1 Chronicles 6
Descendants of Levi1 Chronicles 6:1 The sons of Levi: Gershon, Kohath, and Merari. 2 The sons of Kohath: Amram, Izhar, Hebron, and Uzziel. 3 The children of Amram: Aaron, Moses, and Miriam. The sons of Aaron: Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar. 4 Eleazar fathered Phinehas, Phinehas fathered Abishua, 5 Abishua fathered Bukki, Bukki fathered Uzzi, 6 Uzzi fathered Zerahiah, Zerahiah fathered Meraioth, 7 Meraioth fathered Amariah, Amariah fathered Ahitub, 8 Ahitub fathered Zadok, Zadok fathered Ahimaaz, 9 Ahimaaz fathered Azariah, Azariah fathered Johanan, 10 and Johanan fathered Azariah (it was he who served as priest in the house that Solomon built in Jerusalem). 11 Azariah fathered Amariah, Amariah fathered Ahitub, 12 Ahitub fathered Zadok, Zadok fathered Shallum, 13 Shallum fathered Hilkiah, Hilkiah fathered Azariah, 14 Azariah fathered Seraiah, Seraiah fathered Jehozadak; 15 and Jehozadak went into exile when the LORD sent Judah and Jerusalem into exile by the hand of Nebuchadnezzar.
16 The sons of Levi: Gershom, Kohath, and Merari. 17 And these are the names of the sons of Gershom: Libni and Shimei. 18 The sons of Kohath: Amram, Izhar, Hebron and Uzziel. 19 The sons of Merari: Mahli and Mushi. These are the clans of the Levites according to their fathers. 20 Of Gershom: Libni his son, Jahath his son, Zimmah his son, 21 Joah his son, Iddo his son, Zerah his son, Jeatherai his son. 22 The sons of Kohath: Amminadab his son, Korah his son, Assir his son, 23 Elkanah his son, Ebiasaph his son, Assir his son, 24 Tahath his son, Uriel his son, Uzziah his son, and Shaul his son. 25 The sons of Elkanah: Amasai and Ahimoth, 26 Elkanah his son, Zophai his son, Nahath his son, 27 Eliab his son, Jeroham his son, Elkanah his son. 28 The sons of Samuel: Joel his firstborn, the second Abijah. 29 The sons of Merari: Mahli, Libni his son, Shimei his son, Uzzah his son, 30 Shimea his son, Haggiah his son, and Asaiah his son.
31 These are the men whom David put in charge of the service of song in the house of the LORD after the ark rested there. 32 They ministered with song before the tabernacle of the tent of meeting until Solomon built the house of the LORD in Jerusalem, and they performed their service according to their order. 33 These are the men who served and their sons. Of the sons of the Kohathites: Heman the singer the son of Joel, son of Samuel, 34 son of Elkanah, son of Jeroham, son of Eliel, son of Toah, 35 son of Zuph, son of Elkanah, son of Mahath, son of Amasai, 36 son of Elkanah, son of Joel, son of Azariah, son of Zephaniah, 37 son of Tahath, son of Assir, son of Ebiasaph, son of Korah, 38 son of Izhar, son of Kohath, son of Levi, son of Israel; 39 and his brother Asaph, who stood on his right hand, namely, Asaph the son of Berechiah, son of Shimea, 40 son of Michael, son of Baaseiah, son of Malchijah, 41 son of Ethni, son of Zerah, son of Adaiah, 42 son of Ethan, son of Zimmah, son of Shimei, 43 son of Jahath, son of Gershom, son of Levi. 44 On the left hand were their brothers, the sons of Merari: Ethan the son of Kishi, son of Abdi, son of Malluch, 45 son of Hashabiah, son of Amaziah, son of Hilkiah, 46 son of Amzi, son of Bani, son of Shemer, 47 son of Mahli, son of Mushi, son of Merari, son of Levi. 48 And their brothers the Levites were appointed for all the service of the tabernacle of the house of God.
49 But Aaron and his sons made offerings on the altar of burnt offering and on the altar of incense for all the work of the Most Holy Place, and to make atonement for Israel, according to all that Moses the servant of God had commanded. 50 These are the sons of Aaron: Eleazar his son, Phinehas his son, Abishua his son, 51 Bukki his son, Uzzi his son, Zerahiah his son, 52 Meraioth his son, Amariah his son, Ahitub his son, 53 Zadok his son, Ahimaaz his son.
54 These are their dwelling places according to their settlements within their borders: to the sons of Aaron of the clans of Kohathites, for theirs was the first lot, 55 to them they gave Hebron in the land of Judah and its surrounding pasturelands, 56 but the fields of the city and its villages they gave to Caleb the son of Jephunneh. 57 To the sons of Aaron they gave the cities of refuge: Hebron, Libnah with its pasturelands, Jattir, Eshtemoa with its pasturelands, 58 Hilen with its pasturelands, Debir with its pasturelands, 59 Ashan with its pasturelands, and Beth-shemesh with its pasturelands; 60 and from the tribe of Benjamin, Gibeon, Geba with its pasturelands, Alemeth with its pasturelands, and Anathoth with its pasturelands. All their cities throughout their clans were thirteen.
61 To the rest of the Kohathites were given by lot out of the clan of the tribe, out of the half-tribe, the half of Manasseh, ten cities. 62 To the Gershomites according to their clans were allotted thirteen cities out of the tribes of Issachar, Asher, Naphtali and Manasseh in Bashan. 63 To the Merarites according to their clans were allotted twelve cities out of the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and Zebulun. 64 So the people of Israel gave the Levites the cities with their pasturelands. 65 They gave by lot out of the tribes of Judah, Simeon, and Benjamin these cities that are mentioned by name.
66 And some of the clans of the sons of Kohath had cities of their territory out of the tribe of Ephraim. 67 They were given the cities of refuge: Shechem with its pasturelands in the hill country of Ephraim, Gezer with its pasturelands, 68 Jokmeam with its pasturelands, Beth-horon with its pasturelands, 69 Aijalon with its pasturelands, Gath-rimmon with its pasturelands, 70 and out of the half-tribe of Manasseh, Aner with its pasturelands, and Bileam with its pasturelands, for the rest of the clans of the Kohathites.
71 To the Gershomites were given out of the clan of the half-tribe of Manasseh: Golan in Bashan with its pasturelands and Ashtaroth with its pasturelands; 72 and out of the tribe of Issachar: Kedesh with its pasturelands, Daberath with its pasturelands, 73 Ramoth with its pasturelands, and Anem with its pasturelands; 74 out of the tribe of Asher: Mashal with its pasturelands, Abdon with its pasturelands, 75 Hukok with its pasturelands, and Rehob with its pasturelands; 76 and out of the tribe of Naphtali: Kedesh in Galilee with its pasturelands, Hammon with its pasturelands, and Kiriathaim with its pasturelands. 77 To the rest of the Merarites were allotted out of the tribe of Zebulun: Rimmono with its pasturelands, Tabor with its pasturelands, 78 and beyond the Jordan at Jericho, on the east side of the Jordan, out of the tribe of Reuben: Bezer in the wilderness with its pasturelands, Jahzah with its pasturelands, 79 Kedemoth with its pasturelands, and Mephaath with its pasturelands; 80 and out of the tribe of Gad: Ramoth in Gilead with its pasturelands, Mahanaim with its pasturelands, 81 Heshbon with its pasturelands, and Jazer with its pasturelands.
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Establishing the Reliability of the Old Testament: A Trustworthy Process of Transmission
By J. Warner Wallace 4/26/2018
In Cold Case Christianity, I attempted to demonstrate the reliable, unchanging nature of the New Testament by examining the “New Testament Chain of Custody”. I think there are many good evidential reasons to trust the contents of the New Testament Gospels have not changed over time. But what about the Old Testament? While it’s nearly impossible to identify and formulate a similar chain of custody for the Old Testament authors, it is reasonable to infer we have reliable copies of the original texts for several reasons. First and foremost, we can have confidence in the reliable process of transmission employed those who copied and cared for the Old Testament documents.
Jewish believers have always guarded Scripture with extreme care and precision. From the post-exile time of Ezra (and even before), there were priests (Deut. 31:24-26) and scribes (called Sopherim) who were given the responsibility of copying and meticulously caring for the sacred text. These groups were established so Jewish believers could hand down the text accurately. To this very day, the tradition of copying and caring for the Scriptures is venerated within the orthodox Jewish religious tradition.
Early in this millennium, scribes known as the Masoretes took over the meticulous job of copying the ancient Scriptures and transmitting them for later generations. They developed something now known as the Masoretic Text. These documents are still recognized as an incredibly trustworthy copy of the original Scriptures, and we’ve come to trust these texts based on the manner in which they were copied. To ensure the accuracy of the Masoretic copies, the Masoretes developed a number of strict measures to guarantee every new copy was a reliable reproduction of the original. They established tedious procedures to protect the text against changes:
When copies of the Scripture started to wear, they were quickly removed from the collection and placed in a receptacle (called geniza) to separate them from the other, newer scrolls.
When new copies were generated, the materials used by the Masoretes were strictly controlled, including the quality (and types) of inks and skins used to produce the scrolls. The condition of the room in which the copies were made was also tightly controlled, in addition to the cleanliness of the scribe. Only certain colors of ink were permissible.
James "Jim" Warner Wallace (born June 16, 1961) is an American homicide detective and Christian apologist. Wallace is a Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview and an Adjunct Professor of Apologetics at Biola University in La Mirada, California. He has authored several books, including Cold-Case Christianity, God’s Crime Scene, and Forensic Faith, in which he applies principles of cold case homicide investigation to apologetic concerns such as the existence of God and the reliability of the Gospels.
Discerning the Body
By R.C. Sproul Jr. 11/1/2006
The hard driving forces of individualism do not yet stand astride the culture like a colossus. We have divided our homes into mini-apartment complexes and our churches into age and gender- segregated shopping malls. We break the ties that bind any time we find them the least bit binding. We live by ourselves and for ourselves. None of which has yet undone the truth that we are an incurably communal people.
Sociologists have argued for decades, for instance, that children in the inner-city, coming out of unstable homes, often without fathers, naturally gravitate toward the pseudo-family that is gang life. Even the mob mimics the contours of the family. Casa Nostra, after all, means “Our House.”
One need not, however, live in the context of a criminal subculture in order to see faux families at work, to see the parade and charade of ritual togetherness. One can see it driving into Ligonier valley, Penn. Ligonier, before it was the name of a ministry, was (and still is) the name of a small town in western Pennsylvania, the town where I grew up. As you come down into the valley from the south, you see, as you would in most small towns, a sign of welcome. The sign welcomes you to town, but the welcome comes not from all its citizens, but from its leading “families.” That is, there on the sign you will see the logos for Ruritan and the Knights of Columbus, for the Rotary Club and the Masonic Lodge.
I’m no expert on these civic organizations. I’ve never joined one or visited one. Rumor has it, however, that quite apart from the service to the communities, separate from the business deals that are made there, there are sundry rituals and secrets that bind the members together. Which makes perfect sense. For these organizations invariably become not just pseudo-families, but pseudo-churches. They take on the shape of the one great organization wherein communities are served and dominion is exercised, the church of Jesus Christ.
We ought not, because of the obvious similarities, be ashamed of our practices. We do not greet one another with a secret handshake, but with the kiss. We do not wear funny hats, but crowns of gold. And the ritual that binds us together is as plain as it is powerful. There is no great power in bread. There is no great mystery surrounding wine. But Jesus, He is a different matter altogether. There is not just power and mystery, but power and glory.
The Lord’s Supper is a rite, a ritual, a form, and a raging storm of power. Of course there is the power to remind us of our sin. The body wasn’t broken by a car accident. The blood was not shed because of a mishandled kitchen knife. No, we come to the table knowing that we crucified Him. We broke the body, as our sin shed the blood. The very act of eating and drinking the destruction our sin has wrought will penetrate our hearts far better than the most cogent lecture on the doctrine of total depravity.
But there is greater power. For the Table not only tells us of our sin, but tells us of His forgiveness. It is, after all, the Table of the Lord. He invites us there that we might enjoy table fellowship with Him. It is because the Table is a taste of heaven that I catechize my children this way. “What is heaven?” I ask them. “Jesus will feed me,” I have taught them to reply. We enter into His forgiveness and His peace as He lays out before us a table in the presence of His enemies. He bids us to rest not just in Him but with Him.
When we affirm the power of conviction, when we affirm the power of connection with Him, we still, however, miss the Body. For the glory isn’t merely that we commune with Jesus but that as we commune with Jesus, we commune with each other. The Lord’s Table has the power to make of bickering, back-biting, and squabbling siblings the very body of Christ. Just as hundreds of grains of wheat join together to form a single loaf, so too hundreds of grains of wheat join together to form the body of Christ, the very bread of life. The Lord doesn’t set His table for one or for two, but for the teeming multitudes that are His. The Table opens our eyes not just to see Him, but to see Him in our brothers and sisters, that we might love them as we are called.
It all, of course, ties together. When the Table reminds us of our own sin, it helps us look past the sins of our brothers. And when the Table shows us the glory of the Son, we set aside seeking our own glory and so love our brothers better. When we enter into the power of the Table to make of us one, then suddenly the formulaic copies of the world around us lose their appeal. Who needs funny hats and secret handshakes, when Jesus, the one we crucified, when Jesus, the one He raised from the dead, when Jesus, the one who is the express image of the glory of the Father, comes and feeds His bride? May He purify us that we might love Him, and so better love His body, the church.
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
RE: Hebrews 7:25
By Dr. Sinclair Ferguson
It has often been argued that Calvin’s view of assurance was quite different from that of the Puritans. One passage is thought to be especially germane:
Now we shall possess a right definition of faith if we call it a firm and certain knowledge of God’s benevolence toward us, founded upon the truth of the freely given promise in Christ, both revealed to our minds and sealed upon our hearts through the Holy Spirit. ( Institutes of the Christian Religion )3.2.7
The wording of the The Westminster Confession of Faith is, as we have seen:
This infallible assurance doth not so belong to the essence of faith, but that a true believer may wait long, and conflict with many difficulties, before he be partaker of it. ( The Westminster Confession of Faith, 18.3. )
Many Reformed students (including the most orthodox) have regarded Calvin and Westminster to be virtually irreconcilable here. In its more extreme forms it is said both that while Calvin made assurance of the essence of faith, the Westminster Divines denied it, and that Calvin’s scheme gave no place to the practical syllogism, while the Westminster Divines emphasized it. If a plea of mitigating circumstances is made, it is usually either that Calvin was overreacting against the complete absence of assurance in the Roman system, or that seventeenth-century ministers were dealing with a different pastoral situation from Calvin. But neither of these responses is necessary, or adequate.
For one thing, an inappropriate contrast is being drawn here. In the Institutes Calvin is defining faith; in the Confession of Faith the Westminster Divines are describing assurance. Two related but quite different things are being discussed and contrasted as though they were the same.
In fact when the Westminster Divines define the activity of faith, they speak of it as “accepting, receiving and resting on Christ alone for justification, sanctification and eternal life, by virtue of the covenant of grace.” ( The Westminster Confession of Faith, 18.3. ) This triptych of elements in faith (“accepting, receiving and resting”) clearly constitutes a certain assurance of Christ—we do not accept, receive, and rest on someone we believe to be untrustworthy. Patently what the Divines go on to say four chapters later is that such faith does not exist in a vacuum. It is faith in Christ set within the context of the psychology, life situation, personality, complexes, opposition, difficulties, and damage that together constitute the individual’s sitz im Leben.
To use formal language, in distinction from the “direct act” of faith in Christ, which implies a certain assurance of him (“He is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him” ( Heb. 7:25 ) ), assurance of salvation is a “reflex act.” It does not have Christ as its direct object but the believer him- or herself. The direct act of faith says, “Christ is able to save,” while the reflex act says, “I am someone who has been saved through faith in Christ.”
We need look no further than the Institutes to discover that Calvin himself well understood this. He is like a high school chemistry teacher who provides his pupils with a definition but tells them that their laboratory experiment may not work out in exactly these terms because of experimenter error, contamination of materials, or differences in environmental factors.
Thus Calvin, in the same chapter of the Institutes, is able to say:
The knowledge of faith consists in assurance rather than in comprehension. . . . We add the words “sure and firm” in order to express a more solid constancy of persuasion. For, as faith is not content with a doubtful and changeable opinion, so is it not content with an obscure and confused conception, but requires full and fixed certainty, such as men are wont to have from things experienced and proved. . . . He alone is truly a believer who, convinced by a firm conviction that God is a kindly and well-disposed Father toward him, lays hold on an undoubted expectation of salvation. . . . No man is a believer, I say, except him who, leaning upon the assurance of his salvation, confidently triumphs over the devil and death. ( Institutes of the Christian Religion )3.2.15, 16, 17
But someone will say: “Believers experience something far different: In recognizing the grace of God toward themselves they are not only tried by disquiet, which often comes upon them, but they are repeatedly shaken by gravest terrors. For so violent are the temptations that trouble their minds as not to seem quite compatible with that certainty of faith.” Accordingly we shall have to solve this difficulty if we wish the above-stated doctrine to stand. Surely, while we teach that faith ought to be certain and assured, we cannot imagine any certainty that is not tinged with doubt, or any assurance that is not assailed by some anxiety. On the other hand, we say that believers are in perpetual conflict with their own unbelief. Far, indeed, are we from putting their consciences in any peaceful repose, undisturbed by any tumult at all. ( Institutes of the Christian Religion ) 3.2.17
Further, Calvin writes of the fact that the disciples were true but weak believers before the resurrection:
We ought not to seek any more intimate proof of this than that unbelief is, in all men [i.e., who are believers] always mixed with faith. ( Institutes of the Christian Religion ) 3.2.4.
Thus it is
he who, struggling with his own weakness, presses toward faith in his moments of anxiety, is already in large part victorious. ( Institutes of the Christian Religion ) 3.2.1
I have not forgotten what I have previously said, the memory of which is repeatedly renewed by experience: faith is tossed about by various doubts, so that the minds of the godly are rarely at peace—at least they do not always enjoy a peaceful state. ( Institutes of the Christian Religion ) 3.2.37
Dr. Sinclair B. Ferguson is a Ligonier teaching fellow and distinguished visiting professor of systematic theology at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. Sinclair Ferguson Books | Go to Books Page
The Battle for the Table
By R.C. Sproul 11/1/2006
There have been centuries of debate over the church’s understanding of the doctrine of the Lord’s Supper. Before we survey the critical issues involved, we need to understand that the main reason why the argument continues, and at times becomes fierce, is because the church understands the vital importance of this sacrament in its life and worship.
The fundamental disagreement over the Lord’s Supper focuses on four distinct views. These views include: first, the view of transubstantiation articulated by the Roman Catholic communion; second, the doctrine of consubstantiation articulated by the Lutheran community (We must note, however, that the word consubstantiation, though it is used widely in theological circles to describe the Lutheran view, is not a term that the Lutherans tend to embrace, and so we should honor their attempt to disavow this particular word.); third, the Reformed and Anglican affirmation of the real presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper; and fourth, the memorial-sign view of the sacrament espoused by Ulrich Zwingli and by the majority of those in the Baptist communities.
It is important to note at this point that there is major agreement among Roman Catholics, Lutherans, Anglicans, and the Reformed that Christ is truly present in the Lord’s Supper. They all go beyond the view of the Supper as a bare sign or memorial, as espoused by many evangelicals.
The debate among Catholics, Lutherans, and Reformed people is one that focuses on the mode of Christ’s presence in the Lord’s Supper. At the bottom, this debate is not so much sacramental as it is christological.
Historically, the Roman Catholic Church has articulated her view of the Lord’s Supper in terms of the doctrine of transubstantiation. This doctrine was clearly affirmed by the Ecumenical Council of Trent in the sixteenth century and was reaffirmed as recently as the papal encyclical issued by Paul VI in 1965, entitled Mysterium Fide. Transubstantiation uses language that was borrowed from the philosopher Aristotle. In defining the nature of objects in the world, Aristotle distinguished between the “essence,” or “substance,” of an object and its external, perceivable qualities that he called the “accidens.” Therefore, Aristotle distinguished between substance and accidens of all beings in the created world. By use of this terminology, the Roman Catholic Church teaches the miracle of the Mass, in which the substance of the bread and wine that is used in the Lord’s Supper is miraculously changed into the substance of the body and blood of Christ.
This miracle, however, contains two aspects. While the substance of the bread and wine are changed to the body and blood of Christ, nevertheless, the accidens of bread and wine remain the same. That is, before the miracle occurs, the bread and wine look like bread and wine, taste like bread and wine, and feel like bread and wine. After the miracle of their transformation occurs, they still look like bread and wine, feel like bread and wine, and taste like bread and wine. That is because after the miracle occurs, the substance of bread and wine has changed into the substance of the body and blood of Christ, while the accidens of bread and wine remain. Therefore the miracle is twofold. For Rome there is the substance of one thing with the accidens of another, and the accidens of another thing with the substance of something else.
Interestingly, last century a debate erupted over a similar point, particularly in Holland among the Dutch Catholics. They attempted to get beyond the language of Aristotle and keep the idea of the miracle intact without being tied to the philosophical formulation of Aristotelian terms. Edward Schillebeeckx, as well as the writers of the Dutch Catechism, adopted a view called “transignification,” which they said maintained the reality of the real presence of Christ without the formulation of Trent. Paul VI responded to this in Mysterium Fide (1965) by insisting that not only is the church committed to the substance of the doctrine of transubstantiation, but it is committed to the formulation of it as well.
Martin Luther saw a frivolous use of the word miracle in Rome’s understanding of transubstantiation and said that it is not necessary to talk about the substance of one and the accidens of another when we can just affirm the true corporeal presence of Christ “in, under, and with” the elements of bread and wine. Luther didn’t use the word consubstantiation. It was the Reformed church’s attempt to faithfully articulate Luther’s view by using the term consubstantiation, which means that Christ is substantively present with the substantive presence of bread and wine. In both the Roman and Lutheran view of the matter, for Christ to be present in His human nature in more than one place at the same time requires that some kind of communication of divine attributes takes place between God and the human Jesus. This was the chief objection that Calvin and the other Reformers launched against both Luther and Rome, because they saw in it a violation of the Council of Chalcedon, which taught that the two natures of Christ are united without confusion or without mixture. For Jesus in His human nature, to which His body certainly belongs, to be present at more than one place at the same time would require the deification of His body, which the Reformers saw as a thinly veiled Monophysite heresy.
John Calvin insisted, as did the Anglicans, on the true presence of Christ, but he also insisted that the presence of Christ is through His divine nature. His human nature is no longer present with us. It is in heaven at the right hand of God. We still are able to commune with the human nature of Christ by means of our communion with the divine nature, which does indeed remain united to the human nature. But that human nature remains localized in heaven. In the debate, Calvin fought a war on two fronts. On the one hand, in dealing with the Lutherans and the Roman Catholics, he refused to use the term substance with respect to the presence of Jesus in the sacrament. But over against those disciples of Zwingli, who wanted to reduce the sacrament to a mere symbol and memorial, Calvin insisted upon the term substance. Here the term substance had two different nuances. With respect to Luther and Rome, the term substance meant “corporeal” or “physical.” With respect to the debate with Zwingli, Calvin used the term substance as a synonym for “real” or “true.”
In addition to this aspect of the controversy, the Reformation theologians also rejected Rome’s notion that in the Lord’s Supper a true sacrifice of Christ is offered to God. Catholicism says that though this sacrifice is not bloody, it nevertheless is a real sacrifice (the Council of Trent used the word sacrificium). In this understanding, the Reformers saw a violation of the once-for-all offering of Christ on the cross.
The debate goes on, as the church tries to plumb the depths and the riches of this sacrament that was instituted by Jesus and practiced on a regular basis in the primitive Christian church, and this debate has survived even to our day.
Robert Charles Sproul, 2/13/1939 – 12/14/2017 was an American theologian, author, and ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America. Dr. R.C. Sproul was founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries, an international Christian education and discipleship organization located near Orlando, Fla. He was also copastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., chancellor of Reformation Bible College, and executive editor of Tabletalk magazine. Dr. Sproul has contributed dozens of articles to national evangelical publications, has spoken at conferences, churches, and schools around the world, and has written more than one hundred books. He also served as general editor of the Reformation Study Bible.R.C. Sproul Books | Go to Books Page
Forgiveness: A Mark of a Healthy Church
By Joseph Novenson 12/1/2006
Our Lord and Savior expects forgiveness to be constant, not occasional. In Matthew 18:21–22, Peter came to Jesus with a faulty view of employing forgiveness. He suggested merely “seven” acts of forgiveness as the maximum of mercy to be extended. Before criticizing his “smallness of heart,” consider that the practice in today’s church may be more narrow. Jesus corrects Peter’s shallow grasp of forgiveness and commands a constant, not occasional, mercy, with a statistically strong metaphor, “I do not say to you seven times….” Perhaps Peter momentarily presumed Jesus considered him a generous and gracious follower of the Master, having suggested such extravagance. Jesus, however, finished correcting Peter, saying, “…but seventy times seven.”
The Savior warns Christians of the resistance to forgiving. Christ then presents the subsequent parable of the unmerciful servant who owes a debt of approximately seven million dollars to a king who mercifully cancels payment. Despite the grace received, the servant abusively demands payment of the debt owed him by a “fellow servant” and finally imprisons that servant for inability to pay. Jesus calls this “wicked.” The parable’s drama unnerves our graceless behavior and unveils our tragic underestimation of the cross’ forgiveness to us.
The Savior also defines forgiveness. In both this parable as well as the Lord’s Prayer in the gospel of Matthew, sin is portrayed as debt to be forgiven or cancelled by the one owed. Hence, Jesus defines kingdom forgiveness as voluntary incursion of loss of that which is owed to release another from obligated payment. This is the distinctive of kingdom forgiveness in opposition to the world’s forgiveness.
A Christian incurs personal loss for the good of another, knowing that Christ did so for us on the cross. Unfortunately, words like “I can’t forgive until they make it right” are common among those outside and even inside the church. Forgiveness neither demands justice for trespass nor avoids sacrifice for the violator.
Biblical churches are in need of forgiveness too. To answer the objection, “You just don’t know my church, my Sunday school, my small group, my board, my pastor, my family, etc.,” employ the book of Exodus metaphorically without substantive alterations to the content. Imagine a congregational meeting in 1400 bc at the “Sinai Presbyterian,” “Baptist,” “Episcopal,” or “Community” church.
The “youth pastor” of this church (as Exodus records), Korah, assisted by Dathan and Abiram, (Ex. 6:21–24; Num. 16), stands and seeks the privilege of the floor from the moderator, Moses. He says: “Our senior pastor, Moses, is such a poor leader! He took our congregation on a family retreat and was lost for forty years. I move we execute him!” Dathan and Abiram quickly “seconded” the motion. The congregation shouts, “We agree! Yeah, that will get this church back on track!”
Korah’s motion serves the impetus for further discontent by members of the Sinai Church. A second member stands saying, “We ran out of iced tea at the last church supper. That’s inexcusable! I’ll quit coming if people don’t plan better!” A chorus of “amens” fills the sanctuary.
A third member stands with fist raised and announces, “Chicken, chicken, chicken; why do we always have to eat chicken? Why not have steak at church suppers? If I have to eat those freezer-bought biscuits at a prayer breakfast again, I’m moving to another church!” (see Num. 11; 16).
In the midst of shouts of agreement, imagine yourself leaning to someone seated near you and asking, “Has pastor Moses ever called you to repentance for your sin and challenged you with forgiveness of each other?” The answer comes quickly, “Surely he preached a sermon on that in Egypt, Elim, and Rephidim!” “What was the response?” you ask. “We ignored it and complained about something else,” is the reply!
Consider the average pastor’s response to such a church, let alone an average church member. Is it not something like, “I feel a peace about leaving here! I sense God calling me somewhere else! God couldn’t want me near people like this!” As a result of such expressed disdain for forgiveness, and the accompanying nomadic wandering from place to place, real forgiveness given and received is rare among God’s people.
Moses had no such option of wandering away! These were God’s chosen people and Moses either dealt with the high price of forgiveness or he failed his God. He could not go to another neighborhood or city and join Ichabod Memorial Church.
This extensive metaphor helps unmask the deeply systemic flight from paying the price of forgiveness that marks the twenty-first century American church. Consider afresh the voluntary loss incurred by our covenant-keeping king for His own people. Nothing else will melt the unforgiving, debt-demanding heart and begin to reconcile sinners in Jesus’ church.
Rev. Joseph Novenson is senior pastor of Lookout Mountain Presbyterian Church in Lookout Mountain, Tenn.
By Don Carson 5/2/2018
Two themes control Numbers 9. The second is the descent of the pillar of cloud and fire onto the tabernacle, the “Tent of the Testimony,” the first day it was set up (9:15-23). This pillar had guided and protected the people from the time of their first departure from Egypt. It was the visible sign of God’s presence — and from now on it is associated with the tabernacle (and later with the temple). Thus the storyline of the manifestation of the presence of God continues.
But the first theme is the celebration of the Passover on the first anniversary of the original Passover (9:1-14). The original Passover, described in Exodus 12, was not only bound up with the Exodus, but was to be commemorated, according to the Mosaic covenant, in well-defined ways (see Ex. 12; Lev. 23:5-8; Deut. 16:1-8). God’s instructions to Moses are that the people are to celebrate the Passover “in accordance with all its rules and regulations” (Num. 9:3). But this stipulation precipitates a crisis. Because some of the people had become ceremonially unclean by coming into contact with a dead body (for instance, if a member of their family had died), strictly speaking they could not participate in the Passover feast until they had become ceremonially clean — and that took enough time that they would be unable to celebrate on the prescribed day, the fourteenth of Abib (called Nisan after the exile), the first month in the Jewish calendar.
So Moses consults the Lord. The Lord’s answer is that such ceremonially unclean people may postpone their celebration of Passover until the fourteenth of the second month. But this postponement, the Lord insists, is only for those unable, for ceremonial reasons, to celebrate at the prescribed time. Those who opt for postponement for reasons of personal expediency are to be cut off from the people.
There are many lessons to be learned from this episode, but one of them is sometimes overlooked. In any complex system of laws, sooner or later different laws will lay down competing or even conflicting claims. The result is that such laws must be laid out in some hierarchy of importance. Here the month is considered less critical than ceremonial cleanliness or the Passover celebration itself. Jesus himself recognizes the general point. The Law forbids regular work on the Sabbath, and it says a male child should be circumcised on the eighth day. Suppose the eighth day is a Sabbath (John 7:23)? Which takes precedence?
Minds that think only on the legal plane may not grasp the direction in which laws point. Organize them aright, Jesus says (and Paul elsewhere makes the same point in other ways), and you discover that they point to him (John 7:24).
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
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 4444 To The Choirmaster. A Maskil Of The Sons Of Korah.
17 All this has come upon us,
though we have not forgotten you,
and we have not been false to your covenant.
18 Our heart has not turned back,
nor have our steps departed from your way;
19 yet you have broken us in the place of jackals
and covered us with the shadow of death.
20 If we had forgotten the name of our God
or spread out our hands to a foreign god,
21 would not God discover this?
For he knows the secrets of the heart.
22 Yet for your sake we are killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.
By Gleason Archer Jr.
Isaiah: Alleged Differences in Theological Ideas
It is asserted by the advocates of the two - Isaiah theory that Deutero- Isaiah dwells upon the infiniteness of God and His sovereign relationship toward the heathen nations in a way that is far more developed and emphatic than in Isaiah I. On the other hand, Isaiah II makes no mention of the Messianic King nor of the faithful remnant; rather, the dominating concept is that of the suffering Servant. To these allegations it may be replied that no genuine contradictions have ever been pointed out in the theology of the two sections of Isaiah, nor has any critic ever demonstrated that the new emphases which do appear in chapters 40 – 66 are not sufficiently accounted for by the changed conditions which occurred in the reign of the wicked and idolatrous Manasseh. Actually there is no doctrine set forth in 40 – 66 which is not already contained, in germ at least, in 1 – 39. With the influx of idolatry in the kingdom of Judah and the worship of heathen gods, which became fashionable in Manasseh’s time, a challenge was presented to the true faith that called for just such an emphasis upon the uniqueness and sovereignty of Yahweh as we find in Isa. 40 – 48. As for the doctrine of the Messiah, the inevitability of judgment upon apostate Israel quite logically led to the development of the doctrine of vicarious atonement, apart from which there could be no reasonable hope for the spiritual survival of the nation. This accounts for the prominence of the concept of the suffering Servant, or the Servant of Yahweh, in Isaiah II.KEY MESSIANIC PROPHECIES IN THE OLD TESTAMENT
Gen. 3:15 Messiah to reconcile men to God; fully human, born of a woman, He will utterly defeat Satan
22:18 He will be of the family of Abraham
49:10 He will be of the kingly tribe of Judah
Deut. 18:15 He will be a prophet who, like Moses, revealed the word of God
Ps. 2:1–2 He will be tried by Gentile rulers and condemned by His own Jewish people
16:10 Through resurrection, by the Father, Jesus’ body will not see corruption
22:1 He will experience the rejection of the Father at His death
22:6–7 He will be mocked at His crucifixion
22:22 Christ will glorify God in His church after His resurrection
40:6–8 Christ delighted in all the Father’s will
69:7–12 Christ would be rejected by men
69:21 Christ would drink gall at His crucifixion
89:4 Christ will be the eternal seed of David
89:26–28 Christ will be God’s eternal son, His unique first born
110:1 He will ascend to the right hand of the Father, and be coronated
110:4 His priesthood will be eternal, after the manner of Melchizedek
132:11 He will be the lineage of David
Isa. 7:14 Christ will have a virgin birth; He will be called Immanuel
7:15–16 He will grow up in a land dominated by a foreign power
9:1–2 He will minister in Galilee
9:7 He will be of the line of David, but His kingship will be eternal and He will be the Son of God
11:2 He will be anointed with the Holy Spirit
11:4 He will minister perfect justice regarding the poor and the meek
24:16 Christ will offer salvation to the entire world
40:3 He will have a forerunner
42:1 Christ will be the great anointed Servant of Yahweh
42:2 His ministry will be gentle
42:6 Christ will be the fulfillment of God’s covenant
49:6 Christ will be a light to the Gentiles
52:14 He would be disfigured by the abuses He suffered prior to crucifixion
53:4 Christ will bear all our diseases
53:5 He will provide atonement for sin
53:9 He will be buried in a rich man’s tomb
53:10 The Father will prolong Christ’s days by resurrecting Him from the dead
Dan. 9:24 His public ministry to begin in A.D. 26, which would be 483 years after the decree to Ezra to rebuild Jerusalem; 3 1/2 years later (in the middle of the seven year “week”) the Messiah would be crucified while atoning for sin as the “Most Holy” One
Mic. 5:2 Jesus would be born in Bethlehem
Zech. 9:9 He would enter Jerusalem on a donkey’s colt
11:12 Christ would be betrayed for 30 pieces of silver
12:10 He would be pierced for our transgressions (Isa. 53:5)
Much discussion has been devoted to the question of the identity of the Servant of Yahweh, who is referred to in various passages from chapter 41 to 53. Rationalists are compelled by their philosophical presuppositions to deny that the suffering Servant was intended as a prophecy of Jesus Christ. In their search for some more contemporary figure with whom the Servant might be identified, most modern anti-supernaturalists resort to the same identification as that favored by modern Judaism that the suffering Servant is equivalent to the Jewish nation. But there can be little doubt that this identification leads to insuperable difficulties in those “Servant songs” which refer to the Messiah. Thus, in Isa. 53:4, 5, 8, 9, this type of exegesis would result in making Israel bear vicariously their own sins; that Israel itself was smitten rather than the Servant; that the nation of Israel did not open its mouth before its judge, and that the whole Jewish race was carried off by a judicial murder and was buried with a certain rich man. Such an interpretation results in self-contradictory nonsense.
The only satisfactory explanation for the Servant concept in Isaiah is that it is of a three-dimensional character. As Delitzsch put it, the Servant may be symbolized by a pyramid. At the base of the pyramid is the Hebrew nation as a whole (as in 41:8 and 42:19 ). Israel is regarded as God’s uniquely chosen people charged with the responsibility of witnessing to the true God before the heathen nations, and serving as custodians of His Word. At the middle level ( 43:10 ), the remnant of true believers in Israel will constitute the redeemed people of God and serve as witnesses to their unspiritual countrymen. At the apex of the pyramid stands a single individual, the Lord Jesus Christ, who is set forth as the true Israel (for apart from Him there could not be a covenant nation of Israel, and from Him the nation derives all its standing before God). It is this Servant who will arise as Redeemer and Deliverer from sin by bearing in His own person the death penalty in the place of sinners. There are four main “Servant Songs.”
The Continual Burnt Offering
By H.A. Ironside - 1941
May 2Ezekiel 15:1 And the word of the LORD came to me: 2 “Son of man, how does the wood of the vine surpass any wood, the vine branch that is among the trees of the forest? 3 Is wood taken from it to make anything? Do people take a peg from it to hang any vessel on it? 4 Behold, it is given to the fire for fuel. When the fire has consumed both ends of it, and the middle of it is charred, is it useful for anything? ESV
God is the God of truth. He loves reality and detests pretence. The Lord Jesus when on earth, as God manifest in the flesh, took this same attitude. While filled with love for lost sinners and tenderly compassionate toward any who desired to know the truth, He sternly denounced hypocrisy and self-righteousness, pronouncing severe judgments on those who thus attempted to cover up their real condition before God. Where there is divine life in the soul there will be fruit for Him outwardly. No amount of profession can make up for the lack of this evidence of genuine repentance and the regenerating grace of God. Character produced by the work of the Holy Spirit within will result in behavior that is in keeping therewith. The Lord is glorified when those who profess to belong to the household of faith bear the precious fruit which proclaims the genuineness of that which they say has been wrought in their souls. A Christian who does not bear fruit is like a vine that does not produce grapes. It is practically useless. Believers are intended to be lights in a dark world, attracting others to Christ.
In order to meet these responsibilities one must be born from above, for the natural man cannot live on a spiritual plane. He has no understanding of the things of God (1 Corinthians 2:14). Therefore it is by their fruits that the servants of God are known. Service and fruit spring from the divine life implanted in the new birth.
I would not work my soul to save;
That work my Lord hath done;
But I would work like any slave
For love to God’s dear Son.
The Continual Burnt Offering: Daily Meditations on the Word of God
The Institutes of the Christian Religion
Translated by Henry Beveridge
5. Why should men attempt to darken these statements by assigning some
place in election to past or future works? This is altogether to evade
what the Apostle contends for--viz. that the distinction between the
brothers is not founded on any ground of works, but on the mere calling
of God, inasmuch as it was fixed before the children were born. Had
there been any solidity in this subtlety, it would not have escaped the
notice of the Apostle, but being perfectly aware that God foresaw no
good in man, save that which he had already previously determined to
bestow by means of his election, he does not employ a preposterous
arrangement which would make good works antecedent to their cause. We
learn from the Apostle's words, that the salvation of believers is
founded entirely on the decree of divine election, that the privilege
is procured not by works but free calling. We have also a specimen of
the thing itself set before us. Esau and Jacob are brothers, begotten
of the same parents, within the same womb, not yet born. In them all
things are equal, and yet the judgment of God with regard to them is
different. He adopts the one and rejects the other. The only right of
precedence was that of primogeniture; but that is disregarded, and the
younger is preferred to the elder. Nay, in the case of others, God
seems to have disregarded primogeniture for the express purpose of
excluding the flesh from all ground of boasting. Rejecting Ishmael he
gives his favor to Isaac, postponing Manasseh he honors Ephraim.
6. Should any one object that these minute and inferior favors do not enable us to decide with regard to the future life, that it is not to be supposed that he who received the honor of primogeniture was thereby adopted to the inheritance of heaven; (many objectors do not even spare Paul, but accuse him of having in the quotation of these passages wrested Scripture from its proper meaning); I answer as before, that the Apostle has not erred through inconsideration, or spontaneously misapplied the passages of Scripture; but he saw (what these men cannot be brought to consider) that God purposed under an earthly sign to declare the spiritual election of Jacob, which otherwise lay hidden at his inaccessible tribunal. For unless we refer the primogeniture bestowed upon him to the future world, the form of blessing would be altogether vain and ridiculous, inasmuch as he gained nothing by it but a multitude of toils and annoyances, exile, sharp sorrows, and bitter cares. Therefore, when Paul knew beyond a doubt that by the external, God manifested the spiritual and unfading blessings, which he had prepared for his servant in his kingdom, he hesitated not in proving the latter to draw an argument from the former. For we must remember that the land of Canaan was given in pledge of the heavenly inheritance; and that therefore there cannot be a doubt that Jacob was like the angels ingrafted into the body of Christ, that he might be a partaker of the same life. Jacob, therefore, is chosen, while Esau is rejected; the predestination of God makes a distinction where none existed in respect of merit. If you ask the reason the Apostle gives it, "For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion" (Rom. 9:15). And what pray, does this mean? It is just a clear declaration by the Lord that he finds nothing in men themselves to induce him to show kindness, that it is owing entirely to his own mercy, and, accordingly, that their salvation is his own work. Since God places your salvation in himself alone, why should you descend to yourself? Since he assigns you his own mercy alone, why will you recur to your own merits? Since he confines your thoughts to his own mercy why do you turn partly to the view of your own works?
We must therefore come to that smaller number whom Paul elsewhere describes as foreknown of God (Rom. 11:2); not foreknown, as these men imagine, by idle, inactive contemplations but in the sense which it often bears. For surely when Peter says that Christ was "delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God," (Acts 2:23), he does not represent God as contemplating merely, but as actually accomplishing our salvation. Thus also Peter, in saying that the believers to whom he writes are elect "according to the foreknowledge of God," (1 Pet. 1:2), properly expresses that secret predestination by which God has sealed those whom he has been pleased to adopt as sons. In using the term purpose as synonymous with a term which uniformly denotes what is called a fixed determination, he undoubtedly shows that God, in being the author of our salvation, does not go beyond himself. In this sense he says in the same chapters that Christ as "a lamb" "was foreordained before the creation of the world," (1 Pet. 1:19, 20). What could have been more frigid or absurd than to have represented God as looking from the height of heaven to see whence the salvation of the human race was to come? By a people foreknown, Peter means the same thing as Paul does by a remnant selected from a multitude falsely assuming the name of God. In another passage, to suppress the vain boasting of those who, while only covered with a mask, claim for themselves in the view of the world a first place among the godly, Paul says, "The Lord knoweth them that are his," (2 Tim. 2:19). In short, by that term he designates two classes of people, the one consisting of the whole race of Abraham, the other a people separated from that race, and though hidden from human view, yet open to the eye of God. And there is no doubt that he took the passage from Moses, who declares that God would be merciful to whomsoever he pleased (although he was speaking of an elect people whose condition was apparently equal); just as if he had said, that in a common adoption was included a special grace which he bestows on some as a holier treasure, and that there is nothing in the common covenant to prevent this number from being exempted from the common order. God being pleased in this matter to act as a free dispenser and disposer, distinctly declares, that the only ground on which he will show mercy to one rather than to another is his sovereign pleasure; for when mercy is bestowed on him who asks it, though he indeed does not suffer a refusal, he, however, either anticipates or partly acquires a favour, the whole merit of which God claims for himself.
7. Now, let the supreme Judge and Master decide on the whole case. Seeing such obduracy in his hearers, that his words fell upon the multitude almost without fruit, he to remove this stumbling-block exclaims, "All that the Father giveth me shall come to me." "And this is the Father's will which has sent me, that of all which he has given me I should lose nothing," (John 6:37, 39). Observe that the donation of the Father is the first step in our delivery into the charge and protection of Christ. Some one, perhaps, will here turn round and object, that those only peculiarly belong to the Father who make a voluntary surrender by faith. But the only thing which Christ maintains is that though the defections of vast multitudes should shake the world, yet the counsel of God would stand firm, more stable than heaven itself, that his election would never fail. The elect are said to have belonged to the Father before he bestowed them on his only begotten Son. It is asked if they were his by nature? Nay, they were aliens, but he makes them his by delivering them. The words of Christ are too clear to be rendered obscure by any of the mists of caviling. "No man can come to me except the Father which has sent me draw him." "Every man, therefore, that has heard and learned of the Father comes unto me," (John 6:44, 45). Did all promiscuously bend the knee to Christ, election would be common; whereas now in the small number of believers a manifest diversity appears. Accordingly our Savior, shortly after declaring that the disciples who were given to him were the common property of the Father, adds, "I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine," (John 17:9). Hence it is that the whole world no longer belongs to its Creator, except in so far as grace rescues from malediction, divine wrath, and eternal death, some, not many, who would otherwise perish, while he leaves the world to the destruction to which it is doomed. Meanwhile, though Christ interpose as a Mediator, yet he claims the right of electing in common with the Father, "I speak not of you all: I know whom I have chosen" (John 13:18). If it is asked whence he has chosen them, he answers in another passages "Out of the world;" which he excludes from his prayers when he commits his disciples to the Father (John 15:19). We must, indeed hold, when he affirms that he knows whom he has chosen, first, that some individuals of the human race are denoted; and, secondly, that they are not distinguished by the quality of their virtues, but by a heavenly decree. Hence it follows, that since Christ makes himself the author of election, none excel by their own strength or industry. In elsewhere numbering Judas among the elect, though he was a devil (John 6:70), he refers only to the apostolical office, which though a bright manifestation of divine favor (as Paul so often acknowledges it to be in his own person), does not, however, contain within itself the hope of eternal salvation. Judas, therefore, when he discharged the office of Apostle perfidiously, might have been worse than a devil; but not one of those whom Christ has once ingrafted into his body will he ever permit to perish, for in securing their salvation, he will perform what he has promised; that is, exert a divine power greater than all (John 10:28). For when he says, "Those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost but the son of perdition," (John 17:12), the expression, though there is a catachresis in it, is not at all ambiguous. The sum is, that God by gratuitous adoption forms those whom he wishes to have for sons; but that the intrinsic cause is in himself, because he is contented with his secret pleasure.
8. But Ambrose, Origin, and Jerome, were of opinion, that God dispenses his grace among men according to the use which he foresees that each will make of it. It may be added, that Augustine also was for some time of this opinion; but after he had made greater progress in the knowledge of Scripture, he not only retracted it as evidently false, but powerfully confuted it (August. Retract. Lib. 1, c. 13). Nay, even after the retractation, glancing at the Pelagians who still persisted in that error, he says, "Who does not wonder that the Apostle failed to make this most acute observation? For after stating a most startling proposition concerning those who were not yet born, and afterwards putting the question to himself by way of objection, What then? Is there unrighteousness with God?' he had an opportunity of answering, that God foresaw the merits of both, he does not say so, but has recourse to the justice and mercy of God," (August. Epist. 106, ad Sixtum). And in another passage, after excluding all merit before election, he says, "Here, certainly, there is no place for the vain argument of those who defend the foreknowledge of God against the grace of God, and accordingly maintain that we were elected before the foundation of the world, because God foreknow that we would be good, not that he himself would make us good. This is not the language of him who says, Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you,' (John 15:16). For had he chosen us because he foreknow that we would be good, he would at the same time also have foreknown that we were to choose him," (August. in Joann. 8, see also what follows to the same effect). Let the testimony of Augustine prevail with those who willingly acquiesce in the authority of the Fathers: although Augustine allows not that he differs from the others,  but shows by clear evidence that the difference which the Pelagians invidiously objected to him is unfounded. For he quotes from Ambrose (Lib. de Prædest. Sanct. cap. 19), "Christ calls whom he pities." Again, "Had he pleased he could have made them devout instead of undevout; but God calls whom he deigns to call, and makes religious whom he will." Were we disposed to frame an entire volume out of Augustine, it were easy to show the reader that I have no occasion to use any other words than his: but I am unwilling to burden him with a prolix statement. But assuming that the fathers did not speak thus, let us attend to the thing itself. A difficult question had been raised--viz. Did God do justly in bestowing his grace on certain individuals? Paul might have disencumbered himself of this question at once by saying, that God had respect to works. Why does he not do so? Why does he rather continue to use a language which leaves him exposed to the same difficulty? Why, but just because it would not have been right to say it? There was no obliviousness on the part of the Holy Spirit, who was speaking by his mouth. He, therefore, answers without ambiguity, that God favors his elect, because he is pleased to do so, and shows mercy because he is pleased to do so. For the words, "I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and show mercy on whom I will show mercy," (Exod. 33:19), are the same in effect as if it had been said, God is moved to mercy by no other reason than that he is pleased to show mercy. Augustine's declaration, therefore, remains true. The grace of God does not find, but makes persons fit to be chosen.
9. Nor let us be detained by the subtlety of Thomas, that the foreknowledge of merit is the cause of predestination, not, indeed, in respect of the predestinating act, but that on our part it may in some sense be so called, namely, in respect of a particular estimate of predestination; as when it is said, that God predestinates man to glory according to his merit, inasmuch as he decreed to bestow upon him the grace by which he merits glory. For while the Lord would have us to see nothing more in election than his mere goodness, for any one to desire to see more is preposterous affectation. But were we to make a trial of subtlety, it would not be difficult to refute the sophistry of Thomas. He maintains that the elect are in a manner predestinated to glory on account of their merits, because God predestines to give them the grace by which they merit glory. What if I should, on the contrary, object that predestination to grace is subservient to election unto life, and follows as its handmaid; that grace is predestined to those to whom the possession of glory was previously assigned the Lord being pleased to bring his sons by election to justification? For it will hence follow that the predestination to glory is the cause of the predestination to grace, and not the converse. But let us have done with these disputes as superfluous among those who think that there is enough of wisdom for them in the word of God. For it has been truly said by an old ecclesiastical writer, Those who ascribe the election of God to merits, are wise above what they ought to be (Ambrose. de Vocat. Gentium, lib. 1, c. 2).
10. Some object that God would be inconsistent with himself, in inviting all without distinction while he elects only a few. Thus, according to them, the universality of the promise destroys the distinction of special grace. Some moderate men speak in this way, not so much for the purpose of suppressing the truth, as to get quit of puzzling questions, and curb excessive curiosity. The intention is laudable, but the design is by no means to be approved, dissimulation being at no time excusable. In those Again who display their petulance, we see only a vile cavil or a disgraceful error. The mode in which Scripture reconciles the two things--viz. that by external preaching all are called to faith and repentance, and that yet the Spirit of faith and repentance is not given to all, I have already explained, and will again shortly repeat. But the point which they assume I deny as false in two respects: for he who threatens that when it shall rain on one city there will be drought in another (Amos 4:7); and declares in another passage, that there will be a famine of the word (Amos 8:11), does not lay himself under a fixed obligation to call all equally. And he who, forbidding Paul to preach in Asian and leading him away from Bithynia, carries him over to Macedonia (Acts 16:6), shows that it belongs to him to distribute the treasure in what way he pleases. But it is by Isaiah he more clearly demonstrates how he destines the promises of salvation specially to the elect (Isa. 8:16); for he declares that his disciples would consist of them only, and not indiscriminately of the whole human race. Whence it is evident that the doctrine of salvation, which is said to be set apart for the sons of the Church only, is abused when it is represented as effectually available to all. For the present let it suffice to observe, that though the word of the gospel is addressed generally to all, yet the gift of faith is rare. Isaiah assigns the cause when he says that the arm of the Lord is not revealed to all (Isa. 53:1). Had he said, that the gospel is malignantly and perversely condemned, because many obstinately refuse to hear, there might perhaps be some color for this universal call. It is not the purpose of the Prophet, however, to extenuate the guilt of men, when he states the source of their blindness to be, that God deigns not to reveal his arm to them; he only reminds us that since faith is a special gift, it is in vain that external doctrine sounds in the ear. But I would fain know from those doctors whether it is mere preaching or faith that makes men sons of God. Certainly when it is said, "As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name," (John 1:12), a confused mass is not set before us, but a special order is assigned to believers, who are "born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God."
But it is said, there is a mutual agreement between faith and the word. That must be wherever there is faith. But it is no new thing for the seed to fall among thorns or in stony places; not only because the majority appear in fact to be rebellious against God, but because all are not gifted with eyes and ears. How, then, can it consistently be said, that God calls while he knows that the called will not come? Let Augustine answer for me: "Would you dispute with me? Wonder with me, and exclaim, O the depth! Let us both agree in dread, lest we perish in error," (August. de Verb. Apost. Serm. 11). Moreover, if election is, as Paul declares, the parent of faith, I retort the argument, and maintain that faith is not general, since election is special. For it is easily inferred from the series of causes and effects, when Paul says, that the Father "has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ, according as he has chosen us in him before the foundation of the world," (Eph. 1:3, 4), that these riches are not common to all, because God has chosen only whom he would. And the reason why in another passage he commends the faith of the elect is, to prevent any one from supposing that he acquires faith of his own nature; since to God alone belongs the glory of freely illuminating those whom he had previously chosen (Tit. 1:1). For it is well said by Bernard, "His friend hear apart when he says to them, Fear not, little flock: to you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom. Who are these? Those whom he foreknew and predestinated to be conformed to the image of his Son. He has made known his great and secret counsel. The Lord knoweth them that are his, but that which was known to God was manifested to men; nor, indeed, does he deign to give a participation in this great mystery to any but those whom he foreknew and predestinated to be his own," (Bernard. ad Thomas Præpos. Benerlae. Epist. 107). Shortly after he concludes, "The mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him; from everlasting through predestination, to everlasting through glorification: the one knows no beginning, the other no end." But why cite Bernard as a witness, when we hear from the lips of our Master, "Not that any man has seen the Father, save he which is of God"? (John 6:46). By these words he intimates that all who are not regenerated by God are amazed at the brightness of his countenance. And, indeed, faith is aptly conjoined with election, provided it hold the second place. This order is clearly expressed by our Savior in these words, "This is the Father's will which has sent me, that of all which he has given me I should lose nothing;" "And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which sees the Son, and believes on him, may have everlasting life," (John 6:39, 40). If he would have all to be saved, he would appoint his Son their guardian, and would ingraft them all into his body by the sacred bond of faith. It is now clear that faith is a singular pledge of paternal love, treasured up for the sons whom he has adopted. Hence Christ elsewhere says, that the sheep follow the shepherd because they know his voice, but that they will not follow a stranger, because they know not the voice of strangers (John 10:4). But whence that distinction, unless that their ears have been divinely bored? For no man makes himself a sheep, but is formed by heavenly grace. And why does the Lord declare that our salvation will always be sure and certain, but just because it is guarded by the invincible power of God? (John 10:29). Accordingly, he concludes that unbelievers are not of his sheep (John 10:16). The reason is, because they are not of the number of those who, as the Lord promised by Isaiah, were to be his disciples. Moreover, as the passages which I have quoted imply perseverance, they are also attestations to the inflexible constancy of election.
11. We come now to the reprobate, to whom the Apostle at the same time refers (Rom. 9:13). For as Jacob, who as yet had merited nothing by good works, is assumed into favor; so Esau, while as yet unpolluted by any crime, is hated. If we turn our view to works, we do injustice to the Apostle, as if he had failed to see the very thing which is clear to us. Moreover, there is complete proof of his not having seen it, since he expressly insists that when as yet they had done neither good nor evil, the one was elected, the other rejected, in order to prove that the foundation of divine predestination is not in works. Then after starting the objection, Is God unjust? instead of employing what would have been the surest and plainest defense of his justice--viz. that God had recompensed Esau according to his wickedness, he is contented with a different solution--viz. that the reprobate are expressly raised up, in order that the glory of God may thereby be displayed. At last, he concludes that God has mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth (Rom. 9:18). You see how he refers both to the mere pleasure of God. Therefore, if we cannot assign any reason for his bestowing mercy on his people, but just that it so pleases him, neither can we have any reason for his reprobating others but his will. When God is said to visit in mercy or harden whom he will, men are reminded that they are not to seek for any cause beyond his will.
 French, "Il y en a d'a aucuns, lesquels n'estans exercés en l'Ecriture ne sont dignes d'aucun, credit ne reputation; et toutes fois sont plus hardis et temeraires à diffamer la doctrine qui leur est incognue; et ainsi ce n'est par raison que leur arrogance soit supportée."--There are some who, not being exercised in Scripture, are not worthy of any credit or reputation, and yet are more bold and presumptuous in defaming the doctrine which is unknown to them, and hence their arrogance is insupportable.
 August. de Corrept. et Gratia ad Valent. c. 15. Hom. de Bono Perseveran. c. 8. Item, de Verbis Apost. Serm. 8.
 Latin, "a reliquis;" French, "les autre Docteurs anciens;"--the other ancient Doctors.
Christian Classics Ethereal Library / Public Domain
Institutes of the Christian Religion
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
8/1/2005 Living Authority
In the main hallway of the seminary where I studied hangs a copy of Albrecht Dürer’s masterpiece The Four Apostles. It is indeed a magnificent interpretation of the classic work that was painted by one of the seminary’s professors of New Testament, whose biblical faithfulness is manifested in one small detail of the painting. If one studies the painting closely, he can observe one minor difference between Dürer’s painting and the reproduction. Dürer has the apostle Peter holding the golden key to the gate of heaven, whereas the replica shows Peter with no key at all. Such a deliberate omission is certainly fitting for a Protestant professor of New Testament who in painting The Four Apostles understood that the words of Christ to Peter were not intended to establish Peter as the one and only keeper of the keys of the kingdom.
In the fifth century, the patristic period, the era of the church fathers ended, and the Middle Ages were ushered in. The papacy began to establish its supreme authority over the church of Christ, and Pope Leo the Great established himself comfortably in the chair of Saint Peter, the legs of which stood firmly on the four corners of the earth.
Nevertheless, at the beginning of the century, there stood one faithful servant from North Africa who defended the church of Christ against the heresies of the Manicheans, the Donatists, and the Pelagians. Augustine of Hippo carefully mounted his doctrinal defenses and demonstrated that the church of Christ cannot be conquered by its enemies. At the center of Augustine’s life and doctrine was a repentant and confessing heart that rested completely in God, whose grace had been manifested in His servant’s biblical insight and doctrinal integrity. Indeed, it was largely due to the ministry of Augustine that the church was sustained during the storms of controversy early in the fifth century, proving the veracity of Christ’s great constitution of the church: “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18). Augustine understood that although the church had great authority, such authority was established by the truth that the church belongs to Jesus Christ alone.
Augustine lived coram Deo, before the face of God, defending the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He died in 430, and every pope, from Pope Leo I in 461 to Pope John Paul II in 2005, has also died, yet He who is the only supreme authority over His church lives and reigns forever.
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Dr. Burk Parsons (@BurkParsons) is editor of Tabletalk magazine, senior pastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., a visiting lecturer at Reformed Theological Seminary, and a Ligonier Ministries teaching fellow. He is editor of John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, and Doxology.
Ligonier coram Deo (definition)
by Bill Federer
The director of the FBI, J. Edgar Hoover, died this day, May 2, 1972. For forty-eight years, under eight U.S. Presidents, he oversaw the Federal Bureau of Investigation, becoming famous for his dramatic campaigns to stop gangsters and organized crime. He established the use of the fingerprint in law enforcement, and successfully tracked down well-known criminals. FDR gave him the task of investigating foreign espionage and left-wing activist groups. J. Edgar Hoover stated: "The criminal is the product of spiritual starvation. Someone failed miserably to bring him to know God, love Him and serve Him."
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
Once one has seen God,
what is the remedy?
--- Sylvia Plath, from the poem, Mystic
The Collected Poems (P.S.)
Being a Christian is less about
cautiously avoiding sin
than about courageously
and actively doing God's will.
--- Dietrich Bonhoeffer
The Cost of Discipleship
… the belief in the equal value of every life is a bequest only of the Christian faith. The accepted inequality of life and the lifelong struggle over power in the East is a bequest of the stratified caste system that haunts Eastern worldviews either explicitly or implicitly.
--- Ravi Zacharias
Why Jesus?: Rediscovering His Truth in an Age of Mass Marketed Spirituality
We are all accustomed to disguise ourselves to others, that in the end, we become disguised to ourselves.
--- Francois de la Roche Foucault
Moral maxims: by the Duke de la Roche Foucault. Translated from the French. With notes.
... from here, there and everywhere
the words of the Lord in Isaiah 55:8–9:
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
As I was pondering on the vast gap that separates God’s ways and thoughts from ours, I was forcefully reminded of the account of Gideon and his army in Judges 6, 7 and 8.
At this time, Israel had fallen into sin and idolatry and—as a judgment—God permitted vast hordes of Midianites to invade their land each year and rob them of their harvest.
One day, while Gideon was furtively threshing wheat in a winepress—to hide it from the Midianites—the Angel of the LORD appeared to him and said, “The LORD is with you, you mighty man of valor!” (Judges 6:11–12). Obviously the Lord saw Gideon quite differently from the way that he saw himself. Gideon saw himself as young, weak, and ineffective. The Lord hailed him as a “mighty man of valor.”
We each need to be less concerned with how we see ourselves and more concerned with how God sees us. In Christ, each one of us is a new man . . . created according to God, in righteousness and true holiness (Ephesians 4:24). Viewing ourselves like this will inevitably affect the way we live.
The Lord then commissioned Gideon to lead Israel in battle against the Midianites. In response, Gideon assembled an army by the well of Harod, with the Midianites encamped to the north. What were the numbers on both sides?
Gideon’s army 32,0001 Midianites 135,
Thus, Gideon with 32,000 men faced 135,000 Midianites. He was outnumbered more than four to one.
Imagine Gideon’s reaction when the Lord told him, “The people who are with you are too many!” (Judges 7:2).
The Lord instructed Gideon to send away all those in his army who were fearful and afraid. As a result, 22,000 men departed and Gideon was left with 10,000. At this point he was outnumbered more than thirteen to one.
But God was not finished! To Gideon’s astonishment, He said, “The people are still too many.”
Then He instructed Gideon to bring his men down to the water, so that He might test them there by the way they drank from the water. All those who went down on both knees to drink were eliminated. Only those who lapped like a dog passed the test (Judges 7:4–7).
One Essential Character Requirement
The test focused on one single character requirement: vigilance.
Picture first those who drank in the normal way. Laying aside their shield from the left arm and their spear—or sword—from the right arm, they went down on both knees and buried their faces in the water. In this posture, they were totally vulnerable to a surprise attack. They could not see any approaching enemy, nor did they have their weapons ready to use. In the time they took to get themselves ready, the enemy would have overcome them.
What about those who lapped like dogs? When a dog drinks, it does not bury its nose in the water, it stretches out its tongue and laps the water up into its mouth, usually splashing some water around.
How, then, should we picture the men who lapped? They went down on one knee only. Retaining their shield on their left arm, with the right arm they set down their spear or sword beside them. Then, with a cupped hand, they scooped up the water to their mouths.
In this posture, they remained alert, constantly watching for any surprise attack. Their shields were already in position and they could instantly pick up their spear or sword and have it ready to use. There was no possibility of the enemy taking them by surprise.
Only 300 of Gideon’s men passed this second test. They were facing 135,000 Midianites.
They were outnumbered 450 to one!
I can picture some of those who were dismissed saying to themselves, “Well, thank God we’re out of that! That man, Gideon, must be crazy. What difference does it make how a man drinks water? Let’s see what will become of him and the idiots who stayed with him.”
In the outcome, of course, Gideon and his 300 broke through the Midianites and threw them into total confusion. After that, other Israelites rallied behind them and inflicted a total defeat on the Midianites.
The proportions are illuminating. Only 300 men fulfilled the qualifications for making the initial breakthrough. But once the breakthrough was made, there were thousands of Israelites who were eager to pursue the fleeing Midianites.
This whole account vividly illustrates how different God’s ways are from ours. Left to himself, Gideon would surely have concluded, “The people with me are too few. I need to get reinforcements.”
But God’s perspective was exactly the opposite. “The people with you are too many.” In the end, Gideon was left with less than one out of a hundred of those who originally joined him. For God, the question is not “How many people?” but “What kind of people?” A Personal Assessment
In the light of this account, we each need to make a personal assessment. If God should gather an army today like that of Gideon, would I be one of the few who qualify?
Or would I be like the first 22,000 who gave way to fear? Or like the second 10,000 who laid down their weapons and buried their faces in the water to drink? It is easy—and often normal—to bury our faces in the business of daily living; to be absorbed in all the practical needs that confront us every day; to forget that we are in a spiritual conflict with unseen forces of darkness who are continually watching for an opportunity to catch us unprepared.
To maintain unceasing vigilance in every situation demands conscious, personal discipline. It goes beyond all our normal concepts of Christian conduct and morality. Yet the New Testament clearly warns us: Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8). If we ignore this warning, we become vulnerable to subtle, unpredictable assaults of Satan.
Take, for example, the question of holidays (vacations). Ruth and I have found that we cannot effectively continue our ministry unless we pause from time to time to take a holiday and to wait upon God. (Our holidays really are holy days.)
But I have learned one thing: Satan never takes a holiday. Just when we feel our greatest need to relax, Satan releases some totally unanticipated pressure against us and we may easily be caught without our weapons ready for immediate use.
Does that mean, then, that we no longer take holidays? No! But it means that we do not bury our faces in our holidays; we do not lay down our weapons. We have learned that holidays are often times when we need to exercise the greatest vigilance.
But holidays are just one example that would apply in many different areas: family relationships, business activities, special celebrations, educational opportunities. We can participate in all of these, but we must not bury our faces in any.
Remember, in Gideon’s army, less than one out of a hundred qualified! Would the proportions be different today?
Derek Prince Ministries
David Kays analogy on Gideon
Then the LORD said to Gideon, "The people are still too many; bring them down to the water and I will test them for you there. Therefore it shall be that he of whom I say to you, 'This one shall go with you,' he shall go with you; but everyone of whom I say to you, 'This one shall not go with you,' he shall not go."5So he brought the people down to the water. And the LORD said to Gideon, "You shall separate everyone who laps the water with his tongue as a dog laps, as well as everyone who kneels to drink." 6Now the number of those who lapped, putting their hand to their mouth, was 300 men; but all the rest of the people kneeled to drink water.…
Those who trembled with fear were initially sent home and then the rest were tested by how they approached drinking water. Those that lost perspective by bringing their faces to the water were sent away and those that maintained visual of the surroundings by bringing the water to their mouths were called to battle. These 300 men defended against the midianites. This may indicate that the process of which we approach situations is revealing of our vision and perspective on the world. Those who maintain this perspective (drawing the water to their mouths) are few and called to struggle/fight in ways that the others are not, both due to right of fit and personhood. I feel like I have been called to struggle and to fight and approach the world as the warzone that I see it to be. I am then called to be a peacebringer on the battle field. And that this may bring hope to those in terror.
Derek Prince Ministries
Thomas A Kempis
Book Three - Internal Consolation
The Fifty-Third Chapter
/ God’s Grace Is Not Given To The Eaarthly Minded
THE VOICE OF CHRIST
MY CHILD, my grace is precious. It does not allow itself to be mixed with external things or with earthly consolations. Cast away all obstacles to grace, therefore, if you wish to receive its infusion.
Seek to retire within yourself. Love to dwell alone with yourself. Seek no man’s conversation, but rather pour forth devout prayer to God that you may keep your mind contrite and your heart pure.
Consider the whole world as nothing. Prefer attendance upon God to all outward occupation, for you cannot attend upon Me and at the same time take delight in external things. You must remove yourself from acquaintances and from dear friends, and keep your mind free of all temporal consolation. Thus the blessed Apostle St. Peter begs the faithful of Christ to keep themselves as strangers and pilgrims in the world. (Peter 2:11)
What great confidence at the hour of death shall be his who is not attached to this world by any affection. But the sickly soul does not know what it is to have a heart thus separated from all things, nor does the natural man know the liberty of the spiritual man. Yet, if he truly wishes to be spiritual, he must renounce both strangers and friends, and must beware of no one more than himself.
If you completely conquer yourself, you will more easily subdue all other things. The perfect victory is to triumph over self. For he who holds himself in such subjection that sensuality obeys reason and reason obeys Me in all matters, is truly his own conqueror and master of the world.
Now, if you wish to climb to this high position you must begin like a man, and lay the ax to the root, in order to tear out and destroy any hidden unruly love of self or of earthly goods. From this vice of too much self-love comes almost every other vice that must be uprooted. And when this evil is vanquished, and brought under control, great peace and quiet will follow at once.
But because few labor to die entirely to self, or tend completely away from self, therefore they remain entangled in self, and cannot be lifted in spirit above themselves. But he who desires to walk freely with Me must mortify all his low and inordinate affections, and must not cling with selfish love or desire to any creature.
The Imitation Of Christ
Practical religion. The Christian life
There are other people who think: "Ah! in time of trial God keeps me, but in times of prosperity I do not need His keeping; then I forget Him and let Him go." Others, again, think the very opposite. They think: "In time of prosperity, when things are smooth and quiet, I am able to cling to God, but when heavy trials come, somehow or other my will rebels, and God does not keep me then."
Now, I bring you the message that in prosperity as in adversity, in the sunshine as in the dark, your God is ready to keep you all the time.
Then again, there are others who think of this keeping thus: "God will keep me from doing very great wickedness, but there are small sins I cannot expect God to keep me from. There is the sin of temper. I cannot expect God to conquer that."
When you hear of some man who has been tempted and gone astray or fallen into drunkenness or murder, you thank God for His keeping power.
"I might have done the same as that man," you say, "if God had not kept me." And you believe He kept you from drunkenness and murder.
And why do you not need believe that God can keep you from outbreaks of temper? You thought that this was of less importance; you did not remember that the great commandment of the New Testament is--"Love one another as I have loved you" (John 13:34). And when your temper and hasty judgment and sharp words came out, you sinned against the highest law--the law of God's love. And yet you say: "God will not, God cannot"--no, you will not say, God cannot; but you say, "God does not keep me from that." You perhaps say: "He can; but there is something in me that cannot attain to it, and which God does not take away."
I want to ask you, Can believers live a holier life than is generally lived? Can believers experience the keeping power of God all the day, to keep them from sin? Can believers be kept in fellowship with God? And I bring you a message from the Word of God, in these words: Kept by the power of God. There is no qualifying clause to them. The meaning is, that if you will entrust yourself entirely and absolutely to the omnipotence of God, He will delight to keep you.
Some people think that they never can get so far as that every word of their mouth should be to the glory of God. But it is what God wants of them, it is what God expects of them. God is willing to set a watch at the door of their mouth, and if God will do that, cannot He keep their tongue and their lips? He can; and that is what God is going to do for them that trust Him. God's keeping is all-inclusive, and let everyone who longs to live a holy life think out all their needs, and all their weaknesses, and all their shortcomings, and all their sins, and say deliberately: "Is there any sin that my God cannot keep me from?" And the heart will have to answer: "No; God can keep me from every sin."
Absolute Surrender (The Colportage Library)
by D.H. Stern
your plans will achieve success.
4 ADONAI made everything for its purpose,
even the wicked for the day of disaster.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
The passion of patience
Though it tarry, wait for it. --- Hab. 2:3.
Patience is not indifference; patience conveys the idea of an immensely strong rock withstanding all onslaughts. The vision of God is the source of patience, because it imparts a moral inspiration. Moses endured, not because he had an ideal of right and duty, but because he had a vision of God. He “endured, as seeing Him Who is invisible.” A man with the vision of God is not devoted to a cause or to any particular issue; he is devoted to God Himself. You always know when the vision is of God because of the inspiration that comes with it; things come with largeness and tonic to the life because everything is energized by God. If God gives you a time spiritually, as He gave His Son actually, of temptation in the wilderness, with no word from Himself at all, endure; and the power to endure is there because you see God.
“Though it tarry, wait for it.” The proof that we have the vision is that we are reaching out for more than we have grasped. It is a bad thing to be satisfied spiritually. “What shall I render unto the Lord?” said the Psalmist, “I will take the cup of salvation.” We are apt to look for satisfaction in ourselves—‘Now I have got the thing; now I am entirely sanctified; now I can endure.’ Instantly we are on the road to ruin. Our reach must exceed our grasp. “Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect.” If we have only what we have experienced, we have nothing; if we have the inspiration of the vision of God, we have more than we can experience. Beware of the danger of relaxation spiritually.
My Utmost for His Highest
the Poetry of RS Thomas
Hers is the clean apron, good for fire
Or lamp to embroider, as we talk slowly
In the long kitchen, while the white dough
Turns to pastry in the great oven,
Sweetly and surely as hay making
In a June meadow; hers are the hands,
Humble with milking, but still now
In her wide lap as though they heard
A quiet music, hers is the voice
That coaxes time back to the shadows
In the rooms corners. O, hers is all
This strong body, the safe island
Where men may come, sons and lovers,
Daring the cold seas of her eyes.
Selected poems, 1946-1968
the Poetry of RS Thomas
Scarcely a street, too few houses
To merit the title; just a way between
The one tavern and the one shop
That leads nowhere and fails at the top
Of the short hill, eaten away
By long erosion of the green tide
Of grass creeping perpetually nearer
This last outpost of time past.
So little happens; the black dog
Cracking his fleas in the hot sun
Is history. Yet the girl who crosses
From door to door moves to a scale
Beyond the bland day's two dimensions.
Stay, then, village, for round you spins
On slow axis a world as vast
And meaningful as any poised
By great Plato's solitary mind.
Poems of R.S. Thomas
The biblical ordeal, as described in the Torah and explained in the Mishnah and Gemara, sounds to the modern ear harsh and biased. We believe in the rights of the accused. We hold that a person is innocent until proven guilty, while the woman in Numbers 5 and our Mishnah is exposed to public humiliation based solely on her husband's accusation. And what if the jealous husband's accusation is unfounded? "But if the woman has not defiled herself and is pure, she shall be unharmed and able to retain seed" (Numbers 5:28). The end of the test may yet prove her innocence, but only after undergoing this entire public ordeal!
While few of us would ask that guilty people be publicly disgraced for what they did wrong, we would ask that people be punished for their crimes. We feel satisfaction when there is "measure for measure": A tax cheat falls victim to bankruptcy. The man who derides others is insulted himself. The woman who never had time to help out others is at wit's end when she needs someone to lean on in an emergency—and there is no one to help her.
Yet, we also know that the world is not always so symmetrical and fair. People get away with murder, literally and figuratively. As Rabbi Yannai teaches in Pirkei Avot (4:19): "We cannot explain the tranquility of the wicked or the suffering of the righteous." The problem of good and evil has plagued humankind since people began to think.
Thus, we may not be able to see "measure for measure" on a cosmic level. Nonetheless, we usually can have it function on the interpersonal level. People respond "measure for measure" to the way they are treated. As we notice people dealing kindly with us, we usually respond to them with kindness. A congenial saleswoman smiles at you as you pay her for a purchase; you, in turn smile back, and you smile at the next few people you encounter.
Similarly, if we give off hostility, we are likely to face a hostile, angry reaction. What we may call "getting out of the bed on the wrong side" is often simply a chain reaction of scowls. You're not feeling too well, and you bark out an order to the first person you meet. He, in turn, responds by thundering back at you. Soon, you notice that everyone around you is speaking in loud, angry tones. "What's going on today?" you think. "Why are people yelling at me?"
On the universal level, "measure for measure" is beyond our control, but on the interpersonal measure, in people we see, day in and day out, the Golden Rule of giving and receiving usually applies. Every day, people await the tone that we will set before they respond to us. If we measure the world positively, if we greet everyone cheerfully, if we act honestly towards others, we can be reasonably sure that most others will respond in kind.
A man would not have casual sex.
Text / Mishnah (8:9): He who divorced his wife and spent the night with her at an inn—Bet Shammai says she does not need a second get from him, but Bet Hillel says she needs a second get from him. Under what circumstances? If she was divorced from marriage, but everyone agrees that if she was divorced from betrothal, she does not need a second get, because he is not yet intimate with her.
Gemara: Rabbah bar bar Ḥana said in the name of Rabbi Yoḥanan: "The disagreement is only if she was seen having sex. Bet Shammai thinks that a man would have casual sex, while Bet Hillel thinks that a man would not have casual sex. But where she was not seen having sex, everyone agrees that she does not need a second get."
Context / Bet Hillel and Bet Shammai are two talmudic schools following the teaching of the great sages Hillel and Shammai who lived at the end of the first century B.C.E. and the beginning of the first century C.E. Bet Hillel and Bet Shammai each have characteristic ways of thinking and deciding Jewish law, often disagreeing with the other. The Talmud records many of their disagreements. Some scholars used to explain the differences between Bet Hillel and Bet Shammai in light of the characteristics of their founders: Hillel was known as a gentle, kindly, and open teacher, while Shammai was apparently very stern and strict. Other scholars used to trace the two schools to economic and social differences, Bet Shammai representing the rich upper class and Bet Hillel representing the need of the common folk. Thus, Bet Shammai required a cup of wine in each house for havdalah (the ceremony that ends Shabbat), which was not a particular problem for the rich, while Bet Hillel ruled that havdalah in the synagogue exempted the individuals in the house, where an additional cup of wine might be a real hardship. Modern scholarship is not sure of the original or exact nature of the differences between the two schools. Rabbinic sources, however, traced the development of normative law to Bet Hillel and its earthy kindness, generosity, and concern for human welfare.
A get is a Jewish divorce document, given by the husband to the wife to end their marriage. In talmudic times, a get was also used to end a formal engagement or betrothal. In this Mishnah, both Bet Hillel and Bet Shammai (the "everyone" in this argument) agree that a man would not have sex with his former fiancée, and we may therefore assume that there were no sexual relations between them, even if they spent a night together at an inn. Thus, a second get would be unnecessary. Were we to assume that the couple did have sexual relations, then a second get would be necessary, since the Rabbis of the Mishnah teach that intercourse is one way of formalizing the relationship between a man and a woman. This is taught in the first Mishnah of Kiddushin: A woman is married in one of three ways—money (the husband gives her a gift), a contract, or sexual intercourse. In our case in the Mishnah above, the couple's intercourse would reestablish their marriage bonds to each other.
We should note that our Mishnah assumes that a couple would not engage in pre-marital sex but might engage in post-marital sex, as exemplified by the case of a formerly married couple. If, after their divorce, a couple spent the night together at an inn, what should we assume about their behavior and actions? Does their act of cohabitation constitute a reaffirmation of the original marriage bond to each other? If so, "she needs a second get from him." This is the view of Bet Hillel. As is common, the Gemara not only explains the Mishnah but also limits the applicability of the law: It refers only to a case where someone actually saw them having sexual relations, that is, they were not simply sharing a room and we assume that they had intercourse.
The Rabbis of Bet Hillel presume that men would not have casual sex. Thus, the intercourse between the man (the former husband) and the woman (his former wife) cannot be a random affair but must be seen as an act of recommittal, even without the couple's saying so, for no man would have casual sex.
The Rabbis of Bet Shammai take the other view. A man can have sex for a variety of reasons. Sometimes, he wants to establish a relationship, but at other times, there is no intention other than physical gratification. Bet Shammai assumes that the latter is what happened at the inn. The husband and wife, already familiar with each other, had sex with no commitment. Following Bet Shammai's view, we cannot assume any more than what we see. Without the husband's explicit declaration ("I am marrying this woman through this act of sexual intercourse"), there is no reaffirmation of their original marriage, and no get is required.
The difference between Bet Hillel and Bet Shammai, as often happens between these two schools of thought, goes beyond the specific issue to encompass assumptions about people and world views. Bet Shammai seems to be saying that people do things for the reasons they articulate. Lacking proof, we cannot assume any positive motivation for actions. Bet Hillel, however, takes a different view of human nature, assuming that people act for the most positive, healthy, and religiously sound reasons possible, even if reality seems to conflict with this assumption. This is not based on the naiveté of Bet Hillel but on a rather sophisticated reworking of reality. Bet Hillel appears to be constructing a world view based on its own idealized perspective on human behavior. Thus, Bet Hillel cannot view a couple's sex as purely casual, promiscuous, or recreational.
Swimming in the Sea of Talmud: Lessons for Everyday Living
Apostasy. The wisdom of God in demanding that the Canaanites be driven out was demonstrated in what happened then. Influenced by the nature and fertility gods of the surrounding peoples, which appealed to the materialistic and sensual in their nature, the Israelites "followed … various gods … and bowed themselves unto them … they forsook [the Lord], and served Baal and the Ashtareths" (Judges 2:12–13).
Intermarriage. A third aspect of Israel's departure from God is seen in intermarriage (Judges 3:5–6). In this they not only denied their identity as a distinct and peculiar people of God, but also were further motivated to serve pagan gods. The distinctive lifestyle defined in the Law, which was intended to reveal the moral character of God and to set Israel apart from all other peoples, was abandoned in favor of the immoral lifestyle of the peoples of the land.
Israel denied her heritage, her identity, and her God.
In these chapters the Book of Judges gives a chronological survey of events during the centuries of darkness which followed for Israel. God's Word had been abandoned and He Himself forsaken. The lesson that earlier generations had learned at Jericho and Ai forgotten, the people of Israel now had to be taught again and again and again. This time, instead of involving a single family (Achan's), the pattern of sin and subsequent judgment swept over the nation as a whole.
And there was a pattern. Seven repeated cycles of events are reported. The first scriptural account reports that Israel fell into sin. As a result of sin, God brought judgment through the nearby nations, and God's people were forced into servitude. When the pressure became unbearable, Israel turned from her sin and cried out to God for deliverance. God heard Israel's prayers and a charismatic leader emerged to lead Israel—first to victory over the enemy, and then morally and spiritually as a judge. During this leader's life the people typically knew quiet and freedom from oppression. But all too soon, they slipped back into the sinful ways of the pagans around them. With that fall into sin, the cycle began all over again.
To understand this Bible book it is important to see that with each cycle, Israel appears to have become worse. And each subsequent judge had less spiritual impact, until Samson found himself unable to bring rest to the people, even though he was the most powerful of them all!
The chronology. The length of time the Judges are said to have ruled adds up to 410 years. The actual period was probably about 335 years, since the time from Joshua's generation to the fourth year of Solomon (1 Kings 6:1) is itself about 410 years. The reason for the discrepancy between the actual and the apparent time span is that the ministry of the Judges overlapped to some extent (see Judges 3:30–4:1 and 10:7–9). The various oppressors were not the world powers of the day, but the neighbors Israel had failed to drive out. One judge might have been occupied with a people to the east, while another was occupied with the peoples to the west. Thus we can't tell from internal chronology alone just how long the Judges served.
The judges. Twelve names are generally associated with the ministry of the Judges. For most of them the calling was both military and civil. A judge emerged (was "raised up" by God, Judges 3:9, 15, etc.) in time of need, led Israel in throwing off an enemy yoke, and then usually continued as a supervisor of God's people. The judges, in most cases, were apparently successful in keeping their people from idolatry.
The Teacher's Commentary
The Jewish Diaspora from Pompey to 70 C.E.
The tragic outcome of the Great Revolt substantially changed life in Judea, but it also had a strong ripple effect on the Diaspora as well. Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed and the priesthood disbanded. The Sanhedrin ceased to function, and the old ruling class vanished. Although Herod Agrippa II was rewarded for his loyalty in 75 C.E. with additional territory in Lebanon and the ornamenta praetoria, he received no new territory in Judea. And yet, Jewish life managed to continue. The prestige of the priesthood persisted, and individual priests were still receiving tithes, but as their religious utility declined, so too did their influence and power. It is highly likely that the Jews of this period continued to hope for a restoration of the Temple. Both Josephus and the author of 1 Clement write under the assumption that the Temple would be rebuilt and the priesthood restored. In practice, however, Judaism became localized and centered on the village synagogue. The local scribes, whose skill at interpreting Torah had made them influential, filled the power vacuum, and some of these scribes ultimately became the rabbis.
Rabbinic tradition tells of the fortuitous escape and surrender of Yoḥanan ben Zakkai during the siege of Jerusalem. According to the story, while other rabbis such as Simon ben Gamaliel participated fully in the revolt and defense of Jerusalem, ben Zakkai decided that resistance was futile. He therefore smuggled himself out of the city as a corpse and then surrendered to the Romans. He impressed Vespasian by predicting his accession as emperor. Vespasian therefore granted ben Zakkai’s request to found a new center of Jewish law at Yavneh (Jamnia). In the generations following ben Zakkai, the rabbis continued to study Torah and attempt to rebuild Jewish religious and cultural life. It is not entirely clear how much political or religious power the rabbis actually possessed during this early period, and it is likely that acceptance of their leadership by Jews was gradual and perhaps only in its infancy when rebellion again broke out in Judea in 132 C.E.
The Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism
There is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents. --- Luke 15:10.
Never was husband nearer to his wife and never soul nearer to the body than Christ is to you. (Classic RS Thomas on Angels (Kregel Classic RS Thomas Series) ) Do not think that heaven and earth are divided. They are but two ships moored close to one another, and one short plank of death will enable you to step from one to the other. This ship, having done the coasting trade, the business of today, and full of the blackness of sorrow. That ship, all golden, with its ensign flying and its sails all spread, fair as the angel’s wing. The ship of heaven is moored side by side with the ship of earth. Though this ship may rock and career, yet the golden ship of heaven sails by her side, never separated, always ready, so that when the hour comes, you may leap from the dark ship and step on the golden deck of that happy one on which you will sail forever.
There are other golden links besides this that bind the present to the future and time to eternity. This earth is heaven below, the next world is only heaven above. The spirits of the just made perfect are never far from you and me if we are lovers of Jesus. All those who have passed the flood still have communion with us.
Aren’t the saints above us a cloud of witnesses? We are running in the plains and the glorified ones are looking down on us.
Our text assures us that the angels have communion with us. Bright spirits, firstborn children of God, oh, cherubim, seraphim, do you think of us?
Those angels of God are creatures mighty and strong, doing his commandments, heeding his Word. And do they take notice of us? Let the Scripture answer: “Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?” (Heb. 1:14). Yes, the brightest angels are but the servants of the saints.
There is a greater connection between earth and heaven than any of us dreamed. Let none of us think, when we look upward to the sky, that we are far from heaven.
Hail, bright spirits! Hail, angels! Hail, you who are redeemed! A few more hours or days or months, and we will join your happy throng. Until then, your fellowship, your compassion will ever be our comfort and consolation. And having weathered all storms of life, we will at last anchor with you within the port of everlasting peace.
--- C. H. Spurgeon
Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
A Trumpet’s Voice May 2
Giffordgate, Scotland, outside Haddington, was an ardently Catholic village containing several churches, two monasteries, an abbey—and a farming couple named Knox who reared a child named John. The lad excelled at Haddington Grammar School where his teacher proclaimed him the most brilliant pupil he had ever had. John entered the University of Glasgow, then St. Andrews University, where the gusts of the Reformation tugged at his Catholic heart.
Knox spent the next 20 years as a village priest and college lecturer. Then one day, listening to a Mr. Williams preach Reformation truth, he was struck as with an arrow. Soon thereafter he “cast anchor” by faith in Christ alone. His Reformation ideas put him at risk, and for years he alternated between flight and imprisonment (once chained to the oars of a galley ship). He finally settled down in relative safety on the Continent where he studied, wrote, discussed, and kept an eye on his native land.
In 1559 he sensed it was time to return. England’s Queen Mary had been replaced by the more Protestant Elizabeth, and the groups of Protestant refugees in Europe were abuzz with excitement. Protestants began streaming back into England, and in late April Knox himself set sail for Scotland, determined to “blow the Lord’s trumpet” gallantly.
He landed on May 2, 1559 to find a nation on the knife edge of chaos. Mary of Guise, queen regent and mother of young Mary, Queen of Scots, was railing against Protestants. Civil war was threatening. Knox’s presence and preachments so inspired the people that the English ambassador reported, “The voice of one man is able in one hour to put more life in us than five hundred trumpets continually blustering in our ears.”
The government fought Protestants tooth and nail until June 10, 1560, when the queen regent died. The Treaty of Edinburgh temporarily ended the conflict, and the Reformation took hold. More storms lay ahead, and the aging Knox grew surly. But he managed to lead a bloodless revolution in Scotland and establish the faith of a nation.
Sound the trumpet on Zion! Call the people together. Show your sorrow by going without food. Make sure that everyone is fit to worship me.
--- Joel 2:15.
On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - May 2
“I pray not that thou shouldst take them out of the world.”
--- John 17:15.
It is a sweet and blessed event which will occur to all believers in God’s own time—the going home to be with Jesus. In a few more years the Lord’s soldiers, who are now fighting “the good fight of faith” will have done with conflict, and have entered into the joy of their Lord. But although Christ prays that his people may eventually be with him where he is, he does not ask that they may be taken at once away from this world to heaven. He wishes them to stay here. Yet how frequently does the wearied pilgrim put up the prayer, “O that I had wings like a dove! for then would I fly away and be at rest;” but Christ does not pray like that, he leaves us in his Father’s hands, until, like shocks of corn fully ripe, we shall each be gathered into our Master’s garner. Jesus does not plead for our instant removal by death, for to abide in the flesh is needful for others if not profitable for ourselves. He asks that we may be kept from evil, but he never asks for us to be admitted to the inheritance in glory till we are of full age. Christians often want to die when they have any trouble. Ask them why, and they tell you, “Because we would be with the Lord.” We fear it is not so much because they are longing to be with the Lord, as because they desire to get rid of their troubles; else they would feel the same wish to die at other times when not under the pressure of trial. They want to go home, not so much for the Saviour’s company, as to be at rest. Now it is quite right to desire to depart if we can do it in the same spirit that Paul did, because to be with Christ is far better, but the wish to escape from trouble is a selfish one. Rather let your care and wish be to glorify God by your life here as long as he pleases, even though it be in the midst of toil, and conflict, and suffering, and leave him to say when “it is enough.”
Evening - May 2
“These all died in faith.”
Behold the epitaph of all those blessed saints who fell asleep before the coming of our Lord! It matters nothing how else they died, whether of old age, or by violent means; this one point, in which they all agree, is the most worthy of record, “they all died in faith.” In faith they lived—it was their comfort, their guide, their motive and their support; and in the same spiritual grace they died, ending their life-song in the sweet strain in which they had so long continued. They did not die resting in the flesh or upon their own attainments; they made no advance from their first way of acceptance with God, but held to the way of faith to the end. Faith is as precious to die by as to live by.
Dying in faith has distinct reference to the past. They believed the promises which had gone before, and were assured that their sins were blotted out through the mercy of God. Dying in faith has to do with the present. These saints were confident of their acceptance with God, they enjoyed the beams of his love, and rested in his faithfulness. Dying in faith looks into the future. They fell asleep, affirming that the Messiah would surely come, and that when he would in the last days appear upon the earth, they would rise from their graves to behold him. To them the pains of death were but the birth-pangs of a better state. Take courage, my soul, as thou readest this epitaph. Thy course, through grace, is one of faith, and sight seldom cheers thee; this has also been the pathway of the brightest and the best. Faith was the orbit in which these stars of the first magnitude moved all the time of their shining here; and happy art thou that it is thine. Look anew to-night to Jesus, the author and finisher of thy faith, and thank him for giving thee like precious faith with souls now in glory.
Morning and Evening
THIS IS MY FATHER’S WORLD
Maltbie D. Babcock, 1858–1901
The Lord loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of His unfailing love. (Psalm 33:5)
Even though we are constantly reminded of the violence, tragedy, and ugliness in today’s world, we can still rejoice that the beauty of nature all around is ours to enjoy. Who can deny the pleasure that comes from the sight of a glowing sunset or a majestic mountain, the sound of chirping birds or the roar of the surf, and the smell of new mown hay or roses or lilies.
Maltbie D. Babcock revealed his great admiration for nature in this lovely hymn text. Although he was recognized as one of the outstanding Presbyterian ministers of his generation, Dr. Babcock was also a skilled athlete who enjoyed all outdoor activity, especially his early Morning walks. He would always comment, “I’m going out to see my Father’s world.” Since Dr. Babcock was an accomplished performer on the organ, the piano and the violin, we can see why nature seemed to him to be “the music of the spheres.” In addition to being a tribute to nature, however, the hymn is a triumphant assertion of the unfailing power of God and the assurance of Christ’s eventual reign—“and earth and heav’n be one.”
As we follow Dr. Babcock’s example and give praise to God for all the beauty of His world, we cannot help being concerned that much of the loveliness is being destroyed by human carelessness and greed. The real answer to our ecological problems must be a renewed appreciation of earth as “our Father’s world” and a greater responsibility for taking proper care of it. Christians should be models of this concern.
This is my Father’s world, and to my list’ning ears all nature sings, and round me rings the music of the spheres. This is my Father’s world! I rest me in the thought of rocks and trees, of skies and seas—His hand the wonders wrought.
This is my Father’s world—the birds their carols raise; the Morning light, the lily white, declare their Maker’s praise. This is my Father’s world! He shines in all that’s fair; in the rustling grass I hear Him pass—He speaks to me ev’rywhere.
This is my Father’s world—O let me ne’er forget that tho the wrong seems oft so strong God is the Ruler yet. This is my Father’s world! The battle is not done; Jesus who died shall be satisfied, and earth and heav’n be one.
For Today: Psalm 8; 24:1, 2; 145:1–13; Isaiah 45:18; 1 Corinthians 15:25, 26.
Determine to cultivate a renewed awareness and appreciation of the marvels of God’s creation all around you. Endeavor to be even more responsible as a caretaker of your Father’s world. Sing this musical praise as you go ---
Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
Martin Luther | (1483-1546)
Sect. XII. — I OBSERVE further, not only how true these things are (concerning which I shall speak more at large hereafter out of the Scriptures) but also how religious, pious, and necessary it is to know them; for if these things be not known there can be neither faith, nor any worship of God: nay, not to know them, is to be in reality ignorant of God, with which ignorance salvation, it is well known, cannot consist. For if you doubt, or disdain to know that God foreknows and wills all things, not contingently, but necessarily and immutably, how can you believe confidently, trust to, and depend upon His promises? For when He promises, it is necessary that you should be certain that He knows, is able, and willing to perform what He promises; otherwise, you will neither hold Him true nor faithful; which is unbelief, the greatest of wickedness, and a denying of the Most High God!
And how can you be certain and secure, unless you are persuaded that He knows and wills certainly, infallibly, immutably, and necessarily, and will perform what He promises? Nor ought we to be certain only that God wills necessarily and immutably, and will perform, but also to glory in the same; as Paul, (Rom. iii. 4,) “Let God be true, but every man a liar.” And again, “For the word of God is not without effect.” (Rom. ix. 6.) And in another place, “The foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, the Lord knoweth them that are His.” (2 Tim. ii. 19.) And, “Which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began.” (Titus i. 2.) And, “He that cometh, must believe that God is, and that He is a rewarder of them that hope in Him.” (Heb. xi. 6.).
If, therefore, we are taught, and if we believe, that we ought not to know the necessary prescience of God, and the necessity of the things that are to take place, Christian faith is utterly destroyed, and the promises of God and the whole Gospel entirely fall to the ground; for the greatest and only consolation of Christians in their adversities, is the knowing that God lies not, but does all things immutably, and that His will cannot be resisted, changed, or hindered.
The Bondage of the Will or Christian Classics Ethereal Library
W. Phillip Keller | (1920-1997)
5 He Restores My Soul
The third chief cause of cast sheep is simply that they are too fat. It is a well-known fact that over-fat sheep are neither the most healthy nor the most productive. And certainly it is the fattest that most often are cast. Their weight simply makes it that much harder for them to be agile and nimble on their feet. Of course, once a sheepman even suspects that his sheep are becoming cast for this reason, he will take long-range steps to correct the problem. He will put the ewes on a more rigorous ration; they will get less grain, and the general condition of the flock will be watched very closely. It is his aim to see that the sheep are strong, sturdy, and energetic, not fat, flabby, and weak.
Turning to the Christian life, we are confronted with the same sort of problem. There are men and women who, because they may have done well in business or in their careers or their homes, feel that they are flourishing and have “arrived.” They may have a sense of well-being and self-assurance, which in itself is dangerous. Often when we are most sure of ourselves, we are the most prone to fall flat.
In His warning to the church in Revelation 3:17, God points out that though some considered themselves rich and affluent, they were actually in desperate danger. The same point was made by Jesus in His account of the wealthy farmer who intended to build more and bigger barns, but who, in fact, faced utter ruin.
Revelation 3:17 For you say, I am rich,
I have prospered,
and I need nothing,
not realizing that you are wretched,
pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. ESV
Material success is no measure of spiritual health. Nor is apparent affluence any criteria of real godliness. And it is well for us that the Shepherd of our souls sees through this exterior and takes steps to set things right.
He may well impose on us some sort of “diet” or “discipline,” which we may find a bit rough and unpalatable at first. But again we need to reassure ourselves that it is for our own good, because He is fond of us, and for His own reputation as the Good Shepherd.
In Hebrews 12 we read how God chooses to discipline those He loves. At the time it may prove a tough routine. But the deeper truth is that afterward it produces a life of repose and tranquillity free from the fret and frustration of being cast down like a helpless sheep.
Hebrews 12:5 And have you forgotten
the exhortation that addresses you as sons?
“My son, do not regard lightly
the discipline of the Lord,
nor be weary when reproved by him.
6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and chastises every son
whom he receives.” ESV
The toughness it takes to face life and the formidable reverses that it brings to us can come only through the discipline of endurance and hardship. In His mercy and love our Master makes this a part of our program. It is part of the price of belonging to Him.
We may rest assured that He will never expect us or ask us to face more than we can stand (1 Corinthians 10:13). But what He does expose us to will strengthen and fortify our faith and confidence in His control. If He is the Good Shepherd, we can rest assured that He knows what He is doing. This in and of itself should be sufficient to continually refresh and restore my soul. I know of nothing that so quiets and enlivens my own spiritual life as the knowledge that God knows what He is doing with me!
1 Corinthians 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. ESV
A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23