Deuteronomy 21 - 23
Atonement for Unsolved MurdersDeuteronomy 21:1 “If in the land that the LORD your God is giving you to possess someone is found slain, lying in the open country, and it is not known who killed him, 2 then your elders and your judges shall come out, and they shall measure the distance to the surrounding cities. 3 And the elders of the city that is nearest to the slain man shall take a heifer that has never been worked and that has not pulled in a yoke. 4 And the elders of that city shall bring the heifer down to a valley with running water, which is neither plowed nor sown, and shall break the heifer’s neck there in the valley. 5 Then the priests, the sons of Levi, shall come forward, for the LORD your God has chosen them to minister to him and to bless in the name of the LORD, and by their word every dispute and every assault shall be settled. 6 And all the elders of that city nearest to the slain man shall wash their hands over the heifer whose neck was broken in the valley, 7 and they shall testify, ‘Our hands did not shed this blood, nor did our eyes see it shed. 8 Accept atonement, O LORD, for your people Israel, whom you have redeemed, and do not set the guilt of innocent blood in the midst of your people Israel, so that their blood guilt be atoned for.’ 9 So you shall purge the guilt of innocent blood from your midst, when you do what is right in the sight of the LORD.
Marrying Female Captives10 “When you go out to war against your enemies, and the LORD your God gives them into your hand and you take them captive, 11 and you see among the captives a beautiful woman, and you desire to take her to be your wife, 12 and you bring her home to your house, she shall shave her head and pare her nails. 13 And she shall take off the clothes in which she was captured and shall remain in your house and lament her father and her mother a full month. After that you may go in to her and be her husband, and she shall be your wife. 14 But if you no longer delight in her, you shall let her go where she wants. But you shall not sell her for money, nor shall you treat her as a slave, since you have humiliated her.
Inheritance Rights of the Firstborn15 “If a man has two wives, the one loved and the other unloved, and both the loved and the unloved have borne him children, and if the firstborn son belongs to the unloved, 16 then on the day when he assigns his possessions as an inheritance to his sons, he may not treat the son of the loved as the firstborn in preference to the son of the unloved, who is the firstborn, 17 but he shall acknowledge the firstborn, the son of the unloved, by giving him a double portion of all that he has, for he is the firstfruits of his strength. The right of the firstborn is his.
A Rebellious Son18 “If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey the voice of his father or the voice of his mother, and, though they discipline him, will not listen to them, 19 then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his city at the gate of the place where he lives, 20 and they shall say to the elders of his city, ‘This our son is stubborn and rebellious; he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton and a drunkard.’ 21 Then all the men of the city shall stone him to death with stones. So you shall purge the evil from your midst, and all Israel shall hear, and fear.
A Man Hanged on a Tree Is Cursed22 “And if a man has committed a crime punishable by death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, 23 his body shall not remain all night on the tree, but you shall bury him the same day, for a hanged man is cursed by God. You shall not defile your land that the LORD your God is giving you for an inheritance.
Various LawsDeuteronomy 22:1 “You shall not see your brother’s ox or his sheep going astray and ignore them. You shall take them back to your brother. 2 And if he does not live near you and you do not know who he is, you shall bring it home to your house, and it shall stay with you until your brother seeks it. Then you shall restore it to him. 3 And you shall do the same with his donkey or with his garment, or with any lost thing of your brother’s, which he loses and you find; you may not ignore it. 4 You shall not see your brother’s donkey or his ox fallen down by the way and ignore them. You shall help him to lift them up again.
5 “A woman shall not wear a man’s garment, nor shall a man put on a woman’s cloak, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the LORD your God.
6 “If you come across a bird’s nest in any tree or on the ground, with young ones or eggs and the mother sitting on the young or on the eggs, you shall not take the mother with the young. 7 You shall let the mother go, but the young you may take for yourself, that it may go well with you, and that you may live long.
8 “When you build a new house, you shall make a parapet for your roof, that you may not bring the guilt of blood upon your house, if anyone should fall from it.
9 “You shall not sow your vineyard with two kinds of seed, lest the whole yield be forfeited, the crop that you have sown and the yield of the vineyard. 10 You shall not plow with an ox and a donkey together. 11 You shall not wear cloth of wool and linen mixed together.
12 “You shall make yourself tassels on the four corners of the garment with which you cover yourself.
Laws Concerning Sexual Immorality13 “If any man takes a wife and goes in to her and then hates her 14 and accuses her of misconduct and brings a bad name upon her, saying, ‘I took this woman, and when I came near her, I did not find in her evidence of virginity,’ 15 then the father of the young woman and her mother shall take and bring out the evidence of her virginity to the elders of the city in the gate. 16 And the father of the young woman shall say to the elders, ‘I gave my daughter to this man to marry, and he hates her; 17 and behold, he has accused her of misconduct, saying, “I did not find in your daughter evidence of virginity.” And yet this is the evidence of my daughter’s virginity.’ And they shall spread the cloak before the elders of the city. 18 Then the elders of that city shall take the man and whip him, 19 and they shall fine him a hundred shekels of silver and give them to the father of the young woman, because he has brought a bad name upon a virgin of Israel. And she shall be his wife. He may not divorce her all his days. 20 But if the thing is true, that evidence of virginity was not found in the young woman, 21 then they shall bring out the young woman to the door of her father’s house, and the men of her city shall stone her to death with stones, because she has done an outrageous thing in Israel by whoring in her father’s house. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.
22 “If a man is found lying with the wife of another man, both of them shall die, the man who lay with the woman, and the woman. So you shall purge the evil from Israel.
23 “If there is a betrothed virgin, and a man meets her in the city and lies with her, 24 then you shall bring them both out to the gate of that city, and you shall stone them to death with stones, the young woman because she did not cry for help though she was in the city, and the man because he violated his neighbor’s wife. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.
25 “But if in the open country a man meets a young woman who is betrothed, and the man seizes her and lies with her, then only the man who lay with her shall die. 26 But you shall do nothing to the young woman; she has committed no offense punishable by death. For this case is like that of a man attacking and murdering his neighbor, 27 because he met her in the open country, and though the betrothed young woman cried for help there was no one to rescue her.
28 “If a man meets a virgin who is not betrothed, and seizes her and lies with her, and they are found, 29 then the man who lay with her shall give to the father of the young woman fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife, because he has violated her. He may not divorce her all his days.
30 “A man shall not take his father’s wife, so that he does not uncover his father’s nakedness.
Those Excluded from the AssemblyDeuteronomy 23:1 “No one whose testicles are crushed or whose male organ is cut off shall enter the assembly of the LORD.
2 “No one born of a forbidden union may enter the assembly of the LORD. Even to the tenth generation, none of his descendants may enter the assembly of the LORD.
3 “No Ammonite or Moabite may enter the assembly of the LORD. Even to the tenth generation, none of them may enter the assembly of the LORD forever, 4 because they did not meet you with bread and with water on the way, when you came out of Egypt, and because they hired against you Balaam the son of Beor from Pethor of Mesopotamia, to curse you. 5 But the LORD your God would not listen to Balaam; instead the LORD your God turned the curse into a blessing for you, because the LORD your God loved you. 6 You shall not seek their peace or their prosperity all your days forever.
7 “You shall not abhor an Edomite, for he is your brother. You shall not abhor an Egyptian, because you were a sojourner in his land. 8 Children born to them in the third generation may enter the assembly of the LORD.
Uncleanness in the Camp9 “When you are encamped against your enemies, then you shall keep yourself from every evil thing.
10 “If any man among you becomes unclean because of a nocturnal emission, then he shall go outside the camp. He shall not come inside the camp, 11 but when evening comes, he shall bathe himself in water, and as the sun sets, he may come inside the camp.
12 “You shall have a place outside the camp, and you shall go out to it. 13 And you shall have a trowel with your tools, and when you sit down outside, you shall dig a hole with it and turn back and cover up your excrement. 14 Because the LORD your God walks in the midst of your camp, to deliver you and to give up your enemies before you, therefore your camp must be holy, so that he may not see anything indecent among you and turn away from you.
Miscellaneous Laws15 “You shall not give up to his master a slave who has escaped from his master to you. 16 He shall dwell with you, in your midst, in the place that he shall choose within one of your towns, wherever it suits him. You shall not wrong him.
17 “None of the daughters of Israel shall be a cult prostitute, and none of the sons of Israel shall be a cult prostitute. 18 You shall not bring the fee of a prostitute or the wages of a dog into the house of the LORD your God in payment for any vow, for both of these are an abomination to the LORD your God.
19 “You shall not charge interest on loans to your brother, interest on money, interest on food, interest on anything that is lent for interest. 20 You may charge a foreigner interest, but you may not charge your brother interest, that the LORD your God may bless you in all that you undertake in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. 21 “If you make a vow to the LORD your God, you shall not delay fulfilling it, for the LORD your God will surely require it of you, and you will be guilty of sin. 22 But if you refrain from vowing, you will not be guilty of sin. 23 You shall be careful to do what has passed your lips, for you have voluntarily vowed to the LORD your God what you have promised with your mouth.
24 “If you go into your neighbor’s vineyard, you may eat your fill of grapes, as many as you wish, but you shall not put any in your bag. 25 If you go into your neighbor’s standing grain, you may pluck the ears with your hand, but you shall not put a sickle to your neighbor’s standing grain.
The Reformation Study Bible
What I'm Reading
... the Church Will Continue to Compromise
By J. Warner Wallace 2/28/2017
Have you noticed the slow but growing compromise within the Church? It’s harder and harder to get two Christians to agree on anything related to sexuality, the exclusivity of salvation through Christ alone or even the historicity of Adam. We are a divided family, even though we share the same canonical foundation and have over two thousand years of family wisdom to guide us. I predict it will get worse. I think the Church will embrace the truth claims of the culture at an ever increasing rate because we’ve failed to make young Christians our priority. Let me explain.
It’s pretty obvious that young people are leaving the church, especially during the college years. It’s also true, however, that some will eventually return to church as older adults. When you examine why young people leave and compare it to why they return you’ll start to understand the reason the church is struggling to maintain its classic, orthodox teachings.
When surveyed about the reasons they stepped away from Christianity, most young Christians say they no longer believe it is factually true. In their book, Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers, Christian Smith and Melinda Lundquist Denton asked an open-ended question of young people who said they were no longer Christians: “Why did you fall away from the faith in which you were raised?” Smith and Denton did not provide a series of multiple choice answers; they simply allowed the respondents to answer freely. The majority said they left faith behind because of intellectual skepticism or doubt:
“It didn’t make any sense anymore.”
“Some stuff is too far-fetched for me to believe.”
“I think scientifically and there is no real proof.”
“Too many questions that can’t be answered.”
Young people are walking away, in large part, because they don’t think Christianity is true. The vast majority will never return to the faith. According to a 2007 Lifeway Research Study, only 35% of church dropouts will eventually return to church (by the age of 30). My question is simply this: Why do these few returnees come back at all? Not much has been done by researchers to answer this question, but the same Lifeway study provided the following data:
51% of returnees said they were influenced by the encouragement of either family or friends
34% simply felt a desire to return
28% felt that God was calling them to return to the church
24% had children and felt it was time for them to start attending
20% got married and wanted to attend with their spouse
See the problem here? Most people leave Christianity because they no longer believe it is true; most come back because something about church “works” for them. It doesn’t have to be true, but it’s a great place to get married, find community, and raise your family. Like my dad (a lifelong atheist) has always believed: The Church is a useful delusion.
James "Jim" Warner Wallace (born June 16, 1961) is an American homicide detective and Christian apologist. Wallace is a Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview and an Adjunct Professor of Apologetics at Biola University in La Mirada, California. He has authored several books, including Cold-Case Christianity, God’s Crime Scene, and Forensic Faith, in which he applies principles of cold case homicide investigation to apologetic concerns such as the existence of God and the reliability of the Gospels.
A Big, Dangerous Universe is NOT Evidence Against God
By Lenny Esposito 3/3/2017
The recent discovery of the seven planets orbiting the TRAPPIST star has a lot of folks talking. As I wrote last week, even though they're labeled as "earth-like" and reside in what astronomers call the habitable zone, the idea that life could exist on them is remote in the extreme. The fact that our planet is so uniquely situated in just the right spot with just the right conditions around just the right kind of star provides strong evidence for design, like finding a cabin in the middle of an unpopulated forest.
Of course, others won't admit that our world shows marks of design. Some even offer the uniqueness of the earth as evidence against its design. I had one such interaction on Facebook where a gentleman names Simeon responded to my article by saying, "The rarity of habitable planets in the universe is actually evidence for a universe not designed for human habitation." After some interaction, he went on to claim "An all-powerful deity would not need to create an entire universe to support a single planet. He could have just made a single flat Earth with a dome over it, like some of the ancients believed." He finally summarized his position by writing "I think you are demonstrably wrong that the entire universe, as is, is required to support a single life-bearing planet. There is no way for planets around a distant star to have any bearing on Earth's habitability."
What Does it Take to Make a Biosphere? | I don't know if Simeon holds is a theist or not; we never discussed that issue. However, I've met many atheists who argue along similar lines, holding the vastness of space as evidence against a universe created to sustain human life. Couldn't God create any old kind of universe he wanted? Why would he need to make the universe so big just for one "pale blue dot" as Carl Sagan put it?
I don't know if Simeon holds is a theist or not; we never discussed that issue. However, I've met many atheists who argue along similar lines, holding the vastness of space as evidence against a universe created to sustain human life. Couldn't God create any old kind of universe he wanted? Why would he need to make the universe so big just for one "pale blue dot" as Carl Sagan put it?
I think there's hubris in assuming that God can just create some kind of terrarium that holds the Earth but doesn't impact our biology and our experience. I remember being particularly intrigued at an extensive experiment to try and create a self-supporting environment that mimics the earth's in the 1980s. A group of scientists and investors built a large, airtight facility in the Arizona desert called Biosphere 2. Within it, they created a wetlands area, a desert, a rainforest, a savannah, and an "ocean" and then populated it with plants, insects, and animals. The goal was to create a mini-self-sustaining environment where people could live. If it worked here, it may have been possible to build a similar structure on another planet, making human habitation possible.
Lenny Esposito is president and founder of Come Reason Ministries, a Christian apologetics organization, and author of the popular www.comereason.org Web site. He has taught apologetics and Christian worldview for over 17 years and has authored hundreds articles dealing with intellectually strenuous topics such as the existence of God, theology, philosophy, social issues and Biblical difficulties.
Lenny is an in-demand speaker, teaching at conferences, churches, and schools across the nation. He is a contributor to the popular Apologetics Study Bible for Students and his articles have appeared in the Los Angeles Times and the Southern California Christian Times. He has debated many topics on faith and reason and the rationality of the Christian worldview; his most recent debate being against well-known atheists and author Dr. Richard Carrier on the question "Does God Exist?"
Lenny is a pioneer in online ministry efforts when he began using the Web to reach others near its beginnings in 1995. He produces one of the top 16 apologetics podcasts according to Apologetics 315 and his site has been viewed millions of times by visitors from nearly every country in the world.
Lenny is a member of the Evangelical Philosophical Society and the Evangelical Theological Society.
12 things Darwinian can’t answer
By Teri Dugan 3/4/2017
Over the last several posts we have put together a pretty good cumulative case against Darwinian evolution as a means for the origin of life. We looked at who Charles Darwin was and some of the false assumptions he made concerning adaptation within species. Even though all of the icons of evolution have been debunked, and there is significant doubt in the scientific community as well, evolution is still taught in public schools as the only answer to the question of the origin of life.
I believe that there is a much stronger case for intelligent design as the means for the origin and sustenance of life which can answer these 12 questions evolution cannot:
For Darwinian Evolution to continue to be taught as fact in reference to origins Darwinists, and the public school textbooks, need to address the following problems:
1) The origin of first life. Why is there something rather than nothing at all—where did it all come from originally?
2) Life does not consist merely of chemicals. If this were true mixing the chemicals of life would produce life—What is the missing ingredient?
3) There are no known natural laws that produce specified complexity. There is information in the cell that codes for the performance of specific functions—where does this information come from?
4) There are many human functions and actions that are immaterial. In modern science the search for the cause of origin does not allow for anything immaterial or supernatural, it is built upon a philosophy or presupposition that there is no God. How can you address the immaterial nature of life?
Teri Dugan is a graduate of Biola University’s M.A. in Apologetics Program. She also holds an M.A. in Education from California State University, Long Beach and currently teaches Biology, Anatomy and Physiology at Lynwood High School in California. Teri has also coached the Girls’ Varsity Tennis and Softball teams at Lynwood and now sponsors the Christian On Campus Ministry Club. She teaches evening Christian Apologetics classes at her home Church, Sea Coast Grace in Cypress, California and is available for speaking or teaching engagements at other venues.
Teri’s own personal story includes an early lifetime of skepticism and agnosticism reinforced through years of secular science education and the cultural philosophy of relativism. Her journey to faith and trust in Jesus culminated in an open and honest request to God for the truth. The immediate response from God was amazing and soon she was lead to read books by C.S. Lewis, Josh McDowell and Lee Strobel who themselves had been on similar skeptical journeys. Teri found herself giving up a lifestyle of self-indulgence and relativism to pursue the Word of God and explore for herself whether or not Christianity was true. What she has found is presented in these blog posts (and classes) as evidence of success in her journey to truth. Although admittedly, as all of us are, she is still under construction by the work of the Holy Spirit with completion to be seen on the day she enters Heaven!
By Gleason Archer Jr.
Ill - Founded Allegations (cont)
REFUTATION: (1) The Egyptian Execration Texts of the Twelfth Dynasty serve to confirm the historicity of the political situation in Palestine as portrayed in the Pentateuch and in Joshua. These consist of two groups: a collection of inscribed bowls found by Sethe in 1926 (now in the Berlin Museum) dating from about 1920 B.C.; and a group of inscribed statuettes found by Posener in 1940 (now in the Brussels Museum) dating from about 1820 B.C. These objects were inscribed with the names of tributary cities and states in Palestine which were bound by oath to be loyal to Egypt. Their apparent purpose was voodooistic; that is, if the people represented by these names should violate their oaths, the jars or statuettes were to be smashed, so as to bring a curse upon the rebels themselves. The significant factor is that the inscriptions in the second group indicate a perceptible decrease in the number of tribal units and an increase in the number of city - states in the land of Palestine — the situation reflected in the book of Joshua.
(2) The Tell el-Amarna Tablets, discovered at Tell el-Amarna (ancient Akhetaten) in 1887, and dating from 1400–1370 B.C., consist of a file of correspondence written in Akkadian cuneiform to the Egyptian court by Palestinian and Syrian princelings. These letters contain for the most part alarming reports of the depredations of fierce invaders and urgent requests for Egyptian troops to help repel these dangerous incursions. They also report a condition of chaotic disunity among the various petty kings of Canaan, and a tendency to forsake their allegiance to Egypt in favor of an alliance with the invading Håabiru˓apiru (as Albright and Mendenhall transcribe the name). The towns mentioned by a correspondent from Megiddo as having fallen to the invaders are all in the region of Arad in the south, which was the first territory invaded by the Israelites, according to Num. 21:1–3. Other cities listed as already fallen are those recorded in Joshua as having been captured early in the Israelite conquest: Gezer, Ashkelon, and Lachish. There are no letters at all from Jericho, Beersheba, Bethel, or Gibeon, which were the first to fall before Joshua’s troops. More details concerning the Amarna correspondence will be given in chapter 19, but from what has been already indicated it is safe to say that these tablets record the Hebrew conquest of Canaan in 1400–1380 B.C. from the standpoint of the Canaanites themselves.
(3) The “Israel” Stela of King Merneptah, found by Petrie at Thebes in 1896, dates from 1229 B.C., and contains the only extant Egyptian reference to the Hebrew nation as “Israel.” In this encomium of praise to the Egyptian king (son of Rameses the Great) a list of nations and localities is given toward the close of the inscription, with the declaration that they were conquered or pillaged by Merneptah’s irresistible troops. This list includes the land of the Hittites, Canaan itself, Ashkelon in Philistia, Gezer near the Valley of Aijalon, Yanoam up at the northern tip of Palestine (near Laish-Dan), Israel (with an ethnic determinative rather than a local city determinative), and the land of the Horites. Obviously, if Merneptah found Israelites in possession of portions of Palestine even up toward the northern frontier, the Israelite conquest must already have taken place substantially before 1229 B.C. “Since this Palestinian campaign is dated in the fifth regnal year of Merneptah, he could not have been the pharaoh of the Exodus, as the older exponents of the “late date theory” used to maintain. (The only way to avoid this conclusion is to allege, contrary to the Genesis record itself, that some Israelites never migrated to Egypt with the rest of the family of Jacob.) It would obviously be difflcult for Merneptah to have been the pharaoh who permitted the Israelites to flee from Egypt, and then after their forty years of wilderness wandering and several more years of conquest, to find them settled in Palestine by his fifth year!
It is worthy of note that in recent years Cyrus Gordon has assembled impressive evidence from comparative literature of the ancient Near East and early Greece to show that the basic criteria for source division by the Wellhausen school are totally invalid for non-Israelite literature. Just as the Homeric account of the shield of Achilles fashioned by Haephestus in the Iliad described it as depicting on the surface various scenes of the activities of war and peace in ancient Hellenic society, so also the author of the Pentateuch brought together a panorama of the varied aspects of second millennium Hebrew society, war and peace, cultic regulations and civil or criminal law, and all that made up the life of that people. There is absolutely no need of hypothecating a different author to account for each of these varied elements. Gordon also points to the Standard of Ur (a mosaic of lapis lazuli and shell inlaid in a wooden base ca. 2500 B.C.); this likewise furnished a comprehensive view of Sumerian life, illustrated by themes of war and peace. (Cf. Gordon, “The Minsn Bridge,” in Christianity Today [March 15, 1963], p. 6; R. K. Harrison, Old Testament Times, pp. 41, 50.)
Many other archaeological discoveries tending to verify the accuracy of the biblical record will be described in subsequent chapters, in which their evidence bears upon special details relevant to particular books in the Old Testament. It is because of the cumulative impact of all these findings that archaeologists like W. E Albright have felt constrained to concede the essential accuracy of the Pentateuch. Albright puts it this way: “The contents of our Pentateuch are, in general, very much older than the date at which they were finally edited; new discoveries continue to confirm the historical accuracy or the literary antiquity of detail after detail in it.… It is, accordingly, sheer hypercriticism to deny the substantially Mosaic character of the Pentateuchal tradition” (AP, p. 224). In an earlier article (“Archaeology Confronts Biblical Criticism”) he affirmed that the assumption that pious fraud and pseudepigraphy were common in Israel “is without parallel in the pre-Hellenistic Orient.” On the contrary, he states, we find there a superstitious veneration for both written word and oral tradition.
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 27The LORD Is My Light and My Salvation
27 Of David.
11 Teach me your way, O LORD,
and lead me on a level path
because of my enemies.
12 Give me not up to the will of my adversaries;
for false witnesses have risen against me,
and they breathe out violence.
13 I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the LORD
in the land of the living!
14 Wait for the LORD;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the LORD!
The LORD Is My Strength and My Shield
By Don Carson 6/18/2018
Every so often in the Pentateuch there is a chapter of miscellaneous laws and statutes. One such is Deuteronomy 23. It goes beyond these brief meditations to reflect on each topic for which a statute is laid down, or even on the ordering principle of some of these lists. Transparently some of the legislation is based on the historical experience of the Israelites (e.g., Deut. 23:3-8). Other parts turn on symbol-laden cleanliness (e.g., Deut. 23:9-14). Still others focus on the urgency to keep the covenant people separate from the abominable practices of ancient Canaanite paganism (Deut. 23:17-18), on progressive steps of social justice (Deut. 23:15-16), on fiscal principles to enhance both the identity and the well-being of the covenant community (Deut. 23:19-20), and on keeping one’s word, especially in a vow offered to the living God (Deut. 23:21-23). But today I shall reflect on Deut. 23:24-25: “If you enter your neighbor’s vineyard, you may eat all the grapes you want, but do not put any in your basket. If you enter your neighbor’s grain field, you may pick kernels wdith your hands, but you must not put a sickle to his standing grain.”
There is profound wisdom to these simple statutes. A merely communitarian stance would either let people take what they want, whenever they want, as much as they want; or, alternatively, it would say that since all the produce belongs to the community (or the state), no individual is allowed to take any of it without explicit sanction from the leaders of the community. A merely capitalistic stance (or, more precisely, a stance that put all the emphasis on private property) would view every instance of taking a grape from a neighbor’s field as a matter of theft, every instance of chewing on a few kernels of grain as you follow the footpath through your neighbor’s field as a punishable offense. But by allowing people to eat what they want while actually in the field of a neighbor, this statute fosters a kind of community-wide interdependence, a vision of a shared heritage. The walls and fences erected by zealous private ownership are softened. Moreover, the really poor could at least find something to eat. This would not be a terrible burden on any one landowner if the statute were observed by all the landowners. On the other hand, the stipulation that no one is allowed to carry any produce away, if observed, serves not only to combat theft and laziness, but preserves private property and the incentives to industry and disciplined labor associated with it.
Many, many statutes from the Mosaic Law, rightly probed, reflect a godly balance of complementary interests.
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
Supreme Court Could Hear Case on Religion and Abortion in California
By Grace Carr 10/30/2017
A challenge to a California law which mandates pregnancy crisis centers provide its clients with abortion and contraceptive information may soon head to the Supreme Court.
The Reproductive Fact Act, AB 775, requires faith-based pregnancy centers — which exist to offer women alternate options to abortion and educate them on the multiple paths they can take regarding pregnancy — to tell their patients that the state will pay for both abortions and contraception as well as what kind of professional medical staff work at the clinic, according to the Huffington Post.
The National Institute For Family And Life Advocates challenged and appealed the law, arguing that forcing religious pregnancy centers to provide such information which goes against their interests is a violation of the constitutional right to free speech.
The issue is whether “the state of California can compel nonprofit, faith-based, pro-life licensed medical facilities, against their religious convictions and identity, to advertise a government program that provides free or low-cost abortions,” wrote American Center for Law and Justice attorney, Jay Alan Sekulow according to the LA Times.
The challenge comes after the California Legislature ruled in 2015 that the state’s pregnancy centers sometimes provide “intentionally deceptive advertising and counseling practices that often confuse, misinform and even intimidate women from making fully informed decisions,” the Times reported. The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals also rejected the claim that the mandatory abortion information violated the First Amendment, saying that providing information about abortion was simply informing patients of the health services available to them.
By James Orr 1907
II. QUESTION OF THE UNITY AND INDEPENDENCE OF THE PRIESTLY WRITING
When the existence of a P writing, or quality of writing, in the Pentateuch has been ascertained, we are still only at the beginning of our investigation. Is this alleged document a unity? Had it ever an independent existence? How is it related to JE? Of these questions the most fundamental is that which relates to P’s existence as an independent document, but it will clear the way for dealing with this to consider briefly, first, the question of its unity and homogeneous character.
1. The old idea of P was that, whatever its date, it was essentially a connected narrative from a single pen, though naturally working up older materials. We have seen that the case is fundamentally altered when the individual writer is transformed into a “school.” With the assumption of a series of priestly writers, belonging to yet wider “circles,” the later members of the succession inheriting the vocabulary and methods of the earlier and continuing their work, unity of composition tends to disappear. It is now open to account for resemblance of style by “imitation.” As in regard to Deuteronomy we have a D2, who successfully “imitates” the ideas and style of D1, with numerous Deuteronomic revisers of historical books later; so we can now speak of a P2, P3, etc., who “imitate” the style of P1, of an author of the Law of Holiness who “imitates” Ezekiel, of a P writer in the Book of Joshuam who “imitates” the P of Leviticus, etc. On this new basis it can no longer be urged that similarity of style means necessarily sameness of author, or pleaded that the author who drew up the Levitical laws must be identical with the author of the P sections in Genesis. There is no longer anything to preclude the supposition of Delitzsch, formerly referred to, that the literary activity of the Elohistic pen may reach back to times nearly approaching those of Moses; or even the belief, if one is disposed to entertain it, that its earlier models go back beyond the time of Moses. The protocol style characteristic of this writing was certainly not the invention of the people of Israel, nor its peculiar property; there are, besides, marked features distinguishing the Elohist in Genesis from the Levitical writer or writers in the middle books. Colenso, e.g., in support of this distinction, draws attention to the curious fact that “the peculiarities of expression which distinguish the non-Elohistic portions of Genesis, — and which the Elohist never employs,—appear, almost all of them, in the Levitical laws or in Ezekiel. ” Colenso himself supposes that the original Elohistic writing ends with Ex. 6:2–5.2 What is more to our purpose, Wellhausen, on his part, finds that after Exodus “the independent main stock of the Priestly Code more and more gives way to later additions, and ceases altogether, it appears, at the death of Moses.” He excludes from it the priestly portions of the Book of Joshua.
We do not require to adopt any of these theories to admit that the facts just noticed with regard to the differences of vocabulary and style in different parts of the P writing give probability to the idea, within, however, narrower limits, of a process of composition, rather than of a single author. With this strikingly accords the altered relations which the P writer is found to sustain to JE in Genesis, in the middle books of the Pentateuch, and in the Book of Joshua, respectively. In Genesis, as is universally admitted, P furnishes the systematic “framework” into which the remaining narratives are fitted. In the middle books the systematic arrangement disappears. The parts (JE, P) appear as co-ordinate, and are more closely fused together; the narrative in the main follows a simple chronological order; the laws are interspersed, singly, or in masses, as occasion offers. In Joshua, finally, it is the JE narrative which furnishes the basis, while the priestly parts appear as supplementary or filling in. The significance of this important fact will appear as we proceed.
2. We come now to the principal question of the independence of the Priestly Writing? Was P ever a distinct or self-subsisting document? Here Graf, as we saw, severed himself from his fellow-critics, and surely with good logical reason. For once that (1) the supplementary theory was abandoned, and J was erected into an independent history; (2) E was cut out of the Grundschrift, thereby reducing the latter after Gen. 17 to the smallest dimensions; (3) the unity of the Priestly Writing was piecemeal surrendered; and (4) P was removed down to the exile, long after JE had attained a recognised authority, nearly every tenable ground for maintaining the independence of the document was taken away. The most convincing reasons, however, against the independence are those drawn from the character of the writing itself, and from its relations to JE. This must be looked into with some care.
(1) The structure of the writing speaks in the strongest way against the theory of its original independence. Reference has already been made to the claim that P, taken by itself, furnishes us with a connected and nearly complete narrative from the creation to the conquest. Kuenen, speaking for the critics, assures us that the P history in Genesis “has come down to us nearly, but not quite complete”; and we are frequently told, as by Colenso, how its narrative “forms a continuous and connected whole almost from beginning to end.” It is not easy to understand how, if it was, as we were then equally assured, a “connected whole” in the days of Tuch and Bleek, before the excision of the extensive sections now assigned to E, it can be so still, after these have been removed. This completeness of the P history, however, is a matter on which the ordinary reader is nearly as competent to judge as the critical scholar, and we can fancy the astonishment with which, after looking into the matter for himself, such a reader will regard the above dicta. In truth, anything more fragmentary, broken, incomplete, or generally unsatisfactory as a connected narrative, it would be difficult to imagine. As Wellhausen correctly says of it: “As a rule nothing more is aimed at than to give the mere links and articulations of the narratives. It is as if Q [= P] were the scarlet thread on which the pearls of JE are hung.” Or, as Kautzsch says, the Priests’ Writing gives us the preliminary history “in such extremely scanty outlines as to be only comprehensible when we think of the detailed representation in J and E as universally known.” Yet at times its mere thread of history widens out into complete and detailed narration, as in the story of creation ( Gen. 1 ), part of the narrative of the flood (chaps. 6–9 ), the covenant with Abraham (chap. 17 ), the burial of Sarah (chap. 23 ), the story of Dinah (chap. 34 ), Jacob’s second visit to Bethel (chap. 35:8–15 ). Hiatuses abound, as will be seen more clearly after. From chaps. 11 to 17 all that is told of Abraham is comprised in some eight verses, or fragments of verses; after that, till the death of Sarah (chap. 23 ) in some six verses, or parts of verses. The gaps are most conspicuous after the entrance (in chap. 20 ) of the 2nd Elohist, to whom, as above said, is transferred most of what was formerly assigned to the primary document. Thus, in chap. 25:19, we have the heading, “These are the generations of Isaac,” but of the life of Isaac thus introduced nothing is given, after ver. 20, but the concluding sentence of ver. 26: “And Isaac was threescore years old when she bare them” (whom?), the notice of Esau’s marriage, and the sending away of Jacob (chaps. 26:34, 35; 27:46–28:9 ). Jacob is sent to Paddan-Aram to take a wife, but of his long residence there, with the exception of two interpolated verses (chap. 29:24, 29 ), not a syllable is breathed, and we hear no more of him till he is found returning, rich in goods and cattle (one verse, chap. 31:18 ). The patriarch fares, if possible, still worse in his later history. Gen. 37:2 reads, “These are the generations of Jacob,” but there is not a scrap more from P till we reach chap. 41:46: “And Joseph was thirty years old when he stood before Pharaoh,” and the descent into Egypt in chap. 46:6 ff. Joseph’s birth had been mentioned (chap. 35:24 ), but we hear nothing further of him till suddenly he stands before Pharaoh as above. This is certainly an unexampled specimen of a connected and “nearly complete” document! The answer given, as before, by the critics is, that no doubt P had originally brief notices of the events in the lives of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, etc., where these gaps occur, but the “redactor” has omitted them to make room for the more copious narrations of JE. This, in the first place, it must again be replied, is pure hypothesis — the buttressing of one critical assumption by another, and does not, besides, as we shall immediately see, meet the difficulties arising from the relations of the narratives. But, assuming it to be true, why still speak of the narrative as we have it as “nearly complete,” and how explain the arbitrary procedure of the redactor in sometimes leaving the two narratives side by side, sometimes intimately blending them, sometimes preserving a stray verse like Gen. 19:29, which simply repeats what has gone before — but here so largely deleting?
(2) The alleged independence of the document is further discredited when we consider it materially—i.e., in the relation of its subject-matter to that of JE. For here the striking fact which immediately confronts us is, that the parts of the history which are lacking in P are precisely those which are given us in JE. The converse of this is equally true, that the elements which are lacking in JE are supplied by P. Thus, P alone records the making of the ark ( Gen. 6:9–22 ), and the ages and deaths of the patriarchs. The story of Hagar in Gen. 16. has neither beginning nor end without P, who alone mentions Ishmael’s birth (vers. 15, 16 ). The elements in the narratives are thus materially united in the closest fashion. But the intimacy of the relation between P and JE admits of yet closer determination. So long as the Jehovist was regarded as a mere supplementer of the Elohist, it was impossible to assume any knowledge of his narrative by the latter. Now, however, that the Priestly Writer is regarded as the later, there is found no difficulty in admitting, — rather, as furnishing a proof of his posteriority, the fact is insisted on, — not only that the Priestly Writer is acquainted with JE, but that his narrative is throughout parallel with the other. The effect of this change in the point of view, in its bearings on the relations of the narratives, seems even yet hardly to be fully realised. Not merely, as formerly shown, are J and E in the fullest sense parallel narratives, but P, in turn, is parallel with them. “The priestly author,” says Kuenen, “builds on JE throughout.” “That P2 and JE run parallel, even in details, is undeniable; and hence it follows that they did not spring up independently of each other. P2 is either the basis of JE or an excerpt from it.” The latter, of course, is the alternative he adopts. Wellhausen, in language before quoted, lays great stress on the parallelism and material identity of the narratives. “The Priestly Code,” he tells us, “runs, as to its historical thread, quite parallel to the Jehovistic history”; and, in a note, “The agreement extends, not only to the thread of the narrative, but also to particulars, and even to expressions.” Again: “In the history of the patriarchs also, the outlines of the narrative are the same in Q [= P] and in JE.” Here, then, are very practical admissions that the substance — and more than the substance — of the two narratives is the same, and we have seen how closely related and interdependent the narratives are in their present form. P, in Genesis, we have also seen, is really not a complete work, but supplies the frame in which the other narratives are set. Does not the onus of proof rest on those who maintain that it was ever intended to be anything else? Is not the hypothesis which the facts of interrelation and mutual dependence suggest rather that of collaboration in some form, than of entirely independent origin?
The principal proof, however, that P cannot be regarded as an independent document arises when the P writing is considered textually — i.e., in its inseparable textual interweaving with the JE narrative. This is a subject of sufficient importance and intricacy to be considered under a separate heading.
Many were coming and going
By Lydia McGrew
The Gospel of Mark introduces the feeding of the five thousand by telling of Jesus’ attempt to get away from the crowds with his disciples after the twelve returned from a preaching mission.
(Mk 6:30–31) 30 The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught. 31 And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. ESV
One might at first guess that the reference to many “coming and going” is merely another allusion to the fact that Jesus was often pressed and followed by crowds. And indeed, as the passage goes on, Mark does say that the crowds found a way to follow Jesus (vv 34– 35). But the phrase “many were coming and going” is slightly odd as a description of Jesus’ popularity alone and suggests that there was some other reason for a general bustle of crowds in their vicinity. But Mark gives no further explanation for the busyness surrounding them.
John does, though without any appearance of intending to explain anything at all. John introduces the feeding of the five thousand like this:
(Jn 6:1-4) After this Jesus went away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias. 2 And a large crowd was following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing on the sick. 3 Jesus went up on the mountain, and there he sat down with his disciples. 4 Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand. ESV
John notes that the crowd followed Jesus when he went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, but he does not mention that there were “many coming and going” in the location from which Jesus came. What John does mention in passing is the time of year— namely, just before Passover.
Josephus (The Wars of the Jews) tells of an estimate of almost three million Jews in Jerusalem for Passover during the reign of Nero. Josephus also mentions difficulties caused by the Galileans’ habit of passing through Samaria on the way to Jerusalem for festivals (Antiquities of the Jews). The biblical texts themselves speak often of the practice of traveling to Jerusalem for the festivals. (See, among others, Luke 2.41, John 2.13, John 7.1– 8, Acts 2, Acts 20.16.) There is no doubt that Jews would have been on the roads in large numbers when the Passover was coming up.
There was a Roman road that ran over the top and along the western edge of the Sea of Galilee. (Map) Jesus was evidently on the western side of the Sea of Galilee (see Mark 6: 1-6) to begin with and took ship somewhere on that shore to try to get away from the crowds by going to a deserted area on the northeastern side of the Sea of Galilee near Bethsaida (see Luke 9.10, Matt 14.13). The major population centers of Tiberias and Capernaum were both on the west of the Sea, with the road between them, and things would have been busy indeed in that vicinity just before the Passover.
But the correspondence here is so indirect that there can be no question that it is undesigned. Mark does not mention the Passover, and John does not mention the general bustle on the western side of the Sea of Galilee. Mark, being earlier, could not have coordinated deliberately with John. John, so far from attempting to coordinate with Mark, actually leaves himself open to the charge of contradicting Mark, as discussed at the end of the previous chapter. It is implausible enough to begin with that the author of John would have planted a hyper-subtle correspondence between his own Gospel and Mark’s by stating that Passover was at hand, without bothering to repeat Mark’s comment about the crowds on the eastern side of the sea. But it passes beyond implausible to bizarre to suggest that he would make so clever a connection while at the same time leaving apparent discrepancies on other matters of detail between his own account and Mark’s. The author of John, imagined as a deceiver, cannot be both extremely subtle and clever and extremely bumbling at the same time! The fact is that John gives the strong impression of writing an independent account of the feeding of the five thousand, so much so that one might even suspect that he had not recently heard or read the account in Mark.
Hidden in Plain View: Undesigned Coincidences in the Gospels and Acts
The Green Grass
By Lydia McGrew
I mentioned in the previous chapter that there are quite a number of undesigned coincidences related to the feeding of the five thousand. Here is another, connected to the same verse in John concerning the time of year.
Three different Gospels mention the fact that there was grass in the place where the feeding of the five thousand took place (Mark 6.39, Matt 14.19, John 6.10), but only Mark emphasizes its color: “Then he commanded them all to sit down in groups on the green grass.” (Mark 6.39) Why does Mark specifically mention that the grass was green?
It will come as no surprise to a reader who has followed the previous coincidence that I turn at this point again to John 6.4—“( T) he Passover … was at hand.” Passover, of course, falls in the spring. The grass is not generally green in that region, but it is green in the spring after the winter rains, around the time of Passover. 4 There would have needed to be quite a lot of green grass to make Mark’s statement true, since he implies that more than 5,000 people sat down on it. At that time of year, but not at others, such a quantity of green grass would be possible. So here we have a perfect fit between John’s casual reference to the time of year and Mark’s specification of the detail of the green grass.
J. J. Blunt discusses several fascinating contrasts between the feeding of the five thousand and the feeding of the four thousand and notes, among other things, that the accounts of the former emphasize the grass whereas the accounts of the latter say instead that the people sat down on the ground. 5 His comment is applicable both to that point and to Mark’s reference specifically to the green grass:
It should seem … that the abundance of the grass was a feature of the scene of the miracle of the five thousand, which had impressed itself on the eye of the relator, as peculiar to it. It was a graphic trifle which had rendered the spectacle more vivid.
What one sees in undesigned coincidences, again and again, are points which “impressed themselves upon the eye” of the spectator and came thus into the accounts we now have.
Hidden in Plain View: Undesigned Coincidences in the Gospels and Acts
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 SIXTH STAGEWhen we were come to where the three fellows were hanged, he said that he doubted that that would be his end also. Only he seemed glad when he saw the cross and the sepulchre. There I confess he desired to stay a little to look; and he seemed for a while after to be a little cheery. When he came to the Hill Difficulty, he made no stick at that, nor did he much fear the lions: for you must know, that his troubles were not about such things as these; his fear was about his acceptance at last.
I got him in at the house Beautiful, I think, before he was willing. Also, when he was in, I brought him acquainted with the damsels of the place; but he was ashamed to make himself much in company. He desired much to be alone; yet he always loved good talk, and often would get behind the screen to hear it. He also loved much to see ancient things, and to be pondering them in his mind. He told me afterward, that he loved to be in those two houses from which he came last, to wit, at the gate, and that of the Interpreter, but that he durst not be so bold as to ask.
When we went also from the house Beautiful, down the hill, into the Valley of Humiliation, he went down as well as ever I saw a man in my life; for he cared not how mean he was, so he might be happy at last. Yea, I think there was a kind of sympathy betwixt that Valley and him; for I never saw him better in all his pilgrimage than he was in that Valley.
Here he would lie down, embrace the ground, and kiss the very flowers that grew in this valley.
Lam. 3:27–29 It is good for a man that he bear
the yoke in his youth.
28 Let him sit alone in silence
when it is laid on him;
29 let him put his mouth in the dust—
there may yet be hope; ESV
He would now be up every morning by break of day, tracing and walking to and fro in the valley.
But when he was come to the entrance of the Valley of the Shadow of Death, I thought I should have lost my man: not for that he had any inclination to go back; that he always abhorred; but he was ready to die for fear. Oh, the hobgoblins will have me! the hobgoblins will have me! cried he; and I could not beat him out of it. He made such a noise, and such an outcry here, that had they but heard him, it was enough to encourage them to come and fall upon us.
But this I took very great notice of, that this valley was as quiet when we went through it, as ever I knew it before or since. I suppose those enemies here had now a special check from our Lord, and a command not to meddle until Mr. Fearing had passed over it.
It would be too tedious to tell you of all; we will therefore only mention a passage or two more. When he was come to Vanity Fair, I thought he would have fought with all the men in the fair. I feared there we should have been both knocked on the head, so hot was he against their fooleries. Upon the Enchanted Ground he was very wakeful. But when he was come at the river where was no bridge, there again he was in a heavy case. Now, now, he said, he should be drowned forever, and so never see that face with comfort that he had come so many miles to behold.
And here also I took notice of what was very remarkable: the water of that river was lower at this time than ever I saw it in all my life; so he went over at last, not much above wetshod. When he was going up to the gate, I began to take leave of him, and to wish him a good reception above. So he said, I shall, I shall. Then parted we asunder, and I saw him no more.
HON. Then it seems he was well at last?
GREAT. Yes, yes, I never had doubt about him. He was a man of a choice spirit, only he was always kept very low, and that made his life so burdensome to himself, and so troublesome to others.
Psa. 88 I Cry Out Day and Night Before You A Song. A Psalm of the Sons of Korah. To the choirmaster: according to Mahalath Leannoth. A Maskil of Heman the Ezrahite. ESV
1 O LORD, God of my salvation;
I cry out day and night before you.
2 Let my prayer come before you;
incline your ear to my cry!
3 For my soul is full of troubles,
and my life draws near to Sheol.
4 I am counted among those who go down to the pit;
I am a man who has no strength,
5 like one set loose among the dead,
like the slain that lie in the grave,
like those whom you remember no more,
for they are cut off from your hand.
6 You have put me in the depths of the pit,
in the regions dark and deep.
7 Your wrath lies heavy upon me,
and you overwhelm me with all your waves. Selah
8 You have caused my companions to shun me;
you have made me a horror to them.
I am shut in so that I cannot escape;
9 my eye grows dim through sorrow.
Every day I call upon you, O LORD;
I spread out my hands to you.
10 Do you work wonders for the dead?
Do the departed rise up to praise you? Selah
11 Is your steadfast love declared in the grave,
or your faithfulness in Abaddon?
12 Are your wonders known in the darkness,
or your righteousness in the land of forgetfulness?
13 But I, O LORD, cry to you;
in the morning my prayer comes before you.
14 O LORD, why do you cast my soul away?
Why do you hide your face from me?
15 Afflicted and close to death from my youth up,
I suffer your terrors; I am helpless.
16 Your wrath has swept over me;
your dreadful assaults destroy me.
17 They surround me like a flood all day long;
they close in on me together.
18 You have caused my beloved and my friend to shun me;
my companions have become darkness. ESV
He was, above many, tender of sin: he was so afraid of doing injuries to others, that he often would deny himself of that which was lawful, because he would not offend.
Rom. 14:21 It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble. ESV
1 Cor. 8:13 Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble. ESV
HON. But what should be the reason that such a good man should be all his days so much in the dark?
GREAT. There are two sorts of reasons for it. One is, the wise God will have it so: some must pipe, and some must weep.
Matt. 11:16 “But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their playmates, ESV
Now Mr. Fearing was one that played upon the bass. He and his fellows sound the sackbut, whose notes are more doleful than the notes of other music are: though indeed, some say, the bass is the ground of music. And for my part, I care not at all for that profession which begins not in heaviness of mind. The first string that the musician usually touches is the bass, when he intends to put all in tune. God also plays upon this string first, when he sets the soul in tune for himself. Only there was the imperfection of Mr. Fearing; he could play upon no other music but this till towards his latter end.
[I make bold to talk thus metaphorically for the ripening of the wits of young readers, and because, in the book of Revelation, the saved are compared to a company of musicians, that play upon their trumpets and harps, and sing their songs before the throne.
Revelation 5:8 And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. ESV
Revelation 14:2-3 2 And I heard a voice from heaven like the roar of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder. The voice I heard was like the sound of harpists playing on their harps, 3 and they were singing a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and before the elders. No one could learn that song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth. ESV
HON. He was a very zealous man, as one may see by the relation you have given of him. Difficulties, lions, or Vanity Fair, he feared not at all; it was only sin, death, and hell, that were to him a terror, because he had some doubts about his interest in that celestial country.
GREAT. You say right; those were the things that were his troublers; and they, as you have well observed, arose from the weakness of his mind thereabout, not from weakness of spirit as to the practical part of a pilgrim’s life. I dare believe that, as the proverb is, he could have bit a firebrand, had it stood in his way; but the things with which he was oppressed, no man ever yet could shake off with ease.
CHR. Then said Christiana, This relation of Mr. Fearing has done me good; I thought nobody had been like me. But I see there was some semblance betwixt this good man and me: only we differed in two things. His troubles were so great that they broke out; but mine I kept within. His also lay so hard upon him, they made him that he could not knock at the houses provided for entertainment; but my trouble was always such as made me knock the louder.
MER. If I might also speak my heart, I must say that something of him has also dwelt in me. For I have ever been more afraid of the lake, and the loss of a place in paradise, than I have been of the loss other things. O, thought I, may I have the happiness to have a habitation there! ’Tis enough, though I part with all the world to win it.
MATT. Then said Matthew, Fear was one thing that made me think that I was far from having that within me which accompanies salvation. But if it was so with such a good man as he, why may it not also go well with me?
JAMES. No fears no grace, said James. Though there is not always grace where there is the fear of hell, yet, to be sure, there is no grace where there is no fear of God.
GREAT. Well said, James; thou hast hit the mark. For the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom; and to be sure, they that want the beginning have neither middle nor end. But we will here conclude our discourse of Mr. Fearing, after we have sent after him this farewell.
“Well, Master Fearing, thou didst fear
Thy God, and wast afraid
Of doing any thing, while here,
That would have thee betrayed.
And didst thou fear the lake and pit?
Would others do so too!
For, as for them that want thy wit,
They do themselves undo.”
Pilgrim's Progress (Illustrated): Updated, Modern English. More than 100 Illustrations.
The Continual Burnt Offering
By H.A. Ironside - 1941
1 Kings 22:14 But Micaiah said, “As the LORD lives, what the LORD says to me, that I will speak.” ESVMicaiah spoke nobly. His faithfulness stands out in vivid contrast to good king Jehoshaphat’s compliance with evil by his association with ungodly Ahab. When the prophet was urged to prophesy smooth things so as to curry favor with the wicked king of Israel he refused to compromise God’s truth. He was under orders as a soldier of the Lord and he felt he could only obey his Captain. As a steward of a divine revelation he must be found faithful. He got a prison for his pains, but Micaiah in jail made a greater figure in the sight of God than Jehoshaphat in the robes of Ahab!
I do not ask for mighty words
To leave the crowd impressed,
But grant my life may ring so true
My neighbor shall be blessed.
I do not ask for influence
To sway the multitude;
Give me a “word in season” for
The soul in solitude.
I do not ask to win the great—
God grant they may be saved!—
Give me the broken sinner, Lord,
By Satan long enslaved.
Though words of wisdom and of power
Rise easily to some,
Give me a simple message, Lord,
That bids the sinner come.
--- Barbara Cornet Ryberg
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
Secrets of self-control (7)
3/6/2018 Bob Gass
‘Let the Spirit direct your lives.’
(Ga 5:16) But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. ESV
Depend on Christ’s power to help you. ‘Let the Spirit direct your lives, and you will not satisfy the desires of the human nature.’ The sequence in this Scripture is very important. ‘Let the Spirit direct your life’ – that’s the first part – ‘and you will not satisfy the desires of the human nature.’ Notice, it doesn’t say you won’t have those desires. Spirit-filled people still experience the desires of the flesh, it’s just that they won’t satisfy them. We usually get the sequence backwards. We say, ‘I’m not good enough to have God’s Spirit in my life. Once I get my act together, then I’m going to let the Holy Spirit control my life.’ God doesn’t say, ‘Get your act together and then I will help you.’ He says, ‘Let my Holy Spirit control you while you are still struggling with the problem. I will help you change.’ The sequence makes all the difference. You wouldn’t say, ‘I’m going to get well first, then I’m going to go see the doctor.’ That’s absurd! You need Christ in your life now! He has the power to help you change. You say, ‘But I enjoy doing what I do.’ That’s because there are ‘pleasures of sin for a season’ (Hebrews 11:25 KJV). None of us would sin if it immediately made us miserable. Don’t look for God to nullify the appeal of sin; ask Him for the power to overcome its appeal. ‘For God is at work within you, helping you want to obey him, and then helping you do what he wants’ (Philippians 2:13 TLB). You’ll receive the desire and the power to do what’s right.
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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by Bill Federer
On March 6, 1776, General Washington issued the order from his headquarters at Cambridge: “the… Legislature [has set apart] a day of fasting, prayer and humiliation, ‘to implore the Lord and Giver of all victory to pardon our manifold sins and wickedness, and… bless the Continental army with His divine favor and protection,’ all officers and soldiers are strictly enjoined to pay… reverence… to… the Lord of hosts for His mercies… and for those blessings which our… uprightness of life can alone encourage us to hope through His mercy obtain.” Within days, Washington, using the fifty captured cannons, forced the British to evacuate Boston.
Thomas R. Kelly
Thus the state of having a concern has a foreground and a background. In the foreground is the special task, uniquely illuminated, toward which we feel a special yearning and care. This is the concern as we usually talk about it or present it to the Monthly Meeting. But in the background is a second level, or layer, of universal concern for all the multitude of good things that need doing. Toward them all we feel kindly, but we are dismissed from active service in most of them. And we have an easy mind in the presence of desperately real needs which are not our direct responsibility. We cannot die on every cross, nor are we expected to.
Behind the foreground, behind the background, we may distinguish the Ultimate Background, which is the Eternal Concernedness of Love, anterior to its differentiation into the multitude of particulars of creation.
I wish I might emphasize how a life becomes simplified when dominated by faithfulness to a few concerns. Too many of us have too many irons in the fire. We get distracted by the intellectual claim to our interest in a thousand and one good things, and before we know it we are pulled and hauled breathlessly along by an over-burdened program of good committees and good undertakings. I am persuaded that this, fevered life of church workers is not wholesome. Undertakings get plastered on from the outside because we can't turn down a friend. Acceptance of service on a weighty committee should really depend upon an answering imperative within us, not merely upon a rational calculation of the factors involved. The concern-oriented life is ordered and organized from within. And we learn to say No as well as Yes by attending to the guidance of inner responsibility. Quaker simplicity needs to be expressed not merely in dress and architecture and the height of tombstones but also in the structure of a relatively simplified and co-ordinated life-program of social responsibilities. And I am persuaded that concerns introduce that simplification, and along with it that intensification which we need in opposition to the hurried, superficial tendencies of our age.
We have tried to discover the grounds of the social responsibility and the social sensitivity of Friends. It is not in mere humanitarianism. It is not in mere pity. It is not in mere obedience to Bible commands. It is not in anything earthly. The social concern of Friends is grounded in an experience--an experience of the Love of God and of the impulse to savior-hood inherent in the fresh quickenings of that Life. Social concern is the dynamic Life of God at work in the world, made special and emphatic and unique, particularized in each individual or group who is sensitive and tender in the leading-strings of love. A concern is God-initiated, often surprising, always holy, for the Life of God is breaking through into the world. Its execution is in peace and power and astounding faith and joy, for in unhurried serenity the Eternal is at work in the midst of time, triumphantly bringing all things up unto Himself.
A Testament of Devotion
Compiled by Rick Adams
In a controversy, the instant we feel anger,
we have already ceased striving for truth
and have begun striving for ourselves.
--- Abraham J. Heschel
God in Search of Man : A Philosophy of Judaism
There is something in every one of you that waits and listens for the sound of the genuine in yourself. It is the only true guide you will ever have. And if you cannot hear it, you will all of your life spend your days on the ends of strings that somebody else pulls.
--- Howard Thurman
A Strange Freedom: The Best of Howard Thurman on Religious Experience and Public Life
Are we going to order our inner worlds, our hearts, so that they will radiate influence into the outer world? Or will we neglect our private worlds and thus permit the outer influences to shape us? This is a choice we have to make every day of our lives.
--- Gordon MacDonald
Ordering Your Private World
I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought,
but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.
--- attributed to Albert Einstein
Introduction to Psychology: Gateways to Mind and Behavior, 13th Edition
... from here, there and everywhere
University of Virginia Library 1994
At our Yearly Meeting this year, we had some weighty seasons, in which the power of truth was largely extended, to the strengthening of the honest-minded. As the epistles which were to be sent to the Yearly Meetings on this continent were read, I observed that in most of them, both this year and the last, it was recommended to Friends to labor against buying and keeping slaves, and in some of them the subject was closely treated upon. As this practice hath long been a heavy exercise to me, and I have often waded through mortifying labors on that account, and at times in some meetings have been almost alone therein, I was humbly bowed in thankfulness in observing the increasing concern in our religious society, and seeing how the Lord was raising up and qualifying servants for his work, not only in this respect, but for promoting the cause of truth in general.
This meeting continued near a week. For several days, in the fore part of it, my mind was drawn into a deep inward stillness, and being at times covered with the spirit of supplication, my heart was secretly poured out before the Lord. Near the conclusion of the meeting for business, way opened in the pure flowings of Divine love for me to express what lay upon me, which, as it then arose in my mind, was first to show how deep answers to deep in the hearts of the sincere and upright; though, in their different growths, they may not all have attained to the same clearness in some points relating to our testimony. And I was then led to mention the integrity and constancy of many martyrs who gave their lives for the testimony of Jesus, and yet, in some points, they held doctrines distinguishable from some which we hold, that, in all ages, where people were faithful to the light and understanding which the Most High afforded them, they found acceptance with Him, and though there may be different ways of thinking amongst us in some particulars, yet, if we mutually keep to that spirit and power which crucifies to the world, which teaches us to be content with things really needful, and to avoid all superfluities, and give up our hearts to fear and serve the Lord, true unity may still be preserved amongst us; that if those who were at times under sufferings on account of some scruples of conscience kept low and humble, and in their conduct in life manifested a spirit of true charity, it would be more likely to reach the witness in others, and be of more service in the church, than if their sufferings were attended with a contrary spirit and conduct. In this exercise I was drawn into a sympathizing tenderness with the sheep of Christ, however distinguished one from another in this world, and the like disposition appeared to spread over others in the meeting. Great is the goodness of the Lord towards his poor creatures.
John Woolman's Journal
by Dr. David Wells
but he who hates correction is a boor.
... theology is a knowledge that belongs first and foremost to the people of God and that the proper and primary audience for theology is therefore the Church, not the learned guild. Whatever this guild might contribute to the life and construction of theology is to be gratefully received, but the university fraternity is not its primary auditor. I say this because theology is not simply a philosophical reflection about the nature of things but is rather the cogent articulation of the knowledge of God. Its substance is not drawn from mere human reflection, no matter how brilliant, but from the biblical Word by which it is nurtured and disciplined. And its purpose is not primarily to participate in the conversation of the learned but to nurture the people of God. That is its nature and that is its purpose. It is here in the Church that the circle of knowing — the kind of knowing that has Christ as its object and his service as its end — is to be found. It is here, then, that the audience for theology is to be found. And so it is the community of faith that the theologian addresses fundamentally, because it is only by faith that the knowledge of God is first arrived at and only by faith that it is sustained.
Without question, theology that is constructed in this way has a powerful intellectual relevance to society and a legitimate place in discussions of our public square. Nevertheless, because the locus of the work is in the Church, the locus of our contemporary failure will almost inevitably be seen to lie there too. If the learned guild stands apart from its primary audience, it will have at most only a secondary significance in the apportioning of blame for what has gone wrong. And the truth is that adjustments in the doing of theology, even adjustments of large methodological magnitude, are not going to repair the damage that has been done, because the problem is less intellectual than spiritual. The reason that theology is disappearing has little to do with the technical skills of the fine-tuners and much to do with the state of the Church. So it is not with the technicians that I begin but with the Church. It not with the professionals in the learned guild that I start but with the whole people of God. And it is not to methodology that I look for a recovery of this fallen art but to a reformation in the way that Christian people go about their business of being Christian in the midst of the extraordinary changes that modernity has wrought in our world.
.... There can be little doubt that if the capacity to think Christianly about this world is eroding in the churches, so too will the propriety of doing theology, both in the pulpit and in the academy. The propriety of this kind of knowledge will disintegrate as certainly as would the propriety of a novelist continuing to work when it was discovered that the culture in which he or she was living had gradually lost the ability to read.
... (Modern Thought) ... has done this by breaking down the central core so that there is nothing to which thought and life returns. It has eroded those ideas and convictions, that truth which, precisely because it arose in God and was mediated by him, stood as an unchanging sentinel amid changing circumstances. And it is this flight to the edges, this dispersion from the center, that has intruded on evangelical faith even as it has disordered the warp and woof of contemporary life. In the one it leaves a faith denuded of theology and in the other a life stripped of absolutes.
... And are we not consumed with what is changing in cultural and personal circumstance rather than with what is unchanging about life, the great universal truths about God, the world, and human nature? Have we not substituted the relative for the absolute, the Many for the One, diversity for unity, the human for the divine, our own private religious experience for truth that was once also public and universal in its scope?
By the way, this book was published 12/31/96.
No Place for Truth: or Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology?
by D.H. Stern
but he who hates correction is a boor.
2 A good man obtains ADONAI’s favor,
but the schemer his condemnation.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
Amid a crowd of paltry things
… in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses. --- 2 Cor. 6:4.
It takes Almighty grace to take the next step when there is no vision and no spectator—the next step in devotion, the next step in your study, in your reading, in your kitchen; the next step in your duty, when there is no vision from God, no enthusiasm and no spectator. It takes far more of the grace of God, far more conscious drawing upon God to take that step, than it does to preach the Gospel.
Every Christian has to partake of what was the essence of the Incarnation, he must bring the thing down into flesh-and-blood actualities and work it out through the finger-tips. We flag when there is no vision, no uplift, but just the common round, the trivial task. The thing that tells in the long run for God and for men is the steady persevering work in the unseen, and the only way to keep the life uncrushed is to live looking to God. Ask God to keep the eyes of your spirit open to the Risen Christ, and it will be impossible for drudgery to damp you. Continually get away from pettiness and paltriness of mind and thought out into the thirteenth chapter of St. John’s Gospel.
My Utmost for His Highest
the Poetry of R.S. Thomas
But the financiers will ask
In that day: Is it not better
To leave broken bank balances
Behind than broken heads?
And Christ recognizing the
New warriors will feel breaching
His healed side their terrible
Pencil and the hemorrhage of its figures.
The Poems of R.S. Thomas
The People: Leviticus 11–15
Some have gone to great lengths to invent “logical” reasons for some of the commands that God gave here. Even today, the proscription against pork has led to the imaginative notion that pork is “bad” meat. I recently talked with a person who argued that a pig’s digestive system is incomplete, and that consequently waste materials are stored in the body rather than eliminated as by other animals. Thus pork is supposed to be intrinsically dirty—and thus God is justified in telling the Jews not to eat pork.
It’s a little more difficult to find similar explanations for other dietary laws, such as, “You shall not boil a kid in its mother’s milk.”
In fact, such explanations miss the point. To teach Peter that the Old Testament economy was passing and that Jew and Gentile were no longer to be viewed as distinct, different races, God caused a great sheet to be lowered from heaven full of “unclean” animals. And Peter was commanded to kill and eat! Peter, a pious Jew, objected. But then the word of God came: “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean” (Acts 10:9–15).
The point is simply this. Some things are immoral and unclean in themselves for all persons at all times. Adultery, for instance, is never right. Such things are rooted in the very nature of man as God has created him, and reflect something of God’s own moral character and His righteousness. But many things that we read of here in Leviticus have no intrinsic rightness or wrongness. These things were “unclean” simply because God said they were to be so regarded by Israel.
Why did God create this whole set of unclean things? In answering, we do not need to give a logical excuse for each item, as some attempt with the dietary laws. Instead, we need to realize that God was acting to train and to discipline His people. He was working with them, to give them a sense of their own unique identity as His people: to help them realize constantly the privilege—and responsibility—of fellowship with Him.
I emjoy reading this Commentary, just as I am learning to enjoy the Gemara and the Talmud, that does not mean I agree with everything I read. I certainly hope everyone visiting my web site thinks and questions on their own.
There was a tremendous danger that this people would forget their God. Sinai demonstrated how quickly and easily they forgot! Now, however, the very pattern of daily life in Israel was so structured that it was almost impossible to forget God. Each meal served was a reminder. The specialness of the offerings served as a reminder. The presence of the priests, scattered throughout the other tribes in their cities and supported by yearly tithes, were reminders. The Sabbath was a weekly reminder and, as we will see in the next unit, a system of annual festivals also helped to keep God in focus.
Everything in the customs God gave to Israel was designed to constantly remind the people that they had a special relationship with God, and were called to walk in fellowship with Him.
Many of these customs in Israel are irrelevant to us today. Others have some deep typical significance, and speak of Christ. Still others reflect God’s own character and are rooted in righteousness. But all of them serve as unique reminders of how special it is to live in fellowship with God.
The Teacher's Commentary
By Rick Adams
Ecclesiastes 3:14 I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before him. ESV
Following Jesus is a joy when you understand Ephesians 2:8. Really, grace is a gift and you can apply Ecclesiastes 3:14 to it. There is nothing I have done, or ever will do, to earn it or deserve it. It is from God. The Bible tells me God seeks me, us, and no one seeks God, no one, not you, not me. God seeks us. Ecclesiastes 3:14 says whatever God does lasts forever. Grace, God stooping down to our level, God becoming like one of us, God willingly dying for us, once. He died once the Bible says, but the consequences of His death are eternal.
Don't blow by that. Think about it. Grace lasts forever. Does man do anything that lasts forever? I used to say that nothing man does is sustainable, but now I wonder. I think there is something we do that does last forever, unless Christ intervenes, and that is sin.
There is nothing we can do to remove, clean up, sacrifice to eradicate sin. It lasts forever, unless God intervenes. Is that why burning in hell lasts forever? God has intervened. He has provided a Savior. He has provided Himself and whatever He does lasts forever, but this world will not last forever and our opportunity to choose Christ will not last forever. Just as Christ died once and the consequences are forever, we have one life to choose or deny Jesus Christ and the consequences of our decision will indeed, last forever.
Abraham believed God and it was counted unto him as righteousness. If, not when, God (the Holy Spirit) knocks on the door of your heart, immediately fling that door wide open. Don't be like the woman in Song of Solomon who waited too long to open the door. She suffered unnecessarily for her hesitancy.
I believe God knocks on the door of everyone's heart. I believe we have to go around the cross to get to hell. God speaks to everyone. Everyone, at one time or another heard the voice of God in their heart. Jesus said His sheep will know His voice.
There are scriptures where people's sight and hearing are deliberately dull because God did not want them to hear, see and repent. If that doesn't scare you then you make my point. J the B, as Brett Meador refers to John the Baptist, said, "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?" I don't understand that scripture as him being delighted to see them. I do believe God spoke to those vipers before they became vipers, but the Bible also says God will not always strive with man.
Revelation 4:11 tells us the point of everything is God's purpose, not yours, not mine. The Bible tells us God's ways are not our ways, so though we see through a glass darkly now, I know things will eventually be clearer, but will our thoughts and ways ever be the same as God's? To put myself on equal basis with God on this side or the other side of the river is just blasphemy.
I do not have a problem with the things I do not understand. The greatest minds dead, living or yet to be born will all die knowing nothing compared to what they do not know. For me, to know God as my Lord and Savior is enough. Grace is enough.
Rick Adams | Lover of Christ, husband of Lily, father of four, grandfather of eleven, Masters in Divinity and Certificate in Spiritual Direction. On staff at George Fox 1/2009 to 7/2018.
We live in a disposable society. Everything from pens to soda bottles, from diapers to “plastic silverware” (an oxymoron of the modern age) is throw-away. We hold on to so little, especially after items have fulfilled their short-lived purposes. Objects that were once used over and over again are now used once and discarded, even if they have some use left to them. Things that we refilled or recycled (like the old-fashioned glass milk bottle) have been replaced by disposable counterparts.
These examples are quite obvious, yet there are dozens of others on a more subtle level. Decades ago, the standard rotary telephone was made to withstand years of use and abuse. It was rare that one had to be replaced. Many tell stories of growing up and using the same phone (and there was only one style) for thirty or forty years. Today, technology has given us telephones that outperform these early models in almost every way but one. These new phones come with speed dialing, automatic redial, and one-button memory of commonly used numbers. Today’s phones can be programmed to do a host of chores that were inconceivable a generation ago. Yet, the old black rotary phone excelled in one way: it seemed to last forever. Many of us consider ourselves lucky if our telephones outlast the warranty.
Today, we are used to throwing out so many things that break. Even if we follow the environmentalists’ rule of Reduce-Reuse-Recycle, we find ourselves using more and more items that are made to be used for shorter periods of time and then discarded. Some call this “planned obsolescence.” Among the problems this lifestyle creates is a garbage glut.
If Rabbi Yehudah were alive today, he would probably tell us (perhaps by e-mail or fax) that we should not be so hasty in throwing old things out. Sometimes they still have a usefulness, even if it is not their original function. “The tablets and the broken tablets were placed in the Ark” means that what once had life and purpose can often be used to instruct us and inspire us.
Yet, Rabbi Yehudah is talking not only about objects, but also about experiences. We learn from our experiences—both good and bad—and we should not discard any of them. Despite the fact that Oscar Wilde quipped “Experience is the name everyone gives to their mistakes,” our past errors can be helpful to us. Thomas Edison patented 1,093 inventions in his lifetime, describing his work as “1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration.” He worked for over two years just on the incandescent light bulb, trying to find the ideal filament to conduct electricity. Edison knew that he would eventually find an element that would give off sufficient light when electricity flowed through it, but would not burn out in the process. Each of his failures led him to try a different substance. Without dogged persistence, including his countless failures, Edison would not have succeeded in discovering carbonized thread as the successful filament material.
In The Evolution of Useful Things, Henry Petroski, a professor at Duke University, describes how everyday useful items are often the result of decades and even centuries of development. Few, if any, of the gadgets of everyday life—from the fork and the straight pin to the zipper and the can opener—were invented in perfect form. Most, if not all, inventions come as improvements of earlier designs or failed models:
Clever people in the past, whom we today might call inventors, designers, or engineers, observed the failure of existing things to function as well as might be imagined. By focusing on the shortcomings of things, innovators altered these items to remove the imperfections, thus producing new, improved objects.
Few of us like to recall our mistakes, yet without them, we cannot develop as human beings. Unless we carry our “broken tablets,” the negative experiences, we cannot understand how to avoid repeating them and move on to positive experiences. If we do not keep a record of where we have failed, we will be unable to narrow down the likely circumstances for success. We would prefer not having others pointing out our faults and foibles, but we do need to carry our own personal record of failure—not as a depressing reminder of where we have fallen short, but as an inspiring chronicle of the roads to success.
Mishnah (2:1): If he was reading in the Torah and it was time to recite [the Sh’ma], if he had proper intention, he fulfilled his responsibility. Gemara: We learn from this: Mitzvot require proper intention. What if his intention was to read? To read? But he is reading! He is reading to correct.
The Kavvanah for putting on the tallit: I wrap myself in a tallit with fringes to fulfill the mitzvah of my Creator, as written in the Torah: “They shall put fringes on the corners of their garments in every generation.”
The Kavvanah for putting on tefillin: I put on tefillin to fulfill the mitzvah of my Creator, as written in the Torah: “Bind them as a sign upon your hand, and set them as a symbol above your eyes” [Deuteronomy 6:8]. The tefillin contain four passages from the Torah. They teach us the unity and uniqueness of God, recall the miracle of the Exodus, declare God’s dominion over all that is in the heavens and on earth, and affirm our duty to serve God with all our being. We place the tefillah [singular of tefillin] on the arm, pointed toward the heart, that we may recall God’s outstretched arm and be reminded to direct our impulses and desires to His service. We place the tefillah on the head to remind us to devote all of the power of our mind to the service of God, praised be He. (Translation, Siddur Sim Shalom)
A Jew is required to recite the Sh’ma (“Hear, O Israel …”; Deuteronomy 6:4–9) twice a day, based on the rabbinic reading of those verses, to “recite them when you stay at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you get up.” This recitation is a mitzvah, a religious obligation (plural: mitzvot). But is the requirement simply to mutter the words, or does the person have to think about what is being said? If one read the words without focusing on them, has the obligation been fulfilled? In other words, do mitzvot require proper intention?
The Mishnah deals with the situation where one is reading the words of the Sh’ma from a Torah scroll at the time when one should be reciting the Sh’ma. Does this perfunctory reading fulfill the responsibility to recite the Sh’ma? The Mishnah simply states that if the reader had proper intention (in Hebrew: “directed his heart,” i.e., was attentive; the heart is seen as the seat of thought) then the obligation has indeed been fulfilled.
The Gemara asks what exactly this man was doing when he was reading from a Torah scroll. Rashi assumes that the man was reading a Torah scroll without paying attention to the words, simply reciting word after word to detect mistakes in the Torah scroll. The Tosafot say that one who reads to correct always pays attention. How else can one correct mistakes in a Torah scroll? However, say the Tosafot, the man was not reading the words with proper pronunciation, but was reading them in such a way to check out the spelling and letters in the Torah scroll.
The question still remains: Is it enough simply to read the words of Sh’ma, or does one have to realize that one is fulfilling a religious responsibility? The Gemara never comes to a clear conclusion. Later Jewish law codifies a split decision: rabbinic enactments do not require intent, but laws from the Torah, like reciting the Sh’ma, do. (Even though the law of reading the Sh’ma twice daily is derived by rabbinic interpretation, the Rabbis considered it to be a law d’oraita, from the Torah.)
In some Jewish communities, the spirit of this law was incorporated into Kavvanot, prayers of intention that were often added to the worship service, for example, to announce that “Behold I am inviting my mouth to thank, praise, and extol my Creator.” While these prayers themselves eventually became rote, their purpose remained a noble one—to focus the attention and intention of the worshiper on the act.
Swimming in the Sea of Talmud: Lessons for Everyday Living
Thomas A Kempis
Book Two / The Interior Life
The Ninth Chapter / Wanting No Share In Comfort
IT IS not hard to spurn human consolation when we have the divine. It is, however, a very great thing indeed to be able to live without either divine or human comforting and for the honor of God willingly to endure this exile of heart, not to seek oneself in anything, and to think nothing of one’s own merit.
Does it matter much, if at the coming of grace, you are cheerful and devout? This is an hour desired by all, for he whom the grace of God sustains travels easily enough. What wonder if he feel no burden when borne up by the Almighty and led on by the Supreme Guide! For we are always glad to have something to comfort us, and only with difficulty does a man divest himself of self.
The holy martyr, Lawrence, with his priest, conquered the world because he despised everything in it that seemed pleasing to him, and for love of Christ patiently suffered the great high priest of God, Sixtus, whom he loved dearly, to be taken from him. Thus, by his love for the Creator he overcame the love of man, and chose instead of human consolation the good pleasure of God. So you, too, must learn to part with an intimate and much-needed friend for the love of God. Do not take it to heart when you are deserted by a friend, knowing that in the end we must all be parted from one another.
A man must fight long and bravely against himself before he learns to master himself fully and to direct all his affections toward God. When he trusts in himself, he easily takes to human consolation. The true lover of Christ, however, who sincerely pursues virtue, does not fall back upon consolations nor seek such pleasures of sense, but prefers severe trials and hard labors for the sake of Christ.
When, therefore, spiritual consolation is given by God, receive it gratefully, but understand that it is His gift and not your meriting. Do not exult, do not be overjoyed, do not be presumptuous, but be the humbler for the gift, more careful and wary in all your actions, for this hour will pass and temptation will come in its wake.
When consolation is taken away, do not at once despair but wait humbly and patiently for the heavenly visit, since God can restore to you more abundant solace.
This is neither new nor strange to one who knows God’s ways, for such change of fortune often visited the great saints and prophets of old. Thus there was one who, when grace was with him, declared: “In my prosperity I said: ‘I shall never be moved.’ ” But when grace was taken away, he adds what he experienced in himself: “Thou didst hide Thy face, and I was troubled.” Meanwhile he does not despair; rather he prays more earnestly to the Lord, saying: “To Thee, O Lord, will I cry; and I will make supplication to my God.” At length, he receives the fruit of his prayer, and testifying that he was heard, says “The Lord hath heard, and hath had mercy on me: the Lord became my helper.” And how was he helped? “Thou hast turned,” he says, “my mourning into joy, and hast surrounded me with gladness.” (Psalm 30:7-12)
If this is the case with great saints, we who are weak and poor ought not to despair because we are fervent at times and at other times cold, for the spirit comes and goes according to His will. Of this the blessed Job declared: “Thou visitest him early in the morning, and Thou provest him suddenly.” (Job 7:18)
In what can I hope, then, or in whom ought I trust, save only in the great mercy of God and the hope of heavenly grace? For though I have with me good men, devout brethren, faithful friends, holy books, beautiful treatises, sweet songs and hymns, all these help and please but little when I am abandoned by grace and left to my poverty. At such times there is no better remedy than patience and resignation of self to the will of God.
I have never met a man so religious and devout that he has not experienced at some time a withdrawal of grace and felt a lessening of fervor. No saint was so sublimely rapt and enlightened as not to be tempted before and after. He, indeed, is not worthy of the sublime contemplation of God who has not been tried by some tribulation for the sake of God. For temptation is usually the sign preceding the consolation that is to follow, and heavenly consolation is promised to all those proved by temptation. “To him that overcometh,” says Christ, “I will give to eat of the Tree of Life.” (Revelation 2:7) Divine consolation, then, is given in order to make a man braver in enduring adversity, and temptation follows in order that he may not pride himself on the good he has done.
The devil does not sleep, nor is the flesh yet dead; therefore, you must never cease your preparation for battle, because on the right and on the left are enemies who never rest.
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.
A father’s compassion tenderly lifts up those who fall. ( Spurgeon's Sermons, 5 Volumes ) When your child falls down, as children are very apt to do, especially when they first begin to walk, don’t you pity them? Is there a nasty cut across the knee, and tears? The mother takes the child up in her arms, and she has some sponge and water to take the grit out of the wound, and she gives a kiss and makes it well. I know mothers have wondrous healing lips! And sometimes, when God’s servants do really fall, it is very lamentable, it is very sad, and it is well that they should cry. It were a pity that they should be willing to lie in the mire, but when they are up again and begin crying, and the wound bleeds—well, let them not keep away from God, for as a father has compassion on his fallen child, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him.
Have you come in here tonight with that cut knee of yours? I am sorry you have fallen, but I am glad that our blessed Master is willing to receive you still. Come and trust in him who is mighty to save, just as you did at first, and begin again tonight. Come along! Some of us have had to begin again many times. You do the same. If you are not a saint you are a sinner, and Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. Put your trust in him, and you will find restoration, and maybe through that very fall you will learn to be more careful, and from now on you will walk more uprightly, to his honor and glory.
--- C. H. Spurgeon
Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
March 6, 1475 is the birthdate of the creator of David, Moses, the Pieta, and the dome of St. Peter’s. Michelangelo Buonarroti was born in a small Italian town, nursed in a marble quarry, and raised in nearby Florence. He spent his leisure painting and drawing, and was chosen at age 13 for admittance to a new art school established by Lorenzo de’ Medici in the Medici Gardens. Between lessons, he listened to the mighty Savonarola preaching his fiery gospel nearby.
As a young man he gained rapid fame for his Pieta (Madonna holding her crucified son), then for carving David from an 18-foot piece of discarded marble. Pope Julius next put him on his back atop scaffolding, painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. He was called a genius.
But behind Michelangelo’s genius resided a tragic figure. He didn’t get along with others and frequently burned with jealousy, foul moods, and disdain for others. He wore old clothes which he seldom changed, and he never bathed. Though rich, he lived as a miser. He ate whatever he found, sometimes only crumbs, and he slept in his raiment and boots. He hated small talk and preferred being alone. He disliked women. All his passion went into his work, and he had little need for friends, except for a servant who tended to him for 25 years and shared his bed.
Michelangelo’s bad temper caused one pope to remark, “He is such an alarming man, and there is no getting on with him.” At times the artist was depressed to the edge of insanity, and in his old age he became obsessed with the fear of hell.
But in advancing age his thoughts turned more and more to the Christ he had so frequently painted, and to the sermons he had heard from the martyred Savonarola. Near the end of his life, Michelangelo wrote that neither Painting nor sculpture now can lull to rest / My soul, that turns to His great love on high, / Whose arms to clasp us on the cross are spread.
He died in his eighty-ninth year.
Only God gives inward peace.… Trust God, my friends, And always tell him each one of your concerns. God is our place of safety. We humans are only a breath; None of us are truly great. All of us together weigh less than a puff of air. --- Psalm 62:5-9.
On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - March 6
“Ye must be born again.” --- John 3:7.
Regeneration is a subject which lies at the very basis of salvation, and we should be very diligent to take heed that we really are “born again,” for there are many who fancy they are, who are not. Be assured that the name of a Christian is not the nature of a Christian; and that being born in a Christian land, and being recognized as professing the Christian religion is of no avail whatever, unless there be something more added to it—the being “born again,” is a matter so mysterious, that human words cannot describe it. “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.” Nevertheless, it is a change which is known and felt: known by works of holiness, and felt by a gracious experience. This great work is supernatural. It is not an operation which a man performs for himself: a new principle is infused, which works in the heart, renews the soul, and affects the entire man. It is not a change of my name, but a renewal of my nature, so that I am not the man I used to be, but a new man in Christ Jesus. To wash and dress a corpse is a far different thing from making it alive: man can do the one, God alone can do the other. If you have then, been “born again,” your acknowledgment will be, “O Lord Jesus, the everlasting Father, thou art my spiritual Parent; unless thy Spirit had breathed into me the breath of a new, holy, and spiritual life, I had been to this day ‘dead in trespasses and sins.’ My heavenly life is wholly derived from thee, to thee I ascribe it. ‘My life is hid with Christ in God.’ It is no longer I who live, but Christ who liveth in me.” May the Lord enable us to be well assured on this vital point, for to be unregenerate is to be unsaved, unpardoned, without God, and without hope.
Evening - March 6
“Before destruction the heart of man is haughty.” --- Proverbs 18:12.
It is an old and common saying, that “coming events cast their shadows before them;” the wise man teaches us that a haughty heart is the prophetic prelude of evil. Pride is as safely the sign of destruction as the change of mercury in the weather-glass is the sign of rain; and far more infallibly so than that. When men have ridden the high horse, destruction has always overtaken them. Let David’s aching heart show that there is an eclipse of a man’s glory when he dotes upon his own greatness. 2 Sam. 24:10. See Nebuchadnezzar, the mighty builder of Babylon, creeping on the earth, devouring grass like oxen, until his nails had grown like bird’s claws, and his hair like eagle’s feathers. Dan. 4:33. Pride made the boaster a beast, as once before it made an angel a devil. God hates high looks, and never fails to bring them down. All the arrows of God are aimed at proud hearts. O Christian, is thine heart haughty this evening? For pride can get into the Christian’s heart as well as into the sinner’s; it can delude him into dreaming that he is “rich and increased in goods, and hath need of nothing.” Art thou glorying in thy graces or thy talents? Art thou proud of thyself, that thou hast had holy frames and sweet experiences? Mark thee, reader, there is a destruction coming to thee also. Thy flaunting poppies of self-conceit will be pulled up by the roots, thy mushroom graces will wither in the burning heat, and thy self-sufficiency shall become as straw for the dunghill. If we forget to live at the foot of the cross in deepest lowliness of spirit, God will not forget to make us smart under his rod. A destruction will come to thee, O unduly exalted believer, the destruction of thy joys and of thy comforts, though there can be no destruction of thy soul. Wherefore, “He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.”
Morning and Evening
NO, NOT ONE!
Johnson Oatman, Jr., 1856–1922
I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends … (John 15:15)
He became poor that we might become rich (James 2:5).
He was born that we might be born again (John 1:14).
He became a servant that we might become sons (Galatians 4:6, 7).
He had no home that we might have a home in heaven (Matthew 8:20).
He was made sin that we might be made righteous (2 Corinthians 5:21).
He died that we might live (John 5:24, 25).
This is another of our favorite Sunday school songs that extols, in child-like language, our living Lord. It has a typical gospel song character in that it employs a repetitive phrase—“No, not one”—which allows people of all ages and backgrounds to join heartily together in the praise of Christ. Gospel songs such as this can teach even the youngest child the truth of the pre-eminence of our Lord and His nearness in every situation of our lives.
The author, Johnson Oatman, Jr., was an ordained Methodist minister, but he worked most of his life in the insurance business. He wrote numerous gospel hymn texts including “Higher Ground” and “Count Your Blessings.”
The composer, George C. Hugg, was an active lay musician-choir director in various churches in the Philadelphia area. He too was active in writing and publishing Sunday school songs during this time.
In times of stress and loneliness, these simple words with their easily sung tune, that many of us first sang in our earliest Sunday school classes, still minister to us today:
There’s not a friend like the lowly Jesus, no, not one! no, not one! None else could heal all your soul’s diseases, no, not one! no, not one!
No friend like Him is so high and holy, no, not one! no, not one! And yet no friend is so meek and lowly, no, not one! no, not one!
There’s not an hour that He is not near us, no, not one! no, not one! No night so dark but His love can cheer us, no, not one! no, not one!
Did ever saint find this Friend forsake him? no, not one! no, not one! Or sinner find that He would not take him? no, not one! no, not one!
Was e’er a gift like the Savior given? no, not one! no, not one! Will He refuse us a home in heaven? no, not one! no, not one!
Refrain: Jesus knows all about our struggles; He will guide till the day is done. There’s not a friend like the lowly Jesus, no, not one! no, not one!
For Today: Proverbs 18:24; Matthew 11:29; John 8:12; 2 Corinthians 5:1; Revelation 3:20.
When a difficult situation arises, let the simple, child-like truth of this music minister to your need.
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