2 Chronicles 13 - 17
Abijah Reigns in Judah2 Chronicles 13:1 In the eighteenth year of King Jeroboam, Abijah began to reign over Judah. 2 He reigned for three years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Micaiah the daughter of Uriel of Gibeah.
Now there was war between Abijah and Jeroboam. 3 Abijah went out to battle, having an army of valiant men of war, 400,000 chosen men. And Jeroboam drew up his line of battle against him with 800,000 chosen mighty warriors. 4 Then Abijah stood up on Mount Zemaraim that is in the hill country of Ephraim and said, “Hear me, O Jeroboam and all Israel! 5 Ought you not to know that the LORD God of Israel gave the kingship over Israel forever to David and his sons by a covenant of salt? 6 Yet Jeroboam the son of Nebat, a servant of Solomon the son of David, rose up and rebelled against his lord, 7 and certain worthless scoundrels gathered about him and defied Rehoboam the son of Solomon, when Rehoboam was young and irresolute and could not withstand them.
8 “And now you think to withstand the kingdom of the LORD in the hand of the sons of David, because you are a great multitude and have with you the golden calves that Jeroboam made you for gods. 9 Have you not driven out the priests of the LORD, the sons of Aaron, and the Levites, and made priests for yourselves like the peoples of other lands? Whoever comes for ordination with a young bull or seven rams becomes a priest of what are not gods. 10 But as for us, the LORD is our God, and we have not forsaken him. We have priests ministering to the LORD who are sons of Aaron, and Levites for their service. 11 They offer to the LORD every morning and every evening burnt offerings and incense of sweet spices, set out the showbread on the table of pure gold, and care for the golden lampstand that its lamps may burn every evening. For we keep the charge of the LORD our God, but you have forsaken him. 12 Behold, God is with us at our head, and his priests with their battle trumpets to sound the call to battle against you. O sons of Israel, do not fight against the LORD, the God of your fathers, for you cannot succeed.”
13 Jeroboam had sent an ambush around to come upon them from behind. Thus his troops were in front of Judah, and the ambush was behind them. 14 And when Judah looked, behold, the battle was in front of and behind them. And they cried to the LORD, and the priests blew the trumpets. 15 Then the men of Judah raised the battle shout. And when the men of Judah shouted, God defeated Jeroboam and all Israel before Abijah and Judah. 16 The men of Israel fled before Judah, and God gave them into their hand. 17 Abijah and his people struck them with great force, so there fell slain of Israel 500,000 chosen men. 18 Thus the men of Israel were subdued at that time, and the men of Judah prevailed, because they relied on the LORD, the God of their fathers. 19 And Abijah pursued Jeroboam and took cities from him, Bethel with its villages and Jeshanah with its villages and Ephron with its villages. 20 Jeroboam did not recover his power in the days of Abijah. And the LORD struck him down, and he died. 21 But Abijah grew mighty. And he took fourteen wives and had twenty-two sons and sixteen daughters. 22 The rest of the acts of Abijah, his ways and his sayings, are written in the story of the prophet Iddo.
2 Chronicles 14
Asa Reigns in Judah2 Chronicles 14:1 Abijah slept with his fathers, and they buried him in the city of David. And Asa his son reigned in his place. In his days the land had rest for ten years. 2 And Asa did what was good and right in the eyes of the LORD his God. 3 He took away the foreign altars and the high places and broke down the pillars and cut down the Asherim 4 and commanded Judah to seek the LORD, the God of their fathers, and to keep the law and the commandment. 5 He also took out of all the cities of Judah the high places and the incense altars. And the kingdom had rest under him. 6 He built fortified cities in Judah, for the land had rest. He had no war in those years, for the LORD gave him peace. 7 And he said to Judah, “Let us build these cities and surround them with walls and towers, gates and bars. The land is still ours, because we have sought the LORD our God. We have sought him, and he has given us peace on every side.” So they built and prospered. 8 And Asa had an army of 300,000 from Judah, armed with large shields and spears, and 280,000 men from Benjamin that carried shields and drew bows. All these were mighty men of valor.
9 Zerah the Ethiopian came out against them with an army of a million men and 300 chariots, and came as far as Mareshah. 10 And Asa went out to meet him, and they drew up their lines of battle in the Valley of Zephathah at Mareshah. 11 And Asa cried to the LORD his God, “O LORD, there is none like you to help, between the mighty and the weak. Help us, O LORD our God, for we rely on you, and in your name we have come against this multitude. O LORD, you are our God; let not man prevail against you.” 12 So the LORD defeated the Ethiopians before Asa and before Judah, and the Ethiopians fled. 13 Asa and the people who were with him pursued them as far as Gerar, and the Ethiopians fell until none remained alive, for they were broken before the LORD and his army. The men of Judah carried away very much spoil. 14 And they attacked all the cities around Gerar, for the fear of the LORD was upon them. They plundered all the cities, for there was much plunder in them. 15 And they struck down the tents of those who had livestock and carried away sheep in abundance and camels. Then they returned to Jerusalem.
2 Chronicles 15
Asa's Religious Reforms2 Chronicles 15:1 The Spirit of God came[d] upon Azariah the son of Oded, 2 and he went out to meet Asa and said to him, “Hear me, Asa, and all Judah and Benjamin: The Lord is with you while you are with him. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will forsake you. Please see article below, Keep the Presence of God. 3 For a long time Israel was without the true God, and without a teaching priest and without law, 4 but when in their distress they turned to the Lord, the God of Israel, and sought him, he was found by them. 5 In those times there was no peace to him who went out or to him who came in, for great disturbances afflicted all the inhabitants of the lands. 6 They were broken in pieces. Nation was crushed by nation and city by city, for God troubled them with every sort of distress. 7 But you, take courage! Do not let your hands be weak, for your work shall be rewarded.”
8 As soon as Asa heard these words, the prophecy of Azariah the son of Oded, he took courage and put away the detestable idols from all the land of Judah and Benjamin and from the cities that he had taken in the hill country of Ephraim, and he repaired the altar of the Lord that was in front of the vestibule of the house of the Lord.[e] 9 And he gathered all Judah and Benjamin, and those from Ephraim, Manasseh, and Simeon who were residing with them, for great numbers had deserted to him from Israel when they saw that the Lord his God was with him. 10 They were gathered at Jerusalem in the third month of the fifteenth year of the reign of Asa. 11 They sacrificed to the Lord on that day from the spoil that they had brought 700 oxen and 7,000 sheep. 12 And they entered into a covenant to seek the Lord, the God of their fathers, with all their heart and with all their soul, 13 but that whoever would not seek the Lord, the God of Israel, should be put to death, whether young or old, man or woman. 14 They swore an oath to the Lord with a loud voice and with shouting and with trumpets and with horns. 15 And all Judah rejoiced over the oath, for they had sworn with all their heart and had sought him with their whole desire, and he was found by them, and the Lord gave them rest all around.
16 Even Maacah, his mother, King Asa removed from being queen mother because she had made a detestable image for Asherah. Asa cut down her image, crushed it, and burned it at the brook Kidron. 17 But the high places were not taken out of Israel. Nevertheless, the heart of Asa was wholly true all his days. 18 And he brought into the house of God the sacred gifts of his father and his own sacred gifts, silver, and gold, and vessels. 19 And there was no more war until the thirty-fifth year of the reign of Asa.
2 Chronicles 16
Asa’s Last Years2 Chronicles 16:1 In the thirty-sixth year of the reign of Asa, Baasha king of Israel went up against Judah and built Ramah, that he might permit no one to go out or come in to Asa king of Judah. 2 Then Asa took silver and gold from the treasures of the house of the LORD and the king’s house and sent them to Ben-hadad king of Syria, who lived in Damascus, saying, 3 “There is a covenant between me and you, as there was between my father and your father. Behold, I am sending to you silver and gold. Go, break your covenant with Baasha king of Israel, that he may withdraw from me.” 4 And Ben-hadad listened to King Asa and sent the commanders of his armies against the cities of Israel, and they conquered Ijon, Dan, Abel-maim, and all the store cities of Naphtali. 5 And when Baasha heard of it, he stopped building Ramah and let his work cease. 6 Then King Asa took all Judah, and they carried away the stones of Ramah and its timber, with which Baasha had been building, and with them he built Geba and Mizpah.
7 At that time Hanani the seer came to Asa king of Judah and said to him, “Because you relied on the king of Syria, and did not rely on the LORD your God, the army of the king of Syria has escaped you. 8 Were not the Ethiopians and the Libyans a huge army with very many chariots and horsemen? Yet because you relied on the LORD, he gave them into your hand. 9 For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him. You have done foolishly in this, for from now on you will have wars.” 10 Then Asa was angry with the seer and put him in the stocks in prison, for he was in a rage with him because of this. And Asa inflicted cruelties upon some of the people at the same time.
11 The acts of Asa, from first to last, are written in the Book of the Kings of Judah and Israel. 12 In the thirty-ninth year of his reign Asa was diseased in his feet, and his disease became severe. Yet even in his disease he did not seek the LORD, but sought help from physicians. 13 And Asa slept with his fathers, dying in the forty-first year of his reign. 14 They buried him in the tomb that he had cut for himself in the city of David. They laid him on a bier that had been filled with various kinds of spices prepared by the perfumer’s art, and they made a very great fire in his honor.
2 Chronicles 17
Jehoshaphat Reigns in Judah2 Chronicles 17:1 Jehoshaphat his son reigned in his place and strengthened himself against Israel. 2 He placed forces in all the fortified cities of Judah and set garrisons in the land of Judah, and in the cities of Ephraim that Asa his father had captured. 3 The LORD was with Jehoshaphat, because he walked in the earlier ways of his father David. He did not seek the Baals, 4 but sought the God of his father and walked in his commandments, and not according to the practices of Israel. 5 Therefore the LORD established the kingdom in his hand. And all Judah brought tribute to Jehoshaphat, and he had great riches and honor. 6 His heart was courageous in the ways of the LORD. And furthermore, he took the high places and the Asherim out of Judah.
7 In the third year of his reign he sent his officials, Ben-hail, Obadiah, Zechariah, Nethanel, and Micaiah, to teach in the cities of Judah; 8 and with them the Levites, Shemaiah, Nethaniah, Zebadiah, Asahel, Shemiramoth, Jehonathan, Adonijah, Tobijah, and Tobadonijah; and with these Levites, the priests Elishama and Jehoram. 9 And they taught in Judah, having the Book of the Law of the LORD with them. They went about through all the cities of Judah and taught among the people.
10 And the fear of the LORD fell upon all the kingdoms of the lands that were around Judah, and they made no war against Jehoshaphat. 11 Some of the Philistines brought Jehoshaphat presents and silver for tribute, and the Arabians also brought him 7,700 rams and 7,700 goats. 12 And Jehoshaphat grew steadily greater. He built in Judah fortresses and store cities, 13 and he had large supplies in the cities of Judah. He had soldiers, mighty men of valor, in Jerusalem. 14 This was the muster of them by fathers’ houses: Of Judah, the commanders of thousands: Adnah the commander, with 300,000 mighty men of valor; 15 and next to him Jehohanan the commander, with 280,000; 16 and next to him Amasiah the son of Zichri, a volunteer for the service of the LORD, with 200,000 mighty men of valor. 17 Of Benjamin: Eliada, a mighty man of valor, with 200,000 men armed with bow and shield; 18 and next to him Jehozabad with 180,000 armed for war. 19 These were in the service of the king, besides those whom the king had placed in the fortified cities throughout all Judah.
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The Emotional Life of our Lord
By Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield
It belongs to the truth of our Lord’s humanity, that he was subject to all sinless human emotions. In the accounts which the Evangelists give us of the crowded activities which filled the few years of his ministry, the play of a great variety of emotions is depicted. It has nevertheless not proved easy to form a universally acceptable conception of our Lord’s emotional life. Not only has the mystery of the Incarnation entered in as a disturbing factor, the effect of the divine nature on the movements of the human soul brought into personal union with it has been variously estimated. Differences have arisen also as to how far there may be attributed to a perfect human nature movements known to us only as passions of sinful beings. I. II. “For the innumerable dead III.
Two opposite tendencies early showed themselves in the Church. One, derived ultimately from the ethical ideal of the Stoa, which conceived moral perfection under the form of apatheia, naturally wished to attribute this ideal dira0eaa to Jesus, as the perfect man. The other, under the influence of the conviction that, in order to deliver men from their weaknesses, the Redeemer must assume and sanctify in his own person all human patha, as naturally was eager to attribute to him in its fulness every human pathos. Though in far less clearly defined forms, and with a complete shifting of their bases, both tendencies are still operative in men’s thought of Jesus. There is a tendency in the interest of the dignity of his person to minimize, and there is a tendency in the interest of the completeness of his humanity to magnify, his affectional movements. The one tendency may run some risk of giving us a somewhat cold and remote Jesus, whom we can scarcely believe to be able to sympathize with us in all our infirmities. The other may possibly be in danger of offering us a Jesus so crassly human as scarcely to command our highest reverence. Between the two, the figure of Jesus is liable to take on a certain vagueness of outline, and come to lack definiteness in our thought. It may not be without its uses, therefore, to seek a starting point for our conception of his emotional life in the comparatively few2 affectional movements which are directly assigned to him in the Gospel narratives. Proceeding outward from these, we may be able to form a more distinctly conceived and firmly grounded idea of his emotional life in general.
It cannot be assumed beforehand, indeed, that all the emotions attributed to Jesus in the Evangelical narratives are intended to be ascribed distinctively to his human soul.3 Such is no doubt the common view. And it is not an unnatural view to take as we currently read narratives, which, whatever else they contain, certainly present some dramatization of the human experiences of our Lord.4 No doubt the naturalness of this view is its sufficient general justification. Only, it will be well to bear in mind that Jesus was definitely conceived by the Evangelists as a two-natured person, and that they made no difficulties with his duplex consciousness. In almost the same breath they represent him as declaring that he knows the Father through and through and, of course, also all that is in man, and the world which is the theatre of his activities, and that he is ignorant of the time of the occurrence of a simple earthly event which concerns his own work very closely; that he is meek and lowly in heart and yet at the same time the Lord of men by their relations to whom their destinies are determined, — “no man cometh unto the Father but by me.” In the case of a Being whose subjective life is depicted as focusing in two centers of consciousness, we may properly maintain some reserve in ascribing distinctively to one or the other of them mental activities which, so far as their nature is concerned, might properly belong to either. The embarrassment in studying the emotional life of Jesus arising from this cause, however, is more theoretical than practical. Some of the emotions attributed to him in the Evangelical narrative are, in one way or another, expressly assigned to his human soul. Some of them by their very nature assign themselves to his human soul. With reference to the remainder, just because they might equally well be assigned to the one nature or the other, it may be taken for granted that they belong to the human soul, if not exclusively, yet along with the divine Spirit; and they may therefore very properly be used to fill out the picture. We may thus, without serious danger of confusion, go simply to the Evangelical narrative, and, passing in review the definite ascriptions of specific emotions to Jesus in its records, found on them a conception of his emotional life which may serve as a starting-point for a study of this aspect of our Lord’s human manifestation.
The establishment of this starting-point is the single task of this essay. No attempt will be made in it to round out our view of our Lord’s emotional life. It will content itself with an attempt to ascertain the exact emotions which are expressly assigned to him in the Evangelical narrative, and will leave their mere collocation to convey its own lesson. We deceive ourselves, however, if their mere collocation does not suffice solidly to ground certain very clear convictions as to our Lord’s humanity, and to determine the lines on which our conception of the quality of his human nature must be filled out.
This emotional movement was aroused in our Lord as well by the sight of individual distress (Mk. i. 41; Mt. xx. 34; Lk. vii. 13) as by the spectacle of man’s universal misery (Mk. vi. 34, viii. 2; Mt. ix. 36, xiv. 14, xv. 32). The appeal of two blind men that their eyes might be opened (Mt. xx. 34), the appeal of a leper for cleansing (Mk. i. 41), — though there may have been circumstances in his case which called out Jesus’ reprobation (verse 43), — set our Lord’s heart throbbing with pity, as did also the mere sight of a bereaved widow, wailing by the bier of her only son as they bore him forth to burial, though no appeal was made for relief (Lk. vii. 13).13 The ready spontaneity of Jesus’ pity is even more plainly shown when he intervenes by a great miracle to relieve temporary pangs of hunger: “I have compassion on” — or better, “I feel pity for” — “the multitude, because they continue with me now three days, and have nothing to eat: and if I send them away fasting to their home, they will faint in the way; and some of them are come from far” (Mk. viii. 2; Mt. xv. 32), — the only occasion on which Jesus is recorded as testifying to his own feeling of pity. It was not merely the physical ills of life, however, — want and disease and death, — which called out our Lord’s compassion. These ills were rather looked upon by him as themselves rooted in spiritual destitution. And it was this spiritual destitution which most deeply moved his pity. The cause and the effects are indeed very closely linked together in the narrative, and it is not always easy to separate them. Thus we read in Mark vi. 34: “And he came forth and saw a great multitude, and he had compassion on them” — better, “he felt pity for them,” — “because they were as sheep not having a shepherd, and he taught them many things.” But in the parallel passage in Mt. xiv. 14, we read: “And he came forth and saw a great multitude, and he had compassion on” (“felt pity for”) “them, and he healed their sick.” We must put the two passages together to get a complete account: their fatal ignorance of spiritual things, their evil case under the dominion of Satan in all the effects of his terrible tyranny, are alike the object of our Lord’s compassion.14 In another passage (Mt. ix. 36) the emphasis is thrown very distinctly on the spiritual destitution of the people as the cause of his compassionate regard: “But when he saw the multitude, he was moved with compassion for them, because they were distressed and scattered, as sheep not having a shepherd.” This description of the spiritual destitution of the people is cast in very strong language. They are compared to sheep which have been worn out and torn by running hither and thither through the thorns with none to direct them, and have now fallen helpless and hopeless to the ground.15 The sight of their desperate plight awakens our Lord’s pity and moves him to provide the remedy.
No other term is employed by the New Testament writers directly to express our Lord’s compassion.16 But we read elsewhere of its manifestation in tears and sighs. The tears which wet his cheeks18 when, looking upon the uncontrolled grief of Mary and her companions, he advanced, with heart swelling with indignation at the outrage of death, to the conquest of the destroyer (Jno. xi. 35), were distinctly tears of sympathy. Even more clearly, his own unrestrained wailing over Jerusalem and its stubborn unbelief was the expression of the most poignant pity: “O that thou hadst known in this day, even thou, the things which belong unto peace” (Lk. xix. 41)!19 The sight of suffering drew tears from his eyes; obstinate unbelief convulsed him with uncontrollable grief. Similarly when a man afflicted with dumbness and deafness was brought to him for healing we are only told that he “sighed”20 (Mk. vii. 34); but when the malignant unbelief of the Pharisees was brought home to him he “sighed from the bottom of his heart” (Mk. viii. 12).21 “Obstinate sin,” comments Swete appropriately, “drew from Christ a deeper sigh than the sight of suffering (Lk. vii. 34 and cf. Jno. xiii. 20), a sigh in which anger and sorrow both had a part (iii. 4 note).”22 We may, at any rate, place the loud wailing over the stubborn unbelief of Jerusalem and the deep sighing over the Pharisees’ determined opposition side by side as exhibitions of the profound pain given to our Lord’s sympathetic heart, by those whose persistent rejection of him required at his hands his sternest reprobation. He “sighed from the bottom of his heart” when he declared, “There shall no sign be given this generation”; he wailed aloud when he announced, “The days shall come upon thee when thine enemies shall dash thee to the ground.” It hurt Jesus to hand over even hardened sinners to their doom.
It hurt Jesus, — because Jesus’ prime characteristic was love, and love is the foundation of compassion. How close to one another the two emotions of love and compassion lie, may be taught us by the only instance in which the emotion of love is attributed to Jesus in the Synoptics (Mk. x. 21). Here we are told that Jesus, looking upon the rich young ruler, “loved”23 him, and said to him, “One thing thou lackest.” It is not the “love of complacency” which is intended, but the “love of benevolence”; that is to say, it is the love, not so much that finds good, as that intends good, — though we may no doubt allow that “love of compassion is never” — let us rather say, “seldom” — “absolutely separated from love of approbation”;24 that is to say, there is ordinarily some good to be found already in those upon whom we fix our benevolent regard. The heart of our Saviour turned yearningly to the rich young man and longed to do him good; and this is an emotion, we say, which, especially in the circumstances depicted, is not far from simple compassion.25
It is characteristic of John’s Gospel that it goes with simple directness always to the bottom of things. Love lies at the bottom of compassion. And love is attributed to Jesus only once in the Synoptics, but compassion often; while with John the contrary is true — compassion is attributed to Jesus not even once, but love often. This love is commonly the love of compassion, or, rather, let us broaden it now and say, the love of benevolence; but sometimes it is the love of sheer delight in its object. Love to God is, of course, the love of pure complacency. We are surprised to note that Jesus’ love to God is only once explicitly mentioned (Jno. xiv. 31); but in this single mention it is set before us as the motive of his entire saving work and particularly of his offering of himself up. The time of his offering is at hand, and Jesus explains: “I will no more speak much with you, for the prince of this world cometh; and he hath nothing in me; but [I yield myself to him] that the world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father gave me commandment, even so I do.”26 The motive of Jesus’ earthly life and death is more commonly presented as love for sinful men; here it is presented as loving obedience to God. He had come to do the will of the Father; and because he loved the Father, his will he will do, up to the bitter end. He declares his purpose to be, under the impulse of love, “obedience up to death, yea, the death of the cross.”
The love for man which moved Jesus to come to his succor in his sin and misery was, of course, the love of benevolence. It finds its culminating expression in the great words of Jno. xv. 13: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends: ye are my friends, if ye do the things which I command you”27 — rather an illuminating definition of ‘friends,’ by the way, especially when it is followed by: “Ye did not choose me but I chose you and appointed you that ye should go and bear fruit.” “Friends,” it is clear, in this definition, are rather those who are loved than those who love. This culminating expression of his love for his own, by which he was sustained in his great mission of humiliation for them, is supported, however, by repeated declarations of it in the immediate and wider context. In the immediately preceding verses, for example, it is urged as the motive and norm of the love — spring of obedience — which he seeks from his disciples: “Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; and so shall ye be my disciples. Even as my Father hath loved me, I also have loved you: abide ye in my love. If ye keep my commandments ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love. These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be fulfilled. This is my commandment, that ye love one another, even as I have loved you” (Jno. xv. 8-12). As his love to the Father was the source of his obedience to the Father, and the living spring of his faithfulness to the work which had been committed to him, so he declares that the love of his followers to him, imitating and reproducing his love to them, is to be the source of their obedience to him, and through that, of all the good that can come to human beings, including, as the highest reach of social perfection, their love for one another. Self-sacrificing love is thus made the essence of the Christian life, and is referred for its incentive to the self-sacrificing love of Christ himself: Christ’s followers are to “have the same mind in them which was also in Christ Jesus.” The possessive pronouns throughout this passage — “abide in my love,” “in my love,” “in his (the Father’s) love” — are all subjective:28 so that throughout the whole, it is the love which Christ bears his people which is kept in prominent view as the impulse and standard of the love he asks from his people. This love had already been adverted to more than once in the wider context (xiii. 1, 34, xiv. 21) in the same spirit in which it is here spoken of. Its greatness is celebrated: he not only “loved his own which were in the world,” but “loved them utterly” (xiii. 1).29 It is presented as the model for the imitation of those who would live a Christian life on earth: “even as I have loved you” (xiii. 34). It is propounded as the Christian’s greatest reward: “and I will love him and manifest myself unto him” (xiv. 21).
The emotion of love as attributed to Jesus in the narrative of John is not confined, however, to these great movements — his love to his Father which impelled him to fulfil all his Father’s will in the great work of redemption and his love for those whom, in fulfilment of his Father’s will, he had chosen to be the recipients of his saving mercy, laying down his life for them. There are attributed to him also those common movements of affection which bind man to man in the ties of friendship. We hear of particular individuals whom “Jesus loved,” the meaning obviously being that his heart knit itself to theirs in a simple human fondness. The term employed to express this friendship is prevailingly that high term which designates a love that is grounded in admiration and fulfils itself in esteem;30 but the term which carries with it only the notion of personal inclination and delight is not shunned.31 We are given to understand that there was a particular one of our Lord’s most intimate circle of disciples on whom he especially poured out his personal affection. This disciple came to be known, as, by the way of eminence, “the disciple whom Jesus loved,” though there are subtle suggestions that the phrase must not be taken in too exclusive a sense.32 Both terms, the more elevated and the more intimate, are employed to express Jesus’ love for him.33 The love of Jesus for the household at Bethany and especially for Lazarus, is also expressly intimated to us, and it also by both terms, — though the more intimate one is tactfully confined to his affection for Lazarus himself. The message which the sisters sent Jesus is couched in the language of the warmest personal attachment: “Behold, he whom thou lovest is sick”; and the sight of Jesus’ tears calls from the witnessing Jews an exclamation which recognizes in him the tenderest personal feeling: “Behold, how he loved him!” But when the Evangelist widens Jesus’ affection to embrace the sisters also, he instinctively lifts the term employed to the more deferential expression of friendship: “Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus.” Jesus’ affection for Mary and Martha, while deep and close, had nothing in it of an amatory nature, and the change in the term avoids all possibility of such a misconception.34 Meanwhile, we perceive our Lord the subject of those natural movements of affection which bind the members of society together in bonds of close fellowship. He was as far as possible from insensibility to the pleasures of social intercourse (cf. Mt. xi. 19) and the charms of personal attractiveness. He had his mission to perform, and he chose his servants with a view to the performance of his mission. The relations of the flesh gave way in his heart to the relations of the spirit: “whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, he is my brother, and sister, and mother” (Mt. xii. 50) and it is “those who do the things which he commands them” whom he calls his “friends” (Jno. xv. 14). But he had also the companions of his human heart: those to whom his affections turned in a purely human attachment. His heart was open and readily responded to the delights of human association, and bound itself to others in a happy fellowship.35
It is Mark, for instance, who tells us explicitly (iii. 5) that the insensibility of the Jews to human suffering exhibited in a tendency to put ritual integrity above humanity, filled Jesus with indignant anger. A man whose hand had withered, met with in the synagogue one Sabbath, afforded a sort of test-case. The Jews treated it as such and “watched Jesus whether he would heal him on the Sabbath day, that they might accuse him.” Jesus accepted the challenge. Commanding the man to “rise in the midst” of the assemblage, he put to them the searching question, generalizing the whole case: “Is it lawful to do good or to do evil on the Sabbath, to save life or to kill?” “But,” says the narrative, “they kept silent.” Then Jesus’ anger rose: “he looked around at them with anger, being grieved at the hardness of their heart.” What is meant is, not that his anger was modified by grief, his reprobation of the hardness of their hearts was mingled with a sort of sympathy for men sunk in such a miserable condition. What is meant is simply that the spectacle of their hardness of heart produced in him the deepest dissatisfaction, which passed into angry resentment.36 Thus the fundamental psychology of anger is curiously illustrated by this account; for anger always has pain at its root, and is a reaction of the soul against what gives it discomfort.37 The hardness of the Jews’ heart, vividly realized, hurt Jesus; and his anger rose in repulsion of the cause of his pain. There are thus two movements of feeling brought before us here. There is the pain which the gross manifestation of the hardness of heart of the Jews inflicted on Jesus. And there is the strong reaction of indignation which sprang out of this pain. The term by which the former feeling is expressed has at its basis the simple idea of pain, and is used in the broadest way of every kind of pain, whether physical or mental, emphasizing, however, the sensation itself, rather than its expression.38 It is employed here appropriately, in a form which throws an emphasis on the inwardness of the feeling, of the discomfort of heart produced in Jesus by the sight of man’s inhumanity to man. The expression of this discomfort was in the angry look which he swept over the unsympathetic assemblage. It is not intimated that the pain was abiding, the anger evanescent. The glance in which the anger was manifested is represented as fleeting in contrast with the pain of which the anger was the expression. But the term used for this anger is just the term for abiding resentment, set on vengeance.39 Precisely what is ascribed to Jesus, then, in this passage is that indignation at wrong, perceived as such, wishing and intending punishment to the wrong-doer, which forms the core of what we can vindicatory justice.40 This is a necessary reaction of every moral being against perceived wrong.
On another occasion Mark (x. 14) pictures Jesus to us as moved by a much lighter form of the emotion of anger. His disciples, — doubtless with a view to protecting him from needless drafts upon his time and strength, — interfered with certain parents, who were bringing to him their babies (Lk. xviii. 15) “that he should touch them.” Jesus saw their action, and, we are told, “was moved with indignation.” The term employed here41 expresses, originally, physical (such, for example, as is felt by a teething child), and then mental (Mt. xx. 24, xxi. 15, xxvi. 8; Mk. x. 41, xiv. 4; Lk. xiii. 14, cf. II Cor. vii. 11) “irritation.” Jesus was “irritated,” or perhaps we may better render, was “annoyed,” “vexed,” at his disciples. And (so the term also suggests) he showed his annoyance, — whether by gesture or tone or the mere shortness of his speech: “Let the children come to me; forbid them not!”42 Thus we see Jesus as he reacts with anger at the spectacle of inhumanity, so reacting with irritation at the spectacle of blundering misunderstanding, however well-meant.
Yet another phase of angry emotion is ascribed to Jesus by Mark, but in this case not by Mark alone. Mark (xiv. 3) tells us that on healing a leper, Matthew (ix. 30) that on healing two blind men, Jesus “straitly,” “strictly,” “sternly,” “charged” them, — as our English versions struggle with the term, in an attempt to make it describe merely the tone and manner of his injunction to the beneficiaries of his healing power, not to tell of the cures wrought upon them. This term,43 however, does not seem to mean, in its ordinary usage, to “charge,” to “enjoin,” however straitly or strictly, but simply to “be angry at,” or, since it commonly implies that the anger is great, to “be enraged with,” or, perhaps better still, since it usually intimates that the anger is expressed by audible signs, to “rage against.” If we are to take it in its customary sense, therefore, what we are really told in these passages is that Jesus, “when he had raged against the leper, sent him away;” that “he raged against the blind men, saying, ‘See that no one know it!” If this rage is to be supposed (with our English versions) to have expressed itself only in the words recorded, the meaning would not be far removed from that of the English word “bluster” in its somewhat rare transitive use, as, for example, when an old author writes: “He meant to bluster all princes into perfect obedience.”44 The implication of boisterousness, and indeed of empty noise, which attends the English word, however, is quite lacking from the Greek, the rage expressed by which is always thought of as very real. What it has in common with “bluster” is thus merely its strong minatory import. The Vulgate Latin accordingly cuts the knot by rendering it simply “threatened,” and is naturally followed in this by those English versions (Wycliffe, Rheims) which depend on it.45 Certainly Jesus is represented here as taking up a menacing attitude, and threatening words are placed on his lips: “See that thou say nothing to any man,” “See that no one know it”— a form of speech which always conveys a threat.46 But “threaten” can scarcely be accepted as an adequate rendering of the term whether in itself or in these contexts. When Matthew tells us “And he was enraged at them, saying . . .” the rage may no doubt be thought to find its outlet in the threatening words which follow:47 but the implication of Mark is different: “And raging at him,” or “having raged at him” — “he straightway sent him forth.” When it is added: “And saith to him, ‘See that thou say nothing to any one” a subsequent moment in the transaction is indicated.48 How our Lord’s rage was manifested, we are not told. And this is really just as true in the case of Matthew as in that of Mark. To say, “he was enraged at them, saying (threatening words),” is not to say merely, “he threatened them”: it is to say that a threat was uttered and that this threat was the suitable accompaniment of his rage.
The cause of our Lord’s anger does not lie on the surface in either case. The commentators seem generally inclined to account for it by supposing that Jesus foresaw that his injunction of silence would be disregarded.49 But this explanation, little natural in itself, seems quite unsuitable to the narrative in Mark where we are told, not that Jesus angrily enjoined the leper to silence, but that he angrily sent him away. Others accordingly seek the ground of his anger in something displeasing to him in the demeanor of the applicants for his help, in their mode of approaching or addressing him, in erroneous conceptions with which they were animated, and the like. Klostermann imagines that our Lord did not feel that miraculous healings lay in the direct line of his vocation, and was irritated because he had been betrayed by his compassion into undertaking them. Volkmar goes the length of supposing that Jesus resented the over-reverential form of the address of the leper to him, on the principle laid down in Rev. xix. 10, “See thou do it not: I am a fellow-servant with thee.” Even Keil suggests that Jesus was angry with the blind men because they addressed him openly as “Son of David,” not wishing “this untimely proclamation of him as Messiah on the part of those who held him as such only on account of his miracles.” It is more common to point out some shortcoming in the applicants: they did not approach him with sufficient reverence or with sufficient knowledge of the true nature of his mission; they demanded their cure too much as a matter of course, or too much as if from a mere marvel-monger; and in the case of the leper at least, with too little regard to their own obligations. A leper should not approach a stranger; certainly he should not ask or permit a stranger to put his hand upon him; especially should he not approach a stranger in the streets of a city (Lk. v. 12) and very particularly not in a house (Mk. i. 43: “He put him out”), above all if it were, as it might well be here, a private house. That Jesus was indignant at such gross disregard of law was natural and fully explains his vehemence in driving the leper out and sternly admonishing him to go and fulfil the legal requirements.50 This variety of explanation is the index of the slightness of the guidance given in the passages themselves to the cause of our Lord’s anger; but it can throw no doubt upon the fact of that anger, which is directly asserted in both instances and must not be obscured by attributing to the term by which it is expressed some lighter significance.51 The term employed declares that Jesus exhibited vehement anger, which was audibly manifested.52 This anger did not inhibit, however, the operation of his compassion (Mk. i. 41; Mt. ix. 27) but appears in full manifestation as its accompaniment. This may indicate that its cause lay outside the objects of his compassion, in some general fact the nature of which we may possibly learn from other instances.
The same term occurs again in John’s narrative of our Lord’s demeanor at the grave of his beloved friend Lazarus (Jno. xi. 33, 38). When Jesus saw Mary weeping — or rather “wailing,” for the term is a strong one and implies the vocal expression of the grief53 — and the Jews which accompanied her also “wailing,” we are told, as our English version puts it, that “he groaned in the spirit and was troubled”; and again, when some of the Jews, remarking on his own manifestation of grief in tears, expressed their wonder that he who had opened the eyes of the blind man could not have preserved Lazarus from death, we are told that Jesus “again groaned in himself.” The natural suggestion of the word “groan” is, however, that of pain or sorrow, not disapprobation; and this rendering of the term in question is therefore misleading. It is better rendered in the only remaining passage in which it occurs in the New Testament, Mk. xiv. 5, by “murmured,” though this is much too weak a word to reproduce its implications. In that passage it is brought into close connection with a kindred term54 which determines its meaning. We read: “But there were some that had indignation among themselves . . . and they murmured against her.” Their feeling of irritated displeasure expressed itself in an outburst of temper. The margin of our Revised Version at Jno. xi. 33, 38, therefore, very properly proposes that we should for “groaned” in these passages, substitute “moved with indignation,” although that phrase too is scarcely strong enough. What John tells us, in point of fact, is that Jesus approached the grave of Lazarus, in a state, not of uncontrollable grief, but of irrepressible anger. He did respond to the spectacle of human sorrow abandoning itself to its unrestrained expression, with quiet, sympathetic tears: “Jesus wept” (verse 36).55 But the emotion which tore his breast and clamored for utterance was just rage. The expression even of this rage, however, was strongly curbed. The term which John employs to describe it is, as we have seen, a definitely external term.56 “He raged.” But John modifies its external sense by annexed qualifications: “He raged in spirit,” “raging in himself” He thus interiorizes the term and gives us to understand that the ebullition of Jesus’ anger expended itself within him. Not that there was no manifestation of it: it must have been observable to be observed and recorded;57 it formed a marked feature of the occurrence as seen and heard.58 But John gives us to understand that the external expression of our Lord’s fury was markedly restrained: its manifestation fell far short of its real intensity. He even traces for us the movements of his inward struggle: “Jesus, therefore, when he saw her wailing, and the Jews that had come with her wailing, was enraged in spirit and troubled himself’59 . . . and wept. His inwardly restrained fury produced a profound agitation of his whole being, one of the manifestations of which was tears.
Why did the sight of the wailing of Mary and her companions enrage Jesus? Certainly not because of the extreme violence of its expression; and even more certainly not because it argued unbelief — unwillingness to submit to God’s providential ordering or distrust of Jesus’ power to save. He himself wept, if with less violence yet in true sympathy. with the grief of which he was witness. The intensity of his exasperation, moreover, would be disproportionate to such a cause; and the importance attached to it in the account bids us seek its ground in something less incidental to the main drift of the narrative. It is mentioned twice, and is obviously emphasized as an indispensable element in the development of the story, on which, in its due place and degree, the lesson of the incident hangs. The spectacle of the distress of Mary and her companions enraged Jesus because it brought poignantly home to his consciousness the evil of death, its unnaturalness, its “violent tyranny” as Calvin (on verse 38) phrases it. In Mary’s grief, he “contemplates” — still to adopt Calvin’s words (on verse 33), — “the general misery of the whole human race” and burns with rage against the oppressor of men. Inextinguishable fury seizes upon him; his whole being is discomposed and perturbed; and his heart, if not his lips, cries out, —
Is my soul disquieted.”60
There is another term which the Synoptic Gospels employ to describe our Lord’s dealing with those he healed (Mt. xii. 16), which is sometimes rendered by our English versions — as the term we have just been considering is rendered in similar connections (Mk. i. 43; Mt. ix. 30) — by “charged” (Mt. xli. 16, xvi. 20; Mk. iii. 12, viii. 30, ix. 21); but more frequently with more regard to its connotation of censure, implying displeasure, “by rebuked” (Mt. xvii. 18; Mk. ix. 21; Lk. iv. 35-41, xix. 42; Mk. viii. 30; Lk. ix. 55; Mt. viii. 20; Mk. iv. 39; Lk. iv. 39, viii. 24).62 This term, the fundamental meaning of which is “to mete out due measure,” with that melancholy necessity which carries all terms which express doing justice to sinful men downwards in their connotation, is used in the New Testament only in malam partem, and we may be quite sure is never employed without its implication of censure.63 What is implied by its employment is that our Lord in working certain cures, and, indeed, in performing others of his miracles — as well as in laying charges on his followers — spoke, not merely “strongly and peremptorily,”64 but chidingly, that is to say, with expressed displeasure.65 There is in these instances perhaps not so strong but just as clear an ascription of the emotion of anger to our Lord as in those we have already noted, and this suggests that not merely in the case of the raising of Lazarus but in many other instances in which he put forth his almighty power to rescue men from the evils which burdened them, our Lord was moved by an ebullition of indignant anger at the destructive powers exhibited in disease or even in the convulsions of nature.66 In instances like Mt. xii. 16; Mk. 12; Mt. xvi. 20; Mk. viii. 30; Lk. ix. 21, the censure inherent in the term may almost seem to become something akin to menace or threat: “he chided them to the end that they should not make him known”; he made a show of anger or displeasure directed to this end. In the cases where, however, Jesus chided the unclean spirits which he cast out it seems to lie in the nature of things that it was the tyrannous evil which they were working upon their victims that was the occasion of his displeasure.67 When he is said to have “rebuked” a fever which was tormenting a human being (Lk. iv. 39) or the natural elements — the wind and sea — menacing human lives (Mt. viii. 26; Mk. iv. 39; Lk. viii. 24), there is no reason to suppose that he looked upon these natural powers as themselves personal, and as little that the personification is only figurative; we may not improperly suppose that the displeasure he exhibited in his upbraiding them was directed against the power behind these manifestations of a nature out of joint, the same malignant influence which he advanced to the conquest of when he drew near to the tomb of Lazarus.68 In any event the series of passages in which this term is employed to ascribe to Jesus acts inferring displeasure, greatly enlarges the view we have of the play of Jesus’ emotions of anger. We see him chiding his disciples, the demons that were tormenting men, and the natural powers which were menacing their lives or safety, and speaking in tones of rebuke to the multitudes who were the recipients of his healing grace (Mt. xii. 16). And that we are not to suppose that this chiding was always mild we are advised by the express declaration that it was in one instance at least, “vehement” (Mk. iii. 12).69
Perhaps in no incidents recorded in the Gospels is the action of our Lord’s indignation more vividly displayed than in the accounts of the cleansings of the Temple. In closing the account which he gives of the earlier of these, John tells us that “his disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of thine house shall eat me up” (Jno. ii. 17). The word here employed — “zeal” — may mean nothing more than “ardor”; but this ardor may burn with hot indignation, — we read of a “zeal of fire which shall devour the adversaries” (Heb. x. 27). And it seems to be this hot indignation at the pollution of the house of God — this “burning jealousy for the holiness of the house of God”70 — which it connotes in our present passage. In this act, Jesus in effect gave vent “to a righteous anger,”71 and perceiving his wrathful zeal72 his followers recognized in it the Messianic fulfilment of the words in which the Psalmist represents himself. as filled with a zeal for the house of Jehovah, and the honor of him who sits in it, that “consumes him like a fire burning in his bones, which incessantly breaks through and rages all through him.”73 The form in which it here breaks forth is that of indignant anger towards those who defile God’s house with trafficking, and it thus presents us with one of the most striking manifestations of the anger of Jesus in act. It is far, however, from being the only instance in which the action of Jesus’ anger is recorded for us. And the severity of his language equals the decisiveness of his action. He does not scruple to assault his opponents with the most vigorous denunciation. Herod he calls “that fox” (Lk. xiii. 32); the unreceptive, he designates briefly “swine” (Mt. vii. 6) ; those that tempt him he visits with the extreme term of ignominy — Satan (Mk. viii. 33). The opprobrious epithet of “hypocrites” is repeatedly on his lips (Mt. xv. 7, xxiii. passim; Lk. xiii. 15), and he added force to this reprobation by clothing it in violent figures, — they were “blind guides,” “whited sepulchres,” and, less tropically, “a faithless and perverse generation,” a “wicked and adulterous generation.” He does not shrink even from vituperatively designating them ravening wolves (Mt. vii. 15), serpents, brood of vipers (Mt. xii. 34), even children of the evil one: “Ye are,” he declares plainly, “of your father, the Devil” (Jno. viii. 44). The long arraignment of the Pharisees in the twenty-third chapter of Matthew with its iterant, “Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!” and its uncompromising denunciation, fairly throbs with indignation, and brings Jesus, before us in his sternest mood, the mood of the nobleman in the parable (Lk. xix. 27), whom he represents as commanding: “And as for these my enemies, bring them hither and slay them before me.”74
The holy resentment of Jesus has been made the subject of a famous chapter in Ecco Homo.75 The contention of this chapter is that he who loves men must needs hate with a burning hatred all that does wrong to human beings, and that, in point of fact, Jesus never wavered in his consistent resentment of the special wrong-doing which he was called upon to witness. The chapter announces as its thesis, indeed, the paradox that true mercy is no less the product of anger than of pity: that what differentiates the divine virtue of mercy from “the vice of insensibility” which is called “tolerance,” is just the under-lying presence of indignation. Thus — so the reasoning runs, — “the man who cannot be angry cannot be merciful,” and it was therefore precisely the anger of Christ which proved that the unbounded compassion he manifested to sinners “was really mercy and not mere tolerance.” The analysis is doubtless incomplete; but the suggestion, so far as it goes, is fruitful. Jesus’ anger is not merely the seamy side of his pity; it is the righteous reaction of his moral sense in the presence of evil. But Jesus burned with anger against the wrongs he met with in his journey through human life as truly as he melted with pity at the sight of the world’s misery: and it was out of these two emotions that his actual mercy proceeded.
It is pure perversion, to be sure, when Renan, after the debasing fashion of his sentimentalizing frivolity, transmutes Jesus’ joy in his redemptive work (Jno. xv. 11, xvii. 13) into mere pagan lightness of heart and delight in living, as if his fundamental disposition were a kind of “sweet gaiety” which “was incessantly expressing itself in lively reflections, and kindly pleasantries.” He assures us that Jesus travelled about Palestine almost as if he was some lord of revelry, bringing a festival wherever he came, and greeted at every doorstep “as a joy and a benediction”: “the women and children adored him.” The infancy of the world had come back with him “with its divine spontaneity and its naive dizzinesses of joy.” At his touch the hard conditions of life vanished from sight, and there took possession of men, the dream of an imminent paradise, of “a delightful garden in which should continue forever the charming life they now were living.” “How long,” asks Renan, “did this intoxication last?”, and answers: “We do not know. During the continuance of this magical apparition, time was not measured. Duration was suspended; a week was a century. But whether it filled years or months, the dream was so beautiful that humanity has lived on it ever since, and our consolation still is to catch its fading fragrance. Never did so much joy stir the heart of man. For a moment in this most vigorous attempt it has ever made to lift itself above its planet, humanity forgot the leaden weight which holds it to the earth and the sorrows of the life here below. Happy he who could see with his own eyes this divine efflorescence and share, if even for a day, this unparalleled illusion!”80
The perversion is equally great, however, when there is attributed to our Lord, as it is now very much the fashion to do, “before the black shadow of the cross fell athwart his pathway,” the exuberant joy of a great hope never to be fulfilled: the hope of winning his people to his side and of inaugurating the Kingdom of God upon this sinful earth by the mere force of its proclamation.81 Jesus was never the victim of any such illusion: he came into the world on a mission of ministering mercy to the lost, giving his life as a ransom for many (Lk. xix. 10; Mk. x. 4; Mt. xx. 28); and from the beginning he set his feet steadfastly in the path of suffering (Mt. iv. 3 f.; Lk. iv. 3 f.) which he knew led straight onward to death ( Jno. ii. 19, iii. 14; Mt. xii. 40; Lk. xii. 49-50; Mt. ix. 15; Mk. ii. 1-9; Lk. v. 34, etc.). Joy he had: but it was not the shallow joy of mere pagan delight in living, nor the delusive joy of a hope destined to failure; but the deep exultation of a conqueror setting captives free. This joy underlay all his sufferings and shed its light along the whole thorn-beset path which was trodden by his torn feet. We hear but little of it, however, as we hear but little of his sorrows: the narratives are not given to descriptions of the mental states of the great actor whose work they illustrate. We hear just enough of it to assure us of its presence underlying and giving its color to all his life (Lk. iv. 21;82 Jno. v. 11, xvii. 1383). If our Lord was “the Man of Sorrows,” he was more profoundly still “the Man of Joy.”84
Of the lighter pleasurable emotions that flit across the mind in response to appropriate incitements arising occasionally in the course of social intercourse, we also hear little in the case of Jesus. It is not once recorded that he laughed; we do not ever hear even that he smiled; only once are we told that he was glad, and then it is rather sober gratification than exuberant delight which is spoken of in connection with him (Jno. xi. 15). But, then, we hear little also of his passing sorrows. The sight of Mary and her companions wailing at the tomb of Lazarus, agitated his soul and caused him tears (Jno. xi. 35) ; the stubborn unbelief of Jerusalem drew from him loud wailing (Lk. xix. 41). He sighed at the sight of human suffering (Mk. vii. 34) and “sighed deeply” over men’s hardened unbelief (viii. 12): man’s inhumanity to man smote his heart with pain (iii. 5). But it is only with reference to his supreme sacrifice that his mental sufferings are emphasized. This supreme sacrifice cast, it is true, its shadows before it. It was in the height of his ministry that our Lord exclaimed, “I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished” (Lk. xii. 50).85 Floods lie before him under which he is to be submerged,86 and the thought of passing beneath their waters “straitens” his soul. The term rendered “straitened”87 imports oppression and affliction, and bears witness to the burden of anticipated anguish which our Lord bore throughout life. The prospect of his sufferings, it has been justly said, was a perpetua188 Gethsemane; and how complete this foretaste was we may learn from the incident recorded in Jno. xii. 27,89 although this antedated Gethsemane, by only a few days. “Now is my soul90 troubled,” he cries and adds a remarkable confession of shrinking at the prospect of death, with, however, an immediate revulsion to his habitual attitude of submission to, or rather of hearty embracing of, his Father’s will. — “And what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour!91 But for this cause, came I to this hour! Father, glorify Thy name!” He had come into the world to die; but as he vividly realizes what the death is which he is to die, there rises in his soul a yearning for deliverance, only however, to be at once repressed.92 The state of mind in which this sharp conflict went on is described by a term the fundamental implication of which is agitation, disquietude, perplexity.93 This perturbation of soul is three times attributed by John to Jesus (xi. 33, xii. 27, xiii. 21), and always as expressing the emotions which conflict with death stirred in him. The anger roused in him by the sight of the distress into which death had plunged Mary and her companions (xi. 33); the anticipation of his own betrayal to death (xiii. 21); the clearly realized approach of his death (xii. 27); threw him inwardly into profound agitation. It was not always the prospect of his own death (xii. 27, xiii. 21), but equally the poignant realization of what death meant for others (xi. 33) which had the power thus to disquiet him. His deep agitation was clearly, therefore, not due to mere recoil from the physical experience of death,94 though even such a recoil might be the expression not so much of a terror of dying as of repugnance to the idea of death.95 Behind death, he saw him who has the power of death, and that sin which constitutes the sting of death. His whole being revolted from that final and deepest humiliation, in which the powers of evil were to inflict upon him the precise penalty of human sin. To bow his head beneath this stroke was the last indignity, the hardest act of that obedience which it was his to render in his servant-form, and which we are told with significant emphasis, extended “up to death” (Phil. ii. 8).
So profound a repugnance to death and all that death meant, manifesting itself during his life, could not fail to seize upon him with peculiar intensity at the end. If the distant prospect of his sufferings was a perpetual Gethsemane to him, the immediate imminence of them in the actual Gethsemane could not fail to bring with it that “awful and dreadful torture” which Calvin does not scruple to call the “exordium” of the pains of hell themselves.96 Matthew and Mark almost exhaust the resources of language to convey to us some conception of our Lord’s “agony”97 as an early interpolator of Luke (Lk. xxii. 44) calls it, in this dreadful experience.98 The anguish of reluctance which constituted this “agony” is in part described by them both — they alone of the Evangelists enter into our Lord’s feelings here — by a term the primary idea of which is loathing, aversion, perhaps not unmixed with despondency.99 This term is adjoined in Matthew’s account to the common word for sorrow, in which, however, here the fundamental element of pain, distress, is prominent,100 so that we may perhaps render Matthew’s account: “He began to be distressed and despondent” (Mt. xxvi. 37). Instead of this wide word for distress of mind, Mark employs a term which more narrowly defines the distress as consternation, — if not exactly dread, yet alarmed dismay:101 “He began to be appalled and despondent” (Mk. xiv. 33). Both accounts add our Lord’s own pathetic declaration: “My soul102 is exceeding sorrowful even unto death,” the central term103 in which expresses a sorrow, or perhaps we would better say, a mental pain, a distress, which hems in on every side, from which there is therefore no escape; or rather (for the qualification imports that this hemming-in distress is mortally acute, is an anguish of a sort that no issue but death can be thought of104) which presses in and besets from every side and therefore leaves no place for defence. The extremity of this agony may have been revealed, as the interpolator of Luke tells us, by sweat dropping like clots of blood on the ground, as our Lord ever more importunately urged that wonderful prayer, in which as Bengel strikingly says,105 the horror of death and the ardor of obedience met (Lk. xxii. 44). This interpolator tells us (Lk. xxii. 43) also that he was strengthened for the conflict by an angelic visitor, and we may well suppose that had it not been for some supernatural strengthening mercifully vouchsafed (cf. Jno. xii. 27f. ), the end would then have come.’106 But the cup must needs be drained to its dregs, and the final drop was not drunk until that cry of desertion and desolation was uttered, “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?” (Mt. xxvii. 46; Mk. xv. 34).107 This culminating sorrow was actually unto death.
In these supreme moments our Lord sounded the ultimate depths of human anguish, and vindicated on the score of the intensity of his mental sufferings the right to the title of Man of Sorrows. The scope of these sufferings was also very broad, embracing that whole series of painful emotions which runs from a consternation that is appalled dismay, through a despondency which is almost despair, to a sense of well-nigh complete desolation. In the presence of this mental anguish the physical tortures of the crucifixion retire into the background, and we may well believe that our Lord, though he died on the cross, yet died not of the cross, but, as we commonly say, of a broken heart, that is to say, of the strain of his mental suffering.108 The sensitiveness of his soul to affectional movements, and the depths of the currents of feeling which flowed through his being, are thus thrown up into a very clear light. And yet it is noticeable that while they tore his heart and perhaps, in the end, broke the bonds which bound his fluttering spirit to its tenement of clay, they never took the helm of life or overthrew either the judgment of his calm understanding or the completeness of his perfect trust in his Father. If he cried out in his agony for deliverance, it was always the cry of a child to a Father whom he trusts with all and always, and with the explicit condition, Howbeit, not what I will but what Thou wilt. If the sense of desolation invades his soul, he yet confidingly commends his departing spirit into his Father’s hands (Lk. xxiii. 46).109 And through all his agony his demeanor to his disciples, his enemies, his judges, his executioners is instinct with calm self-mastery. The cup which was put to his lips was bitter: none of its bitterness was lost to him as he drank it: but he drank it; and he drank it as his own cup which it was his own will (because it was his Father’s will) to drink. “The cup which the Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?” (Jno. xviii. 11), — it was in this spirit, not of unwilling subjection to unavoidable evil, but of voluntary endurance of unutterable anguish for adequate ends, that he passed into and through all his sufferings. His very passion was his own action. He had power to lay down his life; and it was by his own power that he laid down his life, and by his own power that he trod the whole pathway of suffering which led up to the formal act of his laying down his life. Nowhere is he the victim of circumstances or the helpless sufferer. Everywhere and always, it is he who possesses the mastery both of circumstances and of himself.’110
The completeness of Jesus’ trust in God which is manifested in the unconditional “Nevertheless, not as I will but as Thou wilt” of the “agony,” and is echoed in the “Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit” of the cross, finds endless illustration in the narratives of the Evangelists. Trust is never, however, explicitly attributed to him in so many words.111 Except in the scoffing language with which he was assailed as he hung on the cross: “He trusteth in God; let him deliver him now if he desireth him” (Mt. xxvii. 43), the term “trust” is never so much as mentioned in connection with his relations with God. Nor is the term “faith.”112 Nor indeed are many of what we may call the fundamental religious affections directly attributed to him, although he is depicted as literally living, moving and having his being in God. His profound feeling of dependence on God, for example, is illustrated in every conceivable way, not least strikingly in the constant habit of prayer which the Evangelists ascribe to him.113 But we are never directly told that he felt this dependence on God or “feared God” or felt the emotions of reverence and awe in the divine presence.114 We are repeatedly told that he returned thanks to God,115 but we are never told in so many words that he experienced the emotion of gratitude. The narrative brings Jesus before us as acting under the impulse of all the religious emotions; but it does not stop to comment upon the emotions themselves.
The same is true of the more common emotions of human life. The narrative is objective throughout in its method. On two occasions we are told that Jesus felt that occurrences which he witnessed were extraordinary and experienced the appropriate emotion of “wonder” regarding them (Mt. viii. 10; Lk. vii. 9; Mk. vi. 6).116 Once “desire” is attributed to him (Lk. xxii. 15), — he had “set his heart,” as we should say, upon eating the final passover with his disciples — the term used emphasizing the affectional movement.117 And once our Lord speaks of himself as being conceivably the subject of “shame,” the reference being, however, rather to a mode of action consonant with the emotion, than to the feeling itself (Mk. viii. 38; Lk. iv. 26).118 Besides these few chance suggestions, there are none of the numerous emotions that rise and fall in the human soul, which happen to be explicitly attributed to our Lord.119 The reader sees them all in play in his vividly narrated life-experiences, but he is not told of them.
We have now passed in review the whole series of explicit attributions to our Lord in the Gospels of specific emotional movements. It belongs to the occasional manner in which these emotional movements find record in the narrative, that it is only our Lord’s most noticeable displays of emotion which are noted. One of the effects of this is to give to his emotions as noted the appearance of peculiar strength, vividness and completeness. This serves to refute the notion which has been sometimes advanced under the influence of the “apathetic” conception of virtue, that emotional movements never ran their full course in him as we experience them, but stopped short at some point in their action deemed the point of dignity.120 In doing so, it serves equally, however, to carry home to us a very vivid impression of the truth and reality of our Lord’s human nature. What we are given is, no doubt, only the high lights. But it is easy to fill in the picture mentally with the multitude of emotional movements which have not found record just because they were in no way exceptional. Here obviously is a being who reacts as we react to the incitements which arise in daily intercourse with men, and whose reactions bear all the characteristics of the corresponding emotions we are familiar with in our experience.
Perhaps it may be well explicitly to note that our Lord’s emotions fulfilled themselves, as ours do, in physical reactions. He who hungered (Mt. iv. 2), thirsted (Jno. xix. 20), was weary (Jno. iv. 6), who knew both physical pain and pleasure, expressed also in bodily affections the emotions that stirred his soul. That he did so is sufficiently evinced by the simple circumstance that these emotions were observed and recorded. But the bodily expression of the emotions is also frequently expressly attested. Not only do we read that he wept (Jno. xi. 35) and wailed (Lk. xix. 41), sighed (Mk. vii. 34) and groaned (Mk. viii. 12) ; but we read also of his angry glare (Mk. iii. 5), his annoyed speech (Mk. x. 14), his chiding words (e. g. Mk. iii. 12), the outbreaking ebullition of his rage (e.g. Jno. xi. 33, 38) ; of the agitation of his bearing when under strong feeling (Jno. xi. 35), the open exultation of his joy (Lk. x. 21), the unrest of his movements in the face of anticipated evils (Mt. xxvii. 37), the loud cry which was wrung from him in his moment of desolation (Mt. xxvii. 46). Nothing is lacking to make the impression strong that we have before us in Jesus a human being like ourselves.
It is part of the content of this impression, that Jesus appears before us in the light of the play of his emotions as a distinct human being, with his own individuality and — shall we not say it? — even temperament. It is, indeed, sometimes suggested that the Son of God assumed at the incarnation not a human nature but human nature, that is to say, not human nature as manifesting itself in an individual, but human nature in general, “generic” or “universal” human nature. The idea which it is meant to express, is not a very clear one,121 and is apparently only a relic of the discountenanced fiction of the “real” existence of universals. In any case the idea receives no support from a survey of the emotional life of our Lord as it is presented to us in the Evangelical narratives. The impression of a distinct individuality acting in accordance with its specific character as such, which is left on the mind by these narratives is very strong. Whether our Lord’s human nature is “generic” or “individual,” it certainly — the Evangelists being witness — functioned in the days of his flesh as if it were individual; and we have the same reason for pronouncing it an individual human-nature that we have for pronouncing such any human nature of whose functioning we have knowledge.122.
This general conclusion is quite independent of the precise determination of the peculiarity of the individuality which our Lord exhibits. He himself, on a great occasion, sums up his individual character (in express contrast with other individuals) in the declaration, “I am meek and lowly of heart.” And no impression was left by his life-manifestation more deeply imprinted upon the consciousness of his followers than that of the noble humility of his bearing. It was by the “meekness and gentleness of Christ” that they encouraged one another to a life becoming a Christian man’s profession (II Cor. x. 1); for “the patience of Christ” that they prayed in behalf of one another as a blessing worthy to be set in their aspirations by the side of the “love of God” (II Thess. iii. 5); to the imitation of Christ’s meek acceptance of undeserved outrages that they exhorted one another in persecution — “because Christ also suffered for sin, leaving you an example, that ye should follow in his steps; who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth; who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously” (I Pet. ii. 21-23). Nevertheless we cannot fix upon humility as in such a sense our Lord’s “quality” as to obsecure in him other qualities which might seem to stand in conflict with it; much less as carrying with it those “defects” which are apt to accompany it when it appears as the “quality” of others. Meekness in our Lord was not a weak bearing of evils, but a strong forbearance in the presence of evil. It was not so much a fundamental characteristic of a nature constitutionally averse to asserting itself, as a voluntary submission of a strong person bent on an end. It did not, therefore, so much give way before indignation when the tension became too great for it to bear up against it, as coexist with a burning indignation at all that was evil, in a perfect equipoise which knew no wavering to this side or that.’ It was, in a word, only the manifestation in him of the mind which looks not on its own things but the things of others (Phil. ii. 5), and therefore spells “mission,” not “temperament.” We cannot in any case define his temperament, as we define other men’s temperaments, by pointing to his dominant characteristics or the prevailing direction of his emotional discharges.123 In this sense he had no particular temperament, and it might with truth be said that his human nature was generic, not individual. The mark of his individuality was harmonious completeness: of him alone of men, it may be truly said that nothing that is human was alien to him, and that all that is human manifested itself in him in perfect proportion and balance.
The series of emotions attributed to our Lord in the Evangelical narrative, in their variety and their complex but harmonious interaction, illustrate, though, of course, they cannot of themselves demonstrate, this balanced comprehensiveness of his individuality. Various as they are, they do not inhibit one another; compassion and indignation rise together in his soul; joy and sorrow meet in his heart and kiss each other. Strong as they are — not mere joy but exhultation, not mere irritated annoyance but raging indignation, not mere passing pity but the deepest movements of compassion and love, not mere surface distress but an exceeding sorrow even unto death, — they never overmaster him. He remains ever in control.124 Calvin is, therefore, not without justification, when, telling us125 that in taking human affections our Lord did not take inordinate affections, but kept himself even in his passions in subjection to the will of the Father, he adds: “In short, if you compare his passions with ours, they will differ not less than the clear and pure water, flowing in a gentle course, differs from dirty and muddy foam.”126 The figure which is here employed may, no doubt, be unduly pressed:127 but Calvin has no intention of suggesting doubt of either the reality or the strength of our Lord’s emotional reactions. He expressly turns away from the tendency from which even an Augustine is not free, to reduce the affectional life of our Lord to a mere show, and commends to us rather, as Scriptural, the simplicity which affirms that “the Son of God having clothed himself with our flesh, of his own accord clothed himself also with human feelings, so that he did not differ at all from his brethren, sin only excepted.” He is only solicitous that, as Christ did not disdain to stoop to the feeling of our infirmities, we should be eager, not indeed to eradicate our affections, “seeking after that inhuman apatheia commended by the Stoics,” but “to correct and subdue that obstinacy which pervades them, on account of the sin of Adam,” and to imitate Christ our Leader, — who is himself the rule of supreme perfection — in subduing all their excesses. For Christ, he adds for our encouragement, had this very thing in view, when he took our affections upon himself — “that through his power we might subdue everything in them that is sinful.” Thus, Calvin, with his wonted eagerness for religious impression, points to the emotional life of Jesus, not merely as a proof of his humanity, but as an incitement to his followers to a holy life accordant with the will of God. We are not to be content to gaze upon him or to admire him: we must become imitators of him, until we are metamorphosed into the same image.
Even this is, of course, not quite the highest note. The highest note — Calvin does not neglect it — is struck by the Epistle to the Hebrews, when it declares that “it behooved him in all things to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful High-priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people” (Heb. ii. 17). “Surely,” says the Prophet (Is. liii. 4), “he hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows” — a general statement to which an Evangelist (Mt. viii. 1) has given a special application (as a case in point) when he adduces it in the form, “himself took our infirmities and bore our diseases.” He subjected himself to the conditions of our human life that he might save us from the evil that curses human life in its sinful manifestation. When we observe him exhibiting the movements of his human emotions, we are gazing on the very process of our salvation: every manifestation of the truth of our Lord’s humanity is an exhibition of the reality of our redemption. In his sorrows he was bearing our sorrows, and having passed through a human life like ours, he remains forever able to be touched with a feeling of our infirmities. Such a High Priest, in the language of the Epistle to the Hebrews, “became” us. We needed such an one.128 When we note the marks of humanity in Jesus Christ, we are observing his fitness to serve our needs. We behold him made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, and our hearts add our witness that it became him for whom are all things and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory to make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering.
It is not germane to the present inquiry to enter into the debate as to whether, in assuming flesh, our Lord assumed the flesh of fallen or of unfallen man. The right answer, beyond doubt, is that he assumed the flesh of unfallen man: it is not for nothing that Paul tells us that he came, not in sinful flesh, but in “the likeness of sinful flesh” (Rom. viii. 3). But this does not mean that the flesh he assumed was not under a curse: it means that the curse under which his flesh rested was not the curse of Adam’s first sin but the curse of the sins of his people: “him who knew no sin, he made sin in our behalf”; he who was not, even as man, under a curse, “became a curse for us.” He was accursed, not because he became man, but because he bore the sins of his people; he suffered and died not because of the flesh he took but because of the sins he took. He was, no doubt, born of a woman, born under the law (Gal. iv. 4), in one concrete act; he issued from the Virgin’s womb already our sin-bearer. But he was not sin-bearer because made of a woman; he was made of a woman that he might become sin-bearer; it was because of the suffering of death that he was made a little lower than the angels (Heb. ii. 9). It is germane to our inquiry, therefore, to take note of the fact that among the emotions which are attested as having found place in our Lord’s life-experiences, there are those which belong to him not as man but as sin-bearer, which never would have invaded his soul in the purity of his humanity save as he stood under the curse incurred for his people’s sins. The whole series of his emotions are, no doubt, affected by his position under the curse. Even his compassion receives from this a special quality: is this not included in the great declaration of Heb. iv. 15? Can we doubt that his anger against the powers of evil which afflict man, borrowed particular force from his own experience of their baneful working? And the sorrows and dreads which constricted his heart in the prospect of death, culminating in the extreme anguish of the dereliction, — do not these constitute the very substance of his atoning sufferings? As we survey the emotional life of our Lord as depicted by the Evangelists, therefore, let us not permit it to slip out of sight, that we are not only observing the proofs of the truth of his humanity, and not merely regarding the most perfect example of a human life which is afforded by history, but are contemplating the atoning work of the Saviour in its fundamental elements. The cup which he drank to its bitter dregs was not his cup but our cup; and he needed to drink it only because he was set upon our salvation.
The Person and Work of Christ
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I.The emotion which we should naturally expect to find most frequently attributed to that Jesus whose whole life was a mission of mercy, and whose ministry was so marked by deeds of beneficence that it was summed up in the memory of his followers as a going through the land “doing good” (Acts xi. 38 ), is no doubt “compassion.” In point of fact, this is the emotion which is most frequently attributed to him.5 The term employed to express it6 was unknown to the Greek classics, and was perhaps a coinage of the Jewish dispersion.7 It first appears in common use in this sense, indeed, in the Synoptic Gospels,8 where it takes the place of the most inward classical word of this connotation.9 The Divine mercy has been defined as that essential perfection in God “whereby he pities and relieves the miseries of his creatures”: it includes, that is to say, the two parts of an internal movement of pity and an external act of beneficence. It is the internal movement of pity which is emphasized when our Lord is said to be “moved with compassion” as the term is sometimes excellently rendered in the English versions.10 In the appeals made to his mercy, a more external word11 is used; but it is this more internal word that is employed to express our Lord’s response to these appeals: the petitioners besought him to take pity on them; his heart responded with a profound feeling of pity for them. His compassion fulfilled itself in the outward act; but what is emphasized by the term employed to express our Lord’s response is, in accordance with its very derivation, the profound internal movement of his emotional nature.
II.The moral sense is not a mere faculty of discrimination between the qualities which we call right and wrong, which exhausts itself in their perception as different. The judgments it passes are not merely intellectual, but what we call moral judgments; that is to say, they involve approval and disapproval according to the qualities perceived. It would be impossible, therefore, for a moral being to stand in the presence of perceived wrong indifferent and unmoved. Precisely what we mean by a moral being is a being perceptive of the difference between right and wrong and reacting appropriately to right and wrong perceived as such. The emotions of indignation and anger belong therefore to the very self-expression of a moral being as such and cannot be lacking to him in the presence of wrong. We should know, accordingly, without instruction that Jesus, living in the conditions of this earthly life under the curse of sin, could not fail to be the subject of the whole series of angry emotions, and we are not surprised that even in the brief and broken narratives of his life-experiences which have been given to us, there have been preserved records of the manifestation in word and act of not a few of them. It is. interesting to note in passing that it is especially in the Gospel of Mark, which rapid and objective as it is in its narrative, is the channel through which has been preserved to us a large part of the most intimate of the details concerning our Lord’s demeanor and traits which have come down to us, that we find these records.
“For the innumerable dead
III.We call our Lord “the Man of Sorrows,” and the designation is obviously appropriate for one who came into the world to bear the sins of men and to give his life a ransom for many. It is, however, not a designation which is applied to Christ in the New Testament, and even in the Prophet (Is. liii. 3) it may very well refer rather to the objective afflictions of the righteous servant than to his subjective distresses.76 In any event we must bear in mind that our Lord did not come into the world to be broken by the power of sin and death, but to break it. He came as a conqueror with the gladness of the imminent victory in his heart; for the joy set before him he was able to endure the cross, despising shame (Heb. xii. 2). And as he did not prosecute his work in doubt of the issue, neither did he prosecute it hesitantly as to its methods. He rather (so we are told, Lk. x. 21) “exulted in the Holy Spirit” as he contemplated the ways of God in bringing many sons to glory. The word is a strong one and conveys the idea of exuberant gladness, a gladness which fills the heart;77 and it is intimated that, on this occasion at least, this exultation was a product in Christ — and therefore in his human nature — of the operations of the Holy Spirit,78 whom we must suppose to have been always working in the human soul of Christ, sustaining and strengthening it. It cannot be supposed that, this particular occasion alone being excepted, Jesus prosecuted his work on earth in a state of mental depression. His advent into the world was announced as “good tidings of great joy” (Lk. ii. 10), and the tidings which he himself proclaimed were “the good tidings” by way of eminence. It is conceivable that he went about proclaiming them with a “sad countenance” (Mt. vi. 16)? It is misleading then to say merely, with Jeremy Taylor, “We never read that Jesus laughed and but once that he rejoiced in spirit.”79 We do read that, in contrast with John the Baptist, he came “eating and drinking,” and accordingly was malignantly called “a gluttonous man and a wine-bibber, a friend of publicans and sinners” (Mt. xi. 19; Lk. vii. 34) ; and this certainly does not encourage us to think of his demeanor at least as habitually sorrowful.
- 1 The Plan of Salvation
- 2 Inspiration and Authority of the Bible
- 3 The Emotional Life of our Lord
- 4 The Plan of Salvation
- 5 The Works of Benjamin B. Warfield in Ten Volumes.
- 6 The Essence of Christianity and the Cross of Christ
- 7 The Theology of B. B. Warfield: A Systematic Summary
- 8 Counterfeit Miracles
- 9 The Plan of Salvation: The order of God's decrees
- 10 The Theology of B. B. Warfield (Foreword by Sinclair B. Ferguson): A Systematic Summary
- 11 Biblical Doctrines
- 12 The Plan of Salvation by B. B. Warfield (2013-02-21)
- 13 The Saviour of the World: Sermons Preached in the Chapel of Princeton Theological Seminary
- 14 The Lion of Princeton: B.B. Warfield as Apologist and Theologian (Studies in Historical and Systematic Theology)
- 15 Faith and Life
Knowing the Enemy
By R.C. Sproul Jr. 9/1/2007
There are, no matter what may be happening around the globe, at least three wars going on at the same time. There is from the garden of Eden to the consummation of the kingdom of God the battle between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent.
God has divided all the world into two great armies, and all of history is the story of this great battle. In the end, though he succeeds in bruising the heel of the seed of the woman, the serpent’s head will be crushed. This is the primordial battle, the paradigmatic conflict, the mother of all wars.
Both the second and third are intimately related to the first. The seed of the woman, we would do well to remember, joined this brightly arrayed army having been drafted from the army of the enemy. Since the fall of Adam and Eve, we were all by nature children of wrath. But the Gospel promise is that He would put enmity between us and our natural father. He has regenerated us, given us new hearts such that we now love Him whom we once hated, and hate him whom we once loved. Trouble is, we still struggle with what we once were. The old man is both dead and being put to death. It wars with our members. Thus the battlefield where this second great conflict takes place is within the very souls of the children of God. Once again, the promise of the Gospel is victory. He has promised that if we confess our sins, not only will He forgive us of our sins, but will cleanse us of all unrighteousness. When we pass beyond the veil, we enter into peace, for this war will be over. All that is displeasing in the sight of God will be driven as far from us as the east is from the west.
The third battle is the mirror image of the second. The seed of the serpent not only wages war with the seed of the woman, but they too have an internal battle. Here the battle is not between an old man and a new man, but between his created nature and his fallen nature, between the remnants of the image of God and the brokenness of the fall. This battle works itself out in this peculiar tension. The unregenerate man, because he yet carries the image of God in him, desires peace, order, joy, purpose and integrity. But because he is a sinner, a rebel, a pretender to the throne of God, he desires in turn that there be no God to whom he must one day answer.
It is a fool’s quest to seek both of these ends, for they are mutually exclusive. There can be no peace if there is no law, and there can be no law without a lawgiver. There can be no order if there is none to give the world order. There can be no joy, if there is no ultimate good who transcends us. There can be no purpose if all our lives are lived under the sun. We cannot be whole, unless or until we are remade into the image of God. God is our peace, our order, our joy, our purpose, our integrity. Lose one and you must lose the other. Keep God, and all your life is lived under the known threat of His coming judgment.
It is not difficult to measure how this battle is going, in the lives of individuals, or in the context of a given culture. The strung-out, self-loathing, skid-row bum is seeing the battle go toward the denial of God’s existence. The respectable, prosperous, loving father and husband bum is inching toward integrity. The same is true of a society. A nice, clean, safe society is one wherein the battle is currently favoring the remains of the image of God. A bloodthirsty, epicurean, baby-murdering culture is one that is more willing to give up the blessings of the image of God in order to escape God.
It is good and appropriate that we should seek, in the larger battle between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent, to push our friends, neighbors and cultures in the direction of integrity. This is what it means, by and large, to pray for the peace of Babylon. It is, on the other hand, most important that we not confuse those enemies of the kingdom of God who yet have a better handle on the image of God, with our real friends. It is critical to the grand battle that we remember that upstanding, “moral,” citizens of the world are in fact citizens of the kingdom of darkness.
Jesus is not only our king, He is our husband. We, the bride of Christ, are only whole when we more clearly reflect our husband. He is our glory, our calling. When we love the world, whether it is the world of vile depravity, or the world of vile middle-class morality, we are still playing the harlot. Integrity begins with fidelity to our husband. As we practice this, as we exhibit a loyalty to Him and Him alone, He in turn blesses us. As we put aside our love of the world, no matter how clean it may be, our husband showers us with grace. Or, to put it another way, as we seek first the kingdom of God, all these things will be added unto us.
R.C. Sproul Jr. has served previously as a pastor, professor, and teacher. He is author of numerous books. Some are listed below.
R.C. Sproul Jr. Books | Go to Books Page
The Pastor and His Pulpit
By Albert Martin 9/1/2007
The life of a minister is the life of his ministry.” This adage is as true now as ever. In fact, ministerial integrity is an indispensable element of any sustained credibility among a discerning people with whom we have pastoral intimacy. Such intimacy leaves us vulnerable to be known for who and what we really are in relationship to the saving truth in which we traffic. A pastor-flock relationship characterized by the biblical description in which mutual intimacy is essential (John 10:14), consistent and comprehensive integrity is imperative if one is to have a ministry that is both compelling and believable.
A short article does not permit me to identify the many categories in which this integrity ought to be jealously desired, diligently pursued, and carefully maintained. Some of these categories are addressed in the previous articles. I will touch upon three areas of paramount importance, namely, personal, domestic, and pastoral integrity.
Of supreme importance is personal integrity. Perhaps no text of Scripture captures more succinctly yet comprehensively how this is to be maintained than Acts 24:16. Paul said to Felix: “I always take pains to have a clear conscience toward both God and man.” This text reveals that at the heart of integrity is the determination to live comfortably in the presence of God with a non-accusing conscience. In the secret chambers of our thoughts, the murky waters of our motives, in our imaginations and fantasies, to maintain a conscience void of offense. It is to come away from any time before our computers or our TVs with a healthy and uncondemned conscience. If conscience has been violated it is to run quickly to the fountain open for sin and uncleanness. It is to resolve with the psalmist: “I will walk with integrity of heart within my house; I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless” (Psalm 101:2–3). Such a man is no stranger to the ruthless excising of the offending eye and the merciless amputation of the offending hand. Anything that bloodies his conscience and disturbs his comfortable walk with God must go at any cost short of adding sin to sin.
Secondly, the apostle affirmed that without a good measure of domestic integrity, no man should be made an overseer in the house of God (1 Tim. 3:4–5). A pastor must so walk that he holds the consciences of his family members in an iron grip by consistent integrity of life. Our wives and children should be able to say to themselves and to others “if no preacher on the face of the earth is the real thing, my husband, my dad is the real deal.” This will mean that you must be willing to own and honestly confess to your wife and children your sins of word, attitude and deed. No mumbled, grudging “I’m sorry”; rather, “I sinned” and naming the sin. “Will you forgive me as God in Christ has forgiven me?” Then, for the family members to see you bring forth fruits answering to that repentance as you make decided efforts to mortify the sin that temporarily marred your testimony and cultivate the opposite grace. This is to “walk with integrity within your house.”
Thirdly, there is ministerial integrity. This relates primarily to the two broad areas of distinct ministerial calling and responsibility, especially for those elders who “labor in preaching and teaching” (1 Tim. 5:17). If we are to maintain integrity in our preaching we must pay the price connected with any sincere endeavor to comply with the injunction of 2 Timothy 2:15 to “do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” To produce sermons week after week, and year after year, that are exegetically accurate, theologically sound, helpfully illustrated, homiletically clean, practically applied, and suffused with the fragrance of Christ and the grand indicatives of grace, will demand work, work, and more work. Maintenance of our integrity can be realized in no other way.
Likewise, integrity in the aspects of governing and shepherding the flock of God will demand what Paul calls a kind of “birthing labor” that Christ be formed in His people (Gal. 4:19). The special aspects of this labor are intercessory prayer, personal and pointed encouragement, and admonition — even though the more you love the sheep in this way, the less you may be loved (Col. 1:28; 2 Cor. 12:15).
In his exhortation to the elders of the churches in Asia Minor, Peter highlights this crucial issue. Having charged them to “shepherd the flock of God,” he lists sinful attitudes and actions that ought never to characterize the motives or manner in which they fulfill this task. The capstone of the entire charge is the exhortation “being examples to the flock” (1 Peter 5:1–3). Such men have their consciences bound by Paul’s injunction to Titus: “show yourself in all respects to be a model” (Titus 2:7).
Yes, it is true, that “the life of a minister is the life of his ministry.”
Rev. Albert N. Martin is retired pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Montville, N.J., where he served for forty-six years. He is also a writer and conference speaker.
Albert Martin Books:
Duty and Honor
By R.C. Sproul 9/1/2007
Several years ago I was participating in a discussion with some business men in Jackson, Mississippi. In the course of the conversation, one of the men made reference to a man who was not present at the meeting. He said, “He is an honorable man.” When I heard this comment, my ears perked up as I thought for a moment I was hearing a foreign language being spoken. I realized that I was in the middle of the Deep South where customs of old had not entirely been eradicated, yet I still could not get over that somebody in this day and age was using the word honor as a descriptive term for a human being. The term honor has become somewhat archaic. We may think of the famous speech that General Douglas MacArthur gave at West Point entitled, “Duty, Honor, Country,” but that was more than a half a century ago. Today, the word honor has all but disappeared from the English language. Virtually, the only time I see the word in print is on bumper stickers that declare that the owner of the automobile has a child who is on the “Honor Roll,” but “Honor Roll” is perhaps the last vestigial remnant of a forgotten concept.
I speak about honor because the dictionary lists the term honor as the chief synonym for the word integrity. My concern in this article is to ask: “What is the meaning of integrity?” If we use the pedestrian definitions given to us by lexicographers, such as we find in Webster’s dictionary, we read several entries. In the first instance, integrity is defined as “uncompromising adherence to moral and ethical principles.” Second, integrity means “soundness of character.” Third, integrity means “honesty.” Fourth, integrity refers to being “whole or entire.” Fifth and finally, integrity means to be “unimpaired in one’s character.”
Now, these definitions describe persons who are almost as rare as the use of the term honor. In the first instance, integrity would describe someone whom we might call “a person of principle.” The person who is a person of principle is one, as the dictionary defines, who is uncompromising. The person is not uncompromising in every negotiation or discussion of important issues, but is uncompromising with respect to moral and ethical principles. This is a person who puts principle ahead of personal gain. The art of compromise is a virtue in a politically correct culture, which political correctness itself is modified by the adjectival qualifier political. To be political is often to be a person who compromises everything, including principle.
We also see that integrity refers to soundness of character and honesty. When we look to the New Testament, for example, in the epistle of James, James gives a list of virtues that are to be manifested in the Christian life. In the fifth chapter of that letter at verse 12, he writes, “But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath, but let your ‘yes’ be yes, and your ‘no,’ be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation.” Here James elevates the trustworthiness of a person’s word, the simple statement of yes or no, as a virtue that is “above all.” What James is getting at is that integrity requires a kind of honesty that indicates that when we say we will do something, our word is our bond. We should not require sacred oaths and vows in order to be trusted. People of integrity can be trusted on the basis of what they say.
In our culture, we see again and again the distinction between a politician and a statesman. One person I know made that distinction in these terms: A politician is a person who looks to the next election, while a statesman is a person who looks to the next generation.
There is, admittedly, a kind of cynicism inherent in such a distinction, the idea being that politicians are people who will compromise virtue or compromise principle in order to be elected or to stay in office. Such lack of virtue is found not only in politicians, but it is found in the churches everyday, which appears at times to be filled with ministers who are quite prepared to compromise the truth of the Gospel for the sake of their current popularity. This is the same lack of integrity that destroyed the nation of Israel in the Old Testament, where the false prophets proclaimed what they knew the people wanted to hear, rather than what God had commanded them to say. That is the quintessence of the lack of integrity.
When we come to the New Testament, we look at the supreme example of a lack of integrity in the judgment accorded Jesus by the Roman procurator Pontius Pilate. After examining and interrogating Jesus, Pilate made the announcement to the clamoring crowd: “I find no fault in Him.” Yet after this declaration, Pilate was willing to deliver the faultless One into the hands of the raging mob. This was a clear act of political compromise where principle and ethics were thrown to the wind in order to appease a hungry crowd.
We look back again to the Old Testament to the experience of the prophet Isaiah in his vision recorded in chapter 6 of that book. We remember that Isaiah saw the Lord high and lifted up as well as the seraphim singing the Trisagion: “Holy, Holy, Holy.” In response to this epiphany, Isaiah cried out, “Woe is me,” announcing a curse upon himself. He said the reason for his curse was because “I am undone” or “ruined.” What Isaiah experienced in that moment was human disintegration. Prior to that vision, Isaiah was perhaps viewed as the most righteous man in the nation. He stood secure and confident in his own integrity. Everything was being held together by his virtue. He considered himself a whole, integrated person, but as soon as he saw the ultimate model and standard for integrity and virtue in the character of God, he experienced disintegration. He fell apart at the seams, realizing that his sense of integrity was at best a pretense.
Calvin indicated that this is the common lot of human beings, who as long as they keep their gaze fixed on the horizontal or terrestrial level of experience, are able to congratulate themselves and consider themselves with all flattery of being slightly less than demigods. But once they raise their gaze to heaven and consider even for a moment what kind of being God is, they stand shaking and quaking, becoming completely disavowed of any further illusion of their integrity.
The Christian is to reflect the character of God. The Christian is to be uncompromising with respect to ethical principles. The Christian is called to be a person of honor whose word can be trusted.
By Gene Edward Veith 9/1/2007
The talk shows were buzzing recently about a sex education class in a Maryland school that had students chew a stick of gum, then pass it around so that everyone in the class chewed it. This learning activity was supposed to make some kind of point, never specified, about sexually-transmitted diseases. It turns out, this gross-out exercise was not the brainchild of some left-wing progressive educational theorist. The communal gum-chewing was sponsored by a Christian “faith-based” group that was allowed to come into the classroom to teach about abstinence.
In fact, the “gum game” has its origins in evangelical church youth groups. Another is “Toothbrush Buffet” in which youth group leaders brush their teeth and spit into a cup. The cup is then passed along to the next person in line, who uses what is in the cup to brush his teeth. Everyone in the youth group gets a turn. The last one drinks down everyone’s spit. Then there is the “Human Vegematic” in which the youth leader chews up a mixture of dog food, sardines, potted meat, sauerkraut, cottage cheese, and salsa, topped off with holiday eggnog. He then spits out the mixture into a glass and encourages the members of the youth group to drink it.
It is not immediately clear what the purpose is of these “Sick and Twisted Games,” as they are described in youth resource web sites and publications. They are evidently designed to appeal to a particularly juvenile sense of humor, so if the purpose is only to make church seem like “fun,” perhaps — following church growth theory — they “work.”
But they are indeed effective teaching devices. They teach young people to suppress their inhibitions. They teach them to give in to peer pressure. They teach more thoughtful young people that church is utterly lame, embarrassing, and stupid. What they do not teach — and actually teach against — is integrity.
The young person with integrity would refuse to do something repulsive, no matter what the youth minister said and despite the pressure from all of his friends to conform to what the group is doing. The young person with integrity would walk out. If he did, that might give others the courage to show their own integrity and walk out with him. They might refuse to go to youth group and get together to do something really wild and crazy, like, I don’t know, study the Bible.
Having integrity requires the ability to refuse to conform. It means resisting cultural pressure. And, in our increasingly non-Christian culture, cultivating this kind of integrity is a spiritual survival skill.
Parents, churches, and schools rightly try to teach adolescents to resist peer pressure. Ironically, the methods they use often teach the opposite lesson. For some reason, resist-peer-pressure programs often employ touchy-feely team-building exercises borrowed from sensitivity training groups. You fall back and let the other members of your group catch you. You climb walls and jump off them secured with ropes, with your friends hanging on to keep you from getting hurt. You go on “trust walks,” going blindfolded, with your peers leading you along. These all teach you to trust your friends.
But how does that help you resist peer pressure? Resisting peer pressure entails the ability not to trust your friends.
Though teenagers are often presented as the victims of peer pressure, so are adults. We are all familiar with the conservative politicians who go to Washington full of conservative zeal, only to become more and more liberal, to the extent they find acceptance on the D.C. cocktail circuit. College professors may recognize the silliness of feminist scholarship and politically-correct speech codes, but they may never have the courage to say so in the faculty lounge. Ministers — and youth ministers — know very well they must preach against the ungodly culture, and yet they nevertheless cause their churches to conform to that culture in a usually futile effort to be popular.
We adults compromise our integrity at work, at play, and by ourselves. We do not speak up or act as we should, caring more for our co-workers’ — or total strangers’ — opinion of us than for what we ourselves know is right.
Since we fallen human beings are so easily influenced by the people around us, surrounding ourselves with godly people will help us on the path toward integrity. There is bad peer pressure, but there is also good peer pressure. Good friends can be an antidote to bad friends. Conservative caucuses and traditionalist, professional organizations can help members resist the leftward tide. And this is one reason Christians need the church, a community of believers whose fellowship, authority, and discipleship can keep its members in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
But even churches should not try to turn their members into conformists, exerting social pressure to make everyone the same. The goal should be instilling integrity, not conformity.
The biblical model for the church is a unity of diversity, a body consisting of radically distinct and different organs. Scripture speaks of feet, ears, and eyes, which, with all of their differences, cohere in one Spirit and one baptism into the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:12–27). For the good of the body, the feet, ears, and eyes each must have integrity.
Dr. Gene Edward Veith is provost emeritus and professor of literature emeritus at Patrick Henry College and director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Ind.
Gene Edward Veith Books | Go to Books Page
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 49Why Should I Fear in Times of Trouble?
49 To The Choirmaster. A Psalm Of The Ssons Of Korah.
13 This is the path of those who have foolish confidence;
yet after them people approve of their boasts. Selah
14 Like sheep they are appointed for Sheol;
death shall be their shepherd,
and the upright shall rule over them in the morning.
Their form shall be consumed in Sheol, with no place to dwell.
15 But God will ransom my soul from the power of Sheol,
for he will receive me. Selah
16 Be not afraid when a man becomes rich,
when the glory of his house increases.
17 For when he dies he will carry nothing away;
his glory will not go down after him.
18 For though, while he lives, he counts himself blessed
—and though you get praise when you do well for yourself—
19 his soul will go to the generation of his fathers,
who will never again see light.
20 Man in his pomp yet without understanding is like the beasts that perish.
By Don Carson 5/14/2018
Balaam recognizes that he cannot control the oracles he receives (Num. 23). He cannot even be sure that an oracle will be given him: “Perhaps the LORD will come to meet with me,” he explains (23:3).
“The LORD put a message in Balaam’s mouth” (23:5), and this message is reported in the oracle of vv. 7-10. (1) Cast in poetic form, it stakes out the independence of the true prophet. Although Balak is the one who summoned him, Balaam asks, “How can I curse those whom God has not cursed? How can I denounce those whom the LORD has not denounced?” (23:8). (2) The last part of this first oracle reflects on the Israelites themselves. They consider themselves different from the other nations — after all, they are the covenant people of God — and therefore they will not be assimilated (23:9). Not only will their numbers vastly increase (“Who can count the dust of Jacob or number the fourth part of Israel?”), but they are declared to be righteous, the kind of people who ultimately meet a glorious end (23:10).
Balak does not give up easily, and in due course the Lord gives Balaam a second oracle (23:18-24). Here the same themes are repeated and strengthened. (1) Balaam can pronounce only blessing on Israel. After all, God is not going to change his mind just because Balak wants Balaam to take another shot at it. “God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind”(23:19). In any case, not only has Balaam “received a command to bless,” but even if Balaam disobeyed the command, he frankly admits, God “has blessed, and I cannot change it” (23:20). “There is no sorcery against Jacob, no divination against Israel” (23:23). (2) As for Israel, no misfortune or misery is observed there, for “the LORD their God is with them” (23:21). Since the God of the Exodus is their God, they have the strength of a wild ox, and will triumph over their enemies (23:22, 24).
Two observations: (1) Balak represents the kind of approach to religion cherished by superstitious people. For them, religion serves to crank up blessings and call down curses. The gods serve me, and I am angry and frustrated if they can’t be tamed. (2) After the succession of reports of the dreary rebellions of the Israelites, it is astonishing to hear them praised so highly. But the reason, of course, is because it is God who sustains and strengthens them. If God blesses his people, no curse against them can stand. And since God is the source of this oracle, this is God’s view of things — and our great ground of confidence and hope.
Don Carson is research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, and co-founder (with Tim Keller) of The Gospel Coalition. He has authored numerous books, and recently edited The Enduring Authority of the Christian Scriptures (Eerdmans, 2016).Don Carson Books | Go to Books Page
By Gleason Archer Jr.
Historical Arguments for the Late Date of Daniel (continued)
There is an additional detail in this account that makes the theory of late authorship very difficult to maintain, and that is that the writer of chapter 5 quotes Belshazzar as promising to the interpreter of the inscription on the wall promotion to the status of third ruler in the kingdom ( 5:16 ). Why could he only promise the third and not the second? Obviously because Belshazzar himself was only the second ruler, inasmuch as Nabonidus his father was still alive.
6. It is alleged that the figure of “Darius the Mede” is an evidence of historical confusion. It is supposed that the author must have confused him with Darius the son of Hystaspes, who was the third successor after King Cyrus, and who was really a Persian instead of a Mede. But this interpretation is impossible to defend in the light of the internal evidence of the text itself. No explanation can be found for calling Darius the son of Hystaspes a Mede, when he was known to be the descendant of an ancient Achaemenid royal line. The author asserts that Darius the Mede was sixty-two years old when he assumed the rule in Babylonia, yet it was well known to the ancients that Darius the Great was a relatively young man when he commenced his reign in 522. In Dan. 9:1 it is asserted that Darius the Mede was made king (homlak) over the realm of the Chaldeans. This term indicates that he was invested with the kingship by some higher authority than himself, which well agrees with the supposition that he was installed as viceroy in Babylonia by Cyrus the Great. Similarly, in Dan. 5:31 we are told that Darius “received” (qabbēl) the “kingdom” (malkūtā). Note in this connection the reference by Darius I in the Behistun Inscription to his father Hystaspes as having been made a king. Since chronological reckoning shows that he must have been only a sub-king who ruled under the authority of Cyrus, this established that it was Cyrus’s policy to permit subordinate rulers to reign under him with the title of king.
It has been objected that a mere viceroy would not have addressed a decree to the inhabitants of “all the earth” ( Dan. 6:25 ). If the word earth refers to the whole inhabited Near East, the objection is well taken (since the authority of Darius the Mede would necessarily have been confined to the former dominions of Nebuchadnezzar, which did not include Asia Minor, North Assyria, Media, or Persia). But it should be pointed out that the Aramaic word ʾar˓ā (like its Hebrew cognate ʾereṣ) may signify only “land or country,” rather than having the wider significance. So construed, the term presents no difficulty at all. Yet it should also be pointed out that part of the ancient titulary of the king of Babylon ever since the time of Hammurabi was the phrase šar kiššati or “king of the universe” (“king of all”). In his decree, therefore, Darius the Mede may simply have been following ancient custom in using terminology which implied a theoretical claim to universal dominion.
The question remains, however, who was this Darius the Mede? No ancient historian refers to him by this name. Nevertheless, there is powerful cumulative evidence to show that he is to be identified with a governor named Gubaru, who is referred to both by the cuneiform records and by the Greek historians as playing a key role in the capture of Babylon and its subsequent administration. For some decades it has been customary to identify this Gubaru (“Gobryas,” Greek) with the ruler mentioned by Daniel. Nevertheless, there have been some puzzling discrepancies in the ancient records concerning this personage, and these have encouraged critical scholars like H. H. Rowley to reject the identification between Gubaru and Darius the Mede as altogether untenable.
Rowley’s arguments have been superseded, however, by the able work of J. C. Whitcomb in his Darius the Mede (1959). Whitcomb has gathered together all the ancient inscriptions referring to Ugbaru, Gubaru, and Gaubaruva, to be found in the Nabonidus Chronicle, the Contenau Texts, the Pohl Texts, the Tremayne Texts, and the Behistun Inscription. By careful comparison and the process of elimination, Whitcomb shows that the former assumption that Ugbaru and Gubaru were variant spellings of the same name is quite erroneous and has given rise to bewildering confusion. Ugbaru was an elderly general who had been governor of Gutium; it was he who engineered the capture of Babylon by the stratagem of deflecting the water of the Euphrates into an artificial channel. While it is true that no cuneiform document yet discovered refers to Ugbaru’s role in this, and that the earliest historical record of the stratagem of river - diversion comes from Herodotus in the 540s (Hist i, 107, 191), nevertheless it is inconceivable that this account was a free invention of his own. It would have served the official propaganda line of Cyrus’s government to omit mention of this stratagem in the interests of representing that Babylon surrendered to him voluntarily. But according to the cuneiform records, Ugbaru lived only a few weeks after this glorious achievement, apparently being carried off by an untimely illness. It would appear that after his decease, a man named Gubaru was appointed by Cyrus as governor of Babylon and of Ebir-nari (“beyond the river”). He is so mentioned in tablets dating from the fourth, sixth, seventh, and eighth years of Cyrus (i.e., 535, 533, 532, and 531 B.C.) and in the second, third, fourth, and fifth years of Cambyses (528, 527, 526, and 525 B.C.). He seems to have perished during the revolts of Pseudo-Smerdis and Darius I, for by March 21, 520 B.C., the new satrap of Babylonia is said to be Ushtani.
Whitcomb goes on to say, “It is our conviction that Gubaru, the governor of Babylon and the region beyond the river, appears in the book of Daniel as Darius the Mede, the monarch who took charge of the Chaldean kingdom immediately following the death of Belshazzar, and who appointed satraps and presidents (including Daniel) to assist him in the governing of this extensive territory with its many peoples. We believe that this identification is the only one which satisfactorily harmonizes the various lines of evidence which we find in the book of Daniel and in the contemporary cuneiform records.”
Whitcomb further cites the statement of W. E Albright in “The Date and Personality of the Chronicler” (JBL, 40:2:11): “It seems to me highly probable that Gobryas did actually assume the royal dignity along with the name “Darius,” perhaps an old Iranian royal title, while Cyrus was absent on a European campaign.… After the cuneiform elucidation of the Belshazzar mystery, showing that the latter was long coregent with his father, the vindication of Darius the Mede for history was to be expected.… We may safely expect the Babylonian Jewish author to be acquainted with the main facts of Neo-Babylonian history.” As Albright suggests, it is quite possible that the name Darius (Darayavahush, in Persian) was a title of honor, just as “Caesar” or “Augustus” became in the Roman empire. In Medieval Persian (Zend) we find the word dara, meaning “king.” Possibly Darayavahush would have meant the “royal one.” (The personal name of Darius I was actually Spantadata, son of Wistaspa [Hystaspes]; Darayawus was his throne-name. Cf. E W. Konig: “Relief und Inschrift des Konigs Dareios I” [Leiden, 1938], p. 1.)
In this connection a word should be said about the remarkable decree referred to in Dan. 6 which forbade worship to be directed toward anyone else except Darius himself during the period of thirty days. Granted that the king later repented of the folly of such a decree when he discovered it was merely part of a plot to eliminate his faithful servant Daniel, it still is necessary to explain why he ever sanctioned the measure in the first place. In view of the intimate connection between religious and political loyalty which governed the attitude of the peoples of that ancient culture, it might well have been considered a statesmanlike maneuver to compel all the diverse inhabitants with their heterogeneous tribal and religious loyalties to acknowledge in a very practical way the supremacy of the new Persian empire which had taken over supreme control of their domains. A temporary suspension of worship (at least in the sense of presenting petitions for blessing and aid) was a measure well calculated to convey to the minds of Darius’s subjects the reality of the change in control from the overlordship of the Chaldeans to that of the Medes and Persians. In the light of ancient psychology, therefore, it is unwarrantable to rule out of possibility such a remarkable decree or to condemn it as fabulous or unhistorical, as many critics have done.
Keep the Presence of God
By John Piper 11/01/2011
On vacation, I kept a copy of Jonathan Edwards’ sermons on my bedside table as a way of going to sleep with a God-centered mind. One of those sermons was called “Keeping the Presence of God.” It was preached on a colony-wide fast day in April 1742. The second wave of the First Great Awakening had crested in the vicinity, and Edwards was seeing both the good and bad fallout of revival. He saw spiritual dangers lurking everywhere. In the next year, as he preached his famous series on the religious affections, he would become the most careful analyst and student of human hearts that had been wakened in the revival. What he saw in those hearts was mixed.
So in this sermon, “Keeping the Presence of God,” his aim was to stir up awakened Christians to be vigilant that their exuberance not become pride. He exhorted them to give themselves to watchfulness and prayer so as to remain broken, humble, and happy in the good work of God in their lives.
Oh, how different is the path of Christian maturity pointed out by Edwards from the path most Christians walk today. There is a kind of cavalier attitude toward our security today. There is little trembling, little vigilance, earnestness, caution, and watchfulness over our souls. There is a kind of casual, slack, careless attitude toward the possibility that we might make shipwreck of our faith and fail to lay hold on eternal life. We have the notion that security is a kind of mechanical, automatic thing. We prayed once to receive Jesus. We are safe and there is no place for “working out [our] own salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12). That is not what Edwards saw in the Bible.
Therefore, he pleads with his people, and I plead with you, to “keep the presence of God.” It is not automatic. Edwards’ text is 2 Chronicles 15:1–2, which contains the words, “The LORD. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will forsake you.” Since we do not want God to forsake us, we must be watchful over our souls lest we forsake Him. It is true that God will never forsake His own children. But the proof that we are His children is that He works in us the vigilance not to forsake Him. God’s not forsaking us is the work He does in us to keep us from forsaking Him (Phil. 2:12–13).
The striking thing in this sermon that was new for me was the warning that even beholding Christ can be a pitfall. This seems unlikely because in 2 Corinthians 3:18 Paul says, “We all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.” In other words, seeing the glory of Christ in the gospel is a great means of becoming like Jesus. This is how we are sanctified — seeing Christ.
So why would Edwards warn us that seeing Christ can be a pitfall? He did so because of what he read nine chapters later in 2 Corinthians 12:7–10. Paul says there that he had been “caught up into paradise” (v. 3) and that he had been given “visions and revelations of the Lord” (v. 1). Then he says that because of these visions and revelations of the Lord, he has been given a “thorn in the flesh” (v. 7) to keep him from being puffed up. Paul pleaded with the Lord to take it away (v. 8). But the Lord said that His own grace would shine the more brightly in Paul’s thorn-caused weakness than if he were whole.
This means that Paul’s visions of the Lord were dangerous for his soul. He had to be lamed by a thorn to keep these visions from hurting him. Here is the way Edwards says it:
There is great danger. I know great degrees of the spiritual presence of God tend greatly to restrain and keep down pride. But yet ‘tis not all grace. And though in such cases there be much to restrain one way, so there is much to tempt and provoke it another. Temptations in such cases are often exceeding great. To be highly loved and exalted of God tends to feed pride exceedingly, if there be any left. The apostle Paul himself was not out of danger (2 Cor. 12:7).
In other words, the danger of spiritual pride is so subtle that we must even watch for it at the place of greatest sanctification — seeing the glory of the Lord. If there is any remnant of pride in us, even pure glory can be twisted to feed it.
So I exhort you, and myself, in the words of Jonathan Edwards: “You had need to have the greatest watch imaginable with respect to this matter, and to cry most earnestly to the great searcher of hearts: for he that trusts his own heart is a fool” (Works, vol. 22, p. 531).
John Piper Books | Go to Books Page
The Continual Burnt Offering (Micah 3:8-9)
By H.A. Ironside - 1941
Micah 3:8 But as for me, I am filled with power,
with the Spirit of the LORD,
and with justice and might,
to declare to Jacob his transgression
and to Israel his sin.
9 Hear this, you heads of the house of Jacob
and rulers of the house of Israel,
who detest justice
and make crooked all that is straight, ESV
The ministry of the prophets was always corrective. They were sent by God to call His people back to the path of obedience. While prediction of things to come was included in their messages, this by no means exhausted their content. They were men who spoke for God in days of rebellion. They had, therefore, an authority which no servant of God has today, so far as any civil community is concerned. Israel was a theocracy. God was their acknowledged King. The prophets were His messengers to His own covenant people. The ministers of Christ today are a gift to the church from the ascended Lord (Ephesians 4:7-14). They are given for the perfecting of the saints, not for the regulating of the world. On the other hand, they are called to proclaim fearlessly those principles of righteousness upon which Christ’s kingdom is to be set up, in order that men may see their true condition before God and turn to Him in repentance.
Ephesians 4:7 But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8 Therefore it says,
“When he ascended on high he led a host of captives,
and he gave gifts to men.”
9 (In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? 10 He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) 11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.
A little while to sow in tears and weakness
The precious seed along the vernal plain,
Till into life the tender blade expanding
Fresh promise gives of summer’s ripening grain.
A little while of patient, earnest labor,
For His dear sake, our best and truest Friend;
A little while to wait for His appearing,
And then the joy that nevermore shall end.
A little while to bear the cross for Jesus
And meet the foes that once He overcame;
To stand unmoved, the sword of truth uplifting,
And through its power to conquer in His name.
--- Fanny Crosby
The Continual Burnt Offering: Daily Meditations on the Word of God
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
1/1/2009 Resolved to Live and Die
My wife’s father, my father by marriage, has served in law enforcement four decades. Having served as an FBI-trained sheriff’s detective in south Florida for many years, he came to be known as “smiling Jack” on account of the fact that he smiled every time he made an arrest of a suspected criminal. As a life-long police officer who enjoys arresting criminals, a father of seven (two sons and five daughters), and one who has been known to clean his pistol when potential male suitors come to the house, he is not the kind of fellow that one trifles with. So, nearly ten years ago when I asked for his oldest daughter’s hand in marriage, needless to say, I was nervous. When I popped the question to him, he was gracious but direct when he asked me if am willing to die for her. I quickly responded, “Yes, sir.” Six months later he placed his oldest daughter’s hand in mine.
I soon discovered that saying I would die for my wife is one thing, whereas actually living for her each and every day is a far greater responsibility. As her husband, I have made a covenant with her, before the face of God and in the presence of witnesses, that I would live for her every day till death us do part. Of course, that is precisely what the Lord commands when He admonishes husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her (Eph. 5:25). In His incarnation, the Son of God took on flesh and lived among us and for us each and every day, not to be served but to serve and to die for us (Mark 10:45). Having fulfilled the Trinitarian resolution of the covenant of redemption, our Lord endured the cross, despising its shame, so that we might have life abundant, pressing on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Phil. 3:14), resolved to love the Lord with our whole being, living sacrificially for Him and dying to self before His face and for His glory.
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Dr. Burk Parsons (@BurkParsons) is editor of Tabletalk magazine, senior pastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., a visiting lecturer at Reformed Theological Seminary, and a Ligonier Ministries teaching fellow. He is editor of John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, and Doxology.
Ligonier coram Deo (definition)
by Bill Federer
Midnight, May 14, 1948, the State of Israel came into being and was immediately recognized by the United States and the Soviet Union. A homeland for the thousands of Jews who were persecuted and displaced during World War II, it was attacked the next day by the Transjordanian Army, the Arab Legion, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq. Against all odds, Israel survived. In November of 1948, President Harry S. Truman wrote to Dr. Chaim Weizmann, the first president of Israel: "I want to tell you how happy and impressed I have been at the remarkable progress made by the new State of Israel."
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
It is easy to understand God
as long as you don't try to explain him.
--- Joseph Joubert
Reaching Higher and Deeper: Workbook for Healing Research, Volume 3 - Personal Spirituality: Science, Spirit & the Eternal Soul
Some of God's greatest gifts
are unanswered prayers.
--- Garth Brooks
When God Answers Prayer
Now what is food for the inner man? Not prayer, but the Word of God; and here again, not the simple reading of the Word of God, so that it only passes through our minds, just as water passes through a pipe, but considering what we read, pondering it over and applying it to our hearts.
--- George Mueller
Works of George Müller
Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it. Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it. Hatred darkens life; love illumines it.
--- Martin Luther King, Jr.
A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr.
... from here, there and everywhere
Thomas A Kempis
Book Four - An Invitation To Holy Communion
The Sixth Chapter / An Inquiry On The Proper
Thing To Do Before Communion
WHEN I consider Your dignity, O Lord, and my own meanness, I become very much frightened and confused. For if I do not receive, I fly from Life, and if I intrude unworthily, I incur Your displeasure. What, then, shall I do, my God, my Helper and Adviser in necessity? Teach me the right way. Place before me some short exercise suitable for Holy Communion, for it is good to know in what manner I ought to make my heart ready devoutly and fervently for You, to receive Your Sacrament for the good of my soul, or even to celebrate so great and divine a sacrifice.
The Imitation Of Christ
Practical religion. The Christian life
And then finally, the life of the branch is a life of absolute surrender.
This word, absolute surrender, is a great and solemn word, and I believe we do not understand its meaning. But yet the little branch preaches it.
"Have you anything to do, little branch, besides bearing grapes?"
"Are you fit for nothing?"
Fit for nothing! The Bible says that a bit of vine cannot even be used as a pen; it is fit for nothing but to be burned.
"And now, what do you understand, little branch, about your relationship to the vine?"
"My relationship is just this: I am utterly given up to the vine, and the vine can give me as much or as little sap as it chooses. Here I am at its disposal and the vine can do with me what it likes."
Oh, friends, we need this absolute surrender to the Lord Jesus Christ. The more I speak, the more I feel that this is one of the most difficult points to make clear, and one of the most important and needful points to explain--what this absolute surrender is. It is often an easy thing for a man or a number of men to come out and offer themselves up to God for entire consecration, and to say: "Lord, it is my desire to give up myself entirely to Thee." That is of great value, and often brings very rich blessing. But the one question I ought to study quietly is What is meant by absolute surrender?
It means that, as literally as Christ was given up entirely to God, I am given up entirely to Christ. Is that too strong? Some think so. Some think that never can be; that just as entirely and absolutely as Christ gave up His life to do nothing but seek the Father's pleasure, and depend on the Father absolutely and entirely, I am to do nothing but to seek the pleasure of Christ. But that is actually true. Christ Jesus came to breathe His own Spirit into us, to make us find our very highest happiness in living entirely for God, just as He did. Oh, beloved brethren, if that is the case, then I ought to say:
"Yes, as true as it is of that little branch of the vine, so true, by God's grace, I would have it to be of me. I would live day by day that Christ may be able to do with me what He will."
Ah! here comes the terrible mistake that lies at the bottom of so much of our own religion. A man thinks:
"I have my business and family duties, and my relationships as a citizen, and all this I cannot change. And now alongside all this I am to take in religion and the service of God, as something that will keep me from sin. God help me to perform my duties properly!"
This is not right. When Christ came, He came and bought the sinner with His blood. If there was a slave market here and I were to buy a slave, I should take that slave away to my own house from his old surroundings, and he would live at my house as my personal property, and I could order him about all the day. And if he were a faithful slave, he would live as having no will and no interests of his own, his one care being to promote the well-being and honor of his master. And in like manner I, who have been bought with the blood of Christ, have been bought to live every day with the one thought--How can I please my Master?
Oh, we find the Christian life so difficult because we seek for God's blessing while we live in our own will. We should be glad to live the Christian life according to our own liking. We make our own plans and choose our own work, and then we ask the Lord Jesus to come in and take care that sin shall not conquer us too much, and that we shall not go too far wrong; we ask Him to come in and give us so much of His blessing. But our relationship to Jesus ought to be such that we are entirely at His disposal, and every day come to Him humbly and straightforwardly and say:
"Lord, is there anything in me that is not according to Thy will, that has not been ordered by Thee, or that is not entirely given up to Thee?"
Absolute Surrender (The Colportage Library)
by D.H. Stern
31 White hair is a crown of honor
obtained by righteous living.
32 He who controls his temper is better than a war hero,
he who rules his spirit better than he who captures a city.
33 One can cast lots into one’s lap,
but the decision comes from ADONAI.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
The habit of enjoying the disagreeable
That the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh. --- 2 Cor. 4:10.
We have to form habits to express what God’s grace has done in us. It is not a question of being saved from hell, but of being saved in order to manifest the life of the Son of God in our mortal flesh, and it is the disagreeable things which make us exhibit whether or not we are manifesting His life. Do I manifest the essential sweetness of the Son of God, or the essential irritation of ‘myself’ apart from Him? The only thing that will enable me to enjoy the disagreeable is the keen enthusiasm of letting the life of the Son of God manifest itself in me. No matter how disagreeable a thing may be, say—“Lord, I am delighted to obey Thee in this matter,” and instantly the Son of God will press to the front, and there will be manifested in my human life that which glorifies Jesus.
There must be no debate. The moment you obey the light, the Son of God presses through you in that particular; but if you debate you grieve the Spirit of God. You must keep yourself fit to let the life of the Son of God be manifested, and you cannot keep yourself fit if you give way to self-pity. Our circumstances are the means of manifesting how wonderfully perfect and extraordinarily pure the Son of God is. The thing that ought to make the heart beat is a new way of manifesting the Son of God. It is one thing to choose the disagreeable, and another thing to go into the disagreeable by God’s engineering. If God puts you there, He is amply sufficient.
Keep your soul fit to manifest the life of the Son of God. Never live on memories; let the word of God be always living and active in you.
My Utmost for His Highest
the Poetry of RS Thomas
(My chief aim is to make a poem. You make
it for yourself firstly, and then if other people
want to join in then there we are. )"
It was a time when wise men
Were not silent, but stifled
By vast noise. They took refuge
In books that were not read.
Two counsellors had the ear
Of the public. One cried 'Buy'
Day and night, and the other,
More plausibly, 'Sell your repose.'
Collected Poems 1945-1990 (Phoenix Press)
Bava Batra 20b, 21a
We usually think of great philanthropists as the most generous people in the world. A wealthy person who endows an entire university, a medical school, or a library is to be praised for generosity—and there is no argument with this. Yet, Rabbi Elazar is proposing that one who causes others to do is even greater than one who does. This means that the fundraiser who secured the grant deserves more credit than the actual donor. The financial advisor who counseled that the rich, childless widow leave her assets to the local library is greater, in certain respects, than the benefactor. The savvy clergyperson who suggested that the wealthy congregant would be best remembered through a chair at the seminary can find comfort in the words of Rabbi Elazar. Each of these advisors is even greater than the contributor, for each caused others to act.
We can take this one step further, for Rabbi Elazar's words refer not only to financial giving and acting. We may not notice the biology teacher who encouraged that special student, pushing him to work hard and giving him the confidence to go on in science. We should, however, notice and praise that teacher for ultimately causing the student to make a great medical discovery. The English professor who spent time with a struggling author, helping her years later to have the ability to write a famous novel, should get some of the fame associated with the novel. The high school coach whose protégé becomes a well-known sports star may be mentioned rarely in the athlete's biography, but deserves a large share of the accolades.
Many a time, we are disheartened that the rich and famous get all the credit, that the tedious, not so glorious work of the common folk goes unnoticed. This type of effort is cited less often in the newspapers and in Nobel Prizes. Nonetheless, Rabbi Elazar's words, exaggerated as they might be, remind us that the successes of great people would be impossible without the behind-the-scenes work of others. Rabbi Elazar's teaching should give encouragement to those of us who don't win prizes or garner headlines but who nonetheless cause others to do great things.
Jealousy among teachers will increase wisdom.
Text / Mishnah (2:2) [If one opens] a shop in the courtyard: One may object and say to him: "I cannot sleep because of the noise of those coming and going." But he can make utensils and sell them in the marketplace, and one cannot object and say: "I cannot sleep because of the noise of the hammer, the millstone or the children."
Gemara: Come and hear: If two live in a courtyard and one wants to become a physician, an artisan, a weaver or a teacher of children, the others can prevent him. But this deals with non-Jewish children! Come and hear: He who has a place for rent in the courtyard should not rent it to a physician, an artisan, a weaver, a Jewish teacher or a non-Jewish teacher. This is the case we are dealing with: A town teacher. Rava said: "Given the ruling of Yehoshua ben Gamla, we do not send students from town to town, but we do send them from synagogue to synagogue. If there is a river in between, we do not send them; if there is a bridge, we send them, but not if it is only a board." Rava also said: "The number of schoolchildren for one teacher is twenty-five. If there are fifty, we appoint two. If there are forty, we appoint an assistant, at the expense of the town." Rava also said: "If there is a teacher who gets them to study and one who gets them to study better, we do not replace him lest he get discouraged." Rav Dimi from Nehardea said: "He will get them to study even more, for jealousy among teachers will increase wisdom."
Context / Is it possible that two seemingly contradictory sources are both correct and accurate teachings? For example, in this Gemara, one source says that others cannot prevent a person from teaching in their courtyard, while a second source holds that one should not rent to a teacher! How can this be? In reality, these may be independent oral teachings that were handed down via different traditions. They may, in fact, contradict each other. However, the talmudic mind would prefer to accept both teachings as genuine. This is where the expression "This is the case we are dealing with" becomes a useful tool. By limiting the situation the contradiction is eliminated. We only thought that these texts were contradictory, that one text says "One cannot object to a teacher in the courtyard" while another says the opposite: "Do not rent a room facing the courtyard to a teacher." In reality, there is no such contradiction at all, since the specific case we are dealing with, as the later Rabbis interpret it, is only that of a town teacher. An ordinary teacher would have little traffic in and out, while the master teacher of the area would have many more students each day. Therefore, we may refuse renting to such an individual.
This chapter of Bava Batra deals with laws of the free marketplace. Talmudic law controls territorial rights based on established claims: One may not simply open a new store, set up a craft shop, or operate any other kind of business just anywhere because a new craftsperson may put a veteran out of business. In addition, there are rules and regulations intended to protect the community. A tannery smells; a new dovecote may steal the doves from adjoining nests.
Thus, our Mishnah teaches that one who sets up a shop in a common courtyard can be stopped because the comings and goings of customers will disturb the neighbors. The Gemara reiterates this concept with examples from an outside source, and it is the example of the "town teacher" who would apparently have many students coming and going that becomes the focus of the discussion.
Rava credits Yehoshua ben Gamla with requiring each town to appoint a local professional teacher at the town's expense. Until this time, teaching children had been seen as the father's responsibility. What, then, constitutes a "school district"? How far do we send a child to study? And how many students can one teacher handle? Rava passes down a tradition that the acceptable ratio is twenty-five students per teacher.
This leads Rava to comment on teachers' qualifications. What if a better teacher can be found? Should we replace the first teacher who does not motivate the students as well? There are two opinions. Rava holds that replacing this teacher might demoralize him. This group of students might be helped, but the teaching profession—and, more important, the study of Torah—will be harmed in the process. Rav Dimi, however, holds to the contrary. He feels that competition is good. The jealousy that a teacher feels towards a colleague who teaches better will not be demoralizing but will serve as motivation to excel.
Swimming in the Sea of Talmud: Lessons for Everyday Living
Demand for a King: 1 Samuel 8 / In Samuel's old age the people of Israel demanded a king. In part this was motivated by the fact that Samuel's sons were not like him. And Samuel took the request as a personal affront.
However, there were deeper motives. The people asked for a king so that "we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles" (1 Samuel 8:20). As God pointed out, this was an overt rejection not of Samuel but of the Lord Himself!
After all, it was God who had brought them out of Egypt. It was God who had given them victory at Mizpah. To ask for a human ruler showed an unwillingness to continue to rely on the Lord.
Samuel was displeased, and listed all the drawbacks to having a human ruler (1 Samuel 8:11–18). But Israel insisted, and God told Samuel to listen to them, and to give Israel a king.
The story of Saul is a tragic one, yet one filled with important spiritual lessons. Young Saul was an attractive personality. But under the pressures of leadership he showed fatal flaws.
Saul's story is designed not to frighten us, as if we were like him. It is in Scripture to encourage us, for unlike Saul we will maintain a trust in God that enables us to triumph where he failed.
King. The Hebrew word is melek. It is often translated "governor" or "chief" or "prince" as well as king. It indicates a person with civil authority. In biblical times this person had responsibility for all the functions of government—legislative, executive, and judicial. Israel's kings, however, were to be subject to God's Law personally, and to rule in harmony with that Law. Sacred history shows the powerful moral influence of both good and evil kings on the nations of Israel and Judah.
Foolish. Samuel told Saul at one point that a decision he made to offer sacrifice to the Lord was "foolish." The word does not indicate a lack of intelligence, but a lack of moral and spiritual insight. The fool is impetuous, tends to rebellion, and insists on his or her own way. Only a growing relationship with the Lord and submission to Him can free us from the foolishness that is bound up in the heart of everyone—even children (Proverbs 22:15). No wonder that "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom" (Proverbs 1:7).
The Monarchy / Old Testament government. God's Old Testament people lived under two basic forms of national government. The first form was a theocracy. That is, God Himself served as Israel's King and Ruler. God gave His people a Law to live by (as legislator). God led His people in battle, often intervening miraculously to ensure victory when they trusted in Him (as chief executive). God made every individual and community responsible to hold each other accountable to perform the moral, social, and religious obligations set out in the Law (as judge). This understanding of the invisible God directly ruling His people was expressed by Samuel, who was shocked and outraged when the people demanded a human king. Samuel recalled the Israelites' reaction when they saw an enemy move against them: "You said to me, 'No, we want a king to rule over us'—even though the Lord your God was your King" (1 Samuel 12:12).
We might tend to excuse this demand for a visible leader to combat all too visible enemies, if it were not for history. For God, as King, had given His people human leaders. God had appointed Moses and Aaron, who brought this people's forefathers out of Egypt (1 Samuel 12:6–7). Later, in the land, Israel had suffered oppression from human enemies. But oppression had come only when the people turned away from God. When Israel turned back to God, the Lord sent the leaders known as Judges: people like Gideon, Barak, Jephthah, and Samuel (1 Samuel 12:9–11). Through leaders like these, God won military victories for His people. The Judges were charismatic leaders sent by God as an expression of the Lord's own kingship over Israel. They did not represent establishment of a different form of government.
But establishment of a monarchy does represent initiation of a different form of government. The human leaders to whom Israel would owe allegiance would, like the leaders of pagan nations around them, hold office not by virtue of God's call but by virtue of birth. Kings would pass the right to rule on to their children, with no consideration of ability or of moral character.
Israel's foolishness. When in Samuel's day the people of Israel called for a king, they performed a foolish act. That is, they showed a tragic lack of spiritual understanding.
First of all, Israel's call for a king was in fact a rejection of God's traditional role in her national life.
The desire of the people was for a king so that "we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and go out before us and fight our battles" (1 Samuel 8:20). Yet God had called Israel different from all other nations. As Moses had said, "What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the Lord our God is near us whenever we pray to Him?" (Deuteronomy 4:7) It was Israel's direct relationship with the God of heaven that set her apart. In calling for a king, Israel in effect rejected God's direct rule, and denied her unique heritage.
Second, Israel's call for a king disregarded a basic aspect of covenant relationship with God. God had committed Himself to bless His people when they lived in harmony with His Law. God had said, "Walk in all the way that the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live and prosper and prolong your days in the land that you will possess" (Deuteronomy 5:33). This basic element of covenant relationship was unaffected by the introduction of a king.
Whatever the form of government, God's people would only know blessing when they obeyed!
When the monarchy was instituted, Samuel reminded Israel of this fact. "If you fear the Lord and serve and obey Him and do not rebel against His commands, and if both you and the king who reigns over you follow the Lord your God—good! But if you do not obey the Lord, and if you rebel against His commands, His hand will be against you" (1 Samuel 12:14–15). The form of government made no basic difference. Blessing could come only as a result of obedience of the whole people to the Lord.
Third, with a king as the visible head of the nation, many would begin to rely on him rather than on God. Reliance would shift from God to the standing army and the fortifications the king would build. Erosion of reliance on God alone became a real and present danger.
Fourth, institution of the monarchy introduced unnecessary danger. Power and influence were focused in a human leader; a single individual who in turn could influence the nation. An evil king with the power of life and death over his people could make wickedness appear to pay as he rewarded those who were loyal to him rather than to God. Just such a danger exists any time that people must live with divided loyalties.
Moses had foretold a day when the people would demand a king, and the Law established requirements designed to minimize the dangers. He said: "When you enter the land the Lord your God is giving you and have taken possession of it and settled in it, and you say, 'Let us set a king over us like all the nations around us,' be sure to appoint over you the king the Lord your God chooses. He must be from among your own brothers. Do not place a foreigner over you, one who is not a brother Israelite. The king, moreover, must not acquire great numbers of horses for himself or make the people return to Egypt to get more of them, for the Lord has told you, 'You are not to go back that way again.' He must not take many wives, or his heart will be led astray. He must not accumulate large amounts of silver and gold.
"When he takes the throne of his kingdom, he is to write for himself on a scroll a copy of this law, taken from that of the priests, who are Levites. It is to be with him, and he is to read it all the days of his life so that he may learn to revere the Lord his God and follow carefully all the words of this law and these decrees and not consider himself better than his brothers and turn from the law to the right or to the left. Then he and his descendants will reign a long time over his kingdom in Israel" (Deuteronomy 17:14–20).
Israel's king was to subject himself to the King of kings. A king who would not be subject to God could and would bring disaster on the nation.
The coming king. The motives of the people of Israel in demanding a king were wrong. And they lacked the spiritual insight to see the implications of their request. Yet God granted it. Why?
At least two reasons can be suggested. The first reason is found in the fact that the three major institutions in Old Testament life each speak of Jesus. The priesthood was established to offer the sacrifices that affirmed and maintained relationship between God and sinful human beings. Jesus, as our High Priest, offered His own blood in history's ultimate sacrifice, making us forever acceptable to God. The prophet was established in Israel as God's spokesman, communicating His message to His people in time of need. Jesus is "the Prophet" spoken of in Deuteronomy 18, whose message both fulfills and supercedes that given by Moses. And the king was established in Israel as a ruler. Jesus is our present and coming King, who will surely establish His personal rule over this earth as well as the universe at large.
For us to understand the ministry of Jesus we need to sense the historic meaning of the priest, the prophet, and the king in Israel. Each of these offices was designed to help us grasp more of the role of Jesus in God's plan, and in our lives.
For this reason, then, that we might grasp the central role God intends for Jesus, it was necessary that Israel establish a monarchy and live under kings.
But there may be another, more subtle reason, that also points us to Jesus.
Throughout history human beings have assumed that if only a society might devise the right form of government, that society would become just and the people would enjoy the blessings of harmony and peace. Plato imagined his republic, and philosophers and dreamers since then have devised various plans for their utopias. But the Bible insists that our problems are not rooted in our forms of government, but in ourselves. Sin corrupts us all, and because of sin no form of human government can promise justice or peace.
Yet human beings continue to dream. And the Bible continues to testify that this dream is false! Israel sinned under Moses, the man of God. Israel sinned under the theocracy. Israel sinned under the monarchy. Israel sinned under Governor Nehemiah. Israel sinned as Rome's client state. And when Jesus returns, a world under Jesus' direct and righteous rule will again choose to follow Satan and rebel (Revelation 20:1–10).
In essence, history's many forms of government continually demonstrate that the problem with human society is not political, but personal. We do not need some new, inventive form of government to make us good. We need Jesus. We need the forgiveness of our sins, and an obedience to God that is expressed in a life of love for others.
God's willingness to let His people try different forms of government was at least in part intended to help them learn from their failures to turn away from man to find forgiveness in Him.
The Teacher's Commentary
Judaism in the Land of Israel
Throughout early Judaism, interpretation of older scriptures was an important exercise. This is evident in the Hebrew Bible (e.g., Daniel 9) and outside it. Among the most interesting examples are a series of commentaries found at Qumran. These pesharim or interpretations offer comments on scriptural prophetic texts; they cite a passage and then explain it before proceeding to the next passage in the book (occasionally more than one book is involved). The best-preserved examples are the commentaries on Nahum (4Q169) and Habakkuk (1QpHab); altogether seventeen copies of pesharim have been identified (1QpHab; 1Q14–16; 4Q161–71, 173), treating Isaiah, Hosea, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, and several Psalms. These lemmatized commentaries allow the reader to see how the Qumran community understood the ancient prophecies to be coming true in their own day; they also disclose some information about that time and important characters in their world. Other types of commentaries are not tied to particular texts but are more thematic and thus treat texts from various places in the scriptures. Among them are the Florilegium (4Q174) and the Melchizedek text (11Q13).
Scriptural interpretation may be the rubric under which to survey a set of works called by scholars Rewritten Bible or, better, Rewritten Scriptures. These texts take the contents of an older scriptural work, in whole or in part, and re-present them. At times the representation is so close to the original that the difference is practically negligible (Reworked Pentateuch from Qumran is an example), while in others there is a wide difference (such as in the Book of the Watchers [1 Enoch 1–36]). The representation can accomplish several goals, such as clarifying obscure passages, adding to or subtracting from the older text in various ways to communicate the old message in a new form. Familiar examples that fall into this broad and diverse category are parts of 1 Enoch, the Aramaic Levi Document, the Genesis Apocryphon, the Book of Jubilees, and the Temple Scroll. 1 Enoch 1–36 (the Book of the Watchers) in part treats passages about Enoch and the immediate pre-flood period in Genesis 5–6 but expands considerably through an elaborate story of angels who descend, marry women, and have gigantic children whose misdeeds, with the illicit teachings of the angels, cause the flood. Enoch is presented as a mediator between God and the sinful angels and also as a traveling companion of angels on a tour of the world. The Aramaic Levi Document takes the rather problematic scriptural character Levi and greatly exalts him as a divinely appointed priest, the ancestor of a priesthood, and the recipient of revelations. The Aramaic Genesis Apocryphon offers stories from the early chapters of Genesis until chap. 15 (where the manuscript breaks off). The book of Jubilees more closely adheres to its scriptural base as it retells the stories from Genesis 1 to Exodus 24, all of which was revealed to Moses on Mt. Sinai. It packages them in its theologically eloquent chronology of fifty jubilee units and emphasizes the one, frequently renewed covenant between God and the chosen line, the importance of separating from the nations, the need to keep the Sabbath properly, and the significance of following the correct calendar of 364 days in a year. The Temple Scroll is a rewriting of the remaining parts of the Pentateuch (beginning with Exodus 24), while the Reworked Pentateuch is at times classified as scriptural and at times as Reworked Scripture.
Also within the area of scriptural interpretation are targums, Aramaic translations and interpretations of the Hebrew Scriptures. Although the major targums (Onqelos and Jonathan) date from much later times, the presence of Aramaic renderings of Job (4Q157; 11Q10) and apparently Leviticus (4Q156) at Qumran illustrate that this type of exercise has ancient roots.
The Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism
When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. --- Matthew 9:36.
Every leader reveals the gift of constructive imagination. ( The Return of the Angels : Sunday evenings in a Glasgow Pulpit ) A great bridge is a work of imagination just as certainly as a great poem. To the building up of our modern civilization there has gone far more than intellect and will; there has gone at every step of the advance what we describe as imaginative power.
But imagination is more than that; it is also a religious power of the highest order.
Ours is a historical religion. That is the strength and that is the glory of it. It is not begotten of abstraction; it is born of a historic revelation. Anything, then, that takes these facts of history and brings them near us and makes them real and living is doing a mighty service to the faith. That is just what imagination does. It answers the heart cry, “Sir,… we would like to see Jesus” (John 12:21). It takes us to Calvary and to Gethsemane and, withdrawing the veil, it says, “Here is the man!” (19:5). And so our faith is strengthened and refreshed because the past, in which our faith is rooted, leaps up in life, like the bones of Elisha’s vision, under the power of imagination.
Then again, imagination is a religious power because there are few powers so helpful to compassion as the power of the imagination. We commonly assign many faults to lack of love, while all the time it is not lack of love, it is lack of imagination that creates them. A vast deal of people’s callousness and cruelty and of their severe or unkindly judgment does not arise so much from lack of heart as from failure to understand imaginatively. A person who has no imagination is certain to be tactless. A person who has no imagination is an unsympathetic person. For at the back of sympathy and tact there is the power to grasp another’s situation; the faculty that can realize another’s thought or another’s burden. Now it is not love that realizes that. Love’s work begins when it is realized. The power that helps us to share another’s feelings is largely the imaginative power. Hence every dramatist and every novelist who reaches and reveals us to ourselves is someone preeminently of imagination. And if at the back of all the truest sympathy there lies the power of the imagination, you see, do you not? how the imagination is a religious power of the highest order.
--- George H. Morrison
Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
A Light to the Gentiles May 14
John Berridge expected to follow his father into livestock, but he could never learn the ropes. His frustrated dad finally said, “John, I find you cannot form any idea of the price of cattle, and I shall have to send you to college to be a light to the Gentiles.” Thus John went to Cambridge, then entered church work, but without personally experiencing the Gospel.
His preaching was striking, his life upright, his energy boundless, his ministry worthless. His message, devoid of the death and resurrection of Christ, was like a solar system without the sun. For years he thrashed around brilliantly, but fruitlessly.
In 1755 he became vicar in out-of-the-way Everton, and there at age 42 he finally agonized about his own soul. “Lord,” he began crying, “if I am right, keep me so; if I am not right, make me so, and lead me to the knowledge of the truth in Jesus.” One Morning sitting before an open Bible these words flashed to mind: “Cease from thine own works; only believe.” He immediately started preaching salvation by grace through faith alone. Soon one of his parishioners visited him. “Why, Sarah,” he said, “What is the matter?”
“I don’t know,” said the woman. “Those new RS Thomas! I find we are all lost now. I can neither eat, drink, nor sleep. I don’t know what will become of me.” Others echoed the same cry. Berridge’s church soon swelled with villagers giving their lives to Christ. People flocked from all parts, and the buildings proved too small. On May 14, 1759 Berridge began preaching outdoors. “On Monday,” he wrote, “we called at a farmhouse. After dinner I went into the yard, and seeing nearly 150 people, I called for a table and preached for the first time in the open air. We then went to Meldred, where I preached in a field to about 4,000 people.”
His remaining 30 years found him preaching the Gospel in season and out, indoors and out. He never married, always resided alone, and remained in rural parishes until his death at age 77 in 1793. He was the Whitefield of the English countryside.
God treated me with kindness. His power worked in me, and it became my job to spread the good news. I am the least important of all God’s people. But God was kind and chose me to tell the Gentiles that because of Christ there are blessings that cannot be measured.
--- Ephesians 3:7,8.
On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - May 14
“Joint heirs with Christ.”
The boundless realms of his Father’s universe are Christ’s by prescriptive right. As “heir of all things,” he is the sole proprietor of the vast creation of God, and he has admitted us to claim the whole as ours, by virtue of that deed of joint-heir-ship which the Lord hath ratified with his chosen people. The golden streets of paradise, the pearly gates, the river of life, the transcendent bliss, and the unutterable glory, are, by our blessed Lord, made over to us for our everlasting possession. All that he has he shares with his people. The crown royal he has placed upon the head of his Church, appointing her a kingdom, and calling her sons a royal priesthood, a generation of priests and kings. He uncrowned himself that we might have a coronation of glory; he would not sit upon his own throne until he had procured a place upon it for all who overcome by his blood. Crown the head and the whole body shares the honour. Behold here the reward of every Christian conqueror! Christ’s throne, crown, sceptre, palace, treasure, robes, heritage, are yours. Far superior to the jealousy, selfishness, and greed, which admit of no participation of their advantages, Christ deems his happiness completed by his people sharing it. “The glory which thou gavest me have I given them.” “These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.” The smiles of his Father are all the sweeter to him, because his people share them. The honours of his kingdom are more pleasing, because his people appear with him in glory. More valuable to him are his conquests, since they have taught his people to overcome. He delights in his throne, because on it there is a place for them. He rejoices in his royal robes, since over them his skirts are spread. He delights the more in his joy, because he calls them to enter into it.
Evening - May 14
“He shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom.”
Who is he of whom such gracious words are spoken? He is THE GOOD SHEPHERD. Why doth he carry the lambs in his bosom? Because He hath a tender heart, and any weakness at once melts his heart. The sighs, the ignorance, the feebleness of the little ones of his flock draw forth his compassion. It is his office, as a faithful High Priest, to consider the weak. Besides, he purchased them with blood, they are his property: he must and will care for that which cost him so dear. Then he is responsible for each lamb, bound by covenant engagements not to lose one. Moreover, they are all a part of his glory and reward.
But how may we understand the expression, “He will carry them”? Sometimes he carries them by not permitting them to endure much trial. Providence deals tenderly with them. Often they are “carried” by being filled with an unusual degree of love, so that they bear up and stand fast. Though their knowledge may not be deep, they have great sweetness in what they do know. Frequently he “carries” them by giving them a very simple faith, which takes the promise just as it stands, and believingly runs with every trouble straight to Jesus. The simplicity of their faith gives them an unusual degree of confidence, which carries them above the world.
“He carries the lambs in his bosom.” Here is boundless affection. Would he put them in his bosom if he did not love them much? Here is tender nearness: so near are they, that they could not possibly be nearer. Here is hallowed familiarity: there are precious love-passages between Christ and his weak ones. Here is perfect safety: in his bosom who can hurt them? They must hurt the Shepherd first. Here is perfect rest and sweetest comfort. Surely we are not sufficiently sensible of the infinite tenderness of Jesus!
Morning and Evening
HARK! TEN THOUSAND HARPS AND VOICES
Thomas Kelly, 1769–1854
Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. In a loud voice they sang: “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise.” (Revelation 5:11, 12)
As Christians we often reflect about anticipated sights of heaven—golden streets, jasper walls, crystal seas, jeweled crowns … but what about the sounds of heaven? From what we can learn from the Bible, heaven is a place of loud, inspiring sounds and much music.
The author of this hymn text, Thomas Kelly, saw with the eye of imagination the thrilling scene in heaven when the thousands upon thousands of angels give praise to Christ for His victorious mission to earth to accomplish man’s redemption. And the thrilling truth is that someday we redeemed mortals will join that heavenly chorus. Throughout the ages our main occupation will be singing and playing our “glories to the King!” Alleluia!
This is another triumphant ascension hymn from the pen of Thomas Kelly, one of Ireland’s finest evangelical preachers and spiritual poets of the 19th century. The hymn first appeared in one of Kelly’s collections of hymns published in 1806. It was originally titled “Let All the Angels of God Worship Him.”
Hark! ten thousand harps and voices sound the note of praise above; Jesus reigns and heav’n rejoices; Jesus reigns, the God of love. See, He sits on yonder throne: Jesus rules the world alone.
Sing how Jesus came from heaven, how He bore the cross below, how all pow’r to Him is given, how He reigns in glory now. ’Tis a great and endless theme—O, ’tis sweet to sing of Him.
King of glory, reign forever! Thine an everlasting crown. Nothing from Thy love shall sever those whom Thou hast made Thine own: Happy objects of Thy grace, destined to behold Thy face.
Savior, hasten Thine appearing; bring, O bring the glorious day, when, the awful summons hearing, heav’n and earth shall pass away. Then with golden harps we’ll sing, “Glory, glory to our King!”
Refrain: alleluia! alleluia! Alleluia! A-men.
For Today: Isaiah 60:19; Romans 8:35–39; Hebrews 1:6; 1 Peter 3:22; Revelation 22:3–5.
Ponder anew the sights and sounds of heaven. Let your heart rejoice that you will be a part of that great eternal scene. Begin preparing now with these notes of praise ---
Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
Martin Luther | (1483-1546)
Sect. XXIV. — “WHO (you say) will endeavour to amend his life?” — I answer, No man! no man can! For your self-amenders without the Spirit, God regardeth not, for they are hypocrites. But the Elect, and those that fear God, will be amended by the Holy Spirit; the rest will perish unamended. Nor does Augustine say, that the works of none, nor that the works of all are crowned, but the works of some. Therefore, there will be some, who shall amend their lives.
“Who will believe (you say) that he is loved of God?” — I answer, no man will believe it! No man can! But the Elect shall believe it; the rest shall perish without believing it, filled with indignation and blaspheming, as you here describe them. Therefore, there will be some who shall believe it.
And as to your saying that — “by these doctrines the flood-gate of iniquity is thrown open unto men” — be it so. They pertain to that leprosy of evil to be borne, spoken of before. Nevertheless, by the same doctrines, there is thrown open to the Elect and to them that fear God, a gate unto righteousness, — an entrance into heaven — a way unto God! But if, according to your advice, we should refrain from these doctrines, and should hide from men this Word of God, so that each, deluded by a false persuasion of salvation, should never learn to fear God, and should never be humbled, in order that through this fear he might come to grace and love; then, indeed, we should shut up your flood-gate to purpose! For in the room of it, we should throw open to ourselves and to all, wide gates, nay, yawning chasms and sweeping tides, not only unto iniquity, but unto the depths of hell! Thus, we should not enter into Heaven ourselves, and them that were entering in we should hinder.
“What utility therefore (you say) is there in, or necessity for proclaiming such things openly, when so many evils seem likely to proceed therefrom?” —
I answer. It were enough to say — God has willed that they should be proclaimed openly: but the reason of the divine will is not to be inquired into, but simply to be adored, and the glory to be given unto God: who, since He alone is just and wise, doth evil to no one, and can do nothing rashly or inconsiderately, although it may appear far otherwise unto us. With this answer those that fear God are content. But that, from the abundance of answering matter which I have, I may say a little more than this, which might suffice; — there are two causes which require such things to be preached. The first is, the humbling of our pride, and the knowledge of the grace of God. The second is, Christian faith itself.
First, God has promised certainly His grace to the humbled: that is, to the self-deploring and despairing. But a man cannot be thoroughly humbled, until he comes to know that his salvation is utterly beyond his own powers, counsel, endeavours, will, and works, and absolutely depending on the will, counsel, pleasure, and work of another, that is, of God only. For if, as long as he has any persuasion that he can do even the least thing himself towards his own salvation, he retain a confidence in himself and do not utterly despair in himself, so long he is not humbled before God; but he proposes to himself some place, some time, or some work, whereby he may at length attain unto salvation. But he who hesitates not to depend wholly upon the good-will of God, he totally despairs in himself, chooses nothing for himself, but waits for God to work in him; and such an one, is the nearest unto grace, that he might be saved.
These things, therefore, are openly proclaimed for the sake of the Elect: that, being by these means humbled and brought down to nothing, they might be saved. The rest resist this humiliation; nay, they condemn the teaching of self desperation; they wish to have left a little something that they may do themselves. These secretly remain proud, and adversaries to the grace of God. This, I say, is one reason — that those who fear God, being humbled, might know, call upon, and receive the grace of God.
The other reason is — that faith is, in things not seen. Therefore, that there might be room for faith, it is necessary that all those things which are believed should be hidden. But they are not hidden more deeply, than under the contrary of sight, sense, and experience. Thus, when God makes alive, He does it by killing; when He justifies, He does it by bringing in guilty: when He exalts to Heaven, He does it by bringing down to hell: as the Scripture saith, “The Lord killeth and maketh alive, He bringeth down to the grave and raiseth up,” (1 Sam. ii. 6.); concerning which, there is no need that I should here speak more at large, for those who read my writings, are well acquainted with these things. Thus He conceals His eternal mercy and loving-kindness behind His eternal wrath: His righteousness, behind apparent iniquity.
This is the highest degree of faith — to believe that He is merciful, who saves so few and damns so many; to believe Him just, who according to His own will, makes us necessarily damnable, that He may seem, as Erasmus says, ‘to delight in the torments of the miserable, and to be an object of hatred rather than of love.’ If, therefore, I could by any means comprehend how that same God can be merciful and just, who carries the appearance of so much wrath and iniquity, there would be no need of faith. But now, since that cannot be comprehended, there is room for exercising faith, while such things are preached and openly proclaimed: in the same manner as, while God kills, the faith of life is exercised in death. Suffice it to have said thus much upon your PREFACE.
In this way, we shall more rightly consult for the benefit of those who dispute upon these paradoxes, than according to your way: whereby, you wish to indulge their impiety by silence, and a refraining from saying any thing: which is to no profit whatever. For if you believe, or even suppose these things to be true, (seeing they are paradoxes of no small moment,) such is the insatiable desire of mortals to search into secret things, and the more so the more we desire to keep them secret, that, by this admonition of yours, you will absolutely make them public; for all will now much more desire to know whether these paradoxes be true or not: thus they will, by your contending zeal, be so roused to inquiry, that not one of us ever afforded such a handle for making them known, as you yourself have done by this over-religious and zealous admonition. You would have acted much more prudently, had you said nothing at all about being cautious in mentioning these paradoxes, if you wished to see your desire accomplished. But, since you do not directly deny that they are true, your aim is frustrated: they cannot be concealed: for, by their appearance of truth, they will draw all men to search into them. Therefore, either deny that they are true altogether, or else hold your own tongue first, if you wish others to hold theirs.
The Bondage of the Will or Christian Classics Ethereal Library
W. Phillip Keller | (1920-1997)
8 Your Rod and Your Staff, They Comfort Me
We turn now to discuss and consider the shepherd’s staff. In a sense, that staff, more than any other item of his personal equipment, identifies the shepherd as a shepherd. No one in any other profession carries a shepherd’s staff.
It is uniquely an instrument used for the care and management of sheep—and only sheep. It will not do for cattle, horses, or hogs. It is designed, shaped, and adapted especially to the needs of sheep. And it is used only for their benefit.
The staff is essentially a symbol of the concern, the compassion that a shepherd has for his charges. No other single word can better describe its function on behalf of the flock than that it is for their comfort.
Whereas the rod conveys the concept of authority, of power, of discipline, of defense against danger, the word staff speaks of all that is longsuffering and kind.
The shepherd’s staff is normally a long, slender stick, often with a crook or hook on one end. It is selected with care by the owner; it is shaped, smoothed, and cut to best suit his own personal use.
Some of the most moving memories I carry with me from Africa and the Middle East are of seeing elderly shepherds in the twilight of life, standing silently at sunset leaning on their staffs, watching their flocks with contented spirits. Somehow the staff is of special comfort to the shepherd himself. In the tough tramps and during the long weary watches with his sheep, he leans on it for support and strength. It becomes to him a most precious comfort and help in his duties.
Just as the rod of God is emblematic of the Word of God, so the staff of God is symbolic of the Spirit of God. In Christ’s dealings with us as individuals, there is the essence of the sweetness, the comfort and consolation, the gentle correction brought about by the work of His gracious Spirit.
There are three areas of sheep management in which the staff plays a most significant role. The first of these lies in drawing sheep together into an intimate relationship. The shepherd will use his staff to gently lift a newborn lamb and bring it to its mother if they become separated. He does this because he does not wish to have the ewe reject her offspring if it bears the odor of his hands upon it. I have watched skilled shepherds moving swiftly with their staffs amongst thousands of ewes that were lambing simultaneously. With deft but gentle strokes the newborn lambs are lifted with the staff and placed side by side with their dams. It is a touching sight that can hold one spellbound for hours.
But in precisely the same way, the staff is used by the shepherd to reach out and catch individual sheep, young or old, and draw them close to himself for intimate examination. The staff is very useful this way for the shy and timid sheep that normally tend to keep at a distance from the shepherd.
Similarly in the Christian life we find the gracious Holy Spirit, the Comforter, drawing folks together into a warm, personal fellowship with one another. It is also He who draws us to Christ, for as we are told in Revelation, “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’” (Revelation 22:17).
(Revelation 22:17 The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price. ESV
The staff is also used for guiding sheep. Again and again I have seen a shepherd use his staff to guide his sheep gently into a new path or through some gate or along dangerous, difficult routes. He does not use it actually to beat the beast. Rather, the tip of the long slender stick is laid gently against the animal’s side, and the pressure applied guides the sheep in the way the owner wants it to go. Thus the sheep is reassured of its proper path.
Sometimes I have been fascinated to see how a shepherd will actually hold his staff against the side of some sheep that is a special pet or favorite, simply so that they are “in touch.” They will walk along this way almost as though it were “hand-in-hand.” The sheep obviously enjoys this special attention from the shepherd and revels in the close, personal, intimate contact between them. To be treated in this special way by the shepherd is to know comfort in a deep dimension. It is a delightful and moving picture.
In our walk with God we are told explicitly by Christ Himself that it would be His Spirit who would be sent to guide us and to lead us into all truth (John 16:13). This same gracious Spirit takes the truth of God, the Word of God, and makes it plain to our hearts and minds and spiritual understanding. It is He who gently, tenderly, but persistently says to us, “This is the way—walk in it.” And as we comply and cooperate with His gentle promptings, a sense of safety, comfort, and well-being envelops us.
John 16:13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. ESV
It is He, too, who comes quietly but emphatically to make the life of Christ, my Shepherd, real and personal and intimate to me. Through Him I am “in touch” with Christ. There steals over me the keen awareness that I am His and He is mine. The gracious Spirit continually brings home to me the acute consciousness that I am God’s child and He is my Father. In all of this there is enormous comfort and a sublime sense of oneness, of belonging, of being in His care, and hence the object of His special affection.
The Christian life is not just one of subscribing to certain doctrines or believing certain facts. Essential as all of this confidence in the Scriptures may be, there is, as well, the actual reality of experiencing and knowing firsthand the feel of His touch—the sense of His Spirit upon my spirit. There is for the true child of God that intimate, subtle, yet magnificent experience of sensing the Comforter at his side. This is not imagination—it is the genuine, bona fide reality of everyday life. There is a calm, quiet repose in the knowledge that He is there to direct even in the most minute details of daily living. He can be relied on to assist us in every decision, and in this there lies tremendous comfort for the Christian.
A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23
Total Depravity (Part 1)
Total Depravity (Part 2)
R.C. Sproul | Ligonier
Dr. Keith Essex | The Master's Seminary
OT Studies I Lecture 10
OT Studies I Lecture 11
OT Studies I Lecture 12
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OT Studies I Lecture 14
OT Studies I Lecture 15
OT Studies I Lecture 16
OT Studies I Lecture 17
OT Studies I Lecture 18
OT Studies I Lecture 19
OT Studies I Lecture 20
Brett Meador | Athey Creek
Abijah's Battle 2 Chronicles 13
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2 Chronicles 17-18
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