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Judges 1 - 2

Judges 1

The Continuing Conquest of Canaan

Judges 1:1     After the death of Joshua, the people of Israel inquired of the LORD, “Who shall go up first for us against the Canaanites, to fight against them?” 2 The LORD said, “Judah shall go up; behold, I have given the land into his hand.” 3 And Judah said to Simeon his brother, “Come up with me into the territory allotted to me, that we may fight against the Canaanites. And I likewise will go with you into the territory allotted to you.” So Simeon went with him. 4 Then Judah went up and the LORD gave the Canaanites and the Perizzites into their hand, and they defeated 10,000 of them at Bezek. 5 They found Adoni-bezek at Bezek and fought against him and defeated the Canaanites and the Perizzites. 6 Adoni-bezek fled, but they pursued him and caught him and cut off his thumbs and his big toes. 7 And Adoni-bezek said, “Seventy kings with their thumbs and their big toes cut off used to pick up scraps under my table. As I have done, so God has repaid me.” And they brought him to Jerusalem, and he died there.

8 And the men of Judah fought against Jerusalem and captured it and struck it with the edge of the sword and set the city on fire. 9 And afterward the men of Judah went down to fight against the Canaanites who lived in the hill country, in the Negeb, and in the lowland. 10 And Judah went against the Canaanites who lived in Hebron (now the name of Hebron was formerly Kiriath-arba), and they defeated Sheshai and Ahiman and Talmai.

Jerusalem (7–8) is the pre-Israelite city on the border of the territories of Judah and Benjamin (Jos. 15:8; 18:28). It was dealt a devastating blow by Judah, but its inhabitants, the Jebusites, retained (or perhaps later regained) a foothold there (Judges 1:21).     Barry G. Webb, “Judges,” in New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition, ed. D. A. Carson et al., 4th ed. (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994), 267.

11 From there they went against the inhabitants of Debir. The name of Debir was formerly Kiriath-sepher. 12 And Caleb said, “He who attacks Kiriath-sepher and captures it, I will give him Achsah my daughter for a wife.” 13 And Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother, captured it. And he gave him Achsah his daughter for a wife. 14 When she came to him, she urged him to ask her father for a field. And she dismounted from her donkey, and Caleb said to her, “What do you want?” 15 She said to him, “Give me a blessing. Since you have set me in the land of the Negeb, give me also springs of water.” And Caleb gave her the upper springs and the lower springs.

16 And the descendants of the Kenite, Moses’ father-in-law, went up with the people of Judah from the city of palms into the wilderness of Judah, which lies in the Negeb near Arad, and they went and settled with the people. 17 And Judah went with Simeon his brother, and they defeated the Canaanites who inhabited Zephath and devoted it to destruction. So the name of the city was called Hormah. 18 Judah also captured Gaza with its territory, and Ashkelon with its territory, and Ekron with its territory. 19 And the LORD was with Judah, and he took possession of the hill country, but he could not drive out the inhabitants of the plain because they had chariots of iron. 20 And Hebron was given to Caleb, as Moses had said. And he drove out from it the three sons of Anak. 21 But the people of Benjamin did not drive out the Jebusites who lived in Jerusalem, so the Jebusites have lived with the people of Benjamin in Jerusalem to this day.

1:21. Jerusalem was located on the boundary between Judah and Benjamin. Following Judah’s partial and/or temporary victory at Jerusalem (v. 8), the Jebusites, who could not be dislodged by the Benjamites, continued to dwell on the fortified southeast hill until the time of David (2 Sam. 5:6–9). The Jebusites were the Canaanite inhabitants of the city also known as Jebus (Jud. 19:10–11).     F. Duane Lindsey, “Judges,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 380.

22 The house of Joseph also went up against Bethel, and the LORD was with them. 23 And the house of Joseph scouted out Bethel. (Now the name of the city was formerly Luz.) 24 And the spies saw a man coming out of the city, and they said to him, “Please show us the way into the city, and we will deal kindly with you.” 25 And he showed them the way into the city. And they struck the city with the edge of the sword, but they let the man and all his family go. 26 And the man went to the land of the Hittites and built a city and called its name Luz. That is its name to this day.

Failure to Complete the Conquest

27 Manasseh did not drive out the inhabitants of Beth-shean and its villages, or Taanach and its villages, or the inhabitants of Dor and its villages, or the inhabitants of Ibleam and its villages, or the inhabitants of Megiddo and its villages, for the Canaanites persisted in dwelling in that land. 28 When Israel grew strong, they put the Canaanites to forced labor, but did not drive them out completely.

29 And Ephraim did not drive out the Canaanites who lived in Gezer, so the Canaanites lived in Gezer among them.

30 Zebulun did not drive out the inhabitants of Kitron, or the inhabitants of Nahalol, so the Canaanites lived among them, but became subject to forced labor.

31 Asher did not drive out the inhabitants of Acco, or the inhabitants of Sidon or of Ahlab or of Achzib or of Helbah or of Aphik or of Rehob, 32 so the Asherites lived among the Canaanites, the inhabitants of the land, for they did not drive them out.

33 Naphtali did not drive out the inhabitants of Beth-shemesh, or the inhabitants of Beth-anath, so they lived among the Canaanites, the inhabitants of the land. Nevertheless, the inhabitants of Beth-shemesh and of Beth-anath became subject to forced labor for them.

34 The Amorites pressed the people of Dan back into the hill country, for they did not allow them to come down to the plain. 35 The Amorites persisted in dwelling in Mount Heres, in Aijalon, and in Shaalbim, but the hand of the house of Joseph rested heavily on them, and they became subject to forced labor. 36 And the border of the Amorites ran from the ascent of Akrabbim, from Sela and upward.

Judges 2

Israel’s Disobedience

Judges 2:1     Now the angel of the LORD went up from Gilgal to Bochim. And he said, “I brought you up from Egypt and brought you into the land that I swore to give to your fathers. I said, ‘I will never break my covenant with you, 2 and you shall make no covenant with the inhabitants of this land; you shall break down their altars.’ But you have not obeyed my voice. What is this you have done? 3 So now I say, I will not drive them out before you, but they shall become thorns in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare to you.” 4 As soon as the angel of the LORD spoke these words to all the people of Israel, the people lifted up their voices and wept. 5 And they called the name of that place Bochim. And they sacrificed there to the LORD.

The Death of Joshua

6 When Joshua dismissed the people, the people of Israel went each to his inheritance to take possession of the land. 7 And the people served the LORD all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great work that the LORD had done for Israel. 8 And Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the LORD, died at the age of 110 years. 9 And they buried him within the boundaries of his inheritance in Timnath-heres, in the hill country of Ephraim, north of the mountain of Gaash. 10 And all that generation also were gathered to their fathers. And there arose another generation after them who did not know the LORD or the work that he had done for Israel.

Israel’s Unfaithfulness

11 And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD and served the Baals. 12 And they abandoned the LORD, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt. They went after other gods, from among the gods of the peoples who were around them, and bowed down to them. And they provoked the LORD to anger. 13 They abandoned the LORD and served the Baals and the Ashtaroth. 14 So the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he gave them over to plunderers, who plundered them. And he sold them into the hand of their surrounding enemies, so that they could no longer withstand their enemies. 15 Whenever they marched out, the hand of the LORD was against them for harm, as the LORD had warned, and as the LORD had sworn to them. And they were in terrible distress.

The LORD Raises Up Judges

16 Then the LORD raised up judges, who saved them out of the hand of those who plundered them. 17 Yet they did not listen to their judges, for they whored after other gods and bowed down to them. They soon turned aside from the way in which their fathers had walked, who had obeyed the commandments of the LORD, and they did not do so. 18 Whenever the LORD raised up judges for them, the LORD was with the judge, and he saved them from the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge. For the LORD was moved to pity by their groaning because of those who afflicted and oppressed them. 19 But whenever the judge died, they turned back and were more corrupt than their fathers, going after other gods, serving them and bowing down to them. They did not drop any of their practices or their stubborn ways. 20 So the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he said, “Because this people have transgressed my covenant that I commanded their fathers and have not obeyed my voice, 21 I will no longer drive out before them any of the nations that Joshua left when he died, 22 in order to test Israel by them, whether they will take care to walk in the way of the LORD as their fathers did, or not.” 23 So the LORD left those nations, not driving them out quickly, and he did not give them into the hand of Joshua.      ... and so many people say this is an ancient book that has nothing to say to the people of today. It grieves my soul that we are so unbelievably stupid.

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Exile and Restoration

By David M. Howard Jr. 2/2006

     When the Babylonian army under Nebuchadnezzar finished its work in destroying Jerusalem and carrying off the cream of its citizenry into exile in 586 BC, God’s people faced their greatest crisis ever, both politically and spiritually. This was the land that God had promised centuries earlier to Abraham, and where his descendants had lived for more than eight hundred years. Now it lay “uncovered” (this is the basic meaning of the word exile), its cities and its people brutalized. Abraham’s descendants now lived exiled in a hostile land.

     The great promises that God had made to David — about a kingdom centered in Jerusalem — seemed far away, even broken (see Psalm 89:19, 38–40). Psalm 137 captures some of the Israelites’ anguish: “By the waters of Babylon, there we sat down and wept, when we remembered Zion. On the willows there we hung up our lyres…. How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?” (vv. 1–2, 4). The impact of Jerusalem’s destruction is described in excruciating detail three separate times in Scripture: 2 Kings 25; 2 Chronicles 36; and Jeremiah 52.

     This was a spiritual crisis, as well as a political one, because God had promised Abraham and his descendants the land in perpetuity (see Gen. 13:15; 17:8; 48:4), and David a royal descendent on the throne in Jerusalem in perpetuity (2 Sam. 7:11–16; 1 Chron. 17:10–14). Now, seemingly, all was lost: their land, their holy city, their temple and all its trappings, their elaborate sacrificial system and its priesthood, their king — everything.

     This did not come upon God’s people unawares. God had warned the nation from the very beginning that their continued tenure in the land depended on their obedience; if they were not faithful, God would remove them from it (Deut. 4:25–27; 30:17–20). The prophets had repeatedly warned of this (see Mic. 1:3–4; Zeph. 1:4–6; Jer. 25:4–7; 26:4–6).

     So, the Israelites in exile cried out to God with a renewed awareness of their sin: “Surely our transgressions and our sins are upon us, and we rot away because of them. How then can we live?” (Ezek. 33:10). God answered them that the key to their survival was repentance — turning their backs on sin (vv. 11–20). This was to be a genuine and heart-felt repentance, like had not been seen among God’s people in many generations.

     God in His grace had promised His people that He would certainly bring them back (Jer. 29:10), and that He would use Cyrus as His anointed instrument (Isa. 44:28; 45:1–4). When the time came, Cyrus indeed was God’s instrument, issuing a remarkable decree, freeing the Jews to return to their land (2 Chron. 36:22–23; Ezra 1:1–4). The books of Ezra and Nehemiah tell the story of the restoration of God’s people after the exile.

     In Ezra 1–6, we learn of the first wave of returnees under the leadership of Zerubbabel and Jeshua, of the first attempts to rebuild the temple, of local opposition to that rebuilding, and of the eventual completion of the temple, over a twenty-five year period (539–515 BC). A gap of more than fifty years followed until the time of Ezra’s return to the land in 458 BC, with a religious commission to teach the Law (Ezra 7–10).

     Nehemiah was Ezra’s later contemporary, arriving in Jerusalem in 445 BC. He returned with a political commission as governor, which included authorization to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. He oversaw this task in the face of fierce opposition (Neh. 1–6), and joined Ezra in a great ceremony of reading the Law and celebrating the Festival of Tabernacles, including a great national confession and a renewing of the covenant (Neh. 8–10).

     In the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, we see joy, optimism, and a strong sense of spiritual purpose. After all, had not God brought His people back in fulfillment of the prophecy to Jeremiah (Ezra 1:1)? The return to the land from Babylon echoed in many ways the earlier return to the land from Egypt, only this time, a spirit of joy and enthusiasm prevailed (see Ezra 1–3). The whole nation pitched in to help, whether in rebuilding the temple (Ezra 1–6), or, later, in rebuilding the walls (Neh. 3), or even in repopulating Jerusalem (Neh. 11).

     There was a return to strict adherence to the Law, seen, for example, in the reforms that Ezra and Nehemiah instituted. Both confronted the issue of mixed marriages with foreigners, and both took drastic measures to eradicate all such ties (Ezra 9–10; Neh. 13:23–27). Years before them, the people under Zerubbabel and Jeshua carefully reinstituted sacrifices (Ezra 3). Years later, they publicly read the Law and made confession on the basis of what they had read (Neh. 8–9). The impression is that the people had learned a lesson from the trauma of the exile: if they were going to err in any direction, it was going to be in the direction of being too strict.

     Despite the joy and sense of community that attended the different returns to the land and the rebuilding of the temple and the walls, there were also traces of sadness and diminished expectations. This is seen most vividly when the temple foundations were laid around 536 BC. On this occasion, a great shout of joy was raised, but it was intermingled with a great cry from those who remembered the first temple: this temple now being constructed could not compare with the glories of the previous one (Ezra 3:10–13). The land had suffered greatly during the exile, and the people were greatly impoverished, and so a temple on the scale of Solomon’s temple simply would not be built.

     Moreover, the glories of the Davidic-Solomonic kingdom would not be re-established any time soon. Zerubbabel, a descendant of David, was living proof that the promises of the Davidic Covenant were still in effect (Ezra 3:2; 5:2). But, Zerubbabel did not preside over anything close to the kingdom that had been promised to David, to say nothing of the far more glorious kingdom predicted in the prophets. Both Ezra and Nehemiah, in their prayers, indicated their acute awareness that they were still under foreign domination, and thus not free (Ezra 9:7; Neh. 9:36).

     What, then, of the great promises of the Abrahamic and Davidic Covenants, in the light of the diminished state of affairs after the exile? Evangelical believers differ as to the exact place of the land in the future of God’s dealings with His people. But, all agree that the great promises to Abraham and David — about their descendants, about God’s relationship with His people, about the blessing of the nations through them — find their ultimate fulfillment in Jesus, the Christ. Indeed, the New Testament begins by affirming this: “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham” (Matt. 1:1). Of all the forty-two names in the list that follows (vv. 2–17), Matthew’s selection of these two — David and Abraham — betrays his conviction that Jesus was not only physically the descendant of these two great Old Testament figures, but also the very embodiment of the great promises that had been given to them. The One toward which Old Testament history points has now come.

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     Dr. David M. Howard Jr. is professor of Old Testament, Hebrew, and hermeneutics at Bethel Seminary.

David M. Howard Jr. Books:

The Everlasting Kingdom

By Robert Bothwell 2/2006

     Even though the 2004 U.S. presidential election was not even two years ago, the media is already looking ahead to the 2008 campaign cycle. This reporting can be exasperating, but it is not surprising. In biblical terms, the attention paid to presidential politics seems to reflect our desire, even in a republic, to have one, sovereign ruler. This wish, revealing an innate need for submission to the One whose image we bear, may be unconscious, but it is present nonetheless. The story of Israel’s king is the emphasis of the historical books of the Bible, and this story is told most explicitly in Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles. While space prohibits us from covering each event in these inspired works, I hope to stress how these books, and David’s line in particular, anticipate the perfect king who fulfills God’s purpose for mankind and reclaims for us what Adam lost.

     Foundations of Kingship

     Kingship has always been God’s intent for His people. Mankind was created to exercise dominion and manifest God’s reign on the earth (Gen. 1:26–28), but the fall into sin corrupted this ideal. In redeeming a people for Himself, God promised to restore righteous dominion. Kings would come from Abraham’s line, (Gen. 17:5–6), and they were required to rule justly according to God’s law (Deut. 17:14–20). Moreover, even though this kingship is fully realized in the God of Israel, and one righteous servant par excellence, all believers will one day share in His reign (Isa. 60; Dan. 7:9–27; 2 Tim. 2:12a).

     We must remember these truths lest we think that Israel’s monarchy was not originally in God’s plan. 1 Samuel 8 records the Lord’s displeasure at Israel’s request for a king, but this is not because kingship is in itself evil. The author of Judges laments that chaos marked the period between Joshua and Saul because there was no king in Israel (Judg. 21:25). In describing the wickedness of Samuel’s sons even under his righteous judgeship (1 Sam. 8:1–3), the author of Samuel indicates that to have a strong, holy king in Israel is the ideal.

     No, the desire for a monarch is displeasing because of its motivation. Israel wants someone not to represent but to replace God’s rule (8:4–9). They seek a king like the other nations have who will rely on his own strength instead of the Lord’s to crush their enemies (8:10–22). But instead of rejecting their wish, the Lord gives them this exact kind of king in Saul.

     The Davidic Covenant and Beyond

     Outwardly, the man God chooses to be the first king of His people seems to be a good selection. Tall and handsome (9:1–2), Saul delivers Israel from the Ammonites (11:1–11). However, when the people fear the Philistines at Gilgal, Saul, instead of relying upon the word of the Lord through Samuel, does not wait for the prophet to offer the appointed sacrifices. Because of his disobedience, Saul’s dynasty will not rule forever (13:1–14a). Instead, the Lord will appoint a man who will possess a heart to serve Him (13:14b; 16:7). King David will rely upon the Lord and not himself to save Israel (chap. 17).

     Upon ascending the throne in 1004 bc, David conquers Jerusalem and brings the ark into the city (2 Sam. 5:1–6:15). At this point the historical books reach their climax when God makes an everlasting covenant with David.

     David desires to build a house for God, but the prophet Nathan informs the king he will not be the one to build the Lord’s temple (7:1–17; 1 Chron. 17:1–15). This interchange confirms that the offices of king and prophet are closely connected. Israel’s king must obey the law of Moses, the Lord’s first prophet (Deut. 17:18–20), and later prophets like Nathan repeat this demand to the king (see 2 Sam. 12:1–15). Yet the monarchy’s later decline into idolatry shows that he who merely hears God’s word will not be the true shepherd of Israel. The perfect ruler will have to be like David — a prophet (in the Psalms he gives us God’s Word) and a king. However, David’s own sins preclude him from being the perfect prophet-king; only He who is the exact imprint and final revelation of God can rightly exercise both offices at all times (Heb. 1:1–3a).

     The Davidic covenant is recorded in 2 Samuel 7 (see 1 Chron. 17; Pss. 89; 110). Three aspects of this covenant in particular serve as the framework for the history of God’s people after David.

     First, we read that David’s son will build the Lord’s house (2 Sam. 7:12–13). Initially, it seems Solomon will fulfill this promise because he builds the first temple in Jerusalem (1 Kings 5–8). However, Solomon’s later idolatry (chap. 11) reveals his inability to erect God’s final dwelling place. It will be David’s greater Son, the Temple of God Himself (Rev. 21:22), who builds His people into a living, spiritual house of true worship (1 Peter 2:4–10).

     God punishes Solomon for the worship of false gods (Deut. 17:17; 1 Kings 11:1–8) by dividing the kingdom after his death (vv. 9–13) and by raising up adversaries against Solomon (vv. 14–43), just as He did after David’s sin with Bathsheba (2 Sam. 12:11). This illustrates a second aspect of the Davidic covenant — conditionality.

     Though His steadfast love will never depart from David’s house, God pledges to bring “the rod of men” against the king for his iniquity (2 Sam. 7:14–16). David will surely have a throne forever (v. 13), but not all of his sons will reign — only the righteous can inherit the promise.

     This is clear from Israel’s later history. After Solomon dies, God hands ten tribes over to Jeroboam, leaving Solomon’s son Rehoboam with only Judah (1 Kings 11:26–12:20). Benjamin, the twelfth tribe, is not forgotten but is incorporated into Judah at this time (v. 21). Even though Jeroboam is not a descendant of David, his northern kingdom of Israel is still required to keep the covenant. However, Jeroboam is unfaithful and leads his people into sin (14:16). Subsequent regents in the north all follow his example; none of them serves the Lord. Some are notoriously wicked; Ahab and Jezebel, for example, persecute the prophet Elijah (19:1–3). Flagrant covenant violation moves God to bring final discipline against Israel when Assyria takes the ten northern tribes into exile in 722 BC (2 Kings 17:6–41).

     The southern kingdom of Judah lasts nearly 150 years longer, and the Davidic line sustains its authority there. Yet Judah is also disciplined for serving false gods. Her first king, Rehoboam, and her people practice every abomination “of the nations that the Lord drove out before the people of Israel” resulting in an Egyptian siege of Jerusalem (1 Kings 14:21–31).

     The king represents the people before God, and thus his fate is shared by his subjects. Manasseh’s reign as recorded in Chronicles links the destiny of the king with the destiny of his people. As one of Judah’s last kings, Manasseh’s wickedness brings the curse of exile even upon David’s line. While he is carried into Babylon before the rest of Judah, he is restored to the throne upon his repentance (2 Chron. 33:1–20). God’s people will later face the same punishment for their sins, but they will also receive the same restoration.

     This inseparable connection between the king and his people points toward the final aspect of the Davidic covenant — unconditionality. The Lord swore to establish David’s throne (Ps. 89:3–4), and He always fulfills His oaths. His steadfast love will never depart from David’s line (2 Sam. 7:16); thus, He must establish His king and His people securely in their land forever (vv. 10–11). He must provide a king who will keep covenant and provide righteousness for His people. The promise is unconditional because God Himself ensures its final fulfillment — not because He has no requirement for His kings. Righteousness is the obligation of king and subject (Deut. 28). God’s covenant love will make sure this righteousness, and thus the promise to David, is achieved. However, He does not set His love on all of David’s sons.

     God keeps His promise to David by combining the office of priest and king (who is to be a prophet as well). The Son that keeps the covenant and therefore effectively intercedes for the people will have His throne established forever. This is anticipated in David who plans the temple (1 Chron. 22–26) and sacrifices to the Lord (2 Sam. 6:17b). Righteous kings such as Hezekiah and Josiah also embrace the priestly vocation by renewing the covenant during their tenures as Judah’s king (2 Kings 18:1–8; 22:1–23:25).

     Despite this apparent failure of God to keep His promise to David, the pre-exilic history ends with an inkling of hope. Jehoiachin, Zedekiah’s immediate predecessor, is freed from prison and given a seat higher than any other king exiled into Babylon (2 Kings 25:27–30). God is preserving the royal line so His Son can enter into history and fulfill His promises to David. Jesus of Nazareth became the perfect priest, and, as the Davidic king (Matt. 1:1–17), His destiny is inseparable from the destiny of His people. Like Manasseh and Jehoiachin before Him, He receives the penalty due sin, yet not for His own but for that of His people (Isa. 53). He too is restored after death in exile, but His restoration is permanent. His resurrection is the first fruits of a cosmic restoration (Rom. 8:19–23), and all those in Him will dwell securely in a good land — a new earth — forever (Rev. 21:1–8).

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     Robert Rothwell is associate editor of Tabletalk and has been writing the magazine’s daily studies since 2004.

The Historical Book

By Gene Edward Veith 2/2006

     Non-Christians assume that the Bible is a collection of myths. So do theological liberals, which is why they feel free to support abortion, homosexual marriage, the validity of all world religions — and they have constructed a whole vein of scholarship designed to “demythologize” the Bible, so as to salvage what they consider to be relevant to contemporary culture.

     As a long-time student of literature, I get frustrated reading liberal biblical scholarship, not just because of its bad theology but because of its distortion of literature. A person might not believe the Bible is historical, but it is beyond doubt that the Bible is written in a historical style (which, in turn, is strong evidence for its historicity).

     A greater literary scholar than I, C.S. Lewis, saw the same thing. “Whatever these men may be as biblical critics, I distrust them as critics,” Lewis wrote. “They seem to me to lack literary judgment, to be imperceptive about the very quality of the texts they are reading.” Lewis thought that part of the problem may be specialization, that these scholars have devoted so much time to the minute scrutiny of biblical texts that they have failed to attain “a wide and deep and genial experience of literature in general.… If he tells me something in a gospel is a legend or a romance, I want to know how many legends and romances he has read” (“Fern-seed and Elephants,” in Christian Reflections).

     For most of the history of Western literature, beginning in the ancient world and continuing up until the invention of the novel in the eighteenth century, legends, romances, and myths were written in poetry. Historical records were written in prose.

     The Bible has poetry, of course — the Psalms and the prophetic books — but these are lyric poems (that is, personal expressions, the kind of poetry that can be assumed to be true). The great narratives of Scripture — in Genesis, the saga of the Israelites, the Gospels — are in prose. That alone is good evidence that they are historical.

     But more than that, the texture, details, and composition of these narratives marks them not as myths or imaginative fictions but history. Lewis makes fun of Bible scholars who call the gospel of John an “allegory,” pointing to the vividly lifelike dialogues and to the extraneous details — such as Jesus writing in the dust — whose inclusion can only be accounted for if they actually happened. “I have been reading poems, romances, vision-literature, legends, myths all my life. I know what they are like. I know that not one of them is like this.”

     Lewis sees only two possibilities. Either these accounts are reports of actual events, “or else, some unknown writer in the second century, without known predecessors or successors, suddenly anticipated the whole universe of modern, novelistic, realistic narrative.”

     Lewis says, “The reader who doesn’t see this has simply not learned to read. I would recommend him to read Auerbach.” So let us read Eric Auerbach, whose book Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature (1953) is recognized as one of the century’s greatest works of literary criticism. The first chapter, “Odyseuss’ Scar,” compares the style of Homer to that of the Bible.

     Homer, Auerbach shows, puts everything in the foreground — giving us what the characters look like, describing their surroundings in detail, and even telling us what they are thinking. This approach, which has become the model for Western fiction, is “to represent phenomena in a fully externalized form, visible and palpable in all their parts, and completely fixed in their spatial and temporal relations,” says Auerbach.

     He contrasts this highly-imaginative approach to the way the Bible in Genesis describes the sacrifice of Isaac. We do not know what Abraham or Isaac look like; there is no description of the landscape; we are not told what Abraham thinks as he prepares to sacrifice his son; nor are we informed why God acts as He does. Such meaning is in the “background,” requiring interpretation and reflection and opening up untold depths.

     This kind of narrative testifies to the real because it is messy, unpredictable, and compels, just like real life. Auerbach says that the story of David has to be historical. “In Absalom’s rebellion, for example, or in the scenes from David’s last days, the contradictions and crossing of motives both in individuals and in the general action have become so concrete that it is impossible to doubt the historicity of the information conveyed.”

     Unlike Homer, the biblical narrator was not just making things up. “His freedom in creative or representative imagination was severely limited.” This is because he was constrained by the truth. The Bible conveys not just truth, but authoritative truth. “Far from seeking, like Homer, merely to make us forget our own reality for a few hours, it seeks to overcome our reality: we are to fit our own life into its world, feel ourselves to be elements in its structure of universal history.”

     Auerbach was not a Christian. He remained a Jewish rationalist. But he recognized the implications of the Bible’s historicity and truth. “The Scripture stories do not, like Homer’s, court our favor, they do not flatter us that they may please us and enchant us — they seek to subject us, and if we refuse to be subjected we are rebels.”

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

Gene Edward Veith Books:

Setting a Course for Faithfulness

By Stephen Nichols 1/1/1989 Tabletalk Magazine

     TT: What are your responsibilities in your role as president of Reformation Bible College and chief academic officer for Ligonier Ministries? | SN: Under the supervision and direction of the board of directors, the president of Reformation Bible College governs all aspects of the college from the staff and faculty to the students and curriculum. I am not alone in this, as I work alongside Dr. John W. Tweeddale, our academic dean.

     Ligonier is primarily a teaching ministry that delivers content in a variety of ways. As chief academic officer, I work with Chris Larson, Ligonier’s president, in maintaining the theological emphasis and voice of Ligonier, which has proven beneficial to so many in the church over these last four decades. In both of these positions, I report directly to Dr. R.C. Sproul.

     It is all rather humbling. Ultimately, the responsibility of both positions is to maintain theological fidelity. History abounds with tragic examples of ministries and colleges losing their moorings. Above all, institutions need God’s grace to stay true to Him, and they also need to be purposeful and committed. Dr. Sproul has cast the vision and set the course. These two roles that I will, along with many other roles at Ligonier and RBC where others serve, are in place so that the next generation, and generations to come, may grow in their knowledge of God—to increase their zeal to serve God, and to glorify and enjoy God forever.

     TT: What excites you most about the ministry of RBC? | SN: It would have to be both the potential of the faculty and the potential of the students. Gathered in Sanford, Fla., is a world-class collection of scholars who are committed to the mission of Ligonier Ministries, RBC, and the church. Augustine once said that a good teacher is one who loves the subject, loves the students, and, above all, loves God. That is the RBC faculty, and they will be a substantial resource for the church for years to come. Then there are the students. They are taught the full range of biblical studies, church history, philosophy, and apologetics. On top of that, RBC has a great works curriculum, affording students the opportunity to engage classic texts and the history of ideas from the early Greeks to the present day. The curriculum is built upon and aims at one thing: the knowledge of God. We exist to teach students theology. And they are taught by godly professors who love their subjects and are called to their students. When you consider all of this, you can’t help but get excited about the potential of RBC. There is an urgent need for this kind of education and for this unique college.

     TT: What would you like to see RBC accomplish over the next ten years? Twenty years? Fifty years? | SN: First and foremost would be faithfulness—faithfulness as an institution to the Reformed faith and to the particular theological emphases that have marked Ligonier Ministries since its inception forty years ago. That faithfulness also has to do with our students. They come to us, study with us, and eventually graduate. Commencement is not an end, however, but a beginning of a life of ministry, of work and vocation, and of family. What will be said of RBC students at the end of their life’s journey? If the answer is faithfulness, then RBC will have been used by God in their lives to accomplish something of lasting significance and of true substance.

     Second is fruitfulness. The goal for RBC is not to be big, but to be influential. We want RBC men and women to know and love God, to be articulate and persuasive, and to contend for truth, goodness, and beauty.

     TT: Why are you concerned with defending the doctrine of Scripture’s inerrancy in this day and age? | SN: Defending inerrancy is necessary precisely because it is being challenged and even jettisoned by many who would claim to be evangelicals. The doctrine of inerrancy reminds us that the Bible is God’s authoritative and trustworthy Word to us. My concern is with alternative views, and especially with the consequences of those alternatives. If you do not hold to the full inerrancy of Scripture, what do you have? Essentially, you have limited inerrancy. That has the Bible submitting to us—to our judgment. That has it all topsy-turvy. The doctrine of Scripture is the first domino, so to speak. If it falls in the wrong direction, the whole chain of dominoes falls in the wrong direction.

     TT: Why is it important to express and defend a biblical Christology? | SN: Christology encompasses the person and work of Christ. As for His person, we must confess the God-man, the hypostatic union of the divine nature and the human nature in one person. As for Christ’s work, we must confess His sinless life, His perfect obedience, His atoning death as a substitute in our place, His burial, His resurrection, and His ascension to the Father’s right hand. Sadly, many of these doctrines are also being challenged and jettisoned today. Consider this: Can we have the gospel without a biblical Christology? The answer, of course, is no. And without the gospel, we cease to be the church. We are called to proclaim the gospel and live out its ramifications. The heart and soul of the gospel is a biblical Christology. We must confess it, teach it, and defend it. This is why we produced The Word Made Flesh: The Ligonier Statement on Christology. We must confess and contend for a biblical Christology.

     TT: Several of your writings focus on Jonathan Edwards. Why do you return to this early American preacher and theologian so often? | SN: I never find the time I spend with Edwards to be wasted time. I come away from reading him being challenged and with new ways of thinking about and living the Christian life. Just the other day, I was looking at the letter Sarah Edwards, his wife, wrote to their daughter after Jonathan died. She said, “What shall I say? A holy and good God has covered us with a dark cloud.” She clings to God’s holiness and goodness in a time of turmoil and suffering. Sarah’s reaction reflects what her husband lived, taught, and wrote. I go back to Edwards because I so need that perspective.

     TT: What are two major lessons that American Christians need to learn from Christians who lived in centuries past? | SN: Track down a copy of Augustine’s Confessions. You will see that the first word in Latin is magnus. God is great. He is transcendent, infinitely above and over His creation. The corollary is that we are not. We are finite. I don’t think we reflexively think of God as great and of ourselves as small. But we must.

     The second major lesson concerns suffering. The vast majority of voices from the past offer a far different perspective than we do on suffering. Perhaps it’s due to our living in the “entitlement age,” or due to our sense of overcoming so many diseases and ailments that once plagued previous generations. Whatever the reason, we see suffering as abnormal and to be avoided. What does Paul mean by participating in the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings? We learn more about what that means when we look to the past than when we confine ourselves to the present.

     TT: In what major ways has American culture distorted our understanding of Jesus? | SN: American culture’s distorting our understanding of Jesus offers a clear case where culture rushes in to fill the vacuum left when we disdain tradition. The Nicene and Chalcedonian creeds mark out helpful boundaries regarding the person of Christ. The Reformers mark out helpful boundaries for thinking of Christ’s work. When we neglect these resources, we are overly influenced by culture. In America’s Victorian age, Jesus was “feminized.” He was seen exclusively as meek and mild. Even the images of this era portray Jesus as feminine. In our day, Jesus has taken on any number of personae. I’ve seen images of Him in a boxing ring with gloves on, ready to fight the devil. Scripture presents Jesus as a rather complex person. We can distort that image, constructing a Jesus who looks like us, and is there simply to affirm us. The creeds and the Reformation solas can go a long way in helping us think clearly and biblically about Jesus.

     TT: Name a few inappropriate ways to read church history. | SN: I can name three. The first would be not to read it. Why cut yourself off from the riches of the past? The second concerns reading history with judgmental and dismissive attitudes. We can easily do this because we tend to think so highly of our own age, and we tend to be unaware of our own blind spots. The counter is to read church history with humility, not hubris. Third, we need to avoid “hagiography.” Our church history figures don’t need halos. The Scripture writers show the faults and flaws of the biblical figures. There is only one who ranks as the true hero: Christ. We can be so thankful for leaders from church history who so clearly and persuasively point us to Christ. But we must ultimately look to the One to whom they are pointing and not to them.

     TT: How can Christians have confidence in God in this day and age? | SN: When Rome collapsed in the early 400s, the great scholar Jerome declared the world to be in ruins, went into a cave outside of Bethlehem, and waited to die. Conversely, Augustine wrote the classic text The City of God (Translated with an Introduction by Marcus Dods). Augustine reminds us that, while empires come and go, God’s kingdom is unshakable. What Augustine said then is what we need now. We can have confidence in God because His Word is true and sure, because His ways are perfect and good, and because He sovereignly reigns over His world. We live in challenging and confusing times that can throw us off balance. But we do not go crawling into a cave. Instead, with confidence and conviction, we remember our unchanging God and we trust in His steadfast love and faithfulness.

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     Dr. Stephen J. Nichols is president of Reformation Bible College in Sanford, Fla., chief academic officer for Ligonier Ministries, and a Ligonier teaching fellow. He previously served as research professor of Christianity and culture at Lancaster Bible College in Lancaster, Pa. He earned a Ph.D. from Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, and he is a member of the Evangelical Theological Society.

     Dr. Stephen J. Nichols Books |  Go to Books Page

Read The Psalms In "1" Year

Psalm 31

Into Your Hand I Commit My Spirit
31 To The Choirmaster. A Psalm Of David.

21 Blessed be the LORD,
for he has wondrously shown his steadfast love to me
when I was in a besieged city.
22 I had said in my alarm,
“I am cut off from your sight.”
But you heard the voice of my pleas for mercy
when I cried to you for help.
23 Love the LORD, all you his saints!
The LORD preserves the faithful
but abundantly repays the one who acts in pride.
24 Be strong, and let your heart take courage,
all you who wait for the LORD!

ESV Reformation Study

Judges 2

By Don Carson 7/19/2018

     From a reading of Judges 1-2, it appears that after the initial Israelite victories, the pace of conquest varied considerably. In many cases tribes were responsible for bringing their own territories under control. With the passage of time, however, it seems to have become unstated policy, as the Israelites grew stronger, not to chase the Canaanites from the land, nor to exterminate them, but to subjugate them or even enslave them, to make them “drawers of water and hewers of wood,” to subject them to forced labor (Judg. 1:28).

     The inevitable result is that a great deal of paganism remained in the land. Human nature being what it is, these false gods inevitably became a “snare” to the covenant community (Judg. 2:3). Angry with their refusal to break down the pagan altars, the angel of the Lord declares that if the people will not do what they are told, he will no longer provide them with the decisive help that would have enabled them to complete the task (had they been willing!). The people weep over the lost opportunity, but it is too late (Judg. 2:1-4). It is certainly not that they had never been warned.

     This is the background to the rest of the book of Judges. Some of its main themes are then outlined for us in the rest of chapter 2. Much of the rest of the book is exemplification of the thinking laid out here.

     The main thrust, shot through with tragedy, is the cyclical failure of the covenant community, and how God intervenes to rescue them again and again. Initially, the people remained faithful throughout Joshua’s lifetime and the lifetime of the elders who outlived him (Judg. 2:6). But by the time that an entirely new generation had grown up — one that had seen nothing of the wonders God had performed, whether at the Exodus, during the wilderness years, or at the time of the entrance into the Promised Land — fidelity to the Lord dwindled away. Syncretism and paganism abounded; the people forsook the God of their fathers and served the Baals, i.e., the various “lords” of the Canaanites (Judg. 2:10-12). The Lord responded in wrath; the people were subjected to raids, reversals, and military defeats at the hands of surrounding marauders. When the people cried to the Lord for help, he raised up a judge — a regional and often national leader — who freed the people from tyranny and led them in covenantal faithfulness. And then the cycle began again. And again. And again.

     Here is a sober lesson. Even after times of spectacular revival, reformation, or covenantal renewal, the people of God are never more than a generation or two from infidelity, unbelief, massive idolatry, disobedience, and wrath. God help us.

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

     Don Carson Books |  Go to Books Page

In what way does the Spirit testify?

By Sinclair Ferguson

     The key issue is: In what way does the Spirit testify? In particular, in Romans 8:16 does Paul regard the Spirit’s testimony as either (a) a testimony to our spirit or (b) a testimony with our spirit? Paul’s verb, summartureō can be used in either sense.

     In his commentary on Romans, C. E. B. Cranfield (now followed by others) argued forcefully that the testimony of the Spirit must be given to our spirits and not (along) with (the testimony of) our spirits. He asks: “What standing does our spirit have in this matter? Of itself it surely has no right to testify to our being sons of God.”   A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on The Epistle to the Romans, 2 volumes   C. E. B. Cranfield, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on The Epistle to the Romans, 2 vols.

     But there seem to be good reasons to reject this view, as follows.

     1) Paul uses the verb summartureō elsewhere in Romans. ( Rom. 2:15; 9:1 ) In both instances the idea seems to be that of a witness with rather than to. In addition, Romans 8 is replete with sun compound words. We are heirs with Christ (8:17); we suffer with Christ (v. 17); the creation groans together (v. 22); it travails together (v. 22); the Spirit helps us (along with us) in our weakness (v. 26); things work together with each other for our good (v. 28). This further suggests that the sun compound verb summartureō also carries the sense of “witness along with” rather than “witness to.”

(Ro 2:15–29) 15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them 16 on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.
17 But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast in God 18 and know his will and approve what is excellent, because you are instructed from the law; 19 and if you are sure that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, 20 an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth— 21 you then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? 22 You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23 You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law. 24 For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”
25 For circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the law, but if you break the law, your circumcision becomes uncircumcision. 26 So, if a man who is uncircumcised keeps the precepts of the law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? 27 Then he who is physically uncircumcised but keeps the law will condemn you who have the written code and circumcision but break the law. 28 For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. 29 But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.
     2) Contrary to Cranfield’s contention, it is of considerable importance to stress that we do in fact bear witness to our standing before God. While in Galatians Paul says that “God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!,’” ( Galatians 4:6 ) in Romans it is the believer who cries, “Abba! Father!” thus expressing his or her own consciousness of being a son of God and therefore a joint heir with Christ. In this context then the witness of the Spirit must, in some sense, be additional to that of our own spirit.

     Cranfield asks a proper question: “What place does the witness of our spirits play in this matter of being assured we are children of God?” But the answer is not: “No part.” Rather, Paul’s point is that it is precisely in the weakness of our consciousness of our new identity, and the fragility that may attend our sense of assurance, that the Spirit bears his joint testimony. Thus the question of our status is confirmed by two witnesses. In essence Cranfield’s interpretation makes the Spirit the sole witness.

     This view is confirmed by the parallel, but not identical, statement Paul makes in Galatians 4:6. While in Romans 8 it is we who cry, “Abba! Father,” in Galatians 4 it is the Spirit who utters this cry.

     How are we to correlate these passages?

     Here Paul’s statement that it is only through the Spirit that a person can say, “Jesus is Lord,” may provide a key. ( 1 Cor. 12:3 ) It is the believer who bears witness thus to Christ; but it is only through the ministry of the Spirit in his life that this can take place. In the same way, it is the believer who cries, “Abba! Father!” but we can do this only as the Spirit bears his joint testimony with our spirit. The testimony of the Spirit of sonship is therefore not something existentially distinguishable from this testimony of our own spirits. It is distinct from it, but it cannot be distinguished by an introspective analysis of our consciousness—any more than we can directly detect the work of the Spirit when we say, “Jesus is Lord!” B. B. Warfield finely expresses the balance here when he writes:

     Distinct in source, it is yet delivered confluently with the testimony of our own consciousness. Faith and Life B. B. Warfield, Faith and Life

     From The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel Assurance

     Sinclair Ferguson | Wikipedia

     Dr. Sinclair B. Ferguson is a Ligonier teaching fellow and distinguished visiting professor of systematic theology at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia.      Sinclair Ferguson Books |  Go to Books Page

By Gleason Archer Jr.

The Table of Nations in Genesis 10

      From the standpoint of linguistic relationships there appear to be some marked discrepancies between the historical affinities among the Near Eastern nations and those indicated by the genealogical tables of  Gen. 10. For example, Canaan is said to be descended from Ham (v.  6 ), and yet the Canaanites of 2000 B.C. were speaking a West Semitic dialect (of which Hebrew itself is a subdivision). It must be borne in mind, however, that language is not necessarily decisive for ethnic relationship, for Germanic Visigoths ended up speaking Spanish in Spain, the Ostrogoths Italian in Italy, the Germanic Franks adopted French in France, and the French-speaking Normans finally took up English in England. Correspondingly the Hamitic tribes which conquered Palestine in the third millennium B.C. may have succumbed to the influence of Semitic-speaking neighbors, regardless of what their original tongue may have been. It should moreover be noted that this assignment of the Canaanites to the posterity of Ham can only be accounted for on the basis of an accurate historical tradition preserved to the Hebrews of Moses’ day. Otherwise they would have had every motivation to assign the Canaanites to Shem, since they spoke a Semitic language at least as early as the days of Abraham and Jacob (cf.  Gen. 31:47 ).

      Another problem is presented by the appearance of Sheba as a descendant both of Ham (v.  7 ) and of Shem (v.  28 ). In all probability the Sabaeans were originally Hamitic, but continual intermixture with Semitic neighbors in South Arabia finally altered their ethnic complexion to make them predominantly Semitic. Thus both the relationship of verse  7 and that of verse  28 would be correct.

      As for Cush, verses  8–10 indicate he was the father of Nimrod of Babylonia, and yet his name became associated with Ethiopia (cf.  Isa. 11:11; Ezek. 30:4, ASV marg.), a country known to the Egyptians as K;š (and may have been vocalized as Kūsh). Verse  6 refers to him as a son of Ham, which of course agrees with an African location. On the other hand, the Al Amran tribe of Arabia calls the region of Zebid in Yemen by the name Kush. There was also an important city near Babylon named Kish, from which Nimrod may have come. Putting all these evidences together, Unger (AOT, p. 83) suggests that the original home of the Hamitic Cushites was in Lower Mesopotamia, where Nimrod raised them to great power. From there the Cushites may well have extended their power to the Yemenite region of Arabia, and then crossed the Red Sea to invade “Ethiopia” (an area now occupied by the Republic of Sudan) and imposed their name upon that entire district. This would be no more unlikely than the colonization of Carthaginia by Phoenician settlers or the conquest of French Normandy, Saxon England, and Muslim Sicily by the Normans from Norway. Earlier examples would be the settlement and conquest of Sicily and southern Italy by the Greeks in the seventh and sixth centuries B.C. Some authorities draw into the discussion the little - known Kushu tribe mentioned in Middle Kingdom Egyptian inscriptions as inhabiting the borders of Syria and Palestine. But it is not clear how these could have engendered all the nations of  Gen. 10:7 (most of which inhabited the Arabian Peninsula), or furnished the background for Nimrod, unless of course they actually represented settlements from the original Kushites of Lower Babylonia.

      In view of the foregoing, it seems that A. H. Sayce was overhasty in surrendering the genetic reliability of  Gen. 10 and interpreting it as merely a description of geographical relationships at a time when Canaan was under Egyptian domination (and hence would have been regarded as Hamitic, since Egypt or Mizraim was descended from Ham).” Even G. E. Wright (in the Westminster Atlas) concedes that this list is arranged on the whole from a racial point of view.

      Some of the more interesting correspondences between the names of this chapter and the forms which they assume in Akkadian inscriptions are here listed. Of the descendants of Japheth, Gomer is identified with the Gimirriya or Gimirrai (known to the Greeks as Cimmerians), who came down from above the Caucasus Range and invaded Asia Minor, settling in Cappadocia. Madai was the ancestor of the Medes, and Javan of the Greeks (the name seems to have been preserved in the Ionians). Tubal’s descendants were the Tabali, who fought Tiglath-pileser I around 1100 B.C., and the race of Meshech were the Mushke who warred with Shalmaneser III in the ninth century. Both lived in eastern Asia Minor. There is no extant record of the descendants of Magog. As for Tiras, he seems to have fathered the Tursenoi or Tyrrhenians, a Pelasgian race who at first inhabited the Aegean region.

      Ashkenaz, of the line of Gomer, is identified with the Ashkuz or Scythians, who invaded the Near East from the North (via the Caucasus) and were formidable antagonists of the Assyrians, the Persians, and the Greeks. Little is known of Riphath, and Togarmah is tentatively identified with Tegarama in Southwestern Armenia. Elishah, of the line of Javan, is Alashia, now usually identified with Cyprus (cf. Westminster Atlas), as is also Kittim (a name preserved in Citium on the southern coast of that island). Tarshish has been associated with localities in Sardinia (where the name has been found on inscriptions) and also with Spain. Dodanim is perhaps to be connected with the Dardanians of the region around Troy in northwest Asia Minor; the Dardana are apparently equivalent to the Dardanians. But most scholars prefer the spelling Rodanim which occurs in the parallel passage in  1 Chron. 1:7 (ASV), apparently referring to the people of the island of Rhodes.

      Cush has already been discussed. Mizraim (“The Two Districts”) refers to Egypt; Phut is to be identified with Puta (referred to by Darius I) in Cyrenaica. A distinction should be drawn between Ludim (v.  13 ), ancestor of the Lybians (if the true original reading, as Albright thinks, was Lubim), and Lud (v.  22 ), progenitor of the Lydians of Asia Minor. The classification of Elam as Semitic (v.  22 ) has been challenged on linguistic grounds, since Elamite or Susian was a language non-Semitic in character But as we have already seen, language is no infallible indicator of ethnic relationship, and there was besides, an early penetration of Semitic-speaking conquerors into Elam in the ascendancy of Sargon of Agade (ca. 2200 B.C.).

      Concerning the descendants of Shem, Unger (AOT, pp. 97–99) lists all the available information, which is unfortunately meager enough. But as to the tribal descendants of Aram and Joktan (in Arabia), Albright has this interesting comment: “The most significant thing about the names of the tribal descendants of Aram and Joktan is that nearly all the names are archaic, not hitherto having been found in the inscriptions of the first millennium from Assyria and South Arabia. Moreover, several of the names belong to types known as personal names only in the early second millennium, though they may have continued as tribal names for many centuries thereafter.”

     A Survey of Old Testament Introduction

The Coming Prince

By Sir Robert Anderson 1841-1918

Chapter 1 Introduction

     And this suggests another ground on which, in our own day especially, prophetic study claims peculiar prominence; namely, the testimony it affords to the Divine character and origin of the Scriptures. Though infidelity was as open-mouthed in former times, it had its own banner and its own camp, and it shocked the mass of mankind, who, though ignorant of the spiritual power of religion, clung nevertheless with dull tenacity to its dogmas. But the special feature of the present age – well fitted to cause anxiety and alarm to all thoughtful men – is the growth of what may be termed religious skepticism, a Christianity which denies revelation – a form of godliness which denies that which is the power of godliness. (2 Timothy 3:5)

2 Timothy 3:5, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.   ESV

     Faith is not the normal attitude of the human mind towards things Divine, the earnest doubter, therefore, is entitled to respect and sympathy. But what judgment shall be meted out to those who delight to proclaim themselves doubters, while claiming to be ministers of a religion of which FAITH is the essential characteristic?

     There are not a few in our day whose belief in the Bible is all the more deep and unfaltering just because they have shared in the general revolt against priestcraft and superstition; and such men are scarcely prepared to take sides in the struggle between free thought and the thraldom of creeds and clerics. But in the conflict between faith and skepticism within the pale, their sympathies are less divided. On the one side there may be narrowness, but at least there is honesty; and in such a case surely the moral element is to be considered before a claim to mental vigor and independence can be listened to. Moreover any claim of the kind needs looking into. The man who asserts his freedom to receive and teach what he deems truth, howsoever reached, and wheresoever found, is not to be lightly accused of vanity or self-will. His motives may be true, and right, and praiseworthy. But if he has subscribed to a creed, he ought to be careful in taking any such ground. It is not on the side of vagueness that the creeds of our British Churches are in fault, and men who boast of being freethinkers would deserve more respect if they showed their independence by refusing to subscribe, than by undermining the doctrines they are both pledged and subsidized to defend and teach.

     But what concerns us here is the indisputable fact that rationalism in this its most subtle phase is leavening society. The universities are its chief seminaries. The pulpit is its platform. Some of the most popular religious leaders are amongst its apostles. No class is safe from its influence. And if even the present could be stereotyped, it were well; but we are entered on a downward path, and they must indeed be blind who cannot see where it is leading. If the authority of the Scriptures be unshaken, vital truths may be lost by one generation, and recovered by the next; but if THAT   (the authority of Scripture)  be touched, the foundation of all truth is undermined, and all power of recovery is gone. The Christianized skeptic of today   (remember, this was written over a 100 years ago)  will soon give place to the Christianized infidel, whose disciples and successors in their turn will be infidels without any gloss of Christianity about them. Some, doubtless, will escape; but as for the many, Rome will be the only refuge for those who dread the goal to which society is hastening. Thus the forces are marshaling for the great predicted struggle of the future between the apostasy of a false religion and the apostasy of open infidelity. [5]

[5] I cannot refrain from giving the following extract from an article by Professor Goldwin Smith, in Macmillian's Magazine for February 1878:

     "The denial of the existence of God and of the future state, in a word, is the dethronement of conscience; and society will pass, to say the least, through a dangerous interval before social science can fill the vacant throne … But in the meantime mankind, or some portions of it, may be in danger of an anarchy of self-interest, compressed, for the purpose of political order, by a despotism of force.

     "That science and criticism, acting – thanks to the liberty of opinion won by political effort – with a freedom never known before, have delivered us from a mass of dark and degrading superstitions, we own with heartfelt thankfulness to the deliverers, and in the firm conviction that the removal of false beliefs, and of the authorities or institutions founded on them, cannot prove in the end anything but a blessing to mankind. But at the same time the foundations of general morality have inevitably been shaken, and a crisis has been brought on, the gravity of which nobody can fail to see, and nobody but a fanatic of materialism can see without the most serious misgiving.

     "There has been nothing in the history of man like the present situation. The decadence of the ancient mythologies is very far from affording a parallel… The Reformation was a tremendous earthquake: it shook down the fabric of mediaeval religion, and as a consequence of the disturbance in the religious sphere, filled the world with revolutions and wars. But it left the authority of the Bible unshaken, and men might feel that the destructive process had its limit, and that adamant was still beneath their feet. But a world which is intellectual and keenly alive to the significance of these questions, reading all that is written about them with almost passionate avidity, finds itself brought to a crisis the character of which any one may realize by distinctly presenting to himself the idea of existence without a God."
      Is the Bible a revelation from God? This is now become the greatest and most pressing of all questions. We may at once dismiss the quibble that the Scriptures admittedly contain a revelation. Is the sacred volume no better than a lottery bag from which blanks and prizes are to be drawn at random, with no power of distinguishing between them till the day when the discovery must come too late! And in the present phase of the question it is no less a quibble to urge that passages, and even books, may have been added in error to the Canon. We refuse to surrender Holy Writ to the tender mercies of those who approach it with the ignorance of pagans and the animus of apostates. But for the purpose of the present controversy we might consent to strike out everything on which enlightened criticism has cast the shadow of a doubt. This, however, would only clear the way for the real question at issue, which is not as to the authenticity of one portion or another, but as to the character and value of what is admittedly authentic. We are now far beyond discussing rival theories of inspiration; what concerns us is to consider whether the holy writings are what they claim to be, "the oracles of God." [6]

[6] ta logia tou theou (Romans 3:2). The old Hebrew Scriptures were thus regarded by those who were the divinely-appointed custodians of them (ib.) Not only by the devout among the Jews, but, as Josephus testifies, by all, they "were justly believed to be Divine," so that men were willing to endure tortures of all kinds rather than speak against them, and even "willingly to die for them" (Josephus, Apion, 1., 8). This fact is of immense importance in relation to the Lord's own teaching on the subject. Dealing with a people who believed in the sanctity and value of every word of Scripture, He never missed an opportunity to confirm them in that belief. The New Testament affords abundant proof how unreservedly He enforced it upon His disciples. (As regards the limits and date of closing of the Canon of Scripture, see Pusey, Daniel, p. 294, etc.)
     In the midst of error and confusion and uncertainty, increasing on every side, can earnest and devout souls turn to an open Bible, and find there "words of eternal life"? "The rational attitude of a thinking mind towards the supernatural is that of skepticism." [7]

[7] Mill, Essays on Religion.
     Reason may bow before the shibboleths and tricks of priestcraft– "the voice of the Church," as it is called; but this is sheer credulity. But if GOD speaks, then skepticism gives place to faith. Nor is this a mere begging of the question. The proof that the voice is really Divine must be absolute and conclusive. In such circumstances, skepticism betokens mental or moral degradation, and faith is not the abnegation of reason, but the highest act of reason. To maintain that such proof is impossible, is equivalent to asserting that the God who made us cannot so speak to us that the voice shall carry with it the conviction that it is from Him; and this is not skepticism at all, but disbelief and atheism. "It pleased God to reveal His Son in me," was St. Paul's account of his conversion. The grounds of his faith were subjective, and could not be produced. In proof to others of their reality he could only appeal to the facts of his life; though these were entirely the result, and in no sense or degree the basis, of his conviction. Nor was his case exceptional. St. Peter was one of the favored three who witnessed every miracle, including the transfiguration, and yet his faith was not the result of these, but sprang from a revelation to himself. In response to his confession,

Matthew 16:16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”   ESV

the Lord declared,

Matthew 16:17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.   ESV

Nor, again, was this a special grace accorded only to apostles.

2 Peter 1:1 Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ,
To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ:

was St. Peter's address to the faithful generally. He describes them as "born again by the Word of God." So also St. John speaks of such as "born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." (John 1:13)

John 1:13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.   ESV

"Of His own will begat He us with the word of truth" is the kindred statement of St. James. (James 1:18).

James 1:18 Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.   ESV

     Whatever be the meaning of such words, they must mean something more than arriving at a sound conclusion from sufficient premises, or accepting facts upon sufficient evidence. Nor will it avail to urge that this birth was merely the mental or moral change naturally caused by the truth thus attained by natural means. The language of the Scripture is unequivocal that the power of the testimony to produce this change depended on the presence and operation of God. Pages might be filled with quotations to prove this, but two may surface. St. Peter declares they preached the Gospel

1 Peter 1:12 It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.   ESV

and St. Paul's words are still more definite.

1 Thessalonians 1:5 because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.   ESV {8}

[8] alla kai en dunamei kai en pneumati agio (1 Thessalonians 1:5.) "But also in power, even in the Holy Ghost." There is no contrast intended between God on the one hand, and power on the other, nor yet between different sorts of power. To object that this referred to miracles which accompanied the preaching is to betray ignorance of Scripture. Acts 17 represents the preaching to which the Apostle was alluding. That miraculous power existed in Gentile Churches is clear from 1 Corinthians 12 but the question is, did the gospel which produced those Churches appeal to miracles to confirm it? Can any one read the first four chapters of 1 Corinthians and retain a doubt as to the answer?
The Coming Prince

  and also at this website. https://www.whatsaiththescripture.com/Voice/The.Coming.Prince.html#1-2

The Continual Burnt Offering

By H.A. Ironside - 1941

March 18
2 Chronicles 30:8 Do not now be stiff-necked as your fathers were, but yield yourselves to the LORD and come to his sanctuary, which he has consecrated forever, and serve the LORD your God, that his fierce anger may turn away from you. 9 For if you return to the LORD, your brothers and your children will find compassion with their captors and return to this land. For the LORD your God is gracious and merciful and will not turn away his face from you,  if you return to him.”  ESV

Deuteronomy 10:16 Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn.

Romans 10:21 But of Israel he says, “All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and contrary people.”

     God is always ready to grant revival and blessing when His people turn  wholeheartedly  to Him. He cannot pour out His Spirit upon a disobedient and antagonistic people. But He responds at once to those who humble themselves before Him, put away all known sin, and seek to yield implicit obedience to His Word. These were the characteristic features of the great awakening in the days of Hezekiah, and these things are written for our learning (Romans 15:4) that we too might seek the Lord in His own appointed way. It has been well said that we may have revival in any place, at any time, when willing to pay the price. There will always be blessing when the people of God return to obedience to the written Word. It is appalling how far the professing church has drifted in many instances from that which God has revealed as His holy will, in the Bible. We need to come back to first principles, and instead of sitting in judgment on the Scriptures,  give the Word of God the place of absolute authority in all things.  Then we may be assured of divine approval.

Romans 15:4 For whatever was written  in former days  was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.   ESV

If we believe the Bible, read Romans 15:4 again, and if one reads it you cannot help but believe it, ( Evidence That Demands a Verdict: Life-Changing Truth for a Skeptical World ), then how can some churches,  "unhitch" the Old Testament from their faith ?

The dearest idol I have known,
Whate’er that idol be.
Help me to tear it from its throne
And worship only Thee.

So shall my walk be close with God,
Calm and serene my frame,
So purer light shall mark the road
That leads me to the Lamb.
--- William Cowper

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

By James Orr 1907


With Abraham first, and afterwards with Joseph, the patriarchal history quits Canaan, and transports us into the midst of Egypt. Abraham went down to Egypt to escape famine, and was there received with honour by the reigning Pharaoh; but it is with the history of Joseph that we pass definitely into the full blaze of Egyptian civilisation. On the remarkable fidelity of the Egyptian colouring of the narrative of this part of  Genesis nearly all scholars may be said to be agreed. The colouring is so fresh and vivid, the portraiture of manners so exact, the allusions to customs and institutions are so minute, that it would be endless to dwell on them. We have the slave-market; Potiphar’s house, with its Egyptian arrangements; the prison; Pharaoh’s butler and baker, the latter with his baskets of confectionery; Pharaoh’s dreams, so Egyptian in their character; Joseph as prime minister, buying and selling corn; the divining-cup, the chariots, the waggons sent to Jacob; we have Egyptian names, sitting at meals, shaving the beard, embalming the body, sacred scribes, priests, physicians, other state functionaries; in short, we find ourselves veritably on the banks of the Nile, with Egyptian social and court life in full movement around us.

It is perhaps more to the purpose to remark that it is precisely the points in the history of Joseph which were formerly challenged which have received clearest illustration and confirmation from the monuments. Thus it was denied by Von Bohlen and others, on the authority of Herodotus, that the vine was cultivated in Egypt; it was denied that flesh was an article of diet among the upper classes of the Egyptians; the free manners of the women were alleged to conflict with Oriental privacy; the elevation of a young Hebrew to the position of prime minister was thought to savour of romance; the presents of Pharaoh to Abraham were objected to because they included sheep and oxen, which were objects of hatred in Egypt, and did not include horses, which, in Joseph’s day, were common. These objections have disappeared with fuller knowledge, but serve to show the impossibility of anyone in a later age composing a narrative of this kind without falling into serious errors. The monuments, it is well known, show the process of winemaking in all its stages; they reveal that, in the words of Rawlinson, “animal food was the principal diet of the upper classes”; they illustrate the freedom allowed to women; they furnish representations of sheep and oxen; while the absence of horses in Abraham’s time proves to be a mark of truth in the narrative, for horses seem to have been unknown in the twelfth and earlier dynasties, and were first introduced under the Hyksos. There, in Joseph’s time, accordingly, they appear. In the story of Saneha, of the twelfth dynasty, we have a close parallel to the exaltation of Joseph; while on the tombs of Beni-Hassan, of the same dynasty, we have a picture of the reception of a company of Amu, or Semites, so remarkably resembling the case of Jacob and his household, that at first it was thought to be a representation of that patriarch’s descent into Egypt. Reference cannot be omitted to the Egyptian story, “The Tale of the Two Brothers,” which embodies an account of the temptation of one of these brothers by the wife of the other, so strikingly (in parts almost verbally) parallel to the temptation of Joseph by his mistress, that the two can hardly be independent. As the Egyptian tale belongs to the nineteenth dynasty — many centuries after Joseph — the story of Joseph may be presumed to be the original.

A picture, so full and faithful, of Egyptian life and manners could only, one would think, take its origin on Egyptian soil. It is not a sufficient reply to say, with Dr. Driver, that Egypt was not far distant from Canaan, and that the intercourse between the countries during the monarchy made it easy for a Hebrew writer to gain a knowledge of Egyptian customs and institutions. The hypothesis, in the first place, is gratuitous, for there is no reason to suppose that the narrative of Joseph’s life, with its Egyptian characteristics, was not a possession of Israel from the beginning; and next, it is inadequate, for it is contrary to analogy that a writer of one country should be able so to transpose himself into the midst of a foreign — even if a neighbouring — civilisation, as to produce a picture so marvellously true to its life and conditions. Are we to understand that the problematical J or E undertook a special tour to Egypt — as the modern novelist might do — in order to acquaint himself by personal study with the customs and antiquities of that nation? Or did the two writers do so? Even so, we have only to think of a Frenchman, e.g., attempting to depict British or American life or manners; or of an Englishman or American writing minutely about Paris; or of a Londoner trying to describe Scottish characters and institutions, to see how imperfect such a picture would necessarily be. We do not attach much importance to the objections that the narrative does not give the personal name of Joseph’s Pharaoh, and that the types of names which appear in it — Potiphera, Zaphenathpaneah, Asenath — do not become frequent till the later dynasties (twenty-second, twenty-sixth). It may strike us, indeed, as peculiar that, in the lives of Joseph and Moses, the proper names of the Pharaohs are not given; still, comparison proves that the title “Pharaoh” (simply) was that commonly employed by Hebrew writers for the king of Egypt, even when the personal name was quite well known; while the very occurrence of the other names shows how easy it would have been for the narrator to decorate his story with names of kings and places, had he wished to do so. The alleged lateness of particular names rests, again, on the argument from silence, which may be upset at any moment, and fails to take account of the fact that the Hyksos period, to which Joseph belonged, is well-nigh a monumental blank. It is doubtful, besides, whether all the names have been rightly interpreted.

     The Problem of the Old Testament

The Institutes of the Christian Religion

Translated by Henry Beveridge

     CHAPTER 7.


The divisions of the chapter are,--I. The rule which permits us not to go astray in the study of righteousness, requires two things--viz. that man, abandoning his own will, devote himself entirely to the service of God; whence it follows, that we must seek not our own things, but the things of God, sec. 1, 2. II. A description of this renovation or Christian life taken from the Epistle to Titus, and accurately explained under certain special heads, sec. 3 to end.


1. Consideration of the second general division in regard to the Christian life. Its beginning and sum. A twofold respect. 1. We are not our own. Respect to both the fruit and the use. Unknown to philosophers, who have placed reason on the throne of the Holy Spirit.

2. Since we are not our own, we must seek the glory of God, and obey his will. Self-denial recommended to the disciples of Christ. He who neglects it, deceived either by pride or hypocrisy, rushes on destruction.

3. Three things to be followed, and two to be shunned in life. Impiety and worldly lusts to be shunned. Sobriety, justice, and piety, to be followed. An inducement to right conduct.

4. Self-denial the sum of Paul's doctrine. Its difficulty. Qualities in us which make it difficult. Cures for these qualities. 1. Ambition to be suppressed. 2. Humility to be embraced. 3. Candour to be esteemed. 4. Mutual charity to be preserved. 5. Modesty to be sincerely cultivated.

5. The advantage of our neighbour to be promoted. Here self-denial most necessary, and yet most difficult. Here a double remedy. 1. The benefits bestowed upon us are for the common benefit of the Church. 2. We ought to do all we can for our neighbour. This illustrated by analogy from the members of the human body. This duty of charity founded on the divine command.

6. Charity ought to have for its attendants patience and kindness. We should consider the image of God in our neighbours, and especially in those who are of the household of faith. Hence a fourfold consideration which refutes all objections. A common objection refuted.

7. Christian life cannot exist without charity. Remedies for the vices opposed to charity. 1. Mercy. 2. Humility. 3. Modesty. 4. Diligence. 5. Perseverance.

8. Self-denial, in respect of God, should lead to equanimity and tolerance. 1. We are always subject to God. 2. We should shun avarice and ambition. 3. We should expect all prosperity from the blessing of God, and entirely depend on him.

9. We ought not to desire wealth or honours without the divine blessing, nor follow the arts of the wicked. We ought to cast all our care upon God, and never envy the prosperity of others.

10. We ought to commit ourselves entirely to God. The necessity of this doctrine. Various uses of affliction. Heathen abuse and corruption.

1. Although the Law of God contains a perfect rule of conduct admirably arranged, it has seemed proper to our divine Master to train his people by a more accurate method, to the rule which is enjoined in the Law; and the leading principle in the method is, that it is the duty of believers to present their "bodies a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto God, which is their reasonable service," (Rom. 12:1). Hence he draws the exhortation: "Be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God." The great point, then, is, that we are consecrated and dedicated to God, and, therefore, should not henceforth think, speak, design, or act, without a view to his glory. What he hath made sacred cannot, without signal insult to him, be applied to profane use. But if we are not our own, but the Lord's, it is plain both what error is to be shunned, and to what end the actions of our lives ought to be directed. We are not our own; therefore, neither is our own reason or will to rule our acts and counsels. We are not our own; therefore, let us not make it our end to seek what may be agreeable to our carnal nature. We are not our own; therefore, as far as possible, let us forget ourselves and the things that are ours. On the other hand, we are God's; let us, therefore, live and die to him (Rom. 14:8). We are God's; therefore, let his wisdom and will preside over all our actions. We are God's; to him, then, as the only legitimate end, let every part of our life be directed. O how great the proficiency of him who, taught that he is not his own, has withdrawn the dominion and government of himself from his own reason that he may give them to God! For as the surest source of destruction to men is to obey themselves, so the only haven of safety is to have no other will, no other wisdom, than to follow the Lord wherever he leads. Let this, then be the first step, to abandon ourselves, and devote the whole energy of our minds to the service of God. By service, I mean not only that which consists in verbal obedience, but that by which the mind, divested of its own carnal feelings, implicitly obeys the call of the Spirit of God. This transformation (which Paul calls the renewing of the mind, Rom. 12:2; Eph. 4:23), though it is the first entrance to life, was unknown to all the philosophers. They give the government of man to reason alone, thinking that she alone is to be listened to; in short, they assign to her the sole direction of the conduct. But Christian philosophy bids her give place, and yield complete submission to the Holy Spirit, so that the man himself no longer lives, but Christ lives and reigns in him (Gal. 2:20).

2. Hence follows the other principle, that we are not to seek our own, but the Lord's will, and act with a view to promote his glory. Great is our proficiency, when, almost forgetting ourselves, certainly postponing our own reason, we faithfully make it our study to obey God and his commandments. For when Scripture enjoins us to lay aside private regard to ourselves, it not only divests our minds of an excessive longing for wealth, or power, or human favour, but eradicates all ambition and thirst for worldly glory, and other more secret pests. The Christian ought, indeed, to be so trained and disposed as to consider, that during his whole life he has to do with God. For this reason, as he will bring all things to the disposal and estimate of God, so he will religiously direct his whole mind to him. For he who has learned to look to God in everything he does, is at the same time diverted from all vain thoughts. This is that self-denial which Christ so strongly enforces on his disciples from the very outset (Mt. 16:24), which, as soon as it takes hold of the mind, leaves no place either, first, for pride, show, and ostentation; or, secondly, for avarice, lust, luxury, effeminacy, or other vices which are engendered by self love. On the contrary, wherever it reigns not, the foulest vices are indulged in without shame; or, if there is some appearance of virtue, it is vitiated by a depraved longing for applause. Show me, if you can, an individual who, unless he has renounced himself in obedience to the Lord's command, is disposed to do good for its own sake. Those who have not so renounced themselves have followed virtue at least for the sake of praise. The philosophers who have contended most strongly that virtue is to be desired on her own account, were so inflated with arrogance as to make it apparent that they sought virtue for no other reason than as a ground for indulging in pride. So far, therefore, is God from being delighted with these hunters after popular applause with their swollen breasts, that he declares they have received their reward in this world (Mt. 6:2), and that harlots and publicans are nearer the kingdom of heaven than they (Mt. 21:31). We have not yet sufficiently explained how great and numerous are the obstacles by which a man is impeded in the pursuit of rectitude, so long as he has not renounced himself. The old saying is true, There is a world of iniquity treasured up in the human soul. Nor can you find any other remedy for this than to deny yourself, renounce your own reason, and direct your whole mind to the pursuit of those things which the Lord requires of you, and which you are to seek only because they are pleasing to Him.

3. In another passage, Paul gives a brief, indeed, but more distinct account of each of the parts of a well-ordered life: "The grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearance of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify to himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works," (Tit. 2:11-14). After holding forth the grace of God to animate us, and pave the way for His true worship, he removes the two greatest obstacles which stand in the way--viz. ungodliness, to which we are by nature too prone, and worldly lusts, which are of still greater extent. Under ungodliness, he includes not merely superstition, but everything at variance with the true fear of God. Worldly lusts are equivalent to the lusts of the flesh. Thus he enjoins us, in regard to both tables of the Law, to lay aside our own mind, and renounce whatever our own reason and will dictate. Then he reduces all the actions of our lives to three branches, sobriety, righteousness, and godliness. Sobriety undoubtedly denotes as well chastity and temperance as the pure and frugal use of temporal goods, and patient endurance of want. Righteousness comprehends all the duties of equity, in every one his due. Next follows godliness, which separates us from the pollutions of the world, and connects us with God in true holiness. These, when connected together by an indissoluble chain, constitute complete perfection. But as nothing is more difficult than to bid adieu to the will of the flesh, subdue, nay, abjure our lusts, devote ourselves to God and our brethren, and lead an angelic life amid the pollutions of the world, Paul, to set our minds free from all entanglements, recalls us to the hope of a blessed immortality, justly urging us to contend, because as Christ has once appeared as our Redeemer, so on his final advent he will give full effect to the salvation obtained by him. And in this way he dispels all the allurements which becloud our path, and prevent us from aspiring as we ought to heavenly glory; nay, he tells us that we must be pilgrims in the world, that we may not fail of obtaining the heavenly inheritance.

     Christian Classics Ethereal Library / Public Domain

     Institutes of the Christian Religion

  • The Sovereignty Of God Pt. 1
  • Sovereignty Pt. 2
  • Sovereignty Pt. 3

     Devotionals, notes, poetry and more

coram Deo
     3/2006 | Passionate Complacency

     Sir Edmund Burke is quoted as having said: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing”— a true statement indeed. For as the history of civilization has shown, when we stand by and do nothing, that which is evil always seems to gain the victory.

     However, as the people of God, we understand that evil is not some sort of impersonal entity that exists outside the heart of man. In fact, evil is at the very core of natural man’s being after the fall. We also understand that in our natural condition, none seeks to do good and to bring about true justice. Nevertheless, we know that evil will not ultimately triumph. Christ has won the battle, and He has overcome the condemning evil in our hearts, replacing our stony hearts with humble hearts. Herein is the Good News of Christ: Upon the rock of Christ, the Lord Almighty is building His church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it. This, our forefathers understood well and demonstrated their commitment to Christ as they stood as ardent defenders of the faith amidst a battle that rages to this day.

     Although the enemies of Christ have not ceased in their attempt to destroy the church, God has preserved a remnant of faithful people whom He has raised up to fight the good fight and proclaim His truth. And while the history of God’s people in the United States of America is a magnificent history in many respects, our history is not without great turmoil and persecution. Most Christians in America, however, are unaware of the battles that have been fought for truth and righteousness. They do not know of the great men whom God has raised up as guardians of the faith to proclaim His Word to the wolves in their midst. As a result, so many Christians within evangelical and Reformed churches are unable to appreciate the significance of the battles that are raging all around us. For this reason we have devoted an entire issue of Tabletalk to remind our readers of our glorious heritage as the people of God in America. For as I look out over the landscape of evangelicalism in America, I do not observe a people who are passionate defenders of the faith who live and breathe the Word of God coram Deo. Rather, I see a people who have grown complacent to the faith once delivered to the saints. The prophet Zephaniah proclaimed: “And it shall come to pass at that time that I will search Jerusalem with lamps, and punish the men who are settled in complacency” (Zeph. 1:12 NKJV).

     click here for article source

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

Ligonier     coram Deo (definition)

American Minute
     by Bill Federer

     On this date, March 18, 1845 missionary John Chapman died, better known as Johnny Appleseed. Collecting apple seeds from cider presses in western Pennsylvania, he began planting nurseries from the Alleghenies to central Ohio, giving thousands of seedlings to pioneers. Bare foot, wearing a mush pan over his eccentric long hair, and an old coffee sack over his shoulders, Johnny’s harmony with the Indians and devotion to the Bible led William Venable to write: “Remember Johnny Appleseed--- All ye who love the apple--- He served his kind by word and deed--- In God’s grand greenwood chapel.”

American Minute

Lean Into God
     Compiled by Richard S. Adams

You aspire to great things?
Begin with little ones.
--- Saint Augustine
The Confessions: (Vol. I/1) 2nd edition, (The Works of Saint Augustine: A Translation for the 21st Century)

If a commission by an earthly king is considered a honor,
how can a commission by a Heavenly King be considered a sacrifice?
--- David Livingstone
The Sovereignty of God

You have been given questions to which you cannot be given answers.
You will have to live them out - perhaps a little at a time.'
And how long is that going to take?'
I don't know. As long as you live, perhaps.'
That could be a long time.'
I will tell you a further mystery, 'he said.' It may take longer.
--- Wendell Berry
Jayber Crow

A Sunday school is a prison in which children do penance for the evil conscience of their parents.
--- H. L. Mencken
A Mencken Chrestomathy: His Own Selection of His Choicest Writing

... from here, there and everywhere

Journal of John Woolman 3/18
     University of Virginia Library 1994

     Tenth of sixth month. -- We set out early this morning and crossed the western branch of Delaware, called the Great Lehie, near Fort Allen. The water being high, we went over in a canoe. Here we met an Indian, had friendly conversation with him, and gave him some biscuit; and he, having killed a deer, gave some of it to the Indians with us. After travelling some miles, we met several Indian men and women with a cow and horse, and some household goods, who were lately come from their dwelling at Wyoming, and were going to settle at another place. We made them some small presents, and, as some of them understood English, I told them my motive for coming into their country, with which they appeared satisfied. One of our guides talking awhile with an ancient woman concerning us, the poor old woman came to my companion and me and took her leave of us with an appearance of sincere affection. We pitched our tent near the banks of the same river, having labored hard in crossing some of those mountains called the Blue Ridge. The roughness of the stones and the cavities between them, with the steepness of the hills, made it appear dangerous. But we were preserved in safety, through the kindness of Him whose works in these mountainous deserts appeared awful, and towards whom my heart was turned during this day's travel.

     Near our tent, on the sides of large trees peeled for that purpose, were various representations of men going to and returning from the wars, and of some being killed in battle. This was a path heretofore used by warriors, and as I walked about viewing those Indian histories, which were painted mostly in red or black, and thinking on the innumerable afflictions which the proud, fierce spirit produceth in the world, also on the toils and fatigues of warriors in travelling over mountains and deserts; on their miseries and distresses when far from home and wounded by their enemies; of their bruises and great weariness in chasing one another over the rocks and mountains; of the restless, unquiet state of mind of those who live in this spirit, and of the hatred which mutually grows up in the minds of their children, -- the desire to cherish the spirit of love and peace among these people arose very fresh in me. This was the first night that we lodged in the woods, and being wet with travelling in the rain, as were also our blankets, the ground, our tent, and the bushes under which we purposed to lay, all looked discouraging; but I believed that it was the Lord who had thus far brought me forward, and that he would dispose of me as he saw good, and so I felt easy. We kindled a fire, with our tent open to it, then laid some bushes next the ground, and put our blankets upon them for our bed, and, lying down, got some sleep. In the morning, feeling a little unwell, I went into the river; the water was cold, but soon after I felt fresh and well. About eight o'clock we set forward and crossed a high mountain supposed to be upward of four miles over, the north side being the steepest. About noon we were overtaken by one of the Moravian brethren going to Wehaloosing, and an Indian man with him who could talk English; and we being together while our horses ate grass had some friendly conversation; but they, travelling faster than we, soon left us. This Moravian, I understood, has this spring spent some time at Wehaloosing, and was invited by some of the Indians to come again.

     Twelfth of sixth month being the first of the week and rainy day, we continued in our tent, and I was led to think on the nature of the exercise which hath attended me. Love was the first motion, and thence a concern arose to spend some time with the Indians, that I might feel and understand their life and the spirit they live in, if haply I might receive some instruction from them, or they might be in any degree helped forward by my following the leadings of truth among them; and as it pleased the Lord to make way for my going at a time when the troubles of war were increasing, and when, by reason of much wet weather, travelling was more difficult than usual at that season, I looked upon is as a more favorable opportunity to season my mind, and to bring me into a nearer sympathy with them. As mine eye was to the great Father of Mercies, humbly desiring to learn his will concerning me, I was made quiet and content.

     Our guide's horse strayed, though hoppled, in the night, and after searching some time for him his footsteps were discovered in the path going back, whereupon my kind companion went off in the rain, and after about seven hours returned with him. Here we lodged again, tying up our horses before we went to bed, and loosing them to feed about break of day.

John Woolman's Journal

Andrew Murray's Absolute Surrender
     Practical religion. The Christian life

     Yes, it has its foundation in the very nature of God. God cannot do otherwise. Who is God? He is the Fountain of life, the only Source of existence and power and goodness, and throughout the universe there is nothing good but what God works. God has created the sun, and the moon, and the stars, and the flowers, and the trees, and the grass; and are they not all absolutely surrendered to God? Do they not allow God to work in them just what He pleases? When God clothes the lily with its beauty, is it not yielded up, surrendered, given over to God as He works in its beauty? And God's redeemed children, oh, can you think that God can work His work if there is only half or a part of them surrendered? God cannot do it. God is life, and love, and blessing, and power, and infinite beauty, and God delights to communicate Himself to every child who is prepared to receive Him; but ah! this one lack of absolute surrender is just the thing that hinders God. And now He comes, and as God, He claims it.

     You know in daily life what absolute surrender is. You know that everything has to be given up to its special, definite object and service. I have a pen in my pocket, and that pen is absolutely surrendered to the one work of writing, and that pen must be absolutely surrendered to my hand if I am to write properly with it. If another holds it partly, I cannot write properly. This coat is absolutely given up to me to cover my body. This building is entirely given up to religious services. And now, do you expect that in your immortal being, in the divine nature that you have received by regeneration, God can work His work, every day and every hour, unless you are entirely given up to Him? God cannot. The Temple of Solomon was absolutely surrendered to God when it was dedicated to Him. And every one of us is a temple of God, in which God will dwell and work mightily on one condition--absolute surrender to Him. God claims it, God is worthy of it, and without it God cannot work His blessed work in us.

     God not only claims it, but God will work it Himself.

I am using the 1895 Public Domain version. Below is an Amazon link for a modern copy.

Absolute Surrender (The Colportage Library)

Proverbs 12:24-25
     by D.H. Stern

24     The diligent will rule,
while the lazy will be put to forced labor.

25     Anxiety in a person’s heart weighs him down,
but a kind word cheers him up.

Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
The Great Divorce - A Dream
     C.S. Lewis


     ‘There is no need to be profane, my dear boy. I may not be very orthodox, in your sense of that word, but I do feel that these matters ought to be discussed simply, and seriously, and reverently.’

     ‘Discuss Hell reverently? I meant what I said. You have been in Hell: though if you don’t go back you may call it Purgatory.’

     ‘Go on, my dear boy, go on. That is so like you. No doubt you’ll tell me why, on your view, I was sent there. I’m not angry.’

     ‘But don’t you know? You went there because you are an apostate.’

     ‘Are you serious, Dick?’


     ‘This is worse than I expected. Do you really think people are penalised for their honest opinions? Even assuming, for the sake of argument, that those opinions were mistaken.’

     ‘Do you really think there are no sins of intellect?’

     ‘There are indeed, Dick. There is hide-bound prejudice, and intellectual dishonesty, and timidity, and stagnation. But honest opinions fearlessly followed—they are not sins.’

     ‘I know we used to talk that way. I did it too until the end of my life when I became what you call narrow. It all turns on what are honest opinions.’

     ‘Mine certainly were. They were not only honest but heroic. I asserted them fearlessly. When the doctrine of the Resurrection ceased to commend itself to the critical faculties which God had given me, I openly rejected it. I preached my famous sermon. I defied the whole chapter. I took every risk.’

     ‘What risk? What was at all likely to come of it except what actually came—popularity, sales for your books, invitations, and finally a bishopric?’

     ‘Dick, this is unworthy of you. What are you suggesting?’

     ‘Friend, I am not suggesting at all. You see, I know now. Let us be frank. Our opinions were not honestly come by. We simply found ourselves in contact with a certain current of ideas and plunged into it because it seemed modern and successful. At College, you know, we just started automatically writing the kind of essays that got good marks and saying the kind of things that won applause. When, in our whole lives, did we honestly face, in solitude, the one question on which all turned: whether after all the Supernatural might not in fact occur? When did we put up one moment’s real resistance to the loss of our faith?’

     ‘If this is meant to be a sketch of the genesis of liberal theology in general, I reply that it is a mere libel. Do you suggest that men like …’

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

                Shall I rouse myself up to this?

Perfecting holiness in the fear of God. --- 2 Cor. 7:1.

     “Having therefore these promises.” I claim the fulfilment of God’s promises, and rightly, but that is only the human side; the Divine side is that through the promises I recognize God’s claim on me. For instance, am I realizing that my body is the temple of the Holy Ghost, or have I a habit of body that plainly will not bear the light of God on it? By sanctification the Son of God is formed in me, then I have to transform my natural life into a spiritual life by obedience to Him. God educates us down to the scruple. When He begins to check, do not confer with flesh and blood, cleanse yourself at once. Keep yourself cleansed in your daily walk.

     I have to cleanse myself from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit until both are in accord with the nature of God. Is the mind of my spirit in perfect agreement with the life of the Son of God in me, or am I insubordinate in intellect? Am I forming the mind of Christ, Who never spoke from His right to Himself, but maintained an inner watchfulness whereby He continually submitted His spirit to His Father? I have the responsibility of keeping my spirit in agreement with His Spirit, and by degrees Jesus lifts me up to where He lived—in perfect consecration to His Father’s will, paying no attention to any other thing. Am I perfecting this type of holiness in the fear of God? Is God getting His way with me, and are other people beginning to see God in my life more and more?

     Be serious with God and leave the rest gaily alone. Put God first literally.

My Utmost for His Highest

Seventieth Birthday
     the Poetry of R.S. Thomas

           Seventieth Birthday

Made of tissue and H2O,
and activated by cells
firing - Ah, heart, the legend
of your person! Did I invent
it, and is it in being still?

In the competition with other
women your victory is assured.
It is time, as Yeats said, is
the caterpillar in the cheek's rose,
the untiring witherer of your petals.

You are drifting away from
me on the whitening current of your hair.
I lean far out from the bone's bough,
knowing the hand I extend
can save nothing of you but your love.

Teacher's Commentary
     Meaning of Discipleship: Luke 9:23–26

     Now the Gospel of Luke shifts its focus. Christ came, and offered new life to a world that, even after conclusive demonstration of who He is, rejected Him. But some believed. This little band of men who said, “You are the Christ, the Son of God,” launched out on new life. From now on, while Christ would still speak to the crowds and their leaders, His message was primarily for those who had trusted in Him.

     Jesus talked now about discipleship: about how we who are His followers can grow to experience the abundant new life that may be ours in Him.

     Life saved or lost (Luke 9:23–25). Many puzzle over Jesus’ warning, “Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me will save it.” We’re helped when we remember the focus of Luke. As a Christian, with new life from God, you and I have the potential to be new and different persons. We saw it earlier. Jesus said, “Be like your Heavenly Father.” God’s intention for believers is that we might bear the family resemblance of His Son. You and I are to develop into persons whose character expresses the very stamp of God’s own heredity. This is our destiny. We are to be like God throughout eternity, and, in this world, to become more and more like Him all the time.

     But the potential self (Luke 9:25) can be lost. We can choose to live the old way, by the values and motives that move men in this world. We can live the old life, and let the new remain unnourished, buried deep within us. If we do so choose, what we lose is ourselves, our experience on this earth of the person we could have been.

     Earlier we saw a great choice each person must make: Will I accept Jesus’ offer of life? Now we see a second choice: Will I become a disciple, put the old behind me, and become new?

     This is a question you have to answer. Will you lose your old life, or are you determined to hold tightly to it, to try and save your “self”? Or will you let go, turn away from the old for Jesus’ sake, and in so doing become the new, the true, you?

     * Let him deny himself (Luke 9:23). Jesus gives a profound three-part prescription to anyone who wants to come after Him (Luke 9:23). The first is: deny yourself.

     Self-denial doesn’t mean self-rejection. It doesn’t mean wallowing in self-loathing, or turning away from everything you enjoy because, “If you like it, it must be bad.” God “richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment” (1 Tim. 6:17). We know that, far from being worthless, you and I are of infinite value. Jesus thought enough of you to die for you. If He loved you so, how can you hate or reject yourself?

     But denying self is important in discipleship—as long as we understand that it means deny everything rooted in the old life. Deny and reject “the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes, and the … pride of life” (1 John 2:16, NASB).

     Carla had been angry. She struck out at her dad with biting words, then ran to her room. After the flood of tears she felt better. But she knew too that for her to follow Jesus would now mean going to apologize. How she fought making that apology! She told herself it had been his fault—and in some ways it was. She told herself she couldn’t go and say, “I’m sorry.” Not when he should by rights apologize to her first! Everything in her struggled against the self-humbling that an apology would mean. And for a long time she stayed in her room, as the tension within her grew.

     Finally, Carla got up off her bed and, denying the fears and pride of her old nature, went to do what she knew Jesus wanted.

     This is self-denial. Growth in the Christian life demands just this: the brutal setting aside of pride and fear and of all the “rights” that the old self demands as its due, to live instead a Jesus kind of life.

The Teacher's Commentary

Swimming In The Sea of Talmud
     Shabbat 63a


     It is human nature to be excited and enthusiastic at the outset about something new. Kids get a new toy and cannot tear themselves away from it for a second. Adults make New Year’s resolutions to lose weight or to stop smoking and are “gung-ho” about sticking to the program. A new president takes office and the people and the press are caught-up in the good feelings of the “honeymoon period.”

     Yet, it is also human nature to quickly grow bored, complacent, or forgetful of the intense feelings that we had not too long ago. The child leaves the favorite toy in the closet and moves on to something else. The temptation to eat a rich dessert or to smoke that one cigarette are just too much for us. We soon take out our frustrations and disappointments on our leaders and mercilessly criticize and complain. The enthusiasm we once had is gone, and we fall back into our old patterns and behaviors.

     The Rabbis understood human behavior and our propensity to get bored rather easily. They knew that we would be more excited about Hanukkah on the first night than we would be on the last. This may be why Bet Hillel, in designing the menorah ritual, came up with the brilliant suggestion of increasing the number of lights each night. They recognized that as our natural enthusiasm would begin to wane, our excitement and interest could be piqued by having us look forward to a menorah filled with brilliantly burning wicks at the end of the holiday week. Interestingly (and not coincidentally), the word Hanukkah means “rededication”; it signifies when the Maccabees came back to restore the desecrated Temple and to recommit themselves to all that it stood for. The message of “We raise up in matters of holiness …” is that we must rededicate ourselves to the things in our lives that are of ultimate importance.

     Bet Hillel anticipated where and when the let-downs would come, and it planned ahead to compensate for them. Instead of allowing a toy to collect dust in a chest, a child can be taught the lessons of sharing and giving by being encouraged to present it to another child. Turning to a support group for assistance can be a source of great strength for someone tempted by things that can hurt them. A president can plan new initiatives at different milestones that can bring new excitement and enthusiasm to the nation.

     The Rabbis counseled us to go against our nature and to strive to ascend in matters of holiness: Fight the complacency, struggle with the boredom, wrestle with the waning commitment. Make every effort to do better, not worse. Don’t be satisfied to stay at the status quo. Try whenever possible to go up in matters of holiness.

     A verse never loses its contextual meaning.

     Text / Mishnah (6:4): A man should not go out with a sword, a bow, a shield, a lance, or a spear, and if he did go out, he is liable a sin-offering. Rabbi Eliezer says: “These are his ornaments.” But the Sages say: “They are harmful, as it is written: ‘And they shall beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not take up sword against nation; they shall never again know war’ [Isaiah 2:4].”
Gemara: Abaye said to Rav Dimi—some say to Rav Avya—and some say Rav Yosef to Rav Dimi—and some say to Rav Avya—and some say Abaye to Rav Yosef: “What is the prooftext that Rabbi Eliezer said that they are ornaments? As it is written: ‘Gird your sword upon your thigh, O hero, in your splendor and glory’ [Psalms 45:4].” Rav Kahana said to Mar son of Rav Huna: “This is speaking about words of Torah!” He said to him: “A verse never loses its contextual meaning.”

     Context / One of the objects of jewelry mentioned in the previous Mishnah is a “golden city,” perhaps a golden pendant with a picture of Jerusalem etched into it. (Recent research shows this to be a golden tiara.) There is a famous story in the Talmud (Nedarim 50a) about Rabbi Akiva and a “golden city” tiara. Before he was a famous scholar and teacher, Akiva was a poor shepherd working for Kalba Savua (also called Bar Kalba Savua), one of the richest men in Jerusalem. The daughter of Kalba Savua, Raḥel, found something appealing in Akiva and promised to marry him if he dedicated his life to the study house. Akiva agreed, but Kalba Savua disapproved of this ignorant shepherd named Akiva. Kalba Savua cut off his daughter from her family money. She and Akiva lived in poverty, so much so that in the winter they slept on straw to keep warm. One time, as Akiva picked straw from Raḥel’s hair, he told her: “If I could, I would buy you a Jerusalem of gold!” Of course, Akiva went on to become one of the greatest sages of the Talmudic era.
     In the days of the Talmud, love of Jerusalem was shown by wearing an image of the city on one’s jewelry. Today, we are more likely to sing about the city, and “Jerusalem of Gold” refers not to the tiara but to the city itself. This is largely because of the Naomi Shemer song “Yerushalayim shel Zahav,” or “Jerusalem of Gold,” written in 1967 only days before the Six-Day War. Naomi Shemer used the talmudic image as the basis for her lyrics.

     The previous Mishnah listed objects (like certain jewelry) that a woman would likely wear and which may not be carried outside on Shabbat. This would be a violation of one of the traditional Shabbat prohibitions, carrying from domain to domain. This Mishnah continues the theme, listing objects that a man would likely wear. The Sages argue that these are weapons and, thus, prohibited. Rabbi Eliezer, however, sees them as ornaments. Just as a woman is allowed to wear her jewelry on Shabbat, so too a man may wear his ornaments—a sword, a bow, a shield, a lance, or a spear—in the public domain on Shabbat.

     The discussion in the Gemara asks for proof from a verse, for a rabbinic argument is stronger with biblical substantiation. Thus, the verse from Psalms is cited. However, this verse was already known for its metaphoric, homiletical meaning. According to Rav Kahana, the “hero” is really a scholar, and his weapon, the “sword,” is Torah. He is answered by Mar who, while not denying the possibility of this metaphoric reading of the verse, asserts that “sword” means not only “Torah,” its assigned meaning in the Midrash, but also a weapon, its simple, contextual meaning in the psalm. Thus, Mar can answer Rav Kahana: A verse, even when used for a sermonic purpose, still retains its obvious meaning in the context.

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

     Book Three - Internal Consolation

     The Ninth Chapter / All Things Should Be Referred To God As Their Last End


     MY CHILD, I must be your supreme and last end, if you truly desire to be blessed. With this intention your affections, which are too often perversely inclined to self and to creatures, will be purified. For if you seek yourself in anything, you immediately fail interiorly and become dry of heart.

     Refer all things principally to Me, therefore, for it is I Who have given them all. Consider each thing as flowing from the highest good, and therefore to Me, as to their highest source, must all things be brought back.

     From Me the small and the great, the poor and the rich draw the water of life as from a living fountain, and they who serve Me willingly and freely shall receive grace upon grace. He who wishes to glory in things apart from Me, however, or to delight in some good as his own, shall not be grounded in true joy or gladdened in his heart, but shall be burdened and distressed in many ways. Hence you ought not to attribute any good to yourself or ascribe virtue to any man, but give all to God without Whom man has nothing.

     I have given all things. I will that all be returned to Me again, and I exact most strictly a return of thanks. This is the truth by which vainglory is put to flight.

     Where heavenly grace and true charity enter in, there neither envy nor narrowness of heart nor self-love will have place. Divine love conquers all and enlarges the powers of the soul.

     If you are truly wise, you will rejoice only in Me, because no one is good except God alone, Who is to be praised above all things and above all to be blessed.

The Imitation Of Christ

Take Heart
     March 18

     They are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name …so that they may be one as we are one. --- John 17:11.

     What were those mercies and special favors that Christ begged for his people when he was to die? ( The Whole Works of the Reverend Mr. John Flavel ... )

     The mercy of preservation both from sin and danger: “Protect them by the power of your name,” which is explained, John 17:15, “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.” We and the saints that are gone have reaped the fruit of this prayer. How else are our souls preserved amid temptations—assisted and aided by our own corruption? Surely, the preservation of the burning bush, of the three children amid the flames, of Daniel in the den of lions are not greater wonders than this.

     The blessing of union among them. This he joins immediately with the first mercy of preservation and prays for it in the same breath, verse
11, “so that they may be one as we are one.” Their union with one another is a special means to preserve them all.

     That “they may have the full measure of my joy within them”v. 13). He wanted to provide for their joy even when the hour of his greatest sorrow was at hand—he wanted not only to obtain joy for them, but full joy. It is as if he had said, “Father, I am to leave these dear ones in a world of troubles and perplexities; I know their hearts will be subject to discouragement. Let me obtain the restoratives of divine joy for them before I go. I would not only have them live, but live joyfully; provide, for fainting hours, reviving tonics.”

     And to maintain all these mercies, “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth” (v. 17), that is, more abundantly sanctified than yet they were, by a deeper establishment of gracious habits and principles in their hearts. This is a singular mercy in itself, to have holiness spreading itself over and through their souls. Nothing is more desirable. And it is also a singular help to their perseverance, union, and spiritual joy.

     And lastly, as the complement and perfection of all desirable mercies, that they may be with him where he is, to see his glory (v.
24). This is the best and ultimate privilege they are capable of. The design of his coming down from heaven and returning there is to bring many sons and daughters to glory. Christ asks no trifles, no small things for his people. No mercies but the best that both worlds afford will satisfy him on their behalf.
--- John Flavel

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

On This Day | March 18
     The Imperfect Vessel

     Great men boast of great strengths, but they can also harbor great faults. Charles T. Studd, one of England’s most famous cricket players, was converted in 1883 through D. L. Moody’s influence. He developed a deep friendship with six other young men, and they offered themselves en masse to Hudson Taylor for missionary service in China. The “Cambridge Seven” sailed from England and arrived in Shanghai on March 18, 1885.

     Studd set passionately to work, adopting Chinese clothes and customs and laboring to exhaustion for souls. On December 5 he turned 25 and legally gained control of a large inheritance. He gave it all to the Lord’s work, for he had found a greater wealth. “I cannot tell you,” he later said, “what joy it gave me to bring the first soul to the Lord Jesus Christ. I have tasted almost all the pleasures this world can give. Those pleasures were as nothing compared to the joy that the saving of that one soul gave me.”

     Studd later poured himself into India, then Africa. He once said, “If Jesus Christ be God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for him.” He toiled day and night, 18 hours at a stretch, with no meals except what he gulped down while working, and no vacations.

     But his zeal overwhelmed those around him, leading to stress and broken relationships. His wife, often ill and lonely, was abandoned in England for years at a time while Studd was overseas. He expected his associates to work as he did, and he grew critical of those who didn’t. He wrote a book deploring lethargy as he saw it among Christians, and its title offended his supporters—D.C.D., standing for “Don’t Care a Damn.” He began treating his exhaustion and disorders with morphine. And when he died in Africa in 1931, he was broken in body and spirit.

     But his fruit remains. The organization he founded, Worldwide Evangelism Crusade, is still sending out missionaries and changing the world. Despite his faults, Studd remains as one of our most passionate missionary heroes.

     Try your best to please God and to be like him. Be faithful, loving, dependable, and gentle. Fight a good fight for the faith and claim eternal life. Promise to obey completely and fully all that you have been told until our Lord Jesus Christ returns.
--- 1 Timothy 6:11b,12a,14

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

Morning and Evening
     Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON

          Morning - March 18

     “Ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.”
--- Galatians 3:26.

     The fatherhood of God is common to all his children. Ah! Little-faith, you have often said, “Oh that I had the courage of Great-heart, that I could wield his sword and be as valiant as he! But, alas, I stumble at every straw, and a shadow makes me afraid.” List thee, Little-faith. Great-heart is God’s child, and you are God’s child too; and Great-heart is not one whit more God’s child than you are. Peter and Paul, the highly- favoured apostles, were of the family of the Most High; and so are you also; the weak Christian is as much a child of God as the strong one.

     “This cov’nant stands secure,
     Though earth’s old pillars bow;
     The strong, the feeble, and the weak,
     Are one in Jesus now.”

     All the names are in the same family register. One may have more grace than another, but God our heavenly Father has the same tender heart towards all. One may do more mighty works, and may bring more glory to his Father, but he whose name is the least in the kingdom of heaven is as much the child of God as he who stands among the King’s mighty men. Let this cheer and comfort us, when we draw near to God and say, “Our Father.”

     Yet, while we are comforted by knowing this, let us not rest contented with weak faith, but ask, like the Apostles, to have it increased. However feeble our faith may be, if it be real faith in Christ, we shall reach heaven at last, but we shall not honour our Master much on our pilgrimage, neither shall we abound in joy and peace. If then you would live to Christ’s glory, and be happy in his service, seek to be filled with the spirit of adoption more and more completely, till perfect love shall cast out fear.

          Evening - March 18

     “As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you." John 15:9.

     As the Father loves the Son, in the same manner Jesus loves his people. What is that divine method? He loved him without beginning, and thus Jesus loves his members. “I have loved thee with an everlasting love.” You can trace the beginning of human affection; you can easily find the beginning of your love to Christ, but his love to us is a stream whose source is hidden in eternity. God the Father loves Jesus without any change. Christian, take this for your comfort, that there is no change in Jesus Christ’s love to those who rest in him. Yesterday you were on Tabor’s top, and you said, “He loves me:” to-day you are in the valley of humiliation, but he loves you still the same. On the hill Mizar, and among the Hermons, you heard his voice, which spake so sweetly with the turtle-notes of love; and now on the sea, or even in the sea, when all his waves and billows go over you, his heart is faithful to his ancient choice. The Father loves the Son without any end, and thus does the Son love his people. Saint, thou needest not fear the loosing of the silver cord, for his love for thee will never cease. Rest confident that even down to the grave Christ will go with you, and that up again from it he will be your guide to the celestial hills. Moreover, the Father loves the Son without any measure, and the same immeasurable love the Son bestows upon his chosen ones. The whole heart of Christ is dedicated to his people. He “loved us and gave himself for us.” His is a love which passeth knowledge. Ah! we have indeed an immutable Saviour, a precious Saviour, one who loves without measure, without change, without beginning, and without end, even as the Father loves him! There is much food here for those who know how to digest it. May the Holy Ghost lead us into its marrow and fatness!

Morning and Evening

Amazing Grace
     March 18


     Words and Music by Elisha A. Hoffman 1839–1929

     The Lord stood at my side and gave me strength … (2 Timothy 4:17)

     Oh, help me, Lord, to take the time
     To set all else aside,
     That in the secret place of prayer
     I may with you abide.

--- Unknown

     One of the loneliest feelings we can have comes when we face a time of need without having a loving friend to talk to about it. Everyone needs at least one trusted friend in whom to confide.

     Pastor Elisha A. Hoffman, author and composer of more than 2,000 gospel songs, gives the following account of the writing of this well-loved hymn:

     During a pastorate in Lebanon, Pennsylvania, there was a woman to whom God permitted many visitations of sorrow and affliction. Coming to her home one day, I found her much discouraged. She unburdened her heart, concluding with the question, “Brother Hoffman, what shall I do? What shall I do?” I quoted from the Word, then added, “You cannot do better than to take all of your sorrows to Jesus. You must tell Jesus.”
     For a moment she seemed lost in mediation. Then her eyes lighted as she exclaimed, “Yes, I must tell Jesus.”
     As I left her home I had a vision of that joy-illuminated face … and I heard all along my pathway the echo, “I must tell Jesus … I must tell Jesus.”

     Pastor Hoffman quickly wrote the words and soon completed the music as well. Since its publication in 1894 in Pentecostal Hymns, this hymn text has reminded many believers that they have a heavenly Friend who is always available to hear and help:

     I must tell Jesus all of my trials; I cannot bear these burdens alone: In my distress He kindly will help me; He ever loves and cares for His own.
     I must tell Jesus all of my troubles; He is a kind, compassionate friend; if I but ask Him, He will deliver, make of my troubles quickly an end.
     O how the world to evil allures me! O how my heart is tempted to sin! I must tell Jesus, and He will help me over the world the vict’ry to win.
     Chorus: I must tell Jesus! I must tell Jesus! I cannot bear my burdens alone; I must tell Jesus! I must tell Jesus! Jesus can help me, Jesus alone.

     For Today: Psalm 6:9; Proverbs 14:26; John 14:14; Hebrews 2:18; Hebrews 10:22.

     Determine to go to Jesus with all of the concerns, temptations or trials that may arise. Share this truth with another who may also be hurting. Carry this tune with you knowing that ---

Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions

A Guide to Fervent Prayer
     A.W. Pink | (1886-1952)

          Prayer, a Primary Duty of Ministers

     The fact that so many prayers are found in the New Testament Epistles calls attention to an important aspect of ministerial duty. The preacher’s obligations are not fully discharged when he leaves the pulpit, for he needs to water the seed which he has sown. For the sake of young preachers, allow me to enlarge a little upon this point. It has already been seen that the apostles devoted themselves “continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:4), and thereby they have left an excellent example to be observed by all who follow them in the sacred vocation. Observe the apostolic order; yet do not merely observe it, but heed and practice it. The most laboriously and carefully-prepared sermon is likely to fall unctionless upon the hearers unless it has been born out of travail of soul before God. Unless the sermon be the product of earnest prayer we must not expect it to awaken the spirit of prayer in those who hear it. As has been pointed out, Paul mingled supplications with his instructions. It is our privilege and duty to retire to the secret place after we leave the pulpit, there begging God to write His Word on the hearts of those who have listened to us, to prevent the enemy from snatching away the seed, and to so bless our efforts that they may bear fruit to His eternal praise.

     Luther was wont to say, “There are three things that go to the making of a successful preacher: supplication, meditation, and tribulation.” I know not what elaboration the great Reformer made. But I suppose he meant this: that prayer is necessary to bring the preacher into a suitable frame to handle Divine things and to endue him with Divine power; that meditation on the Word is essential in order to supply him with material for his message; and that tribulation is required as ballast for his vessel, for the minister of the Gospel needs trials to keep him humble, just as the Apostle Paul was given a thorn in the flesh that he might not be unduly exalted by the abundance of the revelations granted to him. Prayer is the appointed means for receiving spiritual communications for the instruction of our people. We must be much with God before we can be fitted to go forth and speak in His name. Paul, in concluding his Epistle to the Colossians, informs them of the faithful intercessions of Epaphras, one of their ministers, who was away from home visiting Paul. “Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you, always labouring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God. For I bear him record, that he hath a great zeal for you . . .” (Col. 4:12, 13a). Could such a commendation of you be made to your congregation?

          Prayer, a Universal Duty Among Believers

     But let it not be thought that this marked emphasis of the Epistles indicates a duty for preachers only. Far from it. These Epistles are addressed to God’s children at large, and everything in them is both needed for, and suited to, their Christian walk. Believers, too, should pray much not only for themselves but for all their brothers and sisters in Christ. We should pray deliberately according to these apostolic models, petitioning for the particular blessings they specify. I have long been convinced there is no better way—no more practical, valuable, and effective way—of expressing solicitude and affection for our fellow saints than by bearing them up before God by prayer in the arms of our faith and love.

     By studying these prayers in the Epistles and pondering them clause by clause, we may learn more clearly what blessings we should desire for ourselves and for others, that is, the spiritual gifts and graces for which we have great need to be solicitous. The fact that these prayers, inspired by the Holy Spirit, have been placed on permanent record in the Sacred Volume declares that the particular favors sought herein are those which God has given us warrant to seek and to obtain from Himself (Rom. 8:26, 27; 1 John 5:14, 15).

          Christians Are to Address God as Father

     We will conclude these preliminary and general observations by calling attention to a few of the more definite features of the apostolic prayers. Observe then, to Whom these prayers are addressed. While there is no wooden uniformity of expression but rather appropriate variety in this matter, yet the most frequent manner in which the Deity is addressed is as Father: “the Father of mercies” (2 Cor. 1:3); “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph. 1:3; 1 Peter 1:3); “the Father of glory” (Eph. 1:17); “the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph. 3:14). In this language we see clear evidence of how the holy apostles took heed to the injunction of their Master. For when they made request of Him, saying, “Lord, teach us to pray,” He responded thus: “When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven” (Luke 11:1, 2). This He also taught them by means of example in John 17:1, 5, 11,21, 24, and 25. Both Christ’s instruction and example have been recorded for our learning. We are not unmindful of how many have unlawfully and lightly addressed God as “Father,” yet their abuse does not warrant our neglecting to acknowledge this blessed relationship. Nothing is more calculated to warm the heart and give liberty of utterance than a realization that we are approaching our Father. If we have received, of a truth, “the Spirit of adoption” (Rom. 8:15), let us not quench Him, but by His promptings cry, “Abba, Father.”

          The Brevity and Definiteness of Apostolic Praying

     Next, we note their brevity. The prayers of the apostles are short ones. Not some, or even most, but all of them are exceedingly brief, most of them encompassed in but one or two verses, and the longest in only seven verses. How this rebukes the lengthy, lifeless and wearisome prayers of many a pulpit. Wordy prayers are usually windy ones. I quote again from Martin Luther, this time from his comments on the Lord’s prayer directed to simple laymen:

     When thou prayest let thy words be few, but thy thoughts and affections many, and above all let them be profound. The less thou speakest the better thou prayest. . . . External and bodily prayer is that buzzing of the lips, that outside babble that is gone through without any attention, and which strikes the ears of men; but prayer in spirit and in truth is the inward desire, the motions, the sighs, which issue from the depths of the heart. The former is the prayer of hypocrites and of all who trust in themselves: the latter is the prayer of the children of God, who walk in His fear.

     Observe, too, their definiteness. Though exceedingly brief, yet their prayers are very explicit. There were no vague ramblings or mere generalizations, but specific requests for definite things. How much failure there is at this point. How many prayers have we heard that were so incoherent and aimless, so lacking in point and unity, that when the Amen was reached we could scarcely remember one thing for which thanks had been given or request had been made! Only a blurred impression remained on the mind, and a feeling that the supplicant had engaged more in a form of indirect preaching than direct praying. But examine any of the prayers of the apostles and it will be seen at a glance that theirs are like those of their Master’s in Matthew 6:9-13 and John 17, made up of definitive adorations and sharply-defined petitions. There is neither moralizing nor uttering of pious platitudes, but a spreading before God of certain needs and a simple asking for the supply of them.

A Guide to Fervent Prayer

Ligonier 2003 National Conference
     Sproul, Ferguson, MacArthur etc | Ligonier

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Ligonier 2004 National Conference
     Sproul, Ferguson, MacArthur etc | Ligonier

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