Clean and Unclean FoodDeuteronomy 14:1 You are the sons of the LORD your God. You shall not cut yourselves or make any baldness on your foreheads for the dead. 2 For you are a people holy to the LORD your God, and the LORD has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.
3 “You shall not eat any abomination. 4 These are the animals you may eat: the ox, the sheep, the goat, 5 the deer, the gazelle, the roebuck, the wild goat, the ibex, the antelope, and the mountain sheep. 6 Every animal that parts the hoof and has the hoof cloven in two and chews the cud, among the animals, you may eat. 7 Yet of those that chew the cud or have the hoof cloven you shall not eat these: the camel, the hare, and the rock badger, because they chew the cud but do not part the hoof, are unclean for you. 8 And the pig, because it parts the hoof but does not chew the cud, is unclean for you. Their flesh you shall not eat, and their carcasses you shall not touch.
9 “Of all that are in the waters you may eat these: whatever has fins and scales you may eat. 10 And whatever does not have fins and scales you shall not eat; it is unclean for you. 11 “You may eat all clean birds. 12 But these are the ones that you shall not eat: the eagle, the bearded vulture, the black vulture, 13 the kite, the falcon of any kind; 14 every raven of any kind; 15 the ostrich, the nighthawk, the sea gull, the hawk of any kind; 16 the little owl and the short-eared owl, the barn owl 17 and the tawny owl, the carrion vulture and the cormorant, 18 the stork, the heron of any kind; the hoopoe and the bat. 19 And all winged insects are unclean for you; they shall not be eaten. 20 All clean winged things you may eat.
21 “You shall not eat anything that has died naturally. You may give it to the sojourner who is within your towns, that he may eat it, or you may sell it to a foreigner. For you are a people holy to the LORD your God.
“You shall not boil a young goat in its mother’s milk.
Tithes22 “You shall tithe all the yield of your seed that comes from the field year by year. 23 And before the LORD your God, in the place that he will choose, to make his name dwell there, you shall eat the tithe of your grain, of your wine, and of your oil, and the firstborn of your herd and flock, that you may learn to fear the LORD your God always. 24 And if the way is too long for you, so that you are not able to carry the tithe, when the LORD your God blesses you, because the place is too far from you, which the LORD your God chooses, to set his name there, 25 then you shall turn it into money and bind up the money in your hand and go to the place that the LORD your God chooses 26 and spend the money for whatever you desire—oxen or sheep or wine or strong drink, whatever your appetite craves. And you shall eat there before the LORD your God and rejoice, you and your household. 27 And you shall not neglect the Levite who is within your towns, for he has no portion or inheritance with you.
28 “At the end of every three years you shall bring out all the tithe of your produce in the same year and lay it up within your towns. 29 And the Levite, because he has no portion or inheritance with you, and the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, who are within your towns, shall come and eat and be filled, that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands that you do.
The Sabbatical YearDeuteronomy 15:1 “At the end of every seven years you shall grant a release. 2 And this is the manner of the release: every creditor shall release what he has lent to his neighbor. He shall not exact it of his neighbor, his brother, because the LORD’s release has been proclaimed. 3 Of a foreigner you may exact it, but whatever of yours is with your brother your hand shall release. 4 But there will be no poor among you; for the LORD will bless you in the land that the LORD your God is giving you for an inheritance to possess— 5 if only you will strictly obey the voice of the LORD your God, being careful to do all this commandment that I command you today. 6 For the LORD your God will bless you, as he promised you, and you shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow, and you shall rule over many nations, but they shall not rule over you.
7 “If among you, one of your brothers should become poor, in any of your towns within your land that the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother, 8 but you shall open your hand to him and lend him sufficient for his need, whatever it may be. 9 Take care lest there be an unworthy thought in your heart and you say, ‘The seventh year, the year of release is near,’ and your eye look grudgingly on your poor brother, and you give him nothing, and he cry to the LORD against you, and you be guilty of sin. 10 You shall give to him freely, and your heart shall not be grudging when you give to him, because for this the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in all that you undertake. 11 For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’
12 “If your brother, a Hebrew man or a Hebrew woman, is sold to you, he shall serve you six years, and in the seventh year you shall let him go free from you. 13 And when you let him go free from you, you shall not let him go empty-handed. 14 You shall furnish him liberally out of your flock, out of your threshing floor, and out of your winepress. As the LORD your God has blessed you, you shall give to him. 15 You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God redeemed you; therefore I command you this today. 16 But if he says to you, ‘I will not go out from you,’ because he loves you and your household, since he is well-off with you, 17 then you shall take an awl, and put it through his ear into the door, and he shall be your slave forever. And to your female slave you shall do the same. 18 It shall not seem hard to you when you let him go free from you, for at half the cost of a hired worker he has served you six years. So the LORD your God will bless you in all that you do.
19 “All the firstborn males that are born of your herd and flock you shall dedicate to the LORD your God. You shall do no work with the firstborn of your herd, nor shear the firstborn of your flock. 20 You shall eat it, you and your household, before the LORD your God year by year at the place that the LORD will choose. 21 But if it has any blemish, if it is lame or blind or has any serious blemish whatever, you shall not sacrifice it to the LORD your God. 22 You shall eat it within your towns. The unclean and the clean alike may eat it, as though it were a gazelle or a deer. 23 Only you shall not eat its blood; you shall pour it out on the ground like water.
PassoverDeuteronomy 16 1 “Observe the month of Abib and keep the Passover to the LORD your God, for in the month of Abib the LORD your God brought you out of Egypt by night. 2 And you shall offer the Passover sacrifice to the LORD your God, from the flock or the herd, at the place that the LORD will choose, to make his name dwell there. 3 You shall eat no leavened bread with it. Seven days you shall eat it with unleavened bread, the bread of affliction—for you came out of the land of Egypt in haste—that all the days of your life you may remember the day when you came out of the land of Egypt. 4 No leaven shall be seen with you in all your territory for seven days, nor shall any of the flesh that you sacrifice on the evening of the first day remain all night until morning. 5 You may not offer the Passover sacrifice within any of your towns that the LORD your God is giving you, 6 but at the place that the LORD your God will choose, to make his name dwell in it, there you shall offer the Passover sacrifice, in the evening at sunset, at the time you came out of Egypt. 7 And you shall cook it and eat it at the place that the LORD your God will choose. And in the morning you shall turn and go to your tents. 8 For six days you shall eat unleavened bread, and on the seventh day there shall be a solemn assembly to the LORD your God. You shall do no work on it.
The Feast of Weeks9 “You shall count seven weeks. Begin to count the seven weeks from the time the sickle is first put to the standing grain. 10 Then you shall keep the Feast of Weeks to the LORD your God with the tribute of a freewill offering from your hand, which you shall give as the LORD your God blesses you. 11 And you shall rejoice before the LORD your God, you and your son and your daughter, your male servant and your female servant, the Levite who is within your towns, the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow who are among you, at the place that the LORD your God will choose, to make his name dwell there. 12 You shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt; and you shall be careful to observe these statutes.
The Feast of Booths13 “You shall keep the Feast of Booths seven days, when you have gathered in the produce from your threshing floor and your winepress. 14 You shall rejoice in your feast, you and your son and your daughter, your male servant and your female servant, the Levite, the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow who are within your towns. 15 For seven days you shall keep the feast to the LORD your God at the place that the LORD will choose, because the LORD your God will bless you in all your produce and in all the work of your hands, so that you will be altogether joyful.
16 “Three times a year all your males shall appear before the LORD your God at the place that he will choose: at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, at the Feast of Weeks, and at the Feast of Booths. They shall not appear before the LORD empty-handed. 17 Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the LORD your God that he has given you.
Justice18 “You shall appoint judges and officers in all your towns that the LORD your God is giving you, according to your tribes, and they shall judge the people with righteous judgment. 19 You shall not pervert justice. You shall not show partiality, and you shall not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and subverts the cause of the righteous. 20 Justice, and only justice, you shall follow, that you may live and inherit the land that the LORD your God is giving you.
The Reformation Study Bible
What I'm Reading
Is Noah’s Flood Simply a Retelling of Prior Mythologies?
By J. Warner Wallace 3/3/2017
The Book of Genesis has become a lightning rod for skeptics and Christians alike. Sometimes the debate is focused on Genesis 1 and the creation account. What was the length of each “day” recorded here? How do we reconcile apparent contradictions between Genesis Chapter 1 and Chapter 2? As a new investigator of Christianity, these issues were important to me as I returned to the Old Testament to connect the dots between the history of Judaism and the claims of Christianity. The flood story recorded in Genesis 6:9-8:22 was also an area of particular interest to me. I knew that the story was not unique to Judaism and I suspected it was a piece of borrowed mythology.
It turns out there are over 200 historic flood accounts across the globe from just about every culture or primitive society you can imagine. Beyond the region of Turkey, Egypt and Persia, these ancient accounts are found in the history of people groups as far away as China and Thailand, Australia and New Zealand, Alaska and the North American continent, the islands of the South Pacific and throughout Central and South America. I’ve examined these stories and, to be fair, some of them are dissimilar to the Biblical account of the flood. But many also include features or details found in Moses’ description. A favored family (88%) was warned in advance (66%) of a globally catastrophic flood (95%). The survivors used a boat (70%) to save animals (67%) and eventually landed on a mountain (57%).
These accounts (similar as they may be) span the course of early human history. They don’t appear on the globe simultaneously, but are instead recorded by people groups as they migrated to various regions. While the similarities of their accounts may affirm the retelling of an original event, how do we know when this event occurred and which version we ought to trust? Many scholars have argued that Moses’ account is not the original. Why should we trust it as authoritative when there are other competing ancient flood “mythologies”? The Epic of Gilgamesh, for example, contains many of the same features described in Moses’ account. In both stories, man’s wickedness is the cause of a flood brought on by God(s), and a single righteous man is commanded to build an extremely large boat. This man assembled a small remnant of humanity along with every species of animal to take refuge on the vessel; the flood then destroyed all the remaining creatures. The occupants of the boat released birds in an effort to find dry land, and the boat eventually found itself on a tall mountain. The protagonist of each story then offered a sacrifice prior to being blessed for his obedience.
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James "Jim" Warner Wallace (born June 16, 1961) is an American homicide detective and Christian apologist. Wallace is a Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview and an Adjunct Professor of Apologetics at Biola University in La Mirada, California. He has authored several books, including Cold-Case Christianity, God’s Crime Scene, and Forensic Faith, in which he applies principles of cold case homicide investigation to apologetic concerns such as the existence of God and the reliability of the Gospels.
Natural Law In Court
By Professor Pryor 3/2/2017
I'm looking forward to meeting up again with Richard Helmholz, author of "Natural Law in Court: A History of Legal Theory in Practice" (2015), at the Religious Critiques of Law conference at Pepperdine University School of Law. About Professor Pryor: Professor of law, teacher of contracts and subjects commercial, follower of God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—in the Reformed tradition, and curious about why things are the way they seem to be. Graduate of various schools, husband of one, and father of three.
"Natural Law in Court" has been reviewed here and here. The purpose of this post is to let even more folks, particularly lawyers, know about this splendid (and relatively brief) work.
Helmholz set out to answer a basic question: for all the philosophical and theological to-do about natural law, did it ever actually make an impact on the ground, i.e., in court? Helmholz thus surveyed the legal literature of three legal communities over the course of roughly 300 years. The communities were Continental Europe, England, and the United States. The period examined begins with 1500 and ends around 1800 for the first two communities and in the late 19th century for the U.S.
This survey of the relevant evidence ... proves that natural law was carried into practice in the courts of each of the three geographical areas surveyed. ... At least six specific conclusions about its use emerge from a consideration of the evidence.
First, in all three geographical area surveyed, future lawyers learned something about the basic characteristics of the law of nature as part of their early training. ...
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About Professor Pryor: Professor of law, teacher of contracts and subjects commercial, follower of God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—in the Reformed tradition, and curious about why things are the way they seem to be. Graduate of various schools, husband of one, and father of three.
12 Things Science Can’t Explain
By David Glass 8/31/2012
Although it’s quite old, there is a rather amusing clip of William Lane Craig in dialogue with Peter Atkins, where Atkins asks Craig whether he denies that science can explain everything. Craig responds with the following five things science can’t explain:
1. Logical and mathematical truths (which are presupposed by science)
2. Metaphysical truths (like the past was not created 5 minutes ago with an appearance of age)
3. Ethical truths
4. Aesthetic truths
5. Science itself (since science is based on assumptions that can’t be proven)
Click here to go to source
David Glass has particular interests in the relationship between science and Christianity and in how evidence should be used in debates about the existence of God. He is a member of Glenabbey Church where he is involved in the apologetics team. He is a lecturer in the School of Computing and Mathematics at the University of Ulster where he does research on topics at the interface between computing and philosophy. (For details about academic qualifications and current work see here.) Originally from Armagh, he now lives in Greenisland with his wife Cathy and their six children.
Six Things Evolution Doesn’t Explain
By David Glass 7/11/2015
At a popular level, many people seem to think that evolution effectively disproves God’s existence. Certainly, it could be argued that evolution undermines design arguments based on the existence of intelligent life, although we have disputed that idea in a previous article. But the idea that evolution could achieve more than that and become an all-encompassing argument for atheism just doesn’t get off the ground at all.
Here we want to highlight some things that evolution doesn’t explain. The list could certainly be extended, but all six of the points listed are relevant to the existence of intelligent life. Of course, it will be obvious that evolution doesn’t explain most of these points (the first four) since it is not intended to, but it is still important to mention them because they highlight how incomplete evolution is on its own as an explanation for intelligent life. This is not a criticism of evolution, but is simply a matter of recognizing its limits. For those interested in how we think Christians should approach evolution see our article Debating Darwin.
With that in mind, here are six things evolution doesn’t explain:
1. An orderly universe with suitable physical laws.
Evolution couldn’t operate without appropriate physical laws in place, yet clearly evolution cannot explain why such laws apply to our universe. As we discuss here, this feature of the universe provides one reason for belief in God.
Click here to go to source
David Glass has particular interests in the relationship between science and Christianity and in how evidence should be used in debates about the existence of God. He is a member of Glenabbey Church where he is involved in the apologetics team. He is a lecturer in the School of Computing and Mathematics at the University of Ulster where he does research on topics at the interface between computing and philosophy. (For details about academic qualifications and current work see here.) Originally from Armagh, he now lives in Greenisland with his wife Cathy and their six children.
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 27The LORD Is My Light and My Salvation
27 Of David.
1 The LORD is my light and my salvation;
whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the stronghold of my life;
of whom shall I be afraid?
2 When evildoers assail me
to eat up my flesh,
my adversaries and foes,
it is they who stumble and fall.
3 Though an army encamp against me,
my heart shall not fear;
though war arise against me,
yet I will be confident.
4 One thing have I asked of the LORD,
that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD
and to inquire in his temple.
Why Is the Witness of the Spirit So Special?
By Dr. Sinclair Ferguson
Paul speaks of the believer crying, “Abba! Father!” His verb, krazō, normally indicates a loud or needy cry. The verb is used in the Septuagint version of the Old Testament in this sense. ( For example, in Ps. 141: “O Lord, I call upon you; hasten to me! Give ear to my voice when I call to you!” (v. 1). ) It is found in the Gospels of the blind beggar crying out for help, ( Luke 18:40 ) and of the crowd crying out, “Crucify him!” ( Matt. 20:30; Mark 15:13 ) and in Revelation of a woman in childbirth. ( Rev 12:2 )
The verb itself is onomatopoeic — its sound expresses the sharpness of the cry. Paul therefore seems to have in mind a loud cry that issues from a situation of great need. “Abba! Father!” is not a restful whisper of contentment and security. It is the cry of a child who has stumbled, tripped, and fallen, and is crying out for his or her father to come to help. It is the deepest instinct of the child in need.
This is precisely why the cry, “Abba! Father,” is so significant. It expresses, at a point of intense need, an instinct that is absent from the unbeliever’s consciousness. At best such a person may (and often does) cry out, “O God!” but not instinctively, “O Father!” That cry is the fruit of the ministry of the Spirit; it is his co-testimony with our spirit; even in the hour of darkness the believer possesses an instinct, a testimony: he or she knows him- or herself to be a child of God!
The one who confesses, “Jesus is Lord,” by the Spirit is also the one who cries out in time of need, “Abba! Father!” by the same Spirit. John Murray was therefore right to affirm that even at its lowest ebb the believer’s consciousness differs by a whole diameter from that of the unbeliever.
Notice what this means. Gospel assurance is not withheld from God’s children even when they have not shown themselves to be strong. What good father would want his children’s assurance of his love to be possible only when they have sufficient accomplishments in life to merit it? Shame on such a father! Yet how sad that we impute such an attitude to our heavenly Father.
It should be noted, however, that while the witness of the Spirit is not the same as the fruit of the Spirit, Paul does not present it as a kind of “Route B” to assurance for those whose lives are empty of that fruit. The witness of the Spirit goes hand in glove with the fruit of the Spirit, for Paul has been describing the believer as a person who walks according to the Spirit, not according to the flesh, who lives by putting to death the misdeeds of the body. So the Spirit’s testimony with our spirits that we are God’s sons does not exist in isolation from the family characteristics that the Spirit produces in our lives. His witness is a joint witness with our spirits and takes place within the complexity of our own consciousness of our sonship (however subliminal that may be). It is therefore not independent of the marks of God’s grace in our lives. Paul had already made this clear in Romans 8:12–14 in relating the mortification of sin to the ongoing leading of the Spirit, (In this context it is noteworthy that the one reference in the New Testament to “the leading of the Spirit” is related not to “guidance” in general but to holiness in particular.) who bears witness with our spirits that we are sons of God.
B. B. Warfield once again well expresses the balance here when he says that the witness of the Spirit
is, in a word, not a substitute for the proper evidence of our childship; but a divine enhancement of that evidence. A man who has none of the marks of a Christian is not entitled to believe himself to be a Christian; only those who are being led by the Spirit of God are children of God. But a man who has all the marks of being a Christian may fall short of his privilege of assurance. It is to such that the witness of the Spirit is superadded, not to take the place of the evidence of “signs” but to enhance their effect and raise it to a higher plane; not to produce an irrational, unjustified, conviction, but to produce a higher and more stable conviction than he would be, all unaided, able to draw; not to supply the lack of evidence, but to cure a disease of the mind which will not profit fully by the evidence. . . . The Spirit . . . does not operate by producing conviction without reason; an unreasonable conclusion. Nor yet apart from the reason; equally unreasonable. Nor by producing more reasons for the conclusion. But by giving their true weight and validity to the reasons which exist and so leading to the true conclusion, with Divine assurance.
The function of the witness of the Spirit of God is, therefore, to give to our halting conclusions the weight of His Divine certitude. Faith and Life
Thus there are different strands of influences that together make up the complex harmony that is Christian assurance. Actual assurance has a psychological as well as a theological dimension. Precisely for this reason, even when we have developed a clear doctrine of assurance, our actual experience of it may be prevented by numerous obstacles.
Excerpt from The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel Assurance
Dr. Sinclair B. Ferguson is a Ligonier teaching fellow and distinguished visiting professor of systematic theology at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. Sinclair Ferguson Books | Go to Books Page
Did Jesus claim to be God?
By Triablogue 3/2/2017
A perennial question that some people raise is whether Jesus claimed to be God. The skepticism underlying the question is that while NT writers claim divinity for Jesus, that's not a claim he made for himself. In other words, he was just human, and a divine Jesus reflects legendary embellishment on the part of NT writers. Triablogue: I doubled majored in history and Classics. I have an MAR from RTS. In theology, I’m a Calvinist, creationist, inerrantist, semicessationist, classical Christian theist, and amil (with postmil sympathies). I'm a low churchman with a sympathy for a certain amount of high church symbolism. I’m a pragmatist about church polity. On the sacraments, I take them to be symbolic. I regard other issues in sacramentology as secondary to this primary position. In philosophy, I’m an Augustinian exemplarist. I’m a Cartesian dualist. I’m an alethic realist, but scientific antirealist. I believe in innate ideas, sense knowledge (I'm an indirect realist), and the primacy of divine revelation in Scripture. In ethics, I subscribe to traditional Christian morality, rooted God’s revealed law as the source and standard of personal and social ethics. I also subscribe to a supralapsarian theodicy. Although I’m not a Lutheran, a traditional Lutheran service suits my taste in the style of worship.
Now, in one respect, I think the question is unimportant. I mean, if Jesus is God Incarnate, then we'd expect him to indicate that fact, but what I mean is that Jesus didn't write anything, so if someone is skeptical about the historicity of the Gospels or the NT generally, they will be just as dismissive of accounts in which Jesus claims to be God. They will say the Gospel writers put those words on Jesus' lips. So when the question has that frame of reference, it's futile to distinguish what Jesus said about himself from what NT writers said about Jesus. Since we don't have an autobiography of Jesus, there's no point attempting to prove to a "skeptic" that Jesus claimed to be God. If they distrust the historicity of the Gospels, they'd say statements attributed to Jesus are reducible to what the Gospels authors said about him rather than what he said about himself. To that extent, I think a "quest for the historical Jesus" that labors to isolate his statements from the narrator's statements is pointless.
There is, though, a more interesting question. How would Jesus prove that he's divine? It's not enough to claim divinity. After all, some people claim to be God, but we typically dismiss them as crackpots.
So it's less about Jesus saying he was God than Jesus showing he was God. Mind you, saying that he was God would help to prep the observer, but that needs to be reinforced by corresponding actions. Doing things that are associated with divine action.
However, that, of itself, is not without ambiguities. For instance, God is not the only agent who can perform miracles.
Now normally, when a crackpot claims to be God, that doesn't pose a threat to the true religion since most folks don't take him seriously. Indeed, the claim itself is sufficient reason for them to discount him as either delusional or a charlatan.
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Triablogue: I doubled majored in history and Classics. I have an MAR from RTS. In theology, I’m a Calvinist, creationist, inerrantist, semicessationist, classical Christian theist, and amil (with postmil sympathies). I'm a low churchman with a sympathy for a certain amount of high church symbolism. I’m a pragmatist about church polity. On the sacraments, I take them to be symbolic. I regard other issues in sacramentology as secondary to this primary position. In philosophy, I’m an Augustinian exemplarist. I’m a Cartesian dualist. I’m an alethic realist, but scientific antirealist. I believe in innate ideas, sense knowledge (I'm an indirect realist), and the primacy of divine revelation in Scripture. In ethics, I subscribe to traditional Christian morality, rooted God’s revealed law as the source and standard of personal and social ethics. I also subscribe to a supralapsarian theodicy. Although I’m not a Lutheran, a traditional Lutheran service suits my taste in the style of worship.
Exodus 15; Luke 18; Job 33; 2 Corinthians 3
By Don Carson 3/4/2018
Each of the first four units of Luke 18 can easily be misunderstood; each makes abundant sense when read in conjunction with the others.
The first (18:1-8) is a parable that Jesus tells his disciples “to show them that they should always pray and not give up” (18:1). An unjust judge is badgered by a persistent widow so that in the end he provides her with the justice she asks for. “And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off?” (18:7). If even this judge eventually puts things right, how much more will God, when his “chosen ones” cry to him? By itself, of course, this parable could be taken to mean that the longer and louder one prays, the more blessings one gets — a kind of tit-for-tat arrangement that Jesus himself elsewhere disavows (Matt. 6:5-15). But the last verse (18:8) focuses the point: “However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” The real problem is not with God’ s unwillingness to answer, but with our faithless and lethargic refusal to ask.
The second (18:9-14) parable describes a Pharisee and a tax collector who go up to the temple to pray. Some modern relativists conclude from this story that Jesus accepts everyone, regardless of his or her continuing sins, habits, or lifestyle. He rejects only self-confident religious hypocrites. Certainly Jesus rejects the latter. But the parable does not suggest that the tax collector wished to continue in his sin; rather, he begs for mercy, knowing what he is; he approaches God out of a freely recognized need.
In the third unit (18:15-17) Jesus insists that little children be brought to him, “for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” One must “receive the kingdom of God like a child,” or not at all. Yet this does not commend childlike behavior in all respects (e.g., naïveté, short-term thinking, moral immaturity, the cranky “No!” of the “terrible twos”). But little children do have an openness, a refreshing freedom from self-promotion, a simplicity that asks and trusts.
The fourth unit (18:18-30) finds Jesus telling a rich ruler to sell all that he has and give to the poor, if he is to have treasure in heaven, and then follow Christ. Does this mean that only penurious asceticism will enjoy the blessings of heaven? Is it not Christ’s way of stripping off this particular person’ s real god, the pathetic ground of his self-confidence, so that he may trust Jesus and follow him wholly?
Can you see what holds these four units together?
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Don Carson is research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, and co-founder (with Tim Keller) of The Gospel Coalition. He has authored numerous books, and recently edited The Enduring Authority of the Christian Scriptures (Eerdmans, 2016).Don Carson Books | Go to Books Page
The Institutes of the Christian Religion
Translated by Henry Beveridge
42. Wherever this living faith exists, it must have the hope of eternal
life as its inseparable companion, or rather must of itself beget and
manifest it; where it is wanting, however clearly and elegantly we may
discourse of faith, it is certain we have it not. For if faith is (as
has been said) a firm persuasion of the truth of God--a persuasion that
it can never be false, never deceive, never be in vain, those who have
received this assurance must at the same time expect that God will
perform his promises, which in their conviction are absolutely true; so
that in one word hope is nothing more than the expectation of those
things which faith previously believes to have been truly promised by
God. Thus, faith believes that God is true; hope expects that in due
season he will manifest his truth. Faith believes that he is our
Father; hope expects that he will always act the part of a Father
towards us. Faith believes that eternal life has been given to us; hope
expects that it will one day be revealed. Faith is the foundation on
which hope rests; hope nourishes and sustains faith. For as no man can
expect any thing from God without previously believing his promises,
so, on the other hand, the weakness of our faith, which might grow
weary and fall away, must be supported and cherished by patient hope
and expectation. For this reason Paul justly says, "We are saved by
hope," (Rom. 8:24). For while hope silently waits for the Lord, it
restrains faith from hastening on with too much precipitation, confirms
it when it might waver in regard to the promises of God or begin to
doubt of their truth, refreshes it when it might be fatigued, extends
its view to the final goal, so as not to allow it to give up in the
middle of the course, or at the very outset. In short, by constantly
renovating and reviving, it is ever and anon furnishing more vigor for
perseverance. On the whole, how necessary the reinforcements of hope
are to establish faith will better appear if we reflect on the numerous
forms of temptation by which those who have embraced the word of God
are assailed and shaken. First, the Lord often keeps us in suspense, by
delaying the fulfillment of his promises much longer than we could
wish. Here the office of hope is to perform what the prophet enjoins,
"Though it tarry, wait for it," (Hab. 2:3). Sometimes he not only
permits faith to grow languid, but even openly manifests his
displeasure. Here there is still greater necessity for the aid of hope,
that we may be able to say with another prophet, "I will wait upon the
Lord that hideth his face from the house of Jacob, and I will look for
him," (Isaiah 8:17). Scoffers also rise up, as Peter tells us, and ask,
"Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep,
all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation,"
(2 Pet. 3:4). Nay, the world and the flesh insinuate the same thing.
Here faith must be supported by the patience of hope, and fixed on the
contemplation of eternity, consider that "one day is with the Lord as a
thousand years, and a thousand years as one day," (2 Pet. 3:8; Ps.
43. On account of this connection and affinity Scripture sometimes confounds the two terms faith and hope. For when Peter says that we are "kept by the power of God through faith until salvation, ready to be revealed in the last times" (1 Pet. 1:5), he attributes to faith what more properly belongs to hope. And not without cause, since we have already shown that hope is nothing else than the food and strength of faith. Sometimes the two are joined together, as in the same Epistles "That your faith and hope might be in God," (1 Pet. 1:21). Paul, again, in the Epistle to the Philippians, from hope deduces expectation (Phil. 1:20), because in hoping patiently we suspend our wishes until God manifest his own time. The whole of this subject may be better understood from the tenth chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews, to which I have already adverted. Paul, in another passage, though not in strict propriety of speech, expresses the same thing in these words, "For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith," (Gal. 5:5); that is, after embracing the testimony of the Gospel as to free love, we wait till God openly manifest what is now only an object of hope. It is now obvious how absurdly Peter Lombard lays down a double foundation of hope--viz. the grace of God and the merit of works (Sent. Lib. 3, Dist. 26). Hope cannot have any other object than faith has. But we have already shown clearly that the only object of faith is the mercy of God, to which, to use the common expression, it must look with both eyes. But it is worth while to listen to the strange reason which he adduces. If you presume, says he, to hope for any thing without merit, it should be called not hope, but presumption. Who, dear reader, does not execrate the gross stupidity  which calls it rashness, and presumption to confide in the truth of God? The Lord desires us to expect every thing from his goodness and yet these men tell us, it is presumption to rest in it. O teacher, worthy of the pupils, whom you found in these insane raving schools! Seeing that, by the oracles of God, sinners are enjoined to entertain the hope of salvation, let us willingly presume so far on his truth as to cast away all confidence in our works, and trusting in his mercy, venture to hope. He who has said, "According to your faith be it unto you," (Mt. 9:29), will never deceive.
 1 Tim. 6:16; John 8:12; 14:6; Luke 10:22; 1 Cor. 2:2; Acts 20:21; 26:17, 18; 2 Cor. 4:6.
 The French is"Car nous tendons a Dieu, et par l'humanité de Jesus Christ, nous y sommes conduits;"--For we tend to God, and by the humanity of Christ are conducted to him.
 French, "Theologiens Sorboniques;"--Theologians of Sorbonne.
 In opposition to this ignorance, see Chrysostom in Joann. Homil. 16.
 See Augustin. Ep. 102, "Si propter eos solos Christus mortuus est, qui certa intelligentia possunt ista discernera, pæne frustra in ecclesia laboramus,"&c;--If Christ died for those only who are able to discern these things with true understanding, our labour in the Church is almost in vain.
 This definition is explained, sections 14, 15, 28, 29, 32, 33, 31 of this chapter.
 See Lombard, Lib. 3 Dist. 23. See the refutation in the middle of sections 41, 42, 43, where it is shown that faith produces, and is inseparable from, hope and love.
 Thess. 1:3, 4; 2 Thess. 2:13; Tit. 1.
 The French adds, "Comme par une bouffee,"--as by fits and starts.
 See section 13, where it is said that this impression, sometimes existing in the reprobate, is called faith, but improperly.
 1 Tim. 3:9; 4:1, 6; 2 Tim. 2:15; 3:18; Tit. 1:13; 2:2.
 The French adds, "Comme il montre par ses propos quel souci il en avoit;"--as he shows by his urgency what anxiety he felt.
 Latin"Præsentim ubi ad rem ventum est."--French, "Principalament quand les tentations nous pressent;"--especially when temptations press us.
 As to the imperfection, strengthening, and increase of faith, see Book 4. chap. 4 sec. 7, 8.
 Calvin's Latin translation of the passage is, "Atque dixi, occidere meum est; mutationes dexteræ excelsi."--The French is, "J'ay dit, Il me faut mourir. Voicy un changement de la main de Dieu;"--I said I must die. Behold a change in the hand of God.
 See Calv adv. Pighiium, near the commencement.
 The French is, "Voila comme Satan, quand il voit que par mensonge clair et ouvert il ne peust plus destruire la certitude de la foy, s'efforce en cachette et comme par dessous terre la ruiner."--Behold how Satan, when he sees that by clear and open falsehood he can no longer destroy the certainty of faith, is striving in secret, and as it were below ground, to ruin it.
 Ps. 111:10; Prov. 1:7, 9:10, 15:24; Job 28:28; Mal. 1:6.
 Latin, "acsi cervicibus suis impenderet."--French, "comme si l'enfer leur etoit desia present pour les englouter;"--as if hell were already present to engulfthem.
 The French adds, "Combien que nous ayons les promesses de Dieu pour nous munir à l'encontre;"--although we have the promise of God to strengthen us for the encounter.
 Rom. 1:3; 1 Cor. 2:2; 2 Cor. 1:20.
 The French thus begins the section: "Lequel erreur est facile a convaincre;"--This error is easily refuted
 French, "Doutes, solicitudes, et detresses;"--doubts, anxieties, and distresses.
 French, "La doctrine des theologiens sophistes;"--the doctrine of sophistical theologians.
 See Bernard, Serm. 2 in Die Ascensionis, and Serm. 2 in Octava Paschæ
 The French adds, "En quoy ils demonstrent grandement leur betisc;"--In this they give a great demonstration of their stupidity.
 Latin "Quis non merito, amice lector, tales bestias execretur?" French, "Je vous prie, mes amis, qui se tiendra de maudire telles bestes?"--I pray you, my friends, who can refrain from execrating such beasts?
Christian Classics Ethereal Library / Public Domain
Institutes of the Christian Religion
The Book of Revelation: How Difficult Was Its Journey into the Canon?
By Michael J. Kruger 2/12/2017
The story of the New Testament canon is a fascinating one, with many twists and turns. There are books that were accepted very quickly, almost from the start (e.g., the four gospels), and there are other books that struggled to find a home (e.g., 2 Peter).
And then there is the book of Revelation.
Few today would contest the claim that the book of Revelation stands as one of the most controversial, complicated, and esoteric books in the New Testament canon. Perhaps it should come as no surprise, then, that its reception by the early church was equally complicated and controversial.
But, the story of the book of Revelation is not what one might expect. Other debated books tended to have a lukewarm reception at the earliest stages, only to gain more and more acceptance over time. Revelation, on the other hand, had nearly the opposite experience; it had a very early and positive reception in many parts of the church, only to run into serious challenges at a later point.
Lately, I have been doing a good bit of research on Revelation’s canonical history in preparation for writing an academic piece on the subject. Here are a few highlights about Revelation’s journey:
1. Revelation’s early reception was Outstanding. Perhaps as much as any other NT book, we have evidence for an early, widespread, and consistent reception of Revelation. Our evidence goes back as early as Papias (c.125) and also includes Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, the Muratorian Fragment, Hippolytus, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, and Origen. That is an impressive list.
Books by Michael J. Kruger:
Canon Revisited: Establishing the Origins and Authority of the New Testament Books (Note, I really enjoyed this book.)
The Question of Canon: Challenging the Status Quo in the New Testament Debate
The Heresy of Orthodoxy: How Contemporary Culture's Fascination with Diversity Has Reshaped Our Understanding of Early Christianity
A Biblical-Theological Introduction to the New Testament: The Gospel Realized
The Inerrant Word: Biblical, Historical, Theological, and Pastoral Perspectives
The Early Text of the New Testament
The Pilgrim's Progress From This World To That Which Is To Come;
Delivered Under The Similitude Of A Dream (Part 2)
By John Bunyan 1678
THE FIFTH STAGEThen said the guide, Do you hear him? I will dare to say, that this boy lives a merrier life, and wears more of that herb called heart’s-ease in his bosom, than he that is clad in silk and velvet. But we will proceed in our discourse.
In this valley our Lord formerly had his country-house: he loved much to be here. He loved also to walk these meadows, for he found the air was pleasant. Besides, here a man shall be free from the noise, and from the hurryings of this life: all states are full of noise and confusion; only the Valley of Humiliation is that empty and solitary place. Here a man shall not be so let and hindered in his contemplation as in other places he is apt to be. This is a valley that nobody walks in but those that love a pilgrim’s life. And though Christian had the hard hap to meet here with Apollyon, and to enter with him in a brisk encounter, yet I must tell you, that in former times men have met with angels here,
Hosea 12:4-5 He strove with the angel and prevailed;
he wept and sought his favor.
He met God at Bethel,
and there God spoke with us—
5 the LORD, the God of hosts,
the LORD is his memorial name: ESV
have found pearls here,
Matthew 13:46 who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it. ESV
and have in this place found the words of life.
Proverbs 8:36 but he who fails to find me injures himself;
all who hate me love death.” ESV
Did I say our Lord had here in former days his country-house, and that he loved here to walk? I will add-in this place, and to the people that love and trace these grounds, he has left a yearly revenue, to be faithfully paid them at certain seasons, for their maintenance by the way, and for their further encouragement to go on in their pilgrimage.
SAM. Now, as they went on, Samuel said to Mr. Great-Heart, Sir, I perceive that in this valley my father and Apollyon had their battle; but whereabout was the fight? for I perceive this valley is large.
GREAT. Your father had the battle with Apollyon at a place yonder before us, in a narrow passage, just beyond Forgetful Green. And indeed that place is the most dangerous place in all these parts. For if at any time pilgrims meet with any brunt, it is when they forget what favours they have received, and how unworthy they are of them. This is the place also where others have been hard put to it. But more of the place when we are come to it; for I persuade myself that to this day there remains either some sign of the battle, or some monument to testify that such a battle there was fought.
MER. Then said Mercy, I think I am as well in this valley as I have been anywhere else in all our journey: the place, methinks, suits with my spirit. I love to be in such places, where there is no rattling with coaches, nor rumbling with wheels. Methinks, here one may, without much molestation, be thinking what he is, whence he came, what he has done, and to what the King has called him. Here one may think, and break at heart, and melt in one’s spirit, until one’s eyes become as the fish-pools in Heshbon. Oh man I like that!
Song Of Songs 7:4 Your neck is like an ivory tower.
Your eyes are pools in Heshbon,
by the gate of Bath-rabbim.
Your nose is like a tower of Lebanon,
which looks toward Damascus. ESV
They that go rightly through this valley of Baca, make it a well; the rain that God sends down from heaven upon them that are here, also filleth the pools. This valley is that from whence also the King will give to his their vineyards; and they that go through it shall sing, as Christian did, for all he met with Apollyon.
Psalm 84:5–7 Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
in whose heart are the highways to Zion.
6 As they go through the Valley of Baca
they make it a place of springs;
the early rain also covers it with pools.
7 They go from strength to strength;
each one appears before God in Zion. ESV
Hosea 2:15 And there I will give her her vineyards
and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope.
And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth,
as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt. ESV
GREAT. ’Tis true, said their guide; I have gone through this valley many a time, and never was better than when here. I have also been a conduct to several pilgrims, and they have confessed the same. “To this man will I look,” saith the King, “even to him that is poor, and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.”
Isaiah 66:2 All these things my hand has made,
and so all these things came to be,
declares the LORD.
But this is the one to whom I will look:
he who is humble and contrite in spirit
and trembles at my word. ESV
Now they were come to the place where the aforementioned battle was fought: Then said the guide to Christiana, her children, and Mercy, This is the place; on this ground Christian stood, and up there came Apollyon against him; and look. And, look, did I not tell you? here is some of your husband’s blood upon these stones to this day: Behold, also, how here and there are yet to be seen upon the place, some of the shivers of Apollyon’s broken darts. See, also, how they did beat the ground with their feet as they fought, to make good their places against each other; how also with their by-blows they did split the very stones in pieces. Verily, Christian did here play the man, and showed himself as stout as Hercules could, had he been there, even he himself. When Apollyon was beat, he made his retreat to the next valley, that is called, the Valley of the Shadow of Death, unto which we shall come anon. Lo, yonder also stands a monument, on which is engraven this battle, and Christian’s victory, to his fame, throughout all ages:
So because it stood just on the way-side before them, they stepped to it, and read the writing, which word for word was this:
“Hard by here was a battle fought,
Most strange, and yet most true;
Christian and Apollyon fought
Each other to subdue.
The man so bravely play’d the man,
He made the fiend to fly;
Of which a monument I stand,
The same to testify.”
When they were entering upon this valley, they thought they heard a groaning, as of dying men; a very great groaning. They thought also that they did hear words of lamentation, spoken as of some in extreme torment. These things made the boys to quake; the women also looked pale and wan; but their guide bid them be of good comfort.
So they went on a little further, and they thought that they felt the ground begin to shake under them, as if some hollow place was there: they heard also a kind of hissing, as of serpents, but nothing as yet appeared. Then said the boys, Are we not yet at the end of this doleful place? But the guide also bid them be of good courage, and look well to their feet; lest haply, said he, you be taken in some snare.
Now James began to be sick; but I think the cause thereof was fear: so his mother gave him some of that glass of spirits that had been given her at the Interpreter’s house, and three of the pills that Mr. Skill had prepared, and the boy began to revive. Thus they went on till they came to about the middle of the valley; and then Christiana said, Methinks I see something yonder upon the road before us, a thing of a shape such as I have not seen. Then said Joseph, Mother, what is it? An ugly thing, child; an ugly thing, said she. But, mother, what is it like? said he. ’Tis like I cannot tell what, said she; and now it is but a little way off. Then said she, It is nigh.
Well, said Mr. Great-Heart, let them that are most afraid keep close to me. So the fiend came on, and the conductor met it; but when it was come to him, it vanished to all their sights. Then remembered they what had been said some time ago: “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”
James 4:7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. ESV
They went therefore on, as being a little refreshed. But they had not gone far, before Mercy, looking behind her, saw, as she thought, something most like a lion, and it came at a great padding pace after: and it had a hollow voice of roaring; and at every roar it gave, it made the valley echo, and all their hearts to ache, save the heart of him that was their guide. So it came up and Mr. Great-Heart went behind, and put the pilgrims all before him. The lion also came on apace, and Mr. Great-Heart addressed himself to give him battle.
1 Peter 5:8-9 8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. ESV
But when he saw that it was determined that resistance should be made, he also drew back, and came no further.
Then they went on again, and their conductor went before them, till they came to a place where was cast up a pit the whole breadth of the way; and before they could be prepared to go over that, a great mist and a darkness fell upon them, so that they could not see. Then said the pilgrims, Alas! what now shall we do? But their guide made answer, Fear not; stand still, and see what an end will be put to this also; so they stayed there, because their path was marred. They then also thought that they did hear more apparently the noise and rushing of the enemies; the fire also and the smoke of the pit were much easier to be discerned. Then said Christiana to Mercy, Now I see what my poor husband went through. I have heard much of this place, but I never was here before now. Poor man! he went here all alone in the night; he had night almost quite through the way: also these fiends were busy about him, as if they would have torn him in pieces. Many have spoken of it; but none can tell what the Valley of the Shadow of Death should mean until they come in themselves. The heart knoweth its own bitterness; and a stranger intermeddleth not with its joy.
Proverbs 14:10 The heart knows its own bitterness,
and no stranger shares its joy. ESV
To be here is a fearful thing.
GREAT. This is like doing business in great waters, or like going down into the deep. This is like being in the heart of the sea, and like going down to the bottoms of the mountains. Now it seems as if the earth, with its bars, were about us for ever. But let them that walk in darkness, and have no light, trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon their God.
Isaiah 50:10 Who among you fears the LORD
and obeys the voice of his servant?
Let him who walks in darkness
and has no light
trust in the name of the LORD
and rely on his God. ESV
For my part, as I have told you already, I have gone often through this valley, and have been much harder put to it than now I am: and yet you see I am alive. I would not boast, for that I am not mine own saviour; but I trust we shall have a good deliverance. Come, let us pray for light to Him that can lighten our darkness, and that can rebuke not only these, but all the Satans in hell.
So they cried and prayed, and God sent light and deliverance, for there was now no let in their way; no, not there where but now they were stopped with a pit. Yet they were not got through the valley. So they went on still, and met with great stinks and loathsome smells, to the great annoyance of them. Then said Mercy to Christiana, It is not so pleasant being here as at the gate, or at the Interpreter’s, or at the house where we lay last.
O but, said one of the boys, it is not so bad to go through here, as it is to abide here, always; and for aught I know, one reason why we must go this way to the house prepared for us is, that our home might be the sweeter to us.
Well said, Samuel, quoth the guide; thou hast now spoke like a man. Why, if ever I get out here again, said the boy, I think I shall prize light and good way better than I ever did in all my life. Then said the guide, We shall be out by and by.
So on they went, and Joseph said, Cannot we see to the end of this valley as yet? Then said the guide, Look to your feet, for we shall presently be among the snares: so they looked to their feet, and went on; but they were troubled much with the snares. Now, when they were come among the snares, they espied a man cast into the ditch on the left hand, with his flesh all rent and torn. Then said the guide, That is one Heedless, that was going this way: he has lain there a great while. There was one Take-Heed with him when he was taken and slain, but he escaped their hands. You cannot imagine how many are killed hereabouts, and yet men are so foolishly venturous as to set out lightly on pilgrimage, and to come without a guide. Poor Christian! it was a wonder that he here escaped; but he was beloved of his God: also he had a good heart of his own, or else he could never have done it.
Now they drew towards the end of this way; and just there where Christian had seen the cave when he went by, out thence came forth Maul, a giant. This Maul did use to spoil young pilgrims with sophistry; and he called Great-Heart by his name, and said unto him, How many times have you been forbidden to do these things? Then said Mr. Great-Heart, What things? What things! quoth the giant; you know what things: but I will put an end to your trade.
Pilgrim's Progress (Illustrated): Updated, Modern English. More than 100 Illustrations.
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
Secrets of self-control (5)
3/4/2018 Bob Gass
‘Share each other’s burdens.’
(Ga 6:2) Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. ESV
Make yourself accountable to someone. Alcoholics Anonymous has a ‘buddy system’ in which you are encouraged to call someone whenever you feel the pressure building to return to an old, destructive pattern. And it’s scriptural: ‘Share each other’s troubles’ (v. 2 TLB). You may not like this step, but if you are fighting a losing battle you need it. Find someone who will check up on you, pray with you, and encourage you in areas where you want more self-control. ‘Two people can resist an attack that would defeat one person alone’ (Ecclesiastes 4:12 GNT). Every church needs ‘buddy’ relationships in which people are accountable to each other; relationships in which people encourage one another in the Lord. Having someone hold you accountable is tough, but it works. What should you look for in a ‘buddy’? First, they should be the same gender as you. You don’t need to place another temptation in your path by sharing personal problems with someone of the opposite sex. Second, you should look for someone you can depend on to follow through on this commitment – someone who is faithful. Third, look for someone who will keep your problem confidential. Don’t choose someone who is known to talk too much. Fourth, tell your buddy that he or she has permission to check up on you from time to time and ask, ‘How are you doing with your problem?’ Knowing that someone will be asking about your problem is an additional incentive not to give in to temptation. That may be the extra push you need to get you moving on the road to victory and self-control.
UCB The Word For Today
Vengeance or Forgiveness
Any person hurt by evil has two alternatives. One option is to suffer, and through suffering to forgive. The other is to seek revenge. Vengeance avoids suffering. A village proverb says, “He could not beat the donkey, so he beat the saddle.” The story behind the proverb tells of a man riding his donkey. The donkey begins galloping out of control, and the man with his saddle is thrown to the ground. Cursing, he runs after the donkey stick in hand but is not able to catch it. He then returns and vents his wrath by beating the saddle. So men and women often seek revenge on the source of their suffering. If it is not available, they turn to a substitute—any substitute.
In the Ethiopian highlands the villagers tell a vivid story with the same moral. In the forest the elephant inadvertently steps on the leopard’s son and kills him. The leopard wants revenge. He gathers his leopard friends together to see what they might do.
“Who has killed the leopard’s son?” one leopard asks. There is no reply. They are afraid to say, “The elephant.” Finally a young leopard stands up and shouts, “The goats! The goats have killed the leopard’s son! It is the evil, vengeful goats! They must pay for their crime.” At once the leopards take up the cry, swarm out of the forest and slaughter a hundred goats in revenge for the death of the leopard’s son.
The Cross & the Prodigal: Luke 15 Through the Eyes of Middle Eastern Peasants
by Bill Federer
March 4th was Inauguration Day up until 1937, when it was changed to January 20th. Every President acknowledged a Supreme Being in their Inaugural Address. Thomas Jefferson referred to: “That Infinite Power which rules the destinies of the universe…” Andrew Jackson: “My fervent prayer to that Almighty Being…” Abraham Lincoln: “The Almighty has His own purposes…” FDR: “We humbly ask the blessing of God…” Calvin Coolidge: “America… cherishes no purpose save to merit the favor of Almighty God.” John F. Kennedy: “The rights of man come not from the generosity of the state but from the hand of God.”
Thomas R. Kelly
2. THE NATURE AND GROUND OF SOCIAL CONCERN
The experience of Divine Presence wholly satisfies, and there are a few who, like those on the Mount of Transfiguration, want to linger there forever and never return to the valleys of men, where there are demons to be cast out. But there is more to the experience of God than that of being plucked out of the world. The fuller experience, I am sure, is of a Love which sends us out into the world. "As the Father hath sent me, even so send I you" becomes, not an external, Biblically authorized command, but a living, burning experience. For the experience of an inflooding, all-enfolding Love, which is at the center of Divine Presence, is of a Love which embraces all creation, not just our little, petty selves. "Would that all men might be even as I am," are the words of a man such as John Hughes used to call an authentic. Not only does all creation have a new smell, as Fox found, but it has a new value, as enwrapped in the infinite Love of God, wherein not a sparrow falls to the ground without the Father. Have you experienced this concern for the sparrow's fall? This is not just Jesus' experience. Nor is it His inference about God's tender love; it is the record of His experience in God. There is a tendering of the soul, toward everything in creation, from the sparrow's fall to the slave under the lash. The hard-lined face of a money-bitten financier is as deeply touching to the tendered soul as are the burned-out eyes of miners' children, remote and unseen victims of his so-called success. There is a sense in which, in this terrible tenderness, we become one with God and bear in our quivering souls the sins and burdens, the benightedness and the tragedy of the creatures of the whole world, and suffer in their suffering, and die in their death.
This is the experience underlying Kagawa's poem, "To Tears," published in the Christian Century:
Ah tears! Unbidden tears!
Familiar friends since childhood's lonely years, Long separated we,
Why do ye come again to dwell with me?
At midnight, dawn, midday
Ye come; nor wait your coming nor delay;
Nay fearless, with what scorn
Ye picture China by my brothers torn.
Your scorn I must accept,
But I'm no coward; pray heed ere more ye've wept;
I love Japan so fair,
And China too; this war I cannot bear.
"Is there no other way?"
Thus do I search my spirit all the day
Nor ever reach a goal;
I live, but only as a phantom soul.
Like Christ who bore our sins upon the Cross,
I, too, must bear my country's sins and dross;
Land of my love!Thy sins are grievousto be borne,
My head hangs low upon my form forlorn.
Ah tears! Unbidden tears!
Long separated we,
Alas! has come another day
When ye must dwell with me.
A Testament of Devotion
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
Love consists in desiring to give what is our own to another
and feeling his delight as our own.
--- Emanuel Swedenborg
To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary.
To one without faith, no explanation is possible.
--- St. Thomas Aquinas
This is the very perfection of a man,
to find out his own imperfections.
--- Saint Augustine
Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow,
it only saps today of its joy.
--- Leo Buscaglia
... from here, there and everywhere
University of Virginia Library 1994
1758, 1759. Visit to the Quarterly Meetings in Chester County -- Joins Daniel Stanton and John Scarborough in a Visit to such as kept Slaves there -- Some Observations on the Conduct which those should maintain who speak in Meetings for Discipline -- More Visits to such as kept Slaves, and to Friends near Salem -- Account of the Yearly Meeting in the Year 1759, and of the increasing Concern in Divers Provinces to Labor against Buying and Keeping Slaves -- The Yearly Meeting Epistle -- Thoughts on the Small-pox spreading, and on Inoculation.
ELEVENTH of eleventh month, 1758. -- This day I set out for Concord; the Quarterly Meeting heretofore held there was now, by reason of a great increase of members, divided into two by the agreement of Friends at our last Yearly Meeting. Here I met with our beloved friends Samuel Spavold and Mary Kirby from England, and with Joseph White from Buck's County; the latter had taken leave of his family in order to go on a religious visit to Friends in England, and, through Divine goodness, we were favored with a strengthening opportunity together.
After this meeting I joined with my friends, Daniel Stanton and John Scarborough, in visiting Friends who had slaves. At night we had a family meeting at William Trimble's, many young people being there; and it was a precious, reviving opportunity. Next morning we had a comfortable sitting with a sick neighbor, and thence to the burial of the corpse of a Friend at Uwchland Meeting, at which were many people, and it was a time of Divine favor, after which we visited some who had slaves. In the evening we had a family meeting at a Friend's house, where the channel of the gospel love was opened, and my mind was comforted after a hard day's labor. The next day we were at Goshen Monthly Meeting, and on the 18th attended the Quarterly Meeting at London Grove, it being first held at that place. Here we met again with all the before-mentioned Friends, and had some edifying meetings. Near the conclusion of the meeting for business, Friends were incited to constancy in supporting the testimony of truth, and reminded of the necessity which the disciples of Christ are under to attend principally to his business as he is pleased to open it to us, and to be particularly careful to have our minds redeemed from the love of wealth, and our outward affairs in as little room as may be, that no temporal concerns may entangle our affections or hinder us from diligently following the dictates of truth in laboring to promote the pure spirit of meekness and heavenly-mindedness amongst the children of men in these days of calamity and distress, wherein God is visiting our land with his just judgments.
Each of these Quarterly Meetings was large and sat near eight hours. I had occasion to consider that it is a weighty thing to speak much in large meetings for business, for except our minds are rightly prepared, and we clearly understand the case we speak to, instead of forwarding, we hinder business, and make more labor for those on whom the burden of the work is laid. If selfish views or a partial spirit have any room in our minds, we are unfit for the Lord's work; if we have a clear prospect of the business, and proper weight on our minds to speak, we should avoid useless apologies and repetitions. Where people are gathered from far, and adjourning a meeting of business is attended with great difficulty, it behoves all to be cautious how they detain a meeting, especially when they have sat six or seven hours, and have a great distance to ride home. After this meeting I rode home.
John Woolman's Journal
by D.H. Stern
but he who searches for evil—it comes to him!
28 He who trusts in his riches will fall,
but the righteous will flourish like sprouting leaves.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
Could this be true of me?
But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself.
--- Acts 20:24.
It is easier to serve God without a vision, easier to work for God without a call, because then you are not bothered by what God requires; common sense is your guide, veneered over with Christian sentiment. You will be more prosperous and successful, more leisure-hearted, if you never realize the call of God. But if once you receive a commission from Jesus Christ, the memory of what God wants will always come like a goad; you will no longer be able to work for Him on the commonsense basis.
What do I really count dear? If I have not been gripped by Jesus Christ, I will count service dear, time given to God dear, my life dear unto myself. Paul says he counted his life dear only in order that he might fulfil the ministry he had received; he refused to use his energy for any other thing. Acts 20:24 states Paul’s almost sublime annoyance at being asked to consider himself; he was absolutely indifferent to any consideration other than that of fulfilling the ministry he had received. Practical work may be a competitor against abandonment to God, because practical work is based on this argument—‘Remember how useful you are here,’ or—‘Think how much value you would be in that particular type of work.’ That attitude does not put Jesus Christ as the Guide as to where we should go, but our judgment as to where we are of most use. Never consider whether you are of use; but ever consider that you are not your own but His.
My Utmost for His Highest
the Poetry of R.S. Thomas
Pass your hand over my brow.
You can feel the place where the brains grow.
I am like a tree,
From my top boughs I can see
The footprints that led up to me.
There is blood in my veins
That has run clear of the stain
Contracted in so many loins.
Why, then, are my hands red
With the blood of so many dead?
Is this where I was misled?
Why are my hands this way
That they will not do as I say?
Does no God hear when I pray?
I have nowhere to go
The swift satellites show
The clock of my whole being is slow.
It is too late to start
For destinations not of the heart.
I must stay here with my hurt.
Selected poems, 1946-1968
Day of Atonement: Leviticus 16
The Old Testament says that the blood of the sacrifice is given to make atonement. What does “atonement” mean? The Hebrew words translated atonement in English versions are kippur (noun) and kapar (verb). The root occurs about 150 times in the Old Testament, and is intimately linked with forgiveness of sin and with reconciliation to God.
Many believe the root idea is “to cover” or “to conceal.” If so, atonement suggests a covering that conceals a person’s sin and makes it possible for him to approach God. Certainly this is the role that atonement played in the Old Testament system. A person who sinned unintentionally would discover his failing, and as an act of confession, bring an animal offering to the priest. The sacrifice would be made, the blood shed, and “in this way the priest will make atonement for the man’s sin, and he will be forgiven” (Leviticus 4:26).
But what about intentional, willful sins? While there was no individual offering for such sins, provision was made for them in the Day of Atonement.
Leviticus 16 gives detailed instructions for a special sacrifice to be offered once a year, on the tenth day of the seventh month. On that day the whole community of Israel was to gather at the tabernacle (and later, the temple) to fast and to pray. The high priest followed carefully prescribed steps and entered the inner room of the tabernacle, bringing the blood of a sacrificed animal. There he sprinkled the blood on the cover of the ark, called the mercy seat. This animal was a “sin offering for the people” (Leviticus 16:15). It is specifically said to have been required “because of the uncleanness and rebellion of the Israelites, whatever their sins have been” (Leviticus 16:16, cf. Leviticus 16:21). That sacrifice was an “atonement … to be made once a year for all the sins of the Israelites” (Leviticus 16:34). Following that sacrifice, Israel was told, “You will be clean from all your sins” (Leviticus 16:30).
So the sacrificial system did make provision for intentional as well as unintentional sins. This was the only way the holy God could continue to dwell among a sinful and sinning community.
The message of sacrifice. It is important in looking at the Old Testament to realize that in it we see realities acted out that would be unveiled later. It’s not hard to grasp why.
When a young child is about to go into a hospital for a tonsillectomy, parents are often told to play “hospital” with him beforehand. For several days or weeks Mom and Dad rehearse the upcoming trip: they pack his bags, pretend to check in, look at pictures of hospital beds, take each other’s temperatures. In every way the young child is prepared, so that when he actually does enter the hospital, it will all seem familiar. He will not be as fearful, because the reality is so much like the pretend.
Should we be surprised, then, that God took the same kind of care? That God planned for continuous enactments of reality, so that when Jesus finally came to lay down His life for us, we would realize just what He was doing? Should we be surprised at the centuries of animal sacrifice, and the stress on the shedding of blood as necessary for forgiveness? No. In the repeated sacrifices of the Old Testament we are led to understand that, to God, death has always been the price of life for sinful men.
What should surprise us is that God would give His Son for us. What should amaze us is that the blood spilled on history’s ultimate altar would be His own. But we should never be surprised that only the sacrifice of another life can exempt one from the death penalty that sin and guilt deserve. Sacrifice has always been central in the history of God’s gracious dealings with men. Over and over again the picture is presented to us. Over and over again we see the blood. Over and over—till with awed amazement we look at Calvary and suddenly the pictures from the past merge into one. And we bow, stunned by the reality.
He died for me.
Isaiah 53. Even in Old Testament times God lifted the veil to let us peek beyond the shadows at the reality. Isaiah 53 was long understood by the Jews to speak of the coming Messiah—the Deliverer to be sent to them by God. In this passage we have a clear picture of Jesus, and of sacrifice.
“He was led like a lamb to the slaughter” (Isaiah 53:7).
“The Lord makes His life a guilt offering” (Isaiah 53:10).
“He poured out His life unto death” (Isaiah 53:12).
“He bore the sin of many” (Isaiah 53:12).
We cannot read these words today without realizing that they contain God’s explanation for Jesus’ life—and for His death.
Hebrews 10. This New Testament chapter looks back on the Old Testament sacrifices from the perspective of the Cross. The sacrifices of that day were “only a shadow of the good things that [were] coming—not the realities themselves” (Hebrews 10:1). The blood of bulls and goats could not take away sins (Hebrews 10:4). The sacrifices only covered and concealed sin, thus permitting God to overlook His people’s sins until Jesus could come to actually take away sins by the sacrifice of Himself (Romans 3:25–26). What the ancient sacrifices foreshadowed, Christ accomplished! “By one sacrifice He has made perfect forever those who are being made holy” (Hebrews 10:14). In Jesus our sins and lawless acts have been forgiven fully, and we have been cleansed. Thus “there is no longer any sacrifice for sins” (Hebrews 10:18).
Today you and I look back on Calvary and mark it, as Israel did the first Passover, as the beginning of our lives as a freed people. We remember, as did the Jews, but with our own ritual. For us the reminder is bread and wine. And what a message in this! The Old Testament animal sacrifices had to be repeated again and again.
Their repetition was a continual reminder to Israel that sin, while temporarily covered, must still be dealt with. The repeated sacrifices served to demonstrate that no animal’s life could ever satisfy the righteousness of God. What a different message the bread and wine of Communion! No longer is fresh blood required. Jesus has died, offering “for all time one sacrifice for sins” (Hebrews 10:12).
It is enough.
Redemption’s work is done.
By the blood of Christ, you and I have been set forever free.
The Teacher's Commentary
The prisoner cannot free himself from prison.
It was pitch dark outside when the alarm went off in what seemed like the middle of the night. Sweet, soothing music came over the clock-radio. He dragged himself out of bed, threw some water on his face, and headed downstairs. He turned on the small desk lamp, pulled a book off the shelf and, with a yawn, began to study.
Dave had been following this routine for some time. It had started with a New Year’s resolution—“I’m going to set aside some regular time to learn”—that had been broken three years in a row. The desire was there, but there just wasn’t enough time in the day. Things had been so hectic at the office that he had been putting in more and more hours just to keep up with the workload. Spending time with his family, which should have been first priority, was always relegated to second place, after work. Spiritual concerns like prayer, study, and tzedakah didn’t seem to get any time whatsoever.
“If I’d let it, work would gobble up sixteen hours of my day, seven days a week. For a while, I let it. I was missing out on my kids’ growing up. I wasn’t there to help them with their homework, or watch their Little League games. I didn’t even know who their friends were. Then my wife laid it on the line for me. ‘David,’ she said, ‘when people are on their deathbeds, they never say with regret: “I should have spent more time at work!” ’ She was right. So I cut back at the office and decided to spend more time at home. But there was still no time for me, for my growth as a person. I decided that the only time that was available was before dawn. It was quiet and peaceful, and it was a wonderful way to start my day on the right note. I could always catch up on my sleep on the train to work.”
After twenty minutes of study, the phone rang. He looked at the clock on his desk. 7:05. He picked up the receiver. Another emergency at the office. He had come to think of work as a hungry lion, constantly roaring for more and more food. “I’ll give it as much as I can, but I won’t let it consume me. I’ll fight for time with my family, and I’ll fight for time for myself. If I don’t grow and renew myself, I’ll be no good for anyone else.”
He smiled as he put a bookmark in the book. It would be a reminder where to pick up his studying when he came back to it later in the day. He turned to go upstairs, but then he stopped for a moment and picked up the book. “Maybe I can learn a little over lunch,” he thought. With book in hand, David went to fix breakfast for his family before heading out to work.
Rabbi Ḥiyya bar Abba fell ill. Rabbi Yoḥanan went to visit him. He Yoḥanan said to him: “Are your sufferings dear to you?” He [Ḥiyya] answered: “Not them, not their rewards.” He Yoḥanan said to him: “Give me your hand.” He [Ḥiyya] gave him his hand, and he Yoḥanan raised him.
Rabbi Yoḥanan fell ill. Rabbi Ḥanina went to visit him. He [Ḥanina] said to him: “Are your sufferings dear to you?” He Yoḥanan answered: “Not them, not their rewards.” He [Ḥanina] said to him: “Give me your hand.” He Yoḥanan gave him his hand, and he [Ḥanina] raised him. Why could Rabbi Yoḥanan [not] raise himself? It is said: “The prisoner cannot free himself from prison.”
The Talmud goes on to tell us another touching story about Rabbi Yoḥanan in which we learn that he was wealthy, very handsome, and scarred by many personal tragedies:
Rabbi Eliezer fell ill. Rabbi Yoḥanan went to visit him. Rabbi Yoḥanan saw that he was lying in a dark house. Rabbi Yoḥanan uncovered his arm and light radiated from it. He saw that Rabbi Eliezer was crying. He [Rabbi Yoḥanan] said: “Why are you crying? Is it because of the Torah you never studied? We learned that one who does much and the one who does little are equal, so long as they direct their hearts to heaven. Is it because of [a lack of] food? Not everyone is fortunate to have two tables [of Torah and of food]. Is it because of [not having] children? Here is a bone of my tenth son [all ten of my children died].” He [Rabbi Eliezer] said to him: “I cry for your beauty which one day will disintegrate in the dust.”
Among the most critical questions that religion tries to answer is why good people suffer. A standard explanation is that suffering comes as a punishment for sins. But what if the afflicted person is righteous or the suffering is more severe than the sins seem to warrant? In response to this problem, the Rabbis developed a concept known as yissurin shel ahavah, “afflictions of love.” Suffering may have been sent by God as a sign of divine love. The afflictions could help the righteous person to become more humble or cause her to examine her actions or induce her to further prayer, study, and good deeds. Afflictions in this life could lead to even greater rewards in the World-to-Come by purifying people of their sins now, instead of later.
This is the background of the question asked of the sick people in our story: “Are your sufferings dear to you?” The implication is that since the sick man is a righteous rabbi, the sufferings he is enduring cannot be punishment for his sins; they must, rather, be yissurin shel ahavah, afflictions of love sent by God for some other purpose. The question then means: “Have you been able to use this suffering to some higher end? Has it made you a better person?” In both cases, the answer is no. The pain has been so great that it has been impossible to move beyond the suffering. The visiting rabbi, seeing that the pain is serving no worthwhile purpose, seeks to relieve the suffering. The miraculous ability of a rabbi to heal by the touch of his hand speaks of the talmudic assumption that Torah, and those who embody it, have the power of life and healing.
Our section ends with a logical question: If Rabbi Yoḥanan had the power to heal his student Rabbi Ḥiyya bar Abba, why couldn’t he heal himself? The answer is that just as a prisoner cannot free himself from jail, so too, a sick person cannot effect self-healing.
Swimming in the Sea of Talmud: Lessons for Everyday Living
Thomas A Kempis
Book Two / The Interior Life
The Seventh Chapter / Loving Jesus Above All Things
BLESSED is he who appreciates what it is to love Jesus and who despises himself for the sake of Jesus. Give up all other love for His, since He wishes to be loved alone above all things.
Affection for creatures is deceitful and inconstant, but the love of Jesus is true and enduring. He who clings to a creature will fall with its frailty, but he who gives himself to Jesus will ever be strengthened.
Love Him, then; keep Him as a friend. He will not leave you as others do, or let you suffer lasting death. Sometime, whether you will or not, you will have to part with everything. Cling, therefore, to Jesus in life and death; trust yourself to the glory of Him who alone can help you when all others fail.
Your Beloved is such that He will not accept what belongs to another—He wants your heart for Himself alone, to be enthroned therein as King in His own right. If you but knew how to free yourself entirely from all creatures, Jesus would gladly dwell within you.
You will find, apart from Him, that nearly all the trust you place in men is a total loss. Therefore, neither confide in nor depend upon a wind-shaken reed, for “all flesh is grass”12 and all its glory, like the flower of grass, will fade away.
You will quickly be deceived if you look only to the outward appearance of men, and you will often be disappointed if you seek comfort and gain in them. If, however, you seek Jesus in all things, you will surely find Him. Likewise, if you seek yourself, you will find yourself—to your own ruin. For the man who does not seek Jesus does himself much greater harm than the whole world and all his enemies could ever do.
The Imitation Of Christ
As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him.
--- Psalm 103:13.
In children there is something worse than ignorance and weakness, and that is their childish follies. (Spurgeon's Sermons, 5 Volumes ) A father and mother will put up with a thousand little ways in their children that strangers would frown at. There are all sorts of excuses made on their behalf, and it is right enough that it should be so. It is not weakness in children, it is just childishness. And so parents bear with their children.
But oh, how our Father bears with us! We think we are very wise; it is highly probable that we are never such fools as when we think we are displaying our wisdom. We think we are pleasing God sometimes, and in that very act we are displeasing him, though we know it not. There are sins in our holy things—oh, how strange must some of the things that we do seem to our great God! We have gotten so accustomed to them, we put up with them in others, and others put up with them in us.
There is much about our doubts and fears that must be depressing to the mind of the Father. Do we doubt him? Do we distrust his promises? We try to make out that we do not, but if you sift it thoroughly, it comes to that. Oh, the Father knows that we do not mean it, that we shrink in an instant from calling him a liar, and if anybody else were to put forward the very doubt that we have been entertaining we would be horrified.
And I believe it is a part of our Father’s compassion that he should thus look on us and often construe what we do in such a kind and tender way. You know how Jesus prayed for his murderers—“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). And the Son is very like the Father; our Father does the same with us, he forgives us because we do not know what we do. It was beautiful of our Lord even with Pilate to say, “The one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin” (John 19:11). It was the best he could say for Pilate, that though his sin was great yet there was a greater.
And our Father has those kind thoughts ready, we may be sure, for his children’s wild and wayward deeds; Jesus had them ready even for his most wicked adversaries. Yes, he has compassion on our follies and bears with us still.
--- C. H. Spurgeon
Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
A Practical Examination
The sailing of the mission ship Duff was an event to remember. Thirty missionaries and their families set out from England to the South Pacific in August 1796. The morning was foggy, but the crowds were celebrative, singing hymns and offering prayers. The ship crossed the horizon and seven months later, on Saturday, March 4, 1797, the missionaries landed safely on Tahiti. The next day they held a worship service, then set to work.
The Duff’s captain, a Christian, was entrusted with the responsibility of seeing the missionaries established on various islands in the region. After several weeks on Tahiti, he felt secure enough to leave some of the workers there and take others to neighboring islands. He planted ten missionaries on Tonga, then proceeded to the islands of the Marquises to deposit two men, William Crook and John Harris.
But an unexpected problem arose, one that their theological and missions training had not equipped the preachers to handle. No sooner had the ship anchored than beautiful naked native women swam out to welcome the missionaries. Crook and Harris nervously bundled their things and went ashore.
Such curious crowds met the two that Crook became separated from Harris and found himself alone with the chief’s wife. To his horror, she immediately began seeking his attentions. When he refused, she seemed bewildered. As it turned out, she wondered if he was, in fact, a man. Resolving to find out, she and a mob of other women attacked Harris during the night and conducted a “practical examination” to clear up the matter.
The Duff’s crew found Harris sitting on the beach the next morning, suffering from shock, humiliated, and very anxious to leave. The work in the Marquises was abandoned. The work on Tonga proceeded with difficulty. The Tahiti mission showed more promise and eventually led to many conversions.
Joseph was well-built and handsome, and Potiphar’s wife soon noticed him. One day, Joseph went to Potiphar’s house to do his work, and none of the other servants were there. Potiphar’s wife grabbed hold of his coat and said, “Make love to me!” Joseph ran out of the house, leaving her hanging onto his coat. --- Genesis 39:6b-7a,11–12.
On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - March 4
“My grace is sufficient for thee.” --- 2 Corinthians 12:9.
If none of God’s saints were poor and tried, we should not know half so well the consolations of divine grace. When we find the wanderer who has not where to lay his head, who yet can say, “Still will I trust in the Lord;” when we see the pauper starving on bread and water, who still glories in Jesus; when we see the bereaved widow overwhelmed in affliction, and yet having faith in Christ, oh! what honour it reflects on the gospel. God’s grace is illustrated and magnified in the poverty and trials of believers. Saints bear up under every discouragement, believing that all things work together for their good, and that out of apparent evils a real blessing shall ultimately spring—that their God will either work a deliverance for them speedily, or most assuredly support them in the trouble, as long as he is pleased to keep them in it. This patience of the saints proves the power of divine grace. There is a lighthouse out at sea: it is a calm night—I cannot tell whether the edifice is firm; the tempest must rage about it, and then I shall know whether it will stand. So with the Spirit’s work: if it were not on many occasions surrounded with tempestuous waters, we should not know that it was true and strong; if the winds did not blow upon it, we should not know how firm and secure it was. The master-works of God are those men who stand in the midst of difficulties, stedfast, unmoveable, ---
“Calm mid the bewildering cry,
Confident of victory.”
He who would glorify his God must set his account upon meeting with many trials. No man can be illustrious before the Lord unless his conflicts be many. If then, yours be a much-tried path, rejoice in it, because you will the better show forth the all-sufficient grace of God. As for his failing you, never dream of it—hate the thought. The God who has been sufficient until now, should be trusted to the end.
Evening - March 4
“They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of thy house.” --- Psalm 36:8.
Sheba’s queen was amazed at the sumptuousness of Solomon’s table. She lost all heart when she saw the provision of a single day; and she marvelled equally at the company of servants who were feasted at the royal board. But what is this to the hospitalities of the God of grace? Ten thousand thousand of his people are daily fed; hungry and thirsty, they bring large appetites with them to the banquet, but not one of them returns unsatisfied; there is enough for each, enough for all, enough for evermore. Though the host that feed at Jehovah’s table is countless as the stars of heaven, yet each one has his portion of meat. Think how much grace one saint requires, so much that nothing but the Infinite could supply him for one day; and yet the Lord spreads his table, not for one, but many saints, not for one day, but for many years; not for many years only, but for generation after generation. Observe the full feasting spoken of in the text, the guests at mercy’s banquet are satisfied, nay, more “abundantly satisfied;” and that not with ordinary fare, but with fatness, the peculiar fatness of God’s own house; and such feasting is guaranteed by a faithful promise to all those children of men who put their trust under the shadow of Jehovah’s wings. I once thought if I might but get the broken meat at God’s back door of grace I should be satisfied; like the woman who said, “The dogs eat of the crumbs that fall from the master’s table;” but no child of God is ever served with scraps and leavings; like Mephibosheth, they all eat from the king’s own table. In matters of grace, we all have Benjamin’s mess—we all have ten times more than we could have expected, and though our necessities are great, yet are we often amazed at the marvellous plenty of grace which God gives us experimentally to enjoy.
Morning and Evening
Vers. 1, 2.—The people of God when death is in the home. If God chose out a people for himself, with the view of planting in the world a new and nobler faith, it is no wonder if he would have the people superadd to that a new and higher life. But if the life is to be higher in any sense which could be acceptable to Jehovah, it must be one based on the new faith and manifesting itself to others in a new deportment, i.e. it must be both an outer and inner life. But if the people are just emerging from a semi-barbaric condition, it is not at all improbable that they may need to be dealt with as we deal with children. We give them technical rules first, and they have to learn reasons afterwards. Possibly, as the child grows up and gets beyond the rules which bound him once, he may smile at them, or rather at the childishness which needed them in earlier years; while at the same time he would, or at any rate he should, feel thankful to those who stooped to teach him so that he could understand them.
In this chapter, we have several illustrations of God’s thus dealing with Israel. We now take the one in the first two verses. It is well known that heathen nations were very violent in their shows of grief over their dead, tearing the hair, cutting the face, beating the breast, etc., while the cutting of the flesh was likewise submitted to in honour of their gods. Now, it was of vast importance to give Israel to understand how entirely they were to be the Lord’s, how fully he was theirs, and how the blest mutual relation changed the very aspect of that frequent and certain family sorrow—death. We have not here any full opening up of that, but there is scarcely any room to doubt that it formed a very important part of Hebrew teaching; for the fact that all these heathen rites and orgies over the dead were entirely forbidden would be sure to lead many, especially of the young, to ask for the reason of such prohibition. And when we remember how careful was the preparation for meeting the inquisitiveness of childhood in other matters, we cannot imagine that this was an exception to the general rule. The prohibition of old customs would clear the way for teaching a new doctrine. And, as applied to Israel of old, the following six positions may be asserted and maintained. 1. They were to be a separate people to the Lord their God, not only in all the varied relations of life, but also in the presence of death. 2. Old customs of surrounding nations, at the death of their friends, were to be done away, as a sign of the different meaning and aspect of death, to the people of the Lord. 3. This changed aspect of death followed from their blessed relationship to God, and from God’s blessed relationship to them. 4. This relationship involved and assured Israel of the continued life of their holy dead in God. Surely it was scarcely possible for them to think of Enoch, Noah, Abraham, as extinct. True, the light on the unseen life in the grave was dim, and the gloom of the grave was deep. But still, it was very far from having about it the hopelessness which marked the heathen world. 5. For, stretching far away in the future, there was the hope of a resurrection at the last day. This was involved in God’s words to Moses, “I am the God of Abraham,” etc. Many, perhaps the mass, of the people might not see that. But our Lord assures us that the doctrine is wrapped up there. 6. Consequently, there was no reason to justify a hapless, hopeless wail in the presence of death. Whence our subject for meditation is suggested to us—
THERE OUGHT TO BE A GREAT DIFFERENCE BETWEEN GOD’S PEOPLE AND OTHERS IN THE PRESENCE OF DEATH. In one sense, indeed, there is none; or, at least, none which can be discerned. One event cometh alike to all, even to the righteous and the wicked, and the house of the good man may be as frequently darkened by “the shadow of death” as that of another who fears not God. But still, when death does come, there may well be a very wide difference between those who are the children of God and those who are not, especially when the departed one is a member of “the whole family in heaven and on earth” (and such cases only do we note in this Homily). When the Christian expositor is opening up the principle contained in these verses, he can do so from much higher vantage-ground than one who confines himself to the Old Testament teaching. Some such main lines of thought as the following will be the Christian unfolding of the principles so long ago laid down. 1. There is a blessed relationship between God and his people. It is initiated in the new birth by the Holy Ghost. Those thus born anew are children of God—not merely under a national covenant, as sharing a common privilege, but as brought into a personal covenant through the impartation of a new life. The mark of this new birth is the saving reception of Christ by faith, and the effect of it is to transfer men from the region of darkness to that of light, “from the power of Satan unto God,” and from being subjects of a kingdom, to their being citizens in God’s city and sons in God’s family—“fellow-citizens of the saints and of the household of God.” 2. This blessed relationship is sealed and made sure by “the blood of the everlasting covenant.” They are redeemed with the “precious blood of Christ.” 3. It is ratified by the resurrection of Jesus Christ. He is the First-born out of the dead, and has “opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers.” 4. This blessed relation continues undisturbed by the accident of death. “Christ died for us, that whether we wake or sleep we should live together with him;” “whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s;” “Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord of the dead and of the living.” 5. The resurrection of Christ’s own will as surely follow his as the harvest follows the firstfruits. “Now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the Firstfruits of them that slept.” 6. The distinctive features of the resurrection of the body are laid down for us by the Apostle Paul in 1 Cor. 15. Of these there are four. (1) That the body, as the seed, must be buried before it can rise again. (2) That the body sown is not the body that shall be. (3) That to every seed there is its own body. (4) That the precise relation or connection between the body that is sown and the body that will be raised is a secret in the mind of God. “God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him.” These things we know: we know no more. If we let our affirmations go beyond the statements of Scripture, we shall plunge ourselves into inextricable difficulties, and we shall be even risking the credit of Scripture, since many will think that, in disposing of our affirmations, they demolish the teaching of the Book. In confining ourselves to the four points named by Paul in his great argument, we shall be remaining on ground that will ever be firm, and that can never be invaded. No physical science can affirm or deny either one or the other. There never lived, there never will live, the man who on scientific grounds can weaken either of them. Our holy and glorious faith is beyond such reach. 7. Therefore the reason for avoiding the hopeless sorrow of the pagan world is even vastly deeper and stronger than it was under Moses. If Israel might not sorrow as those without hope when they had the assurance, “I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob,” how much less should we, when earth has seen the Firstfruits of the great resurrection from the dead! How much light is thrown by Christ’s grace and love into the portals of the grave, and what a hallowed and hallowing calm may pervade the chamber of death if our Lord is with us there! Yea, there is no real death to the believer. “Our Saviour Jesus Christ hath abolished death.” He hath said, “If a man keep my sayings, he shall never taste of death.” Then we may well bless our God that, amid the changing scenes of earth, we stand on ground which can never be shaken. There ariseth light in the darkness.
“With joy we tell the scoffing age,
He that was dead has left his tomb;
He lives above their utmost rage,
And we are waiting till he come.”
The Pulpit Commentary (23 Volume Set)
WONDERFUL WORDS OF LIFE
Words and Music by Philip P. Bliss, 1838–1876
The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. (John 6:63)
One of the basic precepts of the Sunday school movement has always been that God’s Word must be carefully and systematically studied by believers of all ages.
Study it carefully, think of it prayerfully,
Till in your heart its precepts dwell;
Slight not its history, ponder its mystery,
None can e’er prize it too fondly or well.
One of the earnest concerns of many present leaders is the biblical ignorance of so many church people. Often precious Sunday school time is spent in teaching everything but the Bible itself. Yet the churches that do teach the Scriptures diligently and apply their teachings to modern living are the churches that are experiencing the greatest growth. We never outgrow our need for the Bible; it becomes more helpful to us with the years.
We must also realize that God’s truth revealed to us is never contrary or apart from the Bible. Often there have been those who have claimed to have extra revelations through visions which supersede the Scriptures. God’s Word clearly warns against this false assertion (Jeremiah 23:16).
Philip P. Bliss was one of the most important names in the development of early gospel music. Before his tragic death at age 38, he wrote many favorites still enjoyed by congregations. “Wonderful Words of Life” was written by Bliss in 1874, for the first issue of a Sunday school paper, Words of Life. These words still speak to both young and old of the importance of God’s Word in our daily lives:
Sing them over again to me—wonderful words of life; let me more of their beauty see—wonderful words of life. Words of life and beauty, teach me faith and duty:
Christ, the blessed one, gives to all wonderful words of life; sinner, list to the loving call—wonderful words of life. All so freely given, wooing us to heaven:
Sweetly echo the gospel call—wonderful words of life; offer pardon and peace to all—wonderful words of life. Jesus, only Savior, sanctify forever:
Refrain: Beautiful words, wonderful words of life.
For Today: Psalm 119:103, 172; Jeremiah 15:16; Matthew 4:4.
Reflect on whether God’s Word has the place of importance in your life that it should have. Consider ways that this could be improved. Sing this musical reminder ---
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