1 Samuel 4 - 8
1 Samuel 4
The Philistines Capture the Ark1 Samuel 4:1 And the word of Samuel came to all Israel.
Now Israel went out to battle against the Philistines. They encamped at Ebenezer, and the Philistines encamped at Aphek. 2 The Philistines drew up in line against Israel, and when the battle spread, Israel was defeated before the Philistines, who killed about four thousand men on the field of battle. 3 And when the people came to the camp, the elders of Israel said, “Why has the Lord defeated us today before the Philistines? Let us bring the ark of the covenant of the Lord here from Shiloh, that it may come among us and save us from the power of our enemies.” 4 So the people sent to Shiloh and brought from there the ark of the covenant of the Lord of hosts, who is enthroned on the cherubim. And the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were there with the ark of the covenant of God.
5 As soon as the ark of the covenant of the Lord came into the camp, all Israel gave a mighty shout, so that the earth resounded. 6 And when the Philistines heard the noise of the shouting, they said, “What does this great shouting in the camp of the Hebrews mean?” And when they learned that the ark of the Lord had come to the camp, 7 the Philistines were afraid, for they said, “A god has come into the camp.” And they said, “Woe to us! For nothing like this has happened before. 8 Woe to us! Who can deliver us from the power of these mighty gods? These are the gods who struck the Egyptians with every sort of plague in the wilderness. 9 Take courage, and be men, O Philistines, lest you become slaves to the Hebrews as they have been to you; be men and fight.”
10 So the Philistines fought, and Israel was defeated, and they fled, every man to his home. And there was a very great slaughter, for thirty thousand foot soldiers of Israel fell. 11 And the ark of God was captured, and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, died.
The Death of Eli12 A man of Benjamin ran from the battle line and came to Shiloh the same day, with his clothes torn and with dirt on his head. 13 When he arrived, Eli was sitting on his seat by the road watching, for his heart trembled for the ark of God. And when the man came into the city and told the news, all the city cried out. 14 When Eli heard the sound of the outcry, he said, “What is this uproar?” Then the man hurried and came and told Eli. 15 Now Eli was ninety-eight years old and his eyes were set so that he could not see. 16 And the man said to Eli, “I am he who has come from the battle; I fled from the battle today.” And he said, “How did it go, my son?” 17 He who brought the news answered and said, “Israel has fled before the Philistines, and there has also been a great defeat among the people. Your two sons also, Hophni and Phinehas, are dead, and the ark of God has been captured.” 18 As soon as he mentioned the ark of God, Eli fell over backward from his seat by the side of the gate, and his neck was broken and he died, for the man was old and heavy. He had judged Israel forty years.
19 Now his daughter-in-law, the wife of Phinehas, was pregnant, about to give birth. And when she heard the news that the ark of God was captured, and that her father-in-law and her husband were dead, she bowed and gave birth, for her pains came upon her. 20 And about the time of her death the women attending her said to her, “Do not be afraid, for you have borne a son.” But she did not answer or pay attention. 21 And she named the child Ichabod, saying, “The glory has departed from Israel!” because the ark of God had been captured and because of her father-in-law and her husband. 22 And she said, “The glory has departed from Israel, for the ark of God has been captured.”
1 Samuel 5
The Philistines and the Ark1 Samuel 5:1 When the Philistines captured the ark of God, they brought it from Ebenezer to Ashdod. 2 Then the Philistines took the ark of God and brought it into the house of Dagon and set it up beside Dagon. 3 And when the people of Ashdod rose early the next day, behold, Dagon had fallen face downward on the ground before the ark of the Lord. So they took Dagon and put him back in his place. 4 But when they rose early on the next morning, behold, Dagon had fallen face downward on the ground before the ark of the Lord, and the head of Dagon and both his hands were lying cut off on the threshold. Only the trunk of Dagon was left to him. 5 This is why the priests of Dagon and all who enter the house of Dagon do not tread on the threshold of Dagon in Ashdod to this day.
6 The hand of the Lord was heavy against the people of Ashdod, and he terrified and afflicted them with tumors, both Ashdod and its territory. 7 And when the men of Ashdod saw how things were, they said, “The ark of the God of Israel must not remain with us, for his hand is hard against us and against Dagon our god.” 8 So they sent and gathered together all the lords of the Philistines and said, “What shall we do with the ark of the God of Israel?” They answered, “Let the ark of the God of Israel be brought around to Gath.” So they brought the ark of the God of Israel there. 9 But after they had brought it around, the hand of the Lord was against the city, causing a very great panic, and he afflicted the men of the city, both young and old, so that tumors broke out on them. 10 So they sent the ark of God to Ekron. But as soon as the ark of God came to Ekron, the people of Ekron cried out, “They have brought around to us the ark of the God of Israel to kill us and our people.” 11 They sent therefore and gathered together all the lords of the Philistines and said, “Send away the ark of the God of Israel, and let it return to its own place, that it may not kill us and our people.” For there was a deathly panic throughout the whole city. The hand of God was very heavy there. 12 The men who did not die were struck with tumors, and the cry of the city went up to heaven.
1 Samuel 6
The Ark Returned to Israel1 Samuel 6:1 The ark of the Lord was in the country of the Philistines seven months. 2 And the Philistines called for the priests and the diviners and said, “What shall we do with the ark of the Lord? Tell us with what we shall send it to its place.” 3 They said, “If you send away the ark of the God of Israel, do not send it empty, but by all means return him a guilt offering. Then you will be healed, and it will be known to you why his hand does not turn away from you.” 4 And they said, “What is the guilt offering that we shall return to him?” They answered, “Five golden tumors and five golden mice, according to the number of the lords of the Philistines, for the same plague was on all of you and on your lords. 5 So you must make images of your tumors and images of your mice that ravage the land, and give glory to the God of Israel. Perhaps he will lighten his hand from off you and your gods and your land. 6 Why should you harden your hearts as the Egyptians and Pharaoh hardened their hearts? After he had dealt severely with them, did they not send the people away, and they departed? 7 Now then, take and prepare a new cart and two milk cows on which there has never come a yoke, and yoke the cows to the cart, but take their calves home, away from them. 8 And take the ark of the Lord and place it on the cart and put in a box at its side the figures of gold, which you are returning to him as a guilt offering. Then send it off and let it go its way 9 and watch. If it goes up on the way to its own land, to Beth-shemesh, then it is he who has done us this great harm, but if not, then we shall know that it is not his hand that struck us; it happened to us by coincidence.”
10 The men did so, and took two milk cows and yoked them to the cart and shut up their calves at home. 11 And they put the ark of the Lord on the cart and the box with the golden mice and the images of their tumors. 12 And the cows went straight in the direction of Beth-shemesh along one highway, lowing as they went. They turned neither to the right nor to the left, and the lords of the Philistines went after them as far as the border of Beth-shemesh. 13 Now the people of Beth-shemesh were reaping their wheat harvest in the valley. And when they lifted up their eyes and saw the ark, they rejoiced to see it. 14 The cart came into the field of Joshua of Beth-shemesh and stopped there. A great stone was there. And they split up the wood of the cart and offered the cows as a burnt offering to the Lord. 15 And the Levites took down the ark of the Lord and the box that was beside it, in which were the golden figures, and set them upon the great stone. And the men of Beth-shemesh offered burnt offerings and sacrificed sacrifices on that day to the Lord. 16 And when the five lords of the Philistines saw it, they returned that day to Ekron.
17 These are the golden tumors that the Philistines returned as a guilt offering to the Lord: one for Ashdod, one for Gaza, one for Ashkelon, one for Gath, one for Ekron, 18 and the golden mice, according to the number of all the cities of the Philistines belonging to the five lords, both fortified cities and unwalled villages. The great stone beside which they set down the ark of the Lord is a witness to this day in the field of Joshua of Beth-shemesh.
19 And he struck some of the men of Beth-shemesh, because they looked upon the ark of the Lord. He struck seventy men of them, and the people mourned because the Lord had struck the people with a great blow. 1 Samuel 6:19 And he smote the men of Beth-shemesh, because they had looked into the ark of the LORD, even he smote of the people fifty thousand and threescore and ten men: and the people lamented, because the LORD had smitten many of the people with a great slaughter. KJV 1900 In dealing with this matter of numerical discrepancy, we must take account of the type of notation used in ancient times. Keil points out that practically all the suspiciously high numbers are expressed in thousands as if they were round numbers based upon the approximate estimate of contemporaries. He suggests that the numbers themselves were undoubtedly expressed by alphabetic letters and in that form were most liable to corruption by later copyists, especially where they had to deal with a manuscript that was worn and smudged. (It is interesting to note that the earliest Jewish currency, certainly from the time of the First Revolt in A.D. 67, if not from the Hasmonean period in the second century B.C., employed alphabetic letters for numbers, especially in the recording of dates.) Thus exaggerated figures like 50,070 recorded by 1 Samuel 6:19 as the number slain by the Lord at Beth-shemesh are to be explained by a garbling of the digits. Note that the alphabetic system of numerical notation needed only a few dots above or below to multiply by one thousand; thus the letter nun with two dots above it would signify 50,000 (cf. Gesenius-Kautzsch, Hebrew Grammar, 5:1)..
20 Then the men of Beth-shemesh said, “Who is able to stand before the Lord, this holy God? And to whom shall he go up away from us?” 21 So they sent messengers to the inhabitants of Kiriath-jearim, saying, “The Philistines have returned the ark of the Lord. Come down and take it up to you.”
1 Samuel 71 Samuel 7:1 And the men of Kiriath-jearim came and took up the ark of the Lord and brought it to the house of Abinadab on the hill. And they consecrated his son Eleazar to have charge of the ark of the Lord. 2 From the day that the ark was lodged at Kiriath-jearim, a long time passed, some twenty years, and all the house of Israel lamented after the Lord.
Samuel Judges Israel3 And Samuel said to all the house of Israel, “If you are returning to the Lord with all your heart, then put away the foreign gods and the Ashtaroth from among you and direct your heart to the Lord and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.” 4 So the people of Israel put away the Baals and the Ashtaroth, and they served the Lord only.
What Paul was doing by this response was to show that justification is not the only image of salvation. It would be entirely mistaken to make the equation ‘salvation equals justification’. ‘Salvation’ is the comprehensive word, but it has many facets which are illustrated by different pictures, of which justification is only one. Redemption, as we have seen, is another, and bears witness to our radical deliverance from sin as well as guilt. Another is re-creation, so that ‘if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation’ (2 Cor. 5:17). Yet another is regeneration or new birth, which is the inward work of the Holy Spirit, who then remains as a gracious indwelling presence, transforming the believer into the image of Christ, which is the process of sanctification. All these belong together. Regeneration is not an aspect of justification, but both are aspects of salvation, and neither can take place without the other. Indeed, the great affirmation ‘he saved us’ is broken down into its component parts, which are ‘the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit’ on the one hand and being ‘justified by his grace’ on the other (Titus 3:5–7). The justifying work of the Son and the regenerating work of the Spirit cannot be separated. It is for this reason that good works of love follow justification and new birth as their necessary evidence. For salvation, which is never ‘by works’, is always ‘unto works’. Luther used to illustrate the correct order of events by reference to the tree and its fruit: ‘The tree must be first, and then the fruit. For the apples make not the tree, but the tree makes the apples. So faith first makes the person, who afterwards brings forth works.’ (Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians)5 Then Samuel said, “Gather all Israel at Mizpah, and I will pray to the Lord for you.” 6 So they gathered at Mizpah and drew water and poured it out before the Lord and fasted on that day and said there, “We have sinned against the Lord.” And Samuel judged the people of Israel at Mizpah. 7 Now when the Philistines heard that the people of Israel had gathered at Mizpah, the lords of the Philistines went up against Israel. And when the people of Israel heard of it, they were afraid of the Philistines. 8 And the people of Israel said to Samuel, “Do not cease to cry out to the Lord our God for us, that he may save us from the hand of the Philistines.” 9 So Samuel took a nursing lamb and offered it as a whole burnt offering to the Lord. And Samuel cried out to the Lord for Israel, and the Lord answered him. 10 As Samuel was offering up the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to attack Israel. But the Lord thundered with a mighty sound that day against the Philistines and threw them into confusion, and they were defeated before Israel. 11 And the men of Israel went out from Mizpah and pursued the Philistines and struck them, as far as below Beth-car.
Once we hold fast that the work of the Son for us and the work of the Spirit in us, that is to say, justification and regeneration, are inseparable twins, it is quite safe to go on insisting that justification is an external, legal declaration that the sinner has been put right with God, forgiven and reinstated. This is plain from the popular use of the word. As Leon Morris has pointed out, ‘when we speak of justifying an opinion or an action, we do not mean that we change or improve it. Rather we mean that we secure a verdict for it, we vindicate it’. (The Cross in The New Testament) Similarly, when Luke says that everybody, on hearing Jesus’ teaching, ‘justified God’, what he means is that they ‘acknowledged that God’s way was right’ (Luke 7:29). The Cross of Christ
12 Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen and called its name Ebenezer; for he said, “Till now the Lord has helped us.” 13 So the Philistines were subdued and did not again enter the territory of Israel. And the hand of the Lord was against the Philistines all the days of Samuel. 14 The cities that the Philistines had taken from Israel were restored to Israel, from Ekron to Gath, and Israel delivered their territory from the hand of the Philistines. There was peace also between Israel and the Amorites.
15 Samuel judged Israel all the days of his life. 16 And he went on a circuit year by year to Bethel, Gilgal, and Mizpah. And he judged Israel in all these places. 17 Then he would return to Ramah, for his home was there, and there also he judged Israel. And he built there an altar to the Lord.
1 Samuel 8
Israel Demands a King1 Samuel 8:1 When Samuel became old, he made his sons judges over Israel. 2 The name of his firstborn son was Joel, and the name of his second, Abijah; they were judges in Beersheba. 3 Yet his sons did not walk in his ways but turned aside after gain. They took bribes and perverted justice.
4 Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah 5 and said to him, “Behold, you are old and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations.” 6 But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.” And Samuel prayed to the Lord. 7 And the Lord said to Samuel, “Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. 8 According to all the deeds that they have done, from the day I brought them up out of Egypt even to this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are also doing to you. 9 Now then, obey their voice; only you shall solemnly warn them and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them.”
Samuel's Warning Against Kings10 So Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking for a king from him. 11 He said, “These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen and to run before his chariots. 12 And he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. 13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. 14 He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his servants. 15 He will take the tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and to his servants. 16 He will take your male servants and female servants and the best of your young men and your donkeys, and put them to his work. 17 He will take the tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves. 18 And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.”
The Lord Grants Israel's Request19 But the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel. And they said, “No! But there shall be a king over us, 20 that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.” 21 And when Samuel had heard all the words of the people, he repeated them in the ears of the Lord. 22 And the Lord said to Samuel, “Obey their voice and make them a king.” Samuel then said to the men of Israel, “Go every man to his city.”
ESV Study Bible
What I'm Reading
By John de Witt 2/1/1992
What does a pastor think about assurance? By assurance here I mean the certainty that through Jesus Christ one is a child of God: forgiven, renewed, having eternal life. I cannot speak for others, but I can give my thoughts on the subject based on more than thirty years of ministry.
As a pastor I am committed to the welfare of the congregation I serve and want the people to whom I minister to be in good spiritual health. This means, of course, that the whole matter of assurance is very important to me. If people lack assurance they will not be whole and they are bound to lack the joy and peace which are so essential to a mature Christian experience.
I have to say at the same time, however, that I am far more concerned about some other matters than I am about assurance, or an absence of it. There have been times in the past when a want of assurance among serious, spiritually-minded men and women was pervasive and widespread. Generally speaking, that is not the case now. The truth is that if I were to begin to encounter people genuinely troubled by doubts about their salvation, I should regard it as a healthy sign.
Problems with respect to assurance may arise for any number of reasons.
It should be said at once that personality differences play a considerable part here. Optimistic, positive, confident people are far less prone to introspection and doubt about themselves than are those whose inclination it is to look on the dark side of things and who are by nature introspective. It is essential that we understand this, and that we do not regard everyone in the same light. One who has struggled much and has gone through very deep valleys will be much more liable to questions in this area than another who has known little or nothing of the kind. I do not suggest, of course, that the one type of personality is more spiritual than the other personality; only that people are different.
Further, a very large number of folk within as well as outside the church have no right whatsoever to assurance. The reason for this is that they are not believers, they have not been born again, they have never experienced true conversion. They may suppose that all is well, but it is not, and we do them no favor by allowing them to continue in their delusion. Some in this category may be “awakened,” but not yet “converted.” By that I mean they have perhaps come to grasp something of the seriousness of their position outside of Jesus Christ, but they have not yet come to faith in him. To try to rush them out of conviction and into an easy assurance would be to commit a grievous error.
Then, in my experience, people who have been grievously tempted and have fallen into sin are often troubled by a lack of assurance. They may be led by a sense of defeat and guilt to question their relationship to God; or they may even begin to doubt the very existence of God and the truth of the Gospel. It is, for many, easier to deny that God is than to acknowledge failure and to repent.
Sometimes physical or emotional illness may be the reason for spiritual uncertainty. Again and again I have observed this to be the case. Those who are not well, whose physical or mental constitution is under attack by illness, are prone to depression and often experience uneasiness about their relationship to God. They may lose hope and even begin to believe that God has abandoned them. These folk are frequently helped by being reminded of the connection between illness and feelings. In certain cases a pastor can do great good by referring a troubled person to a skilled physician. People with healthy bodies and healthy minds have far fewer problems about assurance than those who are sick.
In other instances people may be in difficulties with respect to assurance because of bad teaching in the church. The doctrine of predestination is not set forth in the Bible in such a way as to produce spiritual anxiety. On the contrary, it is intended to strengthen, to edify, to encourage. “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31). In the event that this great truth is distorted and people are thereby led to wonder whether they are elect or not, problems will certainly arise about assurance. If one cannot know that one is elect, how can one know that one is a child of God? Clearly the answer here is to gain an understanding of what the Bible actually teaches.
It is also the case, however, that under very different circumstances, with a radically different kind of teaching, people may be led to think that nothing more is involved in becoming a Christian than to “make a decision for Christ.” All across the Christian world the whole matter of spiritual rebirth and conversion has been placed almost on the level of a mathematical formula. “When the invitation is given, go forward. If you go forward and sincerely repeat the words of a prayer of confession and faith, if you sign the commitment card, then — so we are told — you are a Christian. You may not feel like one, or act like one, or have any substantial ground for considering yourself one. Nevertheless, if you have made a decision for Christ, that is all you need do. And beyond that, you have the right to regard yourself as a fully assured child of God.
At the present time I am much more concerned about easy believism (notion that one can be a Christian even though one displays no vital signs of spiritual life) than I am about an absence of assurance. One cannot know Jesus Christ as Savior and not know Him, at least in some emerging way, as Lord and Master of one’s life. Our objective must be to return to the teaching of Scripture, to be faithful to the Word of God in setting forth the plan of salvation without cutting corners and giving people false grounds for assurance.
Pastors, and others who are called upon to give spiritual counsel, must be very wise and faithful, attempting to discern what the situation is in individual cases. There is always the temptation to give the same answer to a diversity of questions. Anything of that sort is quite wrong. We should resist the temptation to resort too quickly to a simple formula which ignores the differences among people and the diverse causes of spiritual anxiety. Pastors must seek to be wise physicians of the soul at all times, never content with mere formulae which treat all cases in the same manner. It is altogether wrong to treat intricate matters of the soul by prescribing easy answers.
Dr. John R. de Witt, after having served various pulpits since 1959, is now retired and living in Columbia, S.C. He also served as associate editor of The Banner of Truth magazine and translated Herman Ridderbos’ Paul: An Outline of His Theology.
The Politization of Truth: The New Sophism
By R.C. Sproul 3/1/1992
In October of 1991, the American people were riveted to the drama of the Supreme Court nomination of Clarence Thomas. Then, a twist of biting irony took place when Anita Hill emerged with allegations of sexual harassment. After Professor Hill testified before a watching world, Clarence Thomas reappeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
But something had changed. A marked contrast appeared in the demeanor of Judge Thomas from what he described as his “real” confirmation hearing. Thomas was angry. Sensing that his appointment to the Court was lost and that he had nothing else of a political nature to lose, he waded into the fray with fists flying. Gone was the elusive, evasive, “politically correct” respondent. Now Thomas spoke with the candor of fury, accusing those who sat in judgment on him of a “high-tech lynching.” Thomas was obviously unconcerned about further alienating his antagonists.
I don’t know if Thomas spoke the truth. I know, however, that he spoke differently, and the nation responded positively to his less—than—cautious replies. He broke all the rules of political sensitivity and got away with it. That part, at least, was a breath of fresh air, a political aggiornamento (a Latin term used by Pope John XXIII meaning “to open the windows”) in an atmosphere of choking blue smoke.
Politics in America has degenerated to the nadir of the rhetoric of sophistry. It was not truth that kindled the spark that brought Socrates to the fore in Athens. It was the sophists of antiquity with their multitude of empty phrases and vacant words designed for persuasion. The “gadfly of Greece” was convinced that sophism was a clear and present danger to the very survival of civilization, and that made him willing to drink the bitter dregs of hemlock to sound his protest.
Socrates, with his protegé Plato, and in turn, Plato’s most gifted student, Aristotle, restored truth over perception and science over political opinion, and delayed the disintegration of Western civilization.
With the advent of Christianity, the quest for ultimate truth and the priority of ethics over vested interests conquered the new pragmatism of Roman morals.
Now, however, it seems that once again civilization is threatened by neo-sophism. To understand this, we need a brief recapitulation of ancient sophism. Sophism emerged in ancient Greece after science and philosophy reached an impasse in the metaphysical tension between Parmenides and Heraclitus.
Parmenides postulated a land of metaphysical monism by declaring the ultimacy of being with his famous maxim, “Whatever is, is.” He rejected the physical world of changing entities as being ephemeral and illusory.
Heraclitus responded by asserting the ultimacy of change, arguing that whatever is, is changing. The only thing permanent is change itself. Everything is always and everywhere in a state of flux.
This metaphysical debate left the public with a collective Excedrin headache. The man in the street reasoned, “If these two titans of theoretical thought cannot agree, how can we ever resolve such ultimate issues?” Ultimate truth was then deemed unknowable and equally unnecessary. What was left was the pragmatic concerns of daily living.
The cry of the sophist was, “Give us some news we can use.” Ultimate truth is not possible; what matters is the here and now in my political situation. Sophism gave rise to “how to” schools that majored in the art of political expediency. The new science of rhetoric became popular. This “science” was not concerned about discerning truth through argument and debate. Rather, rhetoric stressed the importance of political persuasion. Whatever is persuasive is true. Science was reduced to popularity opinion polls. Does this sound familiar? Sophism became equated with superficiality where truth and ethics were relativized and politicized.
Western civilization experienced a renaissance of culture with the emergence of modern forms of democracy. The supreme model for the new experiment was the republic of the United States. It was formed not as a pure democracy but as a republic. The difference between a pure democracy and a republic is crucial, though this difference is being more and more obscured with each passing day. The republic is defined as “rule by law,” whereas a pure democracy is defined in terms of majority rule. The chief safeguard of a republic is embodied in a constitution that guarantees certain rights to every person in the society, individual rights that may not be usurped via a tyranny of the majority.
When the American experiment began the Frenchman Alexis de Tocqueville warned of two eventualities that could destroy the plan. Both involved the threat of the politicization of economics. He said that when people discover that the vote is worth money, the republic is in trouble (bribes and financial support can corrupt statesmen and turn them into prostituted politicians); and when people discover that they can vote for themselves largess from the government, it’s over.
What de Tocqueville apparently did not anticipate was the politicization of education. Once economics is politicized, the public education system follows. We are accustomed to distinguishing in our culture between public schools and private schools. Perhaps a more accurate designation for “public schools” is “government schools,” or more precisely, “politicized schools.”
The relativization of higher education philosophy was documented by Allen Bloom’s book The Closing of the American Mind. Now, the politization of American higher education is documented in the recent work of Dinesh D’Souza entitled Illiberal Education: The Politics of Race and Sex on Campus. D’Souza traces the pattern of the new sophism as it has moved through institutions such as Stanford, Harvard, Duke, and other universities that had achieved the highest level of credibility in education. Now, hiring policies, entrance policies, and curricula are being reshaped by a left-wing activistic political agenda.
The book jacket asserts: “Student activists march under the banners of pluralism and diversity. They have demanded an admissions policy based not on academic merit but on ethnic representation; a curriculum and faculty assembled not by intellectual standards but by race and gender categories; and sensitivity training which borders on the totalitarian in its invasive insistence on a new social and political orthodoxy.”
The structural innovations D’Souza documents are as scary as they are silly. The politics of intimidation are used to enforce a radically leftist political agenda on liberal arts education. D’Souza did well on exposing the illiberal character of this movement. We need a new Socrates who would prefer hemlock to such a distortion of the academic enterprise.
Robert Charles Sproul, 2/13/1939 – 12/14/2017 was an American theologian, author, and ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America. Dr. R.C. Sproul was founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries, an international Christian education and discipleship organization located near Orlando, Fla. He was also copastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., chancellor of Reformation Bible College, and executive editor of Tabletalk magazine. Dr. Sproul has contributed dozens of articles to national evangelical publications, has spoken at conferences, churches, and schools around the world, and has written more than one hundred books. He also served as general editor of the Reformation Study Bible.R.C. Sproul Books | Go to Books Page
The Institutes of the Christian Religion
Translated by Henry Beveridge
11. But more poison lurks in the second branch, when he says that we
are righteous together with God. I think I have already sufficiently
proved, that although the dogma were not so pestiferous, yet because it
is frigid and jejune, and falls by its own vanity, it must justly be
disrelished by all sound and pious readers. But it is impossible to
tolerate the impiety which, under the pretence of a twofold
righteousness, undermines our assurance of salvation, and hurrying us
into the clouds, tries to prevent us from embracing the gift of
expiation in faith, and invoking God with quiet minds. Osiander derides
us for teaching, that to be justified is a forensic term, because it
behaves us to be in reality just: there is nothing also to which he is
more opposed than the idea of our being justified by a free imputation.
Say, then, if God does not justify us by acquitting and pardoning, what
does Paul mean when he says "God was in Christ reconciling the world
unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them"? "He made him to
be sin for us who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness
of God in him," (2 Cor. 5:19, 21). Here I learn, first, that those who
are reconciled to God are regarded as righteous: then the method is
stated, God justifies by pardoning; and hence, in another place,
justification is opposed to accusation (Rom. 8:33); this antithesis
clearly demonstrating that the mode of expression is derived from
forensic use. And, indeed, no man, moderately verdant in the Hebrew
tongue (provided he is also of sedate brain), is ignorant that this
phrase thus took its rise, and thereafter derived its tendency and
force. Now, then, when Paul says that David "describeth the blessedness
of the man unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, saying,
Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven," (Rom. 4:6, 7; Ps.
32:1), let Osiander say whether this is a complete or only a partial
definition. He certainly does not adduce the Psalmist as a witness that
pardon of sins is a part of righteousness, or concurs with something
else in justifying, but he includes the whole of righteousness in
gratuitous forgiveness, declaring those to be blessed "whose iniquities
are forgiven, and whose sins are covered," and "to whom the Lord will
not impute sin." He estimates and judges of his happiness from this
that in this way he is righteous not in reality, but by imputation.
Osiander objects that it would be insulting to God, and contrary to his nature, to justify those who still remain wicked. But it ought to be remembered, as I already observed, that the gift of justification is not separated from regeneration, though the two things are distinct. But as it is too well known by experience, that the remains of sin always exist in the righteous, it is necessary that justification should be something very different from reformation to newness of life. This latter God begins in his elect, and carries on during the whole course of life, gradually and sometimes slowly, so that if placed at his judgment-seat they would always deserve sentence of death. He justifies not partially, but freely, so that they can appear in the heavens as if clothed with the purity of Christ. No portion of righteousness could pacify the conscience. It must be decided that we are pleasing to God, as being without exception righteous in his sight. Hence it follows that the doctrine of justification is perverted and completely overthrown whenever doubt is instilled into the mind, confidence in salvation is shaken, and free and intrepid prayer is retarded; yea, whenever rest and tranquillity with spiritual joy are not established. Hence Paul argues against objectors, that "if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise," (Gal. 3:18). that in this way faith would be made vain; for if respect be had to works it fails, the holiest of men in that case finding nothing in which they can confide. This distinction between justification and regeneration (Osiander confounding the two, calls them a twofold righteousness) is admirably expressed by Paul. Speaking of his real righteousness, or the integrity bestowed upon him (which Osiander terms his essential righteousness), he mournfully exclaims, "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" (Rom. 7:24); but retaking himself to the righteousness which is founded solely on the mercy of God, he breaks forth thus magnificently into the language of triumph: "Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth." "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?" (Rom. 8:33, 35). He clearly declares that the only righteousness for him is that which alone suffices for complete salvation in the presence of God, so that that miserable bondage, the consciousness of which made him a little before lament his lot, derogates not from his confidence, and is no obstacle in his way. This diversity is well known, and indeed is familiar to all the saints who groan under the burden of sin, and yet with victorious assurance rise above all fears. Osiander's objection as to its being inconsistent with the nature of God, falls back upon himself; for though he clothes the saints with a twofold righteousness as with a coat of skins, he is, however, forced to admit, that without forgiveness no man is pleasing to God. If this be so, let him at least admit, that with reference to what is called the proportion of imputation, those are regarded as righteous who are not so in reality. But how far shall the sinner extend this gratuitous acceptance, which is substituted in the room of righteousness? Will it amount to the whole pound, or will it be only an ounce? He will remain in doubt, vibrating to this side and to that, because he will be unable to assume to himself as much righteousness as will be necessary to give confidence. It is well that he who would prescribe a law to God is not the judge in this cause. But this saying will ever stand true, "That thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judges," (Ps. 51:4). What arrogance to condemn the Supreme Judge when he acquits freely, and try to prevent the response from taking affect: "I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy." And yet the intercession of Moses, which God calmed by this answer, was not for pardon to some individual, but to all alike, by wiping away the guilt to which all were liable. And we, indeed, say, that the lost are justified before God by the burial of their sins; for (as he hates sin) he can only love those whom he justifies. But herein is the wondrous method of justification, that, clothed with the righteousness of Christ, they dread not the judgment of which they are worthy, and while they justly condemn themselves, are yet deemed righteous out of themselves.
12. I must admonish the reader carefully to attend to the mystery which he boasts he is unwilling to conceal from them. For after contending with great prolixity that we do not obtain favor with God through the mere imputation of the righteousness of Christ, because (to use his own words) it were impossible for God to hold those as righteous who are not so, he at length concludes that Christ was given to us for righteousness, in respect not of his human, but of his divine nature; and though this can only be found in the person of the Mediator, it is, however, the righteousness not of man, but of God. He does not now twist his rope of two righteousnesses, but plainly deprives the human nature of Christ of the office of justifying. It is worth while to understand what the nature of his argument is. It is said in the same passage that Christ is made unto us wisdom (1 Cor. 1:30); but this is true only of the eternal Word, and, therefore, it is not the man Christ that is made righteousness. I answer, that the only begotten Son of God was indeed his eternal wisdom, but that this title is applied to him by Paul in a different way--viz. because "in him are hid all the treasures of wisdom and righteousness," (Col. 2:3). That, therefore, which he had with the Father he manifested to us; and thus Paul's expression refers not to the essence of the Son of God, but to our use, and is fitly applied to the human nature of Christ; for although the light shone in darkness before he was clothed with flesh, yet he was a hidden light until he appeared in human nature as the Sun of Righteousness, and hence he calls himself the light of the world. It is also foolishly objected by Osiander, that justifying far transcends the power both of men and angels, since it depends not on the dignity of any creature, but on the ordination of God. Were angels to attempt to give satisfaction to God, they could have no success, because they are not appointed for this purpose, it being the peculiar office of Christ, who "has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us," (Gal. 3:13). Those who deny that Christ is our righteousness, in respect of his divine nature, are wickedly charged by Osiander with leaving only a part of Christ, and (what is worse) with making two Gods; because, while admitting that God dwells in us, they still insist that we are not justified by the righteousness of God. For though we call Christ the author of life, inasmuch as he endured death that he might destroy him who had the power of death (Heb. 2:14), we do not thereby rob him of this honor, in his whole character as God manifested in the flesh. We only make a distinction as to the manner in which the righteousness of God comes to us, and is enjoyed by us,--a matter as to which Osiander shamefully erred. We deny not that that which was openly exhibited to us in Christ flowed from the secret grace and power of God; nor do we dispute that the righteousness which Christ confers upon us is the righteousness of God, and proceeds from him. What we constantly maintain is, that our righteousness and life are in the death and resurrection of Christ. I say nothing of that absurd accumulation of passages with which without selection or common understanding, he has loaded his readers, in endeavoring to show, that whenever mention is made of righteousness, this essential righteousness of his should be understood; as when David implores help from the righteousness of God. This David does more than a hundred times, and as often Osiander hesitates not to pervert his meaning. Not a whit more solid is his objection, that the name of righteousness is rightly and properly applied to that by which we are moved to act aright, but that it is God only that worketh in us both to will and to do (Phil. 2:13). For we deny not that God by his Spirit forms us anew to holiness and righteousness of life; but we must first see whether he does this of himself, immediately, or by the hand of his Son, with whom he has deposited all the fulness of the Holy Spirit, that out of his own abundance he may supply the wants of his members. When, although righteousness comes to us from the secret fountain of the Godhead, it does not follow that Christ, who sanctified himself in the flesh on our account, is our righteousness in respect of his divine nature (John 17:19). Not less frivolous is his observation, that the righteousness with which Christ himself was righteous was divine; for had not the will of the Father impelled him, he could not have fulfilled the office assigned him. For although it has been elsewhere said that all the merits of Christ flow from the mere good pleasure of God, this gives no countenance to the phantom by which Osiander fascinates both his own eyes and those of the simple. For who will allow him to infer, that because God is the source and commencement of our righteousness, we are essentially righteous, and the essence of the divine righteousness dwells in us? In redeeming us, says Isaiah, "he (God) put on righteousness as a breastplate, and an helmet of salvation upon his head," (Isaiah 59:17), was this to deprive Christ of the armour which he had given him, and prevent him from being a perfect Redeemer? All that the Prophet meant was, that God borrowed nothing from an external quarter, that in redeeming us he received no external aid. The same thing is briefly expressed by Paul in different terms, when he says that God set him forth "to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins." This is not the least repugnant to his doctrine: in another place, that "by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous," (Rom. 5:19). In short, every one who, by the entanglement of a twofold righteousness, prevents miserable souls from resting entirely on the mere mercy of God, mocks Christ by putting on him a crown of plaited thorns.
13. But since a great part of mankind imagine a righteousness compounded of faith and works let us here show that there is so wide a difference between justification by faith and by works, that the establishment of the one necessarily overthrows the other. The Apostle says, "Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith," (Phil. 3:8, 9). You here see a comparison of contraries, and an intimation that every one who would obtain the righteousness of Christ must renounce his own. Hence he elsewhere declares the cause of the rejection of the Jews to have been, that "they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God," (Rom. 10:3). If we destroy the righteousness of God by establishing our own righteousness, then, in order to obtain his righteousness, our own must be entirely abandoned. This also he shows, when he declares that boasting is not excluded by the Law, but by faith (Rom. 3:27). Hence it follows, that so long as the minutes portion of our own righteousness remains, we have still some ground for boasting. Now if faith utterly excludes boasting, the righteousness of works cannot in any way be associated with the righteousness of faith. This meaning is so clearly expressed in the fourth chapter to the Romans as to leave no room for cavil or evasion. "If Abraham were justified by works he has whereof to glory;" and then it is added, "but not before God," (Rom. 4:2). The conclusion, therefore, is, that he was not justified by works. He then employs another argument from contraries--viz. when reward is paid to works, it is done of debt, not of grace; but the righteousness of faith is of grace: therefore it is not of the merit of works. Away, then, with the dream of those who invent a righteousness compounded of faith and works (see Calvin. ad Concilium Tridentinum).
14. The Sophists, who delight in sporting with Scripture and in empty cavils, think they have a subtle evasion when they expound works to mean, such as unregenerated men do literally, and by the effect of free will, without the grace of Christ, and deny that these have any reference to spiritual works.  Thus according to them, man is justified by faith as well as by works, provided these are not his own works, but gifts of Christ and fruits of regeneration; Paul's only object in so expressing himself being to convince the Jews, that in trusting to their own strength they foolishly arrogated righteousness to themselves, whereas it is bestowed upon us by the Spirit of Christ alone, and not by studied efforts of our own nature. But they observe not that in the antithesis between Legal and Gospel righteousness, which Paul elsewhere introduces, all kinds of works, with whatever name adorned, are excluded (Gal. 3:11, 12). For he says that the righteousness of the Law consists in obtaining salvation by doing what the Law requires, but that the righteousness of faith consists in believing that Christ died and rose again (Rom. 10:5-9). Moreover, we shall afterwards see, at the proper place, that the blessings of sanctification and justification, which we derive from Christ, are different. Hence it follows, that not even spiritual works are taken into account when the power of justifying is ascribed to faith. And, indeed, the passage above quoted, in which Paul declares that Abraham had no ground of glorying before God, because he was not justified by works, ought not to be confined to a literal and external form of virtue, or to the effort of free will. The meaning is, that though the life of the Patriarch had been spiritual and almost angelic, yet he could not by the merit of works have procured justification before God.
15. The Schoolmen treat the matter somewhat more grossly by mingling their preparations with it; and yet the others instill into the simple and unwary a no less pernicious dogma, when, under cover of the Spirit and grace, they hide the divine mercy, which alone can give peace to the trembling soul. We, indeed, hold with Paul, that those who fulfill the Law are justified by God, but because we are all far from observing the Law, we infer that the works which should be most effectual to justification are of no avail to us, because we are destitute of them. In regard to vulgar Papists or Schoolmen, they are here doubly wrong, both in calling faith assurance of conscience while waiting to receive from God the reward of merits, and in interpreting divine grace to mean not the imputation of gratuitous righteousness, but the assistance of the Spirit in the study of holiness. They quote from an Apostle: "He that comes to God must believe that he is, and that he is the rewarder of them that diligently seek him," (Heb. 11:6). But they observe not what the method of seeking is. Then in regard to the term grace, it is plain from their writings that they labour under a delusion. For Lombard holds that justification is given to us by Christ in two ways. "First," says he (Lombard, Sent. Lib. 3, Dist. 16, c. 11), "the death of Christ justifies us when by means of it the love by which we are made righteous is excited in our hearts; and, secondly, when by means of it sin is extinguished, sin by which the devil held us captive, but by which he cannot now procure our condemnation." You see here that the chief office of divine grace in our justification he considers to be its directing us to good works by the agency of the Holy Spirit. He intended, no doubt, to follow the opinion of Augustine, but he follows it at a distance, and even wanders far from a true imitation of him both obscuring what was clearly stated by Augustine, and making what in him was less pure more corrupt. The Schools have always gone from worse to worse, until at length, in their downward path, they have degenerated into a kind of Pelagianism. Even the sentiment of Augustine, or at least his mode of expressing it, cannot be entirely approved of. For although he is admirable in stripping man of all merit of righteousness, and transferring the whole praise of it to God, yet he classes the grace by which we are regenerated to newness of life under the head of sanctification.
16. Scripture, when it treats of justification by faith, leads us in a very different direction. Turning away our view from our own works, it bids us look only to the mercy of God and the perfection of Christ. The order of justification which it sets before us is this: first, God of his mere gratuitous goodness is pleased to embrace the sinner, in whom he sees nothing that can move him to mercy but wretchedness, because he sees him altogether naked and destitute of good works. He, therefore, seeks the cause of kindness in himself, that thus he may affect the sinner by a sense of his goodness, and induce him, in distrust of his own works, to cast himself entirely upon his mercy for salvation. This is the meaning of faith by which the sinner comes into the possession of salvation, when, according to the doctrine of the Gospel, he perceives that he is reconciled by God; when, by the intercession of Christ, he obtains the pardon of his sins, and is justified; and, though renewed by the Spirit of God, considers that, instead of leaning on his own works, he must look solely to the righteousness which is treasured up for him in Christ. When these things are weighed separately, they will clearly explain our view, though they may be arranged in a better order than that in which they are here presented. But it is of little consequence, provided they are so connected with each other as to give us a full exposition and solid confirmation of the whole subject.
17. Here it is proper to remember the relation which we previously established between faith and the Gospel; faith being said to justify because it receives and embraces the righteousness offered in the Gospel. By the very fact of its being said to be offered by the Gospel, all consideration of works is excluded. This Paul repeatedly declares, and in two passages, in particular, most clearly demonstrates. In the Epistle to the Romans, comparing the Law and the Gospel, he says, "Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, That the man which does those things shall live by them. But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise,--If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God has raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved," (Rom. 10:5, 6:9). Do you see how he makes the distinction between the Law and the Gospel to be, that the former gives justification to works, whereas the latter bestows it freely without any help from works? This is a notable passage, and may free us from many difficulties if we understand that the justification which is given us by the Gospel is free from any terms of Law. It is for this reason he more than once places the promise in diametrical opposition to the Law. "If the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise," (Gal. 3:18). Expressions of similar import occur in the same chapter. Undoubtedly the Law also has its promises; and, therefore, between them and the Gospel promises there must be some distinction and difference, unless we are to hold that the comparison is inept. And in what can the difference consist unless in this that the promises of the Gospel are gratuitous, and founded on the mere mercy of God, whereas the promises of the Law depend on the condition of works? But let no pester here allege that only the righteousness which men would obtrude upon God of their own strength and free will is repudiated; since Paul declares, without exceptions that the Law gained nothing by its commands, being such as none, not only of mankind in general, but none even of the most perfect, are able to fulfill. Love assuredly is the chief commandment in the Law, and since the Spirit of God trains us to love, it cannot but be a cause of righteousness in us, though that righteousness even in the saints is defective, and therefore of no value as a ground of merit.
18. The second passage is, "That no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith. And the law is not of faith: but, The man that does them shall live in them," (Gal. 3:11, 12; Hab. 2:4). How could the argument hold unless it be true that works are not to be taken into account, but are to be altogether separated? The Law, he says, is different from faith. Why? Because to obtain justification by it, works are required; and hence it follows, that to obtain justification by the Gospel they are not required. From this statement, it appears that those who are justified by faith are justified independent of, nay, in the absence of, the merit of works, because faith receives that righteousness which the Gospel bestows. But the Gospel differs from the Law in this, that it does not confine justification to works, but places it entirely in the mercy of God. In like manner, Paul contends, in the Epistle to the Romans, that Abraham had no ground of glorying, because faith was imputed to him for righteousness (Rom. 4:2); and he adds in confirmation, that the proper place for justification by faith is where there are no works to which reward is due. "To him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt." What is given to faith is gratuitous, this being the force of the meaning of the words which he there employs. Shortly after he adds, "Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace," (Rom. 4:16); and hence infers that the inheritance is gratuitous because it is procured by faith. How so but just because faith, without the aid of works, leans entirely on the mercy of God? And in the same sense, doubtless, he elsewhere teaches, that the righteousness of God without the Law was manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets (Rom. 3:21); for excluding the Law, he declares that it is not aided by worlds, that we do not obtain it by working, but are destitute when we draw near to receive it.
Christian Classics Ethereal Library / Public Domain
Institutes of the Christian Religion
By R.C. Sproul 4/1/1992
Your letter struck a raw nerve with me. I felt a sense of déjà vu. My mind snapped back to my own seminary days and subsequent early years of ministry.
The first memory it sparked was of occasions as a young man when I expressed my frustrations to older men who responded to me by saying, “You’re too young and idealistic to understand these things. Wait until you get more experience.”
That type of answer only fueled my frustration. I wanted cogent answers and sound arguments, not patronage from my elders.
My seminary experience was much like yours. I had professors who openly attacked the doctrine of Christ’s substitutionary atonement, the deity of Christ, and ridiculed anyone who believed the Bible was God’s word. I experienced shock, hurt, and anger. When I expressed these concerns to older people in the church, they added to my dismay by insisting that I must be mistaken and that I was being a troublemaker.
Day after day in seminary classes I was exposed to a rigorous skepticism toward everything I held sacred. Fortunately (I should say providentially), I had one professor who brilliantly defended the biblical faith and who supported me in my trials. I really don’t know what I would have done without Dr. Gerstner.
There were two simple passages from the Bible to which I clung tenaciously. The first was from Psalm 37:1: “Do not fret because of evil men.” That hit home with me because I was doing a lot of fretting and it wasn’t helping my spiritual life.
The second passage was from Jeremiah. When the prophet complained to God bitterly and threatened to quit because false prophets were undermining his ministry, God rebuked him and said, “Let the prophet who has a dream tell his dream, but let the one who has My word speak it faithfully” (Jeremiah 23:28).
The application of those words to my life was simple. I realized that God was not going to hold me accountable for what other ministers said or did. Rather, He was going to hold my feet to the fire for what I say and do. I had my marching orders, and so do you.
When I hear your anguish, I have two conflicting responses in my heart. On the one hand I want to rush to your side and offer you whatever encouragement I can. I want to weep with you as you weep. On the other hand, as a battle-scarred veteran, I want to kick you in the pants and give you a “Pattonesque” bop on the chin. I want to say, “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.” The ministry is no place for cowards. You know as well as I do that this all goes with the territory. When was it ever any different? We are called to serve a Master who was despised and rejected of men. We join a company of those whom the world hated and slew.
I know what you’re thinking. Yeah, its easy to put up with the hostility of the world. We expect it. It’s getting shot in the back from within the church that is hard to take. Even then we tend to rise to the occasion when the issues are big and important. It’s the pettiness that wears us down.
Again, mature faith requires that we be willing and able to absorb petty slights and insults. How does it go for you on Sunday mornings? You stand at the door to greet your flock and fifty people tell you that they appreciated your sermon. Then one person expresses a criticism. What do you remember for the rest of the day? Right … me too. You tell yourself that you’re supposed to be able to handle criticism, but it still wounds. Chances are, if the person knew how much they wounded you they would be horrified. Most of the petty hurts we endure are unintentional. Understanding that can go a long way to salving the wound.
But there is a bigger issue to be dealt with from your letter. It involves our understanding of the church itself. You need to understand that the church is the most corrupt institution on earth. It’s more corrupt than the government. It’s more corrupt than the cosa nostra.
Surely I exaggerate? By no means. I am rating corruption according to a standard of giftedness. God says that to whom much is given, much is required. No institution has been invested with more divine grace than the church. Here is where both grace and the means of grace are particularly concentrated. Again, no institution on earth has such a holy vocation. If the church is the most corrupt institution in the world, it is because it is the most important institution in the world. All things being equal it is nowhere near the actual corruption of government or of the mafia. But judged by its gifts and its sacred vocation, relatively speaking its corruption grows in proportion.
Because the church is so important, it is the central target of hell. The devil doesn’t have to work up a sweat to induce the mafia to evil. Junior-grade demons can plunge a government into decadence. But the church— the bride of Jesus, the family of God, the fellowship of the Holy Spirit—that institution invites the unbridled assault of hell at every point. This isn’t a simple problem of wrestling with flesh and blood. It is a struggle with principalities and powers.
We know that there have been periods in history when the church was more or less pure. But it has always been what St. Augustine described as a corpus per mixtum, a mixed body. Our Lord described the church as an institution that included both tares and wheat. Sometimes the tares gain the upper hand and lead the church into apostasy. Some churches have degenerated to such a low degree that they cease being churches at all. But no church in any age has been utterly pure. It was the clergy who gnashed their teeth in hatred of Jesus and plotted His death. It was the church that condemned Luther, banished Calvin from France, and dismissed Edwards from Northampton. It was during the century of the Great Awakening in our land that Gilbert Tennant wrote The Danger of an Unconverted Clergy. The sheep have always suffered at the hands of wolves cleverly disguised as sheep themselves. But will not God vindicate His elect who cry unto Him day and night?
You gotta love the church. You can’t love Christ and despise His body. You can’t reject His bride. He has promised to present His bride to the Father without spot or wrinkle. Right now we may be discouraged. Her wedding gown has been torn to shreds as if by a wolf. But the groom will surely take care of all that. He will remove every spot, mend every tear, and smooth every wrinkle. Remember, it is we who are the spots and the wrinkles. If we despise them we despise ourselves.
Now it is time to gird up yourself like a man. Stir up the gift that is within you and look to the Author and finisher of your faith to rekindle a fire in your bones. It’s worth it.
Love as always, R.C.
Robert Charles Sproul, 2/13/1939 – 12/14/2017 was an American theologian, author, and ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America. Dr. R.C. Sproul was founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries, an international Christian education and discipleship organization located near Orlando, Fla. He was also copastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., chancellor of Reformation Bible College, and executive editor of Tabletalk magazine. Dr. Sproul has contributed dozens of articles to national evangelical publications, has spoken at conferences, churches, and schools around the world, and has written more than one hundred books. He also served as general editor of the Reformation Study Bible.R.C. Sproul Books | Go to Books Page
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 35Great Is the LORD
35 OF DAVID.
1 Contend, O LORD, with those who contend with me;
fight against those who fight against me!
2 Take hold of shield and buckler
and rise for my help!
3 Draw the spear and javelin
against my pursuers!
Say to my soul,
“I am your salvation!”
4 Let them be put to shame and dishonor
who seek after my life!
Let them be turned back and disappointed
who devise evil against me!
5 Let them be like chaff before the wind,
with the angel of the LORD driving them away!
6 Let their way be dark and slippery,
with the angel of the LORD pursuing them!
1 Samuel 4
By Don Carson 8/14/2018
When people know little about the God who has actually disclosed himself, it is terribly easy for them to sink into some perverted view of this God, until the image held of him has very little to do with the reality.
One can understand the Philistines’ ignorance (1 Sam. 4). In their polytheistic world, full of idols providing concrete representations of their gods, the arrival of the ark of the covenant in the Israelite camp is understood to be the arrival of the Israelite god (1 Sam. 4:6-7). But this god, even if he proved so powerful that he could at one point take on the Egyptians, is merely one more god, finite, limited, local. So the Philistines, having to choose between buckling under and courageous defiance, opt for the latter, and win. Implicit in their win are an assumption and a result: the assumption is that God is no longer laying on the hearts of the Canaanites the mortal dread of the Israelites that had accompanied the early Israelite victories (and this spells judgment for the Israelites); the result is that the Philistines will now have an even more diminished view of God. Knowing the God of the Bible, we can be certain that this is a situation that will not last long; God will take action to defend his own glory.
The Israelites’ ignorance of God is wholly without excuse, but is of a piece with the horrible declension toward the end of the period of the judges. They are getting trounced by the Philistines. Their theological reasoning is so bad that they think they can reverse the fortunes of war by bringing the ark of the covenant into the military camp like an oversized good-luck charm. The writer hints at the sheer preposterousness of the notion; they bring “the ark of the covenant of the LORD Almighty, who is enthroned between the cherubim” (1 Sam. 4:4). Sadly, Eli’s sons, the priests Hophni and Phinehas, are complicit in these arrangements. Is God’s favor so easily manipulated? Does he care as much about the location of a box as he does about the conduct and (in)fidelity of his image-bearers and covenant community? What kind of pared-down and domesticated image of God did the leaders of Israel hold at this juncture that they should utter such nonsense?
Yesterday I received in the mail a letter from one of America’s premier television preachers, inviting me to send money and offering me in return a Christmas tree ornament of an “angel” with a trumpet, to remind me that God had commanded the angel looking after me to blow a trumpet to celebrate me. What kind of pared-down and domesticated image of God do such leaders hold that they should utter such nonsense?
Don Carson is research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, and co-founder (with Tim Keller) of The Gospel Coalition. He has authored numerous books, and recently edited The Enduring Authority of the Christian Scriptures (Eerdmans, 2016).Don Carson Books | Go to Books Page
1 Samuel 5-6
By Don Carson 8/15/2018
God is never amused at being treated with contempt, nor by having his explicit instructions ignored or defied. For then he would not be God.
God is well able to defend himself. In 1 Samuel 5-6, the unfolding account can be as restrained as it is precisely because it is as obvious to the reader as it was to the Philistines that God himself is behind the tragic illnesses and deaths they were suffering. The surprises began with the capsizing of their fish god, Dagon. It soon spread to a plague of rats, an epidemic of tumors, multiplying deaths — and not only in the city of Ashdod, to which the ark of the covenant was first taken, but in other cities to which it was transported — Gath and Ekron. Panic ensued.
But at the end of the day, all the phenomena the Philistines were experiencing could have been natural. That’s not what they thought, of course; but still, it was difficult to be sure. So the Philistine priests concoct a test so much against nature that should the test succeed, the people will be convinced that what they are suffering comes from the hand of “Israel’s god” (1 Sam. 6:5, 7-9). The cows are separated from their calves and draw along the cart to Beth Shemesh, on the Israelite side: God himself plays along with their superstitions and their fears.
While the Israelites rejoice at the return of the ark of the covenant, “God struck down some of the men of Beth Shemesh, putting seventy of them to death because they had looked into the ark of the LORD” (1 Sam. 6:19). There is no reason to think this happened instantaneously. If one had peeked into it and been struck down immediately, others would have been pretty quickly discouraged from doing so. There is no hint that a blinding and consuming light swept out of the opened box and melted the flesh off people, like some sort of ancient Harrison Ford film. Rather, seventy men from Beth Shemesh looked into the ark (which of course was strictly forbidden under pain of death), and doubtless saw what was there: the tablets of stone (apparently the pot of old manna and Aaron’s rod that budded had disappeared, perhaps removed by the Philistines). Then the deaths started, all premature, by whatever means — and the only commonality was that they were occurring among men who had looked into the ark. “Who can stand in the presence of the LORD, this holy God?” the people ask (1 Sam. 6:22) — not intending to learn the ways of holiness, but to get rid of the ark — precisely the same pattern as in the pagan cities.
God will not be treated with contempt, nor forever permit his covenant people to ignore his words.
Don Carson is research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, and co-founder (with Tim Keller) of The Gospel Coalition. He has authored numerous books, and recently edited The Enduring Authority of the Christian Scriptures (Eerdmans, 2016).Don Carson Books | Go to Books Page
1 Samuel 8
By Don Carson 8/16/2018
Why people ask for something is at least as important as what they ask for.
This is true in many domains of life. I know an executive in a midsize corporation who successfully talked his bosses into setting up a new committee. The reason he gave was that it was needed to oversee some new development. What he did not tell his bosses was his real reason: he could in time use this committee to sidestep another established committee that was questioning some of his projects and holding them up. He saw the new committee as a managerial trick to avoid being controlled, and thus to shin up the ladder a little faster. What might have been construed as a shrewd device for peacefully circumventing an unnecessary roadblock in the company’s structure (had he explained what he was doing to the bosses) was in fact presented in quite different terms, because he could not honestly tell them what he was doing—he knew they thought the established committee was doing a good job. Hence the deceit.
We need not look so far. How many of our own requests—in the home, in church, at work, in our prayers—mask motives that are decidedly self-serving? I am always asking myself this; tough question and hard for me to know when I am being really honest or fooling myself.
That was the problem with Israel’s request for a king (1 Sam. 8). The problem was not the request itself. After all, God would eventually give them the Davidic dynasty. Moses had anticipated the time when there would be a king (Deut. 17). The problem was the motive. They looked at their recent ups and downs with the local Canaanites and perceived few of their own faults, their own infidelities. They did not want to rely on the word of God mediated through prophets and judges and truly learn to obey that word. They figured that there would be political stability if only they could have a king. They wanted to be like the other nations (!), with a king to lead them in their military skirmishes (1 Sam. 8:19–20).
God not only understands their requests, but he perceives and evaluates their motives. In this instance he knows that the people are not simply loosening their ties to a prophet like Samuel, they are turning away from God himself (1 Sam. 8:7–8). The result is horrific: they get what they want, along with a desperate range of new evils they had not foreseen.
That is the fatal flaw in Machiavellian schemes, of course. They may win short-term advantages. But God is on his throne. Not only will the truth eventually come out, whether in this life or the next, but we may pay a horrible price, within our families and in our culture, in unforeseen correlatives, administered by a God who loves integrity of motive.
Don Carson is research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, and co-founder (with Tim Keller) of The Gospel Coalition. He has authored numerous books, and recently edited The Enduring Authority of the Christian Scriptures (Eerdmans, 2016).Don Carson Books | Go to Books Page
By Gleason Archer Jr.
The Three Main Festivals of the Hebrew Year ( Lev. 23 )
A. The Passover (pesaḥ) and Unleavened bread (maṣṣōt) (vv. 4–5 )
1. Passover: on evening of fourteenth of Abib (the first month)
a) Purpose: to commemorate Israel’s deliverance from Egyptian bondage.
b) Ritual: lamb slain, its blood to be sprinkled with hyssop on the lintel of the front door, and then roasted and consumed by the offerer with his family ( Deut. 16:5–6 specified that after God chose a holy city, as capital the public Passover should be celebrated there).
c) Typical significance: Christ’s crucifixion ( 1 Cor. 5:7 )
2. Feast of Unleavened Bread: fifteenth to twenty-second of Abib (v. 6 )
a) Purpose: to commemorate the hardships of the hurried flight from Egypt, Absence of leaven symbolized sincere consecration to God
b) Ritual: offering of the first fruits of wave-sheaf on the second day (i.e., the sixteenth of Abib); this consisted of barley, the earliest crop in the year (typifying the resurrection of Christ); also a prescribed burnt offering presented with the sheaf, a holy convocation (v. 7 ) on the fifteenth and twenty-second, both of which count as Sabbaths and require additional burnt offerings (two bullocks, one ram, seven lambs) and a sin offering (one goat); unleavened bread only to be eaten during this entire week.
B. Pentecost or the Feast of Weeks (sheḇû˓ôt): sixth of Sivan (third month), or forty-nine days after the offering of the firstfruits on the second day of Unleavened Bread
1. Purpose: to dedicate to God the firstfruits of the wheat harvest.
2. Ritual: a holy convocation (counting as a Sabbath); wave offering of two loaves of leavened wheat flour; burnt offering (seven lambs, one bullock, two rams); sin offering (he-goat); and peace offering (two male lambs); an additional burnt offering and sin offering at the convocation itself ( Num. 28:27 ).
3. Typical significance: the descent of the Spirit on the New Testament church ( Acts 2 ). C. Feast of Tabernacles or Booths (sukkôṯ): fifteenth to twenty-second of Tishri (seventh month)
1. Purpose: to commemorate the wilderness wandering and to rejoice in the completion of all the harvests (grain, fruit tree, vintage).
2. Ritual: convocations on fifteenth and twenty-second (both counting as Sabbaths); burnt offering (from thirteen to seven bullocks, day by day; two rams, fourteen lambs) and sin offering (one goat) ( Num. 29 ); celebrants to live in booths, celebrating the week with fruits: the ethrog or citron in one hand, and the lulab or cluster of branches in the other (consisting of palms and willows).
3. Typical significance: apparently to foreshadow peace and prosperity of the coming millennial kingdom (cf. Zech. 14:16 ).
The basic principle underlying all the blood sacrifices (zebāḥɩ̂m) was atonement (kippûr) by the substitution of an innocent life for the guilty. In token of this substitution, the offerer laid his hand upon the victim’s head, thus identifying himself with it as his representative. To signify his acceptance of the just penalty of death, the offerer himself slew his victim and then turned it over to the priest for the completion of the ceremony. The priest usually sprinkled or smeared a portion of the blood upon the altar.
The Coming Prince
By Sir Robert Anderson 1841-1918
Chapter 6 The Prophetic YearAs already noticed, the prophetic era is divided into two periods, the one of 7+ 62 heptades, the other of a single heptade.  Connected with these eras, two "princes" are prominently mentioned; first, the Messiah, and secondly, a prince of that people by whom Jerusalem was to be destroyed, — a personage of such pre-eminence, that on his advent his identity is to be as certain as that of Christ Himself. The first era closes with the "cutting off" of Messiah; the beginning of the second era dates from the signature of a "covenant," or treaty, by this second "prince," with or perhaps in favor of "the many,"  that is the Jewish nation, as distinguished probably from a section of pious persons among them who will stand aloof. In the middle of the heptade the treaty is to be violated by the suppression of the Jews' religion, and a time of persecution is to follow.
 The division of the 69 weeks into 7 +62 is accounted for by the fact that the first 49 years, during which the restoration of Jerusalem was completed, ended with a great crisis in Jewish history, the close of the prophetic testimony. Forty-nine years from B. C. 445 brings us to the date of Malachi's prophecy.Daniel's vision of the four beasts affords a striking commentary upon this. The identity of the fourth beast with the Roman empire is not doubtful, and we read that a "king" is to arise, territorially connected with that empire, but historically belonging to a later time; he will be a persecutor of "the saints of the Most High," and his fall is to be immediately followed by the fulfillment of Divine blessings upon the favored people — the precise event which marks the close of the "seventy weeks." The duration of that persecution, moreover, is stated to be "a time and times, and the dividing of time," — a mystical expression, of which the meaning might be doubtful, were it not that it is used again in Scripture as synonymous with three and a half years, or half a prophetic week. (Revelation 12:6, 14) Now there can be no reasonable doubt of the identity of the king of Daniel 7:25 with the first "beast" of the thirteenth chapter of Revelation. In the Revelation he is likened to a leopard, a bear, and a lion,— the figures used for Daniel's three first beasts. In Daniel there are ten kingdoms, represented by ten horns. So also in Revelation. According to Daniel, "he shall speak great words against the Most High, and wear out the saints of the Most High:" according to Revelation, "he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God," "and it was given unto him to make war with the saints and to overcome them." According to. Daniel, "they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time," or three and a half years: according to Revelation, "power was given unto him to continue forty and two months."
 "The multitude." — TREGELLES, Daniel, p. 97.
It is not impossible, of course, that prophecy may foretell the career of two different men, answering the same description, who will pursue a precisely similar course in similar circumstances for a similar period of three and a half years; but the more natural and obvious supposition is that the two are identical. Owing to the very nature of the subject, their identity cannot be logically demonstrated, but it rests upon precisely the same kind of proof upon which juries convict men of crimes, and convicted prisoners are punished.
Now this seventieth week is admittedly a period of seven years, and half of this period is three times described as "a time, times, and half a time," or "the dividing of a time;" (Daniel 7:25; 12:7; Revelation 12:14) twice as forty-two months; (Revelation 11:2; 13:5) and twice as 1, 260 days. (Revelation 11:3; 12:6) But 1, 260 days are exactly equal to forty-two months of thirty days, or three and a half years of 360 days, whereas three and a half Julian years contain 1, 278 days. It follows therefore that the prophetic year is not the Julian year, but the ancient year of 360 days. 
 It is noteworthy that the prophecy was given at Babylon, and the Babylonian year consisted of twelve months of thirty days. That the prophetic year is not the ordinary year is no new discovery. It was noticed sixteen centuries ago by Julius Africanus in his Chronography, wherein he explains the seventy weeks to be weeks of Jewish (lunar) years, beginning with the twentieth of Artaxerxes, the fourth year of the 83rd Olympiad, and ending in the second year of the 202nd Olympiad; 475 Julian years being equal to 490 lunar years.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
Psalm 19:1 The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
Psalm 19:7 The law of the LORD is perfect,
reviving the soul;
the testimony of the LORD is sure,
making wise the simple; ESV
The amazing mechanism of the universe declares there is a master mind behind it. It is designed to lead men to recognize the personality and omnipotence of God. It has been written. “An undevout astronomer is mad.” The heavens are ever telling of their Creator’s wisdom, and calling men to bow reverently before Him and to seek His face. But it is only in the Scriptures that we have the full revelation of His Fatherhood and His redemptive plan. We would never understand His grace apart from its manifestation in our Lord Jesus Christ, who is Himself the central theme of both Testaments. It is through this unveiling that we are enabled to draw nigh to God. knowing He is full of mercy and compassion, infinitely holy and righteous, yet ready to forgive all who trust His Son.
Romans 1:20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they ( you, me ) are without excuse.
1 Peter 1:23 since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; 24 for
“All flesh is like grass
and all its glory like the flower of grass.
The grass withers,
and the flower falls,
25 but the word of the Lord remains forever.” ESV
Heaven above is softer blue,
Earth around is sweeter green!
Something lives in every hue
Christless eyes have never seen:
Birds with gladder songs o’erflow,
Flowers with deeper beauties shine,
Since I know, as now I know,
I am His, and He is mine.
--- Wade Robinson
By James Orr 1907
I. NATURE AND ORIGIN OF THE MORAL DIFFICULTIES
There would be no difficulty, possibly, in connection with the progressiveness of revelation, if the progress in question were simply one of development in moral knowledge — of growth from a more or less childlike consciousness of moral truths to a stage of greater maturity. The matter becomes more complicated when we observe that it is also in part the growth of a higher out of a lower morality, and that the lower stages involve much which to the enlightened conscience at the higher stage is positively evil. It is here that ethical difficulties emerge. When we go back to the earlier stages of Old Testament revelation — or even to the Old Testament as a whole — we find, co-existing with the knowledge and worship of the true God, with a high sense of the general obligations of righteousness, and with what we must recognise as great nobility of religious character, many things which perplex and stagger us. We find defects in the idea of duty, as measured by a later standard, the non-recognition of principles of conduct which to us are self-evident, institutions and usages which the enlightened Christian conscience would not tolerate, things regarded as permissible or right which we as emphatically pronounce wrong. ( In 2021 the only thing wrong is what the Bible calls right. ) For instance, there is in the Old Testament slavery and polygamy, there is blood - revenge, there is a low standard — not in the law, indeed, but in individuals — of sexual morality, there is the cursing of enemies, there is mercilessness in warfare, in the case of the Canaanites there is the extermination of whole populations. It is possible, no doubt, to set all this in an exaggerated and distorted light, and this, as we shall see, is sometimes done. The “moral difficulties” are no new discovery. They were worked for all they were worth a century and a half ago in the Deistical controversy, and many sensible and temperate replies then appeared to the attacks on the Old Testament based on them. Little can be said now which was not said, with far keener edge, by a Chubb, a Morgan, or a Bolingbroke. But when every allowance for exaggeration or animus is made, we cannot but recognise that a very real problem remains. ( and today pharmaceutical companies are not accountable for killing people in the thousands. 03-22-2021 )
The difficulty even here, it is next to be observed, is not so much that such lower stages of morality should exist, and should need to be overcome — that is only to be expected — as that the defects in idea and practice cleave to the organs of revelation themselves, — that these share in, and give expression to, the same views as their contemporaries, — that they do this sometimes when speaking in the name of God, — nay, that God Himself is represented by them as implicated in, and as sanctioning, these lower forms of morality. Thus Abraham receives from God a command to sacrifice his son Isaac; Deborah, a prophetess, pronounces Jael blessed for her treacherous murder of Sisera; the Mosaic legislation provides for slavery, polygamy, and divorce; the command to exterminate the Canaanites is represented as coming directly from God, and the Israelites are even reproved for not executing it with sufficient thoroughness; David, or whoever was the writer, invokes curses on his enemies, and prays for their destruction. It is, in these and other cases, the apparent implication of God in the lower morality, or seeming immorality, which causes the difficulty. The morality of man may and must progress; the morality prescribed by God should, we naturally think, be one and the same throughout. How, on the assumption of the reality of the revelation, can we vindicate the divine action?
II. ERRONEOUS OR INADEQUATE SOLUTIONS
In facing this problem, our first duty is to beware of solutions which are not really, or only very partially, such. It is, for example, no solution simply to use this word “progressiveness,” as if that of itself removed the difficulty. It is true that revelation must be progressive; but it may be felt that what applies to the taught need not apply to the teacher — that God should not be implicated in any form of sanction of what is wrong.
Again, we do not solve the problem by denying that these lower forms of morality were, for that age and stage of development, really wrong, or did involve elements of evil. Evolution may be invoked to show that there are numerous intermediate grades between no morality and the highest morality; that society must pass through such and such stages of growth; that the moral ideal is only gradually developed, and that, till it is developed, such practices as slavery, polygamy, unchastity, mercilessness in war, etc., are not really sinful; that there can be no wrong, therefore, in recognising and sanctioning them. This, like the whole evolutionary conception of a necessary development of humanity through evil, is a dangerous line of defence; is, moreover, repugnant to the genuine Christian point of view. Jesus did not, e.g., regard the Mosaic law of divorce as per se right even for the Jews. It was given them, He said, for the hardness of their hearts, and He referred them back to the purer primitive idea of marriage. Slavery, from the Christian standpoint, is a contradiction of the true idea of man, as God made him, and meant him to exist; is, therefore, something inherently wrong, under whatever circumstances, or at whatever stage in the history of mankind, it occurs.
Shall we betake ourselves, then, to what may be called the critical solution—viz., the denying outright that God had any implication in the matter, and the ascribing of those laws and statements in the Bible which impute such participation in evil to God to the mistaken notions of the Biblical writers themselves? Either the narratives are held to be legends, or they are supposed to reflect only the ideas of the writers; in any case, the attribution of the laws and commands which create offence to Jehovah as their Author has no foundation in reality. What the leaders of Israel — a Moses, a Joshua, a Samuel — or the writers of their histories, ascribed to God of a nature which we think wrong, came really from their own imperfect thoughts and feelings, and God had nothing to do with it. Thus God is thought to be exonerated from participation in everything that offends the moral sense. Such a view may plausibly be held to be a necessary corollary from the admission of growth in religion and moral ideas. For how, it may be asked, can a writer avoid colouring his narrative in accordance with the idea of God he himself possesses, representing Jehovah as sanctioning or approving of those things which he thinks He must approve of, and as condemning those things which he — the author — reprobates? The writer’s own standard of religion and morality would seem to be the inevitable measure of the representations in his history.
This method of treatment no doubt frees God from responsibility for anything in the record which appears objectionable, — Origen of old attained the same end by “allegorizing” all such passages, — but the solution has the disadvantage that it is a cutting of the knot, not a loosing of it, for it denies the chief factor in the problem — the reality of the revelation. Neither do we, even in this way, really get rid of the difficulty. We may relieve the earlier history of laws and commands of God which offend us; but it is only to roll the burden upon the shoulders of prophets in an age when the higher morality is presumed to be developed. The strongest injunctions, e.g., to destroy the Canaanites are found in the Book of Deuteronomy — on the theory of the critics, a prophetic work of the seventh century B.C., and the most drastic accounts of the carrying out of these injunctions are those put to the account of the Deuteronomic revision of the Book of Joshua, the date of which is still later. It is not the early Hebrews only, therefore, who hold these imperfect views of God; but the prophets themselves, who are assumed to represent the more advanced stage of religion and morality, and to be the peculiar exponents of the higher Old Testament revelation, share in them, and put their imprimatur upon them. God’s Spirit in the prophets, if not in the history, still seems implicated in what is wrong.
Difficulties exist; but it is a pity to add to them, as is occasionally done, by unnecessarily lowering the character, and limiting the scope, of early Old Testament morality, even if it be with the aim of magnifying the divine leading in Israel in the evolving of higher conceptions. Here again comes in the tendency to exaggeration, as when it is affirmed that early Israel had no sense of personal right or responsibility, no feeling of humanity or mercy for those outside its own circle, no compunctions about falsehood and fraud, etc. It could easily be shown that, despite all marks of a lower stage, the moral standard among the Hebrews maintained its unique, and, in ancient times, unapproached, distinction. It is unfair, e.g., to say with a recent writer, that “the Hebrews were bound by moral obligation and the sanction of religion in their dealings with one another, but were entirely free of these in their dealings with foreigners,” and that “in the latter case they were governed purely by considerations of expediency.” This is not borne out by the instances quoted, and is disproved by the recognition of common principles of justice and morality by which all men are judged. Where universal principles of moral conduct are recognised, there arises of necessity the sense of mutual obligation; and such are found, not only in Israel, but in all ancient nations. It is the postulate of the whole Biblical view of history that the world is under moral government, and that individuals, communities, and nations, everywhere, are judged and punished for wickedness. What else is the moral of the narratives of the flood, of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, of the judgment on the Canaanites? It was for their vices that the Canaanites were destroyed. The history is full of instances which show the recognition of principles of general obligation. Is it credible, e.g., in view of his own words ( Gen. 39:9 ), that Joseph in Egypt was guided in his conduct in his master’s house, or towards his master’s wife, by no higher principle than “expediency”? It was on grounds of common right that the people of Israel protested against their harsh treatment by Pharaoh. Even Jephthah invokes Jehovah as the Judge, to judge between Israel and Ammon. It is quite true that the Old Testament had not attained to Christ’s wide sense of the word “neighbour,” and that the command to love all, even enemies, would have sounded strangely in the ears of the ancient Israelite. But short of love there is justice, and there is no reason for believing that duties falling under that head were not recognised as applicable to Gentiles as well as to Jews. Too much, we would add, ought not to be made of the imperfect conduct, or moral lapses, of individuals, or even of the prevailing practice of a time, as indicative of the religious and moral standard; else it would go hard with ourselves under a higher and purer dispensation. The conduct of Judah and Samson, e.g., cannot be held to determine the estimate of sexual relations in Israel. In letter, and even more in spirit, the Mosaic law stands for a high ideal of sexual morality. Of this we have the purest expression in the teachings of the prophets, who here, as elsewhere, do not claim to be introducing anything new.
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
1/2007 | A Matter of Life and Death
The Christian marketplace is filled with T-shirts, tracts, and trinkets that speak of how to have the ideal Christian life. Every year, Christians spend millions of dollars on self-help books and “how-to” guides for living an abundant life. For the most part, Christians are told that if they want to be really great Christians they simply need to follow a few easy steps.
In truth, every Christian, who has not been seduced by the superficial tactics and magical pixie dust of childish Christian gurus from evangelical Neverland, knows full well that there is more to living the Christian life than reading the latest Christian self-help book. It is somewhat ironic that one of the greatest books ever written on Christian living is John Owen’s classic The Mortification of Sin (Unabridged), a book dealing with the Christian’s death to self and the book after which this issue of Tabletalk has been published.
The thesis of Owen’s book is founded upon the apostle Paul’s admonition to mortify the flesh: “For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live” (Rom. 8:13 KJV). How strange to think that the path to life is through death — the death of our sin and the denial of ourselves (Luke 9:23). In fact, the very foundation of our justification is in the death of death itself in the death of Jesus Christ, and the foundation of Christian living and sanctification is in the death of self in the death of our sin. Therein lies the simplicity of the Christian’s abundant life in Christ (John 10:10).
What makes us different from the watching world of sinners is not that we don’t sin but that we hate our sin, repent of our sin, and earnestly seek to mortify our sin that has been taken to the cross and placed upon our Savior who atoned for our sin — and all this for the glory of God. In his preface of The Mortification of Sin, Owen wrote, “I hope…that mortification and holiness may be promoted in my heart and in the hearts and lives of others, to the glory of God; and that in this way the gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ may be adorned in all things.” While many Christians suppose their spiritual growth is monitored on some sort of heavenly growth-chart, we only grow as we become more and more convinced of God’s holiness and the absence of true holiness in our own lives, mortifying sin and living obediently coram Deo, before the face of God, for the glory of God on account of God the Son in whom we died and in whom we have been raised to abundant life.
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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 28, 1885, the Salvation Army was officially organized in the United States. It was begun in England by “General” William Booth in 1865. He would conduct meetings among the poor in London’s East End slums. Originally named the Christian Mission, he designed uniforms and adopted a semi-military system of leadership. The Salvation Army provides food, clothing, shelter to those in most need. They maintain hospitals, low-cost housing, aid to prisoners, nurseries for babies, camps and welfare. With thousands of officers, men and women, the Salvation Army ministers across the entire globe.
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
[God] deposits a dream of what we can be for Him, a dream that acts as our internal honing device.
--- Wayne Cordeiro
The Divine Mentor: Growing Your Faith as You Sit at the Feet of the Savior
Man, by the apostasy, has become a most disordered and rebellious creature, opposing his Maker, as the First Cause—by self-dependence; as the Chief Good—by self- love; as the Highest Lord—by self-will; and as the Last End—by self-seeking. Thus he is quite disordered, and all his actions are irregular. But by regeneration the disordered soul is set right; this great change being, as the Scripture expresses it, the renovation of the soul after the image of God—in which self-dependence is removed by faith; self-love is removed by the love of God; self-will is removed by subjection and obedience to the will of God; and self-seeking is removed by self-denial. The darkened understanding is illuminated, the refractory will sweetly subdued, the rebellious appetite gradually conquered. Thus the soul which sin had universally depraved, is by grace restored.
--- John Flavel
Keeping the Heart: How to maintain your love for God
People will not be better than the books they read.
--- Bishop Horatio Potter
The Book of Common Prayer: And Administration of the Sacraments, and Other Rites and Ceremonies of the Church, According to the Use of the United
Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing had happened.
--- Winston Churchill
The Second World War
... from here, there and everywhere
University of Virginia Libray 1994
Thirteenth of eleventh month. -- With the unity of Friends at our monthly meeting, and in company with my beloved friend Benjamin Jones, I set out on a visit to Friends in the upper part of this province, having had drawings of love in my heart that way for a considerable time. We travelled as far as Hardwick, and I had inward peace in my labors of love among them. Through the humbling dispensations of Divine Providence my mind hath been further brought into a feeling of the difficulties of Friends and their servants southwestward; and being often engaged in spirit on their account I believed it my duty to walk into some parts of the western shore of Maryland on a religious visit. Having obtained a certificate from Friends of our Monthly Meeting, I took leave of my family under the heart-tendering operation of truth, and on the 20th of fourth month, 1767, rode to the ferry opposite to Philadelphia, and thence walked to William Horne's, at Derby, the same evening. Next day I pursued my journey alone and reached Concord Week-Day Meeting.
Discouragements and a weight of distress had at times attended me in this lonesome walk, but through these afflictions I was mercifully preserved. Sitting down with Friends, my mind was turned towards the Lord to wait for his holy leadings; and in infinite love he was pleased to soften my heart into humble contrition, and renewedly to strengthen me to go forward, so that to me it was a time of heavenly refreshment in a silent meeting. The next day I came to New Garden Week-Day Meeting, in which I sat in bowedness of spirit, and being baptized into a feeling of the state of some present, the Lord gave us a heart-tendering season; to his name be the praise. Passing on, I was at Nottingham Monthly Meeting, and at a meeting at Little Britain on first-day; in the afternoon several Friends came to the house where I lodged and we had a little afternoon meeting, and through the humbling power of truth I had to admire the loving-kindness of the Lord manifested to us.
John Woolman's Journal
Practical religion. The Christian life
What more did He say? "By this shall all men know that ye are my
disciples, if ye have love one to another" (John 13:35).
You all know what it is to wear a badge. And Christ said to His disciples in effect: "I give you a badge, and that badge is love. That is to be your mark. It is the only thing in Heaven or on earth by which men can know me."
Do we not begin to fear that love has fled from the earth? That if we were to ask the world: "Have you seen us wear the badge of love?" the world would say: "No; what we have heard of the Church of Christ is that there is not a place where there is no quarreling and separation." Let us ask God with one heart that we may wear the badge of Jesus' love. God is able to give it.
Love Conquers Selfishness
"The fruit of the Spirit is love." Why? Because nothing but love can expel and conquer our selfishness.
Self is the great curse, whether in its relation to God, or to our fellow-men in general, or to fellow-Christians, thinking of ourselves and seeking our own. Self is our greatest curse. But, praise God, Christ came to redeem us from self. We sometimes talk about deliverance from the self-life--and thank God for every word that can be said about it to help us--but I am afraid some people think deliverance from the self-life means that now they are going to have no longer any trouble in serving God; and they forget that deliverance from self-life means to be a vessel overflowing with love to everybody all the day.
And there you have the reason why many people pray for the power of the Holy Spirit, and they get something, but oh, so little! because they prayed for power for work, and power for blessing, but they have not prayed for power for full deliverance from self. That means not only the righteous self in intercourse with God, but the unloving self in intercourse with men. And there is deliverance. "The fruit of the Spirit is love." I bring you the glorious promise of Christ that He is able to fill our hearts with love.
A great many of us try hard at times to love. We try to force ourselves to love, and I do not say that is wrong; it is better than nothing. But the end of it is always very sad. "I fail continually," such a one must confess. And what is the reason? The reason is simply this: Because they have never learned to believe and accept the truth that the Holy Spirit can pour God's love into their heart. That blessed text; often it has been limited!--"The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts" (Rom. 5:5). It has often been understood in this sense: It means the love of God to me. Oh, what a limitation! That is only the beginning. The love of God is always the love of God in its entirety, in its fullness as an indwelling power, a love of God to me that leaps back to Him in love, and overflows to my fellow-men in love--God's love to me, and my love to God, and my love to my fellow-men. The three are one; you cannot separate them.
Do believe that the love of God can be shed abroad in your heart and mine so that we can love all the day.
"Ah!" you say, "how little I have understood that!"
Why is a lamb always gentle? Because that is its nature. Does it cost the lamb any trouble to be gentle? No. Why not? It is so beautiful and gentle. Has a lamb to study to be gentle? No. Why does that come so easy? It is its nature. And a wolf--why does it cost a wolf no trouble to be cruel, and to put its fangs into the poor lamb or sheep? Because that is its nature. It has not to summon up its courage; the wolf-nature is there.
And how can I learn to love? Never until the Spirit of God fills my heart with God's love, and I begin to long for God's love in a very different sense from which I have sought it so selfishly, as a comfort and a joy and a happiness and a pleasure to myself; never until I begin to learn that "God is love," and to claim it, and receive it as an indwelling power for self-sacrifice; never until I begin to see that my glory, my blessedness, is to be like God and like Christ, in giving up everything in myself for my fellow-men. May God teach us that! Oh, the divine blessedness of the love with which the Holy Spirit can fill our hearts! "The fruit of the Spirit is love."
Absolute Surrender (The Colportage Library)
by D.H. Stern
but a faithful envoy brings healing.
18 Poverty and shame are for him who won’t be taught,
but he who heeds reproof will be honored.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
‘Where are ye going?’ said a voice with a strong Scotch accent. I stopped and looked. The sound of the unicorns had long since died away and my flight had brought me to open country. I saw the mountains where the unchanging sunrise lay, and in the foreground two or three pines on a little knoll, with some large smooth rocks, and heather. On one of the rocks sat a very tall man, almost a giant, with a flowing beard. I had not yet looked one of the Solid People in the face. Now, when I did so, I discovered that one sees them with a kind of double vision. Here was an enthroned and shining god, whose ageless spirit weighed upon mine like a burden of solid gold: and yet, at the very same moment, here was an old weather-beaten man, one who might have been a shepherd—such a man as tourists think simple because he is honest and neighbours think ‘deep’ for the same reason. His eyes had the far-seeing look of one who has lived long in open, solitary places; and somehow I divined the network of wrinkles which must have surrounded them before re-birth had washed him in immortality.
‘I—I don’t quite know,’ said I.
‘Ye can sit and talk to me then,’ he said, making room for me on the stone.
‘I don’t know you, Sir,’ said I, taking my seat beside him.
‘My name is George,’ he answered. ‘George MacDonald.’
‘Oh!’ I cried. ‘Then you can tell me! You at least will not deceive me.’ Then, supposing that these expressions of confidence needed some explanation, I tried, trembling to tell this man all that his writings had done for me. I tried to tell how a certain frosty afternoon at Leatherhead Station when I first bought a copy of Phantastes (being then about sixteen years old) had been to me what the first sight of Beatrice had been to Dante: Here begins the New Life. I started to confess how long that Life had delayed in the region of imagination merely: how slowly and reluctantly I had come to admit that his Christendom had more than an accidental connexion with it, how hard I had tried not to see that the true name of the quality which first met me in his books is Holiness. He laid his hand on mine and stopped me.
‘Son,’ he said, ‘Your love—all love—is of inexpressible value to me. But it may save precious time’ (here he suddenly looked very Scotch) ‘if I inform ye that I am already well acquainted with these biographical details. In fact, I have noticed that your memory misleads you in one or two particulars.’
‘Oh!’ said I, and became still.
‘Ye had started,’ said my Teacher, ‘to talk of something more profitable.’
‘Sir,’ said I, ‘I had almost forgotten it, and I have no anxiety about the answer now, though I have still a curiosity. It is about these Ghosts. Do any of them stay? Can they stay? Is any real choice offered to them? How do they come to be here?’
‘Did ye never hear of the Refrigerium? A man with your advantages might have read of it in Prudentius, not to mention Jeremy Taylor.’
‘The name is familiar, Sir, but I’m afraid I’ve forgotten what it means.’
‘It means that the damned have holidays—excursions, ye understand.’
‘Excursions to this country?’
The Great Divorce
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
Isn’t there some misunderstanding?
Let us go into Judea. His disciples say unto Him … Goest Thou thither again? --- John 11:7–8.
I may not understand what Jesus Christ says, but it is dangerous to say that therefore He was mistaken in what He said. It is never right to think that my obedience to a word of God will bring dishonour to Jesus. The only thing that will bring dishonour is not obeying Him. To put my view of His honour in place of what He is plainly impelling me to do is never right, although it may arise from a real desire to prevent Him being put to open shame. I know when the proposition comes from God because of its quiet persistence. When I have to weigh the pros and cons, and doubt and debate come in, I am bringing in an element that is not of God, and I come to the conclusion that the suggestion was not a right one. Many of us are loyal to our notions of Jesus Christ, but how many of us are loyal to Him? Loyalty to Jesus means I have to step out where I do not see anything (cf. Matt. 14:29); loyalty to my notions means that I clear the ground first by my intelligence. Faith is not intelligent understanding, faith is deliberate commitment to a Person where I see no way.
Are you debating whether to take a step in faith in Jesus or to wait until you can see how to do the thing yourself? Obey Him with glad reckless joy. When He says something and you begin to debate, it is because you have a conception of His honour which is not His honour. Are you loyal to Jesus or loyal to your notion of Him? Are you loyal to what He says, or are you trying to compromise with conceptions which never came from Him? “Whatsoever He saith unto you, do it.”
My Utmost for His Highest
the Poetry of R.S. Thomas
So you have to think
of the bone hearth where love
was kindled, of the size
of the shadows so small a flame
threw on the world's
walls, with the heavens
over them, lighting their vaster fires
to no end. He took her hand
sometimes and felt the will to be
of the poetry he could not
write. She measured him
with her moist eye for the coat
always too big. And time,
the faceless collector
of taxes, beat on their thin
door, and they opened
to him, looking beyond
him, beyond the sediment
of his myriad demands to the
bright place, where their undaunted
spirits were already walking.
Thomas, R. S.
A youth group is asked by the social worker of a children’s hospital to come and spend a few hours with the patients. The teenagers at first seem hesitant; a few are even worried that being around sick kids will put them in danger. But the youth leader convinces them that it will be a safe and worthwhile experience.
The date arrives, and the teens are driven to the hospital. They get a tour of the facilities and then meet with some of the children on the ward, serving them refreshments. The time comes for the “show”: The youth group sings some songs, puts on a skit, and even presents a few magic tricks. During the performance, the youth leader looks around and is very concerned: The patients don’t seem to be enjoying themselves. A few of the kids have fallen asleep; one cries during the entire show. A certain youngster has to be escorted to the bathroom every fifteen minutes; one little girl “gets sick” all over herself and has to be changed. A disturbed child screams out at a teenager who touches him: “I’m going to kill you!” The applause at the end of the program is sparse. The leader expects his teenagers to be very upset and depressed.
To everyone’s surprise, the teenagers have an incredible experience. They are deeply moved by what they have seen. These adolescents, who are so blessed materially and so sheltered emotionally, have gotten a glimpse of a side of life that they barely knew existed. They walk away having learned so much about sickness and health. They appreciate, perhaps for the first time, how fortunate and lucky they really are. Most importantly, they feel wonderful about themselves and how much they have been able to do for others. When they return home, they immediately beg their youth leader to set up another visit for some time soon.
To the children in the hospital ward, it was merely an hour’s diversion that didn’t make much of an impression. To the teenagers, it was a day that they would remember for many years to come. As it turns out, the teenagers wanted to help even more than the children wanted to be entertained. It is often that way: The ones who give get more out of the experience than those who receive. Cynics often think of human beings as needy and selfish. Deep down, it seems, we have a real need to share, to help, and to nourish others.
Begin with disgrace and end with praise.
Text / Mishnah (10:4): According to the ability of the son should the father teach. Begin with disgrace and end with praise, explaining from “My father was a fugitive Aramean” [Deuteronomy 26:5] until finishing the entire section.
Gemara: What does “disgrace” mean? Rav said: “In the beginning, our ancestors were idol worshipers.” Shmuel said: “We were slaves.” Rav Naḥman said to Daru his servant: “What should a servant, whose master has freed him and given him silver and gold, say to him?” He said to him: “He should thank him and praise him!” He [Rav Naḥman] said: “You have exempted us from saying ‘How is this night different …’ ” He began by saying “We were slaves.”
Context / My father was a fugitive Aramean. He went down to Egypt with meager numbers and sojourned there; but there he became a great and very populous nation. The Egyptians dealt harshly with us and oppressed us; they imposed heavy labor upon us. We cried to the Lord, the God of our fathers, and the Lord heard our plea and saw our plight, our misery, and our oppression. The Lord freed us from Egypt by a mighty hand, by an outstretched arm and awesome power, and by signs and portents. (Deuteronomy 26:5–8)
In the beginning our ancestors served idols, but then God brought us close to Him that we might serve Him, as it is written, “Then Joshua said to all the people, ‘Thus said the Lord, the God of Israel: In olden times, your forefathers—Terah, father of Abraham and father of Nahor—lived beyond the Euphrates and worshipped other gods’ (Joshua 24:2–3).” (Passover Haggadah)
We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt, and the Lord our God brought us forth from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. And if the Holy One, blessed be He, had not brought forth our ancestors from Egypt, then we and our children and our children’s children would still be slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt. (Passover Haggadah)
The tenth chapter of Pesaḥim discusses in great detail the Seder meal and the rituals of the festival of Passover. Today, people follow the Haggadah which includes stories, biblical and rabbinic texts, and songs, to guide them through these rituals. But in the first and second centuries, there was not yet a fixed, formal book. Instead, there was a series of guidelines that each family used as a basis for its Seder meal. Our Mishnah gives three of these guidelines. First, the father (or leader of the Seder) should “tailor” the ceremony to the age and abilities of the children and other participants sitting around the table. The second direction is that we should begin the story by recounting the sad events of our past, and then end on the positive note of God’s liberation. Finally, the Mishnah instructs that the core text to be discussed at the Seder is Deuteronomy 26:5–8, which summarizes what befell our ancestors in Egypt.
The Gemara, picking up on the second issue, asks what exactly is meant by “disgrace.” Two views are offered. Rav understands disgrace to mean shameful things that our people did long ago in our past: they worshipped idols. Shmuel, on the other hand, sees disgrace in what was done to our ancestors by the Egyptians: They persecuted and enslaved them.
The Gemara ends with a story of Rav Naḥman asking his own servant how he would respond to being set free. Daru’s reply, that he would thank and praise his master, enables Rav Naḥman to understand and even feel the joy that the Israelite slaves must have felt.
Swimming in the Sea of Talmud: Lessons for Everyday Living
Balak and Baalam
Protected from enemies without (Numbers 22–24). As fear of Israel struck the region, the peoples there began to look desperately for weapons to use against them. The king of Moab, Balak, frightened at the “horde” which seemed to him to “cover the face of the land,” attempted to call in spiritual powers to defeat Israel. He sent for a man named Balaam, saying, “I know that those you bless are blessed, and those you curse are cursed” (Numbers 22:6). Balak wanted to use Balaam to lay a curse on Israel, and thus drain their strength.
There is no reason to doubt that Balaam had some spiritual powers. Israel was warned that when they entered the land they were to destroy all those who were spiritualists, possessed by evil spirits, and necromancers (cf. Deut. 18:1). Though Balaam clearly used omens, as did pagan seers, in his divinations (cf. Numbers 24:1), it is possible that Balaam was a channel for God to speak to a pagan people. But it is more likely that the roots of Balaam’s spiritual power were in the demonic than the divine. Throughout the Bible Balaam is spoken of in a negative way, and held up as a negative example. His ways and his motives are condemned in the New Testament, and his death is recounted in Numbers 31 as a divine judgment.
At any rate, Balak called on Balaam to curse Israel for him. The word translated “curse” here is qabab, which suggests the idea of binding, to reduce ability, or to render powerless. Peoples in the ancient world considered curses magic tools to be used to gain power over enemies. Balak was attempting to mount a supernatural attack on this people against whom natural resources seemed inadequate.
But Balak was ignorant of the fact that the source of Israel’s power was itself supernatural: Israel’s strength came from the presence of Yahweh Himself in their camp.
God spoke to Balaam and told him not to go with Balak’s messengers. Yet greed moved Balaam to ask God’s permission again. This time God did permit Balaam to go, but warned him sternly that he must speak only the words God would give him.
We can picture Balaam’s arrival. Balak had been waiting anxiously. Angrily he insisted that Balaam hurry and curse his enemy.
Balak took Balaam to a range of hills that looked down over Israel’s encampment. There the Moabite offered the sacrifices that Balaam called for—and waited. Balaam finally spoke. But rather than speaking a curse, Balaam was forced by God to pronounce a blessing!
From the rocky peaks I see them, from the heights I view them. I see a people who live apart and do not consider themselves one of the nations. Who can count the dust of Jacob or number the fourth part of Israel? Let me die the death of the righteous, and may my end be like theirs! ---Numbers 23:9–10.
Three times the sequence was repeated. Balak took Balaam to a different height, hoping that from a different viewpoint Israel might be cursed. Yet no matter from where the attack was launched, it returned not as a curse but as a blessing on this people that God has chosen and whom He protects. God has dealt with Israel’s sins in sacrifice and forgiveness. Thus:
No misfortune is seen in Jacob; no misery observed in Israel. The Lord their God is with them; the shout of the King is among them. God brought them out of Egypt; they have the strength of a wild ox. There is no sorcery against Jacob, no divination against Israel. It will now be said of Jacob and of Israel, “See what God has done!” --- Numbers 23:21–23.
It is God who is at work in His people. We are His workmanship. Protected by His very presence, there is no enchantment against us now.
The attack from without had failed. But Balaam made an effort to earn his fee. He suggested a strategy which he felt might force God to curse Israel against His will! Balaam reasoned that God could not bless a sinning people—and so he recommended to Balak that his women attempt to corrupt Israel and lead them into idolatry!
The Teacher's Commentary
Thomas A Kempis
Book Three - Internal Consolation
The Nineteenth Chapter / True Patience In Suffering
THE VOICE OF CHRIST
WHAT are you saying, My child? Think of My suffering and that of the saints, and cease complaining. You have not yet resisted to the shedding of blood. What you suffer is very little compared with the great things they suffered who were so strongly tempted, so severely troubled, so tried and tormented in many ways. Well may you remember, therefore, the very painful woes of others, that you may bear your own little ones the more easily. And if they do not seem so small to you, examine if perhaps your impatience is not the cause of their apparent greatness; and whether they are great or small, try to bear them all patiently. The better you dispose yourself to suffer, the more wisely you act and the greater is the reward promised you. Thus you will suffer more easily if your mind and habits are diligently trained to it.
Do not say: “I cannot bear this from such a man, nor should I suffer things of this kind, for he has done me a great wrong. He has accused me of many things of which I never thought. However, from someone else I will gladly suffer as much as I think I should.”
Such a thought is foolish, for it does not consider the virtue of patience or the One Who will reward it, but rather weighs the person and the offense committed. The man who will suffer only as much as seems good to him, who will accept suffering only from those from whom he is pleased to accept it, is not truly patient. For the truly patient man does not consider from whom the suffering comes, whether from a superior, an equal, or an inferior, whether from a good and holy person or from a perverse and unworthy one; but no matter how great an adversity befalls him, no matter how often it comes or from whom it comes, he accepts it gratefully from the hand of God, and counts it a great gain. For with God nothing that is suffered for His sake, no matter how small, can pass without reward. Be prepared for the fight, then, if you wish to gain the victory. Without struggle you cannot obtain the crown of patience, and if you refuse to suffer you are refusing the crown. But if you desire to be crowned, fight bravely and bear up patiently. Without labor there is no rest, and without fighting, no victory.
O Lord, let that which seems naturally impossible to me become possible through Your grace. You know that I can suffer very little, and that I am quickly discouraged when any small adversity arises. Let the torment of tribulation suffered for Your name be pleasant and desirable to me, since to suffer and be troubled for Your sake is very beneficial for my soul.
The Imitation Of Christ
That the prophecies of Balaam have a Messianic character, and are only to be fully understood in a Christian sense, seems to lie upon the face of them. The Targums of Onkelos and Palestine make mention of King Meshiha here, and the great mass of Christian interpretation has uniformly followed in the track of Jewish tradition. It is of course possible to get rid of the prophetic element altogether by assuming that the utterances of Balaam were either composed or largely interpolated after the events to which they seem to refer. It would be necessary in this case to bring their real date down to the period of the Macedonian conquests, and much later still if the Greek empire also was to “perish for ever.” The difficulty and arbitrary character of such an assumption becomes the more evident the more it is considered; nor does it seem consistent with the form into which the predictions are cast. A patriotic Jew looking back from the days of Alexander or his successors would not call the great Eastern power by the name of Asshur, because two subsequent empires had arisen in the place of Assyria proper. But that Balaam, looking forward down the dim vista of the future, should see Asshur, and only Asshur, is in perfect keeping with what we know of prophetic perspective,—the further off the events descried by inward vision, the more extreme the foreshortening,—according to which law it is well known that the first and second advents of Christ are inextricably blended in almost every case.
If we accept the prophecies as genuine, it is, again, only possible to reject the Messianic element by assuming that no Jewish prophecy overleaps the narrow limits of Jewish history. The mysterious Being whom Balaam descries in the undated future, who is the King of Israel, and whom he identifies with the Shiloh of Jacob’s dying prophecy, and who is to bring to nought all nations of the world, cannot be David, although David may anticipate him in many ways; still less, as the reference to Agag, Amalek, and the Kenites might for a moment incline us to believe, can it be Saul. At the same time, while the Messianic element in the prophecy cannot reasonably be ignored, it is obvious that it does not by any means exist by itself; it is so mixed up with what is purely local and temporal in the relations between Israel and the petty tribes which surrounded and envied him, that it is impossible to isolate it or to exhibit it in any clear and definite form. The Messiah indeed appears, as it were, upon the stage in a mysterious and remote grandeur; but he appears with a slaughter weapon in his hand, crushing such enemies of Israel as were then and there formidable, and exterminating the very fugitives from the overthrow. Even where the vision loses for once its local colouring in one way, so that the King of Israel deals with all the sons of men, yet it retains it in another, for he deals with them in wrath and destruction, not in love and blessing. There is here so little akin to the true ideal, that we are readily tempted to say that Christ is not here at all, but only Saul or David, or the Jewish monarchy personified in the ruthlessness of its consolidated power. But if we know anything of the genius of prophecy, it is exactly this, that the future and the grand and the heavenly is seen through a medium of the present and the paltry and the earthly. The Messianic element almost always occurs in connection with some crisis in the outward history of the chosen people; it is inextricably mixed up with what is purely local in interest, and often with what is distinctly imperfect in morality. To the Jew—and to Balaam also, however unwillingly, as the servant of Jehovah—the cause of Israel was the cause of God; he could not discern between them. “Our country, right or wrong,” was an impossible sentiment to him, because he could not conceive of his country being wrong; he knew nothing of moral victories, or the triumphs of defeat or of suffering; he could not think of God’s kingdom as asserting itself in any other way than in the overthrow, or (better still) the annihilation, of Moab, Edom, Assyria, Babylon, Rome, the whole world which was not Israel. The sufferings of the vanquished, the horrors of sacked cities, the agonies of desolated homes, were nothing to him; nothing, unless it were joy—joy that the kingdom of God should be exalted in the earth, joy that the reign of wickedness should be broken.
All these feelings belonged to a most imperfect morality and we rightly look upon them with horror, because we have (albeit as yet very imperfectly) conformed our sentiments to a higher standard. But it was the very condition of the old dispensation that God adopted the then moral code, such as it was, and hallowed it with religious sanctions, and gave it a strong direction God-ward, and so educated his own for something higher. Hence it is wholly natural and consistent to find this early vision of the Messiah, the heaven-sent King of Israel, introduced in connection with the fall of the petty pastoral state of Moab. To Balaam, standing where he did in time and place, and all the more because his personal desires went with Moab as against Israel, Moab stood forth as the representative kingdom of darkness, Israel as the kingdom of light. Through that strong, definite, narrow, and essentially imperfect, but not untrue, conviction of his he saw the Messiah, and he saw him crushing Moab first, and then trampling down all the rest of a hostile world. That no one would have been more utterly astonished if he had beheld the Messiah as he was, is certain; but that is not at all inconsistent with the belief that he really prophesied concerning him. That he should put all enemies under his feet was what Balaam truly saw; but he saw it and gave utterance to it according to the ideas and imagery of which his mind was full. God ever reveals the supernatural through the natural, the heavenly through the earthly, the future through the present.
It remains to consider briefly the temporal fulfilments of Balaam’s prophecies.
Moab was not apparently seriously attacked until the time of David, when it was vanquished, and a great part of the inhabitants slaughtered (2 Sam. 8:2). In the division of the kingdom it fell to the share of Israel, with the other lands beyond Jordan, but the vicissitudes of the northern monarchy gave it opportunities to rebel, of which it successfully availed itself after the death of Ahab (2 Kings 1:1). Only in the time of John Hyrcanus (B.C. 129) was it finally subdued, and ceased to have an independent existence.
Edom was also conquered for the first time by David, and the people as far as possible exterminated (1 Kings 11:15, 16). Nevertheless, it was able to shake off the yoke under Joram (2 Kings 8:20), and, although defeated, was never again subdued (see on Gen. 27:40). The prophecies against Edom were indeed taken up again and again by the prophets (e. g. Obadiah), but we must hold that they were never adequately fulfilled, unless we look for a spiritual realisation not in wrath, but in mercy. The later Jews themselves came to regard “Edom” as a Scriptural synonym for all who hated and oppressed them.
Amalek was very thoroughly overthrown by Saul, acting under the directions of Samuel (1 Sam. 15:7, 8), and never appears to have regained any national existence. Certain bands of Amalekites were smitten by David, and others at a later period in the reign of Hezekiah by the men of Simeon (1 Chron. 4:39–43).
The prophecy concerning the Kenites presents, as noted above, great difficulty, because it is impossible to know certainly whether the older Kenites of Genesis or the later Kenites of 1 Samuel are intended. In either case, however, it must be acknowledged that sacred history throws no light whatever on the fulfilment of the prophecy; we know nothing at all as to the fate of this small clan. No doubt it ultimately shared the lot of all the inhabitants of Palestine, with the exception of Judah and Jerusalem, and was transplanted by one of the Assyrian generals to some far-off spot, where its very existence as a separate people was lost.
The “ships from the side of Cyprus” clearly enough represent in the vision of Balaam invaders from over the western seas, as opposed to previous conquerors from over the eastern deserts and mountains. That the invasion of Alexander the Great was not actually made by the way of Cyprus is nothing to the point. It was never any part of spiritual illumination to extend geographical knowledge. To Balaam’s mind the only open way from the remote and unknown western lands was the waterway by the sides of Cyprus, and accordingly he saw the hostile fleets gliding down beneath the lee of those sheltering coasts towards the harbours of Phœnicia. Doubtless the ships which Balaam saw were rigged as ships were rigged in Balaam’s time, and not as in the time of Alexander. But the rigging, like the route, belonged to the local and personal medium through which the prophecy came, not to the prophecy itself. As a fact it remains true that a maritime power from the West, whose home was beyond Cyprus, did overwhelm the older power which stood in the place and inherited the empire of Assyria. Whether the subsequent ruin of this maritime power also is part of the prophecy must remain doubtful.
You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. --- Matthew 5:14.
The text is not, “You ought to be the light of the world,” but you are; not that Christians should be like a city set on a hill, but an affirmation that they are such. ( The American National Preacher, Volumes 7-8 ) Though exhortations are addressed to Christians in the New Testament urging them to lives of faith, yet they are also addressed as actually putting forth the principles of piety and as true to their God and Savior. “You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord” (Eph. 5:8). Many Christians regard the Bible as filled with exhortations that they are not expected to comply with, rather than with statements of what the gospel actually accomplishes among them. God intended that the gospel should have effect, and in fact, the early effect of the gospel was such that Paul could address any church as actually demonstrating the change wrought by the Spirit of God. “You yourselves are our letter” (2 Cor. 3:2), said he to the church at Corinth, the living proof at once of the power of the gospel and of the effect of his ministry. We have fallen on different times. The language addressed to churches is not, “You are… ,” but, “You ought to be,” the consistent followers of the Lord Jesus.”
True, the people whom Paul addressed had been heathen and therefore the change would be more obvious. But the ground of the address to the primitive Christians was not what they had been so much as what they then were. Besides, are a people nursed in heathenism—only yesterday degraded and sunk in abomination—to be addressed as actually in advance in Christian principles of the people of our times, trained from their earliest years in the principles of the Christian religion? Are we to expect more living demonstrations of the power of piety from the recovered populations of Athens, Corinth, and Rome than from the people of our times?
No, the gospel considers it as a matter of fact that we can appeal to you and to all Christians and say, “You are…”—not you ought to be—“the light of the world.” We can address the language of obligation and of duty to the most degraded population on the globe; we can approach the profligate and the profane and the pagan with the language, “You ought to be humble followers of God.” We can approach true Christians with the language of certainty and say, “You are the salt of the earth, you are the light of the world.”
--- Albert Barnes
Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
William’s Sermon March 28
Rev. John Minder, the college dean, was a big man, ginger-haired and concerned for his students. But he had his hands full with William. On the day William arrived, he took out a big scout knife, played around with it, and took off running all over the adjacent golf course like an overgrown schoolboy. Shortly thereafter he and his roommate went canoeing in their best clothes on a Sunday afternoon. William stood up in the canoe, raised his oar, and said, “I see an Indian—bang!” He leaned backward and both boys fell into the river. William wrestled under the beds, knocked down bullies, wore bright bow ties, and charmed the girls.
But Dean Minder had endless patience, sparkling eyes, and he knew potential when he saw it. On Easter Sunday, March 28, 1937, he took William with him to evening services at a small Baptist church in a nearby town. Minder was to fill in for the church’s part-time pastor, who doubled as an interior decorator. But Minder had no intention of preaching that evening. On the way there he informed William, “You’re preaching tonight.”
“No, sir!” said the horrified young man. “I’ve never preached before.”
“Well,” replied Dean Minder, “you are preaching tonight. When you run out, I’ll take over.”
As it happened, William had secretly been practicing four messages taken from a book of sermons by the Baptist preacher, Lee Scarborough. Now he frantically tried to remember them. The men arrived at the small, clapboard church, finding it surrounded by men with hunting dogs. The hunters and ranchers and their families went inside for worship, making an audience of 25 or 30. The song leader led the group in a series of fast-paced hymns, pausing occasionally to spit tobacco juice into the boiler.
When time came for the sermon, William rose, looked at the crowd, and grew so nervous that his knees knocked and his face glistened with perspiration. He preached all four sermons in eight minutes, then collapsed back into his seat.
Such was the beginning of the preaching ministry of William Franklin Graham—better known as Billy.
I don’t have any reason to brag about preaching the good news. Preaching is something God told me to do, and if I don’t do it, I am doomed.… it is… something God has sent me to do.… I have become a slave to everyone, so that I can win as many people as possible.
1 Corinthians 9:16-19.
On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - March 28
"The love of Christ which passeth knowledge." --- Ephesians 3:19.
The love of Christ in its sweetness, its fulness, its greatness, its faithfulness, passeth all human comprehension. Where shall language be found which shall describe his matchless, his unparalleled love towards the children of men? It is so vast and boundless that, as the swallow but skimmeth the water, and diveth not into its depths, so all descriptive words but touch the surface, while depths immeasurable lie beneath. Well might the poet say,
“O love, thou fathomless abyss!”
for this love of Christ is indeed measureless and fathomless; none can attain unto it. Before we can have any right idea of the love of Jesus, we must understand his previous glory in its height of majesty, and his incarnation upon the earth in all its depths of shame. But who can tell us the majesty of Christ? When he was enthroned in the highest heavens he was very God of very God; by him were the heavens made, and all the hosts thereof. His own almighty arm upheld the spheres; the praises of cherubim and seraphim perpetually surrounded him; the full chorus of the hallelujahs of the universe unceasingly flowed to the foot of his throne: he reigned supreme above all his creatures, God over all, blessed for ever. Who can tell his height of glory then? And who, on the other hand, can tell how low he descended? To be a man was something, to be a man of sorrows was far more; to bleed, and die, and suffer, these were much for him who was the Son of God; but to suffer such unparalleled agony—to endure a death of shame and desertion by his Father, this is a depth of condescending love which the most inspired mind must utterly fail to fathom. Herein is love! and truly it is love that “passeth knowledge.” O let this love fill our hearts with adoring gratitude, and lead us to practical manifestations of its power.
Evening - March 28
"I will accept you with your sweet savour."Ezekiel 20:41.
The merits of our great Redeemer are as sweet savour to the Most High. Whether we speak of the active or passive righteousness of Christ, there is an equal fragrance. There was a sweet savour in his active life by which he honoured the law of God, and made every precept to glitter like a precious jewel in the pure setting of his own person. Such, too, was his passive obedience, when he endured with unmurmuring submission, hunger and thirst, cold and nakedness, and at length sweat great drops of blood in Gethsemane, gave his back to the smiters, and his cheeks to them that plucked out the hair, and was fastened to the cruel wood, that he might suffer the wrath of God in our behalf. These two things are sweet before the Most High; and for the sake of his doing and his dying, his substitutionary sufferings and his vicarious obedience, the Lord our God accepts us. What a preciousness must there be in him to overcome our want of preciousness! What a sweet savour to put away our ill savour! What a cleansing power in his blood to take away sin such as ours! and what glory in his righteousness to make such unacceptable creatures to be accepted in the Beloved! Mark, believer, how sure and unchanging must be our acceptance, since it is in him! Take care that you never doubt your acceptance in Jesus. You cannot be accepted without Christ; but, when you have received his merit, you cannot be unaccepted. Notwithstanding all your doubts, and fears, and sins, Jehovah’s gracious eye never looks upon you in anger; though he sees sin in you, in yourself, yet when he looks at you through Christ, he sees no sin. You are always accepted in Christ, are always blessed and dear to the Father’s heart. Therefore lift up a song, and as you see the smoking incense of the merit of the Saviour coming up, this evening, before the sapphire throne, let the incense of your praise go up also.
Morning and Evening
WHEN THE ROLL IS CALLED UP YONDER
Words and Music by James M. Black, 1856–1938
For the Lord Himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.
(1 Thessalonians 4:15)
The calm assurance of a future heavenly home is one of the greatest blessings for every Christian. It has been said that only those with an absolute confidence in their hereafter truly know to live victoriously in this life. Having a personal relationship with Christ means that we need have no fear that we will not hear “the trumpet call of God,” whether we are still alive or asleep in Jesus.
James M. Black was an active Methodist layman, a music teacher, and a composer and publisher of numerous gospel songs. He related this experience:
While a teacher in the Sunday school and president of a young people’s society, I one day met a girl, 14 years old, poorly clad and a child of a drunkard. She accepted my invitation to attend the Sunday school and join the young people’s society. One evening at a consecration meeting, when members answered the roll call by repeating Scripture texts, she failed to respond. I spoke of what a sad thing it would be when our names are called from the Lamb’s Book of Life, if one of us should be absent. When I reached my home, my wife saw that I was deeply troubled. Then the words in the first stanza came to me in full. In fifteen minutes more, I had composed the other two verses. Going to the piano, I played the music just as it is found today in the hymnbooks.
The subsequent death of the missing girl from pneumonia, after an illness of just 10 days, furnished the dramatic finale to this account and gives a poignancy to the “roll call” song. Since its publication in 1894, this simply worded gospel song with its rather ordinary music has captured the hearts of innumerable believers. These sincere expressions have provided Christians with a singable vehicle of praise for the glorious future that still awaits them.
When the trumpet of the Lord shall sound and time shall be no more,
and the morning breaks eternal bright and fair—
When the saved of earth shall gather over on the other shore,
and the roll is called up yonder I’ll be there.
On that bright and cloudless morning
when the dead in Christ shall rise
and the glory of His resurrection share—
When the chosen ones shall gather to their home beyond the skies,
and the roll is called up yonder I’ll be there.
Let us labor for the Master from the dawn till setting sun.
Let us talk of all His wondrous love and care;
then when all of life is over and our work on earth is done,
and the roll is called up yonder I’ll be there.
Chorus: When the roll is called up yonder, when the roll is called up yonder, when the roll is called up yonder—when the roll is call up yonder I’ll be there.
For Today: John 6:40; 1 Corinthians 15:40–42; 1 Thessalonians 4:13–18.
Give God praise for the certainty about your eternal destiny that you as a child of God enjoy. Live this day in that confidence.
Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
A.W. Pink | (1886-1952)
Because the Father of Our Surety, He Is Our Father
It is to be carefully noted that praise is here rendered not to “the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ” but of “our Lord Jesus Christ.” In other words, God's relationship to us is determined by His relationship to our Surety. He is the God and Father of sinners only in Christ. He is adored as the covenant Head of the Savior and of His elect in Him. This is a point of first importance: the connection that the Church sustains to God is fixed by that of the Redeemer to God, for she is Christ's and Christ is God's (1 Cor. 3:23). The title “God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” is the peculiar and characteristic Christian designation of Deity, contemplating Him as the God of redemption (Rom. 15:6; 2 Cor. 11:31; Col. 1:3). When an Israelite called on Him as “the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob,” he recognized and owned Him not only as the Creator and moral Governor of the world, but also as the covenant God of his nation. So when the Christian addresses Him as “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,” he acknowledges Him as the Author of eternal redemption through the incarnate Son, who voluntarily took the place of subserviency to and dependence upon Him. In the highest meaning of the word, God is the Father of no man until he is united to the One whom He commissioned and sent to be the Savior of sinners, the sole Mediator between God and men. So many people do not understand that they have no relationship with God unless they are in Christ.
The language in which God is here worshiped explains how it is that He can be so kind and bounteous to His people. All blessings come to the creature from God. He it is who gave them being and supplies their varied needs. Equally so, all spiritual blessings proceed from Him (Eph. 1:3; James 1:17). The Highest is “kind unto the unthankful and to the evil” (Luke 6:35). But spiritual blessings issue from Him not simply as God, nor from the Father absolutely, but from “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” In what follows, the apostle makes mention of His abundant mercy, of His begetting the elect to a living hope, and of an inheritance that infinitely transcends all earthly good. And in the bestowment of these favors God is here acknowledged in the special character in which He confers them. If it be asked, How can a holy God endow sinful men with such blessings? the answer is, as “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” It is because God is well pleased with the Redeemer that He is well pleased with the redeemed. The work of Christ merited such a reward, and He shares it with His own (John 17:22). All comes to us from the Father through the Son.
His Abundant Mercy, the Cause of God's Gracious Choice
Fourthly, let us ponder its ascription, which is found in the phrase “his abundant mercy.” Just as God did not elect because He foresaw that any would savingly repent and believe the Gospel—for these are the effects of His invincible call, which in turn is the consequence and not the cause of election—but “according to his own purpose” (2 Tim. 1:9), neither does He regenerate because of any merits possessed by the subjects thereof, but solely of His own sovereign pleasure (James 1:18). His abundant mercy is here set oven against our abundant demerits, and to the degree that we are sensible of the latter shall we be moved to render praise for the former. Such is our woeful case through sin that naught but Divine mercy can relieve it. Give ear to the words of C. H. Spurgeon:
“No other attribute could have helped us had mercy refused. As we are by nature, justice condemns us, holiness frowns upon, power crushes us, truth confirms the threatening of the law, and wrath fulfils it. It is from the mercy of God that all our hopes begin. Mercy is needed for the miserable, and yet more for the sinful. Misery and sin are fully united in the human race, and mercy here performs her noblest deeds. My brethren, God has vouchsafed His mercy unto us, and we must thankfully acknowledge that in our case His mercy has been abundant mercy.
We were defiled with abundant sin, and only the multitude of His loving kindnesses could have put those sins away. We were infected with an abundant evil, and only overflowing mercy can ever cure us of all our natural disease, and make us meet for heaven. We have received abundant grace up till now; we have made great drafts upon the exchequer of God, and of His fullness have all we received grace for grace. Where sin hath abounded, grace hath much more abounded. . . Everything in God is on a grand scale. Great power—He shakes the world. Great wisdom—He balances the clouds. His mercy is commensurate with His other attributes: it is Godlike mercy, infinite mercy! You must measure His Godhead before you can compute His mercy. Well may it be called “abundant” if it be infinite. It will always be abundant, for all that can be drawn from it will be but as the drop of a bucket to the sea itself. The mercy which deals with us is not man's mercy, but God's mercy, and therefore boundless mercy.”
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