Deuteronomy 17 - 20
Deuteronomy 17Deuteronomy 17:1 “You shall not sacrifice to the LORD your God an ox or a sheep in which is a blemish, any defect whatever, for that is an abomination to the LORD your God.
2 “If there is found among you, within any of your towns that the LORD your God is giving you, a man or woman who does what is evil in the sight of the LORD your God, in transgressing his covenant, 3 and has gone and served other gods and worshiped them, or the sun or the moon or any of the host of heaven, which I have forbidden, 4 and it is told you and you hear of it, then you shall inquire diligently, and if it is true and certain that such an abomination has been done in Israel, 5 then you shall bring out to your gates that man or woman who has done this evil thing, and you shall stone that man or woman to death with stones. 6 On the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses the one who is to die shall be put to death; a person shall not be put to death on the evidence of one witness. 7 The hand of the witnesses shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterward the hand of all the people. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.
Legal Decisions by Priests and Judges8 “If any case arises requiring decision between one kind of homicide and another, one kind of legal right and another, or one kind of assault and another, any case within your towns that is too difficult for you, then you shall arise and go up to the place that the LORD your God will choose. 9 And you shall come to the Levitical priests and to the judge who is in office in those days, and you shall consult them, and they shall declare to you the decision. 10 Then you shall do according to what they declare to you from that place that the LORD will choose. And you shall be careful to do according to all that they direct you. 11 According to the instructions that they give you, and according to the decision which they pronounce to you, you shall do. You shall not turn aside from the verdict that they declare to you, either to the right hand or to the left. 12 The man who acts presumptuously by not obeying the priest who stands to minister there before the LORD your God, or the judge, that man shall die. So you shall purge the evil from Israel. 13 And all the people shall hear and fear and not act presumptuously again.
Laws Concerning Israel’s Kings14 “When you come to the land that the LORD your God is giving you, and you possess it and dwell in it and then say, ‘I will set a king over me, like all the nations that are around me,’ 15 you may indeed set a king over you whom the LORD your God will choose. One from among your brothers you shall set as king over you. You may not put a foreigner over you, who is not your brother. 16 Only he must not acquire many horses for himself or cause the people to return to Egypt in order to acquire many horses, since the LORD has said to you, ‘You shall never return that way again.’ 17 And he shall not acquire many wives for himself, lest his heart turn away, nor shall he acquire for himself excessive silver and gold.
18 “And when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself in a book a copy of this law, approved by the Levitical priests. 19 And it shall be with him, and he shall read in it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the LORD his God by keeping all the words of this law and these statutes, and doing them, 20 that his heart may not be lifted up above his brothers, and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, either to the right hand or to the left, so that he may continue long in his kingdom, he and his children, in Israel.
Provision for Priests and LevitesDeuteronomy 18:1 “The Levitical priests, all the tribe of Levi, shall have no portion or inheritance with Israel. They shall eat the LORD’s food offerings as their inheritance. 2 They shall have no inheritance among their brothers; the LORD is their inheritance, as he promised them. 3 And this shall be the priests’ due from the people, from those offering a sacrifice, whether an ox or a sheep: they shall give to the priest the shoulder and the two cheeks and the stomach. 4 The firstfruits of your grain, of your wine and of your oil, and the first fleece of your sheep, you shall give him. 5 For the LORD your God has chosen him out of all your tribes to stand and minister in the name of the LORD, him and his sons for all time.
6 “And if a Levite comes from any of your towns out of all Israel, where he lives—and he may come when he desires—to the place that the LORD will choose, 7 and ministers in the name of the LORD his God, like all his fellow Levites who stand to minister there before the LORD, 8 then he may have equal portions to eat, besides what he receives from the sale of his patrimony.
Abominable Practices9 “When you come into the land that the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominable practices of those nations. 10 There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer 11 or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead, 12 for whoever does these things is an abomination to the LORD. And because of these abominations the LORD your God is driving them out before you. 13 You shall be blameless before the LORD your God, 14 for these nations, which you are about to dispossess, listen to fortune-tellers and to diviners. But as for you, the LORD your God has not allowed you to do this.
A New Prophet like Moses15 “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers — it is to him you shall listen — ( Luke 9:35 (ESV) And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!” ) 16 just as you desired of the LORD your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly, when you said, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God or see this great fire any more, lest I die.’ 17 And the LORD said to me, ‘They are right in what they have spoken. 18 I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. ( John 12:49 (ESV) For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment — what to say and what to speak. ) 19 And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him. 20 But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name that I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die.’ 21 And if you say in your heart, ‘How may we know the word that the LORD has not spoken?’— 22 when a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him.
Laws Concerning Cities of RefugeDeuteronomy 19:1 “When the LORD your God cuts off the nations whose land the LORD your God is giving you, and you dispossess them and dwell in their cities and in their houses, 2 you shall set apart three cities for yourselves in the land that the LORD your God is giving you to possess. 3 You shall measure the distances and divide into three parts the area of the land that the LORD your God gives you as a possession, so that any manslayer can flee to them.
4 “This is the provision for the manslayer, who by fleeing there may save his life. If anyone kills his neighbor unintentionally without having hated him in the past— 5 as when someone goes into the forest with his neighbor to cut wood, and his hand swings the axe to cut down a tree, and the head slips from the handle and strikes his neighbor so that he dies — he may flee to one of these cities and live, 6 lest the avenger of blood in hot anger pursue the manslayer and overtake him, because the way is long, and strike him fatally, though the man did not deserve to die, since he had not hated his neighbor in the past. 7 Therefore I command you, You shall set apart three cities. 8 And if the LORD your God enlarges your territory, as he has sworn to your fathers, and gives you all the land that he promised to give to your fathers— 9 provided you are careful to keep all this commandment, which I command you today, by loving the LORD your God and by walking ever in his ways— then you shall add three other cities to these three, 10 lest innocent blood be shed in your land that the LORD your God is giving you for an inheritance, and so the guilt of bloodshed be upon you.
11 “But if anyone hates his neighbor and lies in wait for him and attacks him and strikes him fatally so that he dies, and he flees into one of these cities, 12 then the elders of his city shall send and take him from there, and hand him over to the avenger of blood, so that he may die. 13 Your eye shall not pity him, but you shall purge the guilt of innocent blood from Israel, so that it may be well with you.
Property Boundaries14 “You shall not move your neighbor’s landmark, which the men of old have set, in the inheritance that you will hold in the land that the LORD your God is giving you to possess.
Laws Concerning Witnesses15 “A single witness shall not suffice against a person for any crime or for any wrong in connection with any offense that he has committed. Only on the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses shall a charge be established. 16 If a malicious witness arises to accuse a person of wrongdoing, 17 then both parties to the dispute shall appear before the LORD, before the priests and the judges who are in office in those days. 18 The judges shall inquire diligently, and if the witness is a false witness and has accused his brother falsely, 19 then you shall do to him as he had meant to do to his brother. So you shall purge the evil from your midst. 20 And the rest shall hear and fear, and shall never again commit any such evil among you. 21 Your eye shall not pity. It shall be life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.
Laws Concerning WarfareDeuteronomy 20:1 “When you go out to war against your enemies, and see horses and chariots and an army larger than your own, you shall not be afraid of them, for the LORD your God is with you, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt. 2 And when you draw near to the battle, the priest shall come forward and speak to the people 3 and shall say to them, ‘Hear, O Israel, today you are drawing near for battle against your enemies: let not your heart faint. Do not fear or panic or be in dread of them, 4 for the LORD your God is he who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies, to give you the victory.’ 5 Then the officers shall speak to the people, saying, ‘Is there any man who has built a new house and has not dedicated it? Let him go back to his house, lest he die in the battle and another man dedicate it. 6 And is there any man who has planted a vineyard and has not enjoyed its fruit? Let him go back to his house, lest he die in the battle and another man enjoy its fruit. 7 And is there any man who has betrothed a wife and has not taken her? Let him go back to his house, lest he die in the battle and another man take her.’ 8 And the officers shall speak further to the people, and say, ‘Is there any man who is fearful and fainthearted? Let him go back to his house, lest he make the heart of his fellows melt like his own.’ 9 And when the officers have finished speaking to the people, then commanders shall be appointed at the head of the people.
10 “When you draw near to a city to fight against it, offer terms of peace to it. 11 And if it responds to you peaceably and it opens to you, then all the people who are found in it shall do forced labor for you and shall serve you. 12 But if it makes no peace with you, but makes war against you, then you shall besiege it. 13 And when the LORD your God gives it into your hand, you shall put all its males to the sword, 14 but the women and the little ones, the livestock, and everything else in the city, all its spoil, you shall take as plunder for yourselves. And you shall enjoy the spoil of your enemies, which the LORD your God has given you. 15 Thus you shall do to all the cities that are very far from you, which are not cities of the nations here. 16 But in the cities of these peoples that the LORD your God is giving you for an inheritance, you shall save alive nothing that breathes, 17 but you shall devote them to complete destruction, the Hittites and the Amorites, the Canaanites and the Perizzites, the Hivites and the Jebusites, as the LORD your God has commanded, 18 that they may not teach you to do according to all their abominable practices that they have done for their gods, and so you sin against the LORD your God.
19 “When you besiege a city for a long time, making war against it in order to take it, you shall not destroy its trees by wielding an axe against them. You may eat from them, but you shall not cut them down. Are the trees in the field human, that they should be besieged by you? 20 Only the trees that you know are not trees for food you may destroy and cut down, that you may build siegeworks against the city that makes war with you, until it falls.
ESV Study Bible
What I'm Reading
Does Deut 20:16-17 contradict Matthew 5:43-48?
By Billy Dyer 1/5/2016
Does the Bible contain contradictory descriptions of God's own character? This is a very weighty question. What we are really asking is, "Can we trust the Bible to give us an accurate description of God?" I would contend that if the Bible contains just one contradiction (errant) then we cannot trust it at all to tell us about God. For how would we know which parts are accurate and which parts are not. Let us take Deut 20:16-17 and Matthew 5:43-48 for example.
Deut 20:16-17 says, " "Only in the cities of these peoples that the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance, you shall not leave alive anything that breathes. But you shall utterly destroy them, the Hittite and the Amorite, the Canaanite and the Perizzite, the Hivite and the Jebusite, as the LORD your God has commanded you"
Matthew 5:43-48 says, ""You have heard that it was said, 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR and hate your enemy.' "But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. "For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? "If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? "Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect."
Some argue that these two passages reveal two different theologies that are irreconcilable. But there is truly nothing new under the sun. Marcion (85-160 A.D.) argued the same thing. He contended that the God of the Old Testament was different than the God of the New Testament. You can read my blog about him here. He rejected the Old Testament and much of the New. This led to the church excommunicating him. But today we just call it scholarship and read their books.
Taking Back Christianese #8: “It’s Not My Place to Judge Someone Else”
By Michael J. Kruger 2/27/2017
We live in a culture where the thing that is most offensive is not doing something wrong, but telling someone else that they are doing something wrong.
Bad behavior gets a pass. Calling it bad behavior does not.
Of course, this cultural trend should not be surprising. We are told in Scripture that depraved cultures “call evil good and good evil” (Is 5:20).
Isaiah 5:20 (ESV) 20 Woe to those who call evil good
and good evil,
who put darkness for light
and light for darkness,
who put bitter for sweet
and sweet for bitter!
But, living in a culture like this has had its effect on Christians. We have been conditioned to never condemn certain kinds of behavior lest we are chastened by an avalanche of social media accusing us of being legalistic and judgmental.
Thus, even in Christian circles we often hear the claim, “It’s not my place to judge someone else.”
This popular phrase is the next installment in the “Taking Back Christianese” series. Our purpose in this post (as in all the posts in this series) is simply to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of this phrase. We will do this by asking three questions: (1) Why do people use this phrase? (2) What is correct or helpful about this phrase? and (3) What is problematic about this phrase?
Why Do People Use This Phrase?
There is little doubt that this phrase has its roots in the often misunderstood text of Matt 7:1 “Judge not, that you be not judged.” While our culture is fairly disinterested in most of what the Bible has to say, it is remarkable how many people know (and proudly cite) this one verse.
There is little doubt that this phrase has its roots in the often misunderstood text of Matt 7:1Open in Logos Bible Software (if available): “Judge not, that you be not judged.” While our culture is fairly disinterested in most of what the Bible has to say, it is remarkable how many people know (and proudly cite) this one verse.
And the reason for this is not hard to find. In many people’s minds, Matt 7:1Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) is the one command they can always follow regardless of what other sins they might be committing. No matter how a person is living, they can always justify themselves by saying, “at least I am not judgmental.”
In a rapidly declining culture, not judging has become the last opportunity for folks to claim the moral high ground.
What is Correct or Helpful about this Phrase?
Even so, the phrase “it is not my place to judge someone else” can still be very useful. If used rightly, it can remind us of two important truths:
1. We are not to judge others over “disputable matters.”
When the Bible talks about judging others, it is often in the context of disputes over activities that are not forbidden by God (even though some people might still be uncomfortable with these activities).
Michael J. Kruger, President and Samuel C. Patterson Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at Reformed Theological Seminary, Charlotte, NC. For more on my background and research interests, see here. Michael J. Kruger Books
Canon Revisited: Establishing the Origins and Authority of the New Testament Books
The Question of Canon: Challenging the Status Quo in the New Testament Debate
A Biblical-Theological Introduction to the New Testament: The Gospel Realized
The Heresy of Orthodoxy: How Contemporary Culture's Fascination with Diversity Has Reshaped Our Understanding of Early Christianity
The Early Text of the New Testament
Taking Back Christianese #1: “The Christian Life is All about Being Transparent and Vulnerable”
By Michael J. Kruger 6/7/2016
Over the last ten years, especially in Reformed circles, there has emerged a vision of the Christian life where one of the defining characteristics of a believer has now become transparency. A Christian is someone who is authentic, real, and open.
While prior generations might have suggested the essential mark of a Christian was obedience, those days seem long gone. In fact, for many (post)modern Christians the central issue is not whether someone obeys God’s law but whether they are honest about whether they have obeyed God’s law.
Authenticity has become (for some) the number one virtue.
Thus, we come to our very first instance of Christianese: “The Christian life is all about being transparent and vulnerable.” This is the first installment in the “Taking Back Christianese” series originally announced here.
Our purpose in this post (as in all the posts in this series) is simply to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of this phrase. We will do this by asking three questions: (1) Why do people use this phrase? (2) What is correct or helpful about this phrase? and (3) What is problematic about this phrase?
As we answer these questions, it is important to be reminded again that these phrases are not included in this series because they are (necessarily) mistaken. This is not a series about wrong Christian phrases. On the contrary, these phrases (at least understood correctly) can capture helpful biblical truths. But–and this is the main issue–these phrases are often misunderstood. And thus they are subject to abuse and misuse.
Why Do People Use This Phrase? | The quest for transparency in modern evangelicalism has many interesting historical roots, which we do not have space to explore here. But, there is little doubt that it is fueled (at least in part) by concerns about the lack of transparency in prior (particularly baby boomer) generations. Christians have grown weary of their parent’s version of Christianity: show up to church on Sunday, put on a good face (along with good clothes), and pretend everything is just fine. Meanwhile their life is falling apart, they are struggling with besetting sins, and they are sweeping it all under the rug.
Michael J. Kruger, President and Samuel C. Patterson Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at Reformed Theological Seminary, Charlotte, NC. For more on my background and research interests, see here. Michael J. Kruger Books
Canon Revisited: Establishing the Origins and Authority of the New Testament Books
The Question of Canon: Challenging the Status Quo in the New Testament Debate
A Biblical-Theological Introduction to the New Testament: The Gospel Realized
The Heresy of Orthodoxy: How Contemporary Culture's Fascination with Diversity Has Reshaped Our Understanding of Early Christianity
The Early Text of the New Testament
By Gleason Archer Jr.
Ill - Founded Allegations (cont)
The resemblances are so striking as to demonstrate that laws of the P type are by no means too advanced for the age of Moses, since they found a fairly close correspondence with the legal systems prevailing in Babylonia centuries before his time. It can hardly be objected that the Israelites were too primitive to be governed by laws such as these back in Moses’ time, since according to their own explicit record they had been living in the midst of one of the most advanced civilizations of ancient times for over four hundred years, and would naturally have entertained more advanced concepts of jurisprudence than tribes indigenous to the desert. It might be expected that Egyptian regulations would have exerted a more profound influence upon the Hebrew code than did the Babylonian (which could only have survived as an oral tradition from Abrahamic days). But since no law codes have ever yet been discovered in Egypt (Pritchard, ANET, p. 212), it is impossible to assess the Egyptian element one way or the other. It should be understood, of course, that the differences between the Torah and the Code of Hammurabi are far more striking than the resemblances. But the differences proceed largely from the entirely different religious ideology to which each of the two cultures adhered.
Most numerous, however, are the resemblances between the Babylonian code and the Book of the Covenant contained in Ex. 21–23. Compare, for example, Ex. 21:2–11 with C. H. #117 (poor debtors are to be bondslaves for three years and released on the fourth year); Ex. 21:15 with #195 (If a son has struck his father, his hand shall be cut off. They shall cut off his hand); Ex. 21:16 with #14 (If an awēlum has stolen the young son of another awēlum, he shall be put to death); Ex. 21:22–25 with #209–213; Ex. 21:28–36 with #250–252; Ex. 22:7–9 with #120; Ex. 22:9 with #267; Ex. 23:1–3 with #1–4. This evidence of course establishes the possibility of a Mosaic date for these regulations, rather than the 800 B.C. period assigned to them by the Documentary School. The same is true of those provisions which show an affinity to the Deuteronomic legislation ( Deut. 19:16–21 and #1; Deut. 22:23–27 and #130), which is not a mere restatement of laws in Exodus through Numbers. The legislation of eighteenth-century Babylon establishes the possible antiquity of these allegedly Josianic (seventh century) provisions of document D.
(2) The fifteenth-century Ras Shamra Tablets, as before pointed out, furnish a goodly number of technical terms for sacrifice which Wellhausen had declared to be of fifth-century origin (offering made by fire, peace offering, sin offering, trespass offering, and possibly even tenūpah, heave offering—cf. Koehler-Baumgartner, p. 1034a). In addition to cultic terms we find mention of the rite of boiling a kid in its mother’s milk as an acceptable way to approach a god (Gordon, Text 52:14). This gives point to the prohibition of this superstitious heathen practice in Ex. 23:19; 34:26; and Deut. 14:21.
Concerning this whole question of the late date assigned by critics to the Mosaic legislation, Millar Burrows of Yale had this to say: “Scholars have sometimes supposed that the social and moral level of the laws attributed to Moses was too high for such an early age. The standards represented by the ancient law codes of the Babylonians, Assyrians and Hittites, as well as the high ideals found in the Egyptian Book of the Dead, and the early wisdom literature of the Egyptians, have effectively refuted this assumption.”
Another important line of evidence has been found in the remarkable analogy between the structure of second-millennium suzerainty treaties and the structure of Deuteronomy, and legal portions of Exodus as well. (For more specific details, see Deuteronomy 18 .) Albright states that this presentation of the Covenant undertaking between Yahweh and Israel “preserves a clear pattern which in no fewer than eight distinct points reflects the characteristic structures of Syro-Anatolian treaties of the 14th and 13th centuries B.C., which had been preserved in the Hittite archives at Boghazkoy. The structure of half a dozen Assyrian, Aramaic and Phoenician treaties which we know from the 8th cent. B.C. and later is quite different.”
ALLEGATION: The whole account of the Hebrew conquest of Transjordan and Palestine as recorded in Numbers and Joshua is grossly unhistorical and out of harmony with conditions prevailing in the late second millennium.
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 27The LORD Is My Light and My Salvation
27 Of David.
5 For he will hide me in his shelter
in the day of trouble;
he will conceal me under the cover of his tent;
he will lift me high upon a rock.
6 And now my head shall be lifted up
above my enemies all around me,
and I will offer in his tent
sacrifices with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make melody to the LORD.
7 Hear, O LORD, when I cry aloud;
be gracious to me and answer me!
8 You have said, “Seek my face.”
My heart says to you,
“Your face, LORD, do I seek.”
9 Hide not your face from me.
Turn not your servant away in anger,
O you who have been my help.
Cast me not off; forsake me not,
O God of my salvation!
10 For my father and my mother have forsaken me,
but the LORD will take me in.
By Don Carson 6/14/2018
The justice envisaged Deuteronomy 19 seems to stand a considerable distance from the views that prevail in Western nations today.
With part of this text’s emphasis, most of us will find ourselves in substantial sympathy: the courts must not convict a person on meager evidence. In the days before powerful forensic tools, this almost always meant that multiple witnesses should be required (Deut. 19:15). Today the kind of evidence thought to be sufficient has expanded: fingerprints, blood-typing, and so forth. Most of us recognize that this is a good thing. But enough reports have circulated of evidence that has been tampered with that the concern of our text is scarcely out of date. Procedures and policies must be put in place that make it difficult to corrupt the court or convict an innocent person.
But the rest of the chapter (Deut. 19:16-21) seems, at first, somewhat alien to us, for three reasons. (1) If careful judges determine that some witness has perjured himself, then the judges are to impose on that person the penalty that would have been imposed on the defendant wrongfully charged: you are to “do to him as he intended to do to his brother” (Deut. 19:19). (2) The aim is “to purge the evil from among you” (Deut. 19:20). (3) Once again, the lex talionis (the “eye for an eye” statute) is repeated (Deut. 19:21; cf. Ex. 21:24, and the meditation for March 11).
All three points are looked at very differently in Western courts. (1) Punishment for malicious perjury is usually negligible. But this means there is little official effort to fan the flame of social passion for public justice. You lie if you can get away with it; the shame is only in getting caught. (2) Our penal theorists think incarceration serves to make society a safer place, or provides a venue for reform (therapeutic or otherwise), or ensures that an offender “pays his debt to society.” So much effort goes into analyzing the social conditions that play a contributing role in shaping a criminal that everywhere there is widespread reluctance to speak of the evil of a person or an act. Perhaps that is why revenge movies have to depict really astoundingly horrendous cruelty in one-dimensional monsters before the revenge can be justified. The Bible’s stance is truly radical (i.e., it goes to the radix, the root): judicially, the courts must purge out the evil among you. (3) We incarcerate; we rarely think about the justice of making a punishment “fit” the crime. But that was one of the functions of the lex talionis.
When one focuses on justice and personal accountability, it is our own judicial and penal system that seems increasingly misguided and alien.
Don Carson is research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, and co-founder (with Tim Keller) of The Gospel Coalition. He has authored numerous books, and recently edited The Enduring Authority of the Christian Scriptures (Eerdmans, 2016).Don Carson Books | Go to Books Page
By Don Carson 6-12-2018
Moses envisages a time when the Israelite nation will choose a king (Deut. 17:14-20). He could not know that centuries later, when the Israelites would first ask for a king, they would do so for all the wrong motives — primarily so that they could be like the pagan nations around them. The result was Saul. But that is another story.
If the people are to have a king, what sort of king should he be? (1) He must be the Lord’s own choice (Deut. 17:15). (2) He must be an Israelite, drawn “from among your own brothers” (Deut. 17:15), not some foreigner. (3) He must not acquire for himself great numbers of horses, i.e., amass great personal wealth and military might, and especially not if it means some sort of alliance with a power such as Egypt (Deut. 17:16). (4) He must not take many wives (Deut. 17:17). The issue was not simply polygamy. In the ancient Near East, the more powerful the king the more wives he had. This prohibition is therefore simultaneously a limit on the king’s power, and a warning that many wives will likely lead his heart astray (Deut. 17:17). This is not because wives are intrinsically evil; rather, a king on the hunt for many wives is likely to marry princesses and nobility from surrounding countries, and they will bring their paganism with them. Within that framework, the king’s heart will be led astray. That is exactly what happened to Solomon. (5) Upon accession to the throne, the first thing the king must do is write out for himself, in Hebrew, a copy of “this law” — whether the book of Deuteronomy or the entire Pentateuch. Then he is to read it every day for the rest of his life (Deut. 17:18-20). The multiple purposes of this task are explicit: that he may revere the Lord his God, carefully follow all his words, and in consequence not consider himself better than his fellow citizens, and not turn aside from the law. The result will be a long-lasting dynasty.
It is not difficult to imagine how the entire history of Israel would have been radically different if these five criteria had been adopted by each king who came to the throne of David. It would be almost a millennium and a half before there would arise in Israel a king who would be the Lord’s chosen servant, someone “made like his brothers in every way” (Heb. 2:17), a mere craftsman without wealth or power, a man not seduced by beauty or power or paganism (despite the devil’s most virulent assaults), a man steeped in the Scriptures from his youth and who carefully followed all the words of God. How we need that king!
Don Carson is research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, and co-founder (with Tim Keller) of The Gospel Coalition. He has authored numerous books, and recently edited The Enduring Authority of the Christian Scriptures (Eerdmans, 2016).Don Carson Books | Go to Books Page
By James Orr 1907
I. IS THERE A PRIESTLY WRITING IN DISTINCTION FROM JE?
The initial question is as to the right to speak of a Priestly Writing, or style of writing, at all in the Pentateuch, in distinction from JE, already considered. Here it is at once to be admitted that the case stands somewhat differently from what it did with JE. It cannot, we think, be reasonably disputed, and only a few critics of the present day, even among the more conservatively disposed, would be prepared to deny, that the sections ordinarily attributed to P have a vocabulary, and a stylistic character, of their own, which render them in the main readily distinguishable. The case for the distinction, indeed, is often enormously overdriven. The long lists of words alleged to be peculiar to P admit of great reduction, many of the marks assumed for the document are no sure criteria, the skill that distinguishes a P1, P2, P3, P4 is continually to be distrusted, some of the descriptions of the P style are little better than caricatures. Yet on the whole it is a distinct style. It is a style stately and impressive of its own kind; in such a chapter as Gen. 1 rising to sublimity, in narrative often exhibiting a grave dignity, as in Gen. 23, occasionally, again, as in the story of Gen. 34, not readily distinguishable from that of JE. It is a style, however, less flowing, lively, picturesque, anthropomorphic than that of JE; more formal, circumstantial, precise. We should speak of it in the Book of Genesis as less a priest-like than a lawyer-like style; the style of a hand trained to work with laws, genealogies, chronologies, to put things in regular and methodical shape, to give unity and exactitude to looser compositions. It is marked by general adherence to the name “Elohim” till the revelation of the name Jehovah in Ex. 6:2 ff.
We have referred to the limitations with which the statements often made as to the vocabulary, and other supposed marks of the P document, are to be received, and, to form a just idea of the writing, these also need to be remembered. In sifting the lists of words and phrases put forth as signs of this document, we are speedily struck with the fact that many of them occur only once or twice in the Book of Genesis, or in the whole Pentateuch; that some belong to particular passages from the nature of their subject, and are not general in P, or elsewhere; that some are found also in JE; that other examples are doubtful (JE or P); that within the limits of P itself the language varies greatly, and in very few cases are the words uniformly distributed through the sections. This statement may be briefly illustrated. There are few better examples of the words and phrases of P than the following: “After his (their) kind,” “be fruitful and multiply,” “male and female,” “swarm,” “establish (give) a covenant” (JE has “cut” = make), “self-same day,” “possession,” “create,” “expire” (A.V. “die,” Gen. 6:17, etc.), “substance,” etc. Yet of these, “kind,” “swarm,” “male and female,” occur in Genesis only in the narratives of the creation and flood. “Kind” occurs elsewhere only in the laws of clean and unclean food, Lev. 11 (P) and Deut. 14 (D); “swarm” in the same laws, but also in Ex. 8:3 (JE); “male and female” three times in ritual passages in Leviticus. “Create” (bara) occurs only in Gen. 1–2:4; 5:1 (P), and chap. 6:7 (J), with Deut. 4:32 (D). “Substance” occurs five times in P passages in Genesis, but also in Gen. 14 (five times), and chap. 15:14 — which are not P; elsewhere twice in Numbers. We are probably not unwarranted in regarding such formulæ as “be fruitful and multiply,” “establish My covenant,” preserved in Gen. 1, 9, 17, etc., as very old, and belonging to pre-Mosaic tradition of covenant and promise. It is thus evident that many of the alleged marks of P are absent from the greater part of the P writing just as much as from JE; too much stress, therefore, should not be laid on them. The significant thing is that where they do occur, and are repeated, it is mostly in P passages. The wide statements one meets with on this subject need, in fact, constantly to be checked. Mr. Addis, e.g., writes: “He [the Priestly Writer] says ‘Paddan-Aram,’ not, like the other writers, ‘Aram of the two rivers.’ ” Yet this latter designation (Aram-Naharaim) actually occurs only once altogether ( Gen. 24:10 ). “Destroy,” sometimes claimed as a P word, occurs, outside the narrative of the flood ( Gen. 6:13, 17; 9:11, 15 ), only once in P ( Gen 19:29 ), while it is found repeatedly in JE passages. Many of the other criteria of distinction of P from JE are equally insecure, or depend on false assumptions. Wellhausen, e.g., finds in P the idea of “sin, as the root of ruin, explaining it, and capable of being got rid of,” in contrast with J, who is marked “by a peculiar sombre earnestness … almost bordering on pessimism; as if mankind were groaning under some terrible weight, the pressure not so much of sin as of creaturehood.” Yet P, we are often told, has no knowledge of the fall, while J has. Elsewhere, also, it is P who is represented as gloomy, monotonous, and serious. Kuenen makes it a fault of P that he is “completely dominated by his theory of a graduated progress alike of the history of mankind and of the divine revelation,” as if this were not equally true of JE.
Polemics And Caricature
By Richard S. Adamscomment / 'either' - 'or'
Job's three friends were supposed to know him. Isn't that what friends means? If they know Job as friends know one another, how can they say what they say about Job? They know it is not true. Is the force of their theology more important than their relationships with Job? What is more important than your relationship with a friend or family member? Is it money, a feeling you have been wronged, envy, spite? Name it what you will, it is pride. Pride, self-centeredness, self-determinism and selfishness come between us and our relationships with one another as well as our relationship with God.
Job's friends cannot come to grips with the possibility that what Job is saying might be true. They fabricate to prove their point.
Polemics has not changed. Caricature painting is always to the extreme. No one is that good and no one is that bad. It is our universal 'this' or 'that', 'either' or 'thinking,' the Drama Triangle Katie Skurgia calls it. Each trying to take the one up on the other.
Over and over his protractors tried to catch our Lord in the 'either' - 'or,' but Jesus never entered the Drama Triangle, never succumbed to our two dimensional, 'yes' or 'no' thinking.
I heard Dallas Willard say you can’t have gray without black and white. Reality, absolute truth, which some say does not exist, does exist beyond the 'black' or 'white,' 'either' 'or,' 'yes' or 'no' of our understanding. Maybe when our relational understanding comes into focus and we learn to see beyond ourselves God will open our eyes to the other. Maybe we will never get a glimpse of absolute truth until the person we are looking at is more important than the person doing the looking; you, me.
Our universe is held together by what we call gravity, but gravity is merely the relationship of things to one another. Will we ever understand that relationship is the fundamental key to life? Will we ever understand that gravity is only a secondary force? God is the ultimate power. It is God who controls gravity and everything else and God is most interested in our relationships; our relationship to God and our relationships to one another.
Richard S. Adams | Lover of Christ, husband of Lily, father of four, grandfather of ten, Masters in Divinity and Certificate in Spiritual Direction. On staff at George Fox 1/2009 to 7/2018.
- Feb 5 Prosperity and the Camp Fire
- Feb 7 Job 6:14-23
- Feb 10 Spontaneous Generation
- Feb 14 Hindsight
- Feb 18 The Cure For Despair
- Feb 22 RE: Job's Friends
- Feb 23 Job 23:14
- Feb 25 No Time To Text
- Mar 5 Polemics and Caricature
- Apr 20 Death and My Master's Voice
- May 10 Ruth | Relationships
- June 18 Lincoln City 6/2/18
- July 14 Tom - Gen & Revelation
- July 15 Knowledge and World Peace
- July 16 The Church as Lobbyist
- Aug 3 Have You Noticed
- Nov 27 The Way The World Is
- Nov 30 The Renewal Of Israel
- Dec 11 Open Door
- Dec 20 Replacement Theology
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 STAGEBut, pray, said Mr. Great-Heart, before we fall to it, let us understand wherefore we must fight. Now the women and children stood trembling, and knew not what to do. Quoth the giant, You rob the country, and rob it with the worst of thefts. These are but generals, said Mr. Great-Heart; come to particulars, man.
Then said the giant, Thou practisest the craft of a kidnapper; thou gatherest up women and children, and carriest them into a strange country, to the weakening of my master’s kingdom. But now Great-Heart replied, I am a servant of the God of heaven; my business is to persuade sinners to repentance. I am commanded to do my endeavors to turn men, women, and children, from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God; and if this be indeed the ground of thy quarrel, let us fall to it as soon as thou wilt.
Then the giant came up, and Mr. Great-Heart went to meet him; and as he went he drew his sword, but the giant had a club. So without more ado they fell to it, and at the first blow the giant struck Mr. Great-Heart down upon one of his knees. With that the women and children cried out. So Mr. Great-Heart recovering himself, laid about him in full lusty manner, and gave the giant a wound in his arm. Thus he fought for the space of an hour, to that height of heat that the breath came out of the giant’s nostrils as the heat doth out of a boiling cauldron.
Then they sat down to rest them; but Mr. Great-Heart betook himself to prayer. Also the women and children did nothing but sigh and cry all the time that the battle did last.
When they had rested them, and taken breath, they both fell to it again; and Mr. Great-Heart, with a blow, fetched the giant down to the ground. Nay, hold, let me recover, quoth he: so Mr. Great-Heart fairly let him get up. So to it they went again, and the giant missed but little of all to breaking Mr. Great-Heart’s scull with his club.
Mr. Great-Heart seeing that, runs to him in the full heat of his spirit, and pierceth him under the fifth rib. With that the giant began to faint, and could hold up his club no longer. Then Mr. Great-Heart seconded his blow, and smit the head of the giant from his shoulders. Then the women and children rejoiced, and Mr. Great-Heart also praised God for the deliverance he had wrought.
When this was done, they amongst them erected a pillar, and fastened the giant’s head thereon, and wrote under in letters that passengers might read,
“He that did wear this head was one
That pilgrims did misuse;
He stopped their way, he spared none,
But did them all abuse;
Until that I Great-Heart arose,
The pilgrims guide to be;
Until that I did him oppose
That was their enemy.”
THE SIXTH STAGENow I saw that they went on to the ascent that was a little way off, cast up to be a prospect for pilgrims. That was the place from whence Christian had the first sight of Faithful his brother. Wherefore, here they sat down and rested. They also here did eat and drink, and make merry, for that they had gotten deliverance from this so dangerous an enemy. As they sat thus and did eat, Christiana asked the guide, if he had caught no hurt in the battle? Then said Mr. Great-Heart, No, save a little on my flesh; yet that also shall be so far from being to my detriment, that it is at present a proof of my love to my master and you, and shall be a means, by grace, to increase my reward at last.
CHR. But were you not afraid, good sir, when you saw him come with his club?
GREAT. It is my duty, said he, to mistrust my own ability, that I may have reliance on Him who is stronger than all.
CHR. But what did you think when he fetched you down to the ground at the first blow?
GREAT. Why, I thought, quoth he, that so my Master himself was served, and yet he it was that conquered at last.
2 Cor. 4:10-11 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 11 For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. ESV
Rom. 8:37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. ESV
MATT. When you all have thought what you please, I think God has been wonderfully good unto us, both in bringing us out of this valley, and in delivering us out of the hand of this enemy. For my part, I see no reason why we should distrust our God any more, since he has now, and in such a place as this, given us such testimony of his love. Then they got up, and went forward.
Now a little before them stood an oak; and under it, when they came to it, they found an old pilgrim fast asleep. They knew that he was a pilgrim by his clothes, and his staff, and his girdle.
So the guide, Mr. Great-Heart, awaked him; and the old gentleman, as he lifted up his eyes, cried out, What’s the matter? Who are you; and what is your business here?
GREAT. Come, man, be not so hot; here are none but friends. Yet the old man gets up, and stands upon his guard, and will know of them what they are. Then said the guide, My name is Great-Heart: I am the guide of these pilgrims that are going to the Celestial country.
HON. Then said Mr. Honest, I cry you mercy: I feared that you had been of the company of those that some time ago did rob Little-Faith of his money; but, now I look better about me, I perceive you are honester people.
GREAT. Why, what would or could you have done to have helped yourself, if indeed we had been of that company?
HON. Done! Why, I would have fought as long as breath had been in me: and had I so done, I am sure you could never have given me the worst on’t; for a Christian can never be overcome, unless he shall yield of himself.
GREAT. Well said, father Honest, quoth the guide; for by this I know thou art a cock of the right kind, for thou hast said the truth.
HON. And by this also I know that thou knowest what true pilgrimage is; for all others do think that we are the soonest overcome of any.
GREAT. Well, now we are so happily met, pray let me crave your name, and the name of the place you came from.
HON. My name I cannot tell you, but I came from the town of Stupidity: it lieth about four degrees beyond the city of Destruction.
GREAT. Oh, Are you that countryman? Then I deem I have half a guess of you: your name is Old Honesty, is it not?
HON. So the old gentleman blushed, and said, Not honesty in the abstract, but Honest is my name; and I wish that my nature may agree to what I am called. But, sir, said the old gentleman, how could you guess that I am such a man, since I came from such a place?
GREAT. I had heard of you before, by my Master; for he knows all things that are done on the earth. But I have often wondered that any should come from your place; for your town is worse than is the city of Destruction itself.
HON. Yes, we lie more off from the sun, and so are more cold and senseless. But were a man in a mountain of ice, yet if the Sun of righteousness will arise upon him, his frozen heart shall feel a thaw; and thus it has been with me. ... and thus my prayer for those I love.
GREAT. I believe it, father Honest, I believe it; for I know the thing is true.
Then the old gentleman saluted all the pilgrims with a holy kiss of charity, and asked them their names, and how they had fared since they set out on their pilgrimage.
CHR. Then said Christiana, My name I suppose you have heard of; good Christian was my husband, and these four are his children. But can you think how the old gentleman was taken, when she told him who she was? He skipped, he smiled, he blessed them with a thousand good wishes, saying,
HON. I have heard much of your husband, and of his travels and wars which he underwent in his days. Be it spoken to your comfort, the name of your husband rings all over these parts of the world: his faith, his courage, his enduring, and his sincerity under all, had made his name famous. Then he turned him to the boys, and asked them of their names, which they told him. Then said he unto them, Matthew, be thou like Matthew the publican, not in vice, but in virtue.
Matt. 10:3 Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; ESV
Samuel, said he, be thou like Samuel the prophet, a man of faith and prayer.
Psalm 99:6 Moses and Aaron were among his priests,
Samuel also was among those who called upon his name.
They called to the LORD, and he answered them. ESV
Joseph, said he, be thou like Joseph in Potiphar’s house, chaste, and one that flees from temptation.
Genesis 39:1 Now Joseph had been brought down to Egypt, and Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the guard, an Egyptian, had bought him from the Ishmaelites who had brought him down there. 2 The LORD was with Joseph, and he became a successful man, and he was in the house of his Egyptian master. 3 His master saw that the LORD was with him and that the LORD caused all that he did to succeed in his hands. 4 So Joseph found favor in his sight and attended him, and he made him overseer of his house and put him in charge of all that he had. 5 From the time that he made him overseer in his house and over all that he had, the LORD blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake; the blessing of the LORD was on all that he had, in house and field. 6 So he left all that he had in Joseph’s charge, and because of him he had no concern about anything but the food he ate.
Now Joseph was handsome in form and appearance. 7 And after a time his master’s wife cast her eyes on Joseph and said, “Lie with me.” 8 But he refused and said to his master’s wife, “Behold, because of me my master has no concern about anything in the house, and he has put everything that he has in my charge. 9 He is not greater in this house than I am, nor has he kept back anything from me except you, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” 10 And as she spoke to Joseph day after day, he would not listen to her, to lie beside her or to be with her.
11 But one day, when he went into the house to do his work and none of the men of the house was there in the house, 12 she caught him by his garment, saying, “Lie with me.” But he left his garment in her hand and fled and got out of the house. 13 And as soon as she saw that he had left his garment in her hand and had fled out of the house, 14 she called to the men of her household and said to them, “See, he has brought among us a Hebrew to laugh at us. He came in to me to lie with me, and I cried out with a loud voice. 15 And as soon as he heard that I lifted up my voice and cried out, he left his garment beside me and fled and got out of the house.” 16 Then she laid up his garment by her until his master came home, 17 and she told him the same story, saying, “The Hebrew servant, whom you have brought among us, came in to me to laugh at me. 18 But as soon as I lifted up my voice and cried, he left his garment beside me and fled out of the house.”
19 As soon as his master heard the words that his wife spoke to him, “This is the way your servant treated me,” his anger was kindled. 20 And Joseph’s master took him and put him into the prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined, and he was there in prison. 21 But the LORD was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison. 22 And the keeper of the prison put Joseph in charge of all the prisoners who were in the prison. Whatever was done there, he was the one who did it. 23 The keeper of the prison paid no attention to anything that was in Joseph’s charge, because the LORD was with him. And whatever he did, the LORD made it succeed. ESV
And James, be thou like James the just, and like James the brother of our Lord.
Acts 1:13 And when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James. ESV
Then they told him of Mercy, and how she had left her town and her kindred to come along with Christiana and with her sons. At that the old honest man said, Mercy is thy name: by mercy shalt thou be sustained and carried through all those difficulties that shall assault thee in thy way, till thou shalt come thither where thou shalt look the Fountain of mercy in the face with comfort. All this while the guide, Mr. Great-Heart, was very well pleased, and smiled upon his companions.
Now, as they walked along together, the guide asked the old gentleman if he did not know one Mr. Fearing, that came on pilgrimage out of his parts.
HON. Yes, very well, said he. He was a man that had the root of the matter in him; but he was one of the most troublesome pilgrims that ever I met with in all my days.
GREAT. I perceive you knew him, for you have given a very right character of him.
HON. Knew him! I was a great companion of his; I was with him most an end; when he first began to think upon what would come upon us hereafter, I was with him.
GREAT. I was his guide from my Master’s house to the gates of the Celestial City.
HON. Then you knew him to be a troublesome one.
GREAT. I did so; but I could very well bear it; for men of my calling are oftentimes intrusted with the conduct of such as he was.
HON. Well then, pray let us hear a little of him, and how he managed himself under your conduct.
GREAT. Why, he was always afraid that he should come short of whither he had a desire to go. Every thing frightened him that he heard any body speak of, if it had but the least appearance of opposition in it. I heard that he lay roaring at the Slough of Despond for above a month together; nor durst he, for all he saw several go over before him, venture, though they many of them offered to lend him their hands. He would not go back again, neither. The Celestial City-he said he should die if he came not to it; and yet he was dejected at every difficulty, and stumbled at every straw that any body cast in his way. Well, after he had lain at the Slough of Despond a great while, as I have told you, one sunshiny morning, I do not know how, he ventured, and so got over; but when he was over, he would scarce believe it. He had, I think, a Slough of Despond in his mind, a slough that he carried every where with him, or else he could never have been as he was. So he came up to the gate, you know what I mean, that stands at the head of this way, and there also he stood a good while before he would venture to knock. When the gate was opened, he would give back, and give place to others, and say that he was not worthy. For, all he got before some to the gate, yet many of them went in before him. There the poor man would stand shaking and shrinking; I dare say it would have pitied one’s heart to have seen him. Nor would he go back again. At last he took the hammer that hanged on the gate, in his hand, and gave a small rap or two; then one opened to him, but he shrunk back as before. He that opened stepped out after him, and said, Thou trembling one, what wantest thou? With that he fell down to the ground. He that spoke to him wondered to see him so faint, so he said to him, Peace be to thee; up, for I have set open the door to thee; come in, for thou art blessed. With that he got up, and went in trembling; and when he was in, he was ashamed to show his face. Well, after he had been entertained there a while, as you know how the manner is, he was bid go on his way, and also told the way he should take. So he went on till he came out to our house; but as he behaved himself at the gate, so he did at my Master the Interpreter’s door. He lay there about in the cold a good while, before he would adventure to call; yet he would not go back: and the nights were long and cold then. Nay, he had a note of necessity in his bosom to my master to receive him, and grant him the comfort of his house, and also to allow him a stout and valiant conductor, because he was himself so chicken-hearted a man; and yet for all that he was afraid to call at the door. So he lay up and down thereabouts, till, poor man, he was almost starved; yea, so great was his dejection, that though he saw several others for knocking get in, yet he was afraid to venture. At last, I think I looked out of the window, and perceiving a man to be up and down about the door, I went out to him, and asked what he was: but, poor man, the water stood in his eyes; so I perceived what he wanted. I went therefore in, and told it in the house, and we showed the thing to our Lord: so he sent me out again, to entreat him to come in; but I dare say, I had hard work to do it. At last he came in; and I will say that for my Lord, he carried it wonderful lovingly to him. There were but a few good bits at the table, but some of it was laid upon his trencher. Then he presented the note; and my Lord looked thereon, and said his desire should be granted. So when he had been there a good while, he seemed to get some heart, and to be a little more comfortable. For my Master, you must know, is one of very tender bowels, especially to them that are afraid; wherefore he carried it so towards him as might tend most to his encouragement. Well, when he had had a sight of the things of the place, and was ready to take his journey to go to the city, my Lord, as he did to Christian before, gave him a bottle of spirits, and some comfortable things to eat. Thus we set forward, and I went before him; but the man was but of few words, only he would sigh aloud.
Pilgrim's Progress (Illustrated): Updated, Modern English. More than 100 Illustrations.
The Continual Burnt Offering
By H.A. Ironside - 1941
1 Kings 20:40 And as your servant was busy here and there, he was gone.” The king of Israel said to him, “So shall your judgment be; you yourself have decided it.” ESVThe parable of the missing man which the unnamed son of the prophet used in seeking to stir up the slothful spirit of the king of Israel has a similar lesson for us. We are exhorted to redeem the time, literally to buy up opportunities for witnessing for Christ. We are to be as alert for witnessing to the lost as bargain hunters are to purchase goods to advantage. Yet how often we neglect to use the circumstances which are put in our way, where we may say a word for our Lord and endeavor to point the lost to Him. Our intentions are good, but we become so occupied with other matters, many of them trifling in the extreme, and before we realize it the person to whom we should have spoken is beyond our reach.
Is it justice, is it kindness,
Thus to leave them in their sin,
‘Midst the ignorance and blindness,
Not a ray of hope within?
None to tell them of the Saviour
Who has died their souls to win.
Lord, increase our love, we pray Thee,
Fields are ripe and servants few;
Help us gladly to obey Thee;
Give us willing hearts and true,
That, responsive to Thy bidding,
We may seek Thy will to do.
--- H. Wilson
The Institutes of the Christian Religion
Translated by Henry Beveridge
REGENERATION BY FAITH. OF REPENTANCE.
This chapter is divided into five parts. I. The title of the chapter seems to promise a treatise on Faith, but the only subject here considered is Repentance, the inseparable attendant of faith. And, first, various opinions on the subject of repentance are stated, sec. 1-4. II. An exposition of the orthodox doctrine of Repentance, sec. 5-9. III. Reasons why repentance must be prolonged to the last moment of life, sec. 10-14. IV. Of the fruits of repentance, or its object and tendency, sec. 15-20. V. The source whence repentance proceeds, sec. 21-24. Of the sin against the Holy Spirit, and the impenitence of the reprobate, sec. 25.
1. Connection of this chapter with the previous one and the subsequent chapters. Repentance follows faith, and is produced by it. Reason. Error of those who take a contrary view.
2. Their First Objection. Answer. In what sense the origin of Repentance ascribed to Faith. Cause of the erroneous idea that faith is produced by repentance. Refutation of it. The hypocrisy of Monks and Anabaptists in assigning limits to repentance exposed.
3. A second opinion concerning repentance considered.
4. A third opinion, assigning two forms to repentance, a legal and an Evangelical. Examples of each.
5. The orthodox doctrine of Repentance. 1. Faith and Repentance to be distinguished, not confounded or separated. 2. A consideration of the name. 3. A definition of the thing, or what repentance is. Doctrine of the Prophets and Apostles.
6. Explanation of the definition. This consists of three parts. 1. Repentance is a turning of our life unto God. This described and enlarged upon.
7. 2. Repentance produced by fear of God. Hence the mention of divine judgment by the Prophets and Apostles. Example. Exposition of the second branch of the definition from a passage in Paul. Why the fear of God is the first part of Repentance.
8. 3. Repentance consists in the mortification of the flesh and the quickening of the Spirit. These required by the Prophets. They are explained separately.
9. How this mortification and quickening are produced. Repentance just a renewal of the divine image in us. Not completed in a moment, but extends to the last moment of life.
10. Reasons why repentance must so extend. Augustine's opinion as to concupiscence in the regenerate examined. A passage of Paul which seems to confirm that opinion.
11. Answer. Confirmation of the answer by the Apostle himself. Another confirmation from a precept of the law. Conclusion.
12. Exception, that those desires only are condemned which are repugnant to the order of God. Desires not condemned in so far as natural, but in so far as inordinate. This held by Augustine.
13. Passages from Augustine to show that this was his opinion. Objection from a passage in James.
14. Another objection of the Anabaptists and Libertines to the continuance of repentance throughout the present life. An answer disclosing its impiety. Another answer, founded on the absurdities to which it leads. A third answer, contrasting sincere Christian repentance with the erroneous view of the objectors. Conformation from the example and declaration of an Apostle.
15. Of the fruits of repentance. Carefulness. Excuse. Indignation. Fear. Desire. Zeal. Revenge. Moderation to be observed, as most sagely counseled by Bernard.
16. Internal fruits of Repentance. 1. Piety towards God. 2. Charity towards man. 3. Purity of life. How carefully these fruits are commended by the Prophets. External fruits of repentance. Bodily exercises too much commended by ancient writers. Twofold excess in regard to them.
17. Delusion of some who consider these external exercises as the chief part of Repentance. Why received in the Jewish Church. The legitimate use of these exercises in the Christian Church.
18. The principal part of repentance consists in turning to God. Confession and acknowledgment of sins. What their nature should be. Distinction between ordinary and special repentance. Use of this distinction.
19. End of Repentance. Its nature shown by the preaching of John Baptist, our Savior, and his Apostles. The sum of this preaching.
20. Christian repentance terminates with our life.
21. Repentance has its origin in the grace of God, as communicated to the elect, whom God is pleased to save from death. The hardening and final impenitence of the reprobate. A passage of an Apostle as to voluntary reprobates, gives no countenance to the Novatians.
22. Of the sin against the Holy Ghost. The true definition of this sin as proved and explained by Scripture. Who they are that sin against the Holy Spirit. Examples:--1. The Jews resisting Stephen. 2. The Pharisees. Definition confirmed by the example of Paul.
23. Why that sin unpardonable. The paralogism of the Novatians in wresting the words of the Apostle examined. Two passages from the same Apostle.
24. First objection to the above doctrine. Answer. Solution of a difficulty founded on the example of Esau and the threatening of a Prophet. Second objection.
25. Third objection, founded on the seeming approval of the feigned repentance of the ungodly, as Ahab. Answer. Confirmation from the example of Esau. Why God bears for a time with the ungodly, pretending repentance. Exception.
1. Although we have already in some measure shown how faith possesses Christ, and gives us the enjoyment of his benefits, the subject would still be obscure were we not to add an exposition of the effects resulting from it. The sum of the Gospel is, not without good reason, made to consist in repentance and forgiveness of sins; and, therefore, where these two heads are omitted, any discussion concerning faith will be meager and defective, and indeed almost useless. Now, since Christ confers upon us, and we obtain by faith, both free reconciliation and newness of life, reason and order require that I should here begin to treat of both. The shortest transition, however, will be from faith to repentance; for repentance being properly understood it will better appear how a man is justified freely by faith alone, and yet that holiness of life, real holiness, as it is called, is inseparable from the free imputation of righteousness.  That repentance not only always follows faith, but is produced by it, ought to be without controversy (see Calvin in Joann. 1:13). For since pardon and forgiveness are offered by the preaching of the Gospel, in order that the sinner, delivered from the tyranny of Satan, the yoke of sin, and the miserable bondage of iniquity, may pass into the kingdom of God, it is certain that no man can embrace the grace of the Gospel without retaking himself from the errors of his former life into the right path, and making it his whole study to practice repentance. Those who think that repentance precedes faith instead of flowing from, or being produced by it, as the fruit by the tree, have never understood its nature, and are moved to adopt that view on very insufficient grounds.
2. Christ and John, it is said, in their discourses first exhort the people to repentance, and then add, that the kingdom of heaven is at hand (Mt. 3:2; 4:17). Such too, is the message which the Apostles received and such the course which Paul followed, as is narrated by Luke (Acts 20:21). But clinging superstitiously to the juxtaposition of the syllables, they attend not to the coherence of meaning in the words. For when our Lord and John begin their preaching thus "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand," (Mt. 3:2), do they not deduce repentance as a consequence of the offer of grace and promise of salvation? The force of the words, therefore, is the same as if it were said, As the kingdom of heaven is at hand, for that reason repent. For Matthew, after relating that John so preached, says that therein was fulfilled the prophecy concerning the voice of one crying in the desert, "Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God," (Isaiah 40:3). But in the Prophet that voice is ordered to commence with consolation and glad tidings. Still, when we attribute the origin of repentance to faith, we do not dream of some period of time in which faith is to give birth to it: we only wish to show that a man cannot seriously engage in repentance unless he know that he is of God. But no man is truly persuaded that he is of God until he have embraced his offered favor. These things will be more clearly explained as we proceed. Some are perhaps misled by this, that not a few are subdued by terror of conscience, or disposed to obedience before they have been imbued with a knowledge, nay, before they have had any taste of the divine favor (see Calvin in Acts 20:21). This is that initial fear  which some writers class among the virtues, because they think it approximates to true and genuine obedience. But we are not here considering the various modes in which Christ draws us to himself, or prepares us for the study of piety: All I say is, that no righteousness can be found where the Spirit, whom Christ received in order to communicate it to his members, reigns not. Then, according to the passage in the Psalms, "There is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared," (Psalm 130:4), no man will ever reverence God who does not trust that God is propitious to him, no man will ever willingly set himself to observe the Law who is not persuaded that his services are pleasing to God. The indulgence of God in tolerating and pardoning our iniquities is a sign of paternal favor. This is also clear from the exhortation in Hosea, "Come, and let us return unto the Lord: for he has torn, and he will heal us; he has smitten, and he will bind us up," (Hos. 6:1); the hope of pardon is employed as a stimulus to prevent us from becoming reckless in sin. But there is no semblance of reason in the absurd procedure of those who, that they may begin with repentance, prescribe to their neophytes certain days during which they are to exercise themselves in repentance, and after these are elapsed, admit them to communion in Gospel grace. I allude to great numbers of Anabaptists, those of them especially who plume themselves on being spiritual, and their associates the Jesuits, and others of the same stamp. Such are the fruits which their giddy spirit produces, that repentance, which in every Christian man lasts as long as life, is with them completed in a few short days.
3. Certain learned men, who lived long before the present days and were desirous to speak simply and sincerely according to the rule of Scripture, held that repentance consists of two parts, mortification and quickening. By mortification they mean, grief of soul and terror, produced by a conviction of sin and a sense of the divine judgment. For when a man is brought to a true knowledge of sin, he begins truly to hate and abominate sin. He also is sincerely dissatisfied with himself, confesses that he is lost and undone, and wishes he were different from what he is. Moreover, when he is touched with some sense of the divine justice (for the one conviction immediately follows the other), he lies terrorstruck and amazed, humbled and dejected, desponds and despairs. This, which they regarded as the first part of repentance, they usually termed contrition. By quickening they mean, the comfort which is produced by faith, as when a man prostrated by a consciousness of sin, and smitten with the fear of God, afterwards beholding his goodness, and the mercy, grace, and salvation obtained through Christ, looks up, begins to breathe, takes courage, and passes, as it were, from death unto life. I admit that these terms, when rightly interpreted, aptly enough express the power of repentance; only I cannot assent to their using the term quickening, for the joy which the soul feels after being calmed from perturbation and fear. It more properly means, that desire of pious and holy living which springs from the new birth; as if it were said, that the man dies to himself that he may begin to live unto God.
4. Others seeing that the term is used in Scripture in different senses, have set down two forms of repentance, and, in order to distinguish them, have called the one Legal repentance; or that by which the sinner, stung with a sense of his sin, and overwhelmed with fear of the divine anger, remains in that state of perturbation, unable to escape from it. The other they term Evangelical repentance; or that by which the sinner, though grievously downcast in himself, yet looks up and sees in Christ the cure of his wound, the solace of his terror; the haven of rest from his misery. They give Cain, Saul and Judas,  as examples of legal repentance. Scripture, in describing what is called their repentance, means that they perceived the heinousness of their sins, and dreaded the divine anger; but, thinking only of God as a judge and avenger, were overwhelmed by the thought. Their repentance, therefore, was nothing better than a kind of threshold to hell, into which having entered even in the present life, they began to endure the punishment inflicted by the presence of an offended God. Examples of evangelical repentance we see in all those who, first stung with a sense of sin, but afterwards raised and revived by confidence in the divine mercy, turned unto the Lord.  Hezekiah was frightened on receiving the message of his death, but praying with tears, and beholding the divine goodness, regained his confidence. The Ninevites were terrified at the fearful announcement of their destruction; but clothing themselves in sackcloth and ashes, they prayed, hoping that the Lord might relent and avert his anger from them. David confessed that he had sinned greatly in numbering the people, but added "Now, I beseech thee O Lord, take away the iniquity of thy servant." When rebuked by Nathan, he acknowledged the crime of adultery, and humbled himself before the Lord; but he, at the same time, looked for pardon. Similar was the repentance of those who, stung to the heart by the preaching of Peter, yet trusted in the divine goodness, and added, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?" Similar was the case of Peter himself, who indeed wept bitterly, but ceased not to hope.
5. Though all this is true, yet the term repentance (in so far as I can ascertain from Scripture) must be differently taken. For in comprehending faith under repentance, they are at variance with what Paul says in the Acts, as to his "testifying both to the Jews and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ," (Acts 20:21). Here he mentions faith and repentance as two different things. What then? Can true repentance exist without faith? By no means. But although they cannot be separated, they ought to be distinguished. As there is no faith without hope, and yet faith and hope are different, so repentance and faith, though constantly linked together, are only to be united, not confounded. I am not unaware that under the term repentance is comprehended the whole work of turning to God, of which not the least important part is faith; but in what sense this is done will be perfectly obvious, when its nature and power shall have been explained. The term repentance is derived in the Hebrew from conversion, or turning again; and in the Greek from a change of mind and purpose; nor is the thing meant inappropriate to both derivations, for it is substantially this, that withdrawing from ourselves we turn to God, and laying aside the old, put on a new mind. Wherefore, it seems to me, that repentance may be not inappropriately defined thus: A real conversion of our life unto God, proceeding from sincere and serious fear of God; and consisting in the mortification of our flesh and the old man, and the quickening of the Spirit. In this sense are to be understood all those addresses in which the prophets first, and the apostles afterwards, exhorted the people of their time to repentance. The great object for which they labored was, to fill them with confusion for their sins and dread of the divine judgment, that they might fall down and humble themselves before him whom they had offended, and, with true repentance, retake themselves to the right path. Accordingly, they use indiscriminately in the same sense, the expressions turning, or returning to the Lord; repenting, doing repentance.  Whence, also, the sacred history describes it as repentance towards God, when men who disregarded him and wantoned in their lusts begin to obey his word, and are prepared to go whithersoever he may call them. And John Baptist and Paul, under the expression, bringing forth fruits meet for repentance, described a course of life exhibiting and bearing testimony, in all its actions, to such a repentance.
Christian Classics Ethereal Library / Public Domain
Institutes of the Christian Religion
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
Secrets of self-control (6)
3/5/2018 Bob Gass
‘Don’t give the devil a chance.’
(Eph 4:26–27) and give no opportunity to the devil. ESV
Avoid the things that tempt you. Stay away from situations that weaken your self-control. If you do not want to be stung, stay away from bees. Plan in advance to avoid situations that you know are going to cause temptation in your life. Don’t keep chocolate in the cupboard if you are trying to diet. Sigh, Lily help. Don’t acquire credit cards if you are an impulse spender. Get rid of your access to pornography if you are struggling with it. If you are a teenager, the time to begin thinking about self-control is not when you’re in the back seat of a car with someone who turns you on. Question: what do you need to avoid? Or get rid of? Magazines? Books? DVDs? A relationship? The Bible says, ‘Bad company corrupts good character’ (1 Corinthians 15:33 NIV 2011 Edition). Avoid people and situations that tempt you. You may need to change your job because a relationship there is wrong and harmful to you. That’s a drastic measure, but you may need to do something that drastic in order to avoid whatever is tempting you at this particular time. If you have lived through years of repeated failure, then it’s time to get honest. And humble. It’s time to pray: ‘Lord, I’m not strong enough to resist this temptation by myself. Help me!’ He will! ‘I patiently waited, Lord, for you to hear my prayer. You listened and pulled me from a lonely pit full of mud and mire. You let me stand on a rock with my feet firm…Many will see this, and they will honour and trust you, the Lord God’ (Psalm 40:1-3 CEV).
UCB The Word For Today
'Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked?,' says the Lord God, 'And not rather that he should turn from his way and live? For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone,' says the Lord God. 'So turn and live! Say to them, "As I live," says the Lord God, "I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn back, turn back from your evil ways. For why will you die?"' (Ez. 18.23,32; 33.11).
Here God literally pleads with people to turn back from their self-destructive course of action and be saved. Thus, in a sense, the biblical God does not send any person to hell. His desire is that everyone be saved, and He seeks to draw all persons to Himself. If we make a free and well-informed decision to reject Christ's sacrifice for our sin, then God has no choice but to give us what we deserve. God will not send us to hell—but we shall send ourselves. Our eternal destiny thus lies in our own hands. It is a matter of our free choice where we shall spend eternity. The lost, therefore, are self-condemned; they separate themselves from God despite God's will and every effort to save them, and God grieves over their loss.
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William Lane Craig is Research Professor of Philosophy at Talbot School of Theology and Professor of Philosophy at Houston Baptist University. He and his wife Jan have two grown children.
At the age of sixteen as a junior in high school, he first heard the message of the Christian gospel and yielded his life to Christ. Dr. Craig pursued his undergraduate studies at Wheaton College (B.A. 1971) and graduate studies at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (M.A. 1974; M.A. 1975), the University of Birmingham (England) (Ph.D. 1977), and the University of Munich (Germany) (D.Theol. 1984). From 1980-86 he taught Philosophy of Religion at Trinity, during which time he and Jan started their family. In 1987 they moved to Brussels, Belgium, where Dr. Craig pursued research at the University of Louvain until assuming his position at Talbot in 1994.
He has authored or edited over thirty books, including The Kalam Cosmological Argument; Assessing the New Testament Evidence for the Historicity of the Resurrection of Jesus; Divine Foreknowledge and Human Freedom; Theism, Atheism and Big Bang Cosmology; and God, Time and Eternity, as well as over a hundred articles in professional journals of philosophy and theology, including The Journal of Philosophy, New Testament Studies, Journal for the Study of the New Testament, American Philosophical Quarterly, Philosophical Studies, Philosophy, and British Journal for Philosophy of Science. In 2016 Dr. Craig was named by The Best Schools as one of the fifty most influential living philosophers. [My Google Profile+]
William Lane Craig Books:
On Guard: Defending Your Faith with Reason and Precision
Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics
Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview
On Guard for Students: A Thinker's Guide to the Christian Faith
Five Views on Apologetics
God Over All: Divine Aseity and the Challenge of Platonism
The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology
Time and Eternity: Exploring God's Relationship to Time
The Only Wise God: The Compatibility of Divine Foreknowledge & Human Freedom
The Son Rises: Historical Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus
by Bill Federer
On this day, March 5, in the year 1770, the Boston Massacre took place. The British had been forcing Colonists to house their soldiers. A crowd had gathered to protest and the British soldiers responded by firing into the mob, killing five of them. On the 4th anniversary of the Massacre, in 1774, John Hancock, famous for being the first to sign the Declaration of Independence, stated: “Let us play the man for… the cities of our GOD. While we are using the means in our power, let us humbly commit our righteous cause to the great LORD of the Universe.”
Thomas R. Kelly
This is the voice of an authentic, who knows the tendering of the Presence, a tendering which issues in the burden-bearing, cross-carrying, Calvary re-enacting life.
Against this cosmic suffering and cosmic responsibility we must set the special responsibility experienced in a concern. For a Quaker concern particularizes this cosmic tenderness. It brings to a definite and effective focus in some concrete task all that experience of love and responsibility which might evaporate, in its broad generality, into vague yearnings for a golden Paradise.
There are two ways in which a concern is a particularization. It is a particularization of the Divine Concern of God for all creation. God's love isn't just a diffused benevolence. As the Eternal is the root and ground of all times, yet breaks into particular moments, so the Infinite Love is the ground of all creatures, the source of their existence, and also knows a tender concern for each, and guides those who are sensitive to this tender care into a mutually supporting Blessed Fraternity.
But it is a particularization of my responsibility also, in a world too vast and a lifetime too short for me to carry all responsibilities. My cosmic love, or the Divine Lover loving within me, cannot accomplish its full intent, which is universal savior hood, within the limits of three score years and ten. But the Loving Presence does not burden us equally with all things, but considerately puts upon each of us just a few central tasks, as emphatic responsibilities. For each of us these special undertakings are our share in the joyous burdens of love.
A Testament of Devotion
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
The function of prayer is not to influence God,
but rather to change the nature of the one who prays.
--- Soren Kierkegaard
The Sickness Unto Death: A Christian Psychological Exposition For Upbuilding And Awakening (Kierkegaard's Writings, Vol 19) (v. 19)
What oxygen is to the lungs,
such is hope to the meaning of life.
--- Emil Brunner
Enriching Christian Doctrine and Character
I had a million questions to ask God:
but when I met Him, they all fled my mind;
and it didn't seem to matter.
--- Christopher Morley
To educate a man is to unfit him to be a slave. --- Fredrick Douglass
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: An American Slave, Written by Himself (Bedford Series in History and Culture)
... from here, there and everywhere
University of Virginia Library 1994
In the beginning of the twelfth month I joined, in company with my friends John Sykes and Daniel Stanton, in visiting such as had slaves. Some whose hearts were rightly exercised about them appeared to be glad of our visit, but in some places our way was more difficult. I often saw the necessity of keeping down to that root from whence our concern proceeded, and have cause, in reverent thankfulness, humbly to bow down before the Lord, who was near to me, and preserved my mind in calmness under some sharp conflicts, and begat a spirit of sympathy and tenderness in me towards some who were grievously entangled by the spirit of this world.
First month, 1759. -- Having found my mind drawn to visit some of the more active members in our Society at Philadelphia, who had slaves, I met my friend John Churchman there by agreement, and we continued about a week in the city. We visited some that were sick, and some widows and their families, and the other part of our time was mostly employed in visiting such as had slaves. It was a time of deep exercise, but looking often to the Lord for his assistance, he in unspeakable kindness favored us with the influence of that spirit which crucifies to the greatness and splendor of this world, and enabling us to go through some heavy labors, in which we found peace.
Twenty-fourth of third month, 1759. -- After attending our general Spring Meeting at Philadelphia I again joined with John Churchman on a visit to some who had slaves in Philadelphia, and with thankfulness to our Heavenly Father I may say that Divine love and a true sympathizing tenderness of heart prevailed at times in this service.
Having at times perceived a shyness in some Friends of considerable note towards me, I found an engagement in gospel love to pay a visit to one of them; and as I dwelt under the exercise, I felt a resignedness in my mind to go and tell him privately that I had a desire to have an opportunity with him alone; to this proposal he readily agreed, and then, in the fear of the Lord, things relating to that shyness were searched to the bottom, and we had a large conference, which, I believe was of use to both of us, and I am thankful that way was opened for it.
Fourteenth of sixth month. -- Having felt drawings in my mind to visit Friends about Salem, and having the approbation of our Monthly Meeting, I attended their Quarterly Meeting, and was out seven days, and attended seven meetings; in some of them I was chiefly silent; in others, through the baptizing power of truth, my heart was enlarged in heavenly love, and I found a near fellowship with the brethren and sisters, in the manifold trials attending their Christian progress through this world.
Seventh month. -- I have found an increasing concern on my mind to visit some active members in our Society who have slaves, and having no opportunity of the company of such as were named in the minutes of the Yearly Meeting, I went alone to their houses, and, in the fear of the Lord, acquainted them with the exercise I was under; and, thus, sometimes by a few words, I found myself discharged from a heavy burden. After this, our friend John Churchman coming into our province with a view to be at some meetings, and to join again in the visit to those who had slaves, I bore him company in the said visit to some active members, and found inward satisfaction.
John Woolman's Journal
by D.H. Stern
and the fool becomes slave to the wise.
30 The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life,
and he who is wise wins souls.
31 If the righteous are paid what they deserve here
how much more the wicked and the sinner!
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
Is he really Lord?
… so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus.
--- Acts 20:24.
Joy means the perfect fulfilment of that for which I was created and regenerated, not the successful doing of a thing. The joy Our Lord had lay in doing what the Father sent Him to do, and He says—“As My Father hath sent Me, even so am I sending you.” Have I received a ministry from the Lord? If so, I have to be loyal to it, to count my life precious only for the fulfilling of that ministry. Think of the satisfaction it will be to hear Jesus say—“Well done, good and faithful servant”; to know that you have done what He sent you to do. We have all to find our niche in life, and spiritually we find it when we receive our ministry from the Lord. In order to do this we must have companied with Jesus; we must know Him as more than a personal Saviour. “I will show him how great things he must suffer for My sake.”
“Lovest thou Me?” Then— “Feed My sheep.” There is no choice of service, only absolute loyalty to Our Lord’s commission; loyalty to what you discern when you are in closest contact with God. If you have received a ministry from the Lord Jesus, you will know that the need is never the call: the need is the opportunity. The call is loyalty to the ministry you received when you were in real touch with Him. This does not imply that there is a campaign of service marked out for you, but it does mean that you will have to ignore the demands for service along other lines.
My Utmost for His Highest
the Poetry of R.S. Thomas
The old man comes out on the hill
And looks down to recall earlier days
In the valley. He sees the stream shin,
The church stand, hears the litter of
Children's voices. A chill in the flesh
Tells him that death is not far off
Now; it is the shadow under the great boughs
Of life. His garden has herbs growing.
The kestrel goes by with fresh prey
In its claws. The wind scatters the scent
Of wild beans. The tractor operates
On the earth's body: His grandson is there
Ploughing: his young wife fetches him
Cakes and tea and a dark smiles. It is well.
Collected Poems 1945-1990 (Phoenix Press)
Christ’s High Priesthood: Hebrews 4:14–10:25
This extended section of the New Testament discusses the high priesthood of Jesus. It compares Him to the Aaronic priests of the Old Testament, and contrasts His ministry to theirs.
Chapters 4 and 5 of Hebrews emphasize the necessity for the priest to be identified with those he serves. A mediator must have contact with those who need his ministry.
Hebrews 7 emphasizes the primacy of Christ’s priesthood, stressing its superiority over the Aaronic. The passage also points out a crucial concept: perfection could not come through the old priesthood. By a continual and repetitive ministry the Aaronic priests held the door to God open. But only a permanent priest could save completely and guarantee us access. As believers, we no longer need human priests to meet us at the door and then to turn within, while we stand outside and wait. Christ, in His death and resurrection, has thrown the door wide open, and has invited us to enter freely. Christ Himself, living forever, is God’s eternal guarantee that the door to eternal life will never be closed to you and me.
Chapter 8 of Hebrews elaborates on this. Christ is a Priest of an entirely new system, a system which reaches within men’s hearts to transform them. According to Hebrews 9 this required that Christ as High Priest present a perfect offering—one able to clear the conscience of the worshiper. Chapter 10 goes on to show the efficacy of Christ’s sacrifice. Through His sacrifice we have been made holy once for all. We are now able to confidently enter into the very presence of God. “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (4:16). Our ever-living High Priest, who has made a single sacrifice and by it perfected us, has thrown open wide the door by which the Old Testament priest once stood—and has commanded us to enter boldly.
This brief survey of some of the aspects of priesthood helps us understand our present standing with God. Because of Christ, the old need of a doorkeeper is gone. We have direct, personal access to God’s throne through Jesus.
But what about our priesthood? How do we serve?
Partly in worship. The offerings made on the altar were not all for sin. Many were offerings of thanksgiving and praise, expressing the joy of communion with the Lord. The Book of Revelation speaks of the prayers of God’s saints, rising up to God as a pleasant incense. This worship is something that we can offer to God as part of our present priestly service.
In part, we serve as priests by serving our brothers and sisters. As Aaron bore the names of Israel before the Lord, and as Jesus bears our names on His heart, so we are to carry the names and the needs of our brothers before the Lord. There are fellow priests of ours who experience needs. There are fellow believers who experience needs. They have a relationship with God, but do not experience communion. These too we can serve in prayer, and also by reaching out to them to teach and encourage.
And there is another class of people; those who have never met Christ or come to know Him in a saving way. The concept of priesthood is very important here, in helping us understand ourselves. The priest was “chosen from among men.” He established a point of contact with other human beings, based on his likeness to them. The New Testament stresses the fact that Jesus too became fully human. He did this that He might sympathize with our weaknesses. He never sinned, and yet He knew fully all that it means to be a human being, subject to human weaknesses.
Because of Jesus’ identification with humanity, Christ is able to reach out to grasp the hand of the sinner and lead him to God.
Our priestly ministry carries the same demand, the demand that we reach out to people, confessing our common identity with them, and together drawing near to and serving God.
The Teacher's Commentary
and defends God
Theology (“the science of God”) used to be called “the queen of sciences” because it deals with the most important knowledge we can have, the knowledge of God. Theology is a necessary science, but it is also a difficult science; for it is our attempt to know the Unknowable (Rom. 11:33–36). God has revealed Himself in creation, in providence, in His Word, and supremely in His Son; but our understanding of what God has revealed may not always be clear.
“The essence of idolatry,” wrote A.W. Tozer, “is the entertainment of thoughts about God that are unworthy of Him” (The Knowledge of the Holy , Harper & Row, p. 11). So, whoever attempts to explain and defend the Almighty must have the humble heart of a worshiper; for “knowledge puffs up, but love builds up” (1 Cor. 8:1).
As you read Elihu’s speeches, you get the impression that he was not growing; he was swelling. You also get the impression that his listeners’ minds were wandering, because he kept exhorting them to listen carefully (Job 33:1, 31, 33; 34:2, 10, 16). In the last two thirds of his speech, Elihu explained and defended the justice of God (Job 34–35) and the greatness of God (Job 36–37).
1. God is just (Job 34–35) / Elihu had promised not to use flattery (Job 32:21), but he came close to it in 34:2 when he addressed his audience as “wise men” and “men of learning”. Actually, he was flattering himself; because if these “learned wise men” were willing to listen to him, they must have thought that he was more learned and wise than they! Quoting Job’s words (v. 3; 12:11), Elihu urged them to use discernment as they “tasted” his words, so that he and they might “learn together what is good” (34:4). Elihu compared his speaking to the enjoyment of a tasteful and nourishing meal.
Elihu listed two of Job’s complaints to be discussed: “God is unjust” (vv. 5–6) and “There is no profit in serving God” (vv. 7–9). He answered the first complaint in verses 10–37 and the second in Job 35.
“God is unjust” (Job 34:5–6, 10–37). The injustice of God was one of the major themes in Job’s speeches. He felt that he was being treated like a sinner, and yet God would not “come to court” and tell Job what he had done wrong. (See 9:2, 17–20; 19:6–7; 27:2.) Elihu recalled Job saying that he was innocent and had been denied justice (34:5; 10:7; 6:29), and that God was shooting arrows at him (34:6; 6:4).
Elihu presented three arguments to prove that there is no injustice with God. To begin with, if God is unjust, then He is not God (34:10–15). “Far be it from God, that He should do wickedness, and from the Almighty, that He should commit iniquity” (v. 10). “It is unthinkable that God would do wrong, that the Almighty would pervert justice” (v. 12). Abraham asked, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Gen. 18:25) and the obvious answer is yes!
If God is truly God, then He is perfect; and if He is perfect, then He cannot do wrong. An unjust God would be as unthinkable as a square circle or a round triangle. According to Elihu, what seems injustice to us is really justice: God is paying sinners back for what they do (Job 34:11). In fact, God is so just that He has ordained that sin itself will punish the evildoer. (See Pss. 7:15; 9:15–16; 35:8.) There is no way to escape the justice of God.
Elihu emphasized that God is sovereign, and a sovereign God can be indicted by no law or judged by no court. The king can do no wrong. God was not appointed to His throne, so He can’t be taken from it (Job 34:13). To say that God is unjust is to say that He is not God and therefore has no right to be on the throne. But God controls our very breath and can take our lives away in an instant (vv. 14–15; Acts 17:25, 28). “It is because of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not” (Lam. 3:22).
The Book of Job magnifies the sovereignty of God. From the very first chapter, it is obvious that God is in control; for even Satan is told what he can and cannot do. During the debate, it appears that God is absent; but He is aware of how Job feels and what Job and his friends say. Thirty-one times in the Book of Job, God is called “the Almighty.” Elihu was right on target: God is sovereign and cannot do wrong.
His second argument is that if God were unjust, there could be no just government on earth (Job 34:16–20). As a respected elder, Job had participated in local government and had helped to bring justice to the afflicted (29:7–17). But all human government was established by God (Gen. 9:1–7; Rom. 13:1–7); so if mortal man can execute justice on earth, why can’t a holy and sovereign God execute justice from heaven? He can dethrone kings and remove nobles, and He shows no partiality (Dan. 4:25, 32, 35). If the God who rules the world were unjust, there could be no order or harmony; and everything would fall apart.
However, Elihu made a big mistake in singling out and emphasizing only one divine attribute, the justice of God; for God is also loving and gracious. (Bildad had made the same mistake in his speeches.) In His wisdom, God devised a plan of redemption that satisfies both His justice and His love (Rom. 3:21–31). Because of the Cross, God can redeem sinners and still magnify His righteousness and uphold His holy law.
Elihu’s third argument is that if God were unjust, then He must not see what is going on in the world (Job 34:21–30). But God is omniscient and sees all things! A human judge, with his limitations, hears a case and makes the best decision he can, and sometimes he’s wrong. But God sees every step we take, and there is no place where we can hide from Him (Ps. 139:7–12). Job wanted God to meet him in court so he could present his case, but what could Job tell God that God didn’t already know? “God has no need to examine men further, that they should come before Him for judgment” (Job 34:23). Unlike human officials, God is not obligated to conduct an inquiry and gather evidence; He knows everything and can judge with perfect wisdom.
One of Job’s complaints was that God was silent and had hidden His face from him (9:11; 23:1–9), but Elihu had an answer for that: “But if He remains silent, who can condemn Him? If He hides His face, who can see Him?” (34:29) In Job 24, Job had accused God of ignoring men’s sins; but what right had he to judge the Judge? God waited 4 centuries before judging the wicked nations in Canaan (Gen. 15:13–16) and 120 years before sending the Flood (6:3). Sinners should be grateful that God gives them time to repent (2 Peter 3:9).
God rules over nations and individuals (Job 34:29), but He is not responsible for their sins; for He gives them freedom to make decisions. They also have the freedom to turn from their sins and trust God. Because of this, Elihu closes this part of his speech with an appeal to Job that he confess his sins and repent (vv. 31–33). “Ask God to teach you what you don’t know,” he counsels, “and promise not to sin like this again” (see v. 32). God rewards us on His terms, not our terms; and one of His requirements is that we repent and turn from our sins.
Elihu paused and gave Job opportunity to speak (v. 33), but Job said nothing. This may have angered Elihu even more because he ended this part of the address with a terrible accusation against Job. He said that Job lacked knowledge and insight, that he was rebellious and spoke proudly against God. Clapping the hands is today a sign of approval, but in that day it was a gesture of mockery and contempt (27:23; Lam. 2:15). Elihu concluded that Job needed even more testing! (Job 34:36) Perhaps that would bring him to his senses.
Having disposed of Job’s first complaint, Elihu turns to the second one.
“There is no profit in obeying God” (Job 34:7–9; 35:1–16). Again, Elihu tries to throw Job’s own words back in his face: “I am innocent” (10:7; 12:4; 27:6) and, “What have I gained by obeying God?” (9:29–31; 21:15) Job did make the first statement, but the second is not an accurate quotation of his words. Job never did bargain with God as Satan said he would (1:9, 21; 2:9–10). Eliphaz had discussed this topic (Job 22) and had come to the conclusion that neither man’s piety nor his iniquity could make any difference to the character of God. But Elihu felt it was important to deal with the theme again.
Elihu asked his listeners to look up to the heavens and see how far away the clouds were, and then imagine how far God’s throne was from the earth (35:5–7). Can a man’s sins or good deeds on earth exert such power that they will travel all that distance and change the Almighty in heaven?
Then Elihu asked them to consider human society (vv. 8–16). Our sins or good works may affect people around us (v. 8), but God is not affected by them. Certainly God grieves over man’s sins (Gen. 6:6) and delights in the obedience of the faithful (Ps. 37:23); but our good deeds can’t bribe Him, and our misdeeds can’t threaten Him. God’s character is the same whether men obey Him or disobey Him. God can’t change for the better because He is perfect, and He can’t change for the worse because He is holy.
God cares for the birds and beasts, and they trust Him (Job 35:11; Matt. 6:25–34); but men made in the image of God don’t cry out to God until they are under a terrible burden of oppression (Job 35:9). They forget God until trouble comes. But God knows that their prayers are insincere, so He doesn’t answer them (vv. 12–13). This explains why Job’s prayers haven’t been answered: his heart was not right with God (v. 14).
But even if God doesn’t relieve the burden, He can give the trusting sufferer “songs in the night” (v. 10; Ps. 42:8; 77:6). “Any man can sing in the day,” said Charles Spurgeon. “It is easy to sing when we can read the notes by daylight; but he is the skillful singer who can sing when there is not a ray of light by which to read.” The Lord gave “songs in the night” to Jesus before He went to the cross (Matt. 26:30) and to Paul and Silas in the prison in Philippi (Acts 16:25). If God doesn’t see fit to remove our burdens, He always gives strength to bear them—and a song to sing while doing it!
Elihu dismisses Job’s complaint that he can’t see God. The important thing is that God sees Job and knows his case completely (Job 35:14). Job’s situation won’t be changed by his empty talk and many words (v. 16), so the only thing for Job to do is wait and trust (v. 14).
God is gracious (Job 33), and God is just (Job 34–35); but God is also great and mighty (Job 36–37), and Elihu thought that Job needed to recognize how great God is.
Be Patient (Job): Waiting on God in Difficult Times
A student has become a serious behavior problem in school. The principal asks the parents, both of whom are psychologists, to come in for a conference. The mother acknowledges that there have been problems at home as well, and the father assures the principal that they are “on top of the situation” and are dealing with it. The principal suggests that they turn to an outside psychologist to deal with the problem. The parents are taken aback.
“Are you implying that we’re not professionally competent to deal with this situation?” the father angrily asks. “We both have Ph.D.s in clinical psychology; we have been in private practice for over twenty years; and we have outstanding reputations in the community! And how do you think our sending our child to someone else would look? People would say, ‘They can’t even handle their own problems; how in the world can they help me with mine?’ If you meant to insult us, you’ve certainly succeeded!”
The principal tries to reassure the parents. “The last thing in the world I want to do is question your competence. I have the utmost respect for you, personally and professionally. The issue here is not competence but closeness. Sometimes we’re just too close to a situation to be able to be as effective as we’d like to be. I think I’m a pretty good educator, but my wife and I felt that it would be in everyone’s best interest if our daughter went to a different high school from mine. My sister is a pediatrician, but when her kids get sick, she takes them to another doctor. She feels too close to the situation, too emotionally involved to be able to give them the best treatment. The truth is that I wouldn’t hesitate for a minute to send my kids to you for help; I know how good you are. But I think you ought to consider sending your child to someone else for help. Sometimes, what we can do for others, we can’t do for ourselves. That’s unfortunate, but it’s true.”
Often in life, we are imprisoned by our own egos. The harder we struggle to free ourselves, the more trapped we become. Sometimes, all that we need is to let someone else give us a hand.
Rav Huna bar Yehudah said in the name of Rabbi Ammi: “One should always complete one’s portions with the community, twice Scripture and once translation, even ‘Ataroth, Dibon …’ [Numbers 32:3], for anyone who completes the portion with the community has days and years lengthened.” Rav Bivi bar Abaye thought of finishing his portions of the entire year on the eve of Yom Kippur. Ḥiyya bar Rav from Difti taught him: “It is written: ‘You shall practice self-denial, on the ninth day of the month at evening’ [Leviticus 23:32]. Do we fast on the ninth? Don’t we fast on the tenth?! This teaches us that whoever eats and drinks on the ninth is regarded by Scripture as if he fasted both on the ninth and on the tenth.” He [Rav Bivi bar Abaye] thought of finishing earlier, but some elder said to him: “It is taught: ‘As long as he does not go ahead or fall behind.’ ” Just as Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi said to his son: “Finish your portions with the community, and be careful of the veins according to [the opinion of] Rabbi Yehudah, and it is taught: Rabbi Yehudah says: ‘Until he slaughters the veins, and be careful with an old man who forgot his learning because of circumstances, as it is said: “The tablets and the broken tablets were placed in the Ark.” ’ ”
The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: Mark, the tenth day of this seventh month is the Day of Atonement. It shall be a sacred occasion for you: you shall practice self-denial, and you shall bring an offering by fire to the Lord; you shall do no work throughout that day. For it is a Day of Atonement, on which expiation is made on your behalf before the Lord your God. (Leviticus 23:26–28)
As soon as Moses came near the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, he became enraged; and he hurled the tablets from his hands and shattered them at the foot of the mountain. He took the calf that they had made and burned it; he ground it to powder and strewed it upon the water and so made the Israelites drink it. (Exodus 32:19–20)
“One should always complete one’s portions with the community” refers to study of the weekly public reading of the Torah. All of the Rabbis agree that one should constantly study Torah. Rav Huna has a special understanding of this rule: One should study the same section or portion as is being read in the synagogue that Shabbat, completing it during the same week.
A story is told about Rav Bivi bar Abaye who fell behind in the weekly study of the Torah portions and hoped to catch up right before Yom Kippur, when he would have some free time. However, he was reminded by Ḥiyya that the day before Yom Kippur is—according to the well-known Midrash on the verse from Leviticus—a day for eating and drinking. The Midrash is based on the fact that the verse says to fast from the ninth day of the seventh month, rather than from the tenth day. The contextual meaning of the verse is simply that the fast of Yom Kippur starts the night before; even though Jewish days start at dark (and, thus, technically at the beginning of the tenth day of the month), people think of Yom Kippur eve as part of the ninth day of the month. When Rav Bivi wanted to finish studying the weekly Torah portions before Yom Kippur, he was reminded that one should neither go ahead nor fall behind, that is, one should follow the weekly cycle at the right time and study along with it.
The teaching of Rabbi Yehudah adds two pieces of advice. First, when one slaughters a fowl, the cut should be made so that the veins are entirely severed. Even though this is not technically required by law, it is nonetheless good advice. Second, one should honor a person who used to have great knowledge but has since forgotten it. This is analogous to the holiness given to the broken tablets of the Law. When Moses saw the Golden Calf, he became angry and shattered the first tablets that God had given him. These broken tablets of the Law were later carried by Moses in the Ark, along with the second set that God gave to Moses. The first set retained its holiness and was not discarded, even though it was no longer usable. Similarly, one should revere a teacher who had previously been venerated for knowledge, even if this person is now “broken,” that is, forgetful because of old age.
Swimming in the Sea of Talmud: Lessons for Everyday Living
Thomas A Kempis
Book Two / The Interior Life
The Eighth Chapter / The Intimate Friendship Of Jesus
WHEN Jesus is near, all is well and nothing seems difficult. When He is absent, all is hard. When Jesus does not speak within, all other comfort is empty, but if He says only a word, it brings great consolation.
Did not Mary Magdalen rise at once from her weeping when Martha said to her: “The Master is come, and calleth for thee”?13 Happy is the hour when Jesus calls one from tears to joy of spirit.
How dry and hard you are without Jesus! How foolish and vain if you desire anything but Him! Is it not a greater loss than losing the whole world? For what, without Jesus, can the world give you? Life without Him is a relentless hell, but living with Him is a sweet paradise. If Jesus be with you, no enemy can harm you.
He who finds Jesus finds a rare treasure, indeed, a good above every good, whereas he who loses Him loses more than the whole world. The man who lives without Jesus is the poorest of the poor, whereas no one is so rich as the man who lives in His grace.
It is a great art to know how to converse with Jesus, and great wisdom to know how to keep Him. Be humble and peaceful, and Jesus will be with you. Be devout and calm, and He will remain with you. You may quickly drive Him away and lose His grace, if you turn back to the outside world. And, if you drive Him away and lose Him, to whom will you go and whom will you then seek as a friend? You cannot live well without a friend, and if Jesus be not your friend above all else, you will be very sad and desolate. Thus, you are acting foolishly if you trust or rejoice in any other. Choose the opposition of the whole world rather than offend Jesus. Of all those who are dear to you, let Him be your special love. Let all things be loved for the sake of Jesus, but Jesus for His own sake.
Jesus Christ must be loved alone with a special love for He alone, of all friends, is good and faithful. For Him and in Him you must love friends and foes alike, and pray to Him that all may know and love Him.
Never desire special praise or love, for that belongs to God alone Who has no equal. Never wish that anyone’s affection be centered in you, nor let yourself be taken up with the love of anyone, but let Jesus be in you and in every good man. Be pure and free within, unentangled with any creature.
You must bring to God a clean and open heart if you wish to attend and see how sweet the Lord is. Truly you will never attain this happiness unless His grace prepares you and draws you on so that you may forsake all things to be united with Him alone.
When the grace of God comes to a man he can do all things, but when it leaves him he becomes poor and weak, abandoned, as it were, to affliction. Yet, in this condition he should not become dejected or despair. On the contrary, he should calmly await the will of God and bear whatever befalls him in praise of Jesus Christ, for after winter comes summer, after night, the day, and after the storm, a great calm.
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.
Children have something worse than follies; they have faults to be forgiven. ( Spurgeon's Sermons, 5 Volumes )Our Father has compassion for the faults of his children—he has provided for their cleansing, and he freely gives them use of that provision and readily forgives them their iniquities.
Good children, who have done wrong, are never satisfied until they get to their parents and ask their forgiveness. Some parents think it wise to withhold the forgiving word for a little time; so may our great Father, but as a rule isn’t it wonderful how readily he forgives? He for a little time, perhaps, makes us smart under the sin for our good, but it is not often; as a rule, the kiss is on our cheek almost before the confession has left our lips.
Do you think that Peter ought to have been kept out of the church awhile after denying his Master with oaths and cursing? Perhaps he would have been if we had been consulted, but Jesus Christ, by a kind look or a gentle word, could set crooked things straight. So we see Peter in company with John and the rest of the disciples within two or three days of his committing that serious trespass. The Lord is very ready to forgive; it is the church that is unmerciful sometimes, but not the Master; he is ever willing to receive us when we come to him and to blot out our transgressions.
Come along, then, you who have erred and gone astray, you backsliders who are aware of sin; you who walked in the light only a few days ago and have gotten into the dark by some sad slip; yet come along—you are very ready to forgive your children, aren’t you? Don’t you remember, you who are too old to have them about the house, how readily in your younger days you caught up your little ones in your arms and said, “Dear child, don’t cry anymore; you must not do it again, but Father fully forgives you this time”?
Just so your heavenly Father waits to catch you up, press you to his bosom and say, “I have loved you with an everlasting love” (Jer. 31:3), not with a love that can soon be set aside by your fault, therefore, again I will blot out your transgression and set your feet on a rock and strengthen you to sin no more. Oh, it is a sweet, sweet thought—our Father feels compassion for us in our faults!
--- C. H. Spurgeon
Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
Sam Jones vs. Sam Jones
John J. Jones felt God calling him into the ministry, but he resisted, choosing instead the profession of law. His son followed in his footsteps. Young Sam Jones proved a brilliant attorney at first. But alcoholism quickly ruined his life and reduced him to shoveling coal. He was on a drinking binge when he heard of his father’s illness. He rushed home, and the old lawyer became a preacher at last, saying, “My poor, wicked, wayward, reckless boy. You have brought me down in sorrow to my grave. Promise me, my boy, to meet me in heaven.”
Sam fell to his knees and promised, then he flew to a bar and begged for a glass of liquor. But as he started to drink it, he saw himself in the mirror. Hair matted. Filth and vomit on his clothes. Lips swollen. He smashed the glass on the floor and gave his life to Jesus Christ. A week later, he preached his first sermon.
Jones became the most famous evangelist of the nineteenth century, save for Moody. He held crusades in major cities throughout America, winning an estimated 500,000 people to Christ. His most unusual revival began on March 5, 1899, in Toledo, Ohio. The mayor of Toledo was also named Sam Jones. Mayor Jones introduced Evangelist Jones on the revival’s opening night. The next mayoral election was only a month away, and he enjoyed the exposure. But he didn’t enjoy what Evangelist Jones had to say, for the preacher lost no time in attacking the mayor’s policies. There were 700 saloons and 150 gambling dens in Toledo, and city administrators were unconcerned about it. The evangelist said that if the devil were mayor of Toledo, he wouldn’t change a thing. He flailed away at alcohol and sin. He lifted high the cross, and preached with the zeal of a lawyer trying to save his client from the gallows. Men wept. Women groaned. Children were spellbound. The seats were packed night after night. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, were converted during the Toledo meetings.
But the mayor won reelection the next month by a huge margin.
Who is always in trouble? Who argues and fights?
Who has cuts and bruises? Whose eyes are red?
Everyone who stays up late, having just one more drink.
Don’t even look at that colorful stuff Bubbling up in the glass!
--- Proverbs 23:29-31a.
On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - March 5
“Let us not sleep, as do others.” --- 1 Thessalonians 5:6.
There are many ways of promoting Christian wakefulness. Among the rest, let me strongly advise Christians to converse together concerning the ways of the Lord. Christian and Hopeful, as they journeyed towards the Celestial City, said to themselves, “To prevent drowsiness in this place, let us fall into good discourse.” Christian enquired, “Brother, where shall we begin?” And Hopeful answered, “Where God began with us.” Then Christian sang this song ---
“When saints do sleepy grow, let them come hither,
And hear how these two pilgrims talk together;
Yea, let them learn of them, in any wise,
Thus to keep open their drowsy slumb’ring eyes.
Saints’ fellowship, if it be managed well,
Keeps them awake, and that in spite of hell.”
Christians who isolate themselves and walk alone, are very liable to grow drowsy. Hold Christian company, and you will be kept wakeful by it, and refreshed and encouraged to make quicker progress in the road to heaven. But as you thus take “sweet counsel” with others in the ways of God, take care that the theme of your converse is the Lord Jesus. Let the eye of faith be constantly looking unto him; let your heart be full of him; let your lips speak of his worth. Friend, live near to the cross, and thou wilt not sleep. Labour to impress thyself with a deep sense of the value of the place to which thou art going. If thou rememberest that thou art going to heaven, thou wilt not sleep on the road. If thou thinkest that hell is behind thee, and the devil pursuing thee, thou wilt not loiter. Would the manslayer sleep with the avenger of blood behind him, and the city of refuge before him? Christian, wilt thou sleep whilst the pearly gates are open—the songs of angels waiting for thee to join them—a crown of gold ready for thy brow? Ah! no; in holy fellowship continue to watch and pray that ye enter not into temptation.
Evening - March 5
“Say unto my soul, I am thy salvation.” --- Psalm 35:3.
What does this sweet prayer teach me? It shall be my evening’s petition; but first let it yield me an instructive meditation. The text informs me first of all that David had his doubts; for why should he pray, “Say unto my soul, I am thy salvation,” if he were not sometimes exercised with doubts and fears? Let me, then, be of good cheer, for I am not the only saint who has to complain of weakness of faith. If David doubted, I need not conclude that I am no Christian because I have doubts. The text reminds me that David was not content while he had doubts and fears, but he repaired at once to the mercy-seat to pray for assurance; for he valued it as much fine gold. I too must labour after an abiding sense of my acceptance in the Beloved, and must have no joy when his love is not shed abroad in my soul. When my Bridegroom is gone from me, my soul must and will fast. I learn also that David knew where to obtain full assurance. He went to his God in prayer, crying, “Say unto my soul I am thy salvation.” I must be much alone with God if I would have a clear sense of Jesus’ love. Let my prayers cease, and my eye of faith will grow dim. Much in prayer, much in heaven; slow in prayer, slow in progress. I notice that David would not be satisfied unless his assurance had a divine source. “Say unto my soul.” Lord, do thou say it! Nothing short of a divine testimony in the soul will ever content the true Christian. Moreover, David could not rest unless his assurance had a vivid personality about it. “Say unto my soul, I am thy salvation.” Lord, if thou shouldst say this to all the saints, it were nothing, unless thou shouldst say it to me. Lord, I have sinned; I deserve not thy smile; I scarcely dare to ask it; but oh! say to my soul, even to my soul, “I am thy salvation.” Let me have a present, personal, infallible, indisputable sense that I am thine, and that thou art mine.
Morning and Evening
THY WORD IS LIKE A GARDEN, LORD
Edwin Hodder, 1837–1904
How sweet are Your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! I gain understanding from Your precepts; therefore I hate every wrong path. (Psalm 119:103, 104)
For the child of God, the daily reading of the Scriptures is the nourishment of the soul. The Bible’s value has been described in many ways as the traveler’s map, the pilgrim’s staff, the pilot’s compass, the soldier’s sword, and the Christian’s charter. Someone has offered this sage advice regarding the use of the Bible: “Read it to be wise, believe it to be safe, and practice it to be holy. Read it slowly, frequently, and prayerfully. It is a mine of wealth, a paradise of glory, and a river of pleasure.”
Read this book for whatever you can accept and take the rest on faith. You will live and die a better man.
--- Abraham Lincoln
Although just a lay amateur writer in England, Edwin Hodder was also impressed with the miraculous quality of the Bible. So in this hymn, first published in 1863, Hodder paints comparative pictures that both young and old can understand easily. Verse one begins with the thought that even casual seekers can find something from God’s written landscape that will beautify their lives merely by “plucking a lovely cluster.” Stanza one continues to say, however, that it is not enough to be casual in this garden of beauty. Rather, we must earnestly search and dig into its mighty depths for “jewels rich and rare.”
Verse two extends the thought further that God’s Word, like the starry host, is fathomless in giving guidance for life’s journey. Finally, the hymn reminds us that there is an earnestness confronting each believer in the form of a warfare against sin and unrighteousness. For this battle we require the aid of God’s Holy Word.
Thy Word is like a garden, Lord, with flowers bright and fair; and ev’ryone who seeks may pluck a lovely cluster there. Thy Word is like a deep, deep, mine, and jewels rich and rare are hidden in its mighty depths for ev’ry searcher there.
Thy Word is like a starry host—A thousand rays of light are seen to guide the traveler and make his pathway bright. Thy Word is like an armory where soldiers may repair and find, for life’s long battle-day, all needful weapons there.
O may I love Thy precious Word, may I explore the mine; may I its fragrant flowers glean, may light upon me shine. O may I find my armor there, Thy Word my trusty sword! I’ll learn to fight with ev’ry foe the battle of the Lord!
For Today: Psalm 119:105; 130; John 5:39; 6:63; 2 Timothy 3:16.
Allow the Bible’s relevance, beauty, and simplicity to thrill your soul. Reflect on this musical reminder to help ---
Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
Selected Scriptures | John MacArthur
Peter Cha Discussion | Henry Center
Brett Meador | Athey Creek
We Want A King Deuteronomy 17:16-20
s2-099 | 11-29-2015
This teaching, from Deuteronomy 17:16-20, has some video clips of Pastor Brett in Megiddo, Israel.
m2-095 | 12-02-2015
m2-096 | 12-9-2015