Nehemiah 7:1 Now when the wall had been built and I had set up the doors, and the gatekeepers, the singers, and the Levites had been appointed, 2 I gave my brother Hanani and Hananiah the governor of the castle charge over Jerusalem, for he was a more faithful and God-fearing man than many. 3 And I said to them, “Let not the gates of Jerusalem be opened until the sun is hot. And while they are still standing guard, let them shut and bar the doors. Appoint guards from among the inhabitants of Jerusalem, some at their guard posts and some in front of their own homes.” 4 The city was wide and large, but the people within it were few, and no houses had been rebuilt.
Lists of Returned Exiles5 Then my God put it into my heart to assemble the nobles and the officials and the people to be enrolled by genealogy. And I found the book of the genealogy of those who came up at the first, and I found written in it:
6 These were the people of the province who came up out of the captivity of those exiles whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried into exile. They returned to Jerusalem and Judah, each to his town. 7 They came with Zerubbabel, Jeshua, Nehemiah, Azariah, Raamiah, Nahamani, Mordecai, Bilshan, Mispereth, Bigvai, Nehum, Baanah.
The number of the men of the people of Israel: 8 the sons of Parosh, 2,172. 9 The sons of Shephatiah, 372. 10 The sons of Arah, 652. 11 The sons of Pahath-moab, namely the sons of Jeshua and Joab, 2,818. 12 The sons of Elam, 1,254. 13 The sons of Zattu, 845. 14 The sons of Zaccai, 760. 15 The sons of Binnui, 648. 16 The sons of Bebai, 628. 17 The sons of Azgad, 2,322. 18 The sons of Adonikam, 667. 19 The sons of Bigvai, 2,067. 20 The sons of Adin, 655. 21 The sons of Ater, namely of Hezekiah, 98. 22 The sons of Hashum, 328. 23 The sons of Bezai, 324. 24 The sons of Hariph, 112. 25 The sons of Gibeon, 95. 26 The men of Bethlehem and Netophah, 188. 27 The men of Anathoth, 128. 28 The men of Beth-azmaveth, 42. 29 The men of Kiriath-jearim, Chephirah, and Beeroth, 743. 30 The men of Ramah and Geba, 621. 31 The men of Michmas, 122. 32 The men of Bethel and Ai, 123. 33 The men of the other Nebo, 52. 34 The sons of the other Elam, 1,254. 35 The sons of Harim, 320. 36 The sons of Jericho, 345. 37 The sons of Lod, Hadid, and Ono, 721. 38 The sons of Senaah, 3,930.
39 The priests: the sons of Jedaiah, namely the house of Jeshua, 973. 40 The sons of Immer, 1,052. 41 The sons of Pashhur, 1,247. 42 The sons of Harim, 1,017.
43 The Levites: the sons of Jeshua, namely of Kadmiel of the sons of Hodevah, 74. 44 The singers: the sons of Asaph, 148. 45 The gatekeepers: the sons of Shallum, the sons of Ater, the sons of Talmon, the sons of Akkub, the sons of Hatita, the sons of Shobai, 138.
46 The temple servants: the sons of Ziha, the sons of Hasupha, the sons of Tabbaoth, 47 the sons of Keros, the sons of Sia, the sons of Padon, 48 the sons of Lebana, the sons of Hagaba, the sons of Shalmai, 49 the sons of Hanan, the sons of Giddel, the sons of Gahar, 50 the sons of Reaiah, the sons of Rezin, the sons of Nekoda, 51 the sons of Gazzam, the sons of Uzza, the sons of Paseah, 52 the sons of Besai, the sons of Meunim, the sons of Nephushesim, 53 the sons of Bakbuk, the sons of Hakupha, the sons of Harhur, 54 the sons of Bazlith, the sons of Mehida, the sons of Harsha, 55 the sons of Barkos, the sons of Sisera, the sons of Temah, 56 the sons of Neziah, the sons of Hatipha.
57 The sons of Solomon’s servants: the sons of Sotai, the sons of Sophereth, the sons of Perida, 58 the sons of Jaala, the sons of Darkon, the sons of Giddel, 59 the sons of Shephatiah, the sons of Hattil, the sons of Pochereth-hazzebaim, the sons of Amon.
60 All the temple servants and the sons of Solomon’s servants were 392.
61 The following were those who came up from Tel-melah, Tel-harsha, Cherub, Addon, and Immer, but they could not prove their fathers’ houses nor their descent, whether they belonged to Israel: 62 the sons of Delaiah, the sons of Tobiah, the sons of Nekoda, 642. 63 Also, of the priests: the sons of Hobaiah, the sons of Hakkoz, the sons of Barzillai (who had taken a wife of the daughters of Barzillai the Gileadite and was called by their name). 64 These sought their registration among those enrolled in the genealogies, but it was not found there, so they were excluded from the priesthood as unclean. 65 The governor told them that they were not to partake of the most holy food until a priest with Urim and Thummim should arise.
Totals of People and Gifts66 The whole assembly together was 42,360, 67 besides their male and female servants, of whom there were 7,337. And they had 245 singers, male and female. 68 Their horses were 736, their mules 245, 69 their camels 435, and their donkeys 6,720.
70 Now some of the heads of fathers’ houses gave to the work. The governor gave to the treasury 1,000 darics of gold, 50 basins, 30 priests’ garments and 500 minas of silver. 71 And some of the heads of fathers’ houses gave into the treasury of the work 20,000 darics of gold and 2,200 minas of silver. 72 And what the rest of the people gave was 20,000 darics of gold, 2,000 minas of silver, and 67 priests’ garments.
73 So the priests, the Levites, the gatekeepers, the singers, some of the people, the temple servants, and all Israel, lived in their towns.
And when the seventh month had come, the people of Israel were in their towns.
ESV Study Bible
What I'm Reading
“The Gospels Have Been Altered”
By J. Warner Wallace 12/9/2016
In our Rapid Response series, we tackle common concerns about (and objections to) the Christian worldview by providing short, conversational responses. These posts are designed to model what our answers might look like in a one-on-one setting, while talking to a friend or family member. Imagine if someone made the following claim: “I can’t believe what the Gospels say because they were altered over the years.” How would you respond to such an objection? Here is a conversational example of how I recently replied:
“I understand the objection, because that was one of my first doubts as a skeptic. I held two suspicions as a committed atheist (I didn’t examine the Gospels until I was in my thirties). First, I didn’t think the Gospels were written early in history, because they contained so many miraculous stories. I was a committed philosophical naturalist and I rejected miracles. So, I figured the Gospels must have been written late in history, after all the people who knew the truth about Jesus were already dead and gone. Secondly, even if the Gospels were written early, I suspected the supernatural elements were inserted later. I believed the earliest versions of the Gospel accounts were probably much less supernatural. Maybe, in the first versions of the story, Jesus was a simple guy who was a good teacher, but not a miracle worker. He didn’t walk on water and didn’t rise from the dead; all those elements, in my opinion, were inserted later.
But there’s a process we employ in criminal investigations that we can use here to investigate the possibility of tampering in the Gospels. In my criminal cases, we must demonstrate to the jury that the evidence we’re presenting at trial wasn’t altered after we collected it from the crime scene. We must assemble what is known as the ‘Chain of Custody.’ Let me give you an example. Let’s say we present a bullet casing to the jury during a homicide trial and highlight the existence of an extractor pin mark on the casing. We tell the jury this pin mark identifies the casing as having come from the defendant’s handgun. But how can the jury be sure the pin mark was on the casing when officers originally recovered it at the crime scene? Isn’t it possible that an unsavory officer altered the casing after the fact by secretly etching the mark on the casing to fool the jury? The ‘Chain of Custody’ will help us determine if the casing was altered.
We begin by asking a few simple questions: Did someone take a photograph of (or write a detailed report describing) the casing at the crime scene? Who collected it? To whom did the officer give the casing? Who was the next officer (or criminalist) in the ‘Chain of Custody’? Who booked it into the Property Room? Who handled it while it was there? Who collected the casing from the Property Room and delivered it to the Crime Lab? Who picked it up from the Crime Lab and brought it to the courtroom? Did these involved parties document the existence of the pin mark along the way? If we have repeated images or reports describing the casing, we’ll be able to determine if it was altered over time.
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.
Why History Matters To The Christian Faith
By Jonathan Morrow
Did the events recorded in the pages of Scripture really happen in history? And does it matter? The short answer is…Yes and Yes! BTW the longer answer is still yes and yes…but this is a blog, not a book
3 Reasons Why History Matters To Faith | (1) Biblical faith is not blind faith. Reason and evidence play an important role in the life of faith. God created us as rational beings with the capacity to weigh evidence and draw conclusions about what we are experiencing. We are called to give reasons for faith (cf. 1 Peter 3:15-16).
I for one am so encouraged that when John the Baptist struggled with doubt and sent his disciples to Jesus to inquire if he truly was the long awaited Messiah that Jesus didn’t respond with an austere warning to just have more faith.
No, Jesus reminded John to pay attention to what he had heard and what he had seen–that will give you confidence of my true identity (cf. Matthew 11:2-5). Mere belief for the sake of belief is not true Christianity.
(2) The Central claim of Christianity is that Jesus of Nazareth rose bodily from the dead. If you asked the Apostle Paul, he would agree that faith and history go together. If Jesus “has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins” (1 Cor. 15:17). As Nancy Pearcey observes:
“Biblical Christianity refuses to separate historical fact from spiritual meaning. Its core claim is that the living God has acted in history, especially in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.”
(3) Jesus of Nazareth believed the events recorded in the Hebrew Scriptures (a.k.a the Old Testament) actually happened. If Jesus really rose from the dead (and there is powerful historical evidence that he did) then what did he think about the Old Testament?
Did he think Moses, David, and Noah were real? Yes (cf. Mark 12:26), yes (cf. Matthew 12:3) and yes (Matthew 24:37). Paul, who had seen the risen Jesus, even cites examples from the days of Moses to teach us, “Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction” (1 Cor. 10:11).
So, yes these things happened. And yes it matters to our faith.
If God has spoken and acted in the past–and this has been reliably preserved for us – then we can trust that he will act in the future as well.
Jonathan Morrow: I am the author of several books including Welcome to College: A Christ-Follower's Guide for the Journey and Questioning the Bible: 11 Major Challenges to the Bible's Authority .
I’ve also contributed articles to the bestselling Apologetics Study Bible for Students and A New Kind of Apologist.
My passion is helping a new generation of Christ-follower’s understand what they believe, why they believe it, and why it matters.
The true heartbreak of reading the Bible
By Rebecca McLaughlin 1/1/2018
Have you ever had your heart broken? I have. I could tell you what happened. But instead I’m going to tell you what didn’t happen. No one called an ambulance. No one checked my blood pressure. No one attempted CPR.
Is it true that my heart was broken, when my blood was still pumping? Is the pain of a broken heart with no medical implications any less than the pain of a cardiac arrest? If you’ve ever been brokenhearted, you’ll know the answers. You’ll also know that true and literal are not interchangeable concepts.
Our lives are littered with metaphors. We bust our gut working. We love with our whole hearts. We literally die of embarrassment. Recent research in communication studies has verified what poets have known for millennia: we humans find metaphors more memorable, more persuasive and more moving than literal statements. Our brains and our hearts are wired for word-pictures that liken one thing or experience to another. They ignite our imagination and help us feel close to the writer or speaker, drawn together by the shared experience that makes the metaphor work. Like a private joke or a common language, metaphors build relationship. It’s why lovers write poetry.
Somehow, we forget this when it comes to the Bible. In a 2014 Gallup survey, pastors were asked which of the following statements most accurately reflected their view of the Bible.
“The Bible is the actual word of God as is to be taken literally, word for word” (28%)
“The Bible is the inspired word of God, but not everything in it should be taken literally” (47%)
“The Bible is an ancient book of fables, legends, history and moral precepts recorded by man.” (21%)
In fact, there are multiple episodes in the gospels when people misunderstand Jesus because they take him literally. In John’s gospel, Jesus breaks race and gender barriers to ask a Samaritan woman for a drink and then tells her that he can give her living water. She takes him literally and misses his point. Next, the Jewish leader Nicodemus comes to Jesus at night, and Jesus says he must be born again. “How can I do that?” asks Nicodemus, "Can I get back into my mother’s womb at my age?” Then Jesus invades the temple, clears the money changers out, and challenges his shocked audience, “Destroy this temple and I will raise it up again in three days!” "It’s taken 47 years to build this temple,” they respond, “How can you raise it up again in three days?” But Jesus was talking about his body - the true temple, where God met with his people and the real sacrifice was made.
So does this mean the Bible is not intended to be taken literally? Not at all. As with any conversation, some parts are intended literally and others are not. Usually, it isn’t too hard to tell. For example, the New Testament writers take great trouble to emphasize that Jesus was literally raised from the dead - bones, flesh, and wounds. Attending to the powerful metaphors that circulate throughout the scriptures doesn’t for a moment reduce the radical claims that the Bible makes: claims of miracles, everlasting truth, and life-and-death decisions we must make.
But there are times when texts are ambiguous and people who take the Bible seriously disagree: Is this statement literal or metaphorical? Is that story history, or parable? As with any conversation, we must attend to context and nuance, and sometimes we won’t get it right. But there is also an important sense in which Biblical metaphors are not like ours. Click here to go to source
Rebecca serves as Vice President of Content, managing presenter relationships and content development for all Veritas initiatives. Rebecca was born and educated in the U.K. She holds undergraduate and doctorate degrees in English Literature from Cambridge University and a first class degree in theology from Oak Hill Theological College in London. Rebecca is a public speaking enthusiast. She has addressed audiences ranging from professors to prisoners, with material ranging from stand-up comedy to ethical debate. She also coaches professors and other experts in their content development and public speaking skills. Rebecca's passion in life is helping people rediscover the Christian faith as an intellectual movement. She is married to Bryan, a native of Oklahoma, whom she met in Cambridge, UK. They now live in Cambridge, MA, with their daughters, Miranda and Eliza.
Genetic Code Complexity Just Tripled
A codon is a triplet of three nucleotides in DNA. Genes are read in these triplet codons, each one standing for an amino acid or a “punctuation” mark as the gene gets translated (61 of the 64 possible triplets actually code for amino acids; the others work as “start” and “stop” codons). This much we’ve known since the 1960s. Now, however, two scientists from the University of Utah want to complicate matters further.
An article at Phys.org explains:
The so-called central dogma of molecular biology states the process for turning genetic information into proteins that cells can use. “DNA makes RNA,” the dogma says, “and RNA makes protein.” Each protein is made of a series of amino acids, and each amino acid is coded for by sets of “triplets,” which are sets of three informational DNA units, in the genetic code.
University of Utah biologists now suggest that connecting amino acids to make proteins in ribosomes, the cell’s protein factories, may in fact be influenced by sets of three triplets – a “triplet of triplets” that provide crucial context for the ribosome.
I do not like it when I don't know who wrote the article.
I thought this was a really interesting article and at the end of it my take away is For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. (1 Co 13:12)
Atheism is the Burger King of Worldviews
By Roger Browning 12/7/2016
I once read an article about a 1,000-pound man who died in such a way that the walls of his house had to be knocked out and his body removed with a forklift. The obesity isn’t what struck me. Nor was it what was found in his bedroom—fast-food. The room was riddled with McDonald’s and Burger King wrappers among other things like bags of chips and snack food. No. All those things seemed, at least in my mind, to be obvious contributors to the severe obesity. What surprised me was the cause of death—malnutrition.
I remember thinking, how is this man malnourished? Certainly, he had all the nourishment he needed; it must be all the other garbage surrounding the nourishment behind the untimely demise. Alas, that just wasn’t the case. As it turns out, just because something provides energy, fills the belly, and gives the illusion of provision, none of those must be true simply because it comes packaged in a box labeled ‘food’.
Burger King has done well to combat the processed meat age of the late 1970’s/1980’s. In fact, their market takeover of the fast-food industry was in no small part due to the appeal to “Have it your way” advertising which, “aimed to contrast Burger King’s flexibility with McDonald’s famous rigidity.”[i] What’s interesting about this strategy, nothing became ‘heathier’ only more smoke and mirrors; pay no attention to the nutrition, have it your way.
This thought came screaming to me, front of mind, as I read this snippet on atheist.org: | “However, if schools allow Bibles or any other religious literature to be distributed, they are required to allow the distribution of all religious or outside materials, including atheist literature.”
I can’t even count the number of times I’ve debated and reasoned with atheists who adamantly and passionately insists that atheism in not a religion. It’s not a religion, unless, of course, it appears to have benefits. The more and more I looked at atheism the more and more I see a handful of options made to order.
“Today I’ll have my morality include…stealing is wrong with a side of a problem of evil.”
It’s inconsistent. On the surface, these look and feel like solid arguments, worthy of building a worldview upon. But they are filled with contradiction. Tell me, atheist, when you chose that stealing should be immoral for you, did you also choose for me or, am I free to steal from you? I promise to do it under the cover of darkness so as to not be caught. Is that wrong? By what standard? Tell me, atheist, how is evil a problem if morality is subjective?
“Today I’d like I didn’t choose to be an atheist and a small cup of there is no evidence for God.”
More inconsistencies! Every argument, every appeal, every aspect of atheism is a superficial argument. It’s covered in a wrapper labeled “worldview” but inside is emptiness, un-thoughtful, meaninglessness. Tell me, atheist, what do you make of the trees and the rocks and the seas? Do you have evidence of them erupting from the depths of nothingness or did you formulate an opinion based on what you know and choose the one you wanted, the one that felt right to you? Tell me, atheist, are you so whimsical that your worldview is mere happenstance? Does your worldview have such control that it chooses you and you have no choice in the matter at all? Tell me, atheist, what evidence to you have for a godless universe? Tell me, again, how you appeal to science—the study of order, repeatability, and structure—to draw the conclusion of evolution—random, non-repeated, mutations. Your worldview is hypocrisy.
Could not find profile on Roger Browning except he writes for A Clear Lens and is willing to engage with people who mostly insult.
William Lane Craig Explains The Resurrection of Jesus In Ireland
By Wintery Knight 3/16/2017
I have a couple of friends in Northern Ireland, and one sent me an alert about this article in The Irish News, authored by the top living defender of Christianity, William Lane Craig.
Most churches don’t do a good job of explaining the vital importance of the resurrection when discussing why anyone should consider Christianity as a worldview. Here is how William Lane Craig sets the stage for his defense of the resurrection:
Most people are happy to agree that God exists; but in our pluralistic society it has become politically incorrect to claim that God has revealed Himself decisively in Jesus.
What justification can Christians offer for thinking that the Christian God is real?
The answer of the New Testament is the resurrection of Jesus. It is God’s vindication of Jesus’ radical personal claims to divine authority.
So how do we know that Jesus is risen from the dead? It is crucial that Christians are able to present objective evidence in support of our beliefs. Otherwise our claims hold no more water than the assertions of anyone else claiming to have a private experience of God.
Fortunately, Christianity, as a religion rooted in history, makes claims that can in important measure be investigated historically.
Suppose, then, that we approach the New Testament writings, not as inspired Scripture, but merely as a collection of Greek documents coming down to us out of the first century, without any assumption as to their reliability other than the way we normally regard other sources of ancient history.
RE: Wintery Knight: For now, I prefer to keep anonymous, although I may add additional details to this page later.
My political views are a mixture of conservative and libertarian. I believe in free market capitalism and liberty, and especially in religious liberty. I favor a strong defense abroad, “peace through strength”, as Reagan would have it.
Theologically, I am a conservative evangelical Protestant Christian. I favor the old-earth (14 billion-year universe) perspective, and I am a firm supporter of intelligent design. Socially, I am pro-life, pro-chastity, pro-abstinence and pro-traditional-marriage.
You can read my story in more detail here.
Londonistan: 423 New Mosques; 500 Closed Churches
By Giulio Meotti 4/2/2017
British multiculturalists are feeding Islamic fundamentalism. Muslims do not need to become the majority in the UK; they just need gradually to Islamize the most important cities. The change is already taking place.
British personalities keep opening the door to introducing Islamic sharia law. One of the leading British judges, Sir James Munby, said that Christianity no longer influences the courts and these must be multicultural, which means more Islamic. Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, and Chief Justice Lord Phillips, also suggested that the English law should "incorporate" elements of sharia law.
British universities are also advancing Islamic law. The academic guidelines, "External speakers in higher education institutions", provide that "orthodox religious groups" may separate men and women during events. At the Queen Mary University of London, women have had to use a separate entrance and were forced to sit in a room without being able to ask questions or raise their hands, just as in Riyadh or Tehran.
Giulio Meotti is an Italian journalist with Il Foglio who writes a twice-weekly column for Arutz Sheva. He is the author of the book "A New Shoah", that researched the personal stories of Israel's terror victims, published by Encounter and of "J'Accuse: the Vatican Against Israel" published by Mantua Books. His writing has appeared in publications, such as the Wall Street Journal, Frontpage and Commentary.
By Don Carson 5/26/2018
When plans were being laid to parcel out the Promised Land to the twelve tribes, Levi was excluded. The Levites were told that God was their inheritance: they would not receive tribal territory, but would be supported by the tithes collected from the rest of the Israelites (Num. 18:20-26). Even so, they needed somewhere to live. So God ordained that each tribe would set aside some towns for the Levites, along with the surrounding pasturelands for their livestock (Num. 35:1-5). Since the Levites were to teach the people the law of God, in addition to their tabernacle duties, these land arrangements had the added advantage of scattering the Levites among the people where they could do the most good. Moreover, their scattered lands were never to pass out of Levitical hands (Lev. 25:32-34).
The other peculiar land arrangement established in this chapter is the designation of six “cities of refuge” (35:6-34). These were to be drawn from the forty -eight towns allotted to the Levites, three on one side of the Jordan, and three on the other. A person who killed another, whether intentionally or accidentally, could flee to one of those cities and be preserved against the wrath of family avengers. At a time when blood feuds were not unknown, this had the effect of cooling the atmosphere until the official justice system could establish the guilt or innocence of the killer. If found guilty on compelling evidence (35:30), the murderer was to be executed. One recalls the principle laid down in Genesis 9:6: those who murder human beings, who are made in the image of God, have done something so vile that the ultimate sanction is mandated. The logic is not one of deterrence, but of values (cf. Num. 35:31-33).
On the other hand, if the killing was accidental and the killer therefore innocent of murder, he cannot simply be discharged and sent home, but must remain in the city of refuge until the death of the high priest (35:25-28). Only at that point could the killer return to his ancestral property and resume a normal life. Waiting for the high priest to die could be a matter of days or of decades. If the time was substantial, it might serve to cool down the avengers from the victim’s family. But no such rationale is provided in the text.
Probably two reasons account for this stipulation that the slayer must remain in the city of refuge until the death of the high priest. (1) His death marked the end of an era, the beginning of another. (2) More importantly, it may be his death symbolized that someone had to die to pay for the death of one of God’s image-bearers. Christians know where that reasoning leads.
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 55Cast Your Burden on the LORD
55 To The Choirmaster: With Stringed Instruments. A Maskil Of David.
9 Destroy, O Lord, divide their tongues;
for I see violence and strife in the city.
10 Day and night they go around it
on its walls,
and iniquity and trouble are within it;
11 ruin is in its midst;
oppression and fraud
do not depart from its marketplace.
12 For it is not an enemy who taunts me—
then I could bear it;
it is not an adversary who deals insolently with me—
then I could hide from him.
13 But it is you, a man, my equal,
my companion, my familiar friend.
14 We used to take sweet counsel together;
within God’s house we walked in the throng.
15 Let death steal over them;
let them go down to Sheol alive;
for evil is in their dwelling place and in their heart.
By Gleason Archer Jr.
31 | Post-exilic Prophets: Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi | Haggai
THE NAME ḥaggay means “festal” derived from ḥag, “festival.” Possibly the prophet received this name because he was born on the Feast of the Passover or some other major feast. The theme of his prophecy is that if God’s people will put first His program, His house, and His worship, then their present poverty and failure will give way to a blessed prosperity commensurate with their covenant faithfulness.
Outline of Haggai
I. First message: neglect of the temple is the cause of economic depression, 1:1–15
II. Second message: though less pretentious, the second temple will be more glorious than the first, 2:1–9
III. Third message: unholiness vitiates sacrifice, selfishness leads to crop failure, 2:10–19
IV. Fourth message: God will finally triumph, 2:20–23
Date and Authorship of Haggai
Of all the books of the Old Testament, this one enjoys the unusual status of being uncontested by all critics of every persuasion. It is acknowledged to be the work of the prophet Haggai himself, and the date it assigns to each message is accepted as reliable. The first message was delivered on the first of Elul (Aug–Sept) in the second year of Darius, or 520 B.C.; the second message came on the twenty-first of Tishri (Sept–Oct) in the same year; the third and fourth messages were both given on the twenty-fourth of Chislev (Dec–Jan) in the same year. All four sermons, then, were delivered within three months of each other.
Historical Background of Haggai
This was a time of severe testing of faith for the remnant that had recently returned from Babylon. The hostile intrigues of Judah’s adversaries during the reign of Cyrus had arrested the rebuilding of the temple fourteen years before. Nothing had been done on the project since that time, even though a new king, Darius, the son of Hystaspes, had ascended the throne in 522. The influential members of the Jewish community were content to leave the expensive undertaking incomplete while they spent their money on building comfortable mansions for themselves. But repeated crop failure had come as a warning to them all that they had sinned in using political opposition as an excuse for neglecting the sanctuary of the Lord. In Ezra 5:1–2, we read: “Now the prophets, Haggai the prophet, and Zechariah the son of Iddo, prophesied unto the Jews that were in Judah and in Jerusalem; in the name of the God of Israel prophesied they unto them” (ASV). Alongside this should be placed Ezra 6:14–15: “And the elders of the Jews builded, and they prospered through the prophesying of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the son of Iddo.… And this house was finished on the third day of the month Adar, which was in the sixth year of the reign of Darius the king” (516 B.C.). As Marcus Dods comments: “No prophet ever appeared at a more critical juncture in the history of a people, and it may be added, no prophet was more successful.”
From the perspective of our own time, it may be questioned whether the issue of completing the temple was as vital as these prophets represented it to be; in the Christian era we are accustomed to having no central sanctuary. But it should be remembered that much of the Mosaic constitution presupposed the carrying on of worship in such a sanctuary, and the failure to complete a suitable house of worship could lead to a paralyzing of the religious life of the Jewish community. It should also be understood that the second temple was to play a very important role in the history of redemption, for it was in this temple (as remodeled and beautified by Herod the Great) that the Lord Jesus Christ was to carry on His Jerusalem ministry. It was, of course, His advent that fulfilled the promise of Hag. 2:9, “The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former.”
The Continual Burnt Offering (Matthew 2:1)
By H.A. Ironside - 1941
May 26Matthew 2:1 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” ESV
It is all-important that we realize that nothing will take the place of personal faith in and subjection to the Lord Jesus Christ. Acquaintance with Scripture that does not control our lives will only add to our condemnation, rather than prove a means of salvation. Herod and the scribes knew what the prophets had predicted concerning the coming of the Messiah, but they had no room for Him in their hearts. On the other hand, His birth meant so much to the wise men that they took a long journey to seek for Him and to pour out their treasures at His feet. His star not only showed the way to Christ, but it was the cause of their deep rejoicing, for they recognized it as the messenger of God leading them to Him whom they received in faith as earth’s rightful King and whom they worshipped with adoring love. To celebrate Christmas while refusing heart-allegiance to the One who was born to reveal the Father and to make atonement for sins is but a sham and a mockery.
To Him this day our prayers arise,
Each soul its tribute pays:
The precious myrrh of sacrifice,
The incense sweet of praise,
The glowing gold of sacred love
That knows no stain of fear,
These gifts we bring to Christ above
To-day and all the year.
The Continual Burnt Offering: Daily Meditations on the Word of God
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
1/1/2010 Uncontrollable Anxiety
In the middle of writing my column this month I deleted what I wrote and have started over because I just received word from one of my closest friends that his wife, pregnant with their long-awaited second child, might be experiencing a miscarriage. My heart is overwhelmed with sorrow not knowing what the future holds for them. As I write, my friend and his wife are on their way to the doctor’s office. Having experienced the miscarriage of our first child years ago, my wife and I can empathize with our friends. Those who have experienced the loss of a child not-yet-born know the fear and anxiety I’m speaking of. Words fail us as we try to express the pain of such loss. As a man, a friend, a pastor, I have few words of wisdom for him as he seeks to comfort his wife and as they both seek comfort from our sovereign Lord.
As believers, we don’t question God’s sovereignty — quite the opposite. We don’t worry because we have forgotten the most basic tenet of theology, namely, that God is God — sovereign. We worry knowing full well He is sovereign, yet in our self-absorbed kingdoms we often forget that it is an eternally gracious sovereignty toward those reconciled to Him through Christ.
As we live before the face of God each day with real reasons for real anxiety, we can rest assured that His sovereignty (not ours)- — His control (not ours) — His faithfulness (not ours) — is our only real hope in this sad world. For that which He creates He sustains, that which He authors He perfects, and that which He begins He completes. And whether we are comfortably numb to our anxieties or fully aware of them, it is neither our acceptance, control, nor rationalization of them that will free us from our self-created, self-controlled, self-contained prisons of anxiety. We will only be free when we become as dependent on God as the birds of the air that our heavenly Father feeds and whose songs lift our eyes heavenward when we hear them sing, “Son of Adam, don’t worry for tomorrow, cast all your cares on Him, for if He cares for me, how much more does He care for you?”
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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
On this day, May 26, 1907, a movie legend was born named Marion Michael Morrison, better known as John Wayne. He played football at USC and held some behind-the-scenes jobs at Fox Studios, before being discovered by director John Ford, who cast "The Duke" in many epic western and war films. Exemplifying courage, respect and patriotism, John Wayne stated in the album America: Why I love her: "If we want to keep these freedoms, we may have to fight again. God forbid, but if we do, let's always fight to win… Face the flag, son… and thank God it's still there."
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
Your mind works very simply:
you are either trying to find out
what are God's laws in order to follow them;
or you are trying to outsmart Him.
--- Martin H. Fischer
Finding God's Will: Seek Him, Know Him, Take the Next Step
Those who believe that they believe in God,
but without passion in their hearts,
without anguish in mind,
without an element of despair even in their consolation,
believe in the God idea,
not God himself.
--- Miguel de Unamuno
Tragic Sense Of Life
For some people, life may be monotonous and meaningless; but it doesn’t have to be. For the Christian believer, life is an open door, not a closed circle; there are daily experiences of new blessings from the Lord. True, we can’t explain everything; but life is not built on explanations: it’s built on promises—and we have plenty of promises in God’s Word!
--- Warren W. Wiersbe
Be Satisfied (Ecclesiastes): Looking for the Answer to the Meaning of Life (The BE Series Commentary)
True religion is a union of the soul with God, a real participation of the divine nature, the very image of God drawn upon the soul; or in the apostle’s phrase, it is Christ formed within us. Briefly, I do not know how the nature of religion can be more fully expressed, than by calling it a divine life. --- Henry Scougal
The Works of the Rev. H. Scougal: Containing the Life of God in the Soul of Man; with Nine Other Discourses On Important Subjects. to Which Is Added a ... at the Author'S Funeral, by George Gairden
... from here, there and everywhere
Thomas A Kempis
Book Four - An Invitation To Holy Communion
The Eighteenth Chapter / Man Should Not Scrutinize This Sacrament In Curiosity, But Humbly Imitate Christ And Submit Reason To Holy Faith
THE VOICE OF CHRIST
BEWARE of curious and vain examination of this most profound Sacrament, if you do not wish to be plunged into the depths of doubt. He who scrutinizes its majesty too closely will be overwhelmed by its glory.
God can do more than man can understand. A pious and humble search for truth He will allow, a search that is ever ready to learn and that seeks to walk in the reasonable doctrine of the fathers.
Blest is the simplicity that leaves the difficult way of dispute and goes forward on the level, firm path of God’s commandments. Many have lost devotion because they wished to search into things beyond them.
Faith is required of you, and a sincere life, not a lofty intellect nor a delving into the mysteries of God. If you neither know nor understand things beneath you, how can you comprehend what is above you? Submit yourself to God and humble reason to faith, and the light of understanding will be given you so far as it is good and necessary for you. Some are gravely tempted concerning faith and the Sacrament but this disturbance is not laid to them but to the enemy.
Be not disturbed, dispute not in your mind, answer not the doubts sent by the devil, but believe the words of God, believe His saints and prophets and the evil enemy will flee from you. It is often very profitable for the servant of God to suffer such things. For Satan does not tempt unbelievers and sinners whom he already holds securely, but in many ways he does tempt and trouble the faithful servant.
Go forward, then, with sincere and unflinching faith, and with humble reverence approach this Sacrament. Whatever you cannot understand commit to the security of the all-powerful God, Who does not deceive you. The man, however, who trusts in himself is deceived. God walks with sincere men, reveals Himself to humble men, enlightens the understanding of pure minds, and hides His grace from the curious and the proud.
Human reason is weak and can be deceived. True faith, however, cannot be deceived. All reason and natural science ought to come after faith, not go before it, nor oppose it. For in this most holy and supremely excellent Sacrament, faith and love take precedence and work in a hidden manner.
God, eternal, incomprehensible, and infinitely powerful, does great and inscrutable things in heaven and on earth, and there is no searching into His marvelous works. If all the works of God were such that human reason could easily grasp them, they would not be called wonderful or beyond the power of words to tell.
The Imitation Of Christ
Thanks to Meir Yona
How Pompey Had The City Of Jerusalem Delivered Up To Him But Took The Temple By Force. How He Went Into The Holy Of Holies; As Also What Were His Other Exploits In Judea.
1. At this treatment Pompey was very angry, and took Aristobulus into custody. And when he was come to the city, he looked about where he might make his attack; for he saw the walls were so firm, that it would be hard to overcome them; and that the valley before the walls was terrible; and that the temple, which was within that valley, was itself encompassed with a very strong wall, insomuch that if the city were taken, that temple would be a second place of refuge for the enemy to retire to.
2. Now as he was long in deliberating about this matter, a sedition arose among the people within the city; Aristobulus's party being willing to fight, and to set their king at liberty, while the party of Hyrcanus were for opening the gates to Pompey; and the dread people were in occasioned these last to be a very numerous party, when they looked upon the excellent order the Roman soldiers were in. So Aristobulus's party was worsted, and retired into the temple, and cut off the communication between the temple and the city, by breaking down the bridge that joined them together, and prepared to make an opposition to the utmost; but as the others had received the Romans into the city, and had delivered up the palace to him, Pompey sent Piso, one of his great officers, into that palace with an army, who distributed a garrison about the city, because he could not persuade any one of those that had fled to the temple to come to terms of accommodation; he then disposed all things that were round about them so as might favor their attacks, as having Hyrcanus's party very ready to afford them both counsel and assistance.
3. But Pompey himself filled up the ditch that was oil the north side of the temple, and the entire valley also, the army itself being obliged to carry the materials for that purpose. And indeed it was a hard thing to fill up that valley, by reason of its immense depth, especially as the Jews used all the means possible to repel them from their superior situation; nor had the Romans succeeded in their endeavors, had not Pompey taken notice of the seventh days, on which the Jews abstain from all sorts of work on a religious account, and raised his bank, but restrained his soldiers from fighting on those days; for the Jews only acted defensively on sabbath days. But as soon as Pompey had filled up the valley, he erected high towers upon the bank, and brought those engines which they had fetched from Tyre near to the wall, and tried to batter it down; and the slingers of stones beat off those that stood above them, and drove them away; but the towers on this side of the city made very great resistance, and were indeed extraordinary both for largeness and magnificence.
4. Now here it was that, upon the many hardships which the Romans underwent, Pompey could not but admire not only at the other instances of the Jews' fortitude, but especially that they did not at all intermit their religious services, even when they were encompassed with darts on all sides; for, as if the city were in full peace, their daily sacrifices and purifications, and every branch of their religious worship, was still performed to God with the utmost exactness. Nor indeed when the temple was actually taken, and they were every day slain about the altar, did they leave off the instances of their Divine worship that were appointed by their law; for it was in the third month of the siege before the Romans could even with great difficulty overthrow one of the towers, and get into the temple. Now he that first of all ventured to get over the wall, was Faustus Cornelius the son of Sylla; and next after him were two centurions, Furius and Fabius; and every one of these was followed by a cohort of his own, who encompassed the Jews on all sides, and slew them, some of them as they were running for shelter to the temple, and others as they, for a while, fought in their own defense.
5. And now did many of the priests, even when they saw their enemies assailing them with swords in their hands, without any disturbance, go on with their Divine worship, and were slain while they were offering their drink-offerings, and burning their incense, as preferring the duties about their worship to God before their own preservation. The greatest part of them were slain by their own countrymen, of the adverse faction, and an innumerable multitude threw themselves down precipices; nay, some there were who were so distracted among the insuperable difficulties they were under, that they set fire to the buildings that were near to the wall, and were burnt together with them. Now of the Jews were slain twelve thousand; but of the Romans very few were slain, but a greater number was wounded.
6. But there was nothing that affected the nation so much, in the calamities they were then under, as that their holy place, which had been hitherto seen by none, should be laid open to strangers; for Pompey, and those that were about him, went into the temple itself 8 whither it was not lawful for any to enter but the high priest, and saw what was reposited therein, the candlestick with its lamps, and the table, and the pouring vessels, and the censers, all made entirely of gold, as also a great quantity of spices heaped together, with two thousand talents of sacred money. Yet did not he touch that money, nor any thing else that was there reposited; but he commanded the ministers about the temple, the very next day after he had taken it, to cleanse it, and to perform their accustomed sacrifices. Moreover, he made Hyrcanus high priest, as one that not only in other respects had showed great alacrity, on his side, during the siege, but as he had been the means of hindering the multitude that was in the country from fighting for Aristobulus, which they were otherwise very ready to have done; by which means he acted the part of a good general, and reconciled the people to him more by benevolence than by terror. Now, among the Captives, Aristobulus's father-in-law was taken, who was also his uncle: so those that were the most guilty he punished with decollatlon; but rewarded Faustus, and those with him that had fought so bravely, with glorious presents, and laid a tribute upon the country, and upon Jerusalem itself.
7. He also took away from the nation all those cities that they had formerly taken, and that belonged to Celesyria, and made them subject to him that was at that time appointed to be the Roman president there; and reduced Judea within its proper bounds. He also rebuilt Gadara, 9 that had been demolished by the Jews, in order to gratify one Demetrius, who was of Gadara, and was one of his own freed-men. He also made other cities free from their dominion, that lay in the midst of the country, such, I mean, as they had not demolished before that time; Hippos, and Scythopolis, as also Pella, and Samaria, and Marissa; and besides these Ashdod, and Jamnia, and Arethusa; and in like manner dealt he with the maritime cities, Gaza, and Joppa, and Dora, and that which was anciently called Strato's Tower, but was afterward rebuilt with the most magnificent edifices, and had its name changed to Cesarea, by king Herod. All which he restored to their own citizens, and put them under the province of Syria; which province, together with Judea, and the countries as far as Egypt and Euphrates, he committed to Scaurus as their governor, and gave him two legions to support him; while he made all the haste he could himself to go through Cilicia, in his way to Rome, having Aristobulus and his children along with him as his captives. They were two daughters and two sons; the one of which sons, Alexander, ran away as he was going; but the younger, Antigonus, with his sisters, were carried to Rome.
by D.H. Stern
24 The discerning person
focuses on wisdom there before him,
but a fool’s eyes
wander to the ends of the earth.
25 A son who is a fool
means anger for his father
and bitterness for the mother
who gave him birth.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
Think as Jesus taught
Pray without ceasing. --- 1 Thess. 5:17.
We think rightly or wrongly about prayer according to the conception we have in our minds of prayer. If we think of prayer as the breath in our lungs and the blood from our hearts, we think rightly. The blood flows ceaselessly, and breathing continues ceaselessly; we are not conscious of it, but it is always going on. We are not always conscious of Jesus keeping us in perfect joint with God, but if we are obeying Him, He always is. Prayer is not an exercise, it is the life. Beware of anything that stops ejaculatory prayer. “Pray without ceasing,” keep the childlike habit of ejaculatory prayer in your heart to God all the time.
Jesus never mentioned unanswered prayer; He had the boundless certainty that prayer is always answered. Have we by the Spirit the unspeakable certainty that Jesus had about prayer, or do we think of the times when God does not seem to have answered prayer? “Every one that asketh receiveth.” We say—‘But …, but …’ God answers prayer in the best way, not sometimes, but every time, although the immediate manifestation of the answer in the domain in which we want it may not always follow. Do we expect God to answer prayer?
The danger with us is that we want to water down the things that Jesus says and make them mean something in accordance with common sense; if it were only common sense, it was not worth while for him to say it. The things Jesus says about prayer are supernatural revelations.
My Utmost for His Highest
the Poetry of RS Thomas
The fall of a great house?
I smile - bitterly?
Anyhow but proudly.
Two people cast up
on life's shore:
can't you see the emptiness
of their pockets,
and their small hearts
ready to burst with
love? Say 'feeling'
and the explosion
They come to
in a lodging, make love
in a rented bed.
And I am not present
Could it be said, then,
I am on my way, a nonentity
with a destination?
What do they do
waiting for me? They invent
My name. I am born
To a concept, answering
To it with reluctance. I am
wheeled through ignorance
to a knowledge that is not
Nothing they have they own;
the borrowed furnishings of their minds
frays. I study to become a rat
that will desert
the foundering vessel
of their pride; but home
is a long time sinking. All
my life I must swim
out of the suction of its vortex.
Selected Poems, 1946-68
the Poetry of RS Thomas
Why must I write so?
I'm Welsh, see:
A real Cymro,
Peat in my veins.
I was born late;
She claimed me,
Brought me up nice,
Only the one loss,
I can't speak my own.
All those good words;
And I outside them,
Picking up alms
From blonde strangers.
I don't like their talk,
Their split vowels;
Names that are ghosts
From a green era.
I want my own
Speech, to be made
Free of its terms.
I want the right word
For the gut's trouble,
When I see this land
With its farms empty
Of folk, and the stone
In wind and rain.
I want the town even,
The open door
Framing a slut,
So she can speak Welsh
And bear children
To accuse the womb
That bore me.
The Bread Of Truth
A young woman, in her senior year of college, wants to apply to law school. But her friends and advisors are telling her she is making a big mistake: "There is a glut of lawyers in America now; we have more lawyers per capita than any other country in the world! The field is just too crowded. You'll never find a decent position. Look for some other line of work. You'll be doing yourself a real favor."
The woman is determined. "I love the idea of becoming a lawyer. I love the logic of it, and the challenge of it. And I believe that through the law, I can really make a difference—either in government and public service, or in representing people who otherwise don't have a voice in our society. And I think I'm bright enough, and motivated enough to make a place for myself. If you are good at what you do, there will always be room for you."
When the Egyptian magicians told Moses that he was bringing straw to Afarayim, they were basically telling him: "There's already too many people here who do what you want to do. There's no more room for you. You won't succeed. Find something else to occupy your time. Here you will just be another small fish in a big pond. Go away!!" But Moses refused to take "No!" for an answer. He was not afraid of the competition, not afraid of being put to the test. He believed in himself and in what he was able to accomplish. His response to "You're bringing straw to Afarayim" (which is similar to the expression "You're carrying coals to Newcastle") was "You bring vegetables to where the vegetables are." Yes, in the produce market, there will be scores of other merchants all selling the same product. Yet, it is the market where people go to when they want to buy their vegetables. We prove ourselves by showing that what we have to offer is just as good as or better than what the next person is selling.
Moses was not afraid to be put to the test. The signs and wonders that he brought to Egypt were more powerful than anything the magicians there could do. His self-confidence and courage were liberating—both for the Israelites and for us, who learn from him not to be scared away by a challenge or competition.
Concerns about danger are more severe than ritual prohibitions.
Text / Come and hear: If a person left a jar uncovered and came back and found it covered, it is impure, for I would say that an impure man entered and covered it up. If a person left it covered and came back and found it uncovered—if a weasel was able to drink out of it (or, according to Rabban Gamliel, a snake) or if dew fell into it over night, it is invalid.
Text / Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi said: "What is the reason? Because it is the way of reptiles to uncover; it is not their way to cover." (You could say that this reason applies when he left it uncovered; but if he found it just as he had left it, it is neither impure, nor invalid.) But if there is any doubt about water that was left uncovered, it is forbidden. We learn from this that concerns about danger are more severe than ritual prohibitions.
Context / The Bible speaks about ritual impurity, which is imparted to a person who has been in contact with the dead. Someone who was ritually impure was unable to participate in the Temple sacrificial service until undergoing ritual purification. In the rite, the ashes of a "Red Heifer" were mixed with water: "Some of the ashes from the fire of cleansing shall be taken for the unclean person, and fresh water shall be added to them in a vessel. A person who is clean shall take hyssop, dip it in the water, and sprinkle on the tent and on all the vessels and people who were there, or on him who touched the bones or the person who was killed or died naturally or the grave. The clean person shall sprinkle it upon the unclean person on the third day and on the seventh day, thus cleansing him by the seventh day." (Numbers 19:17–19)
The Talmud is discussing what happens if there is suspicion that the water to be mixed with the ashes of the Red Heifer for the purification ritual may have been tampered with in some way. In the first case, a jar of the water was left uncovered and open, but it was later found closed, the lid having been put on it. It is clear that an animal could not have done this; it could have been done only by a person. If that person was himself ritually impure, he will have rendered the water ritually impure as well. The water may then not be used in the purification ritual. Since we do not know who did this or their status, we have to assume that it might have been done by someone ritually impure, and therefore we may not use the water.
In the second case, a jar previously left covered is now found with the lid off. If there is a possibility that a weasel or a snake knocked off the lid and drank from the water, or if dew might have fallen into the open jar, we consider the water pasul, invalid for use in the ritual. (Invalid is different from tameh, impure. While invalid is considered ritually impure, it cannot convey ritual impurity to something else, like something tameh can.) In general, animals drinking from a jar would not render the water impure because they suck up the liquid. Weasels are different; they lap the water and therefore their saliva will drip back into the jar. Rabban Gamliel includes snakes because they spew back what they drink. Any other liquid, including dew, that comes into the jar will render the standing water as ritually invalid.
Since in this case there are three possibilities of how the lid came off (a pure person took it off, an impure person took it off, or a reptile knocked it loose) and, in two of these three, the water remains pure, the Rabbis decided to "follow the majority" (two possibilities that it is pure as against one possibility that it is impure) and declared that the water was pure. In the third case, the jar is found exactly as it was left. Consequently, it is neither impure nor invalid.
The Gemara concludes by adding that in a situation where we suspect that the water may have been tampered with or has been poisoned (for example by a venomous insect or animal), the water is considered asur, forbidden, a category much more restrictive than either tameh, impure or pasul, invalid.
Swimming in the Sea of Talmud: Lessons for Everyday Living
Judaism in the Land of Israel
The insistence on distinctiveness, however, did not entail a closed society. Indeed the accessibility of Judaism to the outsider, a striking feature often overlooked, merits attention. A considerable number of non-Jews found Judaism enticing. We can no longer recover the reasons, and they doubtless varied from place to pace, and person to person. Some may have been attracted by its great longevity, by the ethical precepts, by the rigorous adherence to the Law, by the discipline demanded in its practices, by the social bonding of the synagogues, by the celebration of its festivals, or by the reputation not only for Eastern wisdom but for skills in both the practical and the occult sciences. We can only speculate on the motives. But the fact of Gentiles entering into Jewish society in some fashion is incontrovertible. This did not require conversion—nor necessarily an abandonment of previous identity and associations. It might take the form of imitating the Jewish way of life up to a point, like observing the Sabbath, or adopting certain codes of behavior, or taking part in synagogue activities, or providing material support for the Jewish community. The Jews did not turn such people away.
We hear of several non-Jews who held Judaism in high esteem and showed genuine interest in it. The Gospel of Luke mentions a Roman centurion at Capernaum as one who loved Jews and had built them a synagogue. According to Philo, the Roman prefect of Syria had gained familiarity with Jewish philosophy and piety. Josephus indicates in several contexts the attraction of eminent women to Judaism, including even the wife of the emperor Nero. Gentile reverence for Jewish laws and mores appears with some frequency in Josephus’ works.
Indeed, if Josephus is to be believed, pagans everywhere included observers of the Sabbath, people who adopted Jewish dietary practices, or those who attempted to imitate the Jews in their internal concord, their philanthropy, their skill in the crafts, and their adherence to the Law even under duress. Philo makes a similar claim, asserting that almost all people, especially those who place a premium upon virtue, pay homage to Jewish laws. The Jewish authors, to be sure, are hardly unbiased witnesses. But their statements, however exaggerated and embroidered, do not arise out of the void.
Non-Jewish sources supply corroboration. The Roman satirist Juvenal, writing in the early second century C.E., refers in sardonic fashion to the appeal that Jewish practices have in Rome. He alludes to fathers who revere the Sabbath and follow Jewish dietary restrictions. Their sons then go further: they worship a deity of the sky, draw no distinction between consuming swine’s flesh and cannibalism, and even engage in circumcision. A very different text, the Christian book of Revelation, composed about the same time, denounces those who falsely claim to be Jews but are not so. This may refer to Gentiles who have adopted Jewish behavior and institutions—without becoming Jews.
Such persons seem even to have a name. “God-fearers” serves as the conventional designation (even if not technical terminology) for Gentiles seriously drawn to an association with Judaism or the Jewish community. The Acts of the Apostles contain several references to “those who fear God” or “those who revere God,” denoting Gentiles who were closely and sympathetically involved with the Jewish community and who lived in accord with at least some of its precepts. The terminology has a parallel in Josephus, who attributes the wealth of the Temple to contributions both from Jews and from “those who worship God” all over the world. Closely comparable phrases appear in inscriptions of somewhat later periods from a wide variety of regions ranging from Italy to the Black Sea. Gentiles in substantial numbers participated in some fashion (doubtless in diverse fashions) in Jewish synagogues and communities—and they were clearly welcomed.
The Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism
When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread. --- John 21:9.
Christ once more stands among the common things of life—the fire, the fish, the bread; a group of tired, hungry fishers—all common men. (The World's Great RS Thomas, Volume 10 Drummond to Jowett, and General Index ) And he is there to affirm that in his resurrection he had not broken his bond with humankind but strengthened it—wherever common life goes on there is Jesus still.
“Early in the Morning, Jesus stood on the shore.” Jesus speaks, and it is not of the mysteries of God, the secrets of the grave, but of nets and fishing—the simple concerns of simple people engaged in humble tasks.
We have forgotten the dignity of common life. We have not learned even the alphabet of Christ’s Gospel unless we have come to see that the only true indignity in human life is sin, malevolence, and small-heartedness and that all life is dignified where there are love, purity, and piety in it.
We boast that a single human soul is of more value than all the splendors of matter, but our actions treat the boast as mere rhetoric. There is nothing so cheap as men and women—[ask] the lords of commerce. But Christ acted as though the boast were true. He deliberately inwove his life into all that is commonest in life. Where childhood is, there is Bethlehem; where sorrow is, there is Gethsemane; where death is, there is Calvary; where the laborer is, there is the poor man of Nazareth; where the beggar is, there is he who had no place to lay his head. The true dignity of life is this, that Christ is in all people, defaced, half-obliterated, but there, and the church that forgets this has neither impulse nor mandate for Christ’s work among them. The moment Christ is shut up in a church he becomes the priest’s Christ, the thinker’s Christ, the devotee’s Christ, but he ceases to be the people’s Christ.
Lift up your eyes and see this risen Christ, a fisher on the shore, busy preparing a meal for hungry people. Unlock your church doors, let Christ go out among the common people; no, go yourselves, for it is here that he would have you be. Wherever there is toil, there is the Christ who toiled, and there you should be, with the kind glance, the warm hand-grasp, and the warmth of human kinship.
--- William Dawson
Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
A Quiet Life May 26
Some lives crackle with adventure—great answers to prayers, narrow escapes, dramatic conversions, broad travel. But Christians with quieter lives often cast longer shadows. The life of Venerable Bede was so uneventful that little can be said about him. Yet few have left such a record of scholarship and faithfulness.
Bede was born about 672 in north England. At seven, probably orphaned, he went to live at a nearby monastery. The boy took to books, studying Scripture, biography, literature, music, and history. He pored over manuscripts—the church fathers, the Vulgate, the classics. He learned Latin, Greek, and Hebrew. By age 30, he was adding to early literature with books of his own. “I always took delight,” he said, “in learning, teaching, and writing.” He became the greatest scholar of his era, the father of English history and theology. His Ecclesiastical History of the English Nation is meticulously accurate, setting a standard for historians.
Spring of 735 found Bede laboring on his crowning work, translating the Gospel of John into Anglo-Saxon. On May 25, he told his assistant, “Go on quickly, I know not how long I shall hold out, and whether my Maker will not soon take me away.” By early Morning, May 26, 735, only one chapter remained, and Bede said, “Take your pen and write fast.” He told a friend, “I have some little articles of value in my chest—pepper, napkins, and incense: Quickly bring the priests to me that I may distribute among them the gifts God has bestowed on me.” He spoke to each priest, and they wept. “I have lived long,” he said. “I desire to die and be with Christ.”
Bede spent the day joyfully, and near Evening his helper said that only one sentence remained to be translated. “Write quickly,” Bede replied with satisfaction. The work finished, Bede sat on the floor of his small room and began singing, “Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost,” and, finishing the hymn, passed quietly into the presence of the Lord.
If I live, it will be for Christ, and if I die, I will gain even more. I don’t know what to choose. I could keep on living and doing something useful. It is a hard choice to make. I want to die and be with Christ, because that would be much better. But I know that all of you still need me.
--- Philippians 1:21-24.
On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - May 26
“Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee.” --- Psalm 55:22.
Care, even though exercised upon legitimate objects, if carried to excess, has in it the nature of sin. The precept to avoid anxious care is earnestly inculcated by our Saviour, again and again; it is reiterated by the apostles; and it is one which cannot be neglected without involving transgression: for the very essence of anxious care is the imagining that we are wiser than God, and the thrusting ourselves into his place to do for him that which he has undertaken to do for us. We attempt to think of that which we fancy he will forget; we labour to take upon ourselves our weary burden, as if he were unable or unwilling to take it for us. Now this disobedience to his plain precept, this unbelief in his Word, this presumption in intruding upon his province, is all sinful. Yet more than this, anxious care often leads to acts of sin. He who cannot calmly leave his affairs in God’s hand, but will carry his own burden, is very likely to be tempted to use wrong means to help himself. This sin leads to a forsaking of God as our counsellor, and resorting instead to human wisdom. This is going to the “broken cistern” instead of to the “fountain;” a sin which was laid against Israel of old. Anxiety makes us doubt God’s lovingkindness, and thus our love to him grows cold; we feel mistrust, and thus grieve the Spirit of God, so that our prayers become hindered, our consistent example marred, and our life one of self-seeking. Thus want of confidence in God leads us to wander far from him; but if through simple faith in his promise, we cast each burden as it comes upon him, and are “careful for nothing” because he undertakes to care for us, it will keep us close to him, and strengthen us against much temptation. “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee, because he trusteth in thee.”
Evening - May 26
“Continue in the faith.” --- Acts 14:22.
Perseverance is the badge of true saints. The Christian life is not a beginning only in the ways of God, but also a continuance in the same as long as life lasts. It is with a Christian as it was with the great Napoleon: he said, “Conquest has made me what I am, and conquest must maintain me.” So, under God, dear brother in the Lord, conquest has made you what you are, and conquest must sustain you. Your motto must be, “Excelsior.” He only is a true conqueror, and shall be crowned at the last, who continueth till war’s trumpet is blown no more. Perseverance is, therefore, the target of all our spiritual enemies. The world does not object to your being a Christian for a time, if she can but tempt you to cease your pilgrimage, and settle down to buy and sell with her in Vanity Fair. The flesh will seek to ensnare you, and to prevent your pressing on to glory. “It is weary work being a pilgrim; come, give it up. Am I always to be mortified? Am I never to be indulged? Give me at least a furlough from this constant warfare.” Satan will make many a fierce attack on your perseverance; it will be the mark for all his arrows. He will strive to hinder you in service: he will insinuate that you are doing no good; and that you want rest. He will endeavour to make you weary of suffering, he will whisper, “Curse God, and die.” Or he will attack your steadfastness: “What is the good of being so zealous? Be quiet like the rest; sleep as do others, and let your lamp go out as the other virgins do.” Or he will assail your doctrinal sentiments: “Why do you hold to these denominational creeds? Sensible men are getting more liberal; they are removing the old landmarks: fall in with the times.” Wear your shield, Christian, therefore, close upon your armour, and cry mightily unto God, that by his Spirit you may endure to the end.
Morning and Evening
COME, THOU ALMIGHTY KING
Source unknown, c. 1757
Lift up your heads, O you gates; lift them up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is He, this King of glory? The Lord Almighty—He is the King of glory. (Psalm 24:9, 10)
In his book The Knowledge of the Holy: The Attributes of God: Their Meaning in the Christian Life , A. W. Tozer left these choice words regarding the Trinity:
The doctrine of the Trinity … is truth for the heart. The fact that it cannot be satisfactorily explained, instead of being against it, is in its favor. Such a truth had to be revealed; no one could have imagined it.
The doctrine of the Trinity has been controversial since the earliest days of Christianity. In A.D. 325, the Council of Nicaea affirmed its belief in the Triune Godhead. During the 16th century Reformation period, it was again denied by the Socinians. And still today many liberal theologians and groups are blatant in their denial. They often speak of God, the Father of all, Jesus, the mere man, and the divine influence of the Spirit of God. This form of blasphemy relegates each member of the Godhead to a role far less than that ascribed in the Bible.
This familiar Trinity hymn is also one of our most popular “opening hymns” for a Sunday Morning worship service. It appeared anonymously in England in about 1757 to commemorate Trinity Sunday. It has been attributed by some to Charles Wesley since it first appeared in a pamphlet published by John Wesley.
This is a hymn that must always be sung with all four stanzas. To omit any of the first three would be to slight one of the members of the Godhead. The fourth stanza is a grand affirmation of the mysterious doctrine of the Trinity, that God is One yet Three and ever worthy of our love and adoration.
Come, Thou Almighty King, help us Thy name to sing; help us to praise: Father, all glorious, o’er all victorious, come and reign over us, Ancient of Days.
Come, Thou Incarnate Word, gird on Thy mighty sword, our prayer attend: Come and Thy people bless, and give Thy word success—Spirit of holiness, in us descend.
Come, Holy Comforter, Thy sacred witness bear in this glad hour: Thou who almighty art, now rule in ev’ry heart, and ne’er from us depart, Spirit of pow’r.
To the great One in Three eternal praises be, hence evermore: His sov’reign majesty, may we in glory see, and to eternity love and adore.
For Today: Psalm 47; 103:19; John 8:54; 10:31-33; Acts 5:3, 4.
Reflect again on the importance of having a proper perspective regarding the Godhead. What are the dangers of giving less than full and equal recognition of deity to each member of the Trinity? Carry this musical truth with you ---
Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
Martin Luther | (1483-1546)
Sect. XXXVI. NOW let us come to the New Testament. Paul saith, (Rom. i. 2,) that the Gospel was promised “by the Prophets in the Holy Scriptures.” And, (Rom. iii. 21,) that the righteousness of faith was testified “by the law and the Prophets.” But what testimony is that, if it be obscure? Paul, however, throughout all his epistles makes the Gospel, the word of light, the Gospel of clearness; and he professedly and most copiously sets it forth as being so, 2 Cor. iii. and iv.; where he treats most gloriously concerning the clearness both of Moses and of Christ.
Peter also saith, (2 Pet. i. 19,) “And we certainly have more surely the word of prophecy; unto which, ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light shining in a dark place.” Here Peter makes the Word of God a clear lamp, and all other things darkness: whereas, we make obscurity and darkness of the Word.
Christ also often calls Himself, the “light of the world;” (John viii. 12. ix. 5,) and John the Baptist, a “burning and a shining light,” (John v. 35.) Certainly, not on account of the holiness of his life, but on account of the word which he ministered. In the same manner Paul calls the Philippians shining “lights of the world.” (Phil. ii. 15), because (says he,) ye “hold forth the word of life.” (16.) For life without the word is uncertain and obscure.
And what is the design of the apostles in proving their preaching by the Scriptures? Is it that they may obscure their own darkness by still greater darkness? What was the intention of Christ, in teaching the Jews to “search the Scriptures” (John v. 39,) as testifying of Him? Was it that He might render them doubtful concerning faith in Him? What was their intention, who having heard Paul, searched the Scriptures night and day, “to see if these things were so?” (Acts xvii. 11.) Do not all these things prove that the Apostles, as well as Christ Himself, appealed to the Scriptures as the most clear testimonies of the truth of their discourses? With what face then do we make them ‘obscure?’
Are these words of the Scripture, I pray you, obscure or ambiguous: “God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. i. 1). “The Word was made flesh.” (John i. 14,) and all those other words which the whole world receives as articles of faith? Whence then, did they receive them? Was it not from the Scriptures? And what do those who at this day preach? Do they not expound and declare the Scriptures? But if the Scripture which they declare, be obscure, who shall certify us that their declaration is to be depended on? Shall it be certified by another new declaration? But who shall make that declaration? — And so we may go on ad infinitum.
In a word, if the Scripture be obscure or ambiguous, what need was there for its being sent down from heaven? Are we not obscure and ambiguous enough in ourselves, without an increase of it by obscurity, ambiguity, and darkness being sent down unto us from heaven? And if this be the case, what will become of that of the apostle, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction?” (2 Tim. iii. 16.) Nay, Paul, thou art altogether useless, and all those things which thou ascribest unto the Scripture, are to be sought for out of the fathers approved by a long course of ages, and from the Roman see! Wherefore, thy sentiment must be revoked, where thou writest to Titus, (chap. i. 9) ‘that a bishop ought to be powerful in doctrine, to exhort and to convince the gainsayers, and to stop the mouths of vain talkers, and deceivers of minds.’ For how shall he be powerful, when thou leavest him the Scriptures in obscurity — that is, as arms of tow and feeble straws, instead of a sword? And Christ must also, of necessity, revoke His word where He falsely promises us, saying, “I will give you a mouth and wisdom which all your adversaries shall not be able to resist,” (Luke xxi. 15.) For how shall they not resist when we fight against them with obscurities and uncertainties? And why do you also, Erasmus, prescribe to us a form of Christianity, if the Scriptures be obscure to you!
But I fear I must already be burdensome, even to the insensible, by dwelling so long and spending so much strength upon a point so fully clear; but it was necessary, that that impudent and blasphemous saying, ‘the Scriptures are obscure,’ should thus be drowned. And you, too, my friend Erasmus, know very well what you are saying, when you deny that the Scripture is clear, for you at the same time drop into my ear this assertion: ‘it of necessity follows therefore, that all your saints whom you adduce, are much less clear.’ And truly it would be so. For who shall certify us concerning their light, if you make the Scriptures obscure? Therefore they who deny the all-clearness and all-plainness of the Scriptures, leave us nothing else but darkness.
The Bondage of the Will or Christian Classics Ethereal Library
W. Phillip Keller | (1920-1997)
11 “Surely Goodness and Love Will Follow Me . . .”
In my own experience as a sheep rancher, I have, in just a few years, seen two derelict ranches restored to high productivity and usefulness. More than this, what before appeared as depressing eyesores became beautiful, park-like properties of immense worth. Where previously there had been only poverty and pathetic waste, there now followed flourishing fields and rich abundance.
In other words, goodness and mercy had followed my flocks. They left behind them something worthwhile, productive, beautiful, and beneficial to themselves, others, and me. Where they had walked there followed fertility and weed-free land. Where they had lived there remained beauty and abundance.
The question now comes to me pointedly: Is this true of my life? Do I leave a blessing and benediction behind me?
Sir Alfred Tennyson wrote in one of his great classic poems, “The good men do lives after them.”
On one occasion two friends spent a few days in our home while passing through en route to some engagements in the East. They invited me to go along. After several days on the road, one of the men missed his hat. He was sure it had been left in our home. He asked me to write my wife to find it and kindly send it on to him.
Her letter of reply was one I shall never forget. One sentence in particular made an enormous impact on me. “I have combed the house from top to bottom and can find no trace of the hat. The only thing those men left behind was a great blessing!”
Is this the way people feel about me?
Do I leave a trail of sadness or of gladness behind?
Is my memory, in other people’s minds, entwined with mercy and goodness, or would they rather forget me altogether?
Do I deposit a blessing behind me, or am I a bane to others? Is my life a pleasure to people or a pain?
In Isaiah 52:7 we read, “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace.”
Isaiah 52:7 How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.” ESV
Sometimes it is profitable to ask ourselves such simple questions as:
“Do I leave behind peace in lives—or turmoil?”
“Do I leave behind forgiveness—or bitterness?”
“Do I leave behind contentment—or conflict?”
“Do I leave behind flowers of joy—or frustration?”
“Do I leave behind love—or rancor?”
Some people leave such a sorry mess behind them wherever they go that they prefer to cover their tracks.
For the true child of God, the one under the Shepherd’s care, there should never be any sense of shame or fear in going back to where they have lived or been before. Why? Because there they have left a legacy of hope, encouragement, and inspiration to others.
In Africa, where I spent so many years, one of the greatest marks left by any man was that of David Livingstone. No matter where his footsteps took him through the bush and plains of the great continent, there remained the impact of his love. Natives, whose language he never learned, long years after remembered him as the kindly, tender doctor whom goodness and mercy had followed all the days of his life.
A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23
Harold W. Attridge and David L. Bartlett
Yale Divinity School
Horton, MacArthur, Sproul
Derek Thomas and R.C. Sproul
Derek Thomas and R.C. Sproul
Brett Meador | Athey Creek
God Fearers Nehemiah 7:1-2
s2-201 | 3-11-2018
m2-203 | 3-14-2018