Ezra 8 - 10
Genealogy of Those Who Returned with EzraEzra 8:1 These are the heads of their fathers’ houses, and this is the genealogy of those who went up with me from Babylonia, in the reign of Artaxerxes the king: 2 Of the sons of Phinehas, Gershom. Of the sons of Ithamar, Daniel. Of the sons of David, Hattush. 3 Of the sons of Shecaniah, who was of the sons of Parosh, Zechariah, with whom were registered 150 men. 4 Of the sons of Pahath-moab, Eliehoenai the son of Zerahiah, and with him 200 men. 5 Of the sons of Zattu, Shecaniah the son of Jahaziel, and with him 300 men. 6 Of the sons of Adin, Ebed the son of Jonathan, and with him 50 men. 7 Of the sons of Elam, Jeshaiah the son of Athaliah, and with him 70 men. 8 Of the sons of Shephatiah, Zebadiah the son of Michael, and with him 80 men. 9 Of the sons of Joab, Obadiah the son of Jehiel, and with him 218 men. 10 Of the sons of Bani, Shelomith the son of Josiphiah, and with him 160 men. 11 Of the sons of Bebai, Zechariah, the son of Bebai, and with him 28 men. 12 Of the sons of Azgad, Johanan the son of Hakkatan, and with him 110 men. 13 Of the sons of Adonikam, those who came later, their names being Eliphelet, Jeuel, and Shemaiah, and with them 60 men. 14 Of the sons of Bigvai, Uthai and Zaccur, and with them 70 men.
Ezra Sends for Levites15 I gathered them to the river that runs to Ahava, and there we camped three days. As I reviewed the people and the priests, I found there none of the sons of Levi. 16 Then I sent for Eliezer, Ariel, Shemaiah, Elnathan, Jarib, Elnathan, Nathan, Zechariah, and Meshullam, leading men, and for Joiarib and Elnathan, who were men of insight, 17 and sent them to Iddo, the leading man at the place Casiphia, telling them what to say to Iddo and his brothers and the temple servants at the place Casiphia, namely, to send us ministers for the house of our God. 18 And by the good hand of our God on us, they brought us a man of discretion, of the sons of Mahli the son of Levi, son of Israel, namely Sherebiah with his sons and kinsmen, 18; 19 also Hashabiah, and with him Jeshaiah of the sons of Merari, with his kinsmen and their sons, 20; 20 besides 220 of the temple servants, whom David and his officials had set apart to attend the Levites. These were all mentioned by name.
Fasting and Prayer for Protection21 Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God, to seek from him a safe journey for ourselves, our children, and all our goods. 22 For I was ashamed to ask the king for a band of soldiers and horsemen to protect us against the enemy on our way, since we had told the king, “The hand of our God is for good on all who seek him, and the power of his wrath is against all who forsake him.” 23 So we fasted and implored our God for this, and he listened to our entreaty.
Priests to Guard Offerings24 Then I set apart twelve of the leading priests: Sherebiah, Hashabiah, and ten of their kinsmen with them. 25 And I weighed out to them the silver and the gold and the vessels, the offering for the house of our God that the king and his counselors and his lords and all Israel there present had offered. 26 I weighed out into their hand 650 talents of silver, and silver vessels worth 200 talents, and 100 talents of gold, 27 20 bowls of gold worth 1,000 darics, and two vessels of fine bright bronze as precious as gold. 28 And I said to them, “You are holy to the LORD, and the vessels are holy, and the silver and the gold are a freewill offering to the LORD, the God of your fathers. 29 Guard them and keep them until you weigh them before the chief priests and the Levites and the heads of fathers’ houses in Israel at Jerusalem, within the chambers of the house of the LORD.” 30 So the priests and the Levites took over the weight of the silver and the gold and the vessels, to bring them to Jerusalem, to the house of our God.
31 Then we departed from the river Ahava on the twelfth day of the first month, to go to Jerusalem. The hand of our God was on us, and he delivered us from the hand of the enemy and from ambushes by the way. 32 We came to Jerusalem, and there we remained three days. 33 On the fourth day, within the house of our God, the silver and the gold and the vessels were weighed into the hands of Meremoth the priest, son of Uriah, and with him was Eleazar the son of Phinehas, and with them were the Levites, Jozabad the son of Jeshua and Noadiah the son of Binnui. 34 The whole was counted and weighed, and the weight of everything was recorded.
35 At that time those who had come from captivity, the returned exiles, offered burnt offerings to the God of Israel, twelve bulls for all Israel, ninety-six rams, seventy-seven lambs, and as a sin offering twelve male goats. All this was a burnt offering to the LORD. 36 They also delivered the king’s commissions to the king’s satraps and to the governors of the province Beyond the River, and they aided the people and the house of God.
Ezra Prays About IntermarriageEzra 9:1 After these things had been done, the officials approached me and said, “The people of Israel and the priests and the Levites have not separated themselves from the peoples of the lands with their abominations, from the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians, and the Amorites. 2 For they have taken some of their daughters to be wives for themselves and for their sons, so that the holy race has mixed itself with the peoples of the lands. And in this faithlessness the hand of the officials and chief men has been foremost.” 3 As soon as I heard this, I tore my garment and my cloak and pulled hair from my head and beard and sat appalled. 4 Then all who trembled at the words of the God of Israel, because of the faithlessness of the returned exiles, gathered around me while I sat appalled until the evening sacrifice. 5 And at the evening sacrifice I rose from my fasting, with my garment and my cloak torn, and fell upon my knees and spread out my hands to the LORD my God, 6 saying:
“O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift my face to you, my God, for our iniquities have risen higher than our heads, and our guilt has mounted up to the heavens. 7 From the days of our fathers to this day we have been in great guilt. And for our iniquities we, our kings, and our priests have been given into the hand of the kings of the lands, to the sword, to captivity, to plundering, and to utter shame, as it is today. 8 But now for a brief moment favor has been shown by the LORD our God, to leave us a remnant and to give us a secure hold within his holy place, that our God may brighten our eyes and grant us a little reviving in our slavery. 9 For we are slaves. Yet our God has not forsaken us in our slavery, but has extended to us his steadfast love before the kings of Persia, to grant us some reviving to set up the house of our God, to repair its ruins, and to give us protection in Judea and Jerusalem.
10 “And now, O our God, what shall we say after this? For we have forsaken your commandments, 11 which you commanded by your servants the prophets, saying, ‘The land that you are entering, to take possession of it, is a land impure with the impurity of the peoples of the lands, with their abominations that have filled it from end to end with their uncleanness. 12 Therefore do not give your daughters to their sons, neither take their daughters for your sons, and never seek their peace or prosperity, that you may be strong and eat the good of the land and leave it for an inheritance to your children forever.’ 13 And after all that has come upon us for our evil deeds and for our great guilt, seeing that you, our God, have punished us less than our iniquities deserved and have given us such a remnant as this, 14 shall we break your commandments again and intermarry with the peoples who practice these abominations? Would you not be angry with us until you consumed us, so that there should be no remnant, nor any to escape? 15 O LORD, the God of Israel, you are just, for we are left a remnant that has escaped, as it is today. Behold, we are before you in our guilt, for none can stand before you because of this.”
The People Confess Their SinEzra 10:1 While Ezra prayed and made confession, weeping and casting himself down before the house of God, a very great assembly of men, women, and children, gathered to him out of Israel, for the people wept bitterly. 2 And Shecaniah the son of Jehiel, of the sons of Elam, addressed Ezra: “We have broken faith with our God and have married foreign women from the peoples of the land, but even now there is hope for Israel in spite of this. 3 Therefore let us make a covenant with our God to put away all these wives and their children, according to the counsel of my lord and of those who tremble at the commandment of our God, and let it be done according to the Law. 4 Arise, for it is your task, and we are with you; be strong and do it.” 5 Then Ezra arose and made the leading priests and Levites and all Israel take an oath that they would do as had been said. So they took the oath.
6 Then Ezra withdrew from before the house of God and went to the chamber of Jehohanan the son of Eliashib, where he spent the night, neither eating bread nor drinking water, for he was mourning over the faithlessness of the exiles. 7 And a proclamation was made throughout Judah and Jerusalem to all the returned exiles that they should assemble at Jerusalem, 8 and that if anyone did not come within three days, by order of the officials and the elders all his property should be forfeited, and he himself banned from the congregation of the exiles.
9 Then all the men of Judah and Benjamin assembled at Jerusalem within the three days. It was the ninth month, on the twentieth day of the month. And all the people sat in the open square before the house of God, trembling because of this matter and because of the heavy rain. 10 And Ezra the priest stood up and said to them, “You have broken faith and married foreign women, and so increased the guilt of Israel. 11 Now then make confession to the LORD, the God of your fathers and do his will. Separate yourselves from the peoples of the land and from the foreign wives.” 12 Then all the assembly answered with a loud voice, “It is so; we must do as you have said. 13 But the people are many, and it is a time of heavy rain; we cannot stand in the open. Nor is this a task for one day or for two, for we have greatly transgressed in this matter. 14 Let our officials stand for the whole assembly. Let all in our cities who have taken foreign wives come at appointed times, and with them the elders and judges of every city, until the fierce wrath of our God over this matter is turned away from us.” 15 Only Jonathan the son of Asahel and Jahzeiah the son of Tikvah opposed this, and Meshullam and Shabbethai the Levite supported them.
16 Then the returned exiles did so. Ezra the priest selected men, heads of fathers’ houses, according to their fathers’ houses, each of them designated by name. On the first day of the tenth month they sat down to examine the matter; 17 and by the first day of the first month they had come to the end of all the men who had married foreign women.
Those Guilty of Intermarriage18 Now there were found some of the sons of the priests who had married foreign women: Maaseiah, Eliezer, Jarib, and Gedaliah, some of the sons of Jeshua the son of Jozadak and his brothers. 19 They pledged themselves to put away their wives, and their guilt offering was a ram of the flock for their guilt. 20 Of the sons of Immer: Hanani and Zebadiah. 21 Of the sons of Harim: Maaseiah, Elijah, Shemaiah, Jehiel, and Uzziah. 22 Of the sons of Pashhur: Elioenai, Maaseiah, Ishmael, Nethanel, Jozabad, and Elasah.
23 Of the Levites: Jozabad, Shimei, Kelaiah (that is, Kelita), Pethahiah, Judah, and Eliezer. 24 Of the singers: Eliashib. Of the gatekeepers: Shallum, Telem, and Uri.
25 And of Israel: of the sons of Parosh: Ramiah, Izziah, Malchijah, Mijamin, Eleazar, Hashabiah, and Benaiah. 26 Of the sons of Elam: Mattaniah, Zechariah, Jehiel, Abdi, Jeremoth, and Elijah. 27 Of the sons of Zattu: Elioenai, Eliashib, Mattaniah, Jeremoth, Zabad, and Aziza. 28 Of the sons of Bebai were Jehohanan, Hananiah, Zabbai, and Athlai. 29 Of the sons of Bani were Meshullam, Malluch, Adaiah, Jashub, Sheal, and Jeremoth. 30 Of the sons of Pahath-moab: Adna, Chelal, Benaiah, Maaseiah, Mattaniah, Bezalel, Binnui, and Manasseh. 31 Of the sons of Harim: Eliezer, Isshijah, Malchijah, Shemaiah, Shimeon, 32 Benjamin, Malluch, and Shemariah. 33 Of the sons of Hashum: Mattenai, Mattattah, Zabad, Eliphelet, Jeremai, Manasseh, and Shimei. 34 Of the sons of Bani: Maadai, Amram, Uel, 35 Benaiah, Bedeiah, Cheluhi, 36 Vaniah, Meremoth, Eliashib, 37 Mattaniah, Mattenai, Jaasu. 38 Of the sons of Binnui: Shimei, 39 Shelemiah, Nathan, Adaiah, 40 Machnadebai, Shashai, Sharai, 41 Azarel, Shelemiah, Shemariah, 42 Shallum, Amariah, and Joseph. 43 Of the sons of Nebo: Jeiel, Mattithiah, Zabad, Zebina, Jaddai, Joel, and Benaiah. 44 All these had married foreign women, and some of the women had even borne children.
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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:
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).
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.”
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).
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.
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.
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.
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:
- Hidden Treasures in the Book of Job: How the Oldest Book in the Bible Answers Today's Scientific Questions (Reasons to Believe)
- Beyond the Cosmos: The Extra-Dimensionality of God: What Recent Discoveries in Astronomy and Physics Reveal about the Nature of God
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:
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. O Jesus, full of truth and grace,—
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:
More full of grace than I of sin...
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
O Jesus, full of truth and grace,—
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.
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 53There 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.
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
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.
The Continual Burnt Offering (Malachi 3:10)
By H.A. Ironside - 1941
May 23Malachi 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!”
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. ESV
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
The Institutes of the Christian Religion
Translated by Henry Beveridge
THE ANCIENT FORM OF GOVERNMENT UTTERLY CORRUPTED BY THE TYRANNY OF THE PAPACY.
This chapter consists of two parts,--I. Who are called to the ministry under the Papacy, their character, and the ground of their appointment, sec. l-7. II. How far they fulfil their office, sec. 8-19.
1. Who and what kind of persons are uniformly appointed bishops in the Papacy. 1. No inquiry into doctrine. 2. In regard to character, the unlearned and dissolute, boys, or men of wicked lives, chosen.
2. The right of the people taken away, though maintained by Leo, Cyprian, and Councils. It follows that there is no Canonical election in the Papacy. Two objections answered. Papal elections, what. Kind of persons elected.
3. A fuller explanation of the answer to the second objection, unfolding the errors of people, bishops, and princes.
4. No election of presbyters and deacons in the Papacy. 1. Because they are ordained for a different end. 2. Contrary to the command of Scripture and the Council of Chalcedon, no station is assigned them. 3. Both the name and thing adulterated by a thousand frauds.
5. Refutation of those corruptions. Proper end of ordination. Of trial, and other necessary things. For these, wicked and sanguinary men have substituted vain show and deplorable blindness.
6. Second corruption relating to the assignation of benefices which they call collation. Manifold abuses here exposed. Why the offices of priests are in the Papacy called benefices.
7. One individual appointed over five or six churches. This most shameful corruption severely condemned by many Councils.
8. Second part of the chapter--viz. how the office is discharged. Monks who have no place among Presbyters. Objection answered.
9. Presbyters divided into beneficiaries and mercenaries. The beneficiaries are bishops, parsons, canons, chaplains, abbots, priors. The mercenaries condemned by the word of God.
10. The name of beneficiaries given to idle priests who perform no office in the church. Objection answered. What kind of persons the canons should be. Another objection answered. The beneficiaries not true presbyters.
11. The bishops and rectors of parishes, by deserting their churches, glory only in an empty name.
12. The seeds of this evil in the age of Gregory, who inveighs against mercenaries. More sharply rebuked by Bernard.
13. The supreme Popish administration described. Ridiculous allegation of those so-called ministers of the Church. Answer.
14. Their shameful morals. Scarcely one who would not have been excommunicated or deposed by the ancient canons.
15. No true diaconate existing in the Papacy, though they have still the shadow of it. Corruption of the practice of the primitive Church in regard to deacons.
16. Ecclesiastical property, which was formerly administered by true deacons, plundered by bishops and canons, in defraud of the poor.
17. Blasphemous defence of these robbers. Answer. Kings doing homage to Christ. Theodosius. A saying of Ambrose.
18. Another defence with regard to the adorning of churches. Answer.
19. Concluding answer, showing that the diaconate is completely subverted by the Papacy.
1. It may now be proper to bring under the eye of the reader the order of church government observed by the Roman See and all its satellites, and the whole of that hierarchy, which they have perpetually in their mouths, and compare it with the description we have given of the primitive and early Church, that the contrast may make it manifest what kind of church those have who plume themselves on the very title, as sufficient to outweigh, or rather overwhelm us. It will be best to begin with the call, that we may see who are called to the ministry, with what character, and on what grounds. Thereafter we will consider how far they faithfully fulfil their office. We shall give the first place to the bishops; would that they could claim the honour of holding the first rank in this disscussion! But the subject does not allow me even to touch it lightly, without exposing their disgrace. Still, let me remember in what kind of writing I am engaged, and not allow my discourse, which ought to be framed for simple teaching, to wander beyond its proper limits. But let any of them, who have not laid aside all modesty, tell me what kind of bishops are uniformly elected in the present day. Any examination of doctrine is too old fashioned, but if any respect is had to doctrine, they make choice of some lawyer who knows better how to plead in the forum than to preach in the church. This much is certain, that for a hundred years, scarcely one in a hundred has been elected who had any acquaintance with sacred doctrine. I do not spare former ages because they were much better, but because the question now relates only to the present Church. If morals be inquired into, we shall find few or almost none whom the ancient canons would not have judged unworthy. If one was not a drunkard, he was a fornicator; if one was free from this vice, he was either a gambler or sportsman, or a loose liver in some respect. For there are lighter faults which, according to the ancient canons, exclude from the episcopal office. But the most absurd thing of all is, that even boys scarcely ten years of age are, by the permission of the Pope, made bishops. Such is the effrontery and stupidity to which they have arrived, that they have no dread even of that last and monstrous iniquity, which is altogether abhorrent even from natural feeling. Hence it appears what kind of elections these must have been, when such supine negligence existed.
2. Then in election, the whole right has been taken from the people. Vows, assents, subscriptions, and all things of this sort, have disappeared; the whole power has been given to the canons alone. First, they confer the episcopal office on whomsoever they please; by-and-by they bring him forth into the view of the people, but it is to be adored, not examined. But Leo protests that no reason permits this, and declares it to be a violent imposition (Leo, Ep. 90, cap. 2). Cyprian, after declaring it to be of divine authority, that election should not take place without the consent of the people, shows that a different procedure is at variance with the word of God. Numerous decrees of councils most strictly forbid it to be otherwise done, and if done, order it to be null. If this is true, there is not throughout the whole Papacy in the present day any canonical election in accordance either with divine or ecclesiastical law. Now, were there no other evil in this, what excuse can they give for having robbed the Church of her right? But the corruption of the times required (they say), that since hatred and party-spirit prevailed with the people and magistrates in the election of bishops more than right and sound judgment, the determination should be confined to a few. Allow that this was the last remedy in desperate circumstances. When the cure was seen to be more hurtful than the disease, why was not a remedy provided for this new evil? But it is said that the course which the Canons must follow is strictly prescribed. But can we doubt, that even in old times the people, on meeting to elect a bishop, were aware that they were bound by the most sacred laws, when they saw a rule prescribed by the word of God? That one sentence in which God describes the true character of a bishop ought justly to be of more weight than ten thousand canons. Nevertheless, carried away by the worst of feelings, they had no regard to law or equity. So in the present day, though most excellent laws have been made, they remain buried in writing. Meanwhile, the general and approved practice is (and it is carried on as it were systematically), that drunkards, fornicators, gamblers, are everywhere promoted to this honour; nay, this is little: bishoprics are the rewards of adulterers and panders: for when they are given to hunters and hawkers, things may be considered at the best. To excuse such unworthy procedure in any way, were to be wicked over much. The people had a most excellent canon prescribed to them by the word of God--viz. that a bishop must be blameless, apt to teach, not a brawler, &c. (1 Tim. 3:2). Why, then, was the province of electing transferred from the people to these men? Just because among the tumults and factions of the people the word of God was not heard. And, on the other hand, why is it not in the present day transferred from these men, who not only violate all laws, but having cast off shame, libidinously, avariciously, and ambitiously, mix and confound things human and divine?
3. But it is not true to say that the thing was devised as a remedy. We read, that in old times tumults often arose in cities at the election of bishops; yet no one ever ventured to think of depriving the citizens of their right: for they had other methods by which they could either prevent the fault, or correct it when committed. I will state the matter as it truly is. When the people began to be negligent in making their choice, and left the business, as less suited to them, to the presbyters, these abused the opportunity to usurp a domination, which they afterwards established by putting forth new canons. Ordination is now nothing else than a mere mockery. For the kind of examination of which they make a display is so empty and trifling, that it even entirely wants the semblance. Therefore. when sovereigns, by paction with the Roman Pontiffs, obtained for themselves the right of nominating bishops, the Church sustained no new injury, because the canons were merely deprived of an election which they had seized without any right, or acquired by stealth. Nothing, indeed, can be more disgraceful, than that bishops should be sent from courts to take possession of churches, and pious princes would do well to desist from such corruption. For there is an impious spoliation of the Church whenever any people have a bishop intruded whom they have not asked, or at least freely approved. But that disorderly practice, which long existed in churches, gave occasion to sovereigns to assume to themselves the presentation of bishops. They wished the benefice to belong to themselves, rather than to those who had no better right to it, and who equally abused it.
4. Such is the famous call, on account of which bishops boast that they are the successors of the apostles. They say, moreover, that they alone can competently appoint presbyters. But herein they most shamefully corrupt the ancient institution, that they by their ordination appoint not presbyters to guide and feed the people, but priests to sacrifice. In like manner, when they consecrate deacons, they pay no regard to their true and proper office, but only ordain to certain ceremonies concerning the cup and patent. But in the Council of Chalcedon it was, on the contrary, decreed that there should be no absolute ordinations, that is, ordinations without assigning to the ordained a place where they were to exercise their office. This decree is most useful for two reasons--first, That churches may not be burdened with superfluous expense, nor idle men receive what ought to be distributed to the poor; and, secondly, That those who are ordained may consider that they are not promoted merely to an honorary office, but intrusted with a duty which they are solemnly bound to discharge. But the Roman authorities (who think that nothing is to be cared for in religion but their belly) consider the first title to be a revenue adequate to their support, whether it be from their own patrimony or from the priesthood. Accordingly, when they ordain presbyters or deacons, without any anxiety as to where they ought to minister, they confer the order, provided those ordained are sufficiently rich to support themselves. But what man can admit that the title which the decree of the council requires is an annual revenue for sustenance? Again, when more recent canons made bishops liable in the support of those whom they had ordained without a fit title, that they might thus repress too great facility, a method was devised of eluding the penalty. For he who is ordained promises that whatever be the title named he will be contented with it. In this way he is precluded from an action for aliment. I say nothing of the thousand frauds which are here committed, as when some falsely claim the empty titles of benefices, from which they cannot obtain a sixpence of revenue, and others by secret stipulation obtain a temporary appointment, which they promise that they will immediately restore, but sometimes do not. There are still more mysteries of the same kind.
5. But although these grosser abuses were removed, is it not at all times absurd to appoint a presbyter without assigning him a locality? For when they ordain it is only to sacrifice. But the legitimate ordination of a presbyter is to the government of the Church, while deacons are called to the charge of alms. It is true, many pompous ceremonies are used to disguise the act, that mere show may excite veneration in the simple; but what effect can these semblances have upon men of sound minds, when beneath them there is nothing solid or true? They used ceremonies either borrowed from Judaism or devised by themselves; from these it were better if they would abstain. Of the trial (for it is unnecessary to say anything of the shadow which they retain), of the consent of the people, of other necessary things, there is no mention. By shadow, I mean those ridiculous gesticulations framed in inept and frigid imitation of antiquity. The bishops have their vicars, who, previous to ordination, inquire into doctrine. But what is the inquiry? Is it whether they are able to read their Missals, or whether they can decline some common noun which occurs in the lesson, or conjugate a verb, or give the meaning of some one word? For it is not necessary to give the sense of a single sentence. And yet even those who are deficient in these puerile elements are not repelled, provided they bring the recommendation of money or influence. Of the same nature is the question which is thrice put in an unintelligible voice, when the persons who are to be ordained are brought to the altar--viz. Are they worthy of the honour? One (who never saw them, but has his part in the play, that no form may be wanting) answers, They are worthy.  What can you accuse in these venerable fathers save that, by indulging in such sacrilegious sport, they shamelessly laugh at God and man? But as they have long been in possession of the thing, they think they have now a legal title to it. For any one who ventures to open his lips against these palpable and flagrant iniquities is hurried off to a capital trial, like one who had in old time divulged the mysteries of Ceres. Would they act thus if they had any belief in a God?
Christian Classics Ethereal Library / Public Domain
Institutes of the Christian Religion
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
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).
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Dr. Burk Parsons (@BurkParsons) is editor of Tabletalk magazine, senior pastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., a visiting lecturer at Reformed Theological Seminary, and a Ligonier Ministries teaching fellow. He is editor of John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, and Doxology.
Ligonier coram Deo (definition)
by Bill Federer
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.' "
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 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
Thomas A Kempis
Book Four - An Invitation To Holy Communion
The Fifteenth Chapter / The Grace Of Devotion Is Acquired Through Humility And Self-Denial
THE VOICE OF CHRIST
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
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.
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)
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
HOLY SPIRIT, FAITHFUL GUIDE
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
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
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