1 Samuel 15
The LORD Rejects Saul1 Samuel 15 1 And Samuel said to Saul, “The LORD sent me to anoint you king over his people Israel; now therefore listen to the words of the LORD. 2 Thus says the LORD of hosts, ‘I have noted what Amalek did to Israel in opposing them on the way when they came up out of Egypt. 3 Now go and strike Amalek and devote to destruction all that they have. Do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.’”
4 So Saul summoned the people and numbered them in Telaim, two hundred thousand men on foot, and ten thousand men of Judah. 5 And Saul came to the city of Amalek and lay in wait in the valley. 6 Then Saul said to the Kenites, “Go, depart; go down from among the Amalekites, lest I destroy you with them. For you showed kindness to all the people of Israel when they came up out of Egypt.” So the Kenites departed from among the Amalekites. 7 And Saul defeated the Amalekites from Havilah as far as Shur, which is east of Egypt. 8 And he took Agag the king of the Amalekites alive and devoted to destruction all the people with the edge of the sword. 9 But Saul and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep and of the oxen and of the fattened calves and the lambs, and all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them. All that was despised and worthless they devoted to destruction.
10 The word of the LORD came to Samuel: 11 “I regret that I have made Saul king, for he has turned back from following me and has not performed my commandments.” And Samuel was angry, and he cried to the LORD all night. 12 And Samuel rose early to meet Saul in the morning. And it was told Samuel, “Saul came to Carmel, and behold, he set up a monument for himself and turned and passed on and went down to Gilgal.” 13 And Samuel came to Saul, and Saul said to him, “Blessed be you to the LORD. I have performed the commandment of the LORD.” 14 And Samuel said, “What then is this bleating of the sheep in my ears and the lowing of the oxen that I hear?” 15 Saul said, “They have brought them from the Amalekites, for the people spared the best of the sheep and of the oxen to sacrifice to the LORD your God, and the rest we have devoted to destruction.” 16 Then Samuel said to Saul, “Stop! I will tell you what the LORD said to me this night.” And he said to him, “Speak.”
17 And Samuel said, “Though you are little in your own eyes, are you not the head of the tribes of Israel? The LORD anointed you king over Israel. 18 And the LORD sent you on a mission and said, ‘Go, devote to destruction the sinners, the Amalekites, and fight against them until they are consumed.’ 19 Why then did you not obey the voice of the LORD? Why did you pounce on the spoil and do what was evil in the sight of the LORD?” 20 And Saul said to Samuel, “I have obeyed the voice of the LORD. I have gone on the mission on which the LORD sent me. I have brought Agag the king of Amalek, and I have devoted the Amalekites to destruction. 21 But the people took of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the best of the things devoted to destruction, to sacrifice to the LORD your God in Gilgal.” 22 And Samuel said,
“Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices,
as in obeying the voice of the LORD?
Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,
and to listen than the fat of rams.
23 For rebellion is as the sin of divination,
and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry.
Because you have rejected the word of the LORD,
he has also rejected you from being king.”
32 Then Samuel said, “Bring here to me Agag the king of the Amalekites.” And Agag came to him cheerfully. Agag said, “Surely the bitterness of death is past.” 33 And Samuel said, “As your sword has made women childless, so shall your mother be childless among women.” And Samuel hacked Agag to pieces before the LORD in Gilgal.
34 Then Samuel went to Ramah, and Saul went up to his house in Gibeah of Saul. 35 And Samuel did not see Saul again until the day of his death, but Samuel grieved over Saul. And the LORD regretted that he had made Saul king over Israel.
1 Samuel 16
David Anointed King1 Samuel 16 1 1 The LORD said to Samuel, “How long will you grieve over Saul, since I have rejected him from being king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil, and go. I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons.” 2 And Samuel said, “How can I go? If Saul hears it, he will kill me.” And the LORD said, “Take a heifer with you and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the LORD.’ 3 And invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do. And you shall anoint for me him whom I declare to you.” 4 Samuel did what the LORD commanded and came to Bethlehem. The elders of the city came to meet him trembling and said, “Do you come peaceably?” 5 And he said, “Peaceably; I have come to sacrifice to the LORD. Consecrate yourselves, and come with me to the sacrifice.” And he consecrated Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice.
6 When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, “Surely the LORD’s anointed is before him.” 7 But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” 8 Then Jesse called Abinadab and made him pass before Samuel. And he said, “Neither has the LORD chosen this one.” 9 Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, “Neither has the LORD chosen this one.” 10 And Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel. And Samuel said to Jesse, “The LORD has not chosen these.” 11 Then Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all your sons here?” And he said, “There remains yet the youngest, but behold, he is keeping the sheep.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and get him, for we will not sit down till he comes here.” 12 And he sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy and had beautiful eyes and was handsome. And the LORD said, “Arise, anoint him, for this is he.” 13 Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers. And the Spirit of the LORD rushed upon David from that day forward. And Samuel rose up and went to Ramah.
David in Saul’s Service14 Now the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and a harmful spirit from the LORD tormented him. 15 And Saul’s servants said to him, “Behold now, a harmful spirit from God is tormenting you. 16 Let our lord now command your servants who are before you to seek out a man who is skillful in playing the lyre, and when the harmful spirit from God is upon you, he will play it, and you will be well.” 17 So Saul said to his servants, “Provide for me a man who can play well and bring him to me.” 18 One of the young men answered, “Behold, I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite, who is skillful in playing, a man of valor, a man of war, prudent in speech, and a man of good presence, and the LORD is with him.” 19 Therefore Saul sent messengers to Jesse and said, “Send me David your son, who is with the sheep.” 20 And Jesse took a donkey laden with bread and a skin of wine and a young goat and sent them by David his son to Saul. 21 And David came to Saul and entered his service. And Saul loved him greatly, and he became his armor-bearer. 22 And Saul sent to Jesse, saying, “Let David remain in my service, for he has found favor in my sight.” 23 And whenever the harmful spirit from God was upon Saul, David took the lyre and played it with his hand. So Saul was refreshed and was well, and the harmful spirit departed from him.
1 Samuel 17
David and Goliath1 Samuel 17 1 Now the Philistines gathered their armies for battle. And they were gathered at Socoh, which belongs to Judah, and encamped between Socoh and Azekah, in Ephes-dammim. 2 And Saul and the men of Israel were gathered, and encamped in the Valley of Elah, and drew up in line of battle against the Philistines. 3 And the Philistines stood on the mountain on the one side, and Israel stood on the mountain on the other side, with a valley between them. 4 And there came out from the camp of the Philistines a champion named Goliath of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span. 5 He had a helmet of bronze on his head, and he was armed with a coat of mail, and the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels of bronze. 6 And he had bronze armor on his legs, and a javelin of bronze slung between his shoulders. 7 The shaft of his spear was like a weaver’s beam, and his spear’s head weighed six hundred shekels of iron. And his shield-bearer went before him. 8 He stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, “Why have you come out to draw up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not servants of Saul? Choose a man for yourselves, and let him come down to me. 9 If he is able to fight with me and kill me, then we will be your servants. But if I prevail against him and kill him, then you shall be our servants and serve us.” 10 And the Philistine said, “I defy the ranks of Israel this day. Give me a man, that we may fight together.” 11 When Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid.
12 Now David was the son of an Ephrathite of Bethlehem in Judah, named Jesse, who had eight sons. In the days of Saul the man was already old and advanced in years. 13 The three oldest sons of Jesse had followed Saul to the battle. And the names of his three sons who went to the battle were Eliab the firstborn, and next to him Abinadab, and the third Shammah. 14 David was the youngest. The three eldest followed Saul, 15 but David went back and forth from Saul to feed his father’s sheep at Bethlehem. 16 For forty days the Philistine came forward and took his stand, morning and evening.
17 And Jesse said to David his son, “Take for your brothers an ephah of this parched grain, and these ten loaves, and carry them quickly to the camp to your brothers. 18 Also take these ten cheeses to the commander of their thousand. See if your brothers are well, and bring some token from them.”
19 Now Saul and they and all the men of Israel were in the Valley of Elah, fighting with the Philistines. 20 And David rose early in the morning and left the sheep with a keeper and took the provisions and went, as Jesse had commanded him. And he came to the encampment as the host was going out to the battle line, shouting the war cry. 21 And Israel and the Philistines drew up for battle, army against army. 22 And David left the things in charge of the keeper of the baggage and ran to the ranks and went and greeted his brothers. 23 As he talked with them, behold, the champion, the Philistine of Gath, Goliath by name, came up out of the ranks of the Philistines and spoke the same words as before. And David heard him.
24 All the men of Israel, when they saw the man, fled from him and were much afraid. 25 And the men of Israel said, “Have you seen this man who has come up? Surely he has come up to defy Israel. And the king will enrich the man who kills him with great riches and will give him his daughter and make his father’s house free in Israel.” 26 And David said to the men who stood by him, “What shall be done for the man who kills this Philistine and takes away the reproach from Israel? For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?” 27 And the people answered him in the same way, “So shall it be done to the man who kills him.”
28 Now Eliab his eldest brother heard when he spoke to the men. And Eliab’s anger was kindled against David, and he said, “Why have you come down? And with whom have you left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know your presumption and the evil of your heart, for you have come down to see the battle.” 29 And David said, “What have I done now? Was it not but a word?” 30 And he turned away from him toward another, and spoke in the same way, and the people answered him again as before.
31 When the words that David spoke were heard, they repeated them before Saul, and he sent for him. 32 And David said to Saul, “Let no man’s heart fail because of him. Your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.” 33 And Saul said to David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him, for you are but a youth, and he has been a man of war from his youth.” 34 But David said to Saul, “Your servant used to keep sheep for his father. And when there came a lion, or a bear, and took a lamb from the flock, 35 I went after him and struck him and delivered it out of his mouth. And if he arose against me, I caught him by his beard and struck him and killed him. 36 Your servant has struck down both lions and bears, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, for he has defied the armies of the living God.” 37 And David said, “The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” And Saul said to David, “Go, and the LORD be with you!”
38 Then Saul clothed David with his armor. He put a helmet of bronze on his head and clothed him with a coat of mail, 39 and David strapped his sword over his armor. And he tried in vain to go, for he had not tested them. Then David said to Saul, “I cannot go with these, for I have not tested them.” So David put them off. 40 Then he took his staff in his hand and chose five smooth stones from the brook and put them in his shepherd’s pouch. His sling was in his hand, and he approached the Philistine.
41 And the Philistine moved forward and came near to David, with his shield-bearer in front of him. 42 And when the Philistine looked and saw David, he disdained him, for he was but a youth, ruddy and handsome in appearance. 43 And the Philistine said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. 44 The Philistine said to David, “Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and to the beasts of the field.” 45 Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 This day the LORD will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head. And I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, 47 and that all this assembly may know that the LORD saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the LORD’s, and he will give you into our hand.”
48 When the Philistine arose and came and drew near to meet David, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet the Philistine. 49 And David put his hand in his bag and took out a stone and slung it and struck the Philistine on his forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell on his face to the ground.
50 So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a stone, and struck the Philistine and killed him. There was no sword in the hand of David. 51 Then David ran and stood over the Philistine and took his sword and drew it out of its sheath and killed him and cut off his head with it. When the Philistines saw that their champion was dead, they fled. 52 And the men of Israel and Judah rose with a shout and pursued the Philistines as far as Gath and the gates of Ekron, so that the wounded Philistines fell on the way from Shaaraim as far as Gath and Ekron. 53 And the people of Israel came back from chasing the Philistines, and they plundered their camp. 54 And David took the head of the Philistine and brought it to Jerusalem, but he put his armor in his tent.
55 As soon as Saul saw David go out against the Philistine, he said to Abner, the commander of the army, “Abner, whose son is this youth?” And Abner said, “As your soul lives, O king, I do not know.” 56 And the king said, “Inquire whose son the boy is.” 57 And as soon as David returned from the striking down of the Philistine, Abner took him, and brought him before Saul with the head of the Philistine in his hand. 58 And Saul said to him, “Whose son are you, young man?” And David answered, “I am the son of your servant Jesse the Bethlehemite.”
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Trusting His Word
By Mike Malone 4/1/1995
Every parent knows that children have a way of exposing the real issues of life in an innocent yet unsympathetic manner. “Where did God come from? Where did I come from? Where will I go when I die?” are questions which raise ultimate philosophical concerns. The most important of questions, however, is “How do you know?” Answers may be offered to all sorts of questions, but this most basic one begs to be asked when any of those answers
Imagine that you have just awakened from a deep sleep and you find yourself in a concrete bunker with a dozen other people. You all are suffering from amnesia. You don’t know where you have come from, who you are, what you should do, or how you might travel to some other place. It is clear that you are headed somewhere because each person possesses various provisions, food, clothing, medicines, etc.
As others awaken, you begin to engage them in conversation. “Who are you? How did we get here? What shall we do? When?” Each person in the room will offer observations. Each will offer opinions, suggestions, solutions, and preferences. Each person will, sooner or later, develop convictions about the situation and what, if anything, should be done.
In a sense, this is our plight. We are gathered on this planet and faced with questions demanding answers. A cafeteria of responses is available. But the critical question is, Who shall we believe and why? Shall I believe my New Age neighbor? Shall I believe my Lutheran cousin? Shall I believe my carefree work associate? Where shall I go to find the truth?
Think back to the people in the bunker. Christianity claims that a road map has been provided in order that we might find our way from where we are to where we want to be (and we do want to be somewhere else, we realize).
But it is more than a road map. It tells us that we were made for something greater than life in a concrete bunker. It offers explanations of the world in which we find ourselves, the One who created it, and His great desire that we might know Him. It describes us and explores the inner workings of our minds and hearts, revealing what is true but not altogether pleasant about us. It points us to a goal, an end, which is purported to satisfy the deepest longings of our aching hearts. And it tells us that, while the road is long and arduous, we may expect to experience great personal joy, comradery, and beauty along the way.
While the Bible is much more than this, it is not less. And it may be trusted to “deliver the goods.” How do we know that?
The question of the reliability and authority of the Scriptures revolves around the person central in them, Jesus of Nazareth. The Bible is not a book which simply fell out of the sky or was discovered on the side of a mountain with a peculiar pair of spectacles enabling its discoverer to read it. The Bible is the record of the mighty acts of God in human history, acts which prepare for and lead to the appearing, life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus. The claim of the Bible is that these are matters of history. They may be examined. They should be expected to withstand the scrutiny of any who would bother to investigate them.
When people argue for the trustworthiness of the Scriptures they will, rightly, refer to the majesty of its themes, the fundamental unity of its message, its power to influence the lives of men and women, and the remarkable way in which it has been preserved over centuries of use. But in the end the issue is Jesus Christ. At bottom, confidence in the Bible is a matter of loyalty to Him. Until one has come to terms with Jesus Christ, other issues are merely academic.
True, we must trust the Bible at some level if we are to come to terms with Jesus of Nazareth. Given this book’s claims and given what it offers us, the only responsible thing is to investigate whether or not we ought to trust it. And that may be done by examining what it and history have said about its central character, Jesus Christ.
In a conversation with a friend of my mother, I had the temerity to suggest that anyone who was not a Christian was one of two things: ignorant or irresponsible. That still seems to me wholly true. Life is much too short and filled with too many important questions to fail to take seriously this remarkable thing which has occurred on the stage of human history. It matters infinitely what one thinks about Jesus. Be neither ignorant nor irresponsible.
Mike Malone, could not find bio
The History of the Reformation
By R.C. Sproul 4/1/1995
“A cesspool of heresies.” This was the judgment rendered by Holy Roman Emperor Charles V on May 26, 1521, shortly after Luther took a stand at the Diet of Worms.
Earlier, in the bull Exsurge Domine, Pope Leo X described Luther as a wild boar loose in the vineyard of Christ and as a stiff-necked, notorious, damned heretic. On May 4, 1521, Luther was “kidnapped” by friends and whisked off to Wartburg castle, where he was kept secretly hidden, disguised as a knight. There Luther immediately undertook the task of translating the Bible into the vernacular.
Frequently the Reformation is described as a movement that revolved around two pivotal issues. The socalled “material” cause was the debate over sola fide (“justification by faith alone”). The “formal” cause was the issue of sola Scriptura, that the Bible and the Bible alone has the authority to bind the conscience of the believer. Church tradition was regarded with respect by the Reformers but not as a normative source of revelation. The “protest” of Protestantism went far beyond the issue of justification by faith alone, challenging many dogmas that emerged in Rome, especially during the Middle Ages.
In a short time, the Reformation swept through Germany but did not stop there. Aided by the translation of the Bible in other nations, the reform spread to the Huguenots in France, to Scotland, England, Switzerland, Hungary, and Holland. Ulrich Zwingli led the Reformation movement in Switzerland, John Knox in Scotland, and John Calvin among the French Protestants.
In 1534 Calvin delivered a speech calling the church to return to the pure Gospel of the New Testament. His speech was burned, and Calvin fled Paris to Geneva. Disguised as a vinedresser, he escaped the city in a basket. During the next year, some two dozen Protestants were burned alive in France. This provoked Calvin to write his famous Institutes of the Christian Religion, which was addressed to the King of France. His thought contained in the Institutes developed into the dominant theology for the international expansion of the Reformation.
The first edition of the Institutes was completed in 1536, the same year Calvin was persuaded by Farel to come to Switzerland to build Geneva into a model city of Reformation. In 1538 Farel and Calvin were forced to leave Geneva. He lived and ministered in Strasbourg for three years until he was recalled to Geneva in 1541.
Calvin’s theology stressed the sovereignty of God in all of life. His chief passion was the reform of worship to a level of purity that would give no hint to or support of the human penchant for idolatry. Geneva attracted leaders from all over Europe who came there to observe the model and be instructed by Calvin himself.
During this period turbulence spread to England when King Henry VIII resisted the authority of Rome. In 1534 Henry became the Supreme Head of the Anglican Church. He undertook the persecution of evangelicals, which escalated under “Bloody Mary,” causing many to flee to Geneva for refuge.
The persecutions were suspended under “Good Queen Bess,” Elizabeth I, whose stance provoked a papal bull against her in 1570. The Reformation spread rapidly to Scotland, largely under the leadership of John Knox, who served 19 months as a galley slave before he went to England and then to Geneva. In 1560 the Scottish Parliament rejected papal authority. In 1561 the Scottish Reformed “Kirk” was reorganized.
One interesting footnote to this is that the first man John Knox ordained into the ministry of the church was an obscure clergyman by the name of Robert Charles Sproul, of whom I am a direct descendant.
In the early 17th century, the Reformation spread to the new world with the arrival of the Pilgrims and colonies of Puritans who brought Reformed theology and the Geneva Bible with them.
Reformation theology dominated Protestant evangelicalism for decades but became diluted later under influences of Pietism and Finneyism.
By the end of the 20th century, Reformation theology declined dramatically in the Western world, being assaulted by 19th-century liberal theology on the one hand, and the influence of Arminian theology on the other. This was especially true in America.
In the present scene of American evangelicalism, Reformation theology is a minority report. The dominant strands of theology that reign in current evangelical circles are dispensationalism and neo-Pentecostal charismatic thought. The phenomenal spread and growth of dispensational theology in America is a fascinating chapter in church history. Having its roots in British Plymouth Brethren suppositions, dispensationalism spread rapidly in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Fueled by the Bible School movement, prophecy conferences, and the preaching of men like D. L. Moody, dispensationalism gathered enormous popular support.
The American version of dispensationalism got a great boost by the publication of the Scofield Reference Bible. The Scofield Bible, with its study notes, served as a popular tool for the spread of dispensational theology. This theology was forged by men who had their roots predominately in Reformation thought. The themes of classical Reformed theology were modified significantly by this movement.
The New Geneva Study Bible is the first distinctively Reformed study Bible in English to appear since the Geneva Bible in the 16th century. It seeks to recover the theology of the Reformation and provide a guide for the laity to understand its historically, doctrinally, and biblically rich system. Its importance to American Christianity is enormous. It is my hope that it will help guide English-speaking evangelicals back to their Reformation roots. More importantly, it is designed to call evangelicals back to the Bible itself and to their historic confessions of biblical theology.
Beyond the borders of America, the New Geneva Study Bible may be used to expand the light of the Reformation to lands where the original Reformation never reached, especially to Russia and Eastern Europe.
In our day we have seen a revival of interest in the Bible and a renewed commitment to the authority and trustworthiness of Scripture. But the Reformation was more than a doctrine about the Bible. It was sparked by a deep and serious study of the Bible. It is not enough to extol the virtue of Scripture—we must hear the teaching of Scripture afresh. It is only by a serious and earnest recovery of biblical truth that we will be able to avoid falling into a new cesspool of heresy.
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
Songs from Exile
By R.C. Sproul 4/1/1997
In exile the people of Israel faced the question: “How do you sing the Lord’s song in a strange and foreign land?” The question is similar to that faced by contemporary American Christians. Ours is a spiritual exile as we confront a culture and government increasingly hostile to Christianity.
We look to Nehemiah for clues to guide our own pilgrimage in difficult times. Nehemiah was grief-stricken by the news of the condition of Jerusalem. The walls were broken down and its gates burned with fire. His first emotion over the sad loss of his heritage was grief. It was not bitterness or anger. Nehemiah wept and mourned as Jesus would later weep over the same city.
In his grief, Nehemiah moved to the next step, prayer and fasting. His prayer was first of all a prayer of adoration for the majestic awe of God and for His faithfulness to His people: “O great and awesome God, You who keep Your covenant and mercy with those who love You and observe Your commandments.”
Even in exile, Nehemiah praised God for His covenant faithfulness. Then the focus of his prayer turned to repentance, pleading with God to forgive the sins of his own people, acknowledging that they had brought exile upon themselves.
Nehemiah was a cup-bearer to the king. He served in a pagan government as a believer in God. His vocation was that of a servant. He was humble and respectful to the king, but proper fear of his king did not stop him from acting to save his people. He prayed to God and made a request of the king, asking for permission to go to Jerusalem to rebuild it. He also asked for letters that he might present to lesser governors for safe conduct and even a grant for building materials.
Not all the pagan governors were sanguine toward Nehemiah and his plans. Indeed, some were fiercely resistant to them. When Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite official heard of it, they were deeply disturbed that a man had come to seek the well-being of the children of Israel (2:10). But there is nothing unusual about this as it is a common pagan reaction to the mission of the church in any age.
When Nehemiah set about the task of rebuilding his enemies laughed at him and despised him. Nehemiah, though, did not let his critics determine his agenda. He was polite but firm in his response to them.
When Nehemiah’s pagan enemies received word that he had rebuilt the walls (but the doors were not yet hung on the gates), they invited him to meet with them in a special “audience.” Nehemiah had no time for this sort of thing, knowing the plans of the enemy were evil. He replied to Sanballat and his cronies, “Why should the work cease while I leave it and go down to you?” Sanballat then sent an open letter accusing Nehemiah of a seditious attempt to become a king and other false charges. Nehemiah sent back a message denying the allegations, noting that the charges were but a thinly veiled form of intimidation.
Nehemiah’s temptation would have been to allow Sanballat and his pagan cohorts to alter the plans and engage in a joint-venture of compromise in the mission. That would have eased the burden on his own people, won him both the applause of the Jews and of the pagans. But Nehemiah cared nothing for the applause of men and was totally unwilling to compromise the mission he had undertaken for God.
Instead of worrying about accommodating the pagans, Nehemiah focused on the reforms needed among his own people. It was one thing to rebuild the city; it was quite another to rebuild the people. The paganism Nehemiah feared was not the paganism of the pagans; it was the paganism of his own people. It was not paganism outside the camp that threatened Israel so much as the paganism within the camp.
The key strategy of Nehemiah may be seen in the closing verses of his book: “And one of the sons of Joiada, the son of Eliashib the high priest, was a son-in-law of Sanballat the Horonite; therefore I drove him from me … Thus I cleansed them of everything pagan” (13:28–30).
Nehemiah is not unique in redemptive history. The people of God in every era are called upon to relate to pagans around them. As the New Testament commands, Nehemiah honored the king and prayed for him. He was diligent to give civil obedience where possible without compromising the commands of God. He sought, as the Apostle Paul did, to live at peace with all men.
But neither Nehemiah nor Paul was able to live at peace with all men. There are always pagans like Sanballat or Demetrius of Ephesus who seek the destruction of the work of God. Neither Paul nor Nehemiah responded to such pagans with hatred. But neither did they enter into unholy alliances with them.
Nor did Nehemiah lead a monastic retreat into the wilderness. Jerusalem was not a monastery, but a city designed to be set on a hill. The task of rebuilding the Holy City was not one of world-withdrawal. Nehemiah understood that the home base of our mission is still the church. The staging zone for the divine operation must be sound if the mission to the world is to be effective.
Our readiness to perform our task becomes critical when we realize the world also has a mission to capture and assimilate the church. And if the church becomes an echo of the world, the mission of the world is accomplished.
When the church is paganized there is no need for walls or gates in the city of God. Then the church doesn’t need to worry about singing the Lord’s song—it can sing the songs of the pagan culture because there is no longer a strange and foreign land.
But the people of God are always pilgrims. We are always living in exile if we are living in the kingdom of God. We may respectfully serve the magistrates of this world. We may seek their sanction for the building of our cities and churches—but we cannot expect them to build them for us. It is our task to build the city of God. It is supremely costly and extraordinarily dangerous. He who will work to build the kingdom of God must be on guard against arrows that are directed at his face—but perhaps even more on guard for the arrows directed at his back.
Nehemiah’s work provoked hostile reactions from some of the pagans. But the real threat was grounded in the fears of God’s people. When a leader like Nehemiah, Paul, or Jesus Himself provokes a hostile reaction from enemies, the people are prone to turn on them as they bear the fallout from such attacks. Remember, it was the people who feared the wrath of Rome who turned their wrath on Jesus.
True leaders of the Christian faith, however, love believers and pagans alike and risk the hostility of both to build the kingdom of God.
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
Why Jesus Came to Earth
By Amy K. Hall 11/10/16
This month’s Solid Ground is an excerpt from Greg’s new book, The Story of Reality: How the World Began, How It Ends, and Everything Important that Happens in Between:
I think it is obvious to just about everyone that animals can never really pay for people at all. The system of sacrifice God gave to the Hebrews, as important as it was, served only as a kind of sop, a temporary measure to cover man’s moral wound for the moment. It would never do in the long run, and it was not meant to. No, man owes the debt, and in the long run man, not creatures, must pay. And only a sinless man—someone with no debt of his own—could cover the debt of another. And only a man who was more than a man could ever pay for the sins of multitudes.
And this brings us to the most important Christmas verse you will never hear on Christmas. Here it is:
(Heb 10:5–7) 5 Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me; 6 in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. 7 Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.’ ” ESV
Note the opening words of this passage: “When Christ came into the world….” The Story is saying that on that first Christmas, in some incredible way the eternal Son of God in a baby’s body said to His Father, “Here I am. I will do as You have asked. I accept the body You have prepared for Me, the body that will bleed out in perfect payment for sin.”
And this is the answer to our question. This is why Jesus came to earth. God’s Son surrendered His sinless human self to be the future unblemished offering to perfectly and completely save sinners.
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 35Great Is the LORD
35 OF DAVID.
17 How long, O Lord, will you look on?
Rescue me from their destruction,
my precious life from the lions!
18 I will thank you in the great congregation;
in the mighty throng I will praise you.
19 Let not those rejoice over me
who are wrongfully my foes,
and let not those wink the eye
who hate me without cause.
20 For they do not speak peace,
but against those who are quiet in the land
they devise words of deceit.
21 They open wide their mouths against me;
they say, “Aha, Aha!
Our eyes have seen it!”
The Institutes of the Christian Religion
Translated by Henry Beveridge
4. Thus, indeed, it is. Aroused consciences, when they have to do with
God, feel this to be the only asylum in which they can breathe safely.
For if the stars which shine most brightly by night lose their
brightness on the appearance of the sun, what think we will be the case
with the highest purity of man when contrasted with the purity of God?
For the scrutiny will be most strict, penetrating to the most hidden
thoughts of the heart. As Paul says, it "will bring to light the hidden
things of darkness and will make manifest the counsels of the heart,"
(1 Cor. 4:5); will compel the reluctant and dissembling conscience to
bring forward everything, even things which have now escaped our
memory. The devil, aware of all the iniquities which he has induced us
to perpetrate, will appear as accuser; the external show of good works,
the only thing now considered, will then be of no avail; the only thing
demanded will be the true intent of the will. Hence hypocrisy, not only
that by which a man, though consciously guilty before God, affects to
make an ostentatious display before man, but that by which each imposes
upon himself before God (so prone are we to soothe and flatter
ourselves), will fall confounded, how much soever it may now swell with
pride and presumption. Those who do not turn their thoughts to this
scene may be able for the moment calmly and complacently to rear up a
righteousness for themselves; but this the judgment of God will
immediately overthrow, just as great wealth amassed in a dream vanishes
the moment we awake. Those who, as in the presence of God, inquire
seriously into the true standard of righteousness, will certainly find
that all the works of men, if estimated by their own worth, are nothing
but vileness and pollution, that what is commonly deemed justice is
with God mere iniquity; what is deemed integrity is pollution; what
deemed glory is ignominy.
5. Let us not decline to descend from this contemplation of the divine perfection, to look into ourselves without flattery or blind self-love. It is not strange that we are so deluded in this matter, seeing none of us can avoid that pestilential self-indulgence, which, as Scripture proclaims, is naturally inherent in all: "Every way of a man is right in his own eyes," says Solomon (Prov. 21:2). And again, "All the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes," (Prov. 16:2). What then? does this hallucination excuse him? No, indeed, as Solomon immediately adds, "The Lord weigheth the spirits;" that is, while man flatters himself by wearing an external mask of righteousness, the Lord weighs the hidden impurity of the heart in his balance. Seeing, therefore, that nothing is gained by such flattery, let us not voluntarily delude ourselves to our own destruction. To examine ourselves properly, our conscience must be called to the judgment-seat of God. His light is necessary to disclose the secret recesses of wickedness which otherwise lie too deeply hid. Then only shall we clearly perceive what the value of our works is; that man, so far from being just before God, is but rottenness and a worm, abominable and vain, drinking in "iniquity like water." For "who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? not one," (Job 14:5). Then we shall experience the truth of what Job said of himself: "If I justify myself, mine own mouth shall condemn me: if I say I am perfect, it shall prove me perverse," (Job 9:20). Nor does the complaint which the prophet made concerning Israel apply to one age only. It is true of every age, that "all we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way," (Isaiah 53:6). Indeed, he there comprehends all to whom the gift of redemption was to come. And the strictness of the examination ought to be continued until it have completely alarmed us, and in that way prepared us for receiving the grace of Christ. For he is deceived who thinks himself capable of enjoying it, until he have laid aside all loftiness of mind. There is a well-known declaration, "God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the humble," (1 Pet. 5:5).
6. But what means is there of humbling us if we do not make way for the mercy of God by our utter indigence and destitution? For I call it not humility, so long as we think there is any good remaining in us. Those who have joined together the two things, to think humbly of ourselves before God and yet hold our own righteousness in some estimation, have hitherto taught a pernicious hypocrisy. For if we confess to God contrary to what we feel, we wickedly lie to him; but we cannot feel as we ought without seeing that every thing like a ground of boasting is completely crushed. Therefore, when you hear from the prophets "thou wilt save the afflicted people; but wilt bring down high looks" (Ps. 18:27), consider, first, that there is no access to salvation unless all pride is laid aside and true humility embraced; secondly, that that humility is not a kind of moderation by which you yield to God some article of your right (thus men are called humble in regard to each other when they neither conduct themselves haughtily nor insult over other, though they may still entertain some consciousness of their own excellence), but that it is the unfeigned submission of a mind overwhelmed by a serious conviction of its want and misery. Such is the description every where given by the word of God. When in Zephaniah the Lord speaks thus, "I will take away out of the midst of thee them that rejoice in thy pride, and thou shalt no more be haughty because of my holy mountain. I will also leave in the midst of thee an afflicted and poor people, and they shall trust in the name of the Lord," (Zeph. 3:11, 12), does he not plainly show who are the humble--viz. those who lie afflicted by a knowledge of their poverty? On the contrary, he describes the proud as rejoicing (exultantes), such being the mode in which men usually express their delight in prosperity. To the humble, whom he designs to save, he leaves nothing but hope in the Lord. Thus, also, in Isaiah, "To this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word," (Isaiah 66:2). again, "Thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones," (Isaiah 57:15). By the term contrition which you so often hear, understand a wounded heart, which, humbling the individual to the earth, allows him not to rise. With such contrition must your heart be wounded, if you would, according to the declaration of God, be exalted with the humble. If this is not your case, you shall be humbled by the mighty hand of God to your shame and disgrace.
7. Our divine Master, not confining himself to words, has by a parable set before us, as in a picture, a representation of true humility. He brings forward a publican, who standing afar off, and not daring to lift up his eyes to heaven, smites upon his breast, laments aloud, and exclaims, " God be merciful to me a sinner," (Luke 18:13). Let us not suppose that he gives the signs of a fictitious modesty when he dares not come near or lift up his eyes to heaven, but, smiting upon his breast, confesses himself a sinner; let us know that these are the evidences of his internal feeling. With him our Lord contrasts the Pharisee, who thanks God "I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess." In this public confession he admits that the righteousness which he possesses is the gift of God; but because of his confidence that he is righteous, he departs from the presence of God unaccepted and abominated. The publican acknowledging his iniquity is justified. Hence we may see how highly our humility is valued by the Lord: our breast cannot receive his mercy until deprived completely of all opinion of its own worth. When such an opinion is entertained, the door of mercy is shut. That there might be no doubt on this matter, the mission on which Christ was sent into the world by his Father was "to preach good tidings to the meek," "to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; to appoint unto them that mourn in Zion to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness," (Isa. 61:1-3). In fulfillment of that mission, the only persons whom he invites to share in his beneficence are the "weary and heavy laden." In another passage he says, " I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance," (Mt. 11:28; 9:13).
8. Therefore if we would make way for the call of Christ, we must put far from us all arrogance and confidence. The former is produced by a foolish persuasion of self-righteousness, when a man thinks that he has something in himself which deservedly recommends him to God; the latter may exist without any confidence in works.  For many sinners, intoxicated with the pleasures of vice, think not of the judgment of God. Lying stupefied, as it were, by a kind of lethargy, they aspire not to the offered mercy. It is not less necessary to shake off torpor of this description than every kind of confidence in ourselves, in order that we may haste to Christ unencumbered, and while hungry and empty be filled with his blessings. Never shall we have sufficient confidence in him unless utterly distrustful of ourselves; never shall we take courage in him until we first despond of ourselves; never shall we have full consolation in him until we cease to have any in ourselves. When we have entirely discarded all self-confidence, and trust solely in the certainty of his goodness, we are fit to apprehend and obtain the grace of God. "When," (as Augustine says), "forgetting our own merits, we embrace the gifts of Christ, because if he should seek for merits in us we should not obtain his gifts," (August. de Verb. Apost. 8). With this Bernard admirably accords, comparing the proud who presume in the least on their merits, to unfaithful servants, who wickedly take the merit of a favor merely passing through them, just as if a wall were to boast of producing the ray which it receives through the window (Bernard, Serm. 13, in Cant). Not to dwell longer here, let us lay down this short but sure and general rule, That he is prepared to reap the fruits of the divine mercy who has thoroughly emptied himself, I say not of righteousness (he has none), but of a vain and blustering show of righteousness; for to whatever extent any man rests in himself, to the same extent he impedes the beneficence of God.
 French, "Par arrogance j'enten l'orgueil qui s'engendre d'une fole persuasion de justice, quand l'homme pense avoir quelque chose, dont il merite d'estre agreable à Dieu; par presomption j'enten une nonchalance charnelle, qui peut estre sans aucune fiance des oeuvres;"--by arrogance I mean the pride which is engendered by a foolish persuasion of righteousness, when man thinks he has something for which he deserves to be agreeable to God. By presumption I understand a carnal indifference, which may exist without any confidence in works.
Christian Classics Ethereal Library / Public Domain
Institutes of the Christian Religion
1 Samuel 15
By Don Carson 8/23/2018
Saul already has a checkered record. On the one hand, he courageously rescued the city of Jabesh from the Ammonites and displayed an admirable restraint in the early use of his royal power (1 Sam. 11). Nevertheless it was not long before he starts treating the Lord God as a talisman, and his word as the equivalent of a magical or astrological hint of what he should do, rather than something that is first of all to be reverenced and obeyed (1 Sam. 13). By chapter 14, only the intervention of his own men keeps him from killing his son Jonathan over a promise that should never have been made and should certainly not have been kept (compare the meditation for July 28). Here in 1 Samuel 15, several traits of character ensure that Saul will not head a dynasty. He will be replaced by another king.
(1) Despite explicit instructions from the Lord regarding the Amalekites, Saul and his army spare the best sheep and cattle, and even the Amalekite King Agag, perhaps as a kind of trophy. Worse, Saul then lies about this to Samuel—as if God could be deceived. The lie betrays the fact that by this time Saul is thinking without reference to an all-knowing God; he is thinking like a mere politician, like a pagan or a secularist.
(2) Samuel understands the heart of the problem to lie in Saul’s changed perceptions of himself (1 Sam. 15:17): at one time he was small in his own eyes, and could scarcely imagine being king. Now he is ready to lie to God’s prophet and never, never, truly repent.
(3) Saul changes his tactics, and insists that the reason he kept the best sheep and cattle was to offer a great sacrifice to the Lord. There is nothing like a little religious patter to pull the wool over some people’s eyes. But not Samuel’s. “Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD?” he asks. “To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams. For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry” (1 Sam. 15:22–23). Such reminders need to be enshrined in contemporary evangelicalism.
(4) So Saul offers formal repentance — but makes the excuse that he was afraid of the people. He simply will not face his own responsibility — and Samuel sees this clearly (1 Sam. 15:24–26).
(5) Saul tries formal repentance once more; but once again he betrays his own heart when he shows that he finds it more important to be honored before the elders of Israel than by the God of Israel (1 Sam. 15:30–31). We are lost when human opinion means more to us than God’s.
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 16
By Don Carson 8/24/2018
The anointing of David as King over Israel (1 Sam. 16:1–13), even though his enthronement is years away, is full of interest.
(1) Sometimes prophets and preachers are slower to let go of a bad leader than God Almighty (1 Sam. 16:1). This is not because we are more compassionate than God, but because inertia or nostalgia or personal bonds of affection blind us to the sheer damage the leader is doing. For all his compassion, God is never blinded.
(2) Saul was elevated to the throne by God’s sanction. Is he so foolish as to think that he can outwit God in order to keep it? It is terribly sad to find Samuel afraid to anoint the next king, because Saul will kill anyone, even a prophet of God, who threatens a dynasty that God himself has declared will never be established.
(3) Saul had looked very promising when he was first elevated to the throne. Now Samuel thinks he can detect kingly material in the sons of Jesse — Eliab, for instance, the firstborn. But God says, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7).
This is a lesson that must be learned afresh, especially in our day, for our day loves images more than reality. Even some preachers devote more thought to how “to dress for success” and how to develop a compelling and authoritative voice than they do to maintaining a pure heart.
(4) The most important factor in the life and service of David is that the Spirit of the Lord comes upon him “in power” (1 Sam. 16:13). This is the regular experience of those prophets, priests, kings, and a few other leaders, who were given special roles under the terms of the old covenant. However difficult it is to be discerning in such matters, one cannot say too often or too loudly that what the church needs are leaders with unction — a word favored by the Puritans. It simply means “anointing,” i.e., an anointing by the Spirit. Is that too much to ask, in an age when under the terms of the new covenant all of the covenant people of God receive the Spirit poured out at Pentecost?
(5) Those who know their Bibles cannot help but feel a thrill of excitement at the simple words of verse 12. There the Lord tells Samuel with respect to David, “Rise and anoint him; he is the one.” Indeed, David was the one. Here are the inauspicious beginnings of a major new step in the history of redemption, one that leads directly to David’s most eminent descendant — and his Lord.
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
The Coming Prince
By Sir Robert Anderson 1841-1918
Chapter 8 Messiah The PrinceNow the date of Tiberius Caesar's reign is known with absolute accuracy; and his fifteenth year, reckoned from his accession, began on the 19th August, A.D. 28. And further, it is also known that during that year, so reckoned, each of the personages named in the passage, actually held the position there assigned to him. Here then, it might be supposed, no difficulty or question could arise. But the evangelist goes on to speak of the beginning of the ministry of the Lord Himself, and he mentions that "He was about thirty years of age when He began."  This statement, taken in connection with the date commonly assigned to the nativity, has been supposed to require that "the fifteenth year of Tiberius" shall be understood as referring, not to the epoch of his reign, but to an earlier date, when history testifies that certain powers were conferred on him during the two last years of Augustus. All such hypotheses, however, "are open to one overwhelming objection, viz., that the reign of Tiberius, as beginning from 19th August, A.D. 14, was as well known a date in the time of Luke, as the reign of Queen Victoria is in our own day; and no single case has ever been, or can be, produced, in which the years of Tiberius were reckoned in any other manner." 
 Luke 3:23. Such is the right rendering of the verse. The Revised Version renders it: " And Jesus Himself, when He began to teach, was about thirty years of age."Nor is there any inconsistency whatever between these statements of St. Luke and the date of the nativity (as fixed by the evangelist himself, under Cyrenius, in the autumn of B.C. 4; for the Lord's ministry, dating from the autumn of A.D. 28, may in fact have begun before His thirty-first year expired, and cannot have been later than a few months beyond it. The expression "about thirty years implies some such margin.  As therefore it is wholly unnecessary, it becomes wholly unjustifiable, to put a forced and special meaning on the evangelist's words; and by the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar he must have intended what all the world would assume he meant, namely, the year beginning 19th August, A.D. 28. And thus, passing out of the region of argument and controversy, we reach at last a well-ascertained date of vital importance in this inquiry.
 Lewin, Fasti Sacri, p. 53. Diss., chap. 6: The joint-principate theory of the reign of Tiberius, elaborately argued for by Greswell, is essential with writers like him, who assign the crucifixion to A. D 29 or 30. Sanclementi, indeed, finding "that nowhere in histories, or on monuments, or coins, is a vestige to be found of any such mode of reckoning the years of this emperor," disposes of the difficulty by taking the date in Luke 3:1 to refer, not to John the Baptist's ministry, but to Christ's death. Browne adopts this in a modified form, recognizing that the hypothesis above referred to "falls under fatal objections." He remarks that "it is improbable to the last degree" that Luke, who wrote specially for a Roman officer, and generally for Gentiles, would have so expressed himself as to be certainly misunderstood by them. Therefore, though the statement of the evangelist clashes with his conclusion as to the date of the Passion, he owns his obligation to accept it. See Ordo Saec., §§ 71 and 95.
 As Dean Alford puts it (Gr. Test., in loco): "This hosei tpiakonta admits of considerable latitude, but only in one direction, viz., over thirty years."The first Passover of the Lord's public ministry on earth is thus definitely fixed by the Gospel narrative itself, as in Nisan A.D. 29. And we are thus enabled to fix 32 A.D. as the year of the crucifixion. 
 "It seems to me absolutely certain that our Lord's ministry lasted for some period above three years" (Pusey, Daniel, p. 176, and see p. 177, note 7). This opinion is now held so universally, that it is no longer necessary to set forth in detail the grounds on which it rests; indeed, recent writers generally assume without proof that the ministry included four Passovers. The most satisfactory discussion of the question which I know of is in Hengstenberg's Christology (Arnold's trans., §§ 755-765). St. John mentions expressly three Passovers at which the Lord was present; and if the feast of John 5:1 be a Passover, the question is at an end. It is now generally admitted that that feast was either Purim or Passover, and Hengstenberg's proofs in favor of the latter are overwhelming. The feast of Purim had no Divine sanction. It was instituted by the decree of Esther, Queen of Persia, in the 13th year of Xerxes (B. C. 473), and it was rather a social and political than a religious feast, the service in the synagogue being quite secondary to the excessive eating and drinking which marked the day. It is doubtful whether our Lord would have observed such a feast at all; but that, contrary to the usual practice, He would have specially gone up to Jerusalem to celebrate it, is altogether incredible. Our pastor says that Jesus did celebrate Purim.This is opposed, no doubt, to the traditions embodied in the spurious Acta Pilati so often quoted in this controversy, and in the writings of certain of the fathers, by whom the fifteenth year of Tiberius was held to be itself the date of the death of Christ; "by some, because they confounded the date of the baptism with the date of the Passion; by others, because they supposed both to have happened in one year; by others, because they transcribed from their predecessors without examination." 
 Clinton's Fasti Rom., A. D. 29.An imposing array of names can be cited in support of any year from A.D. 29 to A.D. 33; but such testimony is of force only so long as no better can be found. Just as a seemingly perfect chain of circumstantial evidence crumbles before the testimony of a single witness of undoubted veracity and worth, and the united voice of half a county will not support a prescriptive right, if it be opposed to a single sheet of parchment, so the cumulative traditions of the Church, even if they were as definite and clear as in fact they are contradictory and vague, would not outweigh the proofs to which appeal has here been made.
One point more, however, claims attention. Numerous writers, some of them eminent, have discussed this question as though nothing more were needed in fixing the date of the Passion than to find a year, within certain limits, in which the paschal moon was full upon a Friday. But this betrays strange forgetfulness of the intricacies of the problem. True it is that if the system by which today the Jewish year is settled had been in force eighteen centuries ago, the whole controversy might turn upon the week date of the Passover in a given year; but on account of our ignorance of the embolismal system then in use, no weight whatever can be attached to it.  While the Jewish year was the old lunisolar year of 360 days, it is not improbable they adjusted it, as for centuries they had probably been accustomed to do in Egypt, by adding annually the "complimentary days" of which Herodotus speaks.  But it is not to be supposed that when they adopted the present form of year, they continued to correct the calendar in so primitive a manner. Their use of the metonic cycle for this purpose is comparatively modern.  And it is probable that with the lunar year they obtained also under the Seleucidae the old eight years' cycle for its adjustment. The fact that this cycle was in use among the early Christians for their paschal calculations,  raises a presumption that it was borrowed from the Jews; but we have no certain knowledge upon the subject.
 "The month began at the phases of the moon…and this happens, according to Newton, when the moon is eighteen hours old. Therefore the fourteenth Nisan might commence when the moon was 13d. 18h. old, and wanted 1d. oh. 22m. to the full. [The age of the moon at the full will be 14d. 18h. 22M.] But sometimes the phases was delayed till the moon was 1d. 17h. old; and then if the first Nisan were deferred till the phases, the fourteenth would begin only 1h. 22m. before the full. This precision, however, in adjusting the month to the moon did not exist in practice. The Jews, like other nations who adopted a lunar year, and supplied the defect by an intercalary month, failed in obtaining complete accuracy. We know not what their method of calculation was at the time of the Christian era" (Fasti Rom., vol. 2., p. 240); A. D. 30 is the only year between 28 and 33 in which the phases of the full moon was on a Friday. In A. D. 29 the full moon was on Saturday, and the phases on Monday. (See Wurm's Table, in Wiesler's Chron. Syn., Venables's trans., p. 407).Indeed, the only thing reasonably certain upon the matter is that the Passover did not fall upon the days assigned to it by writers whose calculations respecting it are made with strict astronomical accuracy,  for the Mishna affords the clearest proof that the beginning of the month was not determined by the true new moon, but by the first appearance of her disc; and though in a climate like that of Palestine this would seldom be delayed by causes which would operate in murkier latitudes, it doubtless sometimes happened "that neither sun nor stars for many days appeared."  These considerations justify the statement that in any year whatever the 15th Nisan may have fallen on a Friday. 
 Herod. 2:4.
 It was about A. D. 360 that the Jews adopted the metonic cycle of nineteen years for the adjustment of their calendar. Before that time they used a cycle of eighty-four years, which was evidently the calippic period of seventy-six years with a Greek octaeteris added. This is said by certain writers to have been in use at the time of our Lord, but the statement is very doubtful. It appears to rest on the testimony of the later Rabbins. Julius Africanus, on the other hand, states in his Chronography that "the Jews insert three intercalary months every eight years." For a description of the modern Jewish calendar see Encyc. Brit. (9th ed., vol. 5., p. 714).
 Browne, Ordo saec., § 424
 See ex. gr. Browne Ordo saec., § 64. He avers that "if in a given year the paschal moon was at the full at any instant between sunset of a Thursday and sunset of a Friday, the day included between the two sunsets was the 15th Nisan; "and on this ground he maintains that A. D. 29 is the only possible date of the crucifixion. As his own table shows, however, no possible year (i. e., no year between 28 and 33) satisfies this requirement; for the paschal full moon in A. D. 29 was on Saturday the 16th April, not on Friday the 18th March. This view is maintained also by Ferguson and others. It may be accounted for, perhaps, by the fact that till recent years the Mishna was not translated into English.For example, in A.D. 32, the date of the true new moon, by which the Passover was regulated, was the night (10h 57m) of the 29th March. The ostensible date of the 1st Nisan, therefore, according to the phases, was the 31st March. It may have been delayed, however, till the 1st April; and in that case the 15th Nisan should apparently have fallen on Tuesday the 15th April. But the calendar may have been further disturbed by intercalation. According to the scheme of the eight years' cycle, the embolismal month was inserted in the third, sixth, and eighth years, and an examination of the calendars from A.D. 22 to A D. 45 will show that A.D. 32 was the third year of such a cycle. As, therefore, the difference between the solar year and the lunar is 11 days, it would amount in three years to 33 3/4 days, and the intercalation of a thirteenth month (Ve-adar) of thirty days would leave an epact still remaining of 3 3/4 days; and the "ecclesiastical moon" being that much before the real moon, the feast day would have fallen on the Friday (11th April), exactly as the narrative of the Gospels requires. 
 Acts 27:20. Treatise Rosh Hashanah of the Mishna deals with the mode in which, in the days of the "second temple," the feast of the new moon was regulated. The evidence of two competent witnesses was required by the Sanhedrin to the fact that they had seen the moon, and the numerous rules laid down for the journey and examination of these witnesses prove that not unfrequently they came from a distance. Indeed, the case of their being "a day and a night on the road" is provided for (ch. i., § 9). The proclamation by the Sanhedrin, therefore, may have been sometimes delayed till a day or even two after the phases, and sometimes the phases was delayed till the moon was 1d. 17h. old [Clinton, Fasti Rom., vol. 2., p. 240]; so that the 1st Nisan may have fallen several days later than the true new moon. Possibly, moreover, it may have been still further delayed by the operation of rules such as those of the modern Jewish calendar for preventing certain festivals from falling on incompatible days. It appears from the Mishna ("Pesachim") that the present rules for this purpose were not in force; but yet there may have been similar rules in operation.
 See Fasli Rom., vol. 2., p. 240, as to the impossibility of determining in what years the Passover fell on Friday.
 The following is the scheme of the octaeteris: "The solar year has a length of 365 & 1/4 days; 12 lunar months make 354 days. The difference, which is called the epact or epagomene, is 11 & 1/4 days. This is the epact of the first year. Hence the epact of the second year = 22 & 1/2 days; of the third, 33 & 3/4. These 33 & 3/4 days make one lunar month of 30 days, which is added to the third lunar year as an intercalary or thirteenth month (embolismos), and a remainder or epact of 3 3/4 days. Hence the epact of the fourth year =11 & 1/4 + 3 & 3/4=15 days; that of the fifth year =26 & 1/4; of the sixth, 37 & 1/2, which gives a second embolism of 30 days with an epact of 7 & 1/2. The epact, therefore, of the seventh year is 18 & 3/4, and of the eighth =18 & 3/4 + 11 & 1/4= just 30, which is the third embolism with no epact remaining." — BROWNE, Ordo Saec., § 424. The days of the Paschal full moon in the years A. D. 22-37 were as follows; the embolismal years, according to the octaeteris, being marked "E":This, moreover, would explain what, notwithstanding all the poetry indulged in about the groves and grottoes of Gethsemane, remains still a difficulty. Judas needed neither torch nor lantern to enable him to track his Master through the darkest shades and recesses of the garden, nor was it, seemingly, until he had fulfilled his base and guilty mission that the: crowd pressed in to seize their victim. And no traitor need have been suborned by the Sanhedrin to betray to them at midnight the object of their hate, were it not that they dared not take Him save by stealth.  Every torch and lamp increased the risk of rousing the sleeping millions around them, for that night all Judah was gathered to the capital to keep the Paschal feast.  If, then, the full moon were high above Jerusalem, no other light were needed to speed them on their guilty errand; but if, on the other hand, the Paschal moon were only ten or eleven days old upon that Thursday night, she would certainly have been low on the horizon, if she had not actually set, before they ventured forth. These suggestions are not made to confirm the proof already offered of the year date of the death of Christ, but merely to show how easy it is to answer objections which at first sight might seem fatal.
22 ... 5th April
23 ... 25th March
24 ... 12th April
25 ... 1st April
26 ... 21st March
27E ... 9th April
28 ... 29th March
29E ... 17th April
30 ... 6th April
31 ... 27th March.
32E ... 14th April
33 ... 3rd April
34 ... 23rd March
35E ... 11th April
36 ... 30th March
37E ... 18th April
 Luke 22: 2-6The Coming Prince
 Josephus testifies that an "innumerable multitude" came together for the feast (Ant., 17., 9, § 3); and he computes that at a Passover before the siege of Jerusalem upwards of 2, 700, 200 persons actually partook of the Paschal Supper, besides the foreigners present in the city (Wars, 6., 9, § 3).
and also at this website. https://www.whatsaiththescripture.com/Voice/The.Coming.Prince.html#1-2
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
4/1/2007 | Accepted in the Beloved
My father was a veteran of World War II, the son of a small-town country preacher, school teacher, and sheriff, the son-in-law of the automobile manufacturer Preston Tucker, a fellow college graduate of Sam Walton, the leader of one of the first grass-roots movements to campaign for Ronald Reagan for president, and a father who grieved for many years over the loss of his first son who died at eighteen years of age. My father was a great man, but he never seemed to overcome the grief he experienced. I never understood the grief my father experienced over the loss of his first son until I was faced with a similar loss. The grief I experienced began with news that came early on a Sunday evening in September — my father had died. I was sixteen years old.
I didn’t know how to grieve. I couldn’t even bring myself to cry over his death until years later when I cried out to God asking Him why he had to take my father away from me. It wasn’t until I entered my twenties and began to learn what manhood is all about when I realized how much I needed my father. It was then, while in college, that I began to deal with the grief that had set in several years before. It was then that I understood the truth of Paul’s words to the Thessalonians when he wrote that we do not grieve as those who have no hope (1 Thess. 4:13). The way we grieve is different because the hope we possess is different. Our hope is not in ourselves. We would fail just as our first father failed, sinning against his Father, bringing grief and shame not only to himself but to the entire human race. For in Adam we all sinned, and in Adam we all died (Rom. 5:12). As a result, we suffer with grief every day of our lives — grief over the loss of others, over the sin of others, and over the sin within us.
However, our grief cannot even begin to be compared to the grief of the one who knew no sin. The Man of Sorrows became acquainted with grief (Isa. 53:3) so that He might bear our grief and carry away our sorrows (v. 4). All this was done so that we might know our heavenly Father who loved us and gave His only-begotten Son, laying on Him the iniquity of us all, so that we might live eternally coram Deo, before His face, loving Him and enjoying Him forever. The first man sinned and grieved only for himself, but the second Man knew no sin yet grieved for us so that we would not grieve forever.
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Dr. Burk Parsons (@BurkParsons) is editor of Tabletalk magazine, senior pastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., a visiting lecturer at Reformed Theological Seminary, and a Ligonier Ministries teaching fellow. He is editor of John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, and Doxology.
Ligonier coram Deo (definition)
by Bill Federer
Queen Ka’ahumanu served as regent-prime minister of Hawaii after the death of her husband, King Kamehameha. Together with her son, King Kamehameha II, they ended all idolatry and human sacrifice on the islands. On this date, March 31, 1820, the first missionaries, led by Hiram Bingham, arrived in Hawaii on the ship, Thaddeus. The Queen received Christ and helped spread the Gospel throughout the islands. Just prior to her death, Queen Ka’ahumanu was presented with the newly completed version of the New Testament in the Hawaiian language. Her last words were: “I am going where the mansions are ready.”
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
Life can only be understood backwards;
but it must be lived forwards.
--- Soren Kierkegaard
The Essential Kierkegaard
An entire nation shook under the power of one man’s [MLK’s] dream! Now if one dream can do that for our nation, imagine what a dream can do for the Church.
--- Wayne Cordeiro
Doing Church as a Team: The Miracle of Teamwork and How It Transforms Churches
The church is not a dormitory for sleepers, it is an institution for workers; it is not a rest camp, it is a front line trench.
--- Billy Sunday
Billy Sunday, Home Run to Heaven (Sowers)
Generally speaking, the errors in religion are dangerous; those in philosophy only ridiculous.
--- David Hume
A Treatise of Human Nature
... from here, there and everywhere
University of Virginia Libray 1994
Fifth of fifth month, 1768. -- I left home under the humbling hand of the Lord, with a certificate to visit some meetings in Maryland, and to proceed without a horse seemed clearest to me. I was at the Quarterly Meetings at Philadelphia and Concord, whence I proceeded to Chester River, and, crossing the bay, was at the Yearly Meeting at West River; I then returned to Chester River, and, taking a few meetings in my way, proceeded home. It was a journey of much inward waiting, and as my eye was to the Lord, way was several times opened to my humbling admiration when things appeared very difficult. On my return I felt a very comfortable relief of mind, having through Divine help labored in much plainness, both with Friends selected and in the more public meetings, so that I trust the pure witness in many minds was reached.
John Woolman's Journal
Thomas A Kempis
Book Three - Internal Consolation
The Twenty-Second Chapter / Remember The Innumerable Gifts Of God
OPEN my heart, O Lord, to Your law and teach me to walk in the way of Your commandments. Let me understand Your will. Let me remember Your blessings—all of them and each single one of them—with great reverence and care so that henceforth I may return worthy thanks for them. I know that I am unable to give due thanks for even the least of Your gifts. I am unworthy of the benefits You have given me, and when I consider Your generosity my spirit faints away before its greatness. All that we have of soul and body, whatever we possess interiorly or exteriorly, by nature or by grace, are Your gifts and they proclaim Your goodness and mercy from which we have received all good things.
If one receives more and another less, yet all are Yours and without You nothing can be received. He who receives greater things cannot glory in his own merit or consider himself above others or behave insolently toward those who receive less. He who attributes less to himself and is the more humble and devout in returning thanks is indeed the greater and the better, while he who considers himself lower than all men and judges himself to be the least worthy, is the more fit to receive the greater blessing.
He, on the other hand, who has received fewer gifts should not be sad or impatient or envious of the richer man. Instead he should turn his mind to You and offer You the greatest praise because You give so bountifully, so freely and willingly, without regard to persons. All things come from You; therefore, You are to be praised in all things. You know what is good for each of us; and why one should receive less and another more is not for us to judge, but for You Who have marked every man’s merits.
Therefore, O Lord God, I consider it a great blessing not to have many things which human judgment holds praiseworthy and glorious, for one who realizes his own poverty and vileness should not be sad or downcast at it, but rather consoled and happy because You, O God, have chosen the poor, the humble, and the despised in this world to be Your friends and servants. The truth of this is witnessed by Your Apostles, whom You made princes over all the world. Yet they lived in this world without complaining, so humble and simple, so free from malice and deceit, that they were happy even to suffer reproach for Your name and to embrace with great affection that which the world abhors.
A man who loves You and recognizes Your benefits, therefore, should be gladdened by nothing so much as by Your will, by the good pleasure of Your eternal decree. With this he should be so contented and consoled that he would wish to be the least as others wish to be the greatest; that he would be as peaceful and satisfied in the last place as in the first, and as willing to be despised, unknown and forgotten, as to be honored by others and to have more fame than they. He should prefer Your will and the love of Your honor to all else, and it should comfort him more than all the benefits which have been, or will be, given him.
The Imitation Of Christ
Practical religion. The Christian life
Christian Work Requires Love
"The fruit of the Spirit is love." I ask once again, Why is it so? And the answer comes: That is the only power in which Christians really can do their work.
Yes, it is that we need. We want not only love that is to bind us to each other, but we want a divine love in our work for the lost around us. Oh, do we not often undertake a great deal of work, just as men undertake work of philanthropy, from a natural spirit of compassion for our fellow-men? Do we not often undertake Christian work because our minister or friend calls us to it? And do we not often perform Christian work with a certain zeal but without having had a baptism of love?
People often ask: "What is the baptism of fire?"
I have answered more than once: I know no fire like the fire of God, the fire of everlasting love that consumed the sacrifice on Calvary. The baptism of love is what the Church needs, and to get that we must begin at once to get down upon our faces before God in confession, and plead:
"Lord, let love from Heaven flow down into my heart. I am giving up my life to pray and live as one who has given himself up for the everlasting love to dwell in and fill him."
Ah, yes, if the love of God were in our hearts, what a difference it would make! There are hundreds of believers who say:
"I work for Christ, and I feel I could work much harder, but I have not the gift. I do not know how or where to begin. I do not know what I can do."
Brother, sister, ask God to baptize you with the Spirit of love, and love will find its way. Love is a fire that will burn through every difficulty. You may be a shy, hesitating man, who cannot speak well, but love can burn through everything. God fill us with love! We need it for our work.
You have read many a touching story of love expressed, and you have said, How beautiful! I heard one not long ago. A lady had been asked to speak at a Rescue Home where there were a number of poor women. As she arrived there and got to the window with the matron, she saw outside a wretched object sitting, and asked:
"Who is that?"
The matron answered: "She has been into the house thirty or forty times, and she has always gone away again. Nothing can be done with her, she is so low and hard."
But the lady said: "She must come in."
The matron then said: "We have been waiting for you, and the company is assembled, and you have only an hour for the address."
The lady replied: "No, this is of more importance"; and she went outside where the woman was sitting and said:
"My sister, what is the matter?"
"I am not your sister," was the reply.
Then the lady laid her hand on her, and said: "Yes, I am your sister, and I love you"; and so she spoke until the heart of the poor woman was touched.
The conversation lasted some time, and the company were waiting patiently. Ultimately the lady brought the woman into the room. There was the poor wretched, degraded creature, full of shame. She would not sit on a chair, but sat down on a stool beside the speaker's seat, and she let her lean against her, with her arms around the poor woman's neck, while she spoke to the assembled people. And that love touched the woman's heart; she had found one who really loved her, and that love gave access to the love of Jesus.
Praise God! there is love upon earth in the hearts of God's children; but oh, that there were more!
O God, baptize our ministers with a tender love, and our missionaries, and our Bible-readers, and our workers, and our young men's and young women's associations. Oh, that God would begin with us now, and baptize us with heavenly love!
Absolute Surrender (The Colportage Library)
by D.H. Stern
but some are swept away because of injustice.
24 He who fails to use a stick hates his son,
but he who loves him is careful to discipline him.
25 The righteous person eats his fill,
but the belly of the wicked is empty.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
‘But what of the poor Ghosts who never get into the omnibus at all?’
‘Everyone who wishes it does. Never fear. There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, in the end, “Thy will be done.” All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. To those who knock it is opened.’
At this moment we were suddenly interrupted by the thin voice of a Ghost talking at an enormous speed. Looking behind us we saw the creature. It was addressing one of the Solid People and was doing so too busily to notice us. Every now and then the Solid Spirit tried to get in a word but without success. The Ghost’s talk was like this:
‘Oh, my dear, I’ve had such a dreadful time, I don’t know how I ever got here at all, I was coming with Elinor Stone and we’d arranged the whole thing and we were to meet at the corner of Sink Street; I made it perfectly plain because I knew what she was like and if I told her once I told her a hundred times I would not meet her outside that dreadful Marjoribanks woman’s house, not after the way she’d treated me … that was one of the most dreadful things that happened to me; I’ve been dying to tell you because I felt sure you’d tell me I acted rightly; no, wait a moment, dear, till I’ve told you—I tried living with her when I first came and it was all fixed up, she was to do the cooking and I was to look after the house and I did think I was going to be comfortable after all I’d been through but she turned out to be so changed, absolutely selfish, and not a particle of sympathy for anyone but herself—and as I once said to her, “I do think I’m entitled to a little consideration because you at least lived out your time, but I oughtn’t to have been here for years and years yet”—oh but of course I’m forgetting you don’t know—I was murdered, simply murdered, dear, that man should never have operated, I ought to be alive today and they simply starved me in that dreadful nursing home and no one ever came near me and …’
The shrill monotonous whine died away as the speaker, still accompanied by the bright patience at her side, moved out of hearing.
‘What troubles ye, son?’ asked my Teacher.
‘I am troubled, Sir,’ said I, ‘because that unhappy creature doesn’t seem to me to be the sort of soul that ought to be even in danger of damnation. She isn’t wicked: she’s only a silly, garrulous old woman who has got into a habit of grumbling, and feels that a little kindness, and rest, and change would due her all right.’
‘That is what she once was. That is maybe what she still is. If so, she certainly will be cured. But the whole question is whether she is now a grumbler.’
‘I should have thought there was no doubt about that!’
‘Aye, but ye misunderstand me. The question is whether she is a grumbler, or only a grumble. If there is a real woman—even the least trace of one—still there inside the grumbling, it can be brought to life again. If there’s one wee spark under all those ashes, we’ll blow it till the whole pile is red and clear. But if there’s nothing but ashes we’ll not go on blowing them in our own eyes forever. They must be swept up.’
‘But how can there be a grumble without a grumbler?’
The Great Divorce
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
Heedfulness v. hypocrisy in ourselves
If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and He shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. --- 1 John 5:16.
If we are not heedful of the way the Spirit of God works in us, we shall become spiritual hypocrites. We see where other folks are failing, and we turn our discernment into the gibe of criticism instead of into intercession on their behalf. The revelation is made to us not through the acuteness of our minds, but by the direct penetration of the Spirit of God, and if we are not heedful of the source of the revelation, we shall become criticizing centres and forget that God says—“… he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death.” Take care lest you play the hypocrite by spending all your time trying to get others right before you worship God yourself.
One of the subtlest burdens God ever puts on us as saints is this burden of discernment concerning other souls. He reveals things in order that we may take the burden of these souls before Him and form the mind of Christ about them, and as we intercede on His line, God says He will give us “life for them that sin not unto death.” It is not that we bring God into touch with our minds, but that we rouse ourselves until God is able to convey His mind to us about the one for whom we intercede.
Is Jesus Christ seeing of the travail of His soul in us? He cannot unless we are so identified with Himself that we are roused up to get His view about the people for whom we pray. May we learn to intercede so whole-heartedly that Jesus Christ will be abundantly satisfied with us as intercessors.
My Utmost for His Highest
the Poetry of R.S. Thomas
So we know
she must have said something
to him - What language,
life? Ah, what language?
Thousands of years later
I inhabit a house
whose stone is the language
of its builders. Here
by the sea they said little.
But their message to the future
was: Build well. In the fire
of an evening I catch faces
staring at me. In April,
when light quickens and clouds
thin, boneless presences
flit through my room.
Will they inherit me
one day? What certainties
have I to hand on
like the punctuality
with which, at the moon's
rising, the bay breaks
into a smile, as though meaning
were not the difficulty at all?
Thomas, R. S.
XXXVII. (177) No one, therefore, of all the objects of human anxiety or of human labour, is of any importance or value; but every such thing is a mere shadow or breath, disappearing before it can get any firm footing; for it comes and then again it departs, like the ebbing tide. For the sea, in its ebb and flow, is at one time borne forwards with great violence, and roaring, and noise, and overflowing its bounds makes a lake of what has previously been dry land; and, at another time, it recedes and makes a large portion of what has been sea, dry land. (178) In the same manner, at times, prosperity overflows a mighty and populous nation, but afterwards turns the impetuosity of its stream in the opposite direction, and does not leave even the slightest drop, so as to suffer no trace whatever to remain of its former richness. (179) But it is not everybody who receives the complete and full meaning of these events, but only those receive it who are accustomed always to proceed in accordance with true and solid reason and limitation; for we find the same men saying both these things, “All the affairs of the created world are absolutely nothing;” and, “We will go by thy mountain.” (180) For it is impossible for one who is not in the habit of using high and mountainous roads to repudiate all mortal affairs, and to turn aside and change his paths for what is immortal.
Therefore the earthly Edom thinks it right to blockade the heavenly and royal road of virtue, and the divine reason blockades his road, and that of all who follow his opinions; (181) among whom we must enroll Balaam, for he also is a child of the earth, and not a shoot of heaven, and a proof of this is, that he, being influenced by omens and false prophecies, not even when the eye of his soul, which had been closed, recovered its sight, and “saw the angel of God standing against him in the way;” (Num 22:31) not even then did he turn back and desist from doing wrong, but giving way to a mighty torrent of folly, he was washed away and swallowed up by it.
(182) For then the diseases of the soul are truly not only difficult of cure, but even utterly incurable, when, though conviction is present to us (and this is the word of God, coming as his angel and as our guide, and removing the obstacles before our feet, so that we may travel without stumbling along the level road), we nevertheless prefer our own indiscreet opinions, to the explanations and injunctions which he is accustomed to address to us for our admonition, and for the chastening and regulating of our whole life. (183) On this account he who is not persuaded by, and who shows no respect to, conviction, when it thus opposes him, will, in his turn, incur destruction with the wounded, (Num 31:8) whom the passions have wounded and overthrown; and his calamity will be a most sufficient lesson for all those who are not utterly impure, to endeavour to keep the judge, that is within them, favourable to them, and he will be so if they do not reverse what has been rightly decided by him.
Most of us have received mailings from organizations that ask us for money to support a worthy cause. Sometimes, the request is fairly straightforward and the cause seems worthy (even if these examples are fictitious):
Anti-Semitism Is on the Rise! Support the Museum for Jewish Self-Respect, a new center for the education for non-Jews and the re-establishment of positive feelings among Jews.
At times, the cause seems worthy but we may wonder about the need for another organization and an additional acronym:
Jews Delegitimize Other Jews. The fragmentation of the Jewish community cannot continue unabated. We must put an end to the tension between one Jew and another. Join MAFTIR, the Movement Against Fragmented Tendencies In Religion.
And then, there are groups that seem to be part of the very problem they are fighting:
Too Many Jewish Organizations & Not Enough Money! Are you sick and tired of a new organization for every cause? Then it’s time for you to support GAINOJG (Yiddish for “enough”): The Group Against the Increasing Number Of Jewish Groups.
While these examples are either apocryphal or humorous, the phenomenon is actual and serious.
Often, these requests come from organizations that seem worthy and that promise to accomplish much for the community. Often, there is a need for such groups. At times, though, they are repetitive of other institutions, duplicating what already has a structure and what similar organizations have done.
Perhaps most disturbing is that established groups that have been working within the community for years go wanting for funds. More than one institution has had to close its doors because of lack of financial support. This is not to say that every established group serves a worthy purpose or that each new association is unnecessary and repetitive. It is a reminder, though, of our limited resources.
Some say “Money is tight.” It is likely that, except for some brief periods in history, money has always been tight. The Gemara, in positing that “the Torah worries about Israel’s money,” is reminding us that Judaism cares about our scarce resources. We have to use them wisely. Had God required the Israelites to use gold fire pans throughout the year, they would have. Yet God—and the Rabbis who interpreted God’s laws—were concerned that Israel not spend too much of its funds on gold pans, leaving less for other worthy causes. If the Torah worries about Israel’s money, then the implication is that we, too, must worry about money, seeing to it that our limited resources are spent wisely.
(Rest Stop) They set out from Marah and came to Elim. There were twelve springs in Elim and seventy palm trees, so they encamped there. (Numbers 33:9)
Words of Torah are compared to water … as it says: “Ho, all who are thirsty, come for water” [Isaiah 55:1].… Just as water purifies a person of uncleanliness, as it says: “I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean” [Ezekiel 36:25], so too, Torah cleanses the impure from impurity, as it says: “The words of the Lord are pure words” [Psalms 12:7]. (Song of Songs Rabbah 1, 3)
There is a story of a learned man who came to visit a rebbe. The scholar was no longer a young man—he was close to thirty—but he had never before visited a rebbe.
“What have you done all your life?” the master asked him.
“I have gone through the whole of the Talmud three times,” answered the learned man.
“Yes, but how much of the Talmud has gone through you?” the rebbe inquired.)
The Earth Is the Lord's: The Inner World of the Jew in Eastern Europe (Jewish Lights Classic Reprint)
A Further Introduction to Seder Moed
SEDER MOED, CONTINUED
The tractates of a seder, or Order, are arranged according to their size. Thus, the tractates, or masekhtot, of Moed do not follow the Jewish calendar and the order of the year, as we might expect. Rather, the tractate with the largest number of chapters of Mishnah is first. Hence, the tractate Shabbat, with twenty-four chapters of Mishnah, is the first masekhet of Moed, followed by Eruvin and Pesaḥim, with ten chapters each, and Yoma with eight. We have divided our study of Seder Moed into two because of its eighty-eight total chapters and therefore large number of entries in this book. This allowed for the preceding Rest Stop in Seder Moed. The entries from the remaining seven tractates of Moed follow.
One who is doing one mitzvah is freed from doing another mitzvah.
Text / Mishnah (2:4): Those who are sent to do a mitzvah are exempt from the Sukkah.
Gemara: Where are these words from? As our Rabbis have taught: “[Recite them] when you stay at home” [Deuteronomy 6:7]. This excludes one who is doing a mitzvah.… Does the principle “One who is doing one mitzvah is freed from doing another mitzvah” come from here? It comes from there, as it has been taught: “But there were some men who were unclean by reason of a corpse” [Numbers 9:6]. Who were those men? Those who carried the coffin of Joseph, according to Rabbi Yosé ha-G’lili. Rabbi Akiva says: “They were Mishael and Elzaphan who were busy with [the bodies of] Nadav and Avihu.”
Context / You shall live in booths seven days; all citizens in Israel shall live in booths, in order that future generations may know that I made the Israelite people live in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt, I the Lord your God. (Leviticus 23:42–43)
Moses instructed the Israelites to offer the passover sacrifice; and they offered the passover sacrifice in the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month, at twilight, in the wilderness of Sinai. Just as the Lord had commanded Moses, so the Israelites did. But there were some men who were unclean by reason of a corpse and could not offer the passover sacrifice on that day. Appearing that same day before Moses and Aaron, those men said to them, “Unclean though we be by reason of a corpse, why must we be debarred from presenting the Lord’s offering at its set time with the rest of the Israelites?” (Numbers 9:4–7)
The Mishnah begins by telling us that someone engaged in a mitzvah (such as going to free hostages held in captivity) during the festival of Sukkot is exempt from the commandment of building and dwelling in a Sukkah. The Gemara looks for the basis of this exemption in the Torah. Two possibilities are offered. First, the words of the Sh’ma (Deuteronomy 6:4–9) are to be recited “when you stay at home.” That implies that if a person was away from home engaged in another mitzvah, then he is exempt from this mitzvah. The second prooftext comes from the story of the men who wanted to celebrate Pesaḥ by offering the sacrifice, but were unable to because they had been in physical contact with a dead body. Sacrifices could be offered only by those who were ritually clean; contact with a corpse rendered a person ritually unclean. The Rabbis assume that because these men were engaged in a mitzvah (burying the dead), they therefore are exempt from the performance of another mitzvah (offering the Passover sacrifice at the proper time).
It is interesting to note that the Torah itself does not state explicitly which body the men were dealing with. Trying to identify the anonymous individuals mentioned, and thus turning an ambiguous situation into a specific one, is a common rabbinic way of reading the Bible. Rabbi Yosé believes the men were those carrying the body of Joseph from Egypt on its way to burial in Israel. Rabbi Akiva identifies them as Mishael and Elzaphan, cousins of Aaron, who are called upon to remove the bodies of Aaron’s sons Nadav and Avihu after their sudden death in the sanctuary (Leviticus 10:4).
Swimming in the Sea of Talmud: Lessons for Everyday Living
Expectation: Numbers 26–36
The old generation was gone now, the last of them carried away in the plague of Baal Peor. Some 600,000 men are numbered: the new generation matched in number the numbers of their fathers, who by now had fallen in the wilderness (26:64–65).
With the old generation gone, a new spirit infused Israel. In fellowship with God, sure of divine protection, and confident that they would choose what was right, the new generation looked forward to victory with optimism and hope.
This is shown strikingly in Numbers 27. Before a single battle had been fought in Palestine, five women approached Moses. Their father had died in the wilderness, and they had no brothers. They felt it would be unfair for their family to have no possession in the land, even though no son was alive to inherit.
What a striking faith! They never doubted the ultimate victory of Israel. They looked beyond the warfare to the time when the land would be divided among God’s people, and believed so confidently that they treated inheritance as a present possession.
God’s protected people had a right to this kind of confidence.
We too can look forward with complete assurance to victories that will surely be ours.
The census (Num. 26). All the first generation was now dead, their bodies scattered in the wilderness Israel had wandered for 38 years (vv. 64–65). The census established the number of Israel’s fighting men at 601,730 (not counting the 23,000 Levites who were set aside to serve the Lord).
The census was important. On the journey, if the deaths were averaged across the years, there would have been some 200 funerals a day! The new census established the fact that there was no loss of strength. The new generation numbered within a few thousand of the generation that had left Egypt!
How faithful God is, even in the years that we must wait for Him to act.
Zelophehad’s daughters (Num. 27). The five daughters of Zelophehad not only demonstrated faith, but they helped to establish the rights of women in Israel. The command that “if a man dies and leaves no son, turn his inheritance over to his daughter” (v. 8), is not reflected in the law codes of other peoples of that era.
Offerings (Num. 28–29). The offerings to be made on Israel’s special feast and festival days are reviewed.
Vows (Num. 30). In both Testaments a “vow” is a pledge or a promise that is made to God, never to other persons. Vows were, as in this chapter, expressions of special devotion or commitment, and were usually voluntary.
There was a limitation placed on women, whose vow could be overruled by a husband or father. This is because in the Old Testament era the men were legally responsible for their wives and their children.
One special vow described in Numbers 6 is that of the Nazirite, which was a vow of separation.
The Old Testament views faithfulness in keeping vows as an indication of the piety and faithfulness of God’s people (cf. Pss. 50:14; 56:12; 76:11; Isa. 19:21; Jer. 44:25; Jonah 2:9; Nahum 1:15).
Transjordan tribes (Num. 32). Two of the Israelite tribes, who had very large herds and flocks, noted that the lands east of the Jordan were suitable for livestock. So they requested permission to settle in those lands, which had been taken in battle.
Permission was granted on the condition that the men fit for war go with their brothers to battle for the Promised Land, which lay beyond the Jordan River.
What faith the men of these tribes exhibited! They were willing to build cities for their families and flocks, and then leave them unprotected as they traveled across the river to fight! God would take care of their families while they were away. They would do their duties, and trust Him.
Cities of refuge (Num. 35). This chapter establishes a very important feature in Israel’s legal justice system. To sense their significance, we need to understand how criminal justice was to be handled under Old Testament Law. The Expository Dictionary of Bible Words gives this summary:
The Mosaic Law established a system in which responsibility to deal with criminal matters was distributed throughout the society. Each community was to have its own panel of elders who would serve as judges in civil and criminal matters. The Old Testament emphatically enjoins the judges to show no partiality and to accept no bribes (Deut. 16:18–20). Rules of evidence were established for serious cases (17:1–7; 19:15) and a “supreme court” of priests was established to inquire of the Lord in cases “too difficult” for the judges. Later, when the monarchy was established, the king became the chief judicial officer. In biblical times, all governing functions were considered to be located in the king as the head of the nation. But the king, like the lower courts, was to be subject to God. The law itself established the standards according to which the ruler must judge.
How were criminal matters dealt with? The Old Testament justice system, unlike our own, did not rely heavily on imprisonment to punish criminals. The Old Testament does report a number of cases of imprisonment—many of them under foreign jurisdiction (Gen. 39:20–22; 40:3, 5, 14; 42:16, 19; Jdg. 16:21, 25; 2 Kings 17:4; 25:27, 29; Jer. 52:11, 31, 33; Ezek. 19:9) and some under rulers in Israel and Judah (1 Kings 22:27; 2 Chron. 16:10; 18:26). Confinement could involve simply restriction to one’s residence or city (1 Kings 2:36), but in other instances it seems to have been in a room or pit in some official’s residence (Jer. 20:2; 32:2; 37:4, 15, 18; 38:6).
The Old Testament justice system relied more on restitution than on imprisonment. A person who was responsible for another’s loss was to reimburse the value of the property destroyed (Ex. 22:1–15). Property that was stolen or obtained illegally had to be returned, and a penalty of one to four times its value was added. Murder and accidental homicide were special cases with a distinct code to govern how they were to be judged.
Other penalties were prescribed for various personal injury and civil violations, including provisions for covering a person’s loss of income if an injury prevented work.
With many such guiding principles provided in the Mosaic Law, local judging elders were to call on witnesses within the community to establish the facts of a case and to supervise payment of the appropriate restitution or penalty.
The Old Testament justice system relied heavily on the existence of a community in which individuals were responsive to God and to His laws. History shows that, with few exceptions, God’s kind of justice was not administered during the Old Testament era.
The Numbers chapter dealing with homicide and establishing the cities of refuge must be understood in the context of the total system found in Old Testament Law.
The family “avenger of the blood” in this chapter is neither a vigilante nor an ancient Hatfield setting out to rid the world of a McCoy. Justice in Israel was a community responsibility, and there was no police force. Thus the one with primary responsibility to execute a murderer was the one in the community most affected by that crime: a member of the murdered person’s family. Should such a person kill a murderer, he did not murder him but rather served as the executioner appointed by the Law to purify the holy community.
At the same time, this passage makes a distinction between intentional, hostile killing, which is murder, and what we would call accidental homicide. The cities of refuge were established for the protection of a person who killed another accidentally. These were cities scattered throughout the land where such a person could flee an overzealous relative whose motives might involve a desire for revenge, even if the death was an accident.
The elders of the home city of the killer were to hear the arguments of the accused and the avenger, and to “judge between” the one accused of murder and the “avenger of blood” according to rules established in this chapter. If the accused was judged to have killed accidentally, “the assembly must protect” him, and see him safely to one of the cities of refuge where he would live in safety until the high priest died, and he could return home. By then the anger of the avenger might have died, and the accidental killer would receive the full protection of law. Should he then be attacked by a family avenger, the avenger himself is to be put to death.
Let us take the relation of the father and daughter, similar things being true, mutatis mutandis, with respect to the husband and wife. 1. This command honoured parental authority. God had laid a solemn injunction on children to honour father and mother, and we see here how careful he was to honour the parental relation himself. He puts everything in the shape of a vow, everything which the daughter was otherwise free to choose, under the father’s control. He requires no reason to be given; the simple veto is enough, if only it be uttered at the appointed time. The father had a responsibility which the daughter had not, and it was fitting that God should give the father all possible help in meeting that responsibility. 2. This command required much watchfulness on the part of the father. To act rightly here demanded the whole compass of paternal duty. The father was not allowed to say that his daughter’s vow was no business of his. He himself might not be a vowing sort of person, and therefore under no temptation to neglect a vow he was not likely to make. But even if indifferent to vows himself, he was bound to be interested in his daughter’s welfare, and do his best to keep her from future difficulties. Her limited life hid many difficulties from her eyes. It was not for a father to expose himself in later days to reproach from the lips of his own daughter. It was not for him to run the risk of hearing her say, “Why did not your larger knowledge and experience shelter me from difficulties which my inexperience could not possibly anticipate?” 3. This command required much consideration on the part of the father. He must not let the vow pass without notice, and when he noticed it must be with proper consideration. While it was within his right to stop the vow, he might in stopping it be doing a very unfatherly thing, a thing very hurtful to the religious life of his daughter. As God had honoured him and undertaken to help him in his fatherly relation, he must honour that relation himself. That relation from which God expects so much must be prepared to yield much in the way of care and consideration. The father may think too much of his own wishes, too little of his daughter’s needs, and too little of the will of God. The vow of the daughter might be a rightful, helpful, and exemplary one, a vow of the Nazarite indeed (ch. 6:2). It was not enough, therefore, for the father to fall back on the mere assertion of authority. It is a serious thing to offend one of the little ones—a serious thing for any one to do; but how unspeakably serious when the hand which casts down the stumbling-block is that of a father! 4. This command required, in order to be fully complied with, sympathy with the voluntary spirit in religion. A father who felt that the services of religion consisted chiefly in exact external conformity with certain rules for worship and conduct would be very likely to stop his daughter’s vow as mere whimsicality. But religion must go beyond obedience to verbal commands; it must aim at something more than can be put into even the most exact and expressive of them. Commands are nothing more than finger-posts; and the joys of hope and preparation during the journey are directed towards something lying beyond the last of the finger-posts. The father who would act rightly by all possible wishes of his children must be one who comprehends that experience of John: “We love him because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). He must be one who feels that love can never be satisfied with mere beaten tracks and conventional grooves. He must be such a one as appreciates the act of the woman who poured the precious ointment on the head of Jesus. If he be a man of the Judas spirit, grudging what he reckons waste, he is sure to go wrong. He will check his children when he ought to encourage them, and encourage when he ought to check. If God opens their eyes he will do his best to close them again, so that the blind father may go on leading the blind children, till at last both fall into the pit.
II. WHAT THIS COMMAND IMPLIED WITH RESPECT TO THE DAUGHTER AND THE WIFE. 1. Their right to make a vow was itself secured. The command did not say that daughter and wife were to make no vow at all. They were as free to make a vow as any man in all Israel; and if it had not been for more important considerations connected with the household, they would also have been free to keep the vow. God would have us to understand that inferior and mutilated duties or privileges are no necessary consequence of a subordinate position. 2. A gentle and patient submission was recommended on the part of the daughter and the wife. The right to propose the vow being secured to every woman, it was no fault of hers, and would be counted no blame, if the father or husband cancelled it The Nazarite vow might be thwarted in the very freshness of it, but the spirit of zeal which produced it needed not to grow languid. We cannot be hindered in the attainment of any good, save by our own negligence. God will meet us amid all restraints which untoward circumstances may impose upon us. The claims rising out of natural relations and the present needs of human society are imperative while they last, and must be respected. But they will not last for ever. “In the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage”
--- Matt. 22:30.—Y.
You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. --- Matthew 5:14.
There is enough affliction in the world to try the Christian. ( The American National Preacher, Volumes 7-8 ) Nor is there any of us who will not have trial, bereavement, and woe. God designs that there the Christian principle will triumph, fully equal to all the pains that we may endure. He varies those afflictions to bring us fully and fairly out. Now he takes away our health, to see how we will bear protracted disease. Now he removes our property, to see how we will bear the loss of an idol. Now he cuts down the child of our hopes and tries whether we will be still and know that he is God. Now he opens before our view our own death, to try whether we have confidence enough in him to commit our departing spirits to his unseen hand. In all these scenes, it is designed that our piety should shine forth, bright and burning.
God has placed us in a world exceptionally adapted to call forth the principles of the Christian—a world where, if those principles are not called forth, it is full proof that they do not exist.
Christians, you hold in your hands that gospel which will send peace around the globe—that gospel of God that can enlighten all nations, alleviate every sorrow, comfort every mourner, and change the outlook of every kingdom and tribe. Nor can you be inactive or undecided. Every time this great question is presented to you, in whatever form, it calls on you to act. Every plan of benevolence that is submitted to you affords an opportunity to test your character and will actually develop that character.
It was precisely this state of things that called forth the ardor of Paul. More, it was the view of the guilt and woes of suffering people that moved the Son of God with compassion and led to the self-denial of his ministry and the agonies of the garden and the cross.
I need not add that if human woes and dangers found their way to God’s own Son, it is not to be wondered at that they should find their way also to all his followers. Can any be Christians whose hearts do not respond in this to the feelings of the Lord Jesus? If I have read the oracles of religion aright, they cannot.
--- Albert Barnes
My Heart’s Desire March 31
The apostle Paul loved his people, the Jews, enough to have wished himself cursed and cut off from Christ for their sake. “My greatest wish and my prayer to God is for the people of Israel,” he said, “to be saved.” But not everyone shared his concern. Roman forces soon afterward destroyed Jerusalem, and many of the beleaguered survivors fled to Europe as refugees. Eventually Spain became a great center of Jewish learning, arts, science, and finance. Maimonides, the “second Moses,” helped establish in Spain a Golden Age of Jewish life. But during the 14th and 15th centuries, sentiment again turned against the Jews.
The marriage of Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile in 1469 established a state church with little sympathy for Jews. Isabella wielded great power. She was active in government, strict in morality, and devout in formal religion. Vowing to rid her land of unbelievers, Isabella established the Spanish Inquisition. Heretics and Jews were rounded up, interrogated, and tortured without mercy.
When the Inquisition failed to forcibly convert Jews, Ferdinand and Isabella determined to expel them, and on March 31, 1492, the royal couple signed an edict giving Jews three months to leave Spain. One hundred fifty thousand Jews, stripped of homes and possessions, left the land that had been their home for nearly 1,500 years. The last Jew reportedly left Spain on August 2, the traditional anniversary of the destruction of the first and second temples, the saddest day in Jewish history. Ironically, the very next day, August 3, 1492, Christopher Columbus sailed from Spain to discover the New World.
Not everything done in the name of Christianity is Christian. Genuine believers resort to prayer and preaching and love, not persecution, to fulfill the Great Commission. And genuine believers harbor a deep love for the Jewish people, remembering that Jesus Christ himself was Jewish. Like Paul, our heart’s desire and prayer for the Israelites is that they might be saved.
I am a follower of Christ, and the Holy Spirit is a witness to my conscience.… I would gladly be placed under God’s curse and be separated from Christ for the good of my own people. They are the descendants of Israel.
--- Romans 9:1,3,4a.
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - March 31
"With his stripes we are healed." --- Isaiah 53:5.
Pilate delivered our Lord to the lictors to be scourged. The Roman scourge was a most dreadful instrument of torture. It was made of the sinews of oxen, and sharp bones were inter-twisted every here and there among the sinews; so that every time the lash came down these pieces of bone inflicted fearful laceration, and tore off the flesh from the bone. The Saviour was, no doubt, bound to the column, and thus beaten. He had been beaten before; but this of the Roman lictors was probably the most severe of his flagellations. My soul, stand here and weep over his poor stricken body.
Believer in Jesus, can you gaze upon him without tears, as he stands before you the mirror of agonizing love? He is at once fair as the lily for innocence, and red as the rose with the crimson of his own blood. As we feel the sure and blessed healing which his stripes have wrought in us, does not our heart melt at once with love and grief? If ever we have loved our Lord Jesus, surely we must feel that affection glowing now within our bosoms.
“See how the patient Jesus stands,
Insulted in his lowest case!
Sinners have bound the Almighty’s hands,
And spit in their Creator’s face.
With thorns his temples gor’d and gash’d
Send streams of blood from every part;
His back’s with knotted scourges lash’d.
But sharper scourges tear his heart.”
We would fain go to our chambers and weep; but since our business calls us away, we will first pray our Beloved to print the image of his bleeding self upon the tablets of our hearts all the day, and at nightfall we will return to commune with him, and sorrow that our sin should have cost him so dear.
Evening - March 31
"And Rizpah the daughter of Aiah took sackcloth, and spread it for her upon the rock, from the beginning of harvest until water dropped upon them out of heaven, and suffered neither the birds of the air to rest on them by day, nor the beasts of the field by night."2 Samuel 21:10.
If the love of a woman to her slain sons could make her prolong her mournful vigil for so long a period, shall we weary of considering the sufferings of our blessed Lord? She drove away the birds of prey, and shall not we chase from our meditations those worldly and sinful thoughts which defile both our minds and the sacred themes upon which we are occupied? Away, ye birds of evil wing! Leave ye the sacrifice alone! She bore the heats of summer, the night dews and the rains, unsheltered and alone. Sleep was chased from her weeping eyes: her heart was too full for slumber. Behold how she loved her children! Shall Rizpah thus endure, and shall we start at the first little inconvenience or trial? Are we such cowards that we cannot bear to suffer with our Lord? She chased away even the wild beasts, with courage unusual in her sex, and will not we be ready to encounter every foe for Jesus’ sake? These her children were slain by other hands than hers, and yet she wept and watched: what ought we to do who have by our sins crucified our Lord? Our obligations are boundless, our love should be fervent and our repentance thorough. To watch with Jesus should be our business, to protect his honour our occupation, to abide by his cross our solace. Those ghastly corpses might well have affrighted Rizpah, especially by night, but in our Lord, at whose cross-foot we are sitting, there is nothing revolting, but everything attractive. Never was living beauty so enchanting as a dying Saviour. Jesus, we will watch with thee yet awhile, and do thou graciously unveil thyself to us; then shall we not sit beneath sackcloth, but in a royal pavilion.
TELL ME THE STORIES OF JESUS
William H. Parker, 1845–1929
He explained to them what was said in all of the Scriptures concerning Himself.
Children love to hear stories. It is critically important that we build upon this natural response and fill their minds with truths about Christ that will give them a solid foundation upon which to build their lives. Although Sunday schools are important, parental influence and instruction in the home are foundations of Christian education. The stories of Jesus—His birth, His life, His death, His resurrection, His ascension, and His promised return to take us to heaven—for the child of God of any age are always fresh, exciting, and spiritually refreshing. They never grow old.
Telling the stories of Jesus must also be the mission of our Sunday schools. Portrayals of the person and work of Christ must always be the core of every Christian education curriculum along with appropriate songs that enhance the teaching of the Scriptures. Although such emphases as character school, arts and crafts, and game times have their place in the church program, nothing ever equals the importance of providing our youth with sound, relevant biblical instruction.
William H. Parker was an English Baptist layman greatly interested in the work of Sunday schools. He wrote this text in 1885 after returning from teaching his Sunday school class and reflecting upon the oft-repeated request of the children, “Teacher, tell us another story.” This text pictures so vividly the important events of our Lord’s life from Galilee to Calvary.
Tell me the stories of Jesus I love to hear; things I would ask Him to tell me if He were here: Scenes by the wayside, tales of the sea, stories of Jesus, tell them to me.
First let me hear how the children stood round His knee; and I shall fancy His blessing resting on me: Words full of kindness, deeds full of grace, all in the lovelight of Jesus’ face.
Into the city I’d follow the children’s band, waving a branch of the palm tree high in my hand; one of His heralds, yes, I would sing loudest hosannas! Jesus is King.
Show me that scene in the garden, of bitter pain. Show me the cross where my Savior for me was slain. Sad ones or bright ones, so that they be stories of Jesus, tell them to me.
For Today: Deuteronomy 6:7; Isaiah 40:30, 31; Matthew 20:28; Mark 8:31.
Consider creative ways that biblical truths can be communicated to children—visual aids, dramatizations, musical records—both at home and in Sunday school. Seriously reflect as a parent (or a grandparent) whether you are doing everything possible to further your children’s spiritual training.
A.W. Pink | (1886-1952)
A Guide to Fervent Prayer
Chapter 06 1 Peter 1:3-5 – Part 3
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” Let us begin this chapter by continuing our consideration of the acknowledgment of the prayer. It is to be recalled that this Epistle is addressed to those who are strangers, scattered abroad (v. 1). Most appropriate, then, is this reference to the Divine begetting of God's elect, for it is by the Holy Spirit's gracious begetting that the elect are constituted strangers or sojourners (that is, temporary residents of this world), both in heart and in conduct. The Lord Jesus was a stranger here (Ps. 69:8), for He was the Son of God from heaven; and so, too, are His people, for they have His Spirit within them. How that understanding enhances this miracle of grace! Divine begetting is not merely a doctrine, but the actual communication to the soul of the very life of God (John 1:13). Formerly the Christian was both in and of the world, but now his “conversation [citizenship—A.S.V.] is in heaven” (Phil. 3:20, brackets mine). “I am a stranger in the earth” (Ps. 119:19) is henceforth his confession. To the soul renewed by God this world becomes a barren wilderness. For his heritage, his home, is on high, and therefore he now views the things of time and sense in a very different light.
The Great Interests of the Regenerate Soul Are Alien to this World
The chief interests of a truly born-again soul lie not in this mundane sphere. His affections will be set upon things above; and in proportion as they are so, his heart is detached from this world. Their strangerhood is an essential mark that distinguishes the saints from the ungodly. They who heartily embrace the promises of God are suitably affected by them (Heb. 11:13). One of the certain effects of Divine grace in the soul is to separate its possessor, both in spirit and in practice, from the world. His delight in heavenly things manifests itself in his being weaned from the things of earth, just as the woman at the well left her bucket behind when she had obtained from Christ the living water (John 4:28). Such a spirit constitutes him an alien among the worshipers of mammon. He is morally a foreigner in a strange land, surrounded by those who know him not (1 John 3:1), because they know not his Father. Nor do they understand his joys or sorrows, not appreciating the principles and motives that actuate him; for their pursuits and pleasures are radically different from his. Nay, he finds himself in the midst of enemies who hate him (John 15:19), and there are none with whom he can have communion save the very few who “have obtained like precious faith” (2 Peter 1:1).
But though there be nothing in this wilderness of a world for the Christian, he has been “begotten. . . again unto a living hope.” Previously he viewed death with horror, but now he perceives that it will provide a blessed release from all sin and sorrow and open the door into Paradise. The principle of grace received at the new birth not only inclines its possessor to love God and to act in faith upon His Word, but it also disposes him to “look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen” (2 Cor. 4:17, 18), inclining his aspirations away from the present toward his glorious future. Thomas Manton aptly declares, “The new nature was made for another world: it came from thence, and it carrieth the soul thither.” Hope is an assured expectation of future good. While faith is in exercise, a vista of unclouded bliss is set before the heart, and hope enters into the enjoyment of the same. It is a living hope exercised within a dying environment, and it both supports and invigorates all of us who believe. While in healthy activity, hope not only sustains amid the trials of this life but lifts us above them. Oh, for hearts to be more engaged in joyous anticipations of the future! For such hopeful hearts will quicken us to duty and stimulate us to perseverance. In proportion to the intelligence and strength of our hope will we be delivered from the fear of death.
Union with Christ in His Resurrection, the Cause of Our Regeneration
A further word must now be said upon the relationship that the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead bears to the Father's begetting of us to this living hope. Christ's God-honoring work and triumphant emergence from the grave was the legal basis not only of the justification of His people, but of their regeneration also. Mystically, by virtue of their union with Christ in the mind and purpose of God, they were delivered from their death at the hands of the Law when their Surety arose from the dead. “But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) and hath raised us up together. . .” (Eph. 2:4-6). Those words refer to the corporate union of the Church with her Head and her judicial participation in His victory, and not to an individual experience. Nevertheless, since all the elect rose federally when their Representative arose, they must in due time be regenerated; since they have been made alive legally, they must in due course be quickened spiritually. Had not Christ risen, none had been quickened (1 Cor. 15:17); but because He lives, they shall live also.
Jesus lives, and so shall I.
Death! thy sting is gone forever!
He who deigned for me to die,
Lives, the bands of death to sever.
He [hath raised] me from the dust:
Jesus is my Hope and Trust.
The life that is in the Head must be communicated to the members of His body.
The resurrection of Christ is the virtual cause of our regeneration. The Holy Spirit would not have been given unless Christ had conquered the last enemy (1 Cor. 15:26) and gone to the Father: “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us:. . . that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith” (Gal. 3:13, 14). Regeneration issues as truly from the virtue of Christ's resurrection as does our justification, which is the result of that saving faith in Christ that can only issue from a Spirit-renewed heart. He purchased for His people the blessed Spirit to raise them up to grace and glory. “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour” (Titus 3:5, 6). God the Father has shed the Holy Spirit upon us in regenerating power because of the merits of Christ's life, death, and resurrection, and in response to His mediation on our behalf. The Holy Spirit is here to testify of Christ to God's elect, to raise up faith in them toward Him in order that they “may abound in hope” (Rom. 15:12, 13). Our spiritual deliverance from the grave of sin's guilt, power, and pollution is as much owing to the efficacy of Christ's triumph over death as will be our physical vivification at His return. He is “the firstborn among many brethren” (Rom. 8:29), the very life of Christ being imparted to them when they are begotten again.
The Power that Raised Christ Physically Raises Sinners Spiritually
The resurrection of Christ is also the dynamic prototype of our regeneration. The same power put forth in raising Christ's body is employed in the recovering of our souls from spiritual death (Eph. 1:19, 20; 2:1). The Lord Jesus is designated “the first begotten of the dead” (Rev. 1:5) because His emerging from the grave was not only the pledge but the likeness of both the regeneration of the spirits of His people and the raising of their bodies in the last day. The similitude is obvious. Begetting is the beginning of a new life. When Christ was born into this world it was “in the likeness of sinful flesh” (Rom. 8:3). Though untouched by the taint of original sin (Luke 1:35) and undefiled by the pollution of actual transgressions, He was clothed with infirmity because of imputed iniquity. But when He rose from Joseph's tomb in power and glory, it was in a body fitted for heaven. Likewise, at regeneration, we receive a nature that makes us meet for heaven. As God's raising of Christ testified to His being pacified by His sacrifice (Heb. 13:20), so by begetting us again He assures us of our personal interest therein. As Christ's resurrection was the grand proof of His Divine Sonship (Rom. 1:4), so the new birth is the first open manifestation of our adoption. As Christ's resurrection was the first step into His glory and exaltation, so regeneration is the first stage of our entrance into all spiritual privileges.
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