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5/23/2021     Yesterday     Tomorrow

Ezra  8 - 10

Adversaries Oppose the Rebuilding

Ezra 8:1  Now when the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that the returned exiles were building a temple to the LORD, the God of Israel, 2 they approached Zerubbabel and the heads of fathers’ houses and said to them, “Let us build with you, for we worship your God as you do, and we have been sacrificing to him ever since the days of Esarhaddon king of Assyria who brought us here.” 3 But Zerubbabel, Jeshua, and the rest of the heads of fathers’ houses in Israel said to them, “You have nothing to do with us in building a house to our God; but we alone will build to the LORD, the God of Israel, as King Cyrus the king of Persia has commanded us.”

4 Then the people of the land discouraged the people of Judah and made them afraid to build 5 and bribed counselors against them to frustrate their purpose, all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia.

6 And in the reign of Ahasuerus, in the beginning of his reign, they wrote an accusation against the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem.

The Letter to King Artaxerxes

7 In the days of Artaxerxes, Bishlam and Mithredath and Tabeel and the rest of their associates wrote to Artaxerxes king of Persia. The letter was written in Aramaic and translated. 8 Rehum the commander and Shimshai the scribe wrote a letter against Jerusalem to Artaxerxes the king as follows: 9 Rehum the commander, Shimshai the scribe, and the rest of their associates, the judges, the governors, the officials, the Persians, the men of Erech, the Babylonians, the men of Susa, that is, the Elamites, 10 and the rest of the nations whom the great and noble Osnappar deported and settled in the cities of Samaria and in the rest of the province Beyond the River. 11 (This is a copy of the letter that they sent.) “To Artaxerxes the king: Your servants, the men of the province Beyond the River, send greeting. And now 12 be it known to the king that the Jews who came up from you to us have gone to Jerusalem. They are rebuilding that rebellious and wicked city. They are finishing the walls and repairing the foundations. 13 Now be it known to the king that if this city is rebuilt and the walls finished, they will not pay tribute, custom, or toll, and the royal revenue will be impaired. 14 Now because we eat the salt of the palace and it is not fitting for us to witness the king’s dishonor, therefore we send and inform the king, 15 in order that search may be made in the book of the records of your fathers. You will find in the book of the records and learn that this city is a rebellious city, hurtful to kings and provinces, and that sedition was stirred up in it from of old. That was why this city was laid waste. 16 We make known to the king that if this city is rebuilt and its walls finished, you will then have no possession in the province Beyond the River.”

The King Orders the Work to Cease

17 The king sent an answer: “To Rehum the commander and Shimshai the scribe and the rest of their associates who live in Samaria and in the rest of the province Beyond the River, greeting. And now 18 the letter that you sent to us has been plainly read before me. 19 And I made a decree, and search has been made, and it has been found that this city from of old has risen against kings, and that rebellion and sedition have been made in it. 20 And mighty kings have been over Jerusalem, who ruled over the whole province Beyond the River, to whom tribute, custom, and toll were paid. 21 Therefore make a decree that these men be made to cease, and that this city be not rebuilt, until a decree is made by me. 22 And take care not to be slack in this matter. Why should damage grow to the hurt of the king?”

23 Then, when the copy of King Artaxerxes’ letter was read before Rehum and Shimshai the scribe and their associates, they went in haste to the Jews at Jerusalem and by force and power made them cease. 24 Then the work on the house of God that is in Jerusalem stopped, and it ceased until the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia.

Ezra 9

Rebuilding Begins Anew

Ezra 9:1  Now the prophets, Haggai and Zechariah the son of Iddo, prophesied to the Jews who were in Judah and Jerusalem, in the name of the God of Israel who was over them. 2 Then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and Jeshua the son of Jozadak arose and began to rebuild the house of God that is in Jerusalem, and the prophets of God were with them, supporting them.

3 At the same time Tattenai the governor of the province Beyond the River and Shethar-bozenai and their associates came to them and spoke to them thus: “Who gave you a decree to build this house and to finish this structure?” 4 They also asked them this: “What are the names of the men who are building this building?” 5 But the eye of their God was on the elders of the Jews, and they did not stop them until the report should reach Darius and then an answer be returned by letter concerning it.

Tattenai’s Letter to King Darius

6 This is a copy of the letter that Tattenai the governor of the province Beyond the River and Shethar-bozenai and his associates, the governors who were in the province Beyond the River, sent to Darius the king. 7 They sent him a report, in which was written as follows: “To Darius the king, all peace. 8 Be it known to the king that we went to the province of Judah, to the house of the great God. It is being built with huge stones, and timber is laid in the walls. This work goes on diligently and prospers in their hands. 9 Then we asked those elders and spoke to them thus: ‘Who gave you a decree to build this house and to finish this structure?’ 10 We also asked them their names, for your information, that we might write down the names of their leaders. 11 And this was their reply to us: ‘We are the servants of the God of heaven and earth, and we are rebuilding the house that was built many years ago, which a great king of Israel built and finished. 12 But because our fathers had angered the God of heaven, he gave them into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, the Chaldean, who destroyed this house and carried away the people to Babylonia. 13 However, in the first year of Cyrus king of Babylon, Cyrus the king made a decree that this house of God should be rebuilt. 14 And the gold and silver vessels of the house of God, which Nebuchadnezzar had taken out of the temple that was in Jerusalem and brought into the temple of Babylon, these Cyrus the king took out of the temple of Babylon, and they were delivered to one whose name was Sheshbazzar, whom he had made governor; 15 and he said to him, “Take these vessels, go and put them in the temple that is in Jerusalem, and let the house of God be rebuilt on its site.” 16 Then this Sheshbazzar came and laid the foundations of the house of God that is in Jerusalem, and from that time until now it has been in building, and it is not yet finished.’ 17 Therefore, if it seems good to the king, let search be made in the royal archives there in Babylon, to see whether a decree was issued by Cyrus the king for the rebuilding of this house of God in Jerusalem. And let the king send us his pleasure in this matter.”

Ezra 10

The Decree of Darius

Ezra 10:1  Then Darius the king made a decree, and search was made in Babylonia, in the house of the archives where the documents were stored. 2 And in Ecbatana, the citadel that is in the province of Media, a scroll was found on which this was written: “A record. 3 In the first year of Cyrus the king, Cyrus the king issued a decree: Concerning the house of God at Jerusalem, let the house be rebuilt, the place where sacrifices were offered, and let its foundations be retained. Its height shall be sixty cubits and its breadth sixty cubits, 4 with three layers of great stones and one layer of timber. Let the cost be paid from the royal treasury. 5 And also let the gold and silver vessels of the house of God, which Nebuchadnezzar took out of the temple that is in Jerusalem and brought to Babylon, be restored and brought back to the temple that is in Jerusalem, each to its place. You shall put them in the house of God.”

6 “Now therefore, Tattenai, governor of the province Beyond the River, Shethar-bozenai, and your associates the governors who are in the province Beyond the River, keep away. 7 Let the work on this house of God alone. Let the governor of the Jews and the elders of the Jews rebuild this house of God on its site. 8 Moreover, I make a decree regarding what you shall do for these elders of the Jews for the rebuilding of this house of God. The cost is to be paid to these men in full and without delay from the royal revenue, the tribute of the province from Beyond the River. 9 And whatever is needed—bulls, rams, or sheep for burnt offerings to the God of heaven, wheat, salt, wine, or oil, as the priests at Jerusalem require—let that be given to them day by day without fail, 10 that they may offer pleasing sacrifices to the God of heaven and pray for the life of the king and his sons. 11 Also I make a decree that if anyone alters this edict, a beam shall be pulled out of his house, and he shall be impaled on it, and his house shall be made a dunghill. 12 May the God who has caused his name to dwell there overthrow any king or people who shall put out a hand to alter this, or to destroy this house of God that is in Jerusalem. I Darius make a decree; let it be done with all diligence.”

The Temple Finished and Dedicated

13 Then, according to the word sent by Darius the king, Tattenai, the governor of the province Beyond the River, Shethar-bozenai, and their associates did with all diligence what Darius the king had ordered. 14 And the elders of the Jews built and prospered through the prophesying of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the son of Iddo. They finished their building by decree of the God of Israel and by decree of Cyrus and Darius and Artaxerxes king of Persia; 15 and this house was finished on the third day of the month of Adar, in the sixth year of the reign of Darius the king.

16 And the people of Israel, the priests and the Levites, and the rest of the returned exiles, celebrated the dedication of this house of God with joy. 17 They offered at the dedication of this house of God 100 bulls, 200 rams, 400 lambs, and as a sin offering for all Israel 12 male goats, according to the number of the tribes of Israel. 18 And they set the priests in their divisions and the Levites in their divisions, for the service of God at Jerusalem, as it is written in the Book of Moses.

Passover Celebrated

19 On the fourteenth day of the first month, the returned exiles kept the Passover. 20 For the priests and the Levites had purified themselves together; all of them were clean. So they slaughtered the Passover lamb for all the returned exiles, for their fellow priests, and for themselves. 21 It was eaten by the people of Israel who had returned from exile, and also by every one who had joined them and separated himself from the uncleanness of the peoples of the land to worship the LORD, the God of Israel. 22 And they kept the Feast of Unleavened Bread seven days with joy, for the LORD had made them joyful and had turned the heart of the king of Assyria to them, so that he aided them in the work of the house of God, the God of Israel.

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What I'm Reading

Don’t Allow Your Vigilance To Become Vitriol

By J. Warner Wallace 5/25/2016

     Most of us, as Christians, understand the importance of truth. We also understand our duty as believers to protect and guard the doctrinal truths of Scripture. The New Testament authors repeatedly warn us to be vigilant against the distortion of truth that inevitably results when prideful and errant influences invade the Church:

     1Corinthians 16:13
     Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.

     1 Timothy 6:20
     Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you, avoiding worldly and empty chatter and the opposing arguments of what is falsely called “knowledge”—

     2 Peter 3:17
     You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness,

     Have you noticed, however, that many of us who accept this responsibility end up a bit grumpy and caustic? We’ve all met Christian brothers and sisters who seem unduly angry or irritable as they make a case for what they believe. Why does this happen? Why does Peter find it necessary to warn us to be respectful and gentle when we give a reason for the hope we have in Jesus (1Peter 3:15)? Peter seems to recognize the human tendency to wander from alertness to acidity:

     Case Making Vigilance | The Bible calls us to guard what has been entrusted to us, and this does require vigilance on our part. Vigilance can be defined as “the quality or state of being wakeful and alert: the degree of wakefulness or responsiveness to stimuli.” In order to guard the truth, we have to be aware of the very moment error first appears. We must be watchful and ever attentive to the presence of those who want to distort the truth (whether they are coming from inside or outside the Christian family).

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James "Jim" Warner Wallace (born June 16, 1961) is an American homicide detective and Christian apologist. Wallace is a Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview and an Adjunct Professor of Apologetics at Biola University in La Mirada, California. He has authored several books, including Cold-Case Christianity, God’s Crime Scene, and Forensic Faith, in which he applies principles of cold case homicide investigation to apologetic concerns such as the existence of God and the reliability of the Gospels.

God’S Amazing Offer Of Mercy

By David Wilkerson 5/16/2017

     There is much talk these days about the fearful condition of our world. Nation after nation is troubled, on the brink of economic disaster. Yet amid all the fear and turmoil, God is still loving and saving lost souls.

     His marvelous work of salvation never changes — it is not affected by the economy. His wooing, convicting Holy Spirit isn’t hindered by conditions on Wall Street or by teetering global finances. God’s saving power has never been limited by shrinking bank accounts.

     The fact is, our Lord never amends His promises. They are always “yes and amen” at all times and in every circumstance (see 2 Corinthians 1:20). God didn’t promise to provide all our needs except when we are unemployed. And He didn’t promise to be Jehovah Jireh, our provider, except when economic times get scary.

     Our Lord’s promises never change! And that includes His promise about saving the lost. When God commanded us to go into all the world to win the lost, He did not include an exemption clause. He didn't say, “Preach the gospel of my Son Jesus Christ to all nations — except in hard times.” And He never said, “Believe for the salvation of many — except when there is a great shaking in the world.”

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     http://davidwilkersontoday.blogspot.com/     David Wilkerson

4 Essential Practices for Spiritual Formation

By Derek Vreeland 5/10/2017

     Christianity is not primarily a set of beliefs, even though the work of theology is massively important for the church. Christianity is not primarily a personal relationship with God, even if personal faith and responsibility are required. Christianity is not primarily a religion, even though the liturgies that shape the worship and work of the church are indispensable.

     Christianity is primarily a way, that is, a way of living shaped around the death and resurrection of Jesus. The Didache opens with these words:

     There are two ways, one of life and one of death, but a great difference between the two ways. The way of life, then, is this: First, you shall love God who made you; second, love your neighbor as yourself.

     The Christian faith is the way of Jesus, the way of life and love, lived out by those who faithfully follow him. We do not just believe certain things about Jesus, but we practice certain things in the way of Jesus, which is why the Apostle Paul instructs the church in Philippi to do more than learn, receive, and listen. Paul writes, “What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:9 ESV).

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     Derek is the Discipleship Pastor at Word of Life Church in St. Joseph Missouri. He lives in St. Joe with his wife, Jenni, and three boys, Wesley, Taylor, and Dylan. He earned his M.Div.from Oral Roberts University and his D.Min. from Asbury Theological Seminary.

5 Pieces of Christ-Centered Wisdom For a Foolish Age

By Derek Vreeland 5/10/2017

     We live in an unprecedented time where human knowledge is growing at an exponential rate. Some have suggested that knowledge in some sectors is doubling every 12 months. That doesn’t necessarily mean that we are getting more intelligent, but it does mean we have access to knowledge like never before. We have computers in our pockets that puts us within a few keystrokes of limitless amounts of knowledge, and they still make phone calls.

     Unfortunately, even though knowledge is on the increase, wisdom is not. In our world of “fake news” and “alternative facts,” we can’t stop ourselves from believing that we have entered into a foolish age.

     Knowledge is the possession of information. The pursuit of knowledge is a noble endeavor. Christians have nothing to gain by remaining blissfully ignorant. In fact, learning is a natural aspect of discipleship. Jesus said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me…” (Matthew 11:28-29 ESV).

     Wisdom is knowing what to do with the knowledge we have. Wisdom determines the direction of our lives and so much of the outcome of our decisions, which is why Proverbs encourages us to “Get wisdom, and whatever you do get insight. Prize her highly, and she will exalt you” (Proverbs 4:7-8 ESV). If knowledge is knowing the length of the desert, then wisdom is making the decision to carry water with you as you walk through it.

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     Derek is the Discipleship Pastor at Word of Life Church in St. Joseph Missouri. He lives in St. Joe with his wife, Jenni, and three boys, Wesley, Taylor, and Dylan. He earned his M.Div.from Oral Roberts University and his D.Min. from Asbury Theological Seminary.

Answering the Galileo Myth

By Tom Barnett 10/18/2016

     Last month, I was speaking at the University of Toronto on the topic Has Science Buried God? The event was held in the medical science building, so it attracted a large number of science-minded atheists and skeptics. In fact, two of the former presidents of the Secular Alliance came out to hear what I had to say.

     During my talk, I pointed out that modern science was birthed out of a theistic worldview. Therefore, far from being a science stopper, it was belief in an orderly God that was the modern science starter. I like how C. S. Lewis put it. He said, “Men became scientific because they expected law in nature, and they expected law in nature because they believed in a Lawgiver.”

     After my talk, we had a time of Q&A. A young woman named Julianna was the first to put up her hand. “We aren’t going to agree on much,” were the first words out of her mouth. She asked, “If theism is a science starter, then why was Galileo persecuted by the church for doing science? This sounds like the exact opposite of what you’ve said.”

     As Julianna was speaking, I could see other people in the audience nodding their heads in agreement.

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     Tim Barnett is a dynamic speaker who provides a perfect blend of expertise and humor in each talk. Using easy-to-follow and visually engaging presentations, Tim trains Christians to think clearly about what they believe and why they believe it. Tim's passion and energy will help motivate you and your group to love God with all your mind.
     Before joining the STR speaking team, Tim founded an apologetics-based speaking ministry. Through his speaking, he has been able to help make a powerful impact defending and contending for the faith both in church settings as well as on the university stage. He has also had the opportunity to speak at numerous ACSI conferences, Power to Change events, the Apologetics Canada conference, and the National Conference on Christian Apologetics.
     Tim has worked as a professional teacher since 2008, employed in both the private and public sector.
     Tim has bachelor's degrees in physics and education from York University and the University of Ontario, respectively. He is currently working on his master's degree in philosophy from Southern Evangelical Seminary.
     Tim lives with his wife and two children in Ontario, Canada.

If Jesus Is God, Why Did He Call Himself the Son of Man?

By Hugh Ross 8/18/2016

     I have met a lot of skeptics and cultists who assert that Jesus never claimed to be God. Rather, they say he referred to himself as the son of man. It is not just skeptics and cultists who are troubled by this issue. I have met just as many Christians who ask, “If Jesus is the Son of God, why did he so consistently refer to himself as the son of man?” The common follow-up question is, how can I be certain that Jesus is really God and that the Trinity is a correct doctrine?

     Whole books have been written answering these questions. My goal here is to provide three brief yet adequate answers that you can quickly share with people expressing these kinds of challenges, concerns, and doubts.

     First, while Jesus almost always referred to himself as the “son of man” in the Gospels, there is at least one occasion where he explicitly claims to be God. The gospel text is John 8:58, where Jesus declares to the Jewish religious leaders: “Before Abraham was born, I AM!” Here, Jesus assumes the name God had assigned to himself in Exodus 3:14, “I AM who I AM. This what you are to say to the Israelites: I AM has sent me to you.” The Jewish religious leaders clearly understood that Jesus was claiming to be God, and it is evidenced by the fact that they attempted to stone him to death for his act of “blasphemy.”

     Second, the Old Testament in Jeremiah 23:6 assigns the name YHWH (I AM) to the righteous Branch, the King, who will come from the lineage of David. In several places in the Gospels, Jesus claims to be this righteous Branch and King.

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     Astronomer and best-selling author Hugh Ross travels the globe speaking on the compatibility of advancing scientific discoveries with the timeless truths of Christianity. His organization, Reasons to Believe (RTB), is dedicated to demonstrating, via a variety of resources and events, that science and biblical faith are allies, not enemies.
     While in college, Hugh committed himself to faith in Jesus Christ. After his study of big bang cosmology convinced him of a Creator's existence, curiosity led him to test religious "holy books" for scientific and historical accuracy. Only the Bible passed the test, therefore persuading him of Christianity's validity. Later, Hugh was surprised to discover how many people believed or disbelieved in Christ without checking the evidence. Prompted by family, friends, and colleagues, he founded Reasons to Believe in 1986, to bring scientific evidence for Christianity to light.
     With a degree in physics from the University of British Columbia and a National Research Council of Canada fellowship, Hugh earned a PhD in astronomy from the University of Toronto. For several years he continued his research on quasars and galaxies as a postdoctoral fellow at the California Institute of Technology. In 2012, Hugh, together with Dr. Gerald Schroeder, received the Ide P. Trotter Prize presented by Texas A&M University in recognition of his work in demonstrating connections between science and religion.
     Outside of RTB, Hugh teaches as an adjunct faculty member at both A.W. Tozer Seminary and Southern Evangelical Seminary. He also serves as a minister of apologetics at Sierra Madre Congregational Church where he conducts a weekly apologetics class.
     Hugh lives in Southern California with his wife, Kathy, and their two sons.
     Hugh leads a team of scholars who keep tabs on the frontiers of research with the goal of demonstrating that sound reason and scientific findings - including the very latest discoveries - consistently support rather than erode, confidence in the biblical God. Hugh shares this message through numerous books - including:

Hugh Ross Books:

  1. Improbable Planet: How Earth Became Humanity's Home
  1. Why the Universe Is the Way It Is
  1. Hidden Treasures in the Book of Job: How the Oldest Book in the Bible Answers Today's Scientific Questions (Reasons to Believe)
  1. Navigating Genesis: A Scientist's Journey through Genesis 1-11
  1. A Matter of Days: Resolving a Creation Controversy
  1. Beyond the Cosmos: The Extra-Dimensionality of God: What Recent Discoveries in Astronomy and Physics Reveal about the Nature of God
  1. Lights in the Sky & Little Green Men: A Rational Christian Look at UFOs and Extraterrestrials
  1. Fingerprint of God: Recent Scientific Discoveries Reveal the Unmistakable Identity of the Creator
  1. Genesis One: A Scientific Perspective
  1. The Creator and the Cosmos: How the Latest Scientific Discoveries of the Century Reveal God
  1. More Than a Theory: Revealing a Testable Model for Creation (Reasons to Believe)

Taking Jesus Seriously

By Carey Bryant 5/10/2017

     “Jesus is the most polarizing person in human history.”

     My friend Ken said this to me recently, and it has stuck with me ever since. Modern people don’t know where to pigeon-hole Jesus. Was he a good teacher? Was he a religious zealot? Was he God in the flesh? Was he a swindler? Was he even real?

     The Jesus of the Gospels made some very serious claims. In light of these claims, C.S. Lewis argued that you can’t brush off Jesus as a good moral guy in the first century. If he did exist and did make these claims, then he either lied about them on purpose, believed something that was crazy, or spoke God’s honest truth.

     One of Jesus’ most radical claims can be summarized as:

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     Carey Bryant: Follower of Jesus. Husband of Brittany. Teacher of the Bible. Player of Drums. Reader of Dead Theologians.

The Cure For Legalism

By Dr. Sinclair Ferguson

     It is grace. But it is not “grace” as commodity, grace as substance. It is grace in Christ. For God’s grace to us is Christ.

     Yes, it is the atonement; but not atonement as theory, or as an abstract reality, something that has an identity of its own outside of and apart from the Lord Jesus. For Christ himself, clothed as he is in his gospel work, is the atonement—“He is the propitiation for our sins.” (1 John 2:2)

     The remedy therefore is the one that healed Paul of the deep disease of legalism. It is not difficult to imagine that he too knew what it was to be beaten by Moses. He was after all “the chief of sinners.” (See 1 Tim. 1:15.) But here is what he discovered:

     Whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of24 the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes though faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith. (Phil. 3:7–9.)

     The remedy is that prescribed by Charles Wesley, discovering that these words are true:

O Jesus, full of truth and grace,—
More full of grace than I of sin...

(Emphasis added. One potential “Reformed” objection to citing Wesley’s words in this connection might arise from those who share the generic Reformed distinctive that Christ died to save only the elect, but hold that he did so by paying the exact total penalty due for each of and all the sins of the elect—no less, but also no more (rather than the view that what Christ accomplished in itself on the cross qualifies him to save any and all whom the Lord elects and calls). This suggests that even within the Reformed view of particular redemption (“limited atonement”) there are different approaches to how the atonement functions. To consider this issue would require essay-length discussion, but in these pages the undergirding view is that Christ’s sufferings would not have been decreased or increased depending on the exact number of the elect. In relation to Wesley’s words, “grace” is not to be thought of as a commodity that can increase or decrease in amount according to the equation governing the sufferings of Christ. In short, the “more grace in Christ” than “sin in me” principle is established by the fact that in Christ we are not only pardoned (and thus brought back to Edenic innocence) but also “counted righteous” with the final and indissoluble righteousness of Christ. God’s grace in Christ not only takes us back to creation Eden; it secures us for the glorified Eden. Those who are justified in Christ are as righteous in the sight of God, and as permanently so, as is Christ himself. For the only righteousness by which we are righteous is Christ’s righteousness.)

     Where sin abounds, where the law condemns, there grace abounds all the more even to the chief of sinners. Indeed especially to the chief of them, for the more sin there has been, the more God’s grace has abounded. This is the flood tide that drowns legalism in its tracks.

     If it is said that such free grace will lead people to conclude, “Let us go on sinning that grace may abound”; we are on safe ground. For that was the conclusion some people drew from what Paul called “my gospel.” But antinomianism can never be its fruit, as he demonstrated (Rom 6:1 ff)

     Excerpt from The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel Assurance

     Dr. Sinclair B. Ferguson is a Ligonier teaching fellow and distinguished visiting professor of systematic theology at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia.      Sinclair Ferguson Books |  Go to Books Page

Psalm 77

By Don Carson 5/23/2018

     Asaph must have given a lot of thought to the question of what believers should remember. Psalm 75, we saw yesterday, commends the power of godly “recital” — a retelling of what God has done so as to bring near God’s name.” The importance of remembering and retelling is at the heart of Psalm 78. And here in Psalm 77, Asaph highlights yet another element in this theme.

     Asaph finds himself in great distress (77:1). Its causes we do not know, but most of us have passed through “dark nights of the soul” when it seems that either God is dead or he does not care. Asaph was so despondent he could not sleep; indeed, he charges God with keeping him from sleep (77:4). Memories of other times when circumstances were so bright that he sang with joy in the night hours (77:6) serve only to depress him further. Bitterness tinges his list of rhetorical questions: “Will the Lord reject forever? Will he never show his favor again? Has his unfailing love vanished forever? Has his promise failed for all time? Has God forgotten to be merciful? Has he in anger withheld his compassion?” (77:7-9).

     What Asaph resolves to focus on is all the ways God has disclosed himself in power in the past. He writes: “To this I will appeal: the years of the right hand of the Most High” (77:10) — in other words, he appeals to all the displays of strength, of the deeds of God’s “right hand,” across the years. “I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. I will meditate on all your works and consider all your mighty deeds” (77:11-12). So in the rest of the Psalm, Asaph switches to the second person, addressing God directly, remembering some of the countless deeds of grace and power that have characterized God’s dealings with the covenant people of God. He remembers the plagues, the Exodus, the crossing of the Red Sea, the way God led his people “by the hand of Moses and Aaron” (77:13-20).

     Christians have all the more to remember. As Asaph “remembered” the Exodus by reading Scripture, so we have even more Scripture. We remember not only all that Asaph remembered, but things he did not know: the Exile, the return from exile, the long years of waiting for the coming of the Messiah. We remember the Incarnation, the years of Jesus’ life and ministry, his words and mighty deeds. Above all, we remember his death and resurrection, and the powerful work of the Spirit at Pentacost and beyond.

     And as we remember, our faith is strengthened, our vision of God is renewed, and the despair lifts.

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Don Carson is research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, and co-founder (with Tim Keller) of The Gospel Coalition. He has authored numerous books, and recently edited The Enduring Authority of the Christian Scriptures (Eerdmans, 2016).

     Don Carson Books |  Go to Books Page

Read The Psalms In "1" Year

Psalm 53

There Is None Who Does Good
53 To The Choirmaster: According To Mahalath. A Maskil Of David.

1 The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”
They are corrupt, doing abominable iniquity;
there is none who does good.

2 God looks down from heaven
on the children of man
to see if there are any who understand,
who seek after God.

3 They have all fallen away;
together they have become corrupt;
there is none who does good,
not even one.

4 Have those who work evil no knowledge,
who eat up my people as they eat bread,
and do not call upon God?
5 There they are, in great terror,
where there is no terror!
For God scatters the bones of him who encamps against you;
you put them to shame, for God has rejected them.
6 Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion!
When God restores the fortunes of his people,
let Jacob rejoice, let Israel be glad.

ESV Study Bible

By Gleason Archer Jr.

Critical Objections to the Historicity and Authenticity of  Ezra and  Nehemiah

     1. In order to show a late third-century date (or even later), many critics have made use of two names mentioned incidentally in these books, that of Johanan ( Ezra 10:6 ) and of Jaddua ( Neh. 12:11 ). As has been suggested, Johanan was the “son” of the Eliashib who was mentioned as Nehemiah’s contemporary in  Neh. 3:1.15 Now the Elephantine Papyri mention a high priest Johanan who was the grandson of Eliashib and who lived somewhat later than Nehemiah’s time. E. J. Young raises some question (IOT, p. 375) as to whether the Johanan of  Ezra 10:6 (into whose apartment Ezra went in order to mourn and fast) was the same one as the grandson of Eliashib. He feels it more likely that he was the son of the Eliashib mentioned in  Neh. 13:4 and  7, rather than a grandson (although the Hebrew ben can indicate the third generation as well as the second). On the other hand, Young concedes, he might have been the grandson who in his younger years had not yet attained the high priestly status; nevertheless as a member of the high priestly family he might have been expected to have an apartment assigned to him in the temple precincts.

Kings of Medo-Persia


Date (b.c.)

Cyrus II


Cambyses II




Darius I


Xerxes I


Artaxerxes I


Darius II


Artaxexerxes II


     More serious objections to the historical accuracy of  Nehemiah arise from the mention of Jaddua. Josephus (Antiquities 11.8.4) states that the name of the high priest at the time of Alexander the Great in 330 B.C. was Jaddua, and the inference has therefore been drawn that the mention of him in  Neh. 12:11 betrays the fact that  Nehemiah must have been composed long after the time of the historical Nehemiah himself. The facts are as follows. The high priestly line beginning with the time of the return from exile in 536 B.C. included the following succession: Jeshua, the father of Joiakim, the father of Eliashib, the father of Jehoiada or Joiada, the father of Jonathan and Johanan (younger contemporaries of Nehemiah,  Neh. 13:28 ) and then Jaddua, the son of Jonathan ( Neh. 12:11 ). If Johanan was twenty years of age in 456, he would have been sixty-eight by the time Elephantine Letter No. 30 (the Cowley edition) was written. If Eliashib was twenty-five when Jehoiada was born and fifty when Johanan was born, then he would have been eighty by 446 and still have been able to furnish leadership in the building of the priests’ section of the Jerusalem wall. It follows that Jaddua could hardly have been born later than 420 or 410 B.C., and he would therefore have been anywhere from eighty to ninety by the time of Alexander the Great. E. J. Young therefore suggests that Nehemiah may have lived to see Jaddua in his youth. On the other hand, it is quite possible, as R. D. Wilson points out (ISBE, p. 1084a), that Josephus’s account is not altogether trustworthy. In the same chapter Josephus speaks of the demonstrably fifth-century characters Sanballat and Manasseh as being with Jaddua, and this leads to the suspicion that Josephus somehow garbled his sources and involved himself in anachronisms. It may therefore have been a descendant of Jaddua who actually greeted Alexander the Great when he entered Jerusalem. In any event, the evidence above cited is by no means strong enough to overthrow the historical credibility of the books of  Ezra and  Nehemiah.

     2. Some critics have pointed to another expression as a betrayal of a late date of composition: “Darius the Persian” ( Neh. 12:22 ). The argument runs that since Darius was described as a Persian, this would indicate an author living in the Greek period, after Alexander’s conquest of Asia. This however is by no means a necessary conclusion. He may well have been so designated to distinguish him from the earlier Darius the Mede referred to in  Dan. 6.

     Similarly, the title “the king of Persia,” which is found in  Ezra 1:1 and other passages, has been condemned by some authorities as unhistorical for the Persian period. More recent investigation, however, has shown that the title “the king of Persia” was employed by at least eighteen different authors in nineteen different documents and in thirty eight different references dating from the Persian period, and that, too, in reference to at least six different Persian kings. There are few other “scholarly” objections which have been so thoroughly refuted by archaeology as this one.

     3. Objections have been raised on the ground of variations discoverable in the two copies of the decree of Cyrus, the Hebrew version in  Ezra 1 and the Aramaic version in  Ezra 6. But it should be observed that the edict recorded in  Ezra 6 was found in Ecbatana in Persia, whereas that of  Ezra 1 was promulgated in Babylon. It is legitimate to infer that the Aramaic copy was a file abstract of the edict for preservation in the archives; the Hebrew form doubtless represented the actual wording as it was delivered to the Jews themselves. It is interesting to observe that it shows a deference to the God of the Jews quite similar to that deference which Cyrus expressed to Marduk of the Babylonians when he promulgated an edict of religious freedom for the Babylonian populace (cf. Pritchard, ANET, p. 316).

     4. It was formerly thought that the Aramaic portions of  Ezra (i.e., the correspondence and decrees recorded in chaps.  4–7 ) reflected a later period of Aramaic than that which a fifth-century author would have used. But as Albright points out (in Alleman and Flack, p. 154), the Elephantine Papyri demonstrate that the Aramaic of  Ezra is indeed characteristic of the fifth century (apart from the few modernized spellings) and that the letters which  Ezra quotes are very similar in style and language to those emanating from fifth-century Egypt. He goes on to say, “The still unpublished letters in Mittwoch’s hands will add substantially to the number of parallels and will deal the coup de grace to Toffey’s view that there are numerous Greek words in the Aramaic of  Ezra.

     5. Objection has been raised to apparent anachronisms in  Ezra 4, which passes from a reference to Cyrus the Great (558–529) to Xerxes (485–464) to Artaxerxes I (464–424), and then to Darius I (522–485). It is urged that such confusion in the order of monarchs could only arise in a late production in which the author had forgotten the true succession of kings. But this conclusion cannot successfully be maintained in the light of internal evidence. It is perfectly apparent from  Ezra 4:5 that the author was aware that King Darius reigned between Cyrus and Xerxes “to frustrate their purpose, all the days of Cyrus … even until the reign of Darius king of Persia. And in the reign of Ahasuerus, in the beginning of his reign, wrote they an accusation against the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem” (ASV). A careful study of the chapter reveals that verses  5–23 constitute a long parenthesis dealing not with the building of the temple but rather with the erection of the walls of the city. This material is introduced at this point simply to indicate the malignity of Judah’s adversaries. We are not to understand the opposition of Rehum and Shimshai as arising in the 520s, but rather in the late 460s, early in the reign of Artaxerxes I. In  4:24 the narrative is brought back to the point at which verse  3 had left it, that is, at the time when the temple had not yet been rebuilt. In other words, we are not to understand  Ezra’s purpose here as a strictly chronological account, but rather a history of the opposition to the building of the city walls from the time of Cyrus to the reign of Artaxerxes. He follows a topical order rather than chronological. Since the letter quoted in  4:11–16 makes no reference at all to the rebuilding of the temple, but only to the erection of the walls, it is quite evident that the temple had already been completed (an event which took place in 516 B.C.) and that the reference here is to an attempt made in the beginning of Artaxerxes’ reign to hinder the repair of the fortifications of Jerusalem itself.

     6. Some writers hold that the reference to Greek drachmas in  Neh. 7:71 (darkemōnɩ̂m, Hebrew) is evidence of authorship during the Greek period. But as J. P. Free points out (ABH, p. 253), Greek drachmas have been discovered at the Persian level of the excavations at Beth-zur. Apparently the enterprising merchantmen of Hellas had extended trade relations even to the Near East by the fifth century B.C. W. F. Albright (IBL, Uune 1942], p. 126) refers to the evidence of the Elephantine Papyri for the existence of the drachma standard even in Egypt at that period.

     A Survey of Old Testament Introduction

The Continual Burnt Offering (Malachi 3:10)

By H.A. Ironside - 1941

May 23
Malachi 3:10 Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.   ESV

     Tithing was in force before Moses (Genesis 14:20; Hebrews 7:9). It was incorporated into the law of Sinai (Leviticus 27:30). Under grace it is not mentioned, but proportionate giving is encouraged. The believer now is not to be less particular in honoring God with his substance than a Jew under law. “That the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:4). If I were a Jew under law, the tithe would be absolutely obligatory and the least I could give. Shall I as a believer, under grace, do less than if I were under law?

     We rob God when we use what should be devoted to Him and to His work, for our own pleasure. Are we so faithful in setting aside the Lord’s portion that we can have His approval in this regard?

     The New Testament precept is, “On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper” (1 Corinthians 16:2).

Genesis 14:20  and blessed be God Most High,
who has delivered your enemies into your hand!”

And Abram gave him a tenth of everything.

Hebrews 7:9 One might even say that Levi himself, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham,

Leviticus 27:30 “Every tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the trees, is the LORD’s; it is holy to the LORD.

Romans 8:4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

1 Corinthians 16:2 On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come.

We give Thee but Thine own,
Whate’er the gift may be;
All that we have, is Thine alone,
A trust, dear Lord, from Thee.

The Continual Burnt Offering: Daily Meditations on the Word of God

  • Ask Sproul 1/2014
  • Ask Sproul 7/2014
  • Theology Night

#1 R.C. Sproul | Gresham College


#2 R.C. Sproul | Gresham College


#3 Sinclair Ferguson & R.C. Sproul | Gresham College


     Devotionals, notes, poetry and more

coram Deo
     10/1/2009    Hypocritical Hypocrisy

     I just began reading a book by a well-known pastor who, in the opening pages, referred to himself as a “professional hypocrite.” Being a pastor, he is all too familiar with the hypocrite label that is so often leveled at pastors. On the surface it certainly seems appropriate for all pastors, and for that matter all Christians to admit that we are hypocrites. However, if we really understand what it means to be a hypocrite, then we should do everything necessary to avoid being labeled as such. We must be careful not to become hypocritical in acting as if being called a hypocrite doesn’t matter. Furthermore, we must not think for a minute that just because you announce you are a hypocrite that you are not a hypocrite. While we must always strive to be genuine and honest people of God in all that we do, admitting our faults and confessing our sins to the church and the world, we also must always strive to be people who are known by the church and the world to be striving after true holiness.

     In the nineteenth century, the English pastor J.C. Ryle wrote, “Whatever we are in our religion, let us resolve never to wear a cloak. Let us by all means be honest and real.” Being “real” is not a twenty-first century invention of the twenty-something crowd. It is a most Christian virtue exemplified by Jesus Himself — a most holy virtue of those who seek daily to live an authentic life before the face of God, in the church and before the watching world.

     Although the superficial facade of Christian religiosity should make us sick, bringing us to tears and godly sorrow, it should also make us detest our hypocritical approach to hypocrisy, which Christ Himself detested. For He not only practiced what He preached, but He preached what He practiced — a life of genuine holiness before God and men. This is our calling as well, whether pastor or parishioner, relying on the grace of God and trusting Christ our holiness, knowing that the genuineness of our faith will be proven, resulting in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:7).

     click here for article source

     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)

American Minute
     by Bill Federer

     Fur trapper, Indian agent, and soldier; this was Kit Carson, who died this day, May 23, 1868. Carson's exploits west of the Mississippi were as famous as Daniel Boone's east. While bringing Indian chiefs to New York to meet American leaders, Kit Carson almost died. Kit stated: "I felt my head swell and my breath leaving… Then, I woke up… My face and head were all wet. I was on the floor and the chief was holding my head on his arm… He was crying. He said, 'I thought you were dead. You called on your Lord Jesus, then shut your eyes and couldn't speak.' "

American Minute

Lean Into God
     Compiled by Richard S. Adams

There are two kinds of people:
those who say to God, "Thy will be done,"
and those to whom God says, "All right, then, have it your way."
--- C.S. Lewis
The Screwtape Letters 1st Edition US

We need not join the mad rush to purchase an earthly fallout shelter.
God is our eternal fallout shelter.
--- Martin Luther King, Jr.
Strength to Love

No learning can make up for the failure to pray.
No earnestness, no diligence,
no study,
no gifts will supply its lack.
--- E.M. Bounds
E.M. Bounds on Prayer

If a man trusts to his own righteousness, he rejects Christ’s. If he trusts to Christ’s righteousness, he rejects his own.
--- Robert Traill
The Works Of Robert Traill, Volume 1

... from here, there and everywhere

The Imitation Of Christ
     Thomas A Kempis

               Book Four - An Invitation To Holy Communion

     The Fifteenth Chapter / The Grace Of Devotion Is Acquired Through Humility And Self-Denial


     YOU must seek earnestly the grace of devotion, ask for it fervently, await it patiently and hopefully, receive it gratefully, guard it humbly, cooperate with it carefully and leave to God, when it comes, the length and manner of the heavenly visitation.

     When you feel little or no inward devotion, you should especially humiliate yourself, but do not become too dejected or unreasonably sad. In one short moment God often gives what He has long denied. At times He grants at the end what He has denied from the beginning of prayer. If grace were always given at once, or were present at our beck and call, it would not be well taken by weak humankind. Therefore, with good hope and humble patience await the grace of devotion.

     When it is not given, or for some unknown reason is taken away, blame yourself and your sins. Sometimes it is a small matter that hinders grace and hides it, if, indeed, that which prevents so great a good may be called little rather than great. But if you remove this hindrance, be it great or small, and if you conquer it perfectly, you shall have what you ask. As soon as you have given yourself to God with all your heart and seek neither this nor that for your own pleasure and purpose, but place yourself completely in His charge, you shall find yourself at peace, united with Him, because nothing will be so sweet, nothing will please you so much as the good pleasure of His will.

     Anyone, therefore, who shall with simplicity of heart direct his intention to God and free himself from all inordinate love or dislike for any creature will be most fit to receive grace and will be worthy of the gift of devotion. For where the Lord finds the vessel empty He pours down His blessing.

     So also the more perfectly a man renounces things of this world, and the more completely he dies to himself through contempt of self, the more quickly this great grace comes to him, the more plentifully it enters in, and the higher it uplifts the free heart.

     Then shall he see and abound, then shall his heart marvel and be enlarged within him, because the Hand of the Lord is with him and in the hollow of that Hand he has placed himself forever. Thus shall the man be blessed who seeks God with all his heart and has not regarded his soul in vain. Such a one, receiving the Holy Eucharist, merits the grace of divine union because he looks not on his own thoughts, nor to his own comfort, but above all devotion and consolation to the glory and honor of God.

The Imitation Of Christ

History of the Destruction of Jerusalem
     Thanks to Meir Yona

     6. However, the rest of the [Jewish] multitude did not lay aside their quarrels with him, when the [foreign] auxiliaries were gone; but they had a perpetual war with Alexander, until he had slain the greatest part of them, and driven the rest into the city Berneselis; and when he had demolished that city, he carried the captives to Jerusalem. Nay, his rage was grown so extravagant, that his barbarity proceeded to the degree of impiety; for when he had ordered eight hundred to be hung upon crosses in the midst of the city, he had the throats of their wives and children cut before their eyes; and these executions he saw as he was drinking and lying down with his concubines. Upon which so deep a surprise seized on the people, that eight thousand of his opposers fled away the very next night, out of all Judea, whose flight was only terminated by Alexander's death; so at last, though not till late, and with great difficulty, he, by such actions, procured quiet to his kingdom, and left off fighting any more.

     7. Yet did that Antiochus, who was also called Dionysius, become an origin of troubles again. This man was the brother of Demetrius, and the last of the race of the Seleucidae. 3 Alexander was afraid of him, when he was marching against the Arabians; so he cut a deep trench between Antipatris, which was near the mountains, and the shores of Joppa; he also erected a high wall before the trench, and built wooden towers, in order to hinder any sudden approaches. But still he was not able to exclude Antiochus, for he burnt the towers, and filled up the trenches, and marched on with his army. And as he looked upon taking his revenge on Alexander, for endeavoring to stop him, as a thing of less consequence, he marched directly against the Arabians, whose king retired into such parts of the country as were fittest for engaging the enemy, and then on the sudden made his horse turn back, which were in number ten thousand, and fell upon Antiochus's army while they were in disorder, and a terrible battle ensued. Antiochus's troops, so long as he was alive, fought it out, although a mighty slaughter was made among them by the Arabians; but when he fell, for he was in the forefront, in the utmost danger, in rallying his troops, they all gave ground, and the greatest part of his army were destroyed, either in the action or the flight; and for the rest, who fled to the village of Cana, it happened that they were all consumed by want of necessaries, a few only excepted.

     8. About this time it was that the people of Damascus, out of their hatred to Ptolemy, the son of Menhens, invited Aretas [to take the government], and made him king of Celesyria. This man also made an expedition against Judea, and beat Alexander in battle; but afterwards retired by mutual agreement. But Alexander, when he had taken Pella, marched to Gerasa again, out of the covetous desire he had of Theodorus's possessions; and when he had built a triple wall about the garrison, he took the place by force. He also demolished Golan, and Seleucia, and what was called the Valley of Antiochus; besides which, he took the strong fortress of Gamala, and stripped Demetrius, who was governor therein, of what he had, on account of the many crimes laid to his charge, and then returned into Judea, after he had been three whole years in this expedition. And now he was kindly received of the nation, because of the good success he had. So when he was at rest from war, he fell into a distemper; for he was afflicted with a quartan ague, and supposed that, by exercising himself again in martial affairs, he should get rid of this distemper; but by making such expeditions at unseasonable times, and forcing his body to undergo greater hardships than it was able to bear, he brought himself to his end. He died, therefore, in the midst of his troubles, after he had reigned seven and twenty years.

          The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Wars of the Jews or History of the Destruction of Jerusalem, by Flavius Josephus Translator: William Whiston

The War of the Jews: The History of the Destruction of Jerusalem (complete edition, 7 books)

Proverbs 17:17-18
     by D.H. Stern

17     A friend shows his friendship at all times—
it is for adversity that [such] a brother is born.

Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)

My Utmost For The Highest
     A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers

                Careful infidelity

     Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body what ye shall put on. --- Matthew 6:25.

     Jesus sums up commonsense carefulness in a disciple as infidelity. If we have received the Spirit of God, He will press through and say—‘Now where does God come in in this relationship, in this mapped-out holiday, in these new books?’ He always presses the point until we learn to make Him our first consideration. Whenever we put other things first, there is confusion.

     “Take no thought …”—don’t take the pressure of forethought upon yourself. It is not only wrong to worry, it is infidelity, because worrying means that we do not think that God can look after the practical details of our lives, and it is never anything else that worries us. Have you ever noticed what Jesus said would choke the word He puts in? The devil? No, the cares of this world. It is the little worries always. I will not trust where I cannot see, that is where infidelity begins. The only cure for infidelity is obedience to the Spirit.

     The great word of Jesus to His disciples is abandon.

My Utmost for His Highest

     the Poetry of RS Thomas


I emerge from the mind’s
cave into the worse darkness
outside, where things pass and
the Lord is in none of them.

I have heard the still, small voice
and it was that of the bacteria
demolishing my cosmos. I
have lingered too long on

this threshold, but where can I go?
To look back is to lose the soul
I was leading upwards towards
the light. To look forward? Ah,

what balance is needed at
the edges of such an abyss.
I am alone on the surface
of a turning planet. What

to do but, like Michelangelo’s
Adam, put my hand
out into unknown space,
hoping for the reciprocating touch?

Selected Poems, 1946-68

Swimming In The Sea of Talmud
     Horayot 13a


     The National Football League record for most points scored in a lifetime is held by George Blanda. The kicker broke into the sport in 1949, with the Chicago Bears, and retired after the 1975 season with Oakland. Over the course of twenty-six years in the game, Blanda scored 2,002 points. This incredible number was composed of 9 touchdowns, 335 field goals, and 943 points after touchdown.

     Roger Bannister is also listed in the sports record book, in the category of track and field. On May 6, 1954, Bannister achieved sports immortality by being the first person to break the "four-minute mile." His record time was 3 minutes, 59.4 seconds.

     One man achieves fame after more than a quarter of a century; the other, in just a few minutes. The same thing happens off the sports field all the time. One man spends his entire life working hard to support his family, twelve hours a day, six days a week, fifty-two weeks a year, for almost fifty years. Only upon retirement is he able to relax and begin to enjoy the remaining few years of his life. Another man goes into a store, pays a dollar for a lottery ticket, and wins ten million dollars the next day. One person achieves his world after many years, another in a single hour.

     Like Rabbi Yehudah ha-Nasi, perhaps we too want to cry when we are confronted by the quick success of others, while we struggle and work hard just to get by. In an ideal world, fame, fortune, and success would be available to anyone willing to work hard. But our experience teaches us that we do not live in an ideal world. It is not within our power to explain these discrepancies and why they occur.

     The comforting part of our story, however, is the teaching that it is never too late to achieve something important. It is possible, even in a single hour, to accomplish what is vital and crucial. And it is never too late to turn our lives around.

     A mamzer who is a scholar takes precedence over a High Priest who is an ignoramus.

     Text / Mishnah (3:8): A kohen takes precedence over a Levite, a Levite over an Israelite, and an Israelite over a mamzer, and a mamzer over a netin, and a netin over a proselyte, and a proselyte over a freed slave. When? When they are all equal. But if the mamzer was a scholar and the High Priest was an ignoramus, a mamzer who is a scholar takes precedence over a High Priest who is an ignoramus.

     Gemara: "When? When they are all equal." From where do we derive this? Rabbi Aḥa son of Rabbi Ḥanina said: "As it says in Scripture: 'She is more precious than rubies [mip'ninim]' [Proverbs 3:15], more precious than the High Priest who enters the Innermost [lifnei v'lifnim]."

     Context / The Bible describes the kohen as follows: "Aaron was set apart, he and his sons, forever, to be consecrated as most holy, to make burnt offerings to the Lord and serve Him and pronounce blessings in His name forever" (1 Chronicles 23:13). Thus, one is a kohen if his father was a kohen before him, tracing the lineage back to Aaron and his sons.

     Context / The Levite is mentioned in the Torah often: "At that time the Lord set apart the tribe of Levi to carry the Ark of the Lord's Covenant, to stand in attendance upon the Lord, and to bless in His name, as is still the case" (Deuteronomy 10:8). The Levites trace their lineage back to Moses.

     Context / Unfortunately, there are many confusing translations of Hebrew terms, and this Mishnah has two words that are commonly translated in English terms that do not reflect Hebrew concepts. Kohen has often been translated as "priest," a word with a very different meaning in the Christian religion.

     Context / Similarly confusing is mamzer, often translated as "bastard." The term does not mean what the English word denotes. A mamzer is the offspring of a forbidden relationship, that is, an incestuous or adulterous one (as opposed to an illegitimate child, a concept not known in Jewish law). The mamzer bears a strong stigma and may marry only another mamzer.

     Context / An aliyah, from the root meaning "to go up," is the honor of being "called up" to the Torah.

     This Mishnah—the last in the Order Nezikin—is speaking of matters of honor and rescue. Who should be honored first? And in the case of an emergency, who should be rescued first? In other words, who has the highest status in the community? The Mishnah then lists an order—kohen, Levite, Israelite, mamzer, netin, proselyte, freed slave. Before we can understand the Mishnah, we must define a few terms: kohen is one descended from Aaron. The kohanim (plural of kohen) functioned in the Tabernacle, and later the Temple, in special public roles. For this reason, they are given special status in the Mishnah. Today, we still follow this practice by giving a kohen the first aliyah to the Torah. The levi or Levite was the helper in the Tabernacle and later in the Temple. The plural is levi'im, or Levites in English. They sang the Temple liturgy as well. These are next in order of honor. Israelites refers to the common people at that time, the majority of the people who were neither kohanim nor Levites. A mamzer is the offspring of an incestuous or adulterous relationship; his honor would be even less.

     Netin is traditionally understood as a descendent of the Gibeonites, a nation described in the book of Joshua, chapter 9: The Gibeonites disguised themselves as foreigners to avoid attack by the Israelites. Upon learning of this ruse, Joshua spared their lives but made them "hewers of wood and drawers of water … for the community and for the altar of the Lord." That is, they accepted a low status in the Israelite community in exchange for their lives. Their low status is reflected in their coming after kohen, levi and Israelite.

     "Scholar" and "ignoramus" are general translations for words that may be technical terms in the Mishnah. Talmid ḥakham, the "scholar," is actually one who studies with a master-teacher. Am ha-aretz, translated as "ignoramus," likely refers to one who was suspect of not having properly observed tithes and ritual cleanliness rules. Later Hebrew uses the expression am ha-aretz for an ignoramus, and this is how it is used in modern Hebrew.

     In the Gemara, Rabbi Aḥa seeks to find a biblical source to support this order, especially for the fact that a mamzer who is a scholar takes precedence over a High Priest who is an ignoramus. He finds his proof in a verse from Proverbs. The entire chapter speaks of the value of wisdom:

  Happy is the man who finds wisdom,
  The man who attains understanding.
  Her value in trade is better than silver,
  Her yield, greater than gold.
  She is more precious than rubies;
  All of your goods cannot equal her.
      (Proverbs 3:13–15)

     Rabbi Aḥa makes a play on the letters in the two Hebrew words, saying that wisdom is more precious, mip'ninim, than rubies, even greater than the one who enters lifnei v'lifnim, literally, the most inside place, that is, the Holy of Holies in the Temple. If wisdom is greater than priesthood, then the respect we give to the scholar outweighs that which we give to the kohen.

Swimming in the Sea of Talmud: Lessons for Everyday Living

Moulding David's character
     Teacher's Commentary

     The years of suffering were forging David's character. God was applying pressures to the godly youth; pressures that would mature him into a man. David's experiences forced him to plumb the depths of his humanity—and to find that in every extremity God was his only refuge.

     David often found himself in situations where the temptation to choose the easy way was great. At times David did choose wrongly. But in the great tests—like that moment when David stood over a sleeping Saul—David found the strength to choose what he believed to be God's will. It was this strength, this heart for God, which was at the core of David's developing character. It was this strength which made David great, as it can make you and me.

     These chapters which give us insight into the process by which David's mature character is shaped are filled with exciting stories which convey lessons of their own. Here are a few of these stories, and some of their lessons for us.

     David and Jonathan (1 Samuel 20). Saul was determined that his son Jonathan be king, even though Samuel had secretly anointed David. Despite the close relationship between Jonathan and his father (1 Samuel 20:2), Jonathan sided with David. He defended David when his father angrily demanded David's death (vv. 30–31). When Jonathan was convinced that Saul intended to murder David, Jonathan helped David escape.

     This must have been a very painful dilemma. On the one hand, Jonathan loved and honored his father. His self-interest would have been served by David's death. But on the other hand, David was Jonathan's friend. And Jonathan's sense of right and wrong was violated by his father's acts. Jonathan worked through to a godly decision, and won the admiration of countless generations. David is often seen as this era's hero. But there is no more attractive or praiseworthy model of a godly man than Jonathan.

     David and Abigail (1 Samuel 25). When David was rebuffed by Nabal, whose flocks his men had protected, he was furious. In hot anger, he ordered his men to follow him to Nabal's house, intending to kill him and every male in his household.

     But Nabal's men explained the situation to Abigail. She acted quickly, gathering food to take to David. When Abigail met David's force on the road, she begged his forgiveness, and urged him not to act hastily and "have on his conscience the staggering burden of needless bloodshed or of having avenged himself" (1 Samuel 25:31). David was wise and strong enough to relent, even though he had publicly announced his intention to punish Nabal.

     David spares Saul's life (1 Samuel 26). When David had an opportunity to kill Saul, he held back. He reasoned, "Who can lay a hand on the Lord's anointed and be guiltless? As surely as the Lord lives … the Lord Himself will strike him; either his time will come and he will die, or he will go into battle and perish" (1 Samuel 26:9–10).

     David's trust in God was vividly demonstrated in his restraint. So too was his determination to do right, no matter how another provoked him.

     The New Testament expresses this principle in a different way. We are to do good to those who persecute us so that we can be like the Lord, who does good to His enemies (Matthew 5:43–48).

     How important to learn to do good, even to those who try to do us harm.

The Teacher's Commentary

The Jews’ Participation in Social and Political Life
     Judaism in the Land of Israel

     Explicit testimony on how Jews led their lives in the scattered cities of the Diaspora is hard to come by. But most of the fragmentary indications, clues, and indirect signs suggest circumstances in which they could both partake of the social and cultural environment and maintain a separate identity. These were not mutually exclusive alternatives.

     One might note, for example, the gymnasium, that most Hellenic of institutions. The gymnasium was a conspicuous feature of Greek education, at least for the elite, in communities throughout the Mediterranean. It catered to the corps of ephebes, the select youth of upper-echelon families, the training ground for generations of Hellenic leadership in the urban centers of Greek migration. That institution would appear to be the last place available to Jews. Yet unmistakable traces of their participation in gymnasia do exist. Ephebic lists include Jews in places as different as Alexandria in Egypt, Cyrene in North Africa, Sardis in western Asia Minor, Iasos in southwestern Asia Minor, and Korone in southern Greece. So even the preeminent bastion of Hellenism, the gymnasium, was, at least in several sites, open to Jews.

     The fullest information on Jewish life abroad (and it is very skimpy) comes from Egypt, where the papyri allow us to peer selectively into some corners of social and economic experience. The evidence, reinforced by some literary and epigraphic testimonia, shows that Jews served in the Ptolemaic armies and police forces, reached officer rank, and received land grants. Inscriptions in Aramaic and Greek from Alexandrian cemeteries disclose Jews, evidently mercenary soldiers, buried alongside Greeks from all parts of the Hellenic world. Jews had access to various levels of the administration as tax-farmers and tax-collectors, as bankers and granary officials. They took part in commerce, shipping, finance, farming, and every form of occupation. And they could even reach posts of prestige and importance. Juridically, the Jews, like other Greek-speaking immigrants to Egypt, were reckoned among the “Hellenes”—not singled out for prejudicial discrimination.

     The nature of Jewish civic status remains obscure and controversial. The Jews did have an established place in Alexandria by the end of the first century B.C.E. Strabo, who had no Jewish agenda, reports that the Jews had a large portion of the city allotted to them, and had their own official, an ethnarch, to govern them, decide disputes, and oversee contracts and decrees. He plainly implies that Jews governed their own internal affairs but also took part in a larger Alexandrian entity to which they owed allegiance. Other evidence shows that they lived in all parts of the city, not restricted to a ghettoized existence. They could label themselves “Alexandrians,” a term that carried more than geographic designation. The Roman emperor Augustus, in fact, referred to them on a bronze stele as “citizens of the Alexandrians.” Whatever that means, it signals an acknowledged role in the political process of the city, a feature independently attested by Philo, who notes that Alexandrian Jews “shared in political rights.” Although we lack precise data, Jews clearly had some claim on civic prerogatives, just as they had on the social and economic life of the city.

     Elsewhere, the political status of Jews receives only occasional mention. At Herakleopolis in Egypt, recent papyrological finds reveal the existence of a Jewish politeuma, a self-governing body that could, among other things, adjudicate cases involving both Jews and non-Jews. A comparable politeuma existed in Cyrenaica, and we possess evidence indicating that Jews could serve in the governing body of the larger Cyrenaic community as well. Citizen privileges of some sort also belonged to the Jews of Antioch, as they did for those in Sardis and the Ionian cities of Asia Minor. Moreover, Jews were eligible for Roman citizenship, well outside the city of Rome. Paul, a Jew from Tarsus and a Roman citizen, is only the most celebrated example. Just what prerogatives this involved and how far they were exercised remain controversial. But no barriers, it appears, excluded Jews from becoming full-fledged beneficiaries of Roman power.

The Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism

Take Heart
     May 23

     Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? --- 1 Corinthians 3:16.

     God is as present with the lowest as with the highest forms of life: he is as present with the lowest animals, with every variety of plant, with rocks, with heavenly bodies, moving in their undeviating obedience to law through trackless space—as with glorified humans, as with archangels. (RS Thomas Preached Before the University of Oxford : [First Series, 1865]) He cannot contract his illimitable being and make corners in his universe where he is not. And there are not degrees of his presence, although there are various modes of its manifestation. He is everywhere, in all the proper intensity and force of his being, simply because he is God.

     Yet the apostle does not mean that the Corinthian Christians were only God’s temple as being a part of his universe. For, obviously, people are differently related to the divine omnipresence from anything else in nature. People alone can feel it, can acknowledge it, can respond to it. Neither animal nor plant is conscious to divine contact; people, however, can know and adore their God by the homage of their intelligence and of their moral freedom, and thus the human soul is a temple of God in a distinct sense. It is a living temple, so designed and proportioned as even by their silent symmetry to show forth their Maker’s praise.

     Such is the original draft of the human soul; it was to be a true temple of God, nor even in its ruins is it altogether unvisited by him, not merely because God sustains all mental powers, but because God is strictly the author of all good thoughts and truths that heathens have reached, as he is the strength of all natural goodness that heathens have practiced.

     Yet Saint Paul did not mean that the communicants of the church of Corinth were God’s temple only in the same sense as the heathen priests and philosophers and prostitutes who thronged the neighboring temple of Aphrodite. The fallen human soul is in a condition of contradiction, not to rules laid down by God but to the very essence of his being, to those constituent moral truths that are rooted in God’s eternal self-consciousness and that—God being what he is—could not be other than as they are. But to those who are alive in Jesus Christ, God manifests his presence by his Spirit, and this manifestation makes them his temples in a sense more intense than is possible for unregenerate souls.
--- H. P. Liddon

Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers

On This Day
     The Thirty Years’ War  May 23

     Seventeenth-century Bohemia was a beautiful area at the center of Europe, encircled by mountains and highlands, home of the Moravians. It was the land of John Hus who died for the Reformation before Luther even launched it. And it was filled with Hussites longing for freedom of worship.

     But Bohemia was ruled by the Hapsburg king, Ferdinand II, a dedicated Catholic. He unleashed a campaign to re-Catholicize Bohemia, and on May 23, 1618 Bohemian rebels shouting the Protestant cause stormed the palace. They literally threw Ferdinand’s governors out the window. The governors landed in a pile of manure (just where the rebels thought they belonged), and Ferdinand sent troops against the Protestants, defeating them soundly in January, 1620 at the Battle of White Mountain. Protestants throughout Bohemia were endangered.

     Jan Amos Comenius, pastor and Christian educator, lost his family to the war, and he himself barely escaped a burning house. His church members became fugitives, then they became refugees, having to flee their homeland. They packed their few belongings, left home and country, and plodded through bitter snows toward Poland. Arriving at the border, they turned and gazed a final time on their land. In a scene that later became a favorite of Christian artists, Comenius led his shivering flock in prayer for God to preserve in Bohemia “a hidden seed to glorify thy name.” Finishing their prayer, the little flock trudged on.

     Comenius never returned, never found a home, and when he died in 1670, he owned virtually nothing but a sack of tattered clothes. But he left the world 154 books that laid a foundation for modern Christian education.

     Meanwhile, White Mountain wasn’t the end of the war, but its beginning. Denmark entered the fray, then Sweden, then France. Europe was ravaged, and half of all Germans perished. Not until 1648 was the Treaty of Westphalia signed—30 years after the initial revolt in Bohemia.

     As for Comenius’s prayer, it was answered 100 years later when Count Zinzendorf gave the Bohemian offspring refuge at Herrnhut. It was the descendants of Comenius and his followers, gathered safely by Zinzendorf, who became the forerunners of the modern missionary movement.

     Along the way someone said to Jesus, “I’ll go anywhere with you!” Jesus said, “Foxes have dens, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man doesn’t have a place to call his own.” --- Luke 9:57,58.

On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes

Morning and Evening
     Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON

          Morning - May 23

     “The Lord will perfect that which concerneth me.” --- Psalm 107:7.

     Most manifestly the confidence which the Psalmist here expressed was a divine confidence. He did not say, “I have grace enough to perfect that which concerneth me—my faith is so steady that it will not stagger—my love is so warm that it will never grow cold—my resolution is so firm that nothing can move it; no, his dependence was on the Lord alone. If we indulge in any confidence which is not grounded on the Rock of ages, our confidence is worse than a dream, it will fall upon us, and cover us with its ruins, to our sorrow and confusion. All that Nature spins time will unravel, to the eternal confusion of all who are clothed therein. The Psalmist was wise, he rested upon nothing short of the Lord’s work. It is the Lord who has begun the good work within us; it is he who has carried it on; and if he does not finish it, it never will be complete. If there be one stitch in the celestial garment of our righteousness which we are to insert ourselves, then we are lost; but this is our confidence, the Lord who began will perfect. He has done it all, must do it all, and will do it all. Our confidence must not be in what we have done, nor in what we have resolved to do, but entirely in what the Lord will do. Unbelief insinuates— “You will never be able to stand. Look at the evil of your heart, you can never conquer sin; remember the sinful pleasures and temptations of the world that beset you, you will be certainly allured by them and led astray.” Ah! yes, we should indeed perish if left to our own strength. If we had alone to navigate our frail vessels over so rough a sea, we might well give up the voyage in despair; but, thanks be to God, he will perfect that which concerneth us, and bring us to the desired haven. We can never be too confident when we confide in him alone, and never too much concerned to have such a trust.

          Evening - May 23

     “Thou hast bought me no sweet cane with money.” --- Isaiah 43:24.

     Worshippers at the temple were wont to bring presents of sweet perfumes to be burned upon the altar of God: but Israel, in the time of her backsliding, became ungenerous, and made but few votive offerings to her Lord: this was an evidence of coldness of heart towards God and his house. Reader, does this never occur with you? Might not the complaint of the text be occasionally, if not frequently, brought against you? Those who are poor in pocket, if rich in faith, will be accepted none the less because their gifts are small; but, poor reader, do you give in fair proportion to the Lord, or is the widow’s mite kept back from the sacred treasury? The rich believer should be thankful for the talent entrusted to him, but should not forget his large responsibility, for where much is given much will be required; but, rich reader, are you mindful of your obligations, and rendering to the Lord according to the benefit received? Jesus gave his blood for us, what shall we give to him? We are his, and all that we have, for he has purchased us unto himself —can we act as if we were our own? O for more consecration! and to this end, O for more love! Blessed Jesus, how good it is of thee to accept our sweet cane bought with money! nothing is too costly as a tribute to thine unrivalled love, and yet thou dost receive with favour the smallest sincere token of affection! Thou dost receive our poor forget-me-nots and love-tokens as though they were intrinsically precious, though indeed they are but as the bunch of wild flowers which the child brings to its mother. Never may we grow niggardly towards thee, and from this hour never may we hear thee complain of us again for withholding the gifts of our love. We will give thee the first fruits of our increase, and pay thee tithes of all, and then we will confess “of thine own have we given thee.”

Morning and Evening

Amazing Grace
     May 23


     Words and Music by Marcus M. Wells, 1815–1895

     I will not leave you comfortless; I will come to you. (John 14:18 KJV)

     One of the Holy Spirit’s ministries is to lead us each day wherever our heavenly Father desires us to best represent Him. When vital decisions must be made, the Holy Spirit can open the Scriptures to us and illuminate our minds. By this faithful guidance of the Holy Spirit, we come to love and follow the will of God for our daily living.

     Many of our troubles occur because we fail to take counsel from the Holy Spirit and the Bible. Instead of first praying and seeking guidance, we act and then ask God to bless our actions. We must learn the lesson continually that effective Christian living is totally dependent upon an awareness and appreciation of the Holy Spirit’s intimate presence in our lives; we must have a willingness to be directed and controlled by Him.

     “Holy Spirit, Faithful Guide” was written and composed by an American farmer, Marcus M. Wells. He gave the following account for its writing:

     On a Saturday afternoon in October, 1858, while at work in my cornfield near Hardwick, New York, the sentiment of this hymn came to me. The next day, I finished the hymn and wrote a tune for it and sent it to Professor I. G. Woodbury.

     The hymn appeared in the next month’s issue of Woodbury’s periodical, The New York Musical Pioneer. These tender words still minister to us today:

     Holy Spirit, faithful Guide, ever near the Christian’s side, gently lead us by the hand, pilgrims in a desert land; weary souls fore’er rejoice, while they hear that sweetest voice whisp’ring softly, “Wand’rer come! Follow Me, I’ll guide thee home.”

     Ever-present, truest Friend, ever near Thine aid to lend, leave us not to doubt and fear, groping on in darkness drear; when the storms are raging sore, hearts grow faint, and hopes give o’er, whisper softly “Wand’rer come! Follow Me, I’ll guide thee home.”

     When our days of toil shall cease, waiting still for sweet release, nothing left but heav’n and prayer, knowing that our names are there, wading deep the dismal flood, pleading naught but Jesus’ blood, whisper softly, “Wand’rer come! Follow Me, I’ll guide thee home.”

     For Today: John 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:13; Romans 8:4, 26, 27; 1 John 3:24.

     Determine to be especially aware of and sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s guidance, even in the minute decisions and actions of the day. Thank Him for His promised presence, even into eternity. Use this portion of the hymn to aid you in this exciting walk of faith.

Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions

De Servo Arbitrio “On the Enslaved Will” or The Bondage of the Will
     Martin Luther | (1483-1546)

     Sect. XXXIII. — BUT to return — What wonder, if God should leave all the elders of the church to go their own ways, who thus permitted all the nations to go their own ways, as Paul saith, Acts xiv. 16; xvii. 30? — But, my friend Erasmus, THE CHURCH OF GOD INDEED, IS NOT SO COMMON A THING AS THIS TERM, CHURCH OF GOD: NOR ARE THE SAINTS OF GOD INDEED, EVERY WHERE TO BE FOUND LIKE THE TERM, SAINTS OF GOD. THEY ARE PEARLS AND PRECIOUS JEWELS, WHICH THE SPIRIT DOES NOT CAST BEFORE SWINE; BUT WHICH, (AS THE SCRIPTURE EXPRESSES IT,) HE KEEPS HIDDEN, THAT THE WICKED SEE NOT THE GLORY OF GOD! Otherwise, if they were openly known of all, how could it come to pass that they should be thus vexed and afflicted in the world? As Paul saith, (1 Cor. ii. 8.) “Had they known Him, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.”

     I do not say these things, because I deny that those whom you mention are the saints and church of God; but because it cannot be proved, if any one should deny it, that they really are saints, but must be left quite in uncertainty; and because, therefore, the position deduced from their holiness, is not sufficiently credible for the confirmation of my doctrine. I call them saints, and look upon them as such: I call them the church, and look upon them as such — according to the law of Charity, but not according to the law of Faith. That is, charity, which always thinks the best of every one, and suspects not, but believeth and presumes all things for good concerning its neighbour, calls every one who is baptized, a saint. Nor is there any peril if she err, for charity is liable to err; seeing that she is exposed to all the uses and abuses of all; an universal handmaid, to the good and to the evil, to the believing and to the unbelieving, to the true and to the false. — But faith, calls no one a saint but him who is declared to be so by the judgment of God, for faith is not liable to be deceived. Therefore, although we ought all to be looked upon as saints by each other by the law of charity, yet no one ought to be decreed a saint by the law of faith, so as to make it an article of faith that such or such an one is a Saint. For in this way, that adversary of God, the Pope, canonized his minions whom he knows not to be saints, setting himself in the place of God. (2 Thess. ii. 4.).

     All that I say concerning those saints of yours, or rather, ours, is this: — that since they have spoken differently from each other, those should rather be selected who have spoken the best: that is, who have spoken in defense of Grace, and against “Free-will”: and those left, who, through the infirmity of the flesh, have borne witness of the flesh rather than of the Spirit. And also, that those who are inconsistent with themselves, should be selected and caught at, in those parts of their writings where they speak from the Spirit, and left, where they savour of the flesh. This is what becomes a Christian reader, and a ‘clean beast dividing the hoof and chewing the cud.’ (Lev. xi. 3., Deut. xiv. 6.) Whereas now, laying aside judgment, we swallow down all things together, or, what is worse, by a perversion of judgment, we cast away the best and receive the worst, out of the same authors; and moreover, affix to those worst parts, the title and authority of their sanctity; which sanctity, they obtained, not on account of “Free-will” or the flesh, but on account of the best things, even of the Spirit only.

The Bondage of the Will   or   Christian Classics Ethereal Library

A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23
     W. Phillip Keller | (1920-1997)

          11 “Surely Goodness and Love Will Follow Me . . .”

     Looking again at the round of the year through which the sheep pass in the shepherd’s care, we see summer moving into autumn. Storms of sleet and hail and early snow begin to sweep over the high country. Soon the flocks will be driven from the alplands and tablelands. They will turn again toward the home ranch for the long, quiet winter season.

     These autumn days can be golden under Indian summer weather. The sheep have respite now from flies and insects and scab. No other season finds them so fit and well and strong. No wonder David wrote, “My cup overflows.”

     But at the same time, unexpected blizzards can blow up or sleet storms can suddenly shroud the hills. The flock and their owner can pass through appalling suffering together.

     It is here that I grasp another aspect altogether of the meaning of a cup that overflows. There is in every life a cup of suffering. Jesus Christ referred to His agony in the garden of Gethsemane and at Calvary as His cup. And had it not overflowed with His life poured out for men, we would have perished.

     In tending my sheep I carried a bottle in my pocket containing a mixture of brandy and water. Whenever a ewe or lamb was chilled from undue exposure to wet, cold weather, I would pour a few spoonfuls down its throat. In a matter of minutes the chilled creature would be on its feet and full of renewed energy. It was especially cute the way the lambs would wiggle their tails with joyous excitement as the warmth from the brandy spread through their bodies.

     The important thing was for me to be there on time, to find the frozen, chilled sheep before it was too late. I had to be in the storm with them, alert to every one that was in distress. Some of the most vivid memories of my sheep ranching days are wrapped around the awful storms my flock and I went through together. I can see again the gray-black banks of storm clouds sweeping in off the sea; I can see the sleet and hail and snow sweeping across the hills; I can see the sheep racing for shelter in the tall timber; I can see them standing there soaked, chilled, and dejected. Especially the young lambs went through appalling misery without the benefit of a full, heavy fleece to protect them. Some would succumb and lie down in distress only to become more cramped and chilled.

     Then it was that my mixture of brandy and water came to their rescue. I’m sure the Palestine shepherds must have likewise shared their wine with their chilled and frozen sheep.

     What a picture of my Master, sharing the wine, the very life blood of His own suffering from His overflowing cup, poured out at Calvary for me. He is there with me in every storm. My Shepherd is alert to every approaching disaster that threatens His people. He has been through the storms of suffering before. He bore our sorrows and was acquainted with our grief.

     And now no matter what storms I face, His very life and strength and vitality is poured into mine. It overflows so the cup of my life runs over with His life . . . often with great blessing and benefit to others who see me stand up so well in the midst of trials and suffering.

A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23

Ezra 8 - 10
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