the times immediately succeeding the conquest, but not later than the days of the undivided kingdom — the original work would be enlarged by union with  Deuteronomy, and by incorporation of the larger mass of Levitical material. In some such way, with possible revision by Ezra, or whoever else gave the work its final canonical shape, our Pentateuch may have arisen.

It is difficult, however, to suppose that this large work, assuming its origin to be as early as we have suggested, ever had, in its completeness, any wide circulation, or was frequently copied in its entirety. As in the Christian Church, before the days of printing, it was customary to copy out selected books and portions, as the  Psalter, or the Gospels; so, it may reasonably be presumed, the parts of the Pentateuch copied out for general use, and in more common circulation, would ordinarily be those to which we still turn as the more interesting and edifying — the story of the patriarchs and of Moses, the history of the  Exodus and the wanderings, the Book of  Deuteronomy, short digests of laws, etc. The detailed Levitical Code would be left to the priests, and would be known mainly through the praxis, or by oral instruction at the sanctuary. The “law of Jehovah,” of which we read so much in the Psalter, by which the piety of the godly in Israel was nourished, which enlightened, converted, directed, warned, comforted, cleansed, made fruitful, the souls that delighted in it, was assuredly, as before remarked, something very different from the dry Levitical regulations. The versions of these books in circulation would also have their vicissitudes; would undergo the usual textual corruptions; may have received unauthorised modifications or additions; may have had their Jehovistic and Elohistic recensions. But the sense in pious minds that it was Jehovah’s “law” — embodying the “words of His lips” — which they were dealing with would check rash freedoms, and the means of correction would never be wholly lost. God’s people had a “Bible” then, and, as it comes to us from their hands, we may cherish the confidence that it has suffered no change which unfits it for being our Bible also.

     The Problem of the Old Testament

1. The Word of Forgiveness

A.W. Pink from The Seven Sayings of the Savior on the Cross

     "Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do."


6. Here we see man’s great and primary need.

     The first important lesson which all need to learn is that we are sinners, and as such, unfit for the presence of a Holy God. It is in vain that we select noble ideals, form good resolutions, and adopt excellent rules to live by, until the sin-question has been settled. It is of no avail that we attempt to develop a beautiful character and aim to do that which will meet with God’s approval while there is sin between him and our souls. Of what use are shoes if our feet are paralyzed. Of what use are glasses if we are blind. The question of the forgiveness of my sins is basic, fundamental, vital. It matters not that I am highly respected by a wide circle of friends if I am yet in my sins. It matters not that I have made good in business if I am an unpardoned transgressor in the sight of God. What will matter most in the hour of death is, Have my sins been put away by the Blood of Christ?

     The second all-important lesson which all need to learn is how forgiveness of sins may be obtained. What is the ground on which a Holy God will forgive sins? And here it is important to remark that there is a vital difference between divine forgiveness and much of human forgiveness. As a general rule human forgiveness is a matter of leniency, often of laxity. We mean forgiveness is shown at the expense of justice and righteousness. In a human court of law, the judge has to choose between two alternatives: when the one in the dock has been proven guilty, the judge must either enforce the penalty of the law, or he must disregard the requirements of the law - the one is justice, the other is mercy. The only possible way by which the judge can both enforce the requirements of the law and yet show mercy to its offender, is by a third party offering to suffer in his own person the penalty which the convicted one deserves. Thus it was in the divine counsels. God would not exercise mercy at the expense of justice. God, as the judge of all the earth, would not set aside the demands of his holy law. Yet, God would show mercy. How? Through one making full satisfaction to his outraged law. Through his own Son taking the place of all those who believe on him and bearing their sins in his own body on the tree. God could be just and yet merciful, merciful and yet just. Thus it is that "grace reigns through righteousness".

     A righteous ground has been provided on which God can be just and yet the justifier of all who believe. Hence it is we are told:

     Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission (forgiveness) of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem (Luke 24:46,47).

     And again:

     Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses (Acts 13:38, 39).

     It was in view of the blood he was shedding that the Saviour cried, "Father, forgive them". It was in view of the atoning sacrifice he was offering, that it can be said "without shedding of blood is no remission".

     In praying for the forgiveness of his enemies Christ struck right down to the root of their need. And their need was the need of every child of Adam. Reader, have your sins been forgiven? that is, remitted or sent away. Are you, by grace, one of those of whom it is said, "In whom we have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins" (Col. 1:14)"?

     "Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do."

     7. Here we see the triumph of redeeming love.

     Mark closely the word with which our text opens: "Then". The verse which immediately precedes it reads thus, "And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left". Then, said Jesus, Father, forgive them. "Then" - when man had done his worst. "Then" - when the vileness of the human heart was displayed in climacteric devilry. "Then" - when with wicked hands the creature had dared to crucify the Lord of glory. He might have uttered awful maledictions over them. He might have let loose the thunderbolts of righteous wrath and slain them. He might have caused the earth to open her mouth so that they had gone down alive into the pit. But no. Though subjected to unspeakable shame, though suffering excruciating pain, though despised, rejected, hated; nevertheless, he cries, "Father, forgive them". That was the triumph of redeeming love. "Love suffereth long, and is kind . . . beareth all things . . . endureth all things" (1 Cor. 13). Thus it was shown at the cross.

     When Samson came to his dying hour he used his great strength of body to encompass the destruction of his foes; but the perfect one, exhibited the strength of his love by praying for the forgiveness of his enemies. Matchless grace! "Matchless," we say, for even Stephen failed to fully follow out the blessed example set by the Saviour. If the reader will turn to Acts 7 he will find that Stephen’s first thought was of himself, and then he prayed for his enemies - "And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge" (Acts 7:59,60). But with Christ the order was reversed: he prayed first for his foes, and last for himself. In all things he has the pre-eminence.

     And now one concluding word of application and exhortation. Should this chapter have been read by an unsaved person we would earnestly ask him to weigh well the next sentence - How dreadful must it be to oppose Christ and his truth knowingly! Those who crucified the Saviour "knew not what they did". But, my reader, there is a very real and solemn sense in which this is not true of you. You know you ought to receive Christ as your Saviour, that you ought to crown him the Lord of your life, that you ought to make it your first and last concern to please and glorify him. Be warned then; your danger is great. If you deliberately turn from him, you turn from the only one who can save you from your sins, and it is written, "For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries" (Heb. 10:26, 27).

     It only remains for us to add a word on the blessed completeness of divine forgiveness. Many of God’s people are unsettled and troubled upon this point. They understand how that all the sins they had committed before they received Christ as their Saviour have been forgiven, but oftentimes they are not clear concerning the sins which they commit after they have been born again. Many suppose it is possible for them to sin away the pardon which God had bestowed upon them. They suppose that the blood of Christ dealt with their past only, and that so far as the present and the future are concerned, they have to take care of that themselves. But of what value would be a pardon which might be taken away from me at any time? Surely there can be no settled peace when my acceptance with God and my going to heaven is made to depend upon my holding on to Christ, or my obedience and faithfulness.

     Blessed be God, the forgiveness which he bestows covers all sins - past, present and future. Fellow-believer, did not Christ bear your "sins" in his own body on the tree? And were not all your sins future sins when he died? Surely, for at that time you had not been born, and so had not committed a single sin. Very well then: Christ bore your "future" sins as truly as your past ones. What the word of God teaches is that the unbelieving soul is brought out of the place of unforgiveness into the place to which forgiveness attaches. Christians are a forgiven people. Says the Holy Spirit: "Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin" (Romans 4:8). The believer is in Christ, and there sin will never again be imputed to us. This is our place or position before God. In Christ is where he beholds us. And because I am in Christ I am completely and eternally forgiven, so much so that never again will sin be laid to my charge as touching my salvation, even though I were to remain on earth a hundred years. I am out of that place for evermore. Listen to the testimony of scripture: "And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he (God) quickened together with him (Christ), having forgiven you all trespasses" (Col. 2:13). Mark the two things which are here united (and what God hath joined together let no man put asunder) - my union with a risen Christ is connected with my forgiveness! If then my life is "hid with Christ in God" (Colossians 3:3), then I am forever out of the place where imputation of sin applies. Hence it is written, "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:1) - how could there be if "all trespasses" have been forgiven? None can lay anything to the charge of God’s elect (Romans 8:33). Christian reader, join the writer in praising God because we are eternally forgiven everything.*

     *It should be added by way of explanation, that it is the judicial aspect we have dealt with. Restorative forgiveness - which is the bringing back again into communion of a sinning believer -dealt with in 1 John 1:9 - is another matter altogether.

The Seven Sayings of the Savior on the Cross

The Pilgrim's Progress From This World To That Which Is To Come;
Delivered Under The Similitude Of A Dream (Part 2)

By John Bunyan 1678


     When these men had thus bravely showed themselves against Doubting Castle, and had slain Giant Despair, they went forward, and went on till they came to the Delectable Mountains, where Christian and Hopeful refreshed themselves with the varieties of the place. They also acquainted themselves with the shepherds there, who welcomed them, as they had done Christian before, unto the Delectable Mountains.

     Now the shepherds seeing so great a train follow Mr. Great-Heart, (for with him they were well acquainted,) they said unto him, Good sir, you have got a goodly company here; pray where did you find all these?

     Then Mr. Great-Heart replied,

“First, here is Christiana and her train,
Her sons, and her sons’ wives, who, like the wain,
Keep by the pole, and do by compass steer
From sin to grace, else they had not been here.
Next here’s old Honest come on pilgrimage,
Ready-to-halt too, who I dare engage
True-hearted is, and so is Feeble-mind,
Who willing was not to be left behind.
Despondency, good man, is coming after,
And so also is Much-afraid, his daughter.
May we have entertainment here, or must
We further go? Let’s knew whereon to trust.”

     Then said the shepherds, This is a comfortable company. You are welcome to us; for we have for the feeble, as well as for the strong. Our Prince has an eye to what is done to the least of these; therefore Infirmity must not be a block to our entertainment.

Matt. 25: And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’   ESV

     So they had them to the palace door, and then said unto them, Come in, Mr. Feeble-Mind; come in Mr. Ready-to-halt; Come in, Mr. Despondency, and Mrs. Much-afraid his daughter. These, Mr. Great-Heart, said the shepherds to the guide, we call in by name, for that they are most subject to draw back; but as for you, and the rest that are strong, we leave you to your wonted liberty. Then said Mr. Great-Heart, This day I see that grace doth shine in your faces, and that you are my Lord’s shepherds indeed; for that you have not pushed these diseased neither with side nor shoulder, but have rather strewed their way into the palace with flowers, as you should.

Ezek. 34:21 Because you push with side and shoulder, and thrust at all the weak with your horns, till you have scattered them abroad,   ESV

     So the feeble and weak went in, and Mr. Great-Heart and the rest did follow. When they were also set down, the shepherds said to those of the weaker sort, What is it that you would have? for, said they, all things must be managed here to the supporting of the weak, as well as to the warning of the unruly. So they made them a feast of things easy of digestion, and that were pleasant to the palate and nourishing; the which when they had received, they went to their rest, each one respectively unto his proper place.

     When morning was come, because the mountains were high and the day clear, and because it was the custom of the shepherds to show the pilgrims before their departure some rarities, therefore, after they were ready, and had refreshed themselves, the shepherds took them out into the fields, and showed them first what they had shown to Christian before.

     Then they had them to some new places. The first was Mount Marvel, where they looked, and beheld a man at a distance that tumbled the hills about with words. Then they asked the shepherds what that should mean. So they told them, that that man was the son of one Mr. Great-grace, of whom you read in the first part of the records of the Pilgrim’s Progress; and he is set there to teach pilgrims how to believe down, or to tumble out of their ways, what difficulties they should meet with, by faith.

Mark 11:23-24 23 Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him. 24 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.   ESV

Then said Mr. Great-Heart, I know him; he is a man above many.

     Then they had them to another place, called Mount Innocence. And there they saw a man clothed all in white; and two men, Prejudice and Ill-will, continually casting dirt upon him. Now behold, the dirt, whatsoever they cast at him, would in a little time fall off again, and his garment would look as clear as if no dirt had been cast thereat. Then said the pilgrims, What means this? The shepherds answered, This man is named Godlyman, and this garment is to show the innocency of his life. Now, those that throw dirt at him are such as hate his well-doing; but, as you see the dirt will not stick upon his clothes, so it shall be with him that liveth innocently in the world. Whoever they be that would make such men dirty, they labor all in vain; for God, by that a little time is spent, will cause that their innocence shall break forth as the light, and their righteousness as the noonday.

     Then they took them, and had them to Mount Charity, where they showed them a man that had a bundle of cloth lying before him, out of which he cut coats and garments for the poor that stood about him; yet his bundle or roll of cloth was never the less. Then said they, What should this be? This is, said the shepherds, to show you, that he who has a heart to give of his labor to the poor, shall never want wherewithal. He that watereth shall be watered himself. And the cake that the widow gave to the prophet did not cause that she had the less in her barrel.

1 Kings 17:8 Then the word of the LORD came to him, 9 “Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and dwell there. Behold, I have commanded a widow there to feed you.” 10 So he arose and went to Zarephath. And when he came to the gate of the city, behold, a widow was there gathering sticks. And he called to her and said, “Bring me a little water in a vessel, that I may drink.” 11 And as she was going to bring it, he called to her and said, “Bring me a morsel of bread in your hand.” 12 And she said, “As the LORD your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. And now I am gathering a couple of sticks that I may go in and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it and die.” 13 And Elijah said to her, “Do not fear; go and do as you have said. But first make me a little cake of it and bring it to me, and afterward make something for yourself and your son. 14 For thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘The jar of flour shall not be spent, and the jug of oil shall not be empty, until the day that the LORD sends rain upon the earth.’” 15 And she went and did as Elijah said. And she and he and her household ate for many days. 16 The jar of flour was not spent, neither did the jug of oil become empty, according to the word of the LORD that he spoke by Elijah.   ESV

     They had them also to the place where they saw one Fool and one Want-wit washing an Ethiopian, with intention to make him white; but the more they washed him, the blacker he was. Then they asked the shepherds what that should mean. So they told them, saying, Thus it is with the vile person; all means used to get such a one a good name, shall in conclusion tend but to make him more abominable. Thus it was with the pharisees; and so it shall be with all hypocrites.

     Then said Mercy, the wife of Matthew, to Christiana her mother, Mother, I would, if it might be, see the hole in the hill, or that commonly called the By-way to hell. So her mother brake her mind to the shepherds. Then they went to the door; it was on the side of an hill; and they opened it, and bid Mercy hearken a while. So she hearkened, and heard one saying, Cursed be my father for holding of my feet back from the way of peace and life. Another said, Oh that I had been torn in pieces before I had, to save my life, lost my soul! And another said, If I were to live again, how would I deny myself, rather than to come to this place! Then there was as if the very earth groaned and quaked under the feet of this young woman for fear; so she looked white, and came trembling away, saying, Blessed be he and she that is delivered from this place!

     Now, when the shepherds had shown them all these things, then they had them back to the palace, and entertained them with what the house would afford. But Mercy, being a young and married woman, longed for something that she saw there, but was ashamed to ask. Her mother-in-law then asked her what she ailed, for she looked as one not well. Then said Mercy, There is a looking-glass hangs up in the dining-room, off which I cannot take my mind; if, therefore, I have it not, I think I shall miscarry. Then said her mother, I will mention thy wants to the shepherds, and they will not deny thee. But she said, I am ashamed that these men should know that I longed. Nay, my daughter, said she, it is no shame, but a virtue, to long for such a thing as that. So Mercy said, Then mother, if you please, ask the shepherds if they are willing to sell it.

     Now the glass was one of a thousand. It would present a man, one way, with his own features exactly; and turn it but another way, and it would show one the very face and similitude of the Prince of pilgrims himself. Yes, I have talked with them that can tell, and they have said that they have seen the very crown of thorns upon his head by looking in that glass; they have therein also seen the holes in his hands, his feet, and his side. Yea, such an excellency is there in this glass, that it will show him to one where they have a mind to see him, whether living or dead; whether in earth, or in heaven; whether in a state of humiliation, or in his exaltation; whether coming to suffer, or coming to reign.

James 1:23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror.   ESV

1 Cor. 13:12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.   ESV

2 Cor. 3:18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.   ESV

     Christiana therefore went to the shepherds apart, (now the names of the shepherds were Knowledge, Experience, Watchful, and Sincere,) and said unto them, There is one of my daughters, a breeding woman, that I think doth long for something that she hath seen in this house; and she thinks that she shall miscarry if she should by you be denied.

     EXPERIENCE. Call her, call her, she shall assuredly have what we can help her to. So they called her, and said to her, Mercy, what is that thing thou wouldst have? Then she blushed, and said, The great glass that hangs up in the dining-room. So Sincere ran and fetched it, and with a joyful consent it was given her. Then she bowed her head, and gave thanks, and said, By this I know that I have obtained favor in your eyes.

     They also gave to the other young women such things as they desired, and to their husbands great commendations, for that they had joined with Mr. Great-Heart in the slaying of Giant Despair, and the demolishing of Doubting Castle.

     About Christiana’s neck the shepherds put a bracelet, and so did they about the necks of her four daughters; also they put ear-rings in their ears, and jewels on their foreheads.

     When they were minded to go hence, they let them go in peace, but gave not to them those certain cautions which before were given to Christian and his companion. The reason was, for that these had Great-Heart to be their guide, who was one that was well acquainted with things, and so could give them their cautions more seasonably, to wit, even when the danger was nigh the approaching. What cautions Christian and his companion had received of the shepherds, they had also lost by that the time was come that they had need to put them in practice. Wherefore, here was the advantage that this company had over the other.

From thence they went on singing, and they said,
“Behold how fitly are the stages set
For their relief that pilgrims are become,
And how they us receive without one let,
That make the other life our mark and home!
What novelties they have to us they give,
That we, though pilgrims, joyful lives may live;
They do upon us, too, such things bestow,
That show we pilgrims are, where’er we go.”

     Pilgrim's Progress (Illustrated): Updated, Modern English. More than 100 Illustrations.

The Continual Burnt Offering

By H.A. Ironside - 1941

March 12
1 Chronicles 4:9 Jabez was more honorable than his brothers; and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, “Because I bore him in pain.” 10 Jabez called upon the God of Israel, saying, “Oh that you would bless me and enlarge my border, and that your hand might be with me, and that you would keep me from harm so that it might not bring me pain!” And God granted what he asked.  ESV

     In the midst of what seems to many like a wilderness of forgotten names, how refreshing it is to come across the brief story of Jabez. His name means “Sorrowful,” but through grace he was determined to rise above the sorrow that overshadowed his life and enter into the joy of fellowship with God. His prayer is fourfold. “Bless me indeed.” That is, “Give me true happiness.”  This is only found as one prevails and walks with God.  “Enlarge my territory.” He was not content to go on only with what he had. He would enter into and enjoy more of the inheritance of the Lord. “That Your hand would be with me.” He counted on God’s protecting care. And lastly he prayed, “Keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain!”  Sin is the only thing that can rob a child of God of his joy in the Lord. 

Do you know what happened on that day
When, burdened for souls, you tried to pray?
Did you think you failed to touch the Throne
When your lips were dumb, your prayer a groan?

Over the sea in a hot, dry land,
A sower sowed with faltering hand—
But, lo! in that hour refreshing came:
God’s servant spoke with a tongue of flame!
And souls long steeped in a land of night
Passed from gloom to marvelous light;
Away from idols they turned to God,
Finding their peace in Jesus’ blood.
‘Twas your faith had moved God’s mighty hand,
His blessings poured down in a desert land.
--- Margaret D. Armstrong

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

  • The Foolish
    Wise Man
  • How to Find
    Eternal Life
  • The Legacy
    of a Life

#1 Greg Laurie


#2 Greg Laurie


#3 Greg Laurie


     Devotionals, notes, poetry and more

UCB The Word For Today
     Break your alabaster jar (1)
     3/12/2018    Bob Gass

     ‘A woman who had lived a sinful life…brought an alabaster jar of perfume.’

(Lk 7:37) And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, ESV

     The Bible says, ‘A woman who had lived a sinful life…brought an alabaster jar of perfume, and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping…poured perfume on them’ (vv. 37-38 NIV 1984 Edition). This perfume was pure nard, a perennial herb that is harvested in the Himalayas. Half a litre of it! And the jar itself, made of translucent gemstones, was probably a family heirloom. It might even have been her dowry. Plain and simple, it was her most precious possession. How ironic, yet how appropriate that the perfume used in her profession as a prostitute would become the token of her profession of faith when she poured out every last drop at the feet of Jesus. Breaking that bottle was her way of breaking with the past. No more masking the stench of sin with the sweet scent of perfume. No more secrets. No more shame. She walked out of the dark shadow of sin into the light of the world. There comes a moment when you have to come clean with God. A moment when you need to unveil your secrets, struggles, and sins. A moment when you need to fall full weight on the grace of God. Why do we act as though our sin disqualifies us from the grace of God? That is the only thing that qualifies us! Anything else is a self-righteous attempt to earn God’s grace. You cannot trust God’s grace 99 per cent. It’s all or nothing. When we try to save ourselves, we forfeit the salvation that comes through Jesus Christ alone, by grace through faith (see Ephesians 2:8-9).

Numbers 20-22
Mark 7:17-37

UCB The Word For Today

American Minute
     by Bill Federer

     His outspoken stand against slavery resulted in a Congressman from Carolina violently beating him on the head with a cane while he was sitting at his desk on the Senate Floor, the injuries from which he never fully recovered. Who was he? Senator Charles Sumner, who died this day, March 11, 1874. A founder of the Republican Party, Charles Sumner declared: “That great story of redemption, when God raised up the slave-born Moses to deliver His chosen people from bondage, and… that sublimer story where our Saviour died a cruel death that all men, without distinction of race, might be saved, makes slavery impossible.”

American Minute

A Testament Of Devotion
     Thomas R. Kelly

     There is a way of life so hid with Christ in God that in the midst of the day's business one is inwardly lifting brief prayers, short ejaculations of praise, subdue'd whispers of adoration and of tender love to the Beyond that is within. No one need know about it. I only speak to you because it is a sacred trust, not mine but to be given to others. One can live in a well-nigh continuous state of unworded prayer, directed toward God, directed toward people and enterprises we have on our heart. There is no hurry about it all; it is a life unspeakable and full of glory, an inner world of splendor within which we, unworthy, may live. Some of you know it and live in it; others of you may wistfully long for it; it can be yours.

     Now out from such a holy Center come the commissions of life. Our fellowship with God issues in world-concern. We cannot keep the love of God to ourselves. It spills over. It quickens us. It makes us see the world's needs anew. We love people and we grieve to see them blind when they might be seeing, asleep with all the world's comforts when they ought to be awake and living sacrificially, accepting the world's goods as their right when they really hold them only in temporary trust. It is because from this holy Center we relove people, relove our neighbors as ourselves, that we are bestirred to be means of their awakening. The deepest need of men is not food and clothing and shelter, important as they are. It is God. We have mistaken the nature of poverty, and thought it was economic poverty. No, it is poverty of soul, deprivation of God's recreating, loving peace. Peer into poverty and see if we are really getting down to the deepest needs, in our economic salvation schemes. These are important. But they lie farther along the road, secondary steps toward world reconstruction. The primary step is a holy life, transformed and radiant in the glory of God.

     This love of people is well-nigh as amazing as the love of God. Do we want to help people because we feel sorry for them, or because we genuinely love them? The world needs something deeper than pity; it needs love. (How trite that sounds, how real it is!) But in our love of people are we to be excitedly hurried, sweeping all men and tasks into our loving concern? No, that is God's function. But He, working within us, portions out His vast concern into bundles, and lays on each of us our portion. These become our tasks. Life from the Center is a heaven-directed life.

     Much of our acceptance of multitudes of obligations is due to our inability to say No. We calculated that that task had to be done, and we saw no one ready to undertake it. We calculated the need, and then calculated our time, and decided maybe we could squeeze it in somewhere. But the decision was a heady decision, not made within the sanctuary of the soul. When we say Yes or No to calls for service on the basis of heady decisions, we have to give reasons, to ourselves and to others. But when we say Yes or No to calls, on the basis of inner guidance and whispered promptings of encouragement from the Center of our life, or on the basis of a lack of any inward "rising" of that Life to encourage us in the call, we have no reason to give, except one-the will of God as we discern it. Then we have begun to live in guidance. And I find He never guides us into an intolerable scramble of panting feverishness. The Cosmic Patience becomes, in part, our patience, for after all God is at work in the world. It is not we alone who are at work in the world, frantically finishing a work to be offered to God.

     Life from the Center is a life of unhurried peace and power. It is simple. It is serene. It is amazing. It is triumphant. It is radiant. It takes no time, but it occupies all our time. And it makes our life programs new and overcoming. We need not get frantic. He is at the helm. And when our little day is done we lie down quietly in peace, for all is well.

A Testament of Devotion

Lean Into God
     Compiled by Richard S. Adams

Let us put theology out of religion. Theology has always sent the worst to heaven, the best to hell.
--- Robert G. Ingersoll
The gods.

It is not your idea, not your understanding, not your thinking, not your reasoning, not even your profession of faith, that here can quench the thirst. The home-sickness goes out after God Himself... it is not the name of God but God Himself whom your soul desires and cannot do without.
--- Abraham Kuyper
Space for God: Study and Practice of Spirituality and Prayer (Bible Way)

By a Carpenter mankind was made,
and only by that Carpenter can mankind be remade.
--- Desiderius Erasmus
27/28: Literary and Educational Writings, volume 27 and volume 28: 5: Panegyricus / Moria / Julius exclusus / Institutio principis christiani . ... 6: Ciceronianus (Collected Works of Erasmus)

It is true greatness to have in one the frailty of a man and the security of a god.
--- Seneca
Essays: Or, Counsels Civil and Moral, and the Two Books of the Proficience and Advancement of Learning
... from here, there and everywhere

Journal of John Woolman 3/12
     University of Virginia Library 1994

     Thou who sometimes travellest in the work of the ministry, and art made very welcome by thy friends, seest many tokens of their satisfaction in having thee for their guest. It is good for thee to dwell deep, that thou mayest feel and understand the spirits of people. If we believe truth points towards a conference on some subjects in a private way, it is needful for us to take heed that their kindness, their freedom, and affability do not hinder us from the Lord's work. I have experienced that, in the midst of kindness and smooth conduct, to speak close and home to them who entertain us, on points that relate to outward interest, is hard labor. Sometimes, when I have felt truth lead towards it, I have found myself disqualified by a superficial friendship; and as the sense thereof hath abased me, and my cries have been to the Lord, so I have been humbled and made content to appear weak, or as a fool for his sake; and thus a door hath been opened to enter upon it. To attempt to do the Lord's work in our own way, and to speak of that which is the burden of the Word, in a way easy to the natural part, doth not reach the bottom of the disorder. To see the failings of our friends, and think hard of them without opening that which we ought to open, and still carry a face of friendship, tends to undermine the foundation of true unity. The office of a minister of Christ is weighty. And they who now go forth as watchmen have need to be steadily on their guard against the snares of prosperity and an outside friendship.

John Woolman's Journal

Proverbs 12:14
     by D.H. Stern

14     One can be filled with good
as the result of one’s words,
and one gets the reward
one’s deeds deserve.

Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
What Is Theology?
     by Dr. David Wells

     What in an earlier age might have been self-evident is no longer so. Today, so many definitions of theology are being offered that one might well wonder how a field experiencing such internal chaos could sustain so many practitioners or that anyone outside the field would take it seriously. "As everyone knows," Ian Ramsey wrote some twenty years ago, "theology is at present in turmoil. . . . Theology seems often to the outsider just so much word-spinning, air-borne discourse which never touches down except disastrously."   Models for Divine Activity: (Ian T. Ramsey Reprints)   As he saw it, not only was the Church without theology, but theology was without God. Undoubtedly, some chastening has set in since then among professional theologians, but the chasm between their language and mentality on the one hand and the language and mentality of the Church on the other has, if anything, only widened in the intervening years.

     This is, of course, the theme of this book, but I wish to look at it less from the side of the theologians and more from the side of the Church. To this end, I will begin with a definition of theology meant to cover both those with technical interest in its construction and those without such an interest, in hopes of being able to mediate between the several different ways in which we use the word. This is no small undertaking, for, as Edward Farley has noted, these different meanings have become so estranged from one another that they are no longer recognized as references to the same thing. When the word theology is used in the Church, it is commonly used simply of someone's private theory about some subject. As the therapeutic culture that modernity has spawned then intrudes into this inner sphere, "theology" tends to lose its doctrinal substance. By contrast, in the academy the word theology is sometimes used to described a discipline, similar in kind to history and astronomy, in which the practitioner of learning ought ideally to have no personal involvement. Alternatively, it is also used in the academy as a synonym for Old Testament study, New Testament study, or the study of spirituality, in which case it has lost its status as an independent discipline altogether. Given the different characterizations of theology in Church and academy, it is hard to recognize that it is the same thing at bottom.

     It is my contention that theology should mean the same thing regardless of whether it is used in the Church or in the academy. There was a time when there was this sort of uniformity of meaning. In the past, the doing of theology encompassed three essential aspects in both the Church and the academy: (1) a confessional element, (2) reflection on this confession, and (3) the cultivation of a set of virtues that are grounded in the first two elements. To be sure, the various theological traditions have not given equal emphasis to these three elements, nor have these elements received equal attention from century to century even within any given tradition. In ages of heresy or schism, for example, the importance of defining what it is that needs to be confessed has often received prominence; in ages of social turmoil or ideological hostility, critical reflection and apologetics have moved to the forefront of Christian attention; and in ages when confessional orthodoxy has not only dominated but, in the process, calcified the church, the cultivation of the virtues, the life of spirituality, has been made more urgent. Nevertheless, despite these shifting emphases, theologians have always seen themselves as having to live and work within the triangle that these three interests form, and what is true of them is also true of the Church as a whole.

     Confession, in this understanding, is what the Church believes,' It is what crystallizes into doctrine. And, to be more specific, churches with roots in the Protestant Reformation confess the truth that God has given to the Church through the inspired Word of God. There may be disagreements about what the Bible teaches on any one subject, as well as how that teaching should be assembled, but there is unanimous agreement that this authoritative truth lies at the heart of Christian life and practice, for this is what it means to live under the authority of Scripture. It is in this core of confession that the Church's identity is preserved across the ages. This is the watchword by which it is known. Without this knowledge, it is bereft of what defines the Church as the people of God, bereft of the means of belief, worship, sustenance, proclamation, and service. Confession must be at the center of every theology that wants to be seen as theologia, the knowledge of God, a knowledge given in and for the people of God.

     The second element of theology, reflection, involves the intellectual struggle to understand what it means to be the recipient of God's Word in this present world. It has to proceed down three distinct avenues. First, it must range over the whole of God's disclosure within Scripture, seeking to make the connections between the various parts of Scripture such that God's intent in so revealing his character, acts, and will is made clear. It aims at a comprehensive understanding of what God has given so that his mind will begin to be replicated in the Church's mind. Second, reflection must range over the past, seeking to gather from God's working in the Church the ballast that will steady it in the storms of the present. It is through this kind of reflective work that the spiritual riches of the past are gathered and the present is relativized. The present always needs to be deprived of its pretensions to being the most elevated moment in the story of the human spirit (or, as some charismatics would have it, the most dramatic), for this opens wide the door to pride and folly. Third, reflection must seek to understand the connections between what is confessed and what, in any given society, is taken as normative. This is crucial, for the ideas and assumptions of any age powerfully intrude on the Church's mind. In the West, modernity has determined what is normative. In our particular context, then, we are called to see that the Church does not adapt its thinking to the horizons that modernity prescribes for it but rather that it brings to those horizons the powerful antidote of God's truth. It is not the Word of God but rather modernity that stands in need of being demythologized.

     The third element of theology involves the cultivation of those virtues that constitute a wisdom for life, the kind of wisdom in which Christian practice is built on the pillars of confession and surrounded by the scaffolding of reflection. And yet this formulation is too simple, for what I have in mind is a kind of spirituality that is now exceedingly rare — the type of spirituality that is centrally moral in its nature because God is centrally holy in his being, that sees Christian practice not primarily as a matter of technique but as a matter of truth, and that refuses to disjoin practice from thought or thought from practice. Only when this kind of spirituality is present does the sort of wisdom arise by which a person comes to know how to be Christian in any given set of circumstances.

     To ask that the Church be thus theological may seem to be asking too much; clearly it is asking too much of the academy. We have come to this pass because for most people these three interests have been disengaged from one another. In the modern period, for example, confession in the sense of a profession about the objective truth of God and his self-disclosure in the space-time world has become most awkward in academia because of its continuing attachment to Enlightenment habits. It is often equally embarrassing in the larger social context because of the way in which modernity has reshaped our sense of what is proper. As a result, confession has either lost weight or disappeared entirely in academic theology. And once confession is lost, reflection is cut loose to find new pastures. Once it has lost its discipline in the Word of God, it finds its subject matter anywhere along a line that runs from Eastern spirituality to radical politics to feminist ideology to environmental concerns. Moreover, class interests then typically intervene and drive a wedge between Church and academy, and the upshot of this is that academic theological reflection, cut loose from both the responsibility of practice and the foundation of confession, is relegated to a small world of the specially interested whose internal conversation is mostly incomprehensible to those who are outside it. Theology, in a historic sense, therefore dies, because all that is left of it is reflection of a philosophical nature.

     By a different route, the same thing has happened in the Church, the evangelical wing included. As the nostrums of the therapeutic age supplant confession, and as preaching is psychologized, the meaning of Christian faith becomes privatized. At a single stroke, confession is eviscerated and reflection reduced mainly to thought about one's self. That being the case, the responsibility of seeking to be Christian in the modern world is then transformed into a search for what Farley calls a "technology of practice," for techniques with which to expand the Church and master the self that borrow mainly from business management and psychology. Thus it is that the pastor seeks to embody what modernity admires and to redefine what pastoral ministry now means in light of this culture's two most admired types, the manager and the psychologist. Where this modern "wisdom" comes to supplant confession in defining and disciplining what practice should mean, where reflection has been reduced simply to reflection upon the self, and where the hard work of relating the truth of God's Word to the processes of modern life has been abandoned, there once again theology has died and all that is left of it is an empty shell of what wisdom once used to be. It is this process of reduction — the reduction of the meaning of theology to reflection in the academy and to practice in the evangelical Church — that is the theme of this chapter. Yet before we proceed further, it is important that we understand the novelty of this situation. In eviscerating theology in this way, by substituting for its defining, confessional center a new set of principles (if they can appropriately be called that), evangelicals are moving ever closer to the point at which they will no longer meaningfully be able to speak of themselves as historic Protestants.

This book was published 12/31/96. I confess I struggled in the first two chapters. After that, a great read.

No Place for Truth: or Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology?

The Great Divorce - A Dream
     C.S. Lewis


     ‘Would they get to the bus stop in time, if they ever set out?’

     ‘Well—theoretically. But it’d be a distance of light-years. And they wouldn’t want to by now: not those old chaps like Tamberlaine and Genghis Khan, or Julius Caesar, or Henry the Fifth.’

     ‘Wouldn’t want to?’

     ‘That’s right. The nearest of those old ones is Napoleon. We know that because two chaps made the journey to see him. They’d started long before I came, of course, but I was there when they came back. About fifteen thousand years of our time it took them. We’ve picked out the house by now. Just a little pin prick of light and nothing else near it for millions of miles.’

     ‘But they got there?’

     ‘That’s right. He’d built himself a huge house all in the Empire style—rows of windows flaming with light, though it only shows as a pin prick from where I live.’

     ‘Did they see Napoleon?’

     ‘That’s right. They went up and looked through one of the windows. Napoleon was there all right.’

     ‘What was he doing?’

     ‘Walking up and down—up and down all the time—left-right, left-right—never stopping for a moment. The two chaps watched him for about a year and he never rested. And muttering to himself all the time. “It was Soult’s fault. It was Ney’s fault. It was Josephine’s fault. It was the fault of the Russians. It was the fault of the English.” Like that all the time. Never stopped for a moment. A little, fat man and he looked kind of tired. But he didn’t seem able to stop it.’

     From the vibrations I gathered that the bus was still moving, but there was now nothing to be seen from the windows which confirmed this—nothing but grey void above and below.

     ‘Then the town will go on spreading indefinitely?’ I said. ‘That’s right,’ said the Intelligent Man.

     ‘Unless someone can do something about it.’

     ‘How do you mean?’

     ‘Well, as a matter of fact, between you and me and the wall, that’s my job at the moment. What’s the trouble about this place? Not that people are quarrelsome—that’s only human nature and was always the same even on Earth. The trouble is they have no Needs. You get everything you want (not very good quality, of course) by just imagining it. That’s why it never costs any trouble to move to another street or build another house. In other words, there’s no proper economic basis for any community life. If they needed real shops, chaps would have to stay near where the real shops were. If they needed real houses they’d have to stay near where builders were. It’s scarcity that enables a society to exist. Well, that’s where I come in. I’m not going on this trip for my health. As far as that goes I don’t think it would suit me up there. But if I can come back with some real commodities—anything at all that you could really bite or drink or sit on—why, at once you’d get a demand down in our town. I’d start a little business. I’d have something to sell. You’d soon get people coming to live near—centralisation. Two fully-inhabited streets would accommodate the people that are now spread over a million square miles of empty streets. I’d make a nice little profit and be a public benefactor as well.’

The Great Divorce   or   The Great Divorce

     C.S. Lewis

     C.S. Lewis Books |  Go to Books Page

My Utmost For The Highest
     A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers

                Abandonment Then Peter began to say unto Him, Lo, we have left all, and have followed Thee. --- Mark 10:28.

     Our Lord replies, in effect, that abandonment is for Himself, and not for what the disciples themselves will get from it. Beware of an abandonment which has the commercial spirit in it—‘I am going to give myself to God because I want to be delivered from sin, because I want to be made holy.’ All that is the result of being right with God, but that spirit is not of the essential nature of Christianity. Abandonment is not for anything at all. We have got so commercialized that we only go to God for something from Him, and not for Himself. It is like saying—‘No, Lord, I don’t want Thee, I want myself; but I want myself clean and filled with the Holy Ghost; I want to be put in Thy showroom and be able to say—“This is what God has done for me.” ‘If we only give up something to God because we want more back, there is nothing of the Holy Spirit in our abandonment; it is miserable commercial self-interest. That we gain heaven, that we are delivered from sin, that we are made useful to God—these things never enter as considerations into real abandonment, which is a personal sovereign preference for Jesus Christ Himself.

     When we come up against the barriers of natural relationship, where is Jesus Christ? Most of us desert Him—‘Yes, Lord, I did hear Thy call; but my mother is in the road, my wife, my self-interest, and I can go no further.’ ‘Then,’ Jesus says, ‘you cannot be My disciple.’

     The test of abandonment is always over the neck of natural devotion. Go over it, and God’s own abandonment will embrace all those you had to hurt in abandoning. Beware of stopping short of abandonment to God. Most of us know abandonment in vision only.

     It is essential to practise the walk of the feet in the light of the vision.

My Utmost for His Highest

The Father Dies
     the Poetry of R.S. Thomas

           The Father Dies

Ah, forget this snivel, the gone
lip. I am not maudlin;
it is just that all my life
I tried to keep love from bursting
its banks. Love is the fine thing
but destructive. I strove to contain it,
to picture it as the river
we lived by. But to fall
headlong in, to be carried away
in front of you, son; to have
no firm ground: a father drowning
in tears and without
breath to keep his voice casual
as in the old days; and the smile
you hold out to me breaks
like a stick, because there is
as much pity in it as love.

Teacher's Commentary
     Regulations for Priests: Leviticus 25–27

The rest of Leviticus focuses on the way that God’s people were to live when He brought them out of the wilderness and settled them in the Promised Land.

     This section too is linked with God’s holiness, but in a distinctive way. We move here to God’s design for a just, moral community: a holy social order.

     That order is expressed in part in the establishment of a Sabbatical year and a Year of Jubilee, and even in regulations concerning slavery!

     To understand the significance of these striking laws, we need to understand the total system God’s Law sets up for the care of the poor and needy. This system is summarized in the Expository Dictionary of Bible Words. ( Zondervan Expository Dictionary of Bible Words )

     Preservation of capital. This is one of the most significant of Old Testament social mechanisms. Israel was an agrarian society: originally wealth was based on land and what the land could produce. Old Testament Law decreed that the land was to remain perpetually in the family of the first settlers. “The land must not be sold permanently.… Throughout the country that you hold as a possession, you must provide for the redemption of the land” (Lev. 25:23–24).

     What the Old Testament Law did permit was sale of the use of the land. The value of a property was to be computed by the projected value of crops between the time of sale and the Year of Jubilee. Every fiftieth year was a Year of Jubilee. In that year, people were not to work the land but to enjoy a year of rest; and in that year everyone was to take possession again of his family heritage—his own land.

     In addition, if a person needed funds and sold the use of his land and later prospered or found a rich relative who was willing to help him, that person could reclaim his property by recomputing its projected value to the Year of Jubilee and paying that sum.

     The potential significance of this mechanism cannot be overestimated. A person might make bad decisions or squander his wealth, but there was always provision for capital for the next generation, to be reclaimed in the Year of Jubilee. Thus, every fiftieth year, wealth was in a sense redistributed, and the poor were given the means for making a fresh start.

     Voluntary servitude. Another option that the poor in Israel had was to sell their personal services to a fellow Israelite. This relationship was carefully governed by Old Testament Law (Lev. 25:39–54; Deut. 15:12–18). Such a sale of services was paid for in an initial purchase price, but it was not a permanent sale of the individual. Rather, at the end of his seventh year, a Hebrew servant was to be released. “And when you release him, do not send him away empty-handed. Supply him liberally from your flock, your threshing floor and your winepress” (Deuteronomy 15:13–14).

     In a sense we can perhaps look at this as an apprenticeship program. A poor person who could not meet his financial obligations was given a sum of money to pay off his creditors. He bound himself to serve the person who had purchased him. During the seven years of service the servant should have learned skills, both for working and for managing his own finances, so that when he was released, he would be able to make it on his own. At the time of his release his former master supplied him “liberally” with the resources he needed for a fresh start.

     While these two features of God’s design of a just, moral community are presented here, there are other mechanisms imbedded in Old Testament Law we need to grasp if we are to understand the whole picture. The Zondervan Expository Dictionary of Bible Words continues:

     Access to necessities. Two social mechanisms were designed to give the poor immediate access to life’s necessities. First, during the seventh Sabbatical year no crops were to be planted. Instead, the poor of the land were to be given access to any crops that had grown up (Exodus 23:10–11). In addition, during regular harvests in other years, the landowner was to go through the fields one time only. Everything that had been missed and all that fell to the ground or was left on the vine or tree was to be made available to the poor. They were to be allowed to glean such fields freely (Leveticus 19:10; 23:22).

     Interest-free, forgivable loans. Loans to other Israelites were to be made without charging interest (Leviticus 25:35–37; Deuteronomy 23:19–20) and were to be canceled when the Sabbatical (seventh) year came (Deuteronomy 15:1–3). Of course a person was to try to repay a loan he made, but if this was impossible, that debt was not to be permitted to weigh him down forever.

     The proper and loving attitude toward a brother is indicated in verses Deuteronomy 23:7–11: “If there is a poor man among your brothers in any of the towns of the land that the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hard-hearted or tightfisted toward your poor brother. Rather be openhanded and freely lend him whatever he needs. Be careful not to harbor this wicked thought: ‘The seventh year, the year for canceling debts, is near,’ so that you do not show ill will toward your needy brother and give him nothing.… There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land.”

     Organized collections. A number of tithes were to be collected from the people of Israel. One such collection described in Deuteronomy 14:28–29, was to be undertaken every three years, and what was collected was to be stored in each locality. This was to supply the Levites and also “the aliens, the fatherless, and the widows.”

     Taken individually, or together, these social mechanisms are extremely striking. They make provision for the immediate needs of individuals, for training of the ineffective, for the preservation of capital, and for the preservation of the respect of the poor as well as of the wealthy.

The Teacher's Commentary

Swimming In The Sea Of Talmud
     Berakhot 47b


     Every religion has laws and ritual procedures. People need to know the right way of doing these rites. For Jewish practice, a rabbi can usually answer this question. The rabbi will know the law or will consult books that teach the correct way of doing things. But there are times when even a rabbi does not know the law, because there is no one right way and because the accepted practice is “what the people are doing.”

     Local customs develop; these become the practice of the people, the actual law, passed down from one generation to the next. The beauty of Abaye’s answer is that it shows that he and his colleagues are not deciding the matter at hand from an ivory tower. Rather, they are in touch with the masses of people, for their ruling will be legitimate and binding only in so far as it reflects reality and is accepted. To determine this, they say: “Go and see what the people are doing.”

     A simple contemporary example of “Go and see what the people are doing” from the Pesaḥ Seder tables may help explain this concept, especially since Rabbi Tarfon is well known from the haggadah. During the Seder, we praise God with the psalms of Hallel. As we do, we remember the Egyptians at whose expense our victory came about, and we remove some wine from our cups, as if to say: Our joy is not complete because the victory came at someone else’s expense. Therefore, our cup cannot be full.

     Now the question arises: How should this ritual be performed? How should the drops of wine for the Ten Plagues be removed from the cup? Should they be spilled, taken out with a spoon, or dipped out with a finger? And if the last, with which finger? There is no exact law on this, only custom, and the best a person can do is “go and see” the practice of others. Most Jews spill the ten drops of wine from the cup at their Seder table not based on a theoretical legal ruling, but based on what they have seen practiced at other Seders.

     At times, there is one law, very clear and very specific, based on theoretical rationales or philosophical justifications, clearly codified in the traditional literature. At other times, though, law is determined by the practice of Jews—not just any Jews but, as Robert Gordis delineated, “the body of men and women in the Jewish people who accept the authority of Jewish law and are concerned with Jewish observance as a genuine issue.” In many cases, a rabbi can say, “The halakhah (the law) is …” However, there are times when, like Abaye, the rabbi will say: “In order to know what Jewish law is, we need to go and see what the people are doing.”

     Some may feel that the realm of Jewish law is owned by rabbis and, therefore, is a closed book. Abaye is showing that the practice of the people is important, and what Jews do plays a central role in the development of the law. Rabbis need to be aware of and to consult with “the people” as one of the important elements in the creation of halakhah. The wise arbiter will have a finger on the pulse of the people and will make not only a truly authentic ruling but also one that is acceptable and accepted.

     A mitzvah performed by means of a transgression.

     Text / “Women, slaves and minors may not be counted in the zimmun.” Rabbi Yosé said: “A minor lying in a cradle is counted in the zimmun.” But is it not taught: “Women, slaves and minors may not be counted in the zimmun”? What he said follows the opinion of Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi, for Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi said: “Even though they said: ‘A minor in a cradle may not be counted in the zimmun,’ we make him a ‘wedge’ for the ten.” And Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi said: “Nine and a slave are counted together.” They objected: It once happened that Rabbi Eliezer entered the synagogue and did not find ten; he freed his servant and completed the ten. If he freed him, yes [he is counted]; if he did not free him, no. Two were needed; he freed one and added one. How could he do this? Did not Rav Yehudah say: “Whoever frees his slave violates a positive mitzvah, as it says: ‘They shall serve you forever’ [Leviticus 25:46, author’s translation]!” It is different for a mitzvah. But it is a mitzvah performed by means of a transgression! A mitzvah affecting many is different.

     Context / The expression “counted for a minyan” is redundant, since minyan means “counting” or “numbering” and refers to the ten adult males who the Rabbis said are needed for certain public rituals like Torah reading and Kaddish. (In many congregations today, women are also counted in the minyan.) The Talmud traces the number ten, by verbal analogy, to the ten spies who brought back the negative report on the land of Israel (Numbers 14). There are many other references to minyan in the Talmud, with several different biblical sources cited as proof. It is likely, therefore, that the requirement of a minyan predated the Talmud’s reasoning. Today, we require a minyan for repetition of the Amidah with Kedushah, for recitation of certain prayers like Kaddish and Bar’khu, for reading the Torah in public, as well as for several other ceremonies and parts of the liturgy. The practice of adding a minor as a “wedge” is still used today; a minor who knows how to answer “Amen” and knows that he (or, in some communities, she) is praying to God may be counted as the tenth for a minyan where no adult may be found. Often, the minor is given a Bible to hold.

     The problem of finding ten worshipers for a minyan is not unique to our times. There are several references in the Gemara to batlanim, idle or unemployed men who would always be available for the minyan. In fact, the Mishnah (Megillah 1:3) defines a “big city” as one with ten batlanim, that is, ten men always ready and available for a minyan.

     The Gemara is discussing who may be counted for a minyan and who for a zimmun. A minyan is the ten worshipers needed to recite certain prayers and to read from the Torah. A zimmun is the introduction in the birkat ha-mazon, the blessings after a meal, recited when three or more eat bread together. Both minyan and zimmun are desirable: we would want to have a minyan for prayer and a zimmun for birkat ha-mazon since, in each case, we add words of praise of God that can be recited only with a required number of people. The Gemara tells us that “women, slaves and minors” are exempt and not included. However, a minor may be used as a “wedge,” the final piece that is added to make up the whole. Thus, the minor is counted as the tenth in a minyan.

     Next, a story about Rabbi Eliezer is brought in to add a point of case-law. Even though slaves were not counted in the minyan, may a freed slave be added to the minyan as the tenth? The case here deals with a non-Jewish servant owned by a Jew. In rabbinic times, many non-Jewish slaves were educated household managers and were circumcised. Thus, on a minute’s notice, the master of the house could free a servant, making him Jewish (according to the standard of that day)—and theoretically solving the minyan problem. However, there is a disagreement as to whether this is allowed, since the text in Leviticus may actually prohibit this practice. The verse—“They shall serve you forever”—can be understood in two different ways: If the Torah means that they may serve you in perpetuity, then one may free such a slave. However, if the intention of the text is that they must serve you in perpetuity, then we are not allowed to free such a slave.

     An answer is suggested: Even if the text means “they must serve you,” we are allowed to transgress this rule in order to fulfill a mitzvah, having a minyan. But then, the Gemara answers, we are performing a mitzvah via a transgression, which is clearly prohibited! No, respond the Rabbis, if it is for the communal good, it is not a true transgression of the Torah’s rule.

Swimming in the Sea of Talmud: Lessons for Everyday Living
The Imitation Of Christ
     Thomas A Kempis

     Book Three - Internal Consolation

     The Third Chapter / Listen Humbly To The Words Of God. Many Do Not Heed Them

          The Voice Of Christ

     MY CHILD, hear My words, words of greatest sweetness surpassing all the knowledge of the philosophers and wise men of earth. My words are spirit and life, and they are not to be weighed by man’s understanding. They are not to be invoked in vanity but are to be heard in silence, and accepted with all humility and with great affection.

          THE DISCIPLE

     “Happy is the man whom Thou admonishest, O Lord, and teachest out of Thy law, to give him peace from the days of evil,” (
Psalm 94:12) and that he be not desolate on earth.


     I taught the prophets from the beginning, and even to this day I continue to speak to all men. But many are hardened. Many are deaf to My voice. Most men listen more willingly to the world than to God. They are more ready to follow the appetite of their flesh than the good pleasure of God. The world, which promises small and passing things, is served with great eagerness: I promise great and eternal things and the hearts of men grow dull. Who is there that serves and obeys Me in all things with as great care as that with which the world and its masters are served?

     “Be thou ashamed, O Sidon, for the sea speaketh.” (
Isaiah 23:4) And if you ask why, listen to the cause: for a small gain they travel far; for eternal life many will scarcely lift a foot from the ground. They seek a petty reward, and sometimes fight shamefully in law courts for a single piece of money. They are not afraid to work day and night for a trifle or an empty promise. But, for an unchanging good, for a reward beyond estimate, for the greatest honor and for glory everlasting, it must be said to their shame that men begrudge even the least fatigue. Be ashamed, then, lazy and complaining servant, that they should be found more eager for perdition than you are for life, that they rejoice more in vanity than you in truth.

     Sometimes indeed their expectations fail them, but My promise never deceives, nor does it send away empty-handed him who trusts in Me. What I have promised I will give. What I have said I will fulfill, if only a man remain faithful in My love to the end. I am the rewarder of all the good, the strong approver of all who are devoted to Me.

     Write My words in your heart and meditate on them earnestly, for in time of temptation they will be very necessary. What you do not understand when you read, you will learn in the day of visitation. I am wont to visit My elect in two ways—by temptation and by consolation. To them I read two lessons daily—one reproving their vices, the other exhorting them to progress in virtue. He who has My words and despises them has that which shall condemn him on the last day.


     O Lord my God, You are all my good. And who am I that I should dare to speak to You? I am Your poorest and meanest servant, a vile worm, much more poor and contemptible than I know or dare to say. Yet remember me, Lord, because I am nothing, I have nothing, and I can do nothing. You alone are good, just, and holy. You can do all things, You give all things, You fill all things: only the sinner do You leave empty-handed. Remember Your tender mercies and fill my heart with Your grace, You Who will not allow Your works to be in vain. How can I bear this life of misery unless You comfort me with Your mercy and grace? Do not turn Your face from me. Do not delay Your visitation. Do not withdraw Your consolation, lest in Your sight my soul become as desert land. Teach me, Lord, to do Your will. Teach me to live worthily and humbly in Your sight, for You are my wisdom Who know me truly, and Who knew me even before the world was made and before I was born into it.

The Imitation Of Christ

Take Heart
     March 12

     He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning.
1 John 3:8.

     “Is of the devil”—you know what he means: imitates the Devil. ( Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: First Series (The Early Church Fathers, First Series , So14) ) For the Devil made no one, fathered no one, created no one, but whoever imitates the Devil, that person, as if fathered by him, becomes a child of the Devil. In what sense are you a child of Abraham, not that Abraham fathered you? In the same sense as the Jews, the children of Abraham, not imitating the faith of Abraham, became children of the Devil; of the flesh of Abraham they were born, and the faith of Abraham they have not imitated. If then those who were thus born were put out of the inheritance because they did not imitate, you, who are not born of him, are made a child, and in this way shall be a child of Abraham by imitating him. And if you imitate the Devil in the way he became proud and impious against God, you will be a child of the Devil.

     “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work” (1 John 3:8). Now then, beloved, mark! All sinners are born of the Devil, as sinners. Adam was made by God, but when he consented to the Devil, he was born of the Devil, and he fathered all as he was himself. With lust itself we were born, even before we add our sins; from that condemnation we have our birth. For if we are born without any sin, why this running with infants to baptism that they may be released? Then mark well, friends, the two birth-stocks; Adam and Christ are two men, but one of them, a man that is human; the other, a Man that is God. By the man that is human we are sinners; by the Man that is God we are justified. That birth has cast down to death, this birth has raised up to life; that birth brings with it sin, this birth sets free from sin. For this purpose Christ came as human, to undo human sins. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the Devil’s work.
--- Augustine of Hippo

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

On This Day   March 12

     William Carey, the “father of modern missions,” wanted to translate the Bible into as many Indian languages as possible. He established a large printshop in Serampore where translation work was continually being done. Carey spent hours each day translating Scripture, while his insane wife ranted and raved.

     Carey was away from Serampore on March 11, 1832. His associate, William Ward, was working late. Suddenly Ward smelled smoke. He leaped up to discover clouds belching from the printing room. He screamed for help, and workers passed water from the nearby river until 2 A.M., but everything was destroyed.

     On March 12, 1812 missionary Joshua Marshman entered a Calcutta classroom where Carey was teaching. “I can think of no easy way to break the news,” he said. “The printshop burned to the ground last night.” Carey was stunned. Gone were his massive polyglot dictionary, two grammar books, and whole versions of the Bible. Gone were sets of type for 14 eastern languages, 1,200 reams of paper, 55,000 printed sheets, and 30 pages of his Bengal dictionary. Gone was his complete library. “The work of years—gone in a moment,” he whispered.

     He took little time to mourn. “The loss is heavy,” he wrote, “but as traveling a road the second time is usually done with greater ease and certainty than the first time, so I trust the work will lose nothing of real value. We are not discouraged; indeed the work is already begun again in every language. We are cast down but not in despair.”

     When news of the fire reached England, it catapulted Carey to instant fame. Thousands of pounds were raised for the work, and volunteers offered to come help. The enterprise was rebuilt and enlarged. By 1832, complete Bibles, New Testaments, or separate books of Scripture had issued from the printing press in 44 languages and dialects.

     The secret of Carey’s success is found in his resiliency. “There are grave difficulties on every hand,” he once wrote, “and more are looming ahead. Therefore we must go forward.”

     We often suffer, but we are never crushed. Even when we don’t know what to do, we never give up. In times of trouble, God is with us, and when we are knocked down, we get up again.
--- 2 Corinthians 4:8-9.

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

Morning and Evening
     Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON

     “Thou shalt love thy neighbour.” --- Matthew 5:43.

     “Love thy neighbour.” Perhaps he rolls in riches, and thou art poor, and living in thy little cot side-by-side with his lordly mansion; thou seest every day his estates, his fine linen, and his sumptuous banquets; God has given him these gifts, covet not his wealth, and think no hard thoughts concerning him. Be content with thine own lot, if thou canst not better it, but do not look upon thy neighbour, and wish that he were as thyself. Love him, and then thou wilt not envy him.

     Perhaps, on the other hand, thou art rich, and near thee reside the poor. Do not scorn to call them neighbour. Own that thou art bound to love them. The world calls them thy inferiors. In what are they inferior? They are far more thine equals than thine inferiors, for “God hath made of one blood all people that dwell upon the face of the earth.” It is thy coat which is better than theirs, but thou art by no means better than they. They are men, and what art thou more than that? Take heed that thou love thy neighbour even though he be in rags, or sunken in the depths of poverty.

     But, perhaps, you say, “I cannot love my neighbours, because for all I do they return ingratitude and contempt.” So much the more room for the heroism of love. Wouldst thou be a feather-bed warrior, instead of bearing the rough fight of love? He who dares the most, shall win the most; and if rough be thy path of love, tread it boldly, still loving thy neighbours through thick and thin. Heap coals of fire on their heads, and if they be hard to please, seek not to please them, but to please thy Master; and remember if they spurn thy love, thy Master hath not spurned it, and thy deed is as acceptable to him as if it had been acceptable to them. Love thy neighbour, for in so doing thou art following the footsteps of Christ.

          Evening - March 12      “To whom belongest thou?” --- 1 Samuel 30:13.

     No neutralities can exist in religion. We are either ranked under the banner of Prince Immanuel, to serve and fight his battles, or we are vassals of the black prince, Satan. “To whom belongest thou?”

     Reader, let me assist you in your response. Have you been “born again”? If you have, you belong to Christ, but without the new birth you cannot be his. In whom do you trust? For those who believe in Jesus are the sons of God. Whose work are you doing? You are sure to serve your master, for he whom you serve is thereby owned to be your lord. What company do you keep? If you belong to Jesus, you will fraternize with those who wear the livery of the cross. “Birds of a feather flock together.” What is your conversation? Is it heavenly or is it earthly? What have you learned of your Master?—for servants learn much from their masters to whom they are apprenticed. If you have served your time with Jesus, it will be said of you, as it was of Peter and John, “They took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.”

     We press the question, “To whom belongest thou?” Answer honestly before you give sleep to your eyes. If you are not Christ’s you are in a hard service—Run away from your cruel master! Enter into the service of the Lord of Love, and you shall enjoy a life of blessedness. If you are Christ’s let me advise you to do four things. You belong to Jesus—obey him; let his word be your law; let his wish be your will. You belong to the Beloved, then love him; let your heart embrace him; let your whole soul be filled with him. You belong to the Son of God, then trust him; rest nowhere but on him. You belong to the King of kings, then be decided for him. Thus, without your being branded upon the brow, all will know to whom you belong.

Morning and Evening

Amazing Grace
     March 12

          I WOULD BE TRUE

     Howard A. Walter, 1883–1918

     I have chosen the way of truth; I have set my heart on Your laws. (Psalm 119:30)

     The yearning to achieve a trustworthy, strong, brave yet humble character is an unusual goal for a young person, especially in today’s self-seeking and materialistic society. The text for “I Would Be True,” however, was written by a young man in his early twenties in a poem that he titled “My Creed.”

     After graduating with honors from Princeton University in 1905, Howard Arnold Walter spent a year teaching the English language in Japan. While there he sent a copy of his “creed” to his mother back home in Connecticut. Mrs. Walter sent the poem to Harper’s Magazine, where it appeared in the May, 1907 issue.

     Returning to the United States, Howard Walter entered Hartford Seminary and upon graduation served as an assistant minister at the Asylum Hill Congregational Church in Hartford, Connecticut. One day he showed his poem to an itinerant Methodist lay preacher, Joseph Peek. Although Peek had no technical knowledge of music, he immediately whistled a tune suited to Walter’s words.

     Several years later Howard Walter left for India to teach and minister to Mohammedan students. In 1918, a severe influenza epidemic there caused the death of this devoted young man. His credo lives on, however, in the numerous lives of those who have since sung this hymn and realized anew that God is more interested in what we are as a person than even what we may do for Him. In an environment today that can easily corrupt even the purest of minds, how important it is that we seek God’s daily help to live a life that is true.

     I would be true, for there are those who trust me; I would be pure, for there are those who care. I would be strong, for there is much to suffer; I would be brave, for there is much to dare.

     I would be friend of all—the foe, the friendless; I would be giving, and forget the gift. I would be humble, for I know my weakness; I would look up, and laugh, and love, and lift.

     I would be prayerful thru each busy moment; I would be constantly in touch with God, I would be tuned to hear His slightest whisper; I would have faith to keep the path Christ trod.

     For Today: Psalm 51:2, 10; 2 Corinthians 7:1; Philippians 4:8.

     Make this credo your personal goal. Above all, be “in touch with God” and “tuned to his slightest whisper.” Be a Christian who is known for his integrity. Carry this portion of the hymn with you as you go ---

Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions

Joshua 5-8
     Jon Courson

Very Important Information and Explanation
03-08-2023 | Jon Courson

Joshua 5:13-6:5
The Wall Will Fall
02-04-2001 | Jon Courson

Joshua 5:1-9
02-07-2001 | Jon Courson

Joshua 5:13-6:5
The Lord Of Liberty
02-11-2001 | Jon Courson

Joshua 5-6
02-14-2001 | Jon Courson

Video to come next week

Jon Courson

Joshua 5-8
     Skip Heitzig

Joshua 5 - 6
Calvary Chapel NM

Joshua 7 - 8
Calvary Chapel NM

Skip Heitzig | Calvary Chapel NM

Joshua 5-8
     Paul LeBoutillier

Joshua 5:1-12
Rolling Away the Past
Sept 25, 2013 | Paul LeBoutillier

Joshua 5:13-6:27
Passover And A Very Special Messenger
Oct 2, 2013 | Paul LeBoutillier

Joshua 7
Defeat at Ai and Sin in the Camp
Oct 9, 2013 | Paul LeBoutillier

Joshua 8
The God of Second Chances and Renewal
10-16-2013 | Paul LeBoutillier

Paul LeBoutillier | Calvary Chapel Ontario, Oregon

Joshua 5-8
     Brett Meador | Athey Creek

Joshua's Biggest Day Joshua 5:13-15
s2-110 | 3-6-2016

Ai Joshua 7
s2-111 | 3-13-2016

Joshua 6-8
m2-106 | 3-16-2017

     ==============================      ==============================

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