Judges 10 - 12
Tola and JairJudges 10:1 After Abimelech there arose to save Israel Tola the son of Puah, son of Dodo, a man of Issachar, and he lived at Shamir in the hill country of Ephraim. 2 And he judged Israel twenty-three years. Then he died and was buried at Shamir.
3 After him arose Jair the Gileadite, who judged Israel twenty-two years. 4 And he had thirty sons who rode on thirty donkeys, and they had thirty cities, called Havvoth-jair to this day, which are in the land of Gilead. 5 And Jair died and was buried in Kamon.
Further Disobedience and Oppression6 The people of Israel again did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and served the Baals and the Ashtaroth, the gods of Syria, the gods of Sidon, the gods of Moab, the gods of the Ammonites, and the gods of the Philistines. And they forsook the Lord and did not serve him. 7 So the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he sold them into the hand of the Philistines and into the hand of the Ammonites, 8 and they crushed and oppressed the people of Israel that year. For eighteen years they oppressed all the people of Israel who were beyond the Jordan in the land of the Amorites, which is in Gilead. 9 And the Ammonites crossed the Jordan to fight also against Judah and against Benjamin and against the house of Ephraim, so that Israel was severely distressed.
10 And the people of Israel cried out to the Lord, saying, “We have sinned against you, because we have forsaken our God and have served the Baals.” 11 And the Lord said to the people of Israel, “Did I not save you from the Egyptians and from the Amorites, from the Ammonites and from the Philistines? 12 The Sidonians also, and the Amalekites and the Maonites oppressed you, and you cried out to me, and I saved you out of their hand. 13 Yet you have forsaken me and served other gods; therefore I will save you no more. 14 Go and cry out to the gods whom you have chosen; let them save you in the time of your distress.” 15 And the people of Israel said to the Lord, “We have sinned; do to us whatever seems good to you. Only please deliver us this day.” 16 So they put away the foreign gods from among them and served the Lord, and he became impatient over the misery of Israel.
17 Then the Ammonites were called to arms, and they encamped in Gilead. And the people of Israel came together, and they encamped at Mizpah. 18 And the people, the leaders of Gilead, said one to another, “Who is the man who will begin to fight against the Ammonites? He shall be head over all the inhabitants of Gilead.”
Jephthah Delivers IsraelJudges 11:1 Now Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty warrior, but he was the son of a prostitute. Gilead was the father of Jephthah. 2 And Gilead's wife also bore him sons. And when his wife's sons grew up, they drove Jephthah out and said to him, “You shall not have an inheritance in our father's house, for you are the son of another woman.” 3 Then Jephthah fled from his brothers and lived in the land of Tob, and worthless fellows collected around Jephthah and went out with him.
4 After a time the Ammonites made war against Israel. 5 And when the Ammonites made war against Israel, the elders of Gilead went to bring Jephthah from the land of Tob. 6 And they said to Jephthah, “Come and be our leader, that we may fight against the Ammonites.” 7 But Jephthah said to the elders of Gilead, “Did you not hate me and drive me out of my father's house? Why have you come to me now when you are in distress?” 8 And the elders of Gilead said to Jephthah, “That is why we have turned to you now, that you may go with us and fight against the Ammonites and be our head over all the inhabitants of Gilead.” 9 Jephthah said to the elders of Gilead, “If you bring me home again to fight against the Ammonites, and the Lord gives them over to me, I will be your head.” 10 And the elders of Gilead said to Jephthah, “The Lord will be witness between us, if we do not do as you say.” 11 So Jephthah went with the elders of Gilead, and the people made him head and leader over them. And Jephthah spoke all his words before the Lord at Mizpah.
12 Then Jephthah sent messengers to the king of the Ammonites and said, “What do you have against me, that you have come to me to fight against my land?” 13 And the king of the Ammonites answered the messengers of Jephthah, “Because Israel on coming up from Egypt took away my land, from the Arnon to the Jabbok and to the Jordan; now therefore restore it peaceably.” 14 Jephthah again sent messengers to the king of the Ammonites 15 and said to him, “Thus says Jephthah: Israel did not take away the land of Moab or the land of the Ammonites, 16 but when they came up from Egypt, Israel went through the wilderness to the Red Sea and came to Kadesh. 17 Israel then sent messengers to the king of Edom, saying, ‘Please let us pass through your land,’ but the king of Edom would not listen. And they sent also to the king of Moab, but he would not consent. So Israel remained at Kadesh.
18 “Then they journeyed through the wilderness and went around the land of Edom and the land of Moab and arrived on the east side of the land of Moab and camped on the other side of the Arnon. But they did not enter the territory of Moab, for the Arnon was the boundary of Moab. 19 Israel then sent messengers to Sihon king of the Amorites, king of Heshbon, and Israel said to him, ‘Please let us pass through your land to our country,’ 20 but Sihon did not trust Israel to pass through his territory, so Sihon gathered all his people together and encamped at Jahaz and fought with Israel. 21 And the Lord, the God of Israel, gave Sihon and all his people into the hand of Israel, and they defeated them. So Israel took possession of all the land of the Amorites, who inhabited that country. 22 And they took possession of all the territory of the Amorites from the Arnon to the Jabbok and from the wilderness to the Jordan. 23 So then the Lord, the God of Israel, dispossessed the Amorites from before his people Israel; and are you to take possession of them? 24 Will you not possess what Chemosh your god gives you to possess? And all that the Lord our God has dispossessed before us, we will possess. 25 Now are you any better than Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab? Did he ever contend against Israel, or did he ever go to war with them? 26 While Israel lived in Heshbon and its villages, and in Aroer and its villages, and in all the cities that are on the banks of the Arnon, 300 years, why did you not deliver them within that time? 27 I therefore have not sinned against you, and you do me wrong by making war on me. The Lord, the Judge, decide this day between the people of Israel and the people of Ammon.” 28 But the king of the Ammonites did not listen to the words of Jephthah that he sent to him.
Jephthah's Tragic Vow29 Then the Spirit of the Lord was upon Jephthah, and he passed through Gilead and Manasseh and passed on to Mizpah of Gilead, and from Mizpah of Gilead he passed on to the Ammonites. 30 And Jephthah made a vow to the Lord and said, “If you will give the Ammonites into my hand, 31 then whatever comes out from the doors of my house to meet me when I return in peace from the Ammonites shall be the Lord's, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering.” 32 So Jephthah crossed over to the Ammonites to fight against them, and the Lord gave them into his hand. 33 And he struck them from Aroer to the neighborhood of Minnith, twenty cities, and as far as Abel-keramim, with a great blow. So the Ammonites were subdued before the people of Israel.
34 Then Jephthah came to his home at Mizpah. And behold, his daughter came out to meet him with tambourines and with dances. She was his only child; besides her he had neither son nor daughter. 35 And as soon as he saw her, he tore his clothes and said, “Alas, my daughter! You have brought me very low, and you have become the cause of great trouble to me. For I have opened my mouth to the Lord, and I cannot take back my vow.” 36 And she said to him, “My father, you have opened your mouth to the Lord; do to me according to what has gone out of your mouth, now that the Lord has avenged you on your enemies, on the Ammonites.” 37 So she said to her father, “Let this thing be done for me: leave me alone two months, that I may go up and down on the mountains and weep for my virginity, I and my companions.” 38 So he said, “Go.” Then he sent her away for two months, and she departed, she and her companions, and wept for her virginity on the mountains. 39 And at the end of two months, she returned to her father, who did with her according to his vow that he had made. She had never known a man, and it became a custom in Israel 40 that the daughters of Israel went year by year to lament the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite four days in the year.
11:29–40 Jephthah’s vow and its outcome. The coming of the Spirit on Jephthah (29) sets in motion a sequence of events that we are now familiar with. It leads predictably to the decisive victory in v 33. But that sequence is interrupted in this case by a vow (30–31), and once made it dominates the whole episode. The battle receives only cursory treatment, its chief interest being that it creates the conditions in which Jephthah will have to fulfil his vow.or
Vows, as such, were not unusual (e.g. Nu. 30; Ps. 22:25; Ec. 5:4–5). But this was no ordinary vow. It explicitly pledged a burnt offering (31b) but did not specify the victim, only the means by which it would be identified: ‘whatever [or whoever] comes out …’ (31a). The wording was ambiguous, and put all the inhabitants of Jephthah’s house at risk. To our horror, and his, it was his virgin daughter, his only child, who became the victim (34–35), and the real tragedy is that such a vow was totally unnecessary (as previous episodes have shown). In context it can be seen as nothing other than a mistaken attempt to bargain with God. Jephthah the master negotiator overplayed his hand and paid a tragic price. The second half of this episode reads like a grim inversion of Gn. 22, the story of another father and another only child. But Jephthah was no Abraham, and in his case there was no voice from heaven, only a punishing silence. We can only conclude that the Lord was as angry with Jephthah’s vow as he was with Israel’s ‘repentance’. Cf. the action of the king of Moab in 2 Ki. 3:26–27. It is worth considering how often modern prayers contain elements of bargaining with God. Jephthah’s example makes it clear that God is not to be bargained with in this way. New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition
A final word should be said about an episode in Judges which has occasioned much perplexity and has often led to erroneous conclusions. Apparently Jephthah offered up his daughter as a human sacrifice on the altar, in fulfillment of his “rash” vow ( 11:30, 31; cf. v. 39 ). The term for “burnt offering” is ˓ôlâ, which everywhere else signifies a blood sacrifice wholly consumed by fire upon the altar. But, as Keil and Delitzsch show, this interpretation as a literal human sacrifice cannot stand in the light of the context.A Survey of Old Testament Introduction
1. Human sacrifice was always understood, from the days of Abraham (for whose son, Isaac, a ram was substituted by God) to be an offense and an abomination to Yahweh, being expressly denounced and forbidden in Lev. 18:21; 20:2–5; Deut. 12:31; 18:10. There is no evidence that any Israelite ever offered human sacrifice prior to the days of Ahaz (743–728 B.C.). It is inconceivable that God-fearing Jephthah could have supposed he would please the Lord by perpetrating such a crime and abomination.
2. His daughter was allowed two months of mourning, not to bewail her approaching loss of life, but only to bewail her virginity (betûlɩ̂m) ( Judg. 11:37–38 ).
3. It is stated in verse 39 that after Jephthah had performed his vow and offered her as a “burnt offering,” “she knew not a man.” This would be a very pointless and inane remark if she had been put to death. But it has perfect relevance if she was devoted to the service of Jehovah at the door of the tabernacle the rest of her life. (For references to the devoted women who performed service in connection with the national cultus, cf. Ex. 38:8 and 1 Sam. 2:22; also Anna in the days of Jesus — Luke 2:36–37. ) The pathos of the situation in this instance did not lie in Jephthah’s daughter devoting herself to divine service, but rather in the sure extinction of Jephthah’s line, since she was his only child. Hence, both he and she bewailed her virginity. There was no human sacrifice here.
Jephthah's Conflict with EphraimJudges 12 1 The men of Ephraim were called to arms, and they crossed to Zaphon and said to Jephthah, “Why did you cross over to fight against the Ammonites and did not call us to go with you? We will burn your house over you with fire.” 2 And Jephthah said to them, “I and my people had a great dispute with the Ammonites, and when I called you, you did not save me from their hand. 3 And when I saw that you would not save me, I took my life in my hand and crossed over against the Ammonites, and the Lord gave them into my hand. Why then have you come up to me this day to fight against me?” 4 Then Jephthah gathered all the men of Gilead and fought with Ephraim. And the men of Gilead struck Ephraim, because they said, “You are fugitives of Ephraim, you Gileadites, in the midst of Ephraim and Manasseh.” 5 And the Gileadites captured the fords of the Jordan against the Ephraimites. And when any of the fugitives of Ephraim said, “Let me go over,” the men of Gilead said to him, “Are you an Ephraimite?” When he said, “No,” 6 they said to him, “Then say Shibboleth,” and he said, “Sibboleth,” for he could not pronounce it right. Then they seized him and slaughtered him at the fords of the Jordan. At that time 42,000 of the Ephraimites fell.
7 Jephthah judged Israel six years. Then Jephthah the Gileadite died and was buried in his city in Gilead.
Ibzan, Elon, and Abdon8 After him Ibzan of Bethlehem judged Israel. 9 He had thirty sons, and thirty daughters he gave in marriage outside his clan, and thirty daughters he brought in from outside for his sons. And he judged Israel seven years. 10 Then Ibzan died and was buried at Bethlehem.
11 After him Elon the Zebulunite judged Israel, and he judged Israel ten years. 12 Then Elon the Zebulunite died and was buried at Aijalon in the land of Zebulun.
13 After him Abdon the son of Hillel the Pirathonite judged Israel. 14 He had forty sons and thirty grandsons, who rode on seventy donkeys, and he judged Israel eight years. 15 Then Abdon the son of Hillel the Pirathonite died and was buried at Pirathon in the land of Ephraim, in the hill country of the Amalekites.
ESV Study Bible
What I'm Reading
When Your Life’s on the Line, Accuracy Is More Important Than Sincerity
By J. Warner Wallace 3/8/2018
Police officers are required to qualify with their service weapons on a regular basis. At our agency, we qualify every month, shooting a standard qualification course in our range. This qualification includes what we call a “failure drill”, testing our accuracy under stressful conditions. When officers use their weapons in the field, it’s in response to a life threatening challenge; their lives are on the line. Accuracy is critical. It’s not enough to shoot at the person who is trying to kill you; officers must be accurate enough to stop the assailant quickly and completely. There’s no room for error. It’s not enough to have tried; in that critical moment, the only thing that matters is accuracy. For this reason, our range masters will not allow officers to work in the field unless they can pass the weapon qualification at a high level. I’ve been in the range when an officer missed passing by a single point (a single missed round). Many have tried to talk their way out of having to practice and take the test again. Many were sincere in their efforts and missed passing by the smallest of margins. Our range masters are unflinching, however. If you don’t pass, even by a single misplaced round on the target, you can expect to start all over again. Our range masters know: When your life’s on the line, accuracy ends up being the most important attribute an officer can have.
It’s no different when it comes to our spiritual lives.
Many of my friends are not Christians. I was not raised in a Christian environment and most of my extended family members are either atheists or Mormons. I also have many friends who claim one version of theism or another, and most of these have developed a rather personal view of God, unrepresented by traditional religious systems or denominations. Our notions of God are different and contradictory. We define the nature of god, the nature of Jesus, the nature of the afterlife and the nature of salvation very differently. These contradictions between theistic worldviews present a dilemma. We can all be wrong about what we believe, but we can’t all be right; our views are contradictory, after all. Noneof us may have an accurate understanding or one of us may have an accurate understanding, but all of us can’t be accurate, given our conflicting beliefs about God.
In the context of our earthly conversations and interactions it’s tempting to simply tolerate the variety of beliefs we encounter in order to get along with one another, as though these beliefs are simply a matter of subjective opinion. This may be the correct approach when the subject matter under consideration is relatively benign. If we’re discussing our music preferences, for example, accuracy is an irrelevant concept. If the subject matter under consideration is a matter of life and death, however (like our preference in treating a particular form of cancer), accuracy is once again critical. I’m reminded of a friend who once purchased a new telescope in preparation for an historic appearance of Mars in the northern hemisphere. There was a particular Wednesday when Mars was going to be closer to earth than it had been (or would be again) for another 550 years. On that specific Wednesday night, he set up his new telescope but discovered he couldn’t see Mars much better than he could a month prior with his old telescope. Why? Because he was wrong about the date of the sighting and missed it by exactly one year! He made a sincere effort to see the red planet, but was sincerely wrong about the timing. His inaccuracy cost him the opportunity he was seeking.
Spiritual accuracy is even more important. Jesus understood the importance of accuracy and repeatedly called his followers to precision when it came to understanding his identity and the specific nature of Salvation:
James "Jim" Warner Wallace (born June 16, 1961) is an American homicide detective and Christian apologist. Wallace is a Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview and an Adjunct Professor of Apologetics at Biola University in La Mirada, California. He has authored several books, including Cold-Case Christianity, God’s Crime Scene, and Forensic Faith, in which he applies principles of cold case homicide investigation to apologetic concerns such as the existence of God and the reliability of the Gospels.
The Institutes of the Christian Religion
Translated by Henry Beveridge
9. This conflict which believers maintain against the natural feeling
of pain, while they study moderation and patience, Paul elegantly describes in these words: "We are troubled on every side, yet not
distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed," (2 Cor. 4:8, 9). You see that
to bear the cross patiently is not to have your feelings altogether blunted, and to be absolutely insensible to pain, according to the
absurd description which the Stoics of old gave of their hero as one who, divested of humanity, was affected in the same way by adversity
and prosperity, grief and joy; or rather, like a stone, was not
affected by anything. And what did they gain by that sublime wisdom?
they exhibited a shadow of patience, which never did, and never can,
exist among men. Nay, rather by aiming at a too exact and rigid
patience, they banished it altogether from human life. Now also we have
among Christians a new kind of Stoics, who hold it vicious not only to
groan and weep, but even to be sad and anxious. These paradoxes are
usually started by indolent men who, employing themselves more in
speculation than in action, can do nothing else for us than beget such
paradoxes. But we have nothing to do with that iron philosophy which
our Lord and Master condemned--not only in word, but also by his own
example. For he both grieved and shed tears for his own and others'
woes. Nor did he teach his disciples differently: "Ye shall weep and
lament, but the world shall rejoice," (John 16:20). And lest any one
should regard this as vicious, he expressly declares, "Blessed are they
that mourn," (Mt. 5:4). And no wonder. If all tears are condemned, what
shall we think of our Lord himself, whose "sweat was as it were great
drops of blood falling down to the ground?" (Luke 22:44; Mt. 26:38). If
every kind of fear is a mark of unbelief, what place shall we assign to
the dread which, it is said, in no slight degree amazed him; if all
sadness is condemned, how shall we justify him when he confesses, "My
soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death?"
10. I wished to make these observations to keep pious minds from despair, lest, from feeling it impossible to divest themselves of the natural feeling of grief, they might altogether abandon the study of patience. This must necessarily be the result with those who convert patience into stupor, and a brave and firm man into a block. Scripture gives saints the praise of endurance when, though afflicted by the hardships they endure, they are not crushed; though they feel bitterly, they are at the same time filled with spiritual joy; though pressed with anxiety, breathe exhilarated by the consolation of God. Still there is a certain degree of repugnance in their hearts, because natural sense shuns and dreads what is adverse to it, while pious affection, even through these difficulties, tries to obey the divine will. This repugnance the Lord expressed when he thus addressed Peter: "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself and walkedst whither thou wouldst; but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee; and carry thee whither thou wouldest not," (John 21:18). It is not probable, indeed, that when it became necessary to glorify God by death he was driven to it unwilling and resisting; had it been so, little praise would have been due to his martyrdom. But though he obeyed the divine ordination with the greatest alacrity of heart, yet, as he had not divested himself of humanity, he was distracted by a double will. When he thought of the bloody death which he was to die, struck with horror, he would willingly have avoided it: on the other hand, when he considered that it was God who called him to it, his fear was vanquished and suppressed, and he met death cheerfully. It must therefore be our study, if we would be disciples of Christ, to imbue our minds with such reverence and obedience to God as may tame and subjugate all affections contrary to his appointment. In this way, whatever be the kind of cross to which we are subjected, we shall in the greatest straits firmly maintain our patience. Adversity will have its bitterness, and sting us. When afflicted with disease, we shall groan and be disquieted, and long for health; pressed with poverty, we shall feel the stings of anxiety and sadness, feel the pain of ignominy, contempt, and injury, and pay the tears due to nature at the death of our friends: but our conclusion will always be, The Lord so willed it, therefore let us follow his will. Nay, amid the pungency of grief, among groans and tears this thought will necessarily suggest itself and incline us cheerfully to endure the things for which we are so afflicted.
11. But since the chief reason for enduring the cross has been derived from a consideration of the divine will, we must in few words explain wherein lies the difference between philosophical and Christian patience. Indeed, very few of the philosophers advanced so far as to perceive that the hand of God tries us by means of affliction, and that we ought in this matter to obey God. The only reason which they adduce is, that so it must be. But is not this just to say, that we must yield to God, because it is in vain to contend against him? For if we obey God only because it is necessary, provided we can escape, we shall cease to obey him. But what Scripture calls us to consider in the will of God is very different, namely, first justice and equity, and then a regard to our own salvation. Hence Christian exhortations to patience are of this nature, Whether poverty, or exile, or imprisonment, or contumely, or disease, or bereavement, or any such evil affects us, we must think that none of them happens except by the will and providence of God; moreover, that every thing he does is in the most perfect order. What! do not our numberless daily faults deserve to be chastised, more severely, and with a heavier rod than his mercy lays upon us? Is it not most right that our flesh should be subdued, and be, as it were, accustomed to the yoke, so as not to rage and wanton as it lists? Are not the justice and the truth of God worthy of our suffering on their account?  But if the equity of God is undoubtedly displayed in affliction, we cannot murmur or struggle against them without iniquity. We no longer hear the frigid cant, Yield, because it is necessary; but a living and energetic precept, Obey, because it is unlawful to resist; bear patiently, because impatience is rebellion against the justice of God. Then as that only seems to us attractive which we perceive to be for our own safety and advantage, here also our heavenly Father consoles us, by the assurance, that in the very cross with which he afflicts us he provides for our salvation. But if it is clear that tribulations are salutary to us, why should we not receive them with calm and grateful minds? In bearing them patiently we are not submitting to necessity but resting satisfied with our own good. The effect of these thoughts is, that to whatever extent our minds are contracted by the bitterness which we naturally feel under the cross, to the same extent will they be expanded with spiritual joy. Hence arises thanksgiving, which cannot exist unless joy be felt. But if the praise of the Lord and thanksgiving can emanate only from a cheerful and gladdened breasts and there is nothing which ought to interrupt these feelings in us, it is clear how necessary it is to temper the bitterness of the cross with spiritual joy.
 See end of sec. 4, and sec. 5, 7, 8.
Christian Classics Ethereal Library / Public Domain
Institutes of the Christian Religion
How Do I Know If I Really Love Jesus?
By Jon Bloom 2/28/2018
How do we know if we really love Jesus? The Bible’s answer might surprise you.
We know if we love Jesus by what we consistently (not perfectly) do and don’t do. We know this because Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). And the apostle John echoed Jesus when he wrote, “This is the love of God, that we keep his commandments” (1 John 5:3).
At face value, these statements should make any lover uncomfortable. We all know intuitively that the essence of love is not merely its actions. Love cannot be reduced to a mere verb. That’s why everyone laughs at John Piper’s illustration of a husband handing his wife a big bouquet of flowers on their wedding anniversary and then telling her he’s just fulfilling his obligation as a dutiful husband. It’s why everyone understands Edward John Carnell’s illustration of a husband asking, “Must I kiss my wife goodnight?” Because we know the answer is “Yes, but not that kind of must.”
Not That Kind of Must | Neither Jesus nor John meant that obeying Jesus’s commandments is the same thing as love. What they meant was that love for God, by its very nature, produces the consistent characteristic of “the obedience of faith” (Romans 1:5). So, on earth, love for Christ tends to look like obeying Christ.
Now, love, faith, and obedience are not the same things. Love is our cherishing or treasuring Christ, faith is our trusting Christ, and obedience is our doing what Christ says. The essence of each is different. Bad things, like dead orthodoxy and legalism, happen when we make them the same thing. We must keep Christ’s commandments — but not that kind of must.
Though they are distinct, they are inseparable. We cannot love Christ without trusting (exercising faith in) him (1 Peter 1:8). We cannot trust Christ without obeying him (James 2:17). So, naturally, we cannot love Christ if we live in persistent, conscious disobedience to him (1 John 1:6; Luke 6:46).
Wearing Our Love on Our Sleeves | This is an elegant, devastatingly simple design. God made us to wear our love on our sleeves. He wired us to serve what we treasure. How we love ourselves is evident by how we serve ourselves, for good (Ephesians 5:29) or for evil (2 Timothy 3:2). How we love our spouse or children or friends or pastors or co-workers or pets is evident by how we serve or neglect them. Whether we love God or money is evident by how we serve or neglect one or the other (Luke 16:13). In the long run, we cannot fake who or what we really serve.
It’s true that we sometimes can hide our sleeves from human view — sometimes even from ourselves — at least for a while. But God has a way of exposing our sleeves eventually.
Jon Bloom serves as author, board chair, and co-founder of Desiring God. He and his wife live in the Twin Cities with their five children.John Bloom Books | Go to Books Page
Expository preaching and the recovery of Christian worship
By R. Albert Mohler Jr.
Evangelical Christians have been especially attentive to worship in recent years sparking a renaissance of thought and conversation about what worship really is and how it should be done. Even if this renewed interest has resulted in what some have called the “worship wars” in some churches, it seems that what A.W. Tozer once called the “missing jewel” of evangelical worship is being recovered.
Nevertheless, if most evangelicals would quickly agree that worship is central to the life of the church, there would be no consensus to an unavoidable question: “What is central to Christian worship?”
Though most evangelicals mention preaching of the Word as a necessary or customary part of worship, the prevailing model of worship in evangelical churches is increasingly defined by music — along with innovations such as drama and video presentations.
Christians often shop congregations in order to find the church that offers the worship style and experience that fits their expectation. In most communities, churches are known for their worship styles and musical programs. Those dissatisfied with what they find at one church can quickly move to another, sometimes using the language of self-expression to explain that the new church “meets our needs” or “allows us to worship.”
A concern for true biblical worship was at the very heart of the Protestant Reformation. But even Martin Luther, who wrote hymns and required his preachers to be trained in song, would not recognize this modern preoccupation with music as legitimate or healthy. Why? Because the Reformers were convinced that the heart of true biblical worship was the preaching of the Word of God.
Music is one of God’s most precious gifts to his people, and it is a language by which we may worship God in spirit and in truth. The hymns of the faith convey rich confessional and theological content, and many modern choruses recover a sense of doxology formerly lost in many evangelical churches. But music is not the central act of Christian worship. The heart of Christian worship is the authentic preaching of the Word of God.
John Stott’s simple declaration states the issue boldly: “Preaching is indispensable to Christianity.” More specifically, preaching is indispensable to Christian worship — and not only indispensable, but central.
A need for faithful expository preaching | In far too many churches today, the Bible is nearly silent. The public reading of Scripture has been dropped from many services, and the sermon has been sidelined, reduced to a brief devotional appended to the music.
Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr. serves as president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary – the flagship school of the Southern Baptist Convention and one of the largest seminaries in the world.
Albert Mohler Books | Go to Books Page
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 33The Steadfast Love of the LORD
1 Shout for joy in the LORD, O you righteous!
Praise befits the upright.
2 Give thanks to the LORD with the lyre;
make melody to him with the harp of ten strings!
3 Sing to him a new song;
play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts.
4 For the word of the LORD is upright,
and all his work is done in faithfulness.
5 He loves righteousness and justice;
the earth is full of the steadfast love of the LORD.
6 By the word of the LORD the heavens were made,
and by the breath of his mouth all their host.
7 He gathers the waters of the sea as a heap;
he puts the deeps in storehouses.
8 Let all the earth fear the LORD;
let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him!
9 For he spoke, and it came to be;
he commanded, and it stood firm.
Irresistible Grace | John Murray
By John Murray
In reference to all the aspects from which God’s saving grace may be viewed we must always reckon with the reality and gravity of sin. The salvation God has provided is more than salvation from sin and its consequences. Its design embraces the exceeding riches of God’s grace and contemplates the highest conceivable destiny that could be bestowed upon creatures, conformity to the image of God’s own Son that he might be the firstborn among many brethren (cf. Rom. 8:29). But no such destiny could be envisioned or achieved without salvation from sin in all its ramifications and liabilities. In order to be salvation to it must first of all be salvation from.
We cannot assess the gravity of sin unless we probe to that which is central in its definition. If we say that sin is selfishness we do state something that belongs to the character of sin, especially if we think of self-centeredness and construe this as involving the worship of self rather than of the Creator (cf. Rom. 1:25). The iniquity of sin is thereby disclosed. Again, if we say that sin is the assertion of human autonomy versus the sovereignty of God we are saying something relevant. Sin is precisely that, and it became apparent in Eden when the sin of our race began.
But we must ask: are these analyses sufficient? To put it otherwise: does not Scripture warrant and compel a more penetrating description? When Paul says that “the carnal mind is enmity against God” (Rom. 8:7), he has surely provided us with what is ultimate in the definition of sin. Sin is the contradiction of God, contradiction all along the line of God’s unique and essential glory. Nothing is more germane to God’s glory than his truth; he is truth. The tempter was well aware of this and so his strategy was framed accordingly. To the woman he said: “ye shall not surely die” (Gen. 3:4). This was blatant contradiction of God’s veracity. When the woman acceded to this contradiction her integrity collapsed and to sin she became captive. Our Lord’s indictment of the tempter is to the effect that his own fall from integrity was of the same character as that by which he seduced Eve. “He was a murderer from the beginning and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar and the father of it” (John 8:44).
Yes, the essence of sin is to be against God (cf. Ps. 51:4); it is the contradiction of God in the whole range of its connotation and application. When Paul wrote, “the carnal mind is enmity against God,” he added, “for it is not subject to the law of God” (Rom. 8:7). It is significant that the law of God should be specified in this connection. The enmity manifests itself in insubjection to the law of God. And not only so. The insubjection may be said to constitute the enmity, the contradiction. For the law is the glory of God coming to expression for the regulation of human thought, word, and action consonant with the image in which man has been created. So sin can be defined in terms of law as “lawlessness” (I John 3:4).
The contradiction which sin offers to God and to his will, if it is not adequately described as resistance, involves and is expressed in resistance. Scripture sometimes uses this term or its equivalents to express the attitude of unbelief (cf. Acts 7:51; 13:45; Rom. 10:21; II Tim. 3:8; Tit. 1:9). It is obvious that sin consists in resistance to the will of God. If the claims of God were not resistible, there would be no sin. The claims of God come to expression in the gospel and all rejection of the gospel and of its demands is resistance. In the gospel we have the supreme revelation of the grace of God, and Christ is the embodiment of that grace. The glory of God is nowhere more effulgent than in the face of Jesus Christ. Hence unbelief is resistance of grace at the zenith of its disclosure and overture. So to say that all grace is irresistible is to deny the plain facts of observation and experience as also of Scripture teaching. Stephen was bold enough to indict his unbelieving audience with resistance to the Holy Spirit: “Ye do always resist the Holy Spirit: as your fathers did, so do ye” (Acts 7:51). This is the enormity of unbelief; it is the contradiction of sin expressing itself in resistance to the claims and overtures of supreme love and grace. “And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world and men loved the darkness rather than the light” (John 3:19).
John Murray was professor of systematic theology at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Professor Murray received his M.A. from the University of Glasgow and his Th.B and Th.M. from Princeton Theological Seminary. Professor Murray is well known for his publications, Redemption Accomplished and Applied and Principles of Conduct.
John Murray Books:
- 1 Redemption Accomplished and Applied
- 2 Collected Writings of John Murray: Lectures in Systematic Theology
- 3 Principles of Conduct: Aspects of Biblical Ethics
- 4 Christian Baptism
- 5 The Covenant of Grace: A Biblico-Theological Study (Biblical & Theological Studies)
- 6 Little Lives of the Great Saints
- 7 St. Joseph Daily Prayer Book: Prayers, Readings, and Devotions for the Year
- 8 Collected Writings of John Murray (4 Volume Set)
- 9 Divorce
- 10 Calvin on Scripture and Divine Sovereignty
- 11 Redemption Accomplished and Applied by Murray, John (1955) Paperback
- 12 001: Collected Writings of John Murray: Claims of Truth (His Collected Writings of John Murray; V. 1) (His Collected Writings of John Murray; V. 1)
- 13 Free Offer of the Gospel
- 14 Principles of Conduct: Aspects of Biblical Ethics by John Murray (1957-07-17)
- 15 Little Lives of the Great Saints
Another Archaeological Find Shows That The Bible Really Is History
By Misty Callahan 3/6/2018
Last year I wrote an article about how archaeological discoveries continue to support the Bible. In it, I quoted George Rawlinson and Albert Nicols Arnold’s book, “The Historical Evidences Of The Truth Of The Scripture Records” with the following:
“…even at this remote distance of time from the date of the Sacred Oracles, new evidences of their credibility and accuracy are continually coming to light. How much may yet remain, buried under barren mounds, or entombed in pyramids and catacombs, or hidden in the yet unexplored pages of some ancient literature…”
I didn’t know then how appropriate it would be to share that quote. In my article, I mentioned the 2015 discovery of the seal of King Hezekiah. As it turns out, near where King Hezekiah’s seal was found, another incredible archaeological find was revealed to the world at large: the seal of the Prophet Isaiah.
In February of this year, the Times of Israel reported that archaeologists most likely found the seal of the Prophet Isaiah. I say “most likely” because the seal is damaged and as such, missing a crucial letter, “aleph.” That letter would make the second word on the seal “prophet.” Because of that fact, there is no way to be 100% sure that is is the seal of the Prophet Isaiah. Plus, there is a debate on whether the title “prophet” would have been used at all.
That said, it still seems highly likely that it is the seal of the prophet Isaiah. Dr. Eliat Mazar pointed out the archaeological context in which the seal was found. As the article from the Times of Israel stated:
“It was found only 10 feet away from where in 2015 Mazar’s team discovered an important, intact bulla with the inscription ‘of King Hezekiah of Judah.’ The 12th king of the Kingdom of Judah, King Hezekiah ruled from circa 727 BCE-698 BCE…”
Taking both evidence for and against the seal belonging to Isaiah into account, the article quotes Dr. Robert Cargill of Biblical Archaeology Review:
“Cargill, a religious studies assistant professor at the University of Iowa, said he respected Mazar’s ‘careful, responsible treatment’ of the bulla in the BAR article. ‘She didn’t rush to conclusively say she had found the seal of Isaiah… In our article she gives the possible alternatives,’ said Cargill, who called himself ‘a natural skeptic.'” Cargill goes on saying, “…’BUT IF YOU’RE ASKING ME, I THINK SHE’S GOT IT. YOU’RE LOOKING AT THE FIRST ARCHAEOLOGICAL REFERENCE OF THE PROPHET ISAIAH OUTSIDE OF THE BIBLE,’ SAID CARGILL. ‘IT’S AMAZING.'”
Traffic reporter. C.S. Lewis Institute Fellow, history nerd,book worm, and dog lover with a weird sense of humor. Currently resides in the 'burbs of Chicago. http://www.mistycallahan.com
By Gleason Archer Jr.
16 | Exodus
THE HEBREW TITLE of Exodus is Weēlleh shemōt (“And these are the names of”), or more simply shemōt, (“the names of”), derived from the opening words of Ex. 1:1. The Septuagint title, Exodos (“exit, departure”), is the origin of the Vulgate’s term Exodus. The theme of the book is the commencement of Israel as a covenant nation. It relates how God fulfilled His ancient promise to Abraham by multiplying his descendants into a great nation, redeeming them from the land of bondage, and renewing the covenant of grace with them on a national basis. At the foot of the holy mountain, He bestows on them the promises of the covenant and provides them with a rule of conduct by which they may lead a holy life, and also with a sanctuary in which they may make offerings for sin and renew fellowship with Him on the basis of forgiving grace.
Outline of Exodus
I. Training of God’s man for God’s task, 1:1–4:31
A. Moses’ background: tyrannical persecution, 1:1–22
B. His adoption and early education, the first forty years, 2:1–14
C. His character disciplined, the second forty years, 2:15–25
D. His call from God at Horeb, 3:1–4:31
II. Triumphant grace: God’s people delivered from bondage, 5:1–18:27
A. God’s triumph over the world power through the ten plagues, 5:1–11:10
B. Six types of salvation, 12:1–18:27
1. Passover: Calvary symbolized and appropriated, 12:1–13:22
2. Red Sea crossing: the plunge of faith (baptism), 14:1–15:27
3. Manna from heaven: the bread of life (Eucharist), 16:1–36
4. The cleft rock: the water of life, 17:1–7
5. Rephidim: foretaste of victory over the world, 17:8–16
6. Appointment of elders: organization for religious fellowship, 18:1–27
III. Seal of holiness, 19:1–31:18
A. Covenant promise: absolute submission to God’s revealed will, as “a holy nation, a peculiar people,” 19:1–25
B. Basic principles of a holy life under the covenant; the Decalogue, 20:1–26
C. Holy living in one’s conduct toward others (Book of the Covenant); the three great festivals, 21:1–23:33
D. Holy living in worship and fellowship with God (the types of priesthood, sacrifice, and the tabernacle furniture), 24:1–31:18
IV. Failure of the flesh and repentance for sin, 32:1–33:23
A. Rebellion, apostasy, idolatry: fellowship broken with God, 32:1–35
B. Repentance, chastisement, and intercession by Moses the mediator, 33:1–23
V. God’s provision for sin: continuing forgiveness through sacrifice, 34:1–40:38
A. Reaffirmation of the covenant of grace and God’s warnings against idolatry, 34:1–35
B. Means of grace to prevent backsliding: Sabbath and Tabernacle, 35:1–19
C. Congregation’s pledge to carry out God’s plan, 35:20–39:43
D. Forms of worship accepted and hallowed by the Lord, 40:1–38
From this outline it is apparent that the book was composed and arranged by a single mind, and that it was not a clumsy patchwork of three different sources assembled over a period of four centuries, as the Documentary Hypothesis asserts. The logical order in the arrangement of each part and the consistent adherence to the great central theme bespeak the skill of a single, highly gifted author
The Early History of Moses
Several matters pertaining to the book of Exodus have already been discussed in earlier chapters. The probable identification of the “pharaoh who knew not Joseph” with the Hyksos dynasty has been explained at the close of chapter 15. lf this hypothesis is accepted, it would be most reasonable to see in Ex. 1:15–22 a reference to resumed persecution under Amenhotep I (1559–1539 B.C.) and Thutmose I (1539–1514 B.C.), in whose reigns the growing antiforeign sentiment of the Egyptian populace finally turned against the Hebrews (even though they too had been oppressed by the hated Hyksos). During the reign of Thutmose I, then, Moses was born (about 1527), and received from the princess who adopted him (perhaps Hatshepsut) the name Moses “son of the water,” Egyptian; “drawing out,” Hebrew). As to this Egyptian etymology mw-s; or “water-son,” it is true that usually a possessive idea is expressed in Egyptian by “A of B,” or in this case, “s;mw.” But in the case of proper names, the Egyptians also reversed the order occasionally, as in The Tale of Sinuhe, where Enshi, son of Amu, is referred to as “Amu-sa; Enshi.” Or again, in the Tale of the Eloquent Peasant (likewise a Middle Kingdom work), Rensi the son of Meru is called “Mer-u-sa; Rensi.” As for the often suggested etymology of “Mose” for Moses, understood as a shortened form of Ra’mosse (Rameses) or Thutmose (“begotten of Thoth”), this would be a perfectly acceptable alternative if it were not for Ex. 2:10, which implies that the name which the princess bestowed on the baby had some relevance, even in Egyptian, to the circumstances of his discovery at the riverbank. Of course there remains the possibility1 that the true antecedent of “she” in Ex. 2:10 was not the Egyptian princess but rather the mother of Moses, who had been hired to be the baby’s nurse. This would eliminate all need for an Egyptian etymology. But this would also presuppose that Moses’ mother had not already named him at his circumcision, and that it was the mother who had drawn him out of the water rather than the princess, and lastly that it was the mother who had the prerogative of naming him, rather than his new royal fostermother. These three assumptions seem rather difficult to maintain in the light of all the circumstances, and so it is best to abide by the Egyptian etymology suggested above.
The Length of the Sojourn in Egypt
As to the length of the sojourn of the Israelites in Egypt, the clear statement of the Hebrew text of Ex. 12:40 is that it totaled 430 years from the migration of Jacob’s family until the Exodus itself. But since the LXX here reads that the 430 years included the sojourn of Abraham and his descendants in Canaan as well as Egypt, some have preferred this variant to the reading of the Masoretic Text. This would result in an Egyptian sojourn of about 215 years, and would bring Joseph’s career squarely into the Hyksos period. But there are several considerations which render the 215-year interval very unlikely.
In the first place, a prediction was made to Abraham in Gen. 15:16 that after oppression in a foreign land, his descendants would return to Canaan “in the fourth generation.” This follows shortly after verse 13, which states that the foreign oppressors “shall afflict them four hundred years.” It is evident that in Abraham’s case, a generation was computed at one hundred years, and this was appropriate enough in view of the fact that Abraham was precisely one hundred when he became the father of Isaac. At least four centuries, then, and not a mere 215 years, would mark the Israelite Sojourn in the foreign land.
Second, although many of the family lines of prominent figures in the Exodus generation are indicated by only three or four links (e.g., Levi, Kohath, Amram, Moses, according to Ex. 6:16–20 ), there are some which feature as many as ten generations. Kitchen (AOOT, 54–57) points out that conformable to general ancient Near Eastern practice, “ Ex. 6:16–20 is not a full genealogy, but only gives the tribe (Levi), clan (Kohath), and family group (Amran by Jochabed) to which Moses and Aaron belonged and not their actual parents. The Amramites are shown as being already numerous at the Exodus (cf. Num. 3:27–28 ), so Amram must be considered as having lived much earlier.” In 1 Chron. 7:25 there are no less than nine or ten generations listed between Joseph and Joshua (Ephraim-Rephah-Resheph-Telah-Tahan-Ladan-Ammihud-Elishama-Nun-Joshua). Ten generations can hardly be reconciled with a mere 215 years (especially considering the longer life span of pre-Exodus Israelites), but it fits in very plausibly with an interval of 430 years. Similarly, Bezaleel is in the seventh generation from Jacob ( 1 Chron. 2:1, 4, 5, 9, 18–21 ), Elishama is in the ninth generation from Jacob ( Num. 1:10 ), and Nahshon, prince of Judah, is in the sixth generation after Jacob ( 1 Chron. 2:1, 4, 5, 9, 10 ). Compare also the genealogy of Ezra as set forth in Ezra 7:1–5 which indicates no less than seventeen generation links between Ezra and Aaron. If Ezra is dated at 457 B.C., seventeen generations would readily take us back to the 15th century, the time of Aaron.
Third, the increase from seventy or seventy-five persons in the immigrant family of Jacob to a nation of more than two million souls (judging from the 603,550 men-at-arms mentioned in Num. 2:32 ) militates against a mere 215-year sojourn. If there were indeed only four generations then the rate of multiplication would necessarily have been astronomic. Even if seven generations should be crammed into the 215 years, there would have had to be an average of four surviving sons per father. But if the Sojourn lasted 430 years, then the desired multiplication would result from an average of three sons and three daughters to every married couple during the first six generations, and an average of two sons and two daughters in the last four generations. At this rate, by the tenth generation there would be (according to Delitzsch, Pentateuch, 2:30) 478,224 sons above twenty by the four-hundredth year of the sojourn, while 125,326 males of military age would still be left over from the ninth generation. These together, then, would total 603,550 men-at-arms.
The Coming Prince
By Sir Robert Anderson 1841-1918
Chapter 3 The King's Dream and the Prophet's VisionsThe interpretation of the royal dream raised the captive exile at a single bound to the Grand-Vizier-ship of Babylon, (Daniel 2:48) a position of trust and honor which probably he held until he was either dismissed or withdrew from office under one or other of the two last kings who succeeded to Nebuchadnezzar's throne. The scene on the fatal night of Belshazzar's feast suggests that he had been then so long in retirement, that the young king-regent knew nothing of his fame.  But yet his fame was still so great with older men, that notwithstanding his failing years, he was once more called to the highest office by Darius, when the Median king became master of the broad-walled city. 
Daniel 2:48 Then the king gave Daniel high honors and many great gifts, and made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon and chief prefect over all the wise men of Babylon. ESV
 This appears from the language of the queen-mother, Daniel 5:10-12. But chap. 8:27 shows that Daniel, even then, held some appointment at the court.
Daniel 5:10-12 10 The queen, because of the words of the king and his lords, came into the banqueting hall, and the queen declared, “O king, live forever! Let not your thoughts alarm you or your color change. 11 There is a man in your kingdom in whom is the spirit of the holy gods. In the days of your father, light and understanding and wisdom like the wisdom of the gods were found in him, and King Nebuchadnezzar, your father—your father the king—made him chief of the magicians, enchanters, Chaldeans, and astrologers, 12 because an excellent spirit, knowledge, and understanding to interpret dreams, explain riddles, and solve problems were found in this Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar. Now let Daniel be called, and he will show the interpretation.” ESV
Daniel 8:27 And I, Daniel, was overcome and lay sick for some days. Then I rose and went about the king’s business, but I was appalled by the vision and did not understand it. ESV
 Daniel 6:1-2. Daniel cannot have been less than eighty years of age at this time. See chron. table, App. 1. post,But whether in prosperity or in retirement, he was true to the God of his fathers. The years in which his childhood in Jerusalem was spent, though politically dark and troubled, were a period of the brightest spiritual revival by which his nation had ever been blessed, and he had carried with him to the court of Nebuchadnezzar a faith and piety that withstood all the adverse influences which abounded in such a scene. 
Daniel 6:1-2 1 It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom 120 satraps, to be throughout the whole kingdom; 2 and over them three high officials, of whom Daniel was one, to whom these satraps should give account, so that the king might suffer no loss. ESV
 It is improbable that Daniel was less than twenty-one years of age when placed at the head of the empire in the second year of Nebuchadnezzar. The age to which he lived makes it equally improbable that he was more. His birth would thus fall, as before suggested, about B. C. 625, the epoch of Nabopolassar's era, and some three years later was Josiah's passover, the like of which had never been held in Israel from the days of Samuel (2 Chronicles 35:18-19).The Daniel of the second chapter was a young man just entering on a career of extraordinary dignity and power, such as few have ever known. The Daniel of the seventh chapter was an aged saint, who, having passed through the ordeal scathless, still possessed a heart as true to God and to His people as when, some threescore years before, he had entered the gates of the broad-walled city a captive and friendless stranger. The date of the earlier vision was about the time of Jehoiakim's revolt, when their ungovernable pride of race and creed still led the Jews to dream of independence. At the time of the later vision more than forty years had passed since Jerusalem had been laid in ruins, and the last king of the house of David had entered the brazen gates of Babylon in chains.
2 Chronicles 35:18-19 18 No Passover like it had been kept in Israel since the days of Samuel the prophet. None of the kings of Israel had kept such a Passover as was kept by Josiah, and the priests and the Levites, and all Judah and Israel who were present, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem. 19 In the eighteenth year of the reign of Josiah this Passover was kept. ESV
Here again the main outlines of the prophecy seem clear. As the four empires which were destined successively to wield sovereign power during "the times of the Gentiles" are represented in Nebuchadnezzar's dream by the four divisions of the great image, they are here typified by four wild beasts.  The ten toes of the image in the second chapter have their correlatives in the ten horns of the fourth beast in the seventh chapter. The character and course of the fourth empire are the prominent subject of the later vision, but both prophecies are equally explicit that that empire in its ultimate phase will be brought to a signal and sudden end by a manifestation of Divine power on earth.
 The following is the vision as recorded inThe details of the vision, though interesting and important, may here be passed unnoticed, for the interpretation given of them is so simple and so definite that the words can leave no room for doubt in any unprejudiced mind. "These great beasts, which are four, are four kings" (i.e., kingdoms; compare verse 23), "which shall arise out of the earth; but the saints of the Most High shall take the kingdom and possess the kingdom for ever." (Verses 17, 18)
2 Daniel declared, “I saw in my vision by night, and behold, the four winds of heaven were stirring up the great sea. 3 And four great beasts came up out of the sea, different from one another. 4 The first was like a lion and had eagles’ wings. Then as I looked its wings were plucked off, and it was lifted up from the ground and made to stand on two feet like a man, and the mind of a man was given to it. 5 And behold, another beast, a second one, like a bear. It was raised up on one side. It had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth; and it was told, ‘Arise, devour much flesh.’ 6 After this I looked, and behold, another, like a leopard, with four wings of a bird on its back. And the beast had four heads, and dominion was given to it. 7 After this I saw in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast, terrifying and dreadful and exceedingly strong. It had great iron teeth; it devoured and broke in pieces and stamped what was left with its feet. It was different from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns. 8 I considered the horns, and behold, there came up among them another horn, a little one, before which three of the first horns were plucked up by the roots. And behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking great things.
9 “As I looked,
thrones were placed,11 “I looked then because of the sound of the great words that the horn was speaking. And as I looked, the beast was killed, and its body destroyed and given over to be burned with fire. 12 As for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away, but their lives were prolonged for a season and a time.
and the Ancient of Days took his seat;
his clothing was white as snow,
and the hair of his head like pure wool;
his throne was fiery flames;
its wheels were burning fire.
10 A stream of fire issued
and came out from before him;
a thousand thousands served him,
and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him;
the court sat in judgment,
and the books were opened.
13 “I saw in the night visions,
and behold, with the clouds of heaven
there came one like a son of man,
and he came to the Ancient of Days
and was presented before him.
14 And to him was given dominion
and glory and a kingdom,
that all peoples, nations, and languages
should serve him;
his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
which shall not pass away,
and his kingdom one
that shall not be destroyed. ESV
Daniel 7:23 “Thus he said: ‘As for the fourth beast,
there shall be a fourth kingdom on earth,
which shall be different from all the kingdoms,
and it shall devour the whole earth,
and trample it down, and break it to pieces. ESV
Daniel 7:17-18 17 ‘These four great beasts are four kings who shall arise out of the earth. 18 But the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever, forever and ever.’ ESV
The prophet then proceeds to recapitulate the vision, and his language affords an explicit answer to the only question which can reasonably be raised upon the words just quoted, namely, whether the "kingdom of the saints" shall follow immediately upon the close of the fourth Gentile empire.  "Then," he adds, "I would know the truth of the fourth beast, which was diverse from all the others, exceeding dreadful, whose teeth were of iron, and his nails of brass; which devoured, brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with his feet; and of the ten horns that were in his head, and of the other which came up, and before whom three fell, even of that horn that had eyes, and a mouth that spake very great things, whose look was more stout than his fellows. I beheld, and the same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them; until the Ancient of days came, and judgment was given to the saints of the Most High; and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom."
 Certain writers advocate an interpretation of these visions which allots the "four kingdoms" to Babylonia, Media, Persia, and Greece. This view, with which Professor Westcott's name is identified, claims notice merely in order to distinguish it from another with which it has been confounded, even in a work of such pretensions as The Speaker's Commentary (Vol. 6., p. 333, Excursus on the Four Kingdoms). The learned author of the Ordo Saeclorum (Ch. 616, etc.), quoting Maitland, who in turn follows Lacunza (Ben Ezra), argues that the accession of Darius the Mede to the throne of Babylon did not involve a change of empire. These writers further urge that the description of the third kingdom resembles Rome rather than Greece. According to this view, therefore, the kingdoms are 1st Babylon, including Persia, 2nd Greece, 3rd Rome, 4th a future kingdom to arise in the last days. But as already noticed (p. 32, ante), the book of Daniel expressly distinguishes Babylon, Medo-Persia, and Greece as "kingdoms' within the scope of the prophecy.Such was the prophet's inquiry. Here is the interpretation accorded to him in reply.
Daniel 7:19-27 19 “Then I desired to know the truth about the fourth beast, which was different from all the rest, exceedingly terrifying, with its teeth of iron and claws of bronze, and which devoured and broke in pieces and stamped what was left with its feet, 20 and about the ten horns that were on its head, and the other horn that came up and before which three of them fell, the horn that had eyes and a mouth that spoke great things, and that seemed greater than its companions. 21 As I looked, this horn made war with the saints and prevailed over them, 22 until the Ancient of Days came, and judgment was given for the saints of the Most High, and the time came when the saints possessed the kingdom.
23 “Thus he said: ‘As for the fourth beast,
there shall be a fourth kingdom on earth,
which shall be different from all the kingdoms,
and it shall devour the whole earth,
and trample it down, and break it to pieces.
24 As for the ten horns,
out of this kingdom ten kings shall arise,
and another shall arise after them;
he shall be different from the former ones,
and shall put down three kings.
25 He shall speak words against the Most High,
and shall wear out the saints of the Most High,
and shall think to change the times and the law;
and they shall be given into his hand
for a time, times, and half a time.
26 But the court shall sit in judgment,
and his dominion shall be taken away,
to be consumed and destroyed to the end.
27 And the kingdom and the dominion
and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven
shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High;
his kingdom shall be an everlasting kingdom,
and all dominions shall serve and obey him.’
 Daniel 7:19-27. On this vision see Pusey, Daniel, pp. 78, 79Whether history records any event which may be within the range of this prophecy is a matter of opinion. That it has not been fulfilled is a plain matter of fact.  The Roman earth shall one day be parceled out in ten separate kingdoms, and out of one of these shall arise that terrible enemy of God and His people, whose destruction is to be one of the events of the second advent of Christ.
 The state of Europe at or after the dismemberment of the Roman Empire has been appealed to as a fulfillment of it, ignoring the fact that the territory which Augustus ruled included a considerable district both of Asia and Africa. Nor is this all. There is no presumption against finding in past times a partial accomplishment of such a prophecy, but the fact that twenty-eight different lists, including sixty-five "kingdoms," have been put forward in the controversy, is a proof how worthless is the evidence of any such fulfillment. In truth the historical school of interpreters have here, as on many other points, brought discredit upon their entire system, containing, as it does, so much that claims attention.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 22Esther 10:3 For Mordecai the Jew was second in rank to King Ahasuerus, and he was great among the Jews and popular with the multitude of his brothers, for he sought the welfare of his people and spoke peace to all his people. ESV
Mordecai, the faithful Jew who withstood Haman the Agagite, whom he recognized as the enemy of God and His covenant people, became their benefactor when advanced to the position where he administered the affairs of the kingdom at the king’s command. In this he reminds us that God is now “speaking peace by Jesus Christ,” who has overcome our great enemy. He has annulled him that had the power of death, even the devil, and delivered those who once trembled beneath the sentence of death, and given them that cloudless peace which can never again be disturbed.
A mind at perfect peace with God!
Oh, what a word is this!
A sinner reconciled by blood,
This, this, indeed is peace.
By nature and by practice far,
How very far from God,
But now by grace brought nigh to Him,
Through faith in Jesus’ blood.
--- C. Paget
By James Orr 1907
I. THEORY OF THE POST-EXILIAN ORIGIN OF THE PSALTER
It has now become almost a dogma in the Wellhausen school that the Psalter is wholly, or with minute and doubtful exception, post-exilian in origin. Wellhausen lays it down that, “as the Psalter belongs to the Hagiographa, and is the hymn-book of the Church of the second temple … the question is not whether it contains any post-exilian Psalms, but whether it contains any that are pre-exilian.” This question he answers for himself in the negative. The Psalms, he says, are “altogether the fruit” of the post-exilian period. Reuss had preceded him in this judgment; and Stade, Duhm, Cheyne, and the greater number of this school, echo the opinion. A more moderate position is taken by Dr. Driver, who allows that several of the Psalms — especially those which allude to the king — may be presumed to be pre-exilian; but thinks that “very few of the Psalms are earlier than the eighth century B.C.” Wellhausen’s opinion of the Psalms, it may be observed, is not a high one. In one of his latest works he says: “There is nothing analogous to the Psalms in pre-exilian times. They are prayers of quite another kind from those known to antiquity: they rest on the despair of Jeremiah and the confidence of the Great Anonymous” ( Isa. 40 ff.). And in a note: “They certainly are only to the smallest extent original; are for the most part imitations, which illustrate the saying about much writing: often they are not real prayers at all, but sermons, and even narratives in the form of prayers. One sees how prayer becomes an art and species of literature.”
On this theory we remark:
1. This dictum, that the Psalms are all, or mostly, of post-exilian date, neither is, nor can be, proved. There are, no one doubts, post-exilian Psalms; it is an open question whether there are not a few Maccabæan Psalms. Calvin admitted the possibility of such, and, till recently, opinion was divided on the subject — to some extent is so still — generally, however, with a leaning to denial. But only an anti-traditional bias, combined with assumptions as to the line of development of Israel’s religion, can claim to regard it as established that all, or even the bulk of, the Psalms are post-exilian compositions. Grant all that is said of the untrustworthiness of the titles, and of the difficulty of proving that a single Psalm is from the pen of David — a point to which we shall return later, — the assumption of Davidic Psalms has at least behind it a firmly-fixed Jewish tradition, dating from times when the Canon was still in process of formation: the assertion that none — or hardly any — of the Psalms are pre-exilian has neither documentary nor traditional support, and is not borne out by considerations of internal probability. As a question of evidence, everything that is urged as to the impossibility of proving that David wrote any of the Psalms can be retorted with equal force against the unsupported assertion that the Psalms in question are post-exilian.
2. In judging of the assertions frequently made as to the marvellous literary productivity of the post-exilian age, it is important to bear in mind that the greater part of that period is an absolute blank to our knowledge. This is hardly always realised as it should be. We speak of the “connection” of the Old and New Testaments, but it is really not in our power, up to the time of the Maccabees, to write a history of the period after the return at all. There is “a great gap” from Nehemiah to Antiochus Epiphanes, i.e., from 400 B.C. to 175 B.C., which even Josephus can fill up with only a few legendary notices. Of the century between Artaxerxes Longimanus (465–325 B.C.), Josephus chronicles nothing, and his history is in great confusion otherwise. What we do know is that, from the time of Ezra, the nation set before itself as its religious ideal the strict and conscientious observance of the law of Moses. Hence the development of the order of the scribes, and the legalistic stamp on the piety of later Judaism. When the curtain lifts again in the time of Antiochus Epiphanes, we find ourselves in a new atmosphere of Hellenism, and the three parties of historical note — the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the Essenes — are, in germ at least, already in existence. This age of stiffening legalism, of priestly ascendency, of scribism, of cessation of the prophetic spirit, is not that to which we should naturally look for the creation of such a book as our present Psalter. Our very ignorance about it, no doubt, makes the period a convenient receptacle for all sorts of critical hypotheses; but it cannot be too strongly borne in remembrance that these hypotheses rest, for the most part, on unverifiable conjecture. When, e.g., Professor Bennett says: “The exilic, Persian, and Greek periods were specially rich in Psalms, ” he makes a statement which he no doubt believes to be true, but for which there is no historical evidence. When, again, Professor Cheyne writes of “the time when the temple with its music was reorganised and the Psalter re-edited by Simon,” he must be aware, indeed elsewhere admits, that history knows nothing of such transactions. They are simply imaginations of his own, transformed into facts.
3. It must appear strange, surely, that an age assumed to be one of such extraordinary literary activity should have left, among its numerous products, no record of itself. Ezra and Nehemiah wrote of their own times; the Chronicler recalled and glorified the past; but not a pen, apparently, was found, after Nehemiah, to record contemporary events. Does this look like a golden age of Psalmody? That the return from captivity should give rise to a group of Psalms, celebrating that great event, is only what might be expected. But the post-exilian Psalms, for the most part, are easily recognised, and they constitute a relatively small portion of the Psalter. The great majority of the Psalms — especially those in the earlier books — have nothing peculiarly post-exilian about them. They are written in pure and vigorous Hebrew. They are personal and spiritual in tone, touching the deepest and most universal chords in religious experience. They show no traces of post-exilian legalism, or of the ideas of the Priestly Code. On the other hand, many of the Psalms suit admirably the conditions of an earlier time, where they do not contain features which necessitate, or at least are most naturally explained by, a pre-exilian date. Such, especially, is the not inconsiderable series of Psalms that make mention of the “king,” which cannot be brought down to a post-exilian time without extreme forcing. Such, to our mind, are those that contain allusions to the “tabernacle” (tent), to the ark and cherubim, to the temple as a centre of national worship, to conquests of surrounding peoples, and the like. In a few of the later Psalms we find such expressions used of Jehovah as “among the gods,” “above the gods,” “God of gods,” “before the gods,” which is not what, on the newer theory, we naturally look for from the strict monotheism of post-exilian times. Alternatively, will the critics grant us that the use of such expressions does not imply, as is sometimes argued for pre-exilian times, that monotheism is not yet reached?
4. This raises the larger question of the general history of psalmody and of the connection of psalmody with David. We touch briefly on Psalm - collection after, and meanwhile look only at the indications of pre-exilian Psalmody, and at the Davidic tradition. Lyric poetry, as Delitzsch reminds us, is of very early date in Israel. When, in addition, one remembers the deep religious foundations on which the life of Israel as a nation rested, the signal manifestations of God’s presence and power in its history, and the powerful workings of His Spirit in individuals and in the community in other directions, it is a priori to be expected that sacred hymnody would not be lacking in the public and private worship of pre-exilian times. That religious song and music did exist under the old temple seems abundantly attested by the place given to “singers” in the narratives of the return, and by what is said of their functions, and is further directly evidenced by the taunt addressed to the exiles at Babylon by their captors to sing to them “the songs of Zion” — “Jehovah’s songs.” Express reference is made to the praises of the first temple in Isa. 64:11 : “Our holy and beautiful house, where our fathers praised Thee” (cf. chap. 30:29 ). In regard to particular Psalms, Professor W. R. Smith allows that Psalm 8 is the foundation of Job’s question in chap. 7:17, 18;5 and there is what seems to be a clear quotation of Psalm 1 — by no means one of the earliest of the Psalms, and apparently the preface to a collection of Davidic Psalms — in Jer. 17:8. It has been seen that many other Psalms — e.g., those relating to the king — can only be put in pre-exilian times: even Prof. W. R. Smith admits this of Pss. 20, 21. Pre-exilian psalmody is thus established; and that a firm and constant tradition traced back the beginnings of this Psalm - composition to David — “the sweet psalmist of Israel” — is not less evident from the ascription of so large a body of Psalms to David by their titles, and from the fact that in Chronicles the whole organisation of the service of song and music in the sanctuary is traced back to him. It is futile, as was formerly seen, to dismiss such statements as mere inventions of the Chronicler. That writer must be presumed to be drawing in good faith from older sources, and to be expressing what, at the time when these sources were composed, was well-established belief. Such consentient tradition ought not to be lightly set aside. Instead of rejecting it on the ground that many of the titles in the Psalms are conjectural and untrustworthy — which admittedly is the case — we shall act more wisely in using it as a clue for our guidance where facts do not show that it is clearly at fault. Before proceeding further, we shall look at what is to be said in favour of, and what in opposition to, this view that David is the author of many of the Psalms.
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
7/2006 A Man in Christ
What does it mean to be a real man? According to the standards of our society, a real man is big and strong, bold and brave, confident and competitive. Through the voices of the moguls of media and the movies, young men are taught that a real man is a true stoic — someone who doesn’t show his emotions; he is apathetic about the cares of the world, apathetic to the problems of others, and, especially, apathetic to all things religious. Just about every popular television program, commercial, and cartoon portrays men as infantile, aloof, and ignorant, and if our Hollywood-inoculated culture is accurate in its assessment, then it is certainly appropriate to conclude that any man who would read an article such as this, or for that matter any man who would write an article such as this, is not a real man. Furthermore, if a man is a “man’s man,” he certainly isn’t the type of person who concerns himself with sappy, spiritual things, such as servant-hood, humility, prayer, faith, and love.
The apostle Paul was indeed a man of strength, bravery, boldness, and confidence, and he was a man who cared deeply about the world, about others, and about all things religious. He was a man who very much concerned himself with servant-hood, humility, prayer, faith, and love. He was a man of such spiritual fortitude that he understood that he was strongest in Christ when he was weakest in himself (2 Cor. 12:10). He was a man who knew that his only confidence was in Christ, not in his own natural abilities (Phil. 3:3). He was a man who cared so much for the people of God that he was willing to suffer the persecutions of men rather than be at home with Christ (Phil. 1:21). He was a man who didn’t feel the need to pound his chest and defend himself as the great apostle Paul; rather, he buffeted his body to gain an invisible crown so that he could present it to the Lord (1 Cor. 9:26). He was a man willing to be considered a fool for Christ (1 Cor. 1:27), and he was a man who wanted to be identified, first and foremost, as one graciously called to be an apostle who was a bondservant of Christ. Just as he boldly proclaimed the doctrine of justification by faith alone because of the imputed righteousness of Christ alone, so he lived and breathed the simple phrase that he wrote on nearly every page of every epistle: “in Christ.” Paul was a real man, and one of the greatest men of all time, not because he lived for his own greatness and glory but because he lived humbly before the face of God, coram Deo, for the glory of God.
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Dr. Burk Parsons (@BurkParsons) is editor of Tabletalk magazine, senior pastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., a visiting lecturer at Reformed Theological Seminary, and a Ligonier Ministries teaching fellow. He is editor of John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, and Doxology.
Ligonier coram Deo (definition)
by Bill Federer
On this date, March 22, 1758, Princeton University President Jonathan Edwards died as a result of a smallpox inoculation. Himself a Yale graduate, being valedictorian of his class, Jonathan Edwards’ preaching began the Great Awakening, a revival of such proportions that history credits it with uniting the colonies prior to the Revolution. Of this awakening, Benjamin Franklin wrote: “It was wonderful to see… From being thoughtless or indifferent… it seemed as if all the world were growing religious, so that one could not walk thro’ the town in an evening without hearing psalms sung in… every street.”
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
Disturbances in society are never more fearful than when those who are stirring up the trouble can use the pretext of religion to mask their true designs.
--- Denis Diderot
Memorable Quotations: Philosophers of Western Civilization
In nothing does Providence shine forth more gloriously in this world than in ordering the occasions, instruments and means of conversion of the people of God. However skillfully its hand had moulded your bodies, however tenderly it had preserved them and however bountifully it had provided for them; if it had not also ordered some means or other for your conversion, all the former favours and benefits it had done for you had meant little. This, O this, is the most excellent benefit you ever received from its hand. You are more indebted to it for this, than for all your other mercies.
--- John Flavel
Keeping the Heart: How to maintain your love for God
A good book is the precious life-blood
of a master spirit, embalmed and treasured
up on purpose to a life beyond life.
--- John Milton
We learn from history that we learn nothing from history.
--- Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel
Redeeming the Time
... from here, there and everywhere
University of Virginia Libray 1994
Twenty-fourth of sixth month. -- This day we passed Fort Allen and lodged near it in the woods. We forded the westerly branch of the Delaware three times, which was a shorter way than going over the top of the Blue Mountains called the Second Ridge. In the second time of fording where the river cuts through the mountain, the waters being rapid and pretty deep, my companion's mare, being a tall, tractable animal, was sundry times driven back through the river, being laden with the burdens of some small horses which were thought unable to come through with their loads. The troubles westward, and the difficulty for Indians to pass through our frontier, was, I apprehend, one reason why so many came, expecting that our being in company would prevent the outside inhabitants being surprised. We reached Bethlehem on the 25th, taking care to keep foremost, and to acquaint people on and near the road who these Indians were. This we found very needful, for the frontier inhabitants were often alarmed at the report of the English being killed by Indians westward. Among our company were some whom I did not remember to have seen at meeting, and some of these at first were very reserved; but we being several days together, and behaving in a friendly manner towards them, and making them suitable return for the services they did us, they became more free and sociable.
Twenty-sixth of sixth month. -- Having carefully endeavored to settle all affairs with the Indians relative to our journey, we took leave of them, and I thought they generally parted from us affectionately. We went forward to Richland and had a very comfortable meeting among our friends, it being the first day of the week. Here I parted with my kind friend and companion Benjamin Parvin, and, accompanied by my friend Samuel Foulk, we rode to John Cadwallader's, from whence I reached home the next day, and found my family tolerably well. They and my friends appeared glad to see me return from a journey which they apprehended would be dangerous; but my mind, while I was out, had been so employed in striving for perfect resignation, and had so often been confirmed in a belief, that, whatever the Lord might be pleased to allot for me, it would work for good, that I was careful lest I should admit any degree of selfishness in being glad overmuch, and labored to improve by those trials in such a manner as my gracious Father and Protector designed. Between the English settlements and Wehaloosing we had only a narrow path, which in many places is much grown up with bushes, and interrupted by abundance of trees lying across it. These, together with the mountain swamps and rough stones, make it a difficult road to travel, and the more so because rattle-snakes abound here, of which we killed four. People who have never been in such places have but an imperfect idea of them; and I was not only taught patience, but also made thankful to God, who thus led about and instructed me, that I might have a quick and lively feeling of the afflictions of my fellow-creatures, whose situation in life is difficult.
John Woolman's Journal
Practical religion. The Christian life
Moment by moment I've life from above.
If God allows the sun to shine upon you moment by moment, without intermission, will not God let His life shine upon you every moment? And why have you not experienced it? Because you have not trusted God for it, and you do not surrender yourself absolutely to God in that trust.
A life of absolute surrender has its difficulties. I do not deny that. Yes, it has something far more than difficulties: it is a life that with men is absolutely impossible. But by the grace of God, by the power of God, by the power of the Holy Spirit dwelling in us, it is a life to which we are destined, and a life that is possible for us, praise God! Let us believe that God will maintain it.
Some of you have read the words of that aged saint who, on his ninetieth birthday, told of all God's goodness to him--I mean George Muller. What did he say he believed to be the secret of his happiness, and of all the blessing which God had given him? He said he believed there were two reasons. The one was that he had been enabled by grace to maintain a good conscience before God day by day; the other was, that he was a lover of God's Word. Ah, yes, a good conscience is complete obedience to God day by day, and fellowship with God every day in His Word, and prayer--that is a life of absolute surrender.
Such a life has two sides--on the one side, absolute surrender to work what God wants you to do; on the other side, to let God work what He wants to do.
First, to do what God wants you to do.
Give up yourselves absolutely to the will of God. You know something of that will; not enough, far from all. But say absolutely to the Lord God: "By Thy grace I desire to do Thy will in everything, every moment of every day." Say: "Lord God, not a word upon my tongue but for Thy glory, not a movement of my temper but for Thy glory, not an affection of love or hate in my heart but for Thy glory, and according to Thy blessed will."
Someone says: "Do you think that possible?"
I ask, What has God promised you, and what can God do to fill a vessel absolutely surrendered to Him? Oh, God wants to bless you in a way beyond what you expect. From the beginning, ear hath not heard, neither hath the eye seen, what God hath prepared for them that wait for Him (1 Cor. 2:9). God has prepared unheard-of things, blessings much more wonderful than you can imagine, more mighty than you can conceive. They are divine blessings. Oh, say now:
"I give myself absolutely to God, to His will, to do only what God wants."
I am using the 1895 Public Domain version. Below is an Amazon link for a modern copy.
Absolute Surrender (The Colportage Library)
by D.H. Stern
but the wicked is vile and disgraceful.
6 Righteousness protects him whose way is honest,
but wickedness brings down the sinner.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
Here it was checked. Round the Tree grew a belt of lilies: to the Ghost an insuperable obstacle. It might as well have tried to tread down an anti-tank trap as to walk on them. It lay down and tried to crawl between them but they grew too close and they would not bend. And all the time it was apparently haunted by the terror of discovery. At every whisper of the wind it stopped and cowered: once, at the cry of a bird, it struggled back to its last place of cover: but then desire hounded it out again and it crawled once more to the Tree. I saw it clasp its hands and writhe in the agony of its frustration.
The wind seemed to be rising. I saw the Ghost wring its hand and put its thumb into its mouth—cruelly pinched, I doubt not, between two stems of the lilies when the breeze swayed them. Then came a real gust. The branches of the Tree began to toss. A moment later and half a dozen apples had fallen round the Ghost and on it. He gave a sharp cry, but suddenly checked it. I thought the weight of the golden fruit where it had fallen on him would have disabled him: and certainly, for a few minutes, he was unable to rise. He lay whimpering, nursing his wounds. But soon he was at work again. I could see him feverishly trying to fill his pockets with the apples. Of course it was useless. One could see how his ambitions were gradually forced down. He gave up the idea of a pocketful: two would have to do. He gave up the idea of two, he would take one, the largest one. He gave up that hope. He was now looking for the smallest one. He was trying to find if there was one small enough to carry.
The amazing thing was that he succeeded. When I remembered what the leaf had felt like when I tried to lift it, I could hardly help admiring this unhappy creature when I saw him rise staggering to his feet actually holding the smallest of the apples in his hands. He was lame from his hurts, and the weight bent him double. Yet even so, inch by inch, still availing himself of every scrap of cover, he set out on his via dolorosa to the bus, carrying his torture.
‘Fool. Put it down,’ said a great voice suddenly. It was quite unlike any other voice I had heard so far. It was a thunderous yet liquid voice. With an appalling certainly I knew that the waterfall itself was speaking: and I saw now (though it did not cease to look like a waterfall) that it was also a bright angel who stood, like one crucified, against the rocks and poured himself perpetually down towards the forest with loud joy.
‘Fool’, he said, ‘put it down. You cannot take it back. There is not room for it in Hell. Stay here and learn to eat such apples. The very leaves and the blades of grass in the wood will delight to teach you.’
Whether the Ghost heard or not, I don’t know. At any rate, after pausing for a few minutes, it braced itself anew for its agonies and continued with even greater caution till I lost sight of it.
The Great Divorce
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
The burning heart
Did not our heart burn within us? --- Luke 24:32.
We need to learn this secret of the burning heart. Suddenly Jesus appears to us, the fires are kindled, we have wonderful visions; then we have to learn to keep the secret of the burning heart that will go through anything. It is the dull, bald, dreary, commonplace day, with commonplace duties and people, that kills the burning heart unless we have learned the secret of abiding in Jesus.
Much of our distress as Christians comes not because of sin, but because we are ignorant of the laws of our own nature. For instance, the only test as to whether we ought to allow an emotion to have its way is to see what the outcome of the emotion will be. Push it to its logical conclusion, and if the outcome is something God would condemn, allow it no more way. But if it is an emotion kindled by the Spirit of God and you do not let that emotion have its right issue in your life, it will react on a lower level. That is the way sentimentalists are made. The higher the emotion is, the deeper the degradation will be if it is not worked out on its proper level. If the Spirit of God has stirred you, make as many things inevitable as possible, let the consequences be what they will. We cannot stay on the mount of transfiguration, but we must obey the light we received there; we must act it out. When God gives a vision, transact business on that line, no matter what it costs.
‘We cannot kindle when we will
The fire which in the heart resides,
The spirit bloweth and is still,
In mystery our soul abides;
But tasks in hours or insight will’d
Can be through hours of gloom fulfill’d.’
My Utmost for His Highest
the Poetry of R.S. Thomas
Song for Gwydion
When I was a child and the soft flesh was
Quietly as snow on the bare boughs of bone,
My father brought me trout from the green river
From whose chill lips the water song had flown.
Dull grew their eyes, the beautiful,
Of stipples faded, as light shocked the brain;
They were the first sweet sacrifice I tasted,
A young god, ignorant of the blood's stain.
Selected poems, 1946-1968
A World of Misunderstanding: John 7
We can see the distorted perception of the people of Jesus’ day by looking at a series of incidents reported in John 7. Jewish thinking about morality was similar to my own in my early days of faith. Against the background of such attitudes, we will be able to see how Jesus displayed the glory of God, as He revealed a new morality, the morality of grace.
Hatred, uncertainty, and fear (John 7:1–13). Jesus’ teachings and miracles had become widely known. His uncompromising presentation of Himself as God, and His offer of life to those who believed in Him, stirred up a number of reactions. Each reaction tells us something about the moral climate in Israel.
First, there was hatred (John 7:1, 7). The leaders of the people were charged with teaching God’s Word to Israel. But they were so unlike God that they actually hated the Son of God who revealed Him. They in fact responded to Jesus with murderous rage.
Second, there was ridicule (John 7:3–5). Jesus’ own brothers (in jealousy?) rejected the evidence of His works, and taunted Him.
Third, there was conflict. People argued with themselves and with each other. This Jesus. Is He a good Man, or a heretic? (John 7:12–13)
Fourth, there was fear. Even those who were convinced that Jesus was a Prophet and a good Man feared to take a stand. They knew they would be attacked, and probably persecuted by their religious leaders (referred to here and in other Johannine passages as “the Jews”).
Looking at these reactions, we’re forced to ask a question. What kind of results had Israel’s interpretation of the divine Law produced? Had God’s people become a community of love, caring, and closeness? Not at all! The people of God were angry, antagonistic, bitter, and fearful! There must be something wrong with an approach to faith that produces such a lifestyle! There must be a higher and better approach to morality and faith than this!
The Teacher's Commentary
Many of us have had the experience of seeing an incredible newspaper headline: “12 U.S. Senators Are Aliens!” “Woman Murdered by Fur Coat!” or “UFO Lands in Middle of Wedding Ceremony!” Studies have shown that while some people actually believe the headlines or the stories behind them, most know that these tabloids are sources of entertainment, rather than of factual news. Because the origin of such stories is a disreputable newspaper, the veracity of the story is automatically suspect.
The Rabbis are reminding us to be a bit skeptical when reading, to consider not only what is being said but also who is saying it. Ben S’tada was unacceptable on both counts. Not only was he a well-known fool, but he also taught witchcraft. The combination of person (Ben S’tada) and topic (sorcery) dooms the evidence that Rabbi Eliezer attempts to introduce. The Rabbis, thus, approach this topic, as many, with a dose of healthy skepticism.
In recent years, books have been written asserting that the Holocaust never took place or that it was a minor case of prejudice, not the genocide that has been accounted and documented for a generation. Most knowledgeable people approach this “historic revisionism” with similar healthy skepticism. What is the “truth” that is being presented? Haven’t hundreds, if not thousands, of books already been written documenting not only the atrocities of the Holocaust but also its extent? Don’t the “sources” and “documents” the revisionists bring in as proof contradict what is common knowledge? Furthermore, who is writing these materials? Are they world-renowned scholars, historians at prestigious universities? Most of the time, these diatribes are penned by second-class teachers without reputable credentials. Unfortunately, these works are often popular, but they are not credible by either standard.
Similarly, books have appeared “proving” that Jews were central to the American slave trade in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The authors seek to show that Jews continue to enslave blacks through economic means. A similar skepticism towards such books is healthy. Who are these authors? What are their “facts”? Why is it that most respected scholars have disavowed such works as political ax-grinding? What is the political agenda of such authors?
When both the message and the messenger are suspect, we can refer to our Gemara and reject such “proof.” The Rabbis set a precedent centuries ago, one which we would do well to follow today.
Like a groom among mourners … Like a mourner among grooms.
Text / Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish said: “These garments are clothes [olaryin] that come from overseas.” Does this mean to say that they are white? Did not Rabbi Yannai say to his sons: “My sons, do not bury me in white garments, nor in black garments. White—in case I lack merit, and I will be like a groom among mourners. Black—in case I do merit, and I will be like a mourner among grooms. But bury me in clothes [olaryin] that come from overseas.”
Context / Olaryin (read by some as olarin or ulirin) is a word of questionable origin, perhaps from the Greek. It has been described by some as cloaks worn in the bathhouse, by others as royal cloaks or robes, perhaps used at the bathhouse. What is clear is that these clothes would be suitable for shrouds as well.
Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish is often known as Resh Lakish, Resh being an acronym for Rabbi Shimon. Resh Lakish was a third-century Palestinian Amora and was the brother-in-law of Rabbi Yoḥanan, head of the famous study house in Tiberias. While he sometimes disagreed with his brother-in-law and teacher, he was also venerated by him. Tractate Bava Metzia 84a tells the story of how Resh Lakish studied with Rabbi Yoḥanan, only to be insulted by him when he disagreed with his teacher in a matter of law. Rabbi Yoḥanan said of Resh Lakish: “A thief knows his thievery!” Some see this as a reference to Resh Lakish’s life prior to his studying Torah. According to several sources, he had spent his early years outside the sphere of rabbinic Judaism, apparently as a circus entertainer or gladiator in the Roman theater, a common way for poor young men to earn a livelihood. It is not certain, however, if this biographical fact is true. Nonetheless, the Gemara relates that Rabbi Yoḥanan regretted this insult and, in refusing to be comforted over the death of Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish, cried out on his own deathbed: “Where are you, son of Lakisha? Where are you, son of Lakisha?”
The previous Mishnah speaks of folding clothes on Shabbat, teaching that items for use on Shabbat may be folded on Shabbat, but not items for use after Shabbat, in preparation for a weekday. This Mishnah leads the Gemara to a discussion of clothing in general and the rules of dress for scholars in specific. The text next brings in a number of traditions about scholars, who they are and how the community must respect them. Each section is an extension of the previous idea, though farther away from the original question of folding on Shabbat. Thus, the progression of thought is 1) folding clothes on Shabbat, 2) clothing, 3) a scholar’s clothes, 4) definition of a scholar, 5) respect due a scholar.
One of the terms that the Gemara uses for some scholars is banaim, “builders.” These are defined as people who “engage in improving the world all their lives,” that is, builders of a better world. Since the Gemara has defined the people who are banaim and the deference due them, it also attempts to define the clothing of banaim. Thus, Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish (known as Resh Lakish) states that among the clothing of banaim are garments called olaryin. What are olaryin? Based on the story of Rabbi Yannai, it appears that these are garments that are imported and are neither black nor white. Rabbi Yannai asks to be buried in these so that he may feel comfortable and not be out of place.
Rabbi Yannai may be using “sons” less in the sense of biological children and more as those who would bear the responsibility for burial, the sage’s pupils. Rabbi Yannai, though a great scholar and generous teacher, is worried about his own fate after his death. He does not want to be out of place. If he “merits,” that is, is rewarded after death with Heaven, where all are dressed in white, then he would not want to be the only one in black. If, however, he does not merit and is sent to Gehinnom or hell, then Rabbi Yannai would certainly not want to be the only one in white! Note that white is seen as pure and heavenly, black as evil and hellish.
Swimming in the Sea of Talmud: Lessons for Everyday Living
Thomas A Kempis
Book Three - Internal Consolation
The Thirteenth Chapter / The Obedience Of One Humbly Subject To The Example Of Jesus Christ
THE VOICE OF CHRIST
MY CHILD, he who attempts to escape obeying withdraws himself from grace. Likewise he who seeks private benefits for himself loses those which are common to all. He who does not submit himself freely and willingly to his superior, shows that his flesh is not yet perfectly obedient but that it often rebels and murmurs against him.
Learn quickly, then, to submit yourself to your superior if you wish to conquer your own flesh. For the exterior enemy is more quickly overcome if the inner man is not laid waste. There is no more troublesome, no worse enemy of the soul than you yourself, if you are not in harmony with the spirit. It is absolutely necessary that you conceive a true contempt for yourself if you wish to be victorious over flesh and blood.
Because you still love yourself too inordinately, you are afraid to resign yourself wholly to the will of others. Is it such a great matter if you, who are but dust and nothingness, subject yourself to man for the sake of God, when I, the All-Powerful, the Most High, Who created all things out of nothing, humbly subjected Myself to man for your sake? I became the most humble and the lowest of all men that you might overcome your pride with My humility.
Learn to obey, you who are but dust! Learn to humble yourself, you who are but earth and clay, and bow down under the foot of every man! Learn to break your own will, to submit to all subjection! Be zealous against yourself! Allow no pride to dwell in you, but prove yourself so humble and lowly that all may walk over you and trample upon you as dust in the streets!
What have you, vain man, to complain of? What answer can you make, vile sinner, to those who accuse you, you who have so often offended God and so many times deserved hell? But My eye has spared you because your soul was precious in My sight, so that you might know My love and always be thankful for My benefits, so that you might give yourself continually to true subjection and humility, and might patiently endure contempt.
The Imitation Of Christ
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.
Why [did] Christ thus pray and plead with God for them when he was to die? ( The Whole Works of the Reverend Mr. John Flavel ... ) Certainly it was not because the Father was unwilling to grant the mercies he desired. No, the reasons of this great persistence are,
1. He foresaw a great trial then at hand and all the later trials of his people, as well. He knew their faith would be shaken by the approaching difficulties, when they would see their Shepherd struck and themselves scattered, the Son of man delivered into the hands of sinners and the Lord of life hang dead on the tree and sealed up in the grave. He foresaw what distresses his people would fall into between a busy Devil and bad hearts. Therefore he pleads with such persistence and ardency for them, that they might not go wrong.
2. He was now entering on his intercession work in heaven, and he desired in this prayer to give a sample of that part of his work before he left us, that we might understand what he would do for us when he was out of sight. It shows us what affections and dispositions he carried away with him and satisfies us that he who was so earnest with God on our behalf will not forget us or neglect our concerns in the other world. The intercession of Christ in heaven is carried much higher than this. Here he used prostrations of body, cries, and tears in his prayers; there, his intercession is carried in a more majestic way, befitting an exalted Jesus. But in this he left us special assistance to know the working of his heart, now in heaven, toward us.
3. And lastly, he would leave this as a standing monument of his fatherlike care and love to his people to the end of the world. And for this Christ delivered this prayer publicly, not withdrawing from the disciples to be private with God as he did in the garden. But he delivers it in their presence: “I say these things while I am still in the world” (John 17:13). And not only was it publicly delivered, but it was also recorded by John, that it might stand to all generations for a testimony of Christ’s tender care and love to his people.
--- John Flavel
Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
England’s Reformation, inaugurated by Henry VIII, Elizabeth I, and James I, was largely political. The genuine reformers, the Puritans and Separatists, were oppressed. But then, so were the Roman Catholics.
“Good Queen Bess” used fines, gallows, gibbets, racks, and whips against those who said Mass, honored the pope, or harbored a priest. Reputed Catholics had no peace. Often in the middle of the night, thugs would burst in and drag them away to be scourged, fined, or seared with glowing irons.
Nicholas Owen, probably a builder by trade, designed countless hiding places for endangered Catholics. He hid them in secret rooms and between the walls and under the floors. He hid them in stone fences and in underground passages. He designed nooks and crannies that looked like anything but hiding places.
He was a slight man, nicknamed “Little John,” so the royalists long discounted him of hiding so many. He seemed too small to move stones, break walls, and excavate the earth. But he viewed his work as divine. He always began construction of a hideaway by receiving the Eucharist. He prayed continually during the building, and he committed the spot to God.
He also proved a master at devising getaways for helping Catholics escape prison. He was an escapist himself, having several aliases and disguises. Perhaps no one saved the lives of more Catholics in England during those days than Nicholas Owen.
But Nicholas was at last betrayed. Taken to the Tower of London, his arms were fixed to iron rings and he was hung for hours, his body dangling. Weights added to his feet increased the suffering, yet not a word of information passed his lips. The tortures continued till March 2, 1606, when “his bowels broke in a terrible way” and he passed to his reward. He was canonized by the church and is honored each year on March 22, in Catholic tradition the feast day of St. Nicholas Owen.
God will bless you, even if others treat you unfairly for being loyal to him. You don’t gain anything by being punished for some wrong you have done. But God will bless you, if you have to suffer for doing something good. After all, God chose you to suffer as you follow in the footsteps of Christ, who set an example by suffering for you.
--- 1 Peter 2:19-21.
On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - March 22
“And he went a little farther, and fell on his face, and prayed.”
--- Matthew 26:39.
There are several instructive features in our Saviour’s prayer in his hour of trial. It was lonely prayer. He withdrew even from his three favoured disciples. Believer, be much in solitary prayer, especially in times of trial. Family prayer, social prayer, prayer in the Church, will not suffice, these are very precious, but the best beaten spice will smoke in your censer in your private devotions, where no ear hears but God’s.
It was humble prayer. Luke says he knelt, but another evangelist says he “fell on his face.” Where, then, must be THY place, thou humble servant of the great Master? What dust and ashes should cover thy head! Humility gives us good foot-hold in prayer. There is no hope of prevalence with God unless we abase ourselves that he may exalt us in due time.
It was filial prayer. “Abba, Father.” You will find it a stronghold in the day of trial to plead your adoption. You have no rights as a subject, you have forfeited them by your treason; but nothing can forfeit a child’s right to a father’s protection. Be not afraid to say, “My Father, hear my cry.”
Observe that it was persevering prayer. He prayed three times. Cease not until you prevail. Be as the importunate widow, whose continual coming earned what her first supplication could not win. Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving.
Lastly, it was the prayer of resignation. “Nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt.” Yield, and God yields. Let it be as God wills, and God will determine for the best. Be thou content to leave thy prayer in his hands, who knows when to give, and how to give, and what to give, and what to withhold. So pleading, earnestly, importunately, yet with humility and resignation, thou shalt surely prevail.
Evening - March 22
"Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am."John 17:24.
O death! why dost thou touch the tree beneath whose spreading branches weariness hath rest? Why dost thou snatch away the excellent of the earth, in whom is all our delight? If thou must use thine axe, use it upon the trees which yield no fruit; thou mightest be thanked then. But why wilt thou fell the goodly cedars of Lebanon? O stay thine axe, and spare the righteous. But no, it must not be; death smites the goodliest of our friends; the most generous, the most prayerful, the most holy, the most devoted must die. And why? It is through Jesus’ prevailing prayer—“Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am.” It is that which bears them on eagle’s wings to heaven. Every time a believer mounts from this earth to paradise, it is an answer to Christ’s prayer. A good old divine remarks, “Many times Jesus and his people pull against one another in prayer. You bend your knee in prayer and say ‘Father, I will that thy saints be with me where I am’; Christ says, ‘Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am.’ ” Thus the disciple is at cross-purposes with his Lord. The soul cannot be in both places: the beloved one cannot be with Christ and with you too. Now, which pleader shall win the day? If you had your choice; if the King should step from his throne, and say, “Here are two supplicants praying in opposition to one another, which shall be answered?” Oh! I am sure, though it were agony, you would start from your feet, and say, “Jesus, not my will, but thine be done.” You would give up your prayer for your loved one’s life, if you could realize the thoughts that Christ is praying in the opposite direction—“Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am.” Lord, thou shalt have them. By faith we let them go.
Morning and Evening
NOTHING BUT THE BLOOD
Words and Music by Robert Lowry, 1826–1899
“… without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.”
The teaching of the Bible, in both the Old and New Testaments, is very clear regarding God’s forgiveness of man’s sin. Only a perfect blood sacrifice would satisfy the Father’s requirement of holiness. Throughout the Old Testament much is told about the blood atonements that the priests had to make on behalf of their people (Exodus 30:10; Leviticus 17:11). But the blood of bulls and goats could never satisfy God’s justice for man’s past, present and future sin. Only the shedding of divine blood would do. The Father’s gift of salvation to man required His Son’s life blood. Now when God looks at us, He sees Christ’s shed blood and declares us righteous for Jesus’ sake. Our acceptance with God the Father rests completely upon the merits of the blood of Jesus Christ.
Not all the blood of beasts on Jewish altars slain
Could give the guilty conscience peace, or wash away the stain.
But Christ, the heav’nly Lamb, takes all our sins away;
A sacrifice of nobler name and richer blood than they.
--- Isaac Watts
Robert Lowry was a popular Baptist pastor in various churches throughout the East. In later life he became interested in writing and publishing gospel songs. Today he is best remembered for his many contributions to our hymnal with songs such as “Nothing But the Blood,” published in 1876. Though simply stated both textually and musically (a five note melodic range and just two chords), this gospel song has had an important place in the church’s ministry in teaching both young and old the absolute necessity of trusting implicitly in the precious blood of Christ for this life and for eternity.
What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus; what can make me whole again? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
For my pardon this I see—nothing but the blood of Jesus; for my cleansing, this my plea—nothing but the blood of Jesus.
Nothing can for sin atone—nothing but the blood of Jesus; naught of good that I have done—nothing but the blood of Jesus.
This is all my hope and peace—nothing but the blood of Jesus; this is all my righteousness—nothing but the blood of Jesus.
Refrain: Oh! precious is the flow that makes me white as snow; no other fount I know, nothing but the blood of Jesus.
For Today: Isaiah 1:18; Zechariah 13:1; Romans 3:24, 25; Revelation 12:11.
Recognize anew your total dependence on Christ’s shed blood. Thank Him with these musical lines ---
Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
A.W. Pink | (1886-1952)
Chapter 02 | Hebrews 13:20, 21
“Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant.” We must now carefully consider the particular act of God toward our Savior that the Apostle Paul here uses as his plea for the petition that follows. In the great mystery of redemption, God the Father sustains the office of supreme Judge (Heb. 12:23). He it was who laid upon their Surety the sins of His people. He it was who called for the sword of vengeance to smite the Shepherd (Zech. 13:7). He it was who richly rewarded and highly honored Him (Phil. 2:9). “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36; cf. 10:36). So it is in the text now before us: the restoring of Christ from the grave is here viewed not as an act of Divine power but of Divine justice. That God is here seen exercising His judicial authority is clear from the term used. We are ever the losers if, in our carelessness, we fail to note and duly weigh every single variation in the language of Holy Writ. Our text does not say that God “raised,” but rather that He “brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus.” This sets before us a strikingly different yet most blessed aspect of truth, namely, the legal discharge of the body of our Surety from the prison of death.
Christ’s Resurrection, Part of a Legal Process
There was a formal legal process against Christ. Jehovah laid on Him all the iniquities of His elect, and thereby He was rendered guilty in the sight of the Divine Law. Thus He was justly condemned by Divine justice. Accordingly, He was cast into prison. God was wroth with Him as the Sinbearer. It pleased the Lord to bruise Him, to exact full satisfaction from Him. But the debt being paid, the penalty of the Law having been inflicted, justice was satisfied and God was pacified. In consequence, God the Father became “the God of peace” both toward Christ and toward those whom He represented (Eph. 2:15-17). God’s anger being assuaged and His Law magnified and made honorable (Isa. 42:21), He then exonerated the Surety, setting Him free and justifying Him (Isa, 50:8; 1 Tim. 3:16). Thus it was foretold, “He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation?” (Isa. 53:8). In his most excellent exposition of Isaiah 53 —virtually unobtainable today —James Durham (1682) showed conclusively that verse 8 described Christ’s exaltation following His humiliation. He demonstrated that the term generation there has reference to His duration or continuance (as it does in Josh. 22:27). “As His humiliation was low, so His exaltation was ineffable: it cannot be declared, nor adequately conceived, the continuance of it being for ever.”
Condensing it into a few words, Durham gave the following as his analysis of Isaiah 53:8.
1. Something is here asserted of Christ: “he was taken (or “lifted up”) from prison and from judgment.” 2. Something is hinted which cannot be expressed: “Who shall declare his generation [continuance]?” 3. A reason is given in reference to both: “for he was cut off out of the land of the living.”
The clause “He was taken from prison and from judgment” does not merely call to mind the fact that Christ was arrested, held in custody, and brought to trial before the Sanhedrin and the civil magistrates. Rather, it primarily reminds us that the straits of humiliation and suffering into which Christ was brought were on account of His arraignment before God’s tribunal as the Husband and legal Surety of His people (His sheep, John 10:14, 15), the penalty of whose sin debts against God He was lawfully bound to pay (since He had voluntarily agreed to become their Husband). “For the transgression of my people was he stricken” (Isa. 53:8). The envious Jewish leaders (and their followers), who with wicked hands crucified and slew the Prince of life (Acts 2:23; 3:15) had not the slightest awareness of the great transactions between the Father and the Son now being legally enforced by their instrumentality. They were merely pursuing their rebellion against the Son of David, the popularly acclaimed King of Israel (John 1:49; 12:13), in a way consistent with the preservation of their own selfish interests as men of power, wealth, and prestige among the Jews. Yet in their high treason against the Lord of glory, whom they knew not (1 Cor. 2:8) they did God’s bidding (Acts 2:23; 4:25-28; cf. Gen. 50:19, 20) in bringing the appointed Substitute to justice as though He were a common criminal.
The word prison may be taken more largely for those straits and pressures of spirit that the Lord Jesus endured while suffering the curse of the Law, and judgment for the awful sentence inflicted upon Him.
It was to His impending judgment that Christ referred when He said, “I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished!” (Luke 12:50). And it is to the pains and confinement of prison that His agony in the Garden and His cry of anguish on the Cross are to be attributed. Ultimately, the grave became His prison.
The Significance of Christ’s Release from Death’s Prison
The Hebrew word laqach rendered taken in the clause “He was taken from prison and from judgment” sometimes signifies to deliver or to free, as a captive is liberated (see Isa. 49:24, 25; cf. Jer. 37:17; 38:14; 39:14). From both prison and judgment the Surety was taken or freed, so that “death hath no more dominion over him” (Rom. 6:9). Christ received the sentence of Divine absolution, just as one who is adjudged as having paid his debt is discharged by the court. Christ not only received absolution but was actually delivered from prison, having paid the utmost farthing demanded of Him. Though He was brought into prison and judgment, when the full demands of justice had been met He could no longer be detained. The Apostle Peter expressed it this way: “Whom God raised up, having loosed the pains [or “cords”] of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it” (Acts 2:24, brackets mine). Matthew Henry declares, “He was by an extraordinary order of Heaven taken out of the prison of the grave; an angel was sent on purpose to roll away the stone and set Him at liberty, by which the judgment against Him was reversed, and taken off.” In this vein Thomas Manton insists that the clause “who shall declare His generation?” (Isa. 53:8) means who shall “declare the glory of His resurrection, as the previous words do His humiliation, suffering, and death”?
Manton rightly states, “While Christ was in the state of death He was in effect a prisoner, under the arrest of Divine vengeance; but when He rose again then was our Surety let out of prison.” In a most helpful way he goes on to show that the peculiar force of the phrase “brought again from the dead” is best explained by the dignified carriage of the apostles when they were unlawfully cast into prison. The next day the magistrates sent sergeants to the prison, bidding their keeper to let them go. But Paul refused to be “thrust…out privily” and remained there until the magistrates themselves formally “brought them out” (Acts 16:35-39). So it was with Christ: He did not break out of prison. As God had “delivered him up” to death (Rom. 8:32), so He “brought [Him] again from the dead.” Says Manton,
“It was as it were an acquittal from those debts of ours which He undertook to pay: as Simeon was dismissed when the conditions were performed, and Joseph was satisfied with a sight of his brother, he ‘brought Simeon out unto them’ (Gen. 43:23).”
It was God, in His official character as the Judge of all, who righteously freed our Substitute. Though Christ, as our Surety, was officially guilty and thus condemned (Isa. 53:4-8), He was personally innocent and was thus acquitted by His resurrection (Isa. 53:9-11; Heb. 4:15; 7:26-28; 9:14; 1 Peter 1:19). By bringing His son forth from the grave God was saying that this Jesus, the true Messiah, did not die for His own sins but for the sins of others.
The God of Peace Brought Christ from the Dead
Let us now briefly observe that it was as the God of peace that the Father acted when He “brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus.” The perfect obedience and atoning oblation of Christ had met every requirement of the Law, had put away the iniquities of those for whom it was offered, and had placated God and reconciled Him to them. While sin remained there could be no peace; but when sin was blotted out by the blood of the Lamb, God was propitiated. Christ had “made peace through the blood of his cross” (Col. 1:20), but so long as He continued in the grave there was no open proclamation thereof. It was by His bringing of Christ forth from the dead that God made it known to the universe that His sacrifice had been accepted. By the resurrection of His Son did God the Father publicly declare that enmity was at an end and peace established. There was the grand evidence and proof that God was pacified toward His people. Christ had made an honorable peace, so that God could be both “just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus” (Rom. 3:26). Take note also of the relation Christ sustained when God delivered Him from the dead: it was not as a private person but as the federal Head of His people that the Father dealt with Him, as “that great shepherd of the sheep,” so that His people were then legally delivered from the prison of death with Him (Eph. 2:5, 6).
Christ’s Petitions for His Own Deliverance
It is very blessed to learn from the Psalms—where much light, not given in the New Testament, is cast upon the heart exercises of the Mediator—that Christ supplicated God for deliverance from the tomb. In Psalm 88 (the prophetic subject matter of which is the passion of the Lord Jesus) we find Him saying, “Let my prayer come before thee: incline thine ear unto my cry; For my soul is full of troubles: and my life draweth nigh unto the grave:” (vv. Psalm 88:2, 3). Since the transgressions of His people had been imputed to Him, those “troubles” were the sorrows and anguish that He experienced when the wages that were due to the sins of His people were inflicted and executed upon Him. He went on to exclaim to God, “Thou hast laid me in the lowest pit, in darkness, in the deeps. Thy wrath lieth hard upon me, and thou hast afflicted me with all thy waves” (Psalm 88:6, 7). There we are granted an insight into what the Savior felt in His soul under the stroke of God, as He endured all that was contained in the Father’s just and holy curse upon sin. He could not have been brought into a lower state. He was in total darkness, the sun for a season refusing to shine upon Him, as God hid His face from Him. The sufferings of Christ’s soul were tantamount to “the second death.” He suffered the whole of what was for Him, as the God-man, the equivalent of an eternity in hell.
The smitten Redeemer went on to say, “I am shut up, and I cannot come forth” (Psalm 88:8). None but the Judge could lawfully deliver Him. “Wilt thou shew wonders to the dead? shall the dead arise and praise thee?” (Psalm 88:10). In his remarkable exposition, S. E. Pierce declared:
“Those questions contain the most powerful plea Christ Himself could urge before the Father for His own emerging out of His present state of suffering and for His resurrection from the power of death. ‘Shall the dead arise and praise Thee?’ Yet in Me Thou wilt show wonders in raising My body from the grave, or the salvation of Thine elect cannot be completed, nor Thy glory in the same fully shine forth. Thy wonders cannot be declared; the elect dead cannot rise again and praise Thee, as they must, but on the footing of My being raised up.”
“But unto Thee have I cried, O LORD” (Psalm 88:13). What light this Psalm casts upon these words of the apostle concerning Christ: “Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard. . . “ (Heb. 5:7). In the prophetic language of Psalm 2:8, God the Father says to His Son, “Ask of Me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.” In like manner, our Lord first cried for His deliverance from the prison of the tomb, and then the Father “brought him forth” in answer to His cry. Behold how perfectly the Son of man is conformed to our utter dependence on God. He, too, though the Sinless One, must pray for those blessings that God had already promised Him!
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