The People Who Sealed the CovenantNehemiah 10 1 “On the seals are the names of Nehemiah the governor, the son of Hacaliah, Zedekiah, 2 Seraiah, Azariah, Jeremiah, 3 Pashhur, Amariah, Malchijah, 4 Hattush, Shebaniah, Malluch, 5 Harim, Meremoth, Obadiah, 6 Daniel, Ginnethon, Baruch, 7 Meshullam, Abijah, Mijamin, 8 Maaziah, Bilgai, Shemaiah; these are the priests. 9 And the Levites: Jeshua the son of Azaniah, Binnui of the sons of Henadad, Kadmiel; 10 and their brothers, Shebaniah, Hodiah, Kelita, Pelaiah, Hanan, 11 Mica, Rehob, Hashabiah, 12 Zaccur, Sherebiah, Shebaniah, 13 Hodiah, Bani, Beninu. 14 The chiefs of the people: Parosh, Pahath-moab, Elam, Zattu, Bani, 15 Bunni, Azgad, Bebai, 16 Adonijah, Bigvai, Adin, 17 Ater, Hezekiah, Azzur, 18 Hodiah, Hashum, Bezai, 19 Hariph, Anathoth, Nebai, 20 Magpiash, Meshullam, Hezir, 21 Meshezabel, Zadok, Jaddua, 22 Pelatiah, Hanan, Anaiah, 23 Hoshea, Hananiah, Hasshub, 24 Hallohesh, Pilha, Shobek, 25 Rehum, Hashabnah, Maaseiah, 26 Ahiah, Hanan, Anan, 27 Malluch, Harim, Baanah.
The Obligations of the Covenant28 “The rest of the people, the priests, the Levites, the gatekeepers, the singers, the temple servants, and all who have separated themselves from the peoples of the lands to the Law of God, their wives, their sons, their daughters, all who have knowledge and understanding, 29 join with their brothers, their nobles, and enter into a curse and an oath to walk in God’s Law that was given by Moses the servant of God, and to observe and do all the commandments of the LORD our Lord and his rules and his statutes. 30 We will not give our daughters to the peoples of the land or take their daughters for our sons. 31 And if the peoples of the land bring in goods or any grain on the Sabbath day to sell, we will not buy from them on the Sabbath or on a holy day. And we will forego the crops of the seventh year and the exaction of every debt.
32 “We also take on ourselves the obligation to give yearly a third part of a shekel for the service of the house of our God: 33 for the showbread, the regular grain offering, the regular burnt offering, the Sabbaths, the new moons, the appointed feasts, the holy things, and the sin offerings to make atonement for Israel, and for all the work of the house of our God. 34 We, the priests, the Levites, and the people, have likewise cast lots for the wood offering, to bring it into the house of our God, according to our fathers’ houses, at times appointed, year by year, to burn on the altar of the LORD our God, as it is written in the Law. 35 We obligate ourselves to bring the firstfruits of our ground and the firstfruits of all fruit of every tree, year by year, to the house of the LORD; 36 also to bring to the house of our God, to the priests who minister in the house of our God, the firstborn of our sons and of our cattle, as it is written in the Law, and the firstborn of our herds and of our flocks; 37 and to bring the first of our dough, and our contributions, the fruit of every tree, the wine and the oil, to the priests, to the chambers of the house of our God; and to bring to the Levites the tithes from our ground, for it is the Levites who collect the tithes in all our towns where we labor. 38 And the priest, the son of Aaron, shall be with the Levites when the Levites receive the tithes. And the Levites shall bring up the tithe of the tithes to the house of our God, to the chambers of the storehouse. 39 For the people of Israel and the sons of Levi shall bring the contribution of grain, wine, and oil to the chambers, where the vessels of the sanctuary are, as well as the priests who minister, and the gatekeepers and the singers. We will not neglect the house of our God.”
The Leaders in JerusalemNehemiah 11 1 Now the leaders of the people lived in Jerusalem. And the rest of the people cast lots to bring one out of ten to live in Jerusalem the holy city, while nine out of ten remained in the other towns. 2 And the people blessed all the men who willingly offered to live in Jerusalem.
3 These are the chiefs of the province who lived in Jerusalem; but in the towns of Judah everyone lived on his property in their towns: Israel, the priests, the Levites, the temple servants, and the descendants of Solomon’s servants. 4 And in Jerusalem lived certain of the sons of Judah and of the sons of Benjamin. Of the sons of Judah: Athaiah the son of Uzziah, son of Zechariah, son of Amariah, son of Shephatiah, son of Mahalalel, of the sons of Perez; 5 and Maaseiah the son of Baruch, son of Col-hozeh, son of Hazaiah, son of Adaiah, son of Joiarib, son of Zechariah, son of the Shilonite. 6 All the sons of Perez who lived in Jerusalem were 468 valiant men.
7 And these are the sons of Benjamin: Sallu the son of Meshullam, son of Joed, son of Pedaiah, son of Kolaiah, son of Maaseiah, son of Ithiel, son of Jeshaiah, 8 and his brothers, men of valor, 928. 9 Joel the son of Zichri was their overseer; and Judah the son of Hassenuah was second over the city.
10 Of the priests: Jedaiah the son of Joiarib, Jachin, 11 Seraiah the son of Hilkiah, son of Meshullam, son of Zadok, son of Meraioth, son of Ahitub, ruler of the house of God, 12 and their brothers who did the work of the house, 822; and Adaiah the son of Jeroham, son of Pelaliah, son of Amzi, son of Zechariah, son of Pashhur, son of Malchijah, 13 and his brothers, heads of fathers’ houses, 242; and Amashsai, the son of Azarel, son of Ahzai, son of Meshillemoth, son of Immer, 14 and their brothers, mighty men of valor, 128; their overseer was Zabdiel the son of Haggedolim.
15 And of the Levites: Shemaiah the son of Hasshub, son of Azrikam, son of Hashabiah, son of Bunni; 16 and Shabbethai and Jozabad, of the chiefs of the Levites, who were over the outside work of the house of God; 17 and Mattaniah the son of Mica, son of Zabdi, son of Asaph, who was the leader of the praise, who gave thanks, and Bakbukiah, the second among his brothers; and Abda the son of Shammua, son of Galal, son of Jeduthun. 18 All the Levites in the holy city were 284.
19 The gatekeepers, Akkub, Talmon and their brothers, who kept watch at the gates, were 172. 20 And the rest of Israel, and of the priests and the Levites, were in all the towns of Judah, every one in his inheritance. 21 But the temple servants lived on Ophel; and Ziha and Gishpa were over the temple servants.
22 The overseer of the Levites in Jerusalem was Uzzi the son of Bani, son of Hashabiah, son of Mattaniah, son of Mica, of the sons of Asaph, the singers, over the work of the house of God. 23 For there was a command from the king concerning them, and a fixed provision for the singers, as every day required. 24 And Pethahiah the son of Meshezabel, of the sons of Zerah the son of Judah, was at the king’s side in all matters concerning the people.
Villages Outside Jerusalem25 And as for the villages, with their fields, some of the people of Judah lived in Kiriath-arba and its villages, and in Dibon and its villages, and in Jekabzeel and its villages, 26 and in Jeshua and in Moladah and Beth-pelet, 27 in Hazar-shual, in Beersheba and its villages, 28 in Ziklag, in Meconah and its villages, 29 in En-rimmon, in Zorah, in Jarmuth, 30 Zanoah, Adullam, and their villages, Lachish and its fields, and Azekah and its villages. So they encamped from Beersheba to the Valley of Hinnom. 31 The people of Benjamin also lived from Geba onward, at Michmash, Aija, Bethel and its villages, 32 Anathoth, Nob, Ananiah, 33 Hazor, Ramah, Gittaim, 34 Hadid, Zeboim, Neballat, 35 Lod, and Ono, the valley of craftsmen. 36 And certain divisions of the Levites in Judah were assigned to Benjamin.
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Why Francis Schaeffer Matters: An Introduction – Part 1
By Dr. David Steele 5/2/2017
Dr. Francis A. Schaeffer (1912-1984) may very well be one of the most important Christian thinkers of the twentieth century. Schaeffer graduated from Westminster Theological Seminary and was heavily influenced by J. Gresham Machen, Cornelius Van Til, and the Dutch theologian Abraham Kuyper.
In 1948, after a ten year pastorate in the United States, he moved his family to Switzerland to engage in missionary work. In 1955, Dr. and Mrs. Schaeffer founded L’Abri in a small mountain village in Switzerland. French for “shelter,” L’Abri became a refuge for people in need of spiritual help. The Schaeffers were especially interested in people who sought answers to basic philosophical and metaphysical problems. He writes, “To the best of my ability I gave the Bible’s answers. But all the time I tried to listen and learn the thought forms of these people. I think that my knowledge, whatever it is, is formed from two factors: 1) Forty years of hard study, and 2) Trying to listen to the twentieth-century man as he talked” (Eternity, March 1973 The Francis A. Schaeffer Trilogy: Three Essential Books in One Volume). Schaeffer’s keen ability to listen carefully and engage the intellect of these people became a primary factor that contributed to his success.
Students came to L’Abri from varied backgrounds – philosophy, medicine, architecture, science, and theology. The Schaeffers ministered to college professors, students, pastors, engineers, and lawyers to name a few. The common thread among all L’Abri visitors was a thirst for truth. These people sought answers to the basic questions of life: Who am I? Where am I going? What is my purpose in life? How does God fit in the scheme of things?
The stated purpose of L’Abri is “to show forth by demonstration, in our life and work, the existence of God” (L’Abri, 16). L’Abri continues to operate and fulfill the vision of Francis Schaeffer even over twenty-five years after his death. The ministry of L’Abri may also be found in Holland, Australia, England, Sweden, India, South Korea and Massachusetts.
Francis Schaeffer published his first book, The God Who Is There in 1968. He subsequently wrote twenty-two books which have been translated into more than twenty-five different languages. A common unifying theme runs throughout Schaeffer’s books, namely, “the Lordship of Christ in the totality of life” (The Great Evangelical Disaster, 303).
In the days to come, my goal is to expose readers to Francis Schaeffer and pay particular attention to his views on apologetics and the nature of the church.
Veritas et Lux!
Dr. David Steele
Why Francis Schaeffer Matters: The Turning Point in Truth – Part 2
By Dr. David Steele 5/2/2017
The Truth Crisis | Francis Schaeffer sets the tone for his apologetical procedure by explaining the crisis of truth in America: “We are fundamentally affected by a new way of looking at truth. This change in the concept of the way we come to knowledge and truth is the most crucial problem facing America today” (Escape from Reason (IVP Classics), 6). He believes a paradigm shift occurred around 1935 when the American attitude toward truth changed. Prior to this time, American’s were devoted to thinking about presuppositions, namely, the existence of absolutes, particularly in the areas of morals (ethics) and knowledge (epistemology). But the average American took it for granted that if a certain idea was true, it’s opposite was false. In other words, “absolutes imply antithesis.” The working antithesis is that God exists objectively (in antithesis) to his not existing.
Schaeffer believes that presuppositional apologetics would have stopped the decay. Incidentally, he maintains that the use of classical apologetics was effective prior to the shift because non-Christians were functioning on the surface with the same presuppositions, even though they did not have an adequate base for them.
The Role of Thomas Aquinas | Dr. Schaeffer maintains that Aquinas opened the way for the discussion of what is usually called the “nature and grace” controversy (Escape from Reason (IVP Classics), 209). He contends that Aquinas set up a dichotomy of grace versus nature.
Aquinas taught that the will of man was fallen, but the intellect was not. The net result, according to Schaeffer, is that man’s intellect is seen as autonomous. Schaeffer maintains that the teaching of Aquinas led to the development of the so-called Natural Theology where theology could be pursued independent of the Scriptures. The vital principle to understand according to Schaeffer is that “as nature was made autonomous, nature began to ‘eat up’ grace” (Escape from Reason (IVP Classics), 212).
Anthropology | Schaeffer militates against this so-called “grace/nature” dichotomy and insists that Christ is equally Lord in both areas. He suggests that God made the whole man and is consequently interested in the whole man. When the historic space-time Fall took place, it affected the whole man, not merely the will as Aquinas taught. Thus, Schaeffer taught that the whole man is saved and the whole man will eventually be glorified and perfectly redeemed.
Since God made man in His own image, man is not caught in the wheels of determinism: “The Christian position is that since man is made in the image of God and even though he is a sinner, he can do those things that are tremendous – he can influence history for this life and the life to come, for himself and others” (Death In The City, 258).
Schaeffer argues that Evangelicals have such a strong tendency to combat humanism that they end up making man a “zero.” He adds, “Man is indeed lost but that does not mean he is nothing . . . From the biblical viewpoint, man is lost, but great” (ISBN-13: 978-1581344028, 258-259). Therefore, Schaeffer’s anthropological position is that man is sinful, yet he is significant because he is made in the image of God. And regenerate man is, as the Reformers emphasized, simul iustus et peccator – simultaneously righteous and sinful.
Dr. David Steele
Why Francis Schaeffer Matters: The Line of Despair – Part 3
By Dr. David Steele 5/4/2017
The Loss of Antithesis | The loss of antithesis in American culture led to what Dr. Schaeffer coined the “line of despair” or giving up all hope of achieving a rational unified answer to knowledge and life. Schaeffer outlines what he believes are the various steps below this line of despair. He begins with the German philosopher, Georg William Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831) who became the first man to open the door into the line of despair. Hegel taught what we really have is a thesis, and an opposite antithesis, with the answer of their relationship not a horizontal movement of cause and effect, but a synthesis, or dialectical thinking. In the end result, Hegel’s philosophy produced a synthesis as opposed to antithesis which could be arrived at by reason.
Schaeffer believes that while Hegel opened the door to the line of despair the Danish philosopher, Soren Kierkegaard was the first one to go below the line. Kierkegaard concluded that one could not arrive at synthesis by reason alone. Rather, one achieves everything of real importance by taking a “leap of faith.” Schaeffer, therefore, maintains that Kierkegaard’s conclusions gradually led to the absolute separation of the rational and logical from faith.
The Leap of Faith and the Line of Despair | What is this leap and what does it involve? Schaeffer teaches that Kierkegaard’s leap put away the hope of any unity. Schaeffer writes, “The leap is common to every sphere of modern man’s thought. Man is forced to the despair of such a leap because he cannot live merely as a machine . . . If below the line man is dead, above the line, after the non-rational leap, man is left without categories. There are no categories because categories are related to rationality and logic. There is therefore no truth and no nontruth in antithesis, no right or wrong – you are adrift.” (Escape from Reason (IVP Classics), 241, 256).
Schaeffer continues to chronicle the subsequent philosophers who followed Kierkegaard’s thought including the atheistic existentialism of Karl Jaspers, Jean Paul Sartre and Martin Heidegger. These men reasoned below the line of despair and gave up hope of a rational answer to the questions of life. The end result: they are left with only the anti-rational.
Schaeffer proceeds to explain what he considers the further steps under the line of despair. The first as noted above began with philosophy. The second step was art. The third – music. The fourth – culture and the fifth step was the new theology which was opened by Karl Barth. While most refer to this brand of theology as “liberal” or “neo-orthodox,” and rightly so, the issue at hand runs deeper than labels. Indeed, liberal theology rejects the deity of Christ, the inerrancy of Scripture and the New Testament miracles. The new theology knows nothing of man being created in the image of God. But Schaeffer adds further clarity to the issue: “All the new theology and mysticism is nothing more than a faith contrary to rationality, deprived of content and incapable of contentful communication. You can bear ‘witness’ to it, but you cannot discuss it. Rationality and faith are out of contact with each other” (ISBN-13: 978-0830819478, 64).
Man, therefore, is left in a state of despair which “arises from the abandonment of the hope of a unified answer for knowledge and life. Modern man continues to hang on to his rationalism and his autonomous revolt even though to do so he has had to abandon any rational hope of a unified answer” (Escape From Reason, 235-236).
The Consequences of Despair | The consequences and despair of modern man can be found in three areas. Falling prey to nihilism or embracing a worldview that offers no hope.
The second is found in the fact that he accepts a false dichotomy (what Schaeffer calls an “absolute dichotomy”) between nature and grace. However, the modern scheme is presently a dichotomy between contentless faith (no rationality) and rationality (no meaning). “All the new theology and mysticism is nothing more than a faith contrary to rationality, deprived of content and incapable of contentful communication. Rationality and faith are out of contact with each other” (The God Who Is There, 64).
Third, since there is no integration point between rationality and faith man engages in acts of desperation in order to find meaning, namely, he accepts a mysticism which gives an illusion of unity to the whole. Hence we understand why the influx of eastern religion such as Hinduism, i.e. the New Age Movement has gained such a popular foothold in America today. If there is no hope of a unified field of knowledge one must cling to a mystical world-view that has no rational base but promises hope for the present and the future.
Schaeffer enhances his discussion by contrasting the Christian faith with modern man’s faith which has turned inward. In Christianity, the value of faith depends upon the object towards which the faith is directed. So it looks outward to the God who is there, and to the Christ who in history died upon the cross once for all, finished the work of atonement, and on the third day rose again in space and in time. This makes the Christian faith open to discussion and verification (The God Who Is There, 65).
Dr. David Steele
Why Francis Schaeffer Matters: Consequences of Pitting Rationality Against Faith – Part 4
By Dr. David Steele 5/5/2017
The decisive result of falling below the line of despair is a pitting of rationality against faith. Schaeffer sees this as an enormous problem and details four consequences in his book, Escape from Reason (IVP Classics).
Pitting Rationality Against Faith | First, when rationality contends against faith, one is not able to establish a system of morality. It is simply impossible to have an “upstairs morality” that is unrelated to matters of everyday living.
Second, when rationality and faith are dichotomized, there is no adequate basis for law. “The whole Reformation system of law was built on the fact that God had revealed something real down into the common things of life” (Escape from Reason (IVP Classics), 261). But when rationality and faith are pitted against one another, all hope of maintaining any semblance of law is obliterated.
The third consequence is that this scheme throws away the answer to the problem of evil. Christianity’s answer rests in the historic, space-time, real and complete Fall of man who rebelled and made a choice against God. “Once the historic Christian answer is put away, all we can do is to leap upstairs and say that against all reason God is good” (Escape from Reason (IVP Classics), 262).
Finally, when one accepts this unbiblical dichotomy he loses the opportunity to evangelize people at their real point of despair. Schaeffer makes it clear that modern man longs for answers. “He did not accept the line of despair and the dichotomy because he wanted to. He accepted it because, on the basis of the natural development of his rationalistic presuppositions, he had to. He may talk bravely at times, but in the end it is despair” (Escape From Reason, 262). It is at this point that Schaeffer believes the Christian apologist has a golden opportunity to make an impact. “Christianity has the opportunity, therefore, to say clearly that its answer has the very thing modern man has despaired of – the unity of thought. It provides a unified answer for the whole of life. True, man has to renounce his rationalism; but then, on the basis of what can be discussed, he has the possibility of recovering his rationality” ( ISBN-13: 978-0830834051 ).
Schaeffer challenges us, “Let us Christians remember, then, that if we fall into the trap against which I have been warning, what we have done, among other things, is to put ourselves in the position where in reality we are only saying with evangelical words what the unbeliever is saying with his words. In order to confront modern man effectively, we must not have this dichotomy. You must have the Scriptures speaking truth both about God Himself and about the area where the Bible touches history and the cosmos” ( ISBN-13: 978-0830834051 ).
The Tension of Being a Man | Before proceeding to Dr. Schaeffer’s basic approach to apologetics one must understand the concept he calls “mannishness” or the tension of being a man. The idea is essentially that no man can live at ease in the area of despair. His significance, ability to love and be loved, and his capacity for rationality distinguish him from machines and animals and give evidence to this fact: Man is made in the image of God. Modern man has been forced to accept the false dichotomy between nature and grace and consequently, takes a leap of faith to the upper story and embraces some form of mysticism, which gives an illusion of unity to the whole. But as Schaeffer points out, “The very ‘mannishness’ of man refuses to live in the logic of the position to which his humanism and rationalism have brought him. To say that I am only a machine is one thing; to live consistently as if this were true is quite another” (The God Who Is There, 68). Schaeffer continues, “Every truly modern man is forced to accept some sort of leap in theory or practice, because the pressure of his own humanity demands it. He can say what he will concerning what he himself is; but no matter what he says he is, he is still a man” ( ISBN-13: 978-0830819478 ).
Thus, the foundation for Francis Schaeffer’s basic approach to apologetics is simply to recognize that man is an image-bearer. Man even in his sin has personality, significance, and worth. Therefore, the apologist should approach him in those terms. The apologist must not only recognize that man is made in the image of God; he must also love him in word and deed. Finally, the apologist must speak to the man as a unit; he must reach the whole man (for faith truly does involve the whole man) and refuse to buy into the popularized Platonic idea that man’s soul is more important than the body.
Dr. David Steele
Why Francis Schaeffer Matters: Epistemology – Part 5
By Dr. David Steele 5/6/2017
Dr. Schaeffer’s epistemology is integral to his approach to apologetics and may be described simply as follows. First, one must understand that pagan thought endorses a belief in the uniformity of natural causes in a closed system. Propositional and verbal revelation is nonsense in this scheme. Christian epistemology stands in stark contrast to the non-Christian worldview. The presupposition of Christianity begins with the God who is there. God is the infinite-personal Being who has made man in His image. God made man a verbalizer in the area of propositions in his horizontal communications with other men. Thus God communicates to us on the basis of verbalizations and propositions by means of the written Word of God (He is There & He is not Silent [Paperback] by Schaeffer, Francis A, 326-327).
Thus the Christian epistemological system brings three things together in a unified whole; the unified field of knowledge that modern man has given up on. “The infinite personal God who made the universe; and man, whom he made to live in that universe; and the Bible, which He has given us to tell us about that universe” (He is There & He is not Silent [Paperback] by Schaeffer, Francis A, 329).
Schaeffer goes one step further by noting that the presuppositions of Christianity is in line with every man’s experience. “The fact is that if we are going to live in this world at all, we must live in it acting on a correlation of ourselves and the thing that is there, even if we have a philosophy that says there is no correlation . . . In other words, all men constantly and consistently act as though Christianity is true” (He is There & He is not Silent [Paperback] by Schaeffer, Francis A, 330).
The reason for the shift in society leading to despair comes as a result of buying the lie of the uniformity of natural causes in a closed system. The result delivers a deathblow to any possibility of epistemology. Schaeffer adds, “Man’s attempted autonomy has robbed him of reality. He has nothing to be sure of when his imagination soars beyond the stars, if there is nothing to guarantee a distinction between reality and fantasy. But on the basis of the Christian epistemology, this confusion is ended, the alienation is healed. This is the heart of the problem of knowing, and it is not solved until our knowledge fits under the apex of the infinite-personal, Triune God who is there and who is not silent” (He is There & He is not Silent [Paperback] by Schaeffer, Francis A, 343-344).
Therefore, there are only two alternatives in the search for the source of knowledge according to Dr. Schaeffer. Either a person attempts to find the answers to all his questions alone (autonomously) or he seeks truths from God and His revealed Word (the biblical world-view).
The former view mandates that a person begins with himself. However, as Schaeffer notes, “Starting with himself, a person cannot establish an adequate explanation for the amazing possibility that he can observe the world around him and be assured that his observations have a correspondence with reality” ( ISBN-13: 978-0891072911 ). Herein lies the problem: Sinful man is forced to provide the answers to the ultimate metaphysical questions, but because they have limited experience they can know nothing with a high degree of certainty. The end result is a hellish tension which leads down the road of meaninglessness and the relativity of morals: “The truth is that everyone who rejects the biblical world-view must live in a state of tension between ideas about reality and reality itself” ( ISBN-13: 978-0891072911 ).
The later view that derives truth from God’s Word is the only sure way to engage in epistemology. Dr. Schaeffer gives three testimonies found in the Scripture. First, the Bible gives us the explanation for the universe. Second, the Bible explains the mannishness of man (which is described below) and third, the Bible is open to verification by historical study. “From the Bible’s viewpoint, all truth finally rests upon the fact that the infinite-personal God exists in contrast to His not existing” ( ISBN-13: 978-0891072911 ).
Dr. David Steele
Why Francis Schaeffer Matters: His Approach to Apologetics – Part 6
By Dr. David Steele 5/8/2017
Christian Apologetics: Two Purposes | Francis Schaeffer’s holds a rather basic view concerning apologetics. He explains there are two purposes of Christian apologetics. “The first is defense. The second is to communicate Christianity in a way that any given generation can understand” (The God Who Is There, 151).
Schaeffer begins his approach to apologetics by pointing out that every non-regenerate person enters the discussion with a set of presuppositions. Some have taken the time to analyze their presuppositions. Most have not. But each non-regenerate person is caught in the horns of a dilemma because it is impossible to be consistent in logic or practice. This holds true along the whole spectrum of people. Every person whether a University student, housewife, businessman or disgruntled teenager is stuck and boxed in by the logic of his or her presuppositions. Thus, Schaeffer writes, “You are facing a man in tension; and it is this tension which works on your behalf as you speak to him . . . A man may try to bury the tension and you may have to help him find it, but somewhere there is a point of inconsistency” (The God Who Is There, 133). Schaeffer adds, “To have to choose between one consistency or the other is a real damnation for man. The more logical a man who holds a non-Christian position is to his own presuppositions, the further he is from the real world; and the nearer he is to the real world, the more illogical he is to his presuppositions” (The God Who Is There, 133-134).
Therefore, the place to begin in the real world with real people is to find out where the tension exists. Once the point of tension is uncovered the apologist must push the non-regenerate man toward the logical conclusion of his presuppositions. Schaeffer warns, “Pushing him towards the logic of his presuppositions is going to cause him pain; therefore, I must not push any further than I need to” (The God Who Is There, 139).
Schaeffer calls this approach “taking the roof off” because every man has constructed a roof over his head to protect himself at the point of tension. “At the point of tension the person is not in a place of consistency in his system, and the roof is built as a protection against the blows of the real world, both internal and external” (The God Who Is There, 140).
Taking the roof off involves showing man his need. His need is addressed in the Scriptures which show his lostness and the answer found in the person of Jesus Christ. Schaeffer admits that this process is extremely unpleasant “but we must allow the person to undergo this experience so that he may realize his system has no answer to the crucial questions of life. He must come to know that his roof is a false protection from the storm of what is; and then we can talk to him about the storm of God’s judgment” (The God Who Is There, 141).
As soon as the person is ready to hear the gospel it is not necessary to push any further. Schaeffer departs from the typical evangelistic approach at this point. He writes, “We must never forget that the first part of the gospel is not ‘Accept Christ as Savior,’ but ‘God is there.’ Only then are we ready to hear God’s solution for man’s moral dilemma in the substitutionary work of Christ in history” (The God Who Is There, 144).
Christian Apologetics: Two Principles | Schaeffer believes that there are two vital principles in communicating the gospel (Escape From Reason, 269). First, there are certain unchangeable facts which are true. Here again, the idea of antithesis is prominent in Schaeffer’s thinking. If a given proposition is true, it’s opposite is false. Second, we need to know the thought patterns of the culture at large. Unless we do this, the gospel will fall on deaf ears.
Schaeffer proceeds to discuss biblical faith which begins with the fact of God’s existence. “True Christian faith rests on content . . . The true basis for faith is not the faith itself, but the work which Christ finished on the cross. My believing is not the basis for being saved – the basis is the work of Christ . . . The call to Christian believing rests on God’s propositional promises” (The God Who Is There, 146).
Schaeffer militates against easy believism and goes to great lengths to promote a biblical paradigm for faith. Here he stands in the historic tradition of the Reformers who taught that biblical faith is a combination of notitia (know the facts of the gospel), assensus (believing the facts of the gospel) and fiducia (trusting or banking one’s hope on Christ alone for salvation). Schaeffer outlines his scheme for biblical faith and is worth quoting in its entirety to get the full flavor of his thinking.
1. Do you believe that God exists and that He is a personal God, and that Jesus Christ is God – remembering that we are not talking of the word or idea god, but of the infinite-personal God who is there?
2. Do you acknowledge that you are guilty in the presence of this God – remembering that we are not talking about guilt-feelings, but true moral guilt?
3. Do you believe that Jesus Christ died in space and time, in history, on the cross, and that when He died His substitutional work of bearing God’s punishment against sin was fully accomplished and complete?
4. On the basis of God’s promises in His written communication to us, the Bible, do you (or have you) cast yourself on this Christ as your personal Savior – not trusting in anything you yourself have ever done or ever will do? ( ISBN-13: 978-0830819478 ).
To sum up Dr. Schaeffer’s approach to apologetics one must understand that he embraces Paul’s method of preaching to man without the Bible. He suggests telling the sinner, “You’re under the wrath of God because you hold the truth in unrighteousness.” ( ISBN-13: 978-1581344028 ). The reason: Sinful man needs to come to grip with the fact that he is a law-breaker and will ultimately face the white-hot wrath of God apart from Christ.
The end result of man’s fascination with breaking God’s laws is a breakdown in morality which we shall examine in our next section on the church in the twentieth century.
Dr. David Steele
Why Francis Schaeffer Matters: The Church in Culture – Part 7
By Dr. David Steele 5/9/2017
The Church in Modern Culture | Francis Schaeffer’s view of the church in modern culture is multifaceted yet cuts straight to the point. He does not mince words or play clever evangelical games. He believes one major problem with Christians is that they see things in bits and pieces. They have failed to see that modern man’s despair has come to fruition because of a shift in worldview. He contends that Christians should begin to think in terms of the big picture. They should have a view of spiritual reality that is authentic and covers all areas of life. Indeed, the Lordship of Christ covers all life and all life equally.
The Church in Postmodern Culture: Marks of Postmodernism | It is interesting to note that Dr. Schaeffer may have been the first to write in-depth about post-Christian culture. It is important to understand Schaeffer’s view on culture in order to understand his position on the church in these perilous times.
Postmodernism essentially posits the view that there is nobody in the universe. There is “nobody to love man, nobody to comfort him, even while he seeks desperately to find comfort in the limited, finite, horizontal relationships to life (Death in the City, 215). The result is that “God has turned away in judgment as our generation turned away from Him, and He is allowing cause and effect to take its course in history” (Death in the City, 216).
The postmodern generation is inherently humanistic. Schaeffer mentions six key planks of the humanistic world-view including:
- A rejection of the doctrine of creation.
- A rejection of total depravity.
- Sees human nature as part of a long, unfolding process of development in which everything is changing.
- Casts around for some solution to the problem of despair that this determinist-evolutionist vision induces.
- Can only find a solution in the activity of the human will.
- Therefore, encourages manipulation of nature and tinkering with people ( ISBN-13: 978-0891072911 ).
Hope For a Post-Christian Culture | Despite the degradation of the culture, Schaeffer believes there is hope for the Christian church. But if the church is to truly thrive, not merely survive, she must boldly proclaim and defend at least seven foundational truths including the inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible, the deity of Christ and His Virgin Birth, the substitutionary atonement of Christ’s death, the literal resurrection of Christ from the dead, and the literal return of Christ ( ISBN-13: 978-0891073086 ).
The Christian Perspective on Postmodernism | Schaeffer helps clarify the Christian perspective on postmodernism. First, he notes that much to the chagrin of many evangelicals, our culture and country is under the wrath of God. The net effect should not be alarming. Man has forgotten his purpose and consequently forgets the meaning of life.
Second, Schaeffer helps Christians understand that turning away from the truth of God not only results in decay but ends ultimately in death.
There will be death in the city until people turn to the truth . . . This must be our perspective [emphasis added], for only as men turn back to the One who can really fulfill, return to His revelation, and reaffirm the possibility of having a relationship with Him as He has provided the way through Jesus Christ, can they have the sufficient comfort which every man longs for ( ISBN-13: 978-1581344028 ).
The Christian Response to Postmodernism First, he warns the church to guard against using worldly methods. If the church chooses to engage in “worldly” ministry the already cynical post-modern generation will surely reject the organized church. Rather, the church must stand strong in this age and boldly proclaim the mysteries of God. “Our generation needs to be told that man cannot disregard God, that a culture like ours has had such light and then has deliberately turned away stands under God’s judgment. There’s only one kind of preaching that will do in a generation like ours – preaching which includes the preaching of the judgment of God” ( ISBN-13: 978-1581344028 ).
Second, he alerts Christians to the danger of compromising the truth. “Here is the great evangelical disaster – the failure of the evangelical world to stand for truth as truth. There is only one word for this – namely accommodation; the evangelical church has accommodated to the spirit of the age” (The Great Evangelical Disaster, 320).
He notes two general areas of accommodation, namely, the accommodation of Scripture (which Schaeffer calls the watershed – the inspiration and authority of Scripture) and accommodation on the issues, with no clear stand being taken even on matters of life and death. He points out that the results of this accommodation has been costly, first in destroying the power of God’s Word to confront the spirit of the age; and second, in allowing the further slide of our culture. Dr. Schaeffer regularly takes the church to task for accommodation and makes it clear that the two sure ways to destroy the church are to compromise the truth and to engage in a “dead orthodoxy.”
Schaeffer’s Challenge to Christian’s Living in a Postmodern Generation
Given Dr. Schaeffer’s scathing indictment of the church, it should come as no surprise that his greatest challenge concerns not only believing the truth but standing for the truth. He recognizes the potential risks involved in this endeavor. He writes, “We must realize that to know the truth and to practice it will be costly . . . We must keep on speaking and acting even if the price is high” ( ISBN-13: 978-1581344028 ).
Second, Schaeffer calls Christians to infiltrate the culture for God rather than being molded and corrupted by it. “As evangelicals, we need to stand at the point of the call not to be infiltrated by this ever-shifting fallen culture which surrounds us, but rather judging that culture upon the basis of the Bible” ( ISBN-13: 978-0891073086 ). Schaeffer holds that Christians should penetrate the culture and engage the political arena, the justice system, the media and the arts just to name a few.
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Dr. David Steele
Why Francis Schaeffer Matters: Church Responsibility in Post-Modern Culture – Part 8
By Dr. David Steele 5/10/2017
Francis Schaeffer has an extremely high view of the church and great expectations as any Christian should. He details some solemn responsibilities that the church of Jesus Christ must consider.
We Must Adhere to the New Testament Boundaries for the Local Church | Schaeffer’s primary assertion is that Scripture mandates eight specific norms for the New Testament church (The Church at the end of the 20th century, 51-60). The first norm: Local congregations are to exist and should be made up of Christians. Schaeffer would have clearly opposed the so-called seeker sensitive movement that is so prevalent in the church today. While he believed that the church ought to evangelize the lost, he would have had real problems with the present day fascination of catering to the non-believer.
Second, Dr. Schaeffer believed these congregations ought to meet in a special way on the first day of the week. He clearly has Sunday as the specific meeting day in mind, although I am inclined to think that Schaeffer would be comfortable with the new trend toward Saturday evening services and the like. The critical issue for him was that the church met regularly each week.
Third, the church should have elders who have a responsibility to shepherd the flock of God.
Fourth, there should also be deacons responsible for the community of the church in the area of material things.
Fifth, Schaeffer strongly believed that these elders and deacons should be qualified in accordance with the Pauline standards set forth in 1 Timothy 3:1-13 and Titus 1:5-9.
The sixth norm is that the church must engage in church discipline. Schaeffer goes to great lengths to show the necessity and benefits of church discipline in accordance with the principle set forth by Jesus in Mathew 18. Schaeffer explains, “The New Testament stresses such purity, for the church is not to be like an ameba so that no one can tell the difference between the church and the world. There is to be a sharp edge. There is to be a distinction between one side and the other – between the world and the church, and between those who are in the church and those who are not” (The Church At The End Of The Twentieth Century, 57). He writes in no uncertain terms: “For a church not to have discipline in life and doctrine means that it is not a New Testament church on the basis of the New Testament norms” (The Church At The End Of The Twentieth Century, 57).
Finally, Schaeffer declares that a vital mark of the church is the administration of two ordinances: baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
These seven norms are non-negotiable principles in the thinking and ecclesiology of Francis Schaeffer. These norms are commanded by God. Any church that fails to engage in even one of these crucial norms forfeits the right to be called a true church. However, Dr. Schaeffer believes there are many areas in which the church is left free. There is a form and there is also a freedom. “It is my thesis that as we cannot bind men morally except where the Scripture clearly commands (beyond that we can only give advice), similarly anything the New Testament does not command concerning church form is a freedom to be exercised under the leadership of the Holy Spirit for that particular time and place” ( ISBN-13: 978-0891077893 ).
In many ways, Francis Schaeffer may be considered very conservative in his approach to “doing church.” But in other ways, he is a bit of a radical. His views on form and freedom leave room for creativity, spontaneity and a wide variety of ministry options.
Dr. David Steele
By Don Carson 5/28/2018
“Open wide your mouth and I will fill it” (Ps. 81:10): the symbolism is transparent. God is perfectly willing and able to satisfy all our deepest needs and longings. Implicitly, the problem is that we will not even open our mouths to enjoy the food he provides. The symbolism returns in the last verse: while the wicked will face punishment that lasts forever, “you would be fed with the finest of wheat; with honey from the rock I would satisfy you” (Ps. 81:16).
Of course, God is talking about more than physical food (though scarcely less). The setting is a common one both in the Psalms and in the narrative parts of the Pentateuch. God graciously and spectacularly rescued the people from their slavery in Egypt, responding to their own cries of distress. “I removed the burden from their shoulders,”God says. “In your distress you called and I rescued you” (Ps. 81:6-7). Then comes the passage that leads to the line quoted at the beginning of this meditation:
Hear, O my people, and I will warn you —
Historically, of course, the response of the people was disappointing: “my people would not listen to me; Israel would not submit to me” (Ps. 81:11). In that case, they were not promised the satisfaction symbolized by full mouths. Far from it, God says, “So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts to follow their own devices” (Ps. 81:12).
if you would but listen to me, O Israel!
You shall have no foreign god among you;
you shall not bow down to an alien god.
I am the LORD your God, who brought you up out of Egypt.
Open wide your mouth and I will fill it (Ps. 81:8-10).
Of course, the nature of the idolatry changes from age to age. I recently read some lines from John Piper:
The greatest enemy of hunger for God is not poison but apple pie. It is not the banquet of the wicked that dulls our appetite for heaven, but endless nibbling at the table of the world. It is not the X-rated video, but the prime-time dribble of triviality we drink in every night. For all the ill that Satan can do, when God describes what keeps us from the banquet table of his love, it is a piece of land, a yoke of oxen, and a wife (Luke 14:18-20). The greatest adversary of love to God is not his enemies but his gifts. And the most deadly appetites are not for the poison of evil, but for the simple pleasures of earth. For when these replace an appetite for God himself, the idolatry is scarcely recognizable, and almost incurable ( ISBN-13: 978-0891079668 ).
“Open wide your mouth and I will fill it.”
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.
20 My companion stretched out his hand against his friends;
he violated his covenant.
21 His speech was smooth as butter,
yet war was in his heart;
his words were softer than oil,
yet they were drawn swords.
22 Cast your burden on the LORD,
and he will sustain you;
he will never permit
the righteous to be moved.
23 But you, O God, will cast them down
into the pit of destruction;
men of blood and treachery
shall not live out half their days.
But I will trust in you.
The Institutes of the Christian Religion
Translated by Henry Beveridge
7. And yet, in truth, none can solve this question better than
Scripture, if we compare all the passages in which it shows what office
and power Peter held among the apostles, how he acted among them, how
he was received by them (Acts 15:7). Run over all these passages, and
the utmost you will find is, that Peter was one of twelve, their equal
and colleague, not their master. He indeed brings the matter before the
council when anything is to be done, and advises as to what is
necessary, but he, at the same time, listens to the others, not only
conceding to them an opportunity of expressing their sentiments, but
allowing them to decide; and when they have decided, he follows and
obeys. When he writes to pastors, he does not command authoritatively
as a superior, but makes them his colleagues, and courteously advises
as equals are wont to do (1 Pet. 5:1). When he is accused of having
gone in to the Gentiles, though the accusation is unfounded, he replies
to it, and clears himself (Acts 11:3). Being ordered by his colleagues
to go with John into Samaria, he declines not (Acts 8:14). The
apostles, by sending him, declare that they by no means regard him as a
superior, while he, by obeying and undertaking the embassy committed to
him, confesses that he is associated with them, and has no authority
over them. But if none of these facts existed, the one Epistle to the
Galatians would easily remove all doubt, there being almost two
chapters in which the whole for which Paul contends is, that in regard
to the honour of the apostleship, he is the equal of Peter (Gal. 1:18;
2:8). Hence he states, that he went to Peter, not to acknowledge
subjection, but only to make their agreement in doctrine manifest to
all; that Peter himself asked no acknowledgment of the kind, but gave
him the right hand of fellowship, that they might be common labourers
in the vineyard; that not less grace was bestowed on him among the
Gentiles than on Peter among the Jews: in fine, that Peter, when he was
not acting with strict fidelity, was rebuked by him, and submitted to
the rebuke (Gal. 2:11). All these things make it manifest, either that
there was an equality between Paul and Peter, or, at least, that Peter
had no more authority over the rest than they had over him. This point,
as I have said, Paul handles professedly, in order that no one might
give a preference over him, in respect of apostleship, to Peter or
John, who were colleagues, not masters.
8. But were I to concede to them what they ask with regard to Peter--viz. that he was the chief of the apostles, and surpassed the others in dignity--there is no ground for making a universal rule out of a special example, or wresting a single fact into a perpetual enactment, seeing that the two things are widely different. One was chief among the apostles, just because they were few in number. If one man presided over twelve, will it follow that one ought to preside over a hundred thousand? That twelve had one among them to direct all is nothing strange. Nature admits, the human mind requires, that in every meeting, though all are equal in power, there should be one as a kind of moderator to whom the others should look up. There is no senate without a consul, no bench of judges without a president or chancellor, no college without a provost, no company without a master. Thus there would be no absurdity were we to confess that the apostles had conferred such a primacy on Peter. But an arrangement which is effectual among a few must not be forthwith transferred to the whole world, which no one man is able to govern. But (say they) it is observed that not less in nature as a whole, than in each of its parts, there is one supreme head. Proof of this it pleases them to derive from cranes and bees, which always place themselves under the guidance of one, not of several. I admit the examples which they produce; but do bees flock together from all parts of the world to choose one queen? Each queen is contented with her own hive. So among cranes, each flock has its own king. What can they prove from this, except that each church ought to have its bishop? They refer us to the examples of states, quoting from Homer, Ouk agathon polukoiranie, "a many-headed rule is not good;" and other "passages to the same effect from heathen writers in commendation of monarchy. The answer is easy. Monarchy is not lauded by Homer's Ulysses, or by others, as if one individual ought to govern the whole world; but they mean to intimate that one kingdom does not admit of two kings, and that empire, as one expresses it (Lucan. Lib. 1), cannot bear a partner.
9. Be it, however, as they will have it (though the thing is most absurd; be it), that it were good and useful for the whole world to be under one monarchy, I will not, therefore, admit that the same thing should take effect in the government of the Church. Her only Head is Christ, under whose government we are all united to each other, according to that order and form of policy which he himself has prescribed. Wherefore they offer an egregious insult to Christ, when under this pretext they would have one man to preside over the whole Church, seeing the Church can never be without a head, "even Christ, from whom the whole body fitly joined together, and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body" (Eph. 4:15, 16). See how all men, without exception, are placed in the body, while the honour and name of Head is left to Christ alone. See how to each member is assigned a certain measure, a finite and limited function, while both the perfection of grace and the supreme power of government reside only in Christ. I am not unaware of the cavilling objection which they are wont to urge--viz. that Christ is properly called the only Head, because he alone reigns by his own authority and in his own name; but that there is nothing in this to prevent what they call another ministerial head from being under him, and acting as his substitute. But this cavil cannot avail them, until they previously show that this office was ordained by Christ. For the apostle teaches, that the whole subministration is diffused through the members, while the power flows from one celestial Head;  or, if they will have it more plainly, since Scripture testifies that Christ is Head, and claims this honour for himself alone, it ought not to be transferred to any other than him whom Christ himself has made his vicegerent. But not only is there no passage to this effect, but it can be amply refuted by many passages.
10. Paul sometimes depicts a living image of the Church, but makes no mention of a single head. On the contrary, we may infer from his description, that it is foreign to the institution of Christ. Christ, by his ascension, took away his visible presence from us, and yet he ascended that he might fill all things: now, therefore, he is present in the Church, and always will be. When Paul would show the mode in which he exhibits himself, he calls our attention to the ministerial offices which he employs: "Unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ;" "And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers."  Why does he not say, that one presided over all to act as his substitute? The passage particularly required this, and it ought not on any account to have been omitted if it had been true. Christ, he says, is present with us. How? By the ministry of men whom he appointed over the government of the Church. Why not rather by a ministerial head whom he appointed his substitute? He speaks of unity, but it is in God and in the faith of Christ. He attributes nothing to men but a common ministry, and a special mode to each. Why, when thus commending unity, does he not, after saying, "one body, one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism" (Eph. 4:4), immediately add, one Supreme Pontiff to keep the Church in unity? Nothing could have been said more aptly if the case had really been so. Let that passage be diligently pondered, and there will be no doubt that Paul there meant to give a complete representation of that sacred and ecclesiastical government to which posterity have given the name of hierarchy. Not only does he not place a monarchy among ministers, but even intimates that there is none. There can also be no doubt, that he meant to express the mode of connection by which believers unite with Christ the Head. There he not only makes no mention of a ministerial head, but attributes a particular operation to each of the members, according to the measure of grace distributed to each. Nor is there any ground for subtle philosophical comparisons between the celestial and the earthly hierarchy. For it is not safe to be wise above measure with regard to the former, and in constituting the latter, the only type which it behoves us to follow is that which our Lord himself has delineated in his own word.
11. I will now make them another concession, which they will never obtain from men of sound mind--viz. that the primacy of the Church was fixed in Peter, with the view of remaining for ever by perpetual succession. Still how will they prove that his See was so fixed at Rome, that whosoever becomes Bishop of that city is to preside over the whole world? By what authority do they annex this dignity to a particular place, when it was given without any mention of place? Peter, they say, lived and died at Rome. What did Christ himself do? Did he not discharge his episcopate while he lived, and complete the office of the priesthood by dying at Jerusalem? The Prince of pastors, the chief Shepherd, the Head of the Church, could not procure honour for a place, and Peter, so far his inferior, could! Is not this worse than childish trifling? Christ conferred the honour of primacy on Peter. Peter had his See at Rome, therefore he fixed the seat of the primacy there. In this way the Israelites of old must have placed the seat of the primacy in the wilderness, where Moses, the chief teacher and prince of prophets, discharged his ministry and died.
12. Let us see, however, how admirably they reason. Peter, they say, had the first place among the apostles; therefore, the church in which he sat ought to have the privilege. But where did he first sit? At Antioch, they say. Therefore, the church of Antioch justly claims the primacy. They acknowledge that she was once the first, but that Peter, by removing from it, transferred the honour which he had brought with him to Rome. For there is extant, under the name of Pope Marcellus, a letter to the presbyters of Antioch, in which he says, "The See of Peter, at the outset, was with you, and was afterwards, by the order of the Lord, translated hither." Thus the church of Antioch, which was once the first, yielded to the See of Rome. But by what oracle did that good man learn that the Lord had so ordered? For if the question is to be determined in regular form, they must say whether they hold the privilege to be personal, or real, or mixed. One of the three it must be. If they say personal, then it has nothing to do with place; if real, then when once given to a place it is not lost by the death or departure of the person. It remains that they must hold it to be mixed; then the mere consideration of place is not sufficient unless the person also correspond. Let them choose which they will, I will forthwith infer, and easily prove, that Rome has no ground to arrogate the primacy.
13. However, be it so. Let the primacy have been (as they vainly allege) transferred from Antioch to Rome. Why did not Antioch retain the second place? For if Rome has the first, simply because Peter had his See there at the end of his life, to which place should the second be given sooner than to that where he first had his See? How comes it, then, that Alexandria takes precedence of Antioch? How can the church of a disciple be superior to the See of Peter? If honour is due to a church according to the dignity of its founder, what shall we say of other churches? Paul names three individuals who seemed to be pillars--viz. James, Peter, and John (Gal. 2:9). If, in honour of Peter, the first place is given to the Roman See, do not the churches of Ephesus and Jerusalem, where John and James were fixed, deserve the second and third places? But in ancient times Jerusalem held the last place among the Patriarchates, and Ephesus was not able to secure even the lowest corner. Other churches too have passed away, churches which Paul founded, and over which the apostles presided. The See of Mark, who was only one of the disciples, has obtained honour. Let them either confess that arrangement was preposterous, or let them concede that it is not always true that each church is entitled to the degree of honour which its founder possessed.
Christian Classics Ethereal Library / Public Domain
Institutes of the Christian Religion
Why Francis Schaeffer Matters:The Role of the Church in Cultural Transformation – Part 9
By Dr. David Steele 12/18/2015
Francis Schaeffer believes that the church has a heavy responsibility to promote community. He holds that the first step in comprehending Christian community is understanding the individuals who make up the community. The reason: The individual is important to God. He adds, “I am convinced that in the twentieth century people all over the world will not listen if we have the right doctrine, the right polity, but are not exhibiting community” (The Church At The End Of The Twentieth Century, 64).
He stresses “existential living in the community.” The horizontal relationships must all be rooted in the vertical, namely, a relationship with God. He holds that the primary responsibility is developing community within the church. He does not minimize the importance of reaching out to the lost but contends the community of the faithful must come first.
We Must Practice Purity | Schaeffer expresses his passion for maintaining purity in the church by appealing to the bride motif in Scripture. “As the bride of Christ, the church is to keep itself pure and faithful which involve two principles that seem to work against each other” (The Church Before The Watching World, 115). These principles include the practice of purity in regard to doctrine and life and the practice of an observable love and oneness among all true Christians regardless of who they happen to be.
Ultimately our task is to exhibit simultaneously the holiness and the love of God. Schaeffer explains this complex responsibility. “If we stress the love of God without the holiness of God, it turns out only to be compromise. But if we stress the holiness of God without the love of God, we practice something that is hard and lacks beauty” (The Church Before The Watching World, 152).
The method for practicing purity within the church is the consistent practice of church discipline (noted above as one of the norms of the New Testament church). Schaeffer unapologetically believes that anyone who rejects the teaching of Scripture in belief or practice should be placed under church discipline – the very purity of Christ’s church is at stake.
Drawing further on the bride motif, Schaeffer warns Christians from committing spiritual adultery: “The bride of Christ can be led away and can become less than the bride should be. As there can be physical adultery, so too there can be unfaithfulness to the divine Bridegroom – spiritual adultery” (The Church Before The Watching World, 139). Further, “To turn away from the divine Bridegroom is to turn to unfufillment. This is not only sin, it is destruction” (The Church Before The Watching World, 147).
The moment by moment experience with the Bridegroom is an extremely important issue in Schaeffer’s thinking. He believes that evangelicals for the most part have banked on the doctrine of justification by faith alone but they have failed to live in the light of this teaching: “As the bride puts herself in the bridegroom’s arms on the wedding day and then daily, and as therefore children are born, so the individual Christian is to put himself in the Bridegroom’s arms, not only once for all in justification, but existentially, moment by moment” (The Church Before The Watching World, 135). Moreover, “We are to act as that we are. We are not just going to heaven. We are even now the wife of God. We are at this moment the bride of Christ. And what does our divine Bridegroom want from us? He wants from us not only doctrinal faithfulness, but our love day by day” (The Church Before The Watching World, 148).
We Must Demonstrate the Reality of Christianity | Schaeffer does not stop with doctrinal and existential faithfulness to Christ. He contends that we must also demonstrate the reality of the Christian faith in tangible ways to the watching world. He holds that the essential quality of a believer is love for one another (John 13:35).
Despite Schaeffer’s vigorous attempts to provide a defense of the Christian faith, he contends that love for one another and a unified body provide the basis for the unbeliever to become interested in the Christian faith. He calls this love and unity “the final apologetic.” He offers this challenge to the evangelical church: Our love will not be perfect, but it must be substantial enough for the world to be able to observe or it does not fit into the structure or the verses in John 13 and John 17. And if the world does not observe this among true Christians, the world has a right to make two awful judgments which these verses indicate: that we are not Christians and that Christ was not sent by the Father (The Mark Of The Christian, 197).
We Must Engage in a Christian Revolution | Schaeffer contends that the evangelical church must return to the base of Scripture and embark on a Christian revolution. He maintains the church must be pitted against everyone who has turned away from God and the revelation of the Word of God. He believes the implications of revolution are threefold: First, Christians must realize that there is a difference between being a cobelligerent and an ally. Second, the church must take truth seriously (Here is the repeated emphasis on antithesis). Third, the church must be a real place of community (as noted above).
He provides two basic principles for being a revolutionary Christian. First, we need a Christianity that is strong, not a mere memory. He simply calls this “hot Christianity.” Second, our Christianity must become truly universal; relevant to all segments of society and all societies of the world. He refers to this as “compassionate Christianity.”
Schaeffer does not believe, however, that mere revolution is enough. He believes that the church in the modern generation also needs reformation and revival. Reformation refers to a restoration to pure doctrine and a return to the teachings of Scripture. Revival refers to a restoration in the Christian life and a proper relationship to the Holy Spirit.
Reformation and revival must occur simultaneously. Or as Schaeffer puts it, “The great moments of church history have come when these two restorations have simultaneously come into action so that the church has returned to pure doctrine and the lives of the Christians in the church have known the power of the Holy Spirit. There cannot be true revival unless there has been reformation; and reformation is not complete without revival” (Death In The City, 210).
We Must Reclaim the Culture for the Cause of Christ and His Kingdom | This final admonition for Dr. Schaeffer plays a central role in his thinking. He sums up his view in his little book, Back To Freedom and Dignity. “In short, Christians should prepare to take the lead in giving direction to cultural change.”
The primary issue at hand is a return to the Christian consensus; the Christian worldview. “I tell you in the name of God He will judge our culture unless there is a return to a Christian base for the culture – and that begins with true repentance and renewal in the church” (The Church Before The Watching World, 147).
The most definitive look at Schaeffer’s view in this area is his popular work, A Christian Manifesto. Inspired by Samuel Rutherford who wrote Lex Rex (law is king) in 1644, Schaeffer proceeds to describe the cultural responsibilities of the church. He quotes John Witherspoon approvingly who writes, “A republic once easily poised must either preserve its virtue or lose its liberty.”
He addresses the problem of pluralism and believes “it is up to Christians to show that Christianity is the Truth of total reality in the open marketplace of freedom” (A Christian Manifesto, 440).
He addresses the problem of humanism and writes, “If we are going to join the battle in a way that has any hope of effectiveness – with Christians truly being salt and the light in our culture and our society – then we must do battle on the entire front” (A Christian Manifesto, 445). He continues:
Most fundamentally, our culture, society, government, and law are in the conditions they are in, not because of a conspiracy, but because the church has forsaken its duty to be the salt of the culture. It is the church’s duty (as well as its privilege ) to do now what it should have been doing all the time – to use freedom we do have to be that salt of the culture (A Christian Manifesto, 447).
The answer Schaeffer gives for the enduring problems that America faces is most interesting. He endorses civil disobedience and goes so far to say that a given Christian is disobedient if she does not engage in necessary civil disobedience.
The foundation for Schaeffer’s adherence to civil disobedience may be found in the book, Lex Rex. It essentially proclaims that the law is king, and if the king and the government disobey the law they are to be disobeyed. The logic is defined as follows: All power is from God (Rom. 13) and government is ordained and instituted by God. However, the state is to be administered according to the principles of God’s Law. Acts of the state which contradict God’s Law are illegitimate and are considered acts of tyranny (defined as ruling without the sanction of God).
Therefore, the following principles apply to the Christian church: First, since tyranny is satanic, not to resist it is to resist God. Conversely, to resist tyranny is to honor God. Second, since the ruler is granted conditional power, it follows that the people have the power to withdraw their sanction if the proper conditions are not fulfilled. Third, Christians have a moral obligation to resist unjust and tyrannical government.
Rutherford further explains the steps for a private person engaging in civil disobedience. The first step is to defend oneself by protest (in our society this would most likely take place by exerting legal action). Second, one must flee if at all possible. Finally, one may use force if necessary to defend himself. Dr. Schaeffer mentions that potential protest or withholding of taxes may be used to protest immoral activity such as euthanasia.
Building on the principles set forth in Lex Rex, Dr. Schaeffer suggests a strategy for Christian force in an injustice such as abortion. First, one should aggressively support a human life bill or a constitutional amendment that protects the unborn. Second, one must enter the courts seeking to overturn the Supreme Court’s decision. Third, legal and political action should be taken against hospitals and abortion clinics that perform abortions. Fourth, the state must be made to feel the presence of the Christian community.
Schaeffer’s position is clear. He maintains that the early church engaged in civil disobedience. He uses Caesar as an example who commanded everyone to worship him. The Christians in Rome willingly disobeyed and paid the ultimate price for their act of courage.
Schaeffer, then, issues a challenge to the present day church. “And we must demonstrate to people that there is indeed a bottom line. To repeat: the bottom line is that at a certain point there is not only the right, but the duty to disobey the state (A Christian Manifesto, 485).
If there is no final place for civil disobedience, then the government has been made autonomous, and as such, it has been put in the place of the Living God. If there is no final place for civil disobedience, then the government has been put in the place of the Living God, because then you are to obey it even when it tells you in its own way at the time to worship Caesar (A Christian Manifesto, 491).
To sum up, Dr. Schaeffer challenges the church to stand up and act. The Christian church must respond to the cultural decay or find itself wanting. Schaeffer’s warning in the late 60’s and early 70’s is even more relevant today!
Dr. David Steele
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
3/1/2010 | The Acts of the Spirit and the Apostles
You might be surprised to learn that Saint Andrew’s, the church where Dr. Sproul and I serve as pastors, has many members who have come from Pentecostal and charismatic churches. When they join our congregation I urge them not to leave behind the Holy Spirit. There seems to be a tendency for believers within some Presbyterian and Reformed churches to forget about the person and power of the Holy Spirit. Although historically this is not the case and although doctrinally it ought not to be the case, sadly it often seems to be the case.
As some Christians come to grasp the sovereignty of God and the covenantal manner in which the Lord works in redemptive history, they sometimes misplace the precious biblical doctrine of the person and work of the Holy Spirit in and through His people. And in doing so, their theology, evangelism, prayers, and worship suffer. While they know and can rightly defend primary causality (God is the primary cause of all things that come to pass), they seem to forget about the doctrine of secondary causality (God providentially orders all things to come to pass according to the nature of second causes in and through His creation and creatures). We know that God is sovereign over all and that He has ordained the ends, but we too often forget that He has also ordained the means to those ends (Acts 2:23). While it’s true that God knows the end from the beginning, He is also wisely and providentially orchestrating all things from beginning to end, both in the church and in the world, both in the natural realm and in the supernatural realm. The Holy Spirit empowers, equips, and emboldens those He indwells to pray, preach, evangelize, disciple, and even to die.
As we approach the great history of the church in the book of Acts, the question is often asked: Should we call this book the Acts of the Apostles or should we call it the Acts of the Holy Spirit? We could rightly call it both. Luke’s account, as does every historical account ever penned (whether explicit or not), shows forth the sovereign majesty of our triune God’s redemptive-missional activity in the world in and through weak and broken vessels like us, who by His grace neither can nor will leave behind the Holy Spirit who goes before us and dwells within us.
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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
He left Yale for four years to fight in the Revolutionary War. After graduation, he became a lawyer and taught school in New York. Dissatisfied with the children's spelling books, he wrote the famous "Blue-Backed Speller," which sold over one hundred million copies. After twenty-six years of work, he published the first American Dictionary of the English Language. His name, Noah Webster, who died this day, May 28, 1843. Noah Webster wrote: "All the miseries and evils which men suffer from vice, crime, ambition, injustice… proceed from their despising or neglecting the precepts contained in the Bible."
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
The self-appointed spokesmen for God incline to shout;
He, Himself, speaks only in whispers.
--- Martin H. Fischer
1,001 Pearls of Spiritual Wisdom
A lot of people are willing to give God credit,
but so few ever give Him cash.
--- Robert E. Harris
Laugh With the Circuit Rider (Land of the Sky Series, Vol II)
A prayer in its simplest definition is merely a wish turned Godward.
--- Phillips Brooks
Phillips Brooks Year Book: Selections from the Writings of the Rt. Rev. Phillips Brooks
God has a tender regard unto the souls of men, and is infinitely willing to promote their welfare. He has condescended to our weakness and declared with an oath that he has no pleasure in our destruction. There is no such thing as spite or envy lodged in the bosom of that ever blessed being, whose name and nature is love.
--- 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
A Note on Translations and Transliterations
I have generally followed the standard Jewish Publication Society translation of the Bible, but I have occasionally permitted myself my own translation; in no case was there a significant difference in meaning.
My use of “He” for God, and occasionally “man” or “mankind” for humanity, are not meant to have any gender significance; I have attempted where possible to be sensitive to such concerns, but I have preferred to avoid stylistic awkwardness even at the expense of offending contemporary codes of “correctness.”
My transliterations from the Hebrew generally follow the pattern set by the Encyclopedia Judaica.
One last item: I refer to the great R. Moses ben Maimon as “Maimonides,” except when the discussion is primarily halakhic, as in the appendix, where I refer to him more appropriately as “Rambam.”
The Shema: Spirituality and Law in Judaism
Thanks to Meir Yona
5. When Gabinius had taken care of these cities, he returned to Alexandrium, and pressed on the siege. So when Alexander despaired of ever obtaining the government, he sent ambassadors to him, and prayed him to forgive what he had offended him in, and gave up to him the remaining fortresses, Hyrcanium and Machaerus, as he put Alexandrium into his hands afterwards; all which Gabinius demolished, at the persuasion of Alexander's mother, that they might not be receptacles of men in a second war. She was now there in order to mollify Gabinius, out of her concern for her relations that were captives at Rome, which were her husband and her other children. After this Gabinius brought Hyrcanus to Jerusalem, and committed the care of the temple to him; but ordained the other political government to be by an aristocracy. He also parted the whole nation into five conventions, assigning one portion to Jerusalem, another to Gadara, that another should belong to Amathus, a fourth to Jericho, and to the fifth division was allotted Sepphoris, a city of Galilee. So the people were glad to be thus freed from monarchical government, and were governed for the future by all aristocracy.
6. Yet did Aristobulus afford another foundation for new disturbances. He fled away from Rome, and got together again many of the Jews that were desirous of a change, such as had borne an affection to him of old; and when he had taken Alexandrium in the first place, he attempted to build a wall about it; but as soon as Gabinius had sent an army against him under Siscuria, and Antonius, and Servilius, he was aware of it, and retreated to Machaerus. And as for the unprofitable multitude, he dismissed them, and only marched on with those that were armed, being to the number of eight thousand, among whom was Pitholaus, who had been the lieutenant at Jerusalem, but deserted to Aristobulus with a thousand of his men; so the Romans followed him, and when it came to a battle, Aristobulus's party for a long time fought courageously; but at length they were overborne by the Romans, and of them five thousand fell down dead, and about two thousand fled to a certain little hill, but the thousand that remained with Aristobulus brake through the Roman army, and marched together to Machaerus; and when the king had lodged the first night upon its ruins, he was in hopes of raising another army, if the war would but cease a while; accordingly, he fortified that strong hold, though it was done after a poor manner. But the Romans falling upon him, he resisted, even beyond his abilities, for two days, and then was taken, and brought a prisoner to Gabinius, with Antigonus his son, who had fled away together with him from Rome; and from Gabinius he was carried to Rome again. Wherefore the senate put him under confinement, but returned his children back to Judea, because Gabinius informed them by letters that he had promised Aristobulus's mother to do so, for her delivering the fortresses up to him.
7. But now as Gabinius was marching to the war against the Parthians, he was hindered by Ptolemy, whom, upon his return from Euphrates, he brought back into Egypt, making use of Hyrcanus and Antipater to provide every thing that was necessary for this expedition; for Antipater furnished him with money, and weapons, and corn, and auxiliaries; he also prevailed with the Jews that were there, and guarded the avenues at Pelusium, to let them pass. But now, upon Gabinius's absence, the other part of Syria was in motion, and Alexander, the son of Aristobulus, brought the Jews to revolt again. Accordingly, he got together a very great army, and set about killing all the Romans that were in the country; hereupon Gabinius was afraid, [for he was come back already out of Egypt, and obliged to come back quickly by these tumults,] and sent Antipater, who prevailed with some of the revolters to be quiet. However, thirty thousand still continued with Alexander, who was himself eager to fight also; accordingly, Gabinius went out to fight, when the Jews met him; and as the battle was fought near Mount Tabor, ten thousand of them were slain, and the rest of the multitude dispersed themselves, and fled away. So Gabinius came to Jerusalem, and settled the government as Antipater would have it; thence he marched, and fought and beat the Nabateans: as for Mithridates and Orsanes, who fled out of Parthin, he sent them away privately, but gave it out among the soldiers that they had run away.
8. In the mean time, Crassus came as successor to Gabinius in Syria. He took away all the rest of the gold belonging to the temple of Jerusalem, in order to furnish himself for his expedition against the Parthians. He also took away the two thousand talents which Pompey had not touched; but when he had passed over Euphrates, he perished himself, and his army with him; concerning which affairs this is not a proper time to speak [more largely].
9. But now Cassius, after Crassus, put a stop to the Parthians, who were marching in order to enter Syria. Cassius had fled into that province, and when he had taken possession of the same, he made a hasty march into Judea; and, upon his taking Taricheae, he carried thirty thousand Jews into slavery. He also slew Pitholaus, who had supported the seditious followers of Aristobulus; and it was Antipater who advised him so to do. Now this Antipater married a wife of an eminent family among the Arabisus, whose name was Cypros, and had four sons born to him by her, Phasaelus and Herod, who was afterwards king, and, besides these, Joseph and Pheroras; and he had a daughter whose name was Salome. Now as he made himself friends among the men of power every where, by the kind offices he did them, and the hospitable manner that he treated them; so did he contract the greatest friendship with the king of Arabia, by marrying his relation; insomuch that when he made war with Aristobulus, he sent and intrusted his children with him. So when Cassius had forced Alexander to come to terms and to be quiet, he returned to Euphrates, in order to prevent the Parthians from repassing it; concerning which matter we shall speak elsewhere.
by D.H. Stern
1 He who separates himself indulges his desires
and shows contempt for sound advice of any kind.
2 A fool takes no pleasure in trying to understand;
he only wants to express his own opinion.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
And in that day ye shall ask Me nothing. --- John 16:23.
When is “that day”? When the Ascended Lord makes you one with the Father. In that day you will be one with the Father as Jesus is, and “in that day,” Jesus says, “ye shall ask Me nothing.” Until the resurrection life of Jesus is manifested in you, you want to ask this and that; then after a while you find all questions gone, you do not seem to have any left to ask. You have come to the place of entire reliance on the resurrection life of Jesus which brings you into perfect contact with the purpose of God. Are you living that life now? If not, why shouldn’t you?
There may be any number of things dark to your understanding, but they do not come in between your heart and God. “And in that day ye shall ask Me no question”—you do not need to, you are so certain that God will bring things out in accordance with His will. John 14:1 has become the real state of your heart, and there are no more questions to be asked. If anything is a mystery to you and it is coming in between you and God, never look for the explanation in your intellect, look for it in your disposition, it is that which is wrong. When once your disposition is willing to submit to the life of Jesus, the understanding will be perfectly clear, and you will get to the place where there is no distance between the Father and His child because the Lord has made you one, and “in that day ye shall ask Me no question.”
My Utmost for His Highest
the Poetry of RS Thomas
The centuries were without
his like: then suddenly
he was there, fishing
in a hurrying river,
the Teifi. But what he caught
were ideas; the water
described a direction;
his thoughts were toy boats
that grew big; one
he embarked on; Suez,
the Far East - the atlas
to him as a back-yard.
'Spittle and phlegm
to the wind piping
in the thin rigging;
go climbing there
to the empty nest
of the black crow. Far
is the deck and farther
is the wind's tongue and cold your porridge.
Look up now .
and dry your beard:
teach me to ride
in my high saddle
the mare of the sea.'
Was it the fall
of the soul
from favour? Past four
decks, and his bones
splintered. Seventeen weeks
on his back. No Welsh,
no English; but the hands
of the Romanians
kind. He became
their mouth-piece, publishing
his rebirth. In a new
body he sailed
away on his old course.
On brisk Evenings
before the Trades
the sails named
themselves; he repeated
the lesson. The First
Mate had a hard boot.
all the stars
over him, yet none of them
with a Welsh sound.
But the capstan spoke
in cynghanedd; from
breaker to breaker
he neared home.
'Evening, sailor.' Red
lips and a tilted smile;
the ports garlanded
with faces. Was he aware
of a vicarage garden
that was the cramped harbour
he came to?
the letters began:
'Dear -' the small pen
in the stubbed hand -
'in these dark waters
the memory of you
is like a -' words scratched
out that would win a smile
from the reader. The deep
sea and the old call
to abandon it
for the narrow channel
from her and back. The chair
was waiting and the slippers
by the soft fire
that would destroy him.
'The hard love I had at her small breasts:
the tight fists that pummelled me ;
the thin mouth with its teeth clenched
on a memory.' Are all women
like this? He said so, that man,
my father, who had tasted their lips'
vinegar, coughing it up
in harbours he returned to with his tongue
lolling from droughts of the sea.
The voice of my father
in the night with the hunger
of the sea in it and the emptiness
of the sea. While the house founders
in time. I must listen to him
complaining, a ship's captain
with no crew, a navigator
without a port: rejected
by the barrenness of his wife's
coasts, by the wind's bitterness
off her heart. I take his failure
for ensign, flying it
at my bedpost, where my own
children cry to be born.
Suddenly he was old
in a silence unhaunted
by the wailing signals;
and was put ashore
on that four-walled
island to which all sailors must come.
So he went gleaning
in the flickering stubble,
where formerly his keel reaped.
And the remembered stars
swarmed for him; and the birds, too,
most of them with wrong names.
Always he looked aft
from the chair's bridge, and his hearers
suffered the anachronism of his view.
The form of his
life; the weak smile;
the fingers filed down
by canvas; the hopes
blunted; the lack of understanding
of life creasing the brow
with wrinkles, as though he pondered
on deep things.
Out of touch
with the times, landlocked
in his ears' calm, he remembered
and talked; spoiling himself
with his mirth; running the joke
down; giving his orders
again in hospital with his crew
gone. What was a sailor
good for who had sailed
all seas and learned wisdom
from none, fetched up there
in the shallows with his mind's
Strange grace, sailor, docked now
in six feet of thick soil,
with the light dribbling on you
from the lamps in a street
of a town you had no love
for. The place is a harbour
for stone sails, and under
it you lie with the becalmed
fleet heavy upon you. This
was never the destination
you dreamed of in that other
churchyard by Teifi.
can I accept your voyages
are done; that there is no tide
high enough to float you off
this mean shoal of plastic
and trash? Six feet down,
and the bone's anchor too
heavy for your child spirit
to haul on and be up and away?
Selected Poems, 1946-68
The president of the United States is wounded by an assassin's bullet. He is rushed to a hospital where doctors work frantically to save his life. The vice president, in the meantime, is on board Air Force Two, thousands of miles away. The president's chief of staff rushes into the White House press room and informs the country: "I'm in charge here …" Fortunately, the president recovers, the vice president returns to Washington, and the chief of staff continues his normal duties. But for several hours, there is total confusion. What if there were a world crisis that required an immediate decision? Who was empowered to make those critical choices? Who was really in charge? In every bureaucracy, there has to be a decision-making process, and there must be, ultimately, one person who has the final responsibility. Two kings cannot share one crown because the people need to know who is in charge, whom to obey, and whom to listen to.
What is true of kings of flesh and blood is also true of Heavenly Kings: In the Midrash, the Rabbis often use the figure of a king as a metaphor for God. By telling us that two kings cannot share one crown, perhaps they were also attacking the philosophy of Dualism that was prevalent in the ancient world. Dualism held that there were two great equal forces in the universe, the power of light, or goodness, and the power of darkness, or evil. These two opposing forces were constantly at war with one another. Consequently, the adherents of Dualism believed that conflict was at the heart of all existence and were never quite sure which power to turn to for help. The Rabbis rejected this notion. They believed that there was but one God, one King to wear the crown, one authority to go to with our prayers. This meant that unity, not divisiveness, was the central principle of existence. It also meant that there was hope of bringing all peoples together as one. God may have sinned, according to Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish, by being too quick to make sure that two kings didn't share one crown. However, we can understand God's concerns—both here on earth as well as in Heaven; there is just too much at stake.
There goes your donkey, Tarfon!
Text / Mishnah (4:4): It once happened that a cow had its womb removed, and Rabbi Tarfon fed it [the cow] to the dogs. The incident came before the Sages in Yavneh and they permitted it. Todos the physician said: "No cow or pig leaves Alexandria without their cutting out its womb so that it will not give birth." Rabbi Tarfon said: "There goes your donkey, Tarfon!" Rabbi Akiva said to him: "Rabbi Tarfon, you are a court expert, and every court expert is exempt from repayment."
Text / Gemara: Let him [Rabbi Akiva] derive it from the fact that he had erred in a matter of Mishnah, and an error in a matter of Mishnah can be retracted! He [Rabbi Akiva] gave a first reason and then a second: First, an error in a matter of Mishnah can be retracted, and second, even if your mistake was in a case of opposing views, you are a court expert, and every court expert is exempt from repayment.
Context / Rabbi Tarfon was a great tanna, a teacher from the time of the Mishnah. The Talmud relates that Rabbi Tarfon was a man of great wealth and kindly character. Upon scaring off a thief eating from his vineyard, Tarfon was distressed that he had used his rabbinic title, thus diminishing the Torah. Rabbi Abahu, in the name of Rabbi Ḥananiah ben Gamliel, commenting on this incident, said: "All his life, that righteous man [Rabbi Tarfon] was saddened over this incident!"
Context / "The three oldest sons of Jesse had left and gone with Saul to the war. The names of his three sons who had gone to war were Eliab the first-born, the next Abinadab, and the third Shammah; and David was the youngest [smallest]." (1 Samuel 17:13–14)
Context / Elsewhere, the generous character of Rabbi Tarfon is illustrated with a story of his saving three hundred poor women by marrying each of them. (Polygamy was still permitted in talmudic times.) This occurred during a drought, when these women otherwise might have starved to death. By marrying Tarfon, who was a kohen, they would be allowed to eat from terumah, the portion of grain harvest brought to the kohanim in the Temple. Thus, while it may be surprising that this scholar made such an error in judgment concerning the cow, it is not surprising—given the many stories of his generosity and kindness that appear in the Talmud—that Rabbi Tarfon felt that, as both a judge and a man of considerable means, he should repay the cow's owner for his error in judgment.
A cow that was born without a womb would be treif, literally "torn," that is, ritually unfit and not allowed for consumption by Jews. Thus, when Rabbi Tarfon determined that this particular cow was treif because it had no womb, he fed it to dogs, in fulfillment of the admonition in Exodus (22:30): "You must not eat flesh torn [treifah] by beasts in the field; you shall cast it to the dogs." However, when this case was brought before the Rabbis in Yavneh, the seat of learning at the time, it became clear that Rabbi Tarfon had erred. This was not an instance where a cow had been born without a womb and was therefore defective, but rather one in which the cow's womb had been surgically removed. This was probably done because Alexandrian animals were highly regarded; removal of the womb would prevent breeding of these cattle elsewhere and would keep the monopoly on this prized breed in Alexandria.
When Rabbi Tarfon realized what he had done, he exclaimed: "There goes your donkey, Tarfon!" As Rashi explains this idiom, Rabbi Tarfon thought that he would have to sell his donkey in order to pay for the damage he had caused the owner of the cow by rendering an incorrect decision. We know that people often speak of themselves or to themselves in the third person, especially in anger or surprise. Rabbi Tarfon is no different. His words are similar to the English-language phrase "You've cooked your own goose."
The Mishnah ends with Rabbi Akiva reminding Rabbi Tarfon that he, as a recognized expert in legal matters, is under a court exemption and will not have to repay. The Gemara then asks why Rabbi Akiva uses this line of reasoning, since there is another teaching that would just as easily exempt Rabbi Tarfon: He had erred in a matter of Mishnah, and an error in a matter of Mishnah can simply be retracted! The answer from the Gemara is: He, Rabbi Akiva, really gave two reasons why Rabbi Tarfon is exempt: first (not recorded in our Mishnah), a Mishnah mistake can be retracted, and second (recorded in our Mishnah), even if he did render a wrong decision, he is not required, as a court expert, to make amends.
Swimming in the Sea of Talmud: Lessons for Everyday Living
The Teacher's Commentary
Now the Old Testament record focuses on David.
With the death of Saul, David's fortune changed. He was no longer a fugitive, and was quickly acknowledged as king by the southern tribe of Judah, his own tribe. In the north Ish-Bosheth, a surviving son of Saul, was propped up as king by the military leader, Abner.
Over the next years there were minor skirmishes between the two kingdoms. But David's strength showed itself, as did Ish-Bosheth's weakness. Then Ish-Bosheth was assassinated (and the assassins executed by an outraged David). It was seven and a half years after David had become king of Judah that he was recognized as king by all of Israel.
David's accomplishments as Israel's ruler are unmatched. He is a type of Jesus, who will rule as God's coming King. His personal qualities and faith provide examples for believers of every age.
Commentary / David's rule was strong and aggressive and his accomplishments were unparalleled. Other men of history have demonstrated military and administrative capacity, but David overshadows them all by the breadth and depth of his ability. To cap it all, David is one of the great men of faith.
To understand the significance of this remarkable man it is necessary to survey the accomplishments that are reported in these biblical passages, and to examine his role in Old Testament prophecy.
Events of David's Reign
David made king
2 Sam. 5:1–5; 1 Chron. 11:1–3
David takes Jerusalem
2 Sam. 5:6–9; 1 Chron. 11:4–9
David organizes the mighty men
1 Chron. 11:10–12:40
David defeats the Philistines
2 Sam. 5:17–25; 1 Chron. 14:8–17
David brings the ark to Jerusalem
2 Sam. 6:1–12; 1 Chron. 13:1–14; 15:1–15
David offers praise
2 Sam. 6:12–23; 1 Chron. 15:6–16:36
David receives a covenant promise
2 Sam. 7:1–16; 1 Chron. 17:1–15
David wins more victories
2 Sam. 8:1–14; 1 Chron. 18:1–13
David organizes his government
2 Sam. 8:15–18; 1 Chron. 18:14–17
David honors Mephibosheth
2 Sam. 9:1–13
David defeats the Ammonites
2 Sam. 10:1–19; 1 Chron. 19:1–19
Military achievements. Establishing the kingdom first of all required defeating Israel's enemies and setting up a perimeter of safety. As archeological digs have shown, up to David's time Israel was restricted to the hilly areas of Palestine; the rich plains were in the hands of the ancient Canaanite peoples. Then, in a series of battles (2 Sam. 5; 8; and 10), David destroyed the power of the Philistines, Israel's principal enemy since the days of Samson. David's neutralization of the Philistines was complete; they never again posed any threat to God's people.
In a further series of battles, David brought Moab and Edom under his control. The kingdom of Israel proper then extended from north of the Sea of Galilee south to Beersheba and encompassed both sides of the Jordan River.
David's conquests set up a number of vassal states, which insulated Israel from distant potential enemies. These states also made available the natural resources of iron and coal which Israel needed to maintain military strength, and the conquered peoples provided the skills in metalworking which were not known in Israel. No longer would iron, the Philistines' ancient "secret weapon," be unavailable to the Hebrews!
Summarizing the position David had attained for Israel, Leon Wood (A Survey of Israel's History, Zondervan) notes of all the territory which acknowledged Israelite sovereignty, "This was the area which God had promised to Abraham for his posterity centuries before (Gen. 15:18). It did not rival the vast territories of Egypt, Assyria, or Babylonia in their empire days. But in David's time, Israel became one of the larger land areas then held, and David was no doubt the strongest ruler of the contemporary world."
The Teacher's Commentary
The Apologetics Study Bible
Several distinct types of history can be found in the Bible. On the human plane are personal histories or biographies, family histories and national histories (which can be the history of Israel, God's chosen nation, as well as of various pagan nations). The Bible also tells the story of actions in which God is a direct actor or protagonist. As part of his master history, God oversees human histories. This combined history of the Bible, often called "salvation history," is the metahistory of the Bible.
The Bible's picture of history is strongly linear, moving toward a goal of consummation to be followed by eternity. In all spheres history is given a strongly providential cast, with the outcome of human actions regarded as either produced or influenced by God's activity. Biblical history is also viewed through a moral lens in which people's success or failure is attributed to whether they do good or evil. The primary form in which this history is embodied is narrative, but we also infer history from such genres as law, lyrics, epistles and prophetic utterances. Significant shifts occur as we move from the Old Testament to the New Testament.
Genre Features. It is safe to say that the ancient world did not regard historical writing in the same way that we view it in the modern era, where history is a largely scientific record of verifiable events, governed by evidence and proof. As modern historical methods emerged in the nineteenth century, modes of criticism sprang up that were suspicious of the biblical text for not conforming to this new genre and for the alleged scientific unreliability of its narrative. Understanding the forms of history in the Bible itself can help to correct some of the misleading claims.
The Bible itself never refers to any of its genres as history. Yet this should not obscure the extent to which the Bible consciously deals with historical events from start to finish. Sometimes the genres advertise their preoccupation with history, as with "chronicles" or genealogies. Certainly there is implicit evidence in the Old Testament of a vocation of court chronicler; and we find references to underlying historical sources, such as the "Book of the Annals of the Kings of Israel," the "Book of the Wars of the Lord"
(Num 21:14) or the "Book of Jashar" (Josh 10:13;
2 Sam 1:18). Even narrative sections of the Bible that do not have the feel of official history are rooted in space-time history and deal with events that are recorded as having really happened. The history narrated in these parts of the Bible is virtually never universal or comprehensive. It deals instead with only a short segment of time and is limited to a small group of people. Yet paradoxically this carefully limited history claims to be a complete and sufficient revelation of God's purposes.
The Apologetics Study Bible: Understand Why You Believe
There is an ongoing argument, certainly not a discussion, about whether or not the Bible is the inerrant Word of God, from God's mouth to our ears. Part of that discussion is how to qualify what inerrant means. Those who spend time in this argument could better spend that time reading Scripture and allowing it to sift their own life instead of worrying about convincing someone else of whether or not it is inerrant. Doesn't God want us to read it? Christ did. Isn't that enough to convince you to read it? The Holy Spirit will take care of the rest. Our part is to read it and wait to see what happens.
Isaiah 55:11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. ESV
Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism
The texts that eventually came to constitute the canonical books of the Hebrew Bible or Old Testament display a pattern of developmental growth in their composition. Like a cross-section of a tree with multiple rings, they show repeated stages of new growth from their beginnings, which are usually lost in the darkness of history, continually until the end of the Second Temple period. This developmental growth did not cease until some time after the destruction of the Temple in 70 C.E., when it halted rather abruptly.
The Composition of the Scriptural Texts
The popular imagination, formed as early as rabbinic times, envisioned a few holy men (e.g., Moses, Samuel, Isaiah, Daniel) as the authors of the books that bear their names, similar to classical or modern authors who individually compose and publish books under their own name. Prior to the Enlightenment, however, several attentive readers began to raise suspicions about those views of authorship, and buoyed by the Enlightenment, questions concerning authorship gained momentum, resulting in sustained, critical analysis of the literary character of the biblical books. The overwhelming conclusion of this international and interconfessional scholarship was that the books of the biblical anthology were composed in stages. Small units of what usually began as oral material—stories, laws, songs, proverbs—were gathered into larger, growing literary complexes. Earlier source materials were brought together into a unified work by an anonymous person who is usually labeled an editor or redactor. Tradents and scribes passed on the traditions, faithfully retaining the earlier message, and at times creatively adapting them to address newer concerns that affected the successive communities. Textual critics detected further minor developments within the major stages of the compositions, noting additions to, losses from, and errors in the text of each book after it had been composed and as it continued to be recited or copied from generation to generation. Thus the Scriptures were seen to be composed over the course of approximately a millennium, from source materials in the premonarchic and monarchic periods to within a generation or so of the fall of the Second Temple in 70 C.E.
No manuscript evidence survives from the early centuries to provide clear details for a reconstruction of the history of Israel’s religious and cultural literature. The scholarship described above was theoretical, based not on manuscripts but on literary clues embedded within the works themselves. But the general results of that vast modern library of theoretical scholarship have now been solidly confirmed by abundant documentary evidence provided by the biblical manuscripts from Qumran.
Thus there are two distinct periods in the history of the biblical text: a formative period of developmental growth and pluriformity until the time of the Jewish revolts against Rome, eclipsed by the period of a uniform text tradition since the second century C.E. The dynamics of these two periods account for the character of the textual witnesses preserved and the transmission history of these books.
The Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism
Jesus saith unto them, Come and dine. --- John 21:12. KJV
Notice Christ’s fire was kindled before they came. (The World's Great RS Thomas, Volume 10 Drummond to Jowett, and General Index ) Christ’s fish was already laid on it, and all they had to do was to come and dine. It is all you have to do, all the churches have to do. Didn’t Christ put it so in the parable of the great supper? “Come, for everything is now ready” (Luke 14:17). Is not the last word of Scripture the great invitation? “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.” When he says, “Come and dine,” there is enough for each, enough for all, enough for evermore. The same voice speaks even now to your hunger-bitten soul, to your famished heart, “Come and dine” (see John 6:51).
And then there comes one last touch in the beautiful story. While these things happened, the day was breaking. Is there one of us long tossed on sunless seas of doubt, long conscious of failure and disappointment in life? Are there those of us whose sorrow lies deeper than that which is personal—sorrow over our failure in Christ’s work, pain over a life’s ministry for Christ that has known no victorious evangel? Turn your eyes from that barren sea to him who stands on the shore; he will yet make you a fisher of souls. Turn your eyes from that bleak, dark sea of wasted effort where you have fared so ill; it is always dark till Jesus comes, it is always light when he has come. And to each of us he says today, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever.”
“Come and dine.” Will you come?
--- William Dawson
Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
Alleine’s Alarm | May 28
While a chaplain at Oxford, Joseph Alleine often neglected his friends for his studies. “It is better they should wonder at my rudeness,” he explained, “than that I should lose time; for only a few will notice the rudeness, but many will feel my loss of time.” Though barely 21, he was already “infinitely and insatiably greedy for the conversion of souls,” devoting every moment to studying, preaching, and evangelizing.
In 1655 Joseph was called to a church in the west of England. He soon married, and his wife, Theodosia, later claimed his only fault was not spending more time with her. “Ah, my dear,” he would say, “I know thy soul is safe; but how many that are perishing have I to look after?”
Joseph habitually rose at 4:00 in the Morning, praying and studying his Bible until 8:00. His afternoons were spent calling on the unconverted. He kept a list of the inhabitants of each street and knew the condition of each soul. “Give me a Christian that counts his time more precious than gold,” he said. At the beginning of the week, he would remark, “Another week is now before us, let us spend this week for God.” Each Morning he said, “Now let us live this one day well!”
But his time was nonetheless cut short. The restoration of England’s monarchy in 1662 resulted in the Act of Uniformity, removing 2,000 preachers from their pulpits in a single day. Most preached their farewell RS Thomas August 17, 1662. Joseph, however, continued preaching. The authorities descended, and on May 28, 1663 he was thrown into prison. His health soon declined.
“Now we have one day more,” he told Theodosia when he was finally released. “Let us live well, work hard for souls, lay up much treasure in heaven this day, for we have but a few to live.” He spoke truthfully. He died on November 17, 1668, at age 34. But he had spent his years well, outliving himself not only in the souls he saved, but in the book he left, a Puritan classic entitled Alleine’s Alarm.
Act like people with good sense and not like fools. These are evil times, so make every minute count. Don’t be stupid. Instead, find out what the Lord wants you to do.
--- Ephesians 5:15-17.
On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - May 28
“Whom he justified, them he also glorified.” --- Romans 8:30.
Here is a precious truth for thee, believer. Thou mayest be poor, or in suffering, or unknown, but for thine encouragement take a review of thy “calling” and the consequences that flow from it, and especially that blessed result here spoken of. As surely as thou art God’s child today, so surely shall all thy trials soon be at an end, and thou shalt be rich to all the intents of bliss. Wait awhile, and that weary head shall wear the crown of glory, and that hand of labour shall grasp the palm-branch of victory. Lament not thy troubles, but rather rejoice that ere long thou wilt be where “there shall be neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain.” The chariots of fire are at thy door, and a moment will suffice to bear thee to the glorified. The everlasting song is almost on thy lip. The portals of heaven stand open for thee. Think not that thou canst fail of entering into rest. If he hath called thee, nothing can divide thee from his love. Distress cannot sever the bond; the fire of persecution cannot burn the link; the hammer of hell cannot break the chain. Thou art secure; that voice which called thee at first, shall call thee yet again from earth to heaven, from death’s dark gloom to immortality’s unuttered splendours. Rest assured, the heart of him who has justified thee beats with infinite love towards thee. Thou shalt soon be with the glorified, where thy portion is; thou art only waiting here to be made meet for the inheritance, and that done, the wings of angels shall waft thee far away, to the mount of peace, and joy, and blessedness, where,
“Far from a world of grief and sin,
With God eternally shut in,”
thou shalt rest for ever and ever.
Evening - May 28
“This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope.” --- Lamentations 3:21.
Memory is frequently the bond slave of despondency. Dispairing minds call to remembrance every dark foreboding in the past, and dilate upon every gloomy feature in the present; thus memory, clothed in sackcloth, presents to the mind a cup of mingled gall and wormwood. There is, however, no necessity for this. Wisdom can readily transform memory into an angel of comfort. That same recollection which in its left hand brings so many gloomy omens, may be trained to bear in its right a wealth of hopeful signs. She need not wear a crown of iron, she may encircle her brow with a fillet of gold, all spangled with stars. Thus it was in Jeremiah’s experience: in the previous verse memory had brought him to deep humiliation of soul: “My soul hath them still in remembrance, and is humbled in me;” and now this same memory restored him to life and comfort. “This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope.” Like a two-edged sword, his memory first killed his pride with one edge, and then slew his despair with the other. As a general principle, if we would exercise our memories more wisely, we might, in our very darkest distress, strike a match which would instantaneously kindle the lamp of comfort. There is no need for God to create a new thing upon the earth in order to restore believers to joy; if they would prayerfully rake the ashes of the past, they would find light for the present; and if they would turn to the book of truth and the throne of grace, their candle would soon shine as aforetime. Be it ours to remember the lovingkindness of the Lord, and to rehearse his deeds of grace. Let us open the volume of recollection which is so richly illuminated with memorials of mercy, and we shall soon be happy. Thus memory may be, as Coleridge calls it, “the bosom-spring of joy,” and when the Divine Comforter bends it to his service, it may be chief among earthly comforters.
Morning and Evening
O PERFECT LOVE
Dorothy B. Gurney, 1858–1932
For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. (Ephesians 5:31)
A perfect union of selfless and totally committed love, not an indulgent form of physical gratification, is God’s plan for the human race. Kindness, patience, forgiveness, and demonstrated affection for each other are the ingredients of a happy marriage. The desire to put the needs and interests of one’s mate first before your own is the basis of matrimonial harmony. Marriage has been instituted by God to be a picture of the sacrificial and unending love of Christ for His bride, the church, and the bride’s loving and devoted responses to her Lord. Yet today we see an epidemic of broken marriages, lack of genuine faithfulness, self-centered conflicts between husbands and wives—even among professing Christians.
A beautiful portrayal of ideal married love is given in this wedding hymn as it describes the harmony that exists when God is the foundation of the marriage relationship. Dorothy Gurney, an English woman, was asked by her sister, who was soon to be married, if she would try writing some suitable words for a favorite hymn tune that could be used at the wedding. Dorothy went off by herself for only 15 minutes and returned with the text of “O Perfect Love.” Her sister was delighted with it and insisted that it be sung at the wedding.
Mrs. Gurney stated that the writing of the hymn “was no effort whatever after the initial idea had come to me of the two-fold aspect of perfect union—love and life—and I have always felt that God helped me write it.” Although this was the only hymn she wrote, it has been recognized as one of the finest wedding texts in the English language.
O perfect love, all human thought transcending, lowly we kneel in prayer before Thy throne, that theirs may be the love which knows no ending, whom thou forevermore dost join in one.
O perfect life, be Thou their full assurance of tender charity and steadfast faith, of patient hope, and quiet, brave endurance, with child-like trust that fears nor pain nor death.
Grant them the joy which brightens earthly sorrow; grant them the peace which calms all earthly strife, and to life’s day the glorious unknown morrow that dawns upon eternal love and life!
For Today: Genesis 2:18–25; Mark 10:7–9; Ephesians 5:21–33; 1 Peter 3:7.
Reflect on this statement: “A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person.” Determine to let your marriage more fully imitate Christ’s love for His bride, the Church.
Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
Martin Luther | (1483-1546)
Sect. XXXVIII. — BUT you ask — “if then the Scripture be quite clear, why have men of renowned talent, through so many ages, been blind upon this point?” I answer: they have been thus blind, to the praise and glory of “Free-will;” in order that, that highly boasted-of ‘power,’ by which a man is ‘able to apply himself unto those things that pertain unto eternal salvation,’ might be eminently displayed; that very exalted power, which neither sees those things which it sees, nor hears those things which it hears, and much less, understands and seeks after them. For to this power, applies that which Christ and the evangelists so often bring forward out of Isaiah vi. 9, “Hearing ye shall hear and shall not understand, and seeing ye shall see and shall not perceive.” What is this else but saying, that “Free-will,” or the human heart, is so bound by the power of Satan, that, unless it be quickened up in a wonderful way by the Spirit of God, it cannot of itself see or hear those things which strike against the eyes and ears so manifestly, as to be as it were palpable by the hand? So great is the misery and blindness of the human race! Thus also the Evangelists themselves, when they wondered how it could be that the Jews were not won over by the works and words of Christ, which were evidently incontrovertible and undeniable, satisfied themselves from that place of the Scripture, where it is shewn, that man, left to himself, seeing seeth not, and hearing heareth not. And what can be more monstrous! “The light (saith Christ) shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehendeth it not.” (John i. 5.) Who could believe this? Who hath heard the like — that the light should shine in darkness, and yet, the darkness still remain darkness, and not be enlightened!
Wherefore, it is no wonder in divine things, that through so many ages, men renowned for talent remained blind. It might have been a wonder in human things, but in divine things, it would rather have been a wonder if there had been one here and there that did not remain blind: that they all remained utterly blind alike, is no wonder at all. For what is the whole human race together, without the Spirit, but the kingdom of the devil (as I have said) and a confused chaos of darkness? And therefore it is, that Paul, (Ephes. vi. 12,) calls the devils, “the rulers of this darkness.” And, (1 Cor. ii. 8,) he saith, that none of the princes of this world knew the wisdom of God. What then must he think of the rest, who asserts that the princes of this world are the slaves of darkness? For by princes, he means those greatest and highest ones, whom you call ‘men renowned for talent.’ And why were all the Arians blind? Were there not among them men renowned for talent? Why was Christ foolishness to the nations? Are there not among the nations men renowned for talent? “God (saith Paul) knoweth the thoughts of the wise that they are vain,” (1 Cor. iii. 20.) He chose not to say “of men,” as the text to which he refers has it, but would point to the first and greatest among men, that from them we might form a judgment of the rest. — But upon these points more at large, perhaps, hereafter.
Suffice it thus to have premised, in Exordium, that the Scriptures are most clear, and that by them, our doctrines can be so defended that the adversaries cannot resist: but those doctrines that cannot be thus defended, are nothing to us, for they belong not unto Christians. But if there be any who do not see this clearness, and are blind, or offend under this sun, they, if they be wicked, manifest how great that dominion and power of Satan is over the sons of men, when they can neither hear nor comprehend the all-clear words of God, but are as one cheated by a juggler, who is made to think that the sun is a cold cinder, or to believe that a stone is gold. But if they fear God, they are to be numbered among those elect, who, to a certain degree, are led into error that the power of God may be manifest in us, without which, we can neither see nor do any thing whatever. For the not comprehending the words of God, does not arise, as you pretend, from weakness of mind; nay, nothing is better adapted to the receiving of the words of God, than a weakness of the mind; for it was on account of these weak ones, and to these weak ones, that Christ came, and it is to them he sends His Word. But it is the wickedness of Satan enthroned and reigning in our weakness, and resisting the Word of God: — for if Satan did not do this, a whole world of men might be converted by one Word of God once heard, nor could there be need of more.
The Bondage of the Will or Christian Classics Ethereal Library
W. Phillip Keller | (1920-1997)
12 “I Will Dwell in the House of the Lord Forever”
This psalm opened with the proud, joyous statement, “The LORD is my shepherd.”
Now it closes with the equally positive, buoyant affirmation, “And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.”
Here is a sheep so utterly satisfied with its lot in life, so fully contented with the care it receives, so much “at home” with the shepherd that there is not a shred of desire for a change.
Stated in simple, direct, rather rough ranch language, it would be put like this, “Nothing will ever make me leave this outfit — it’s great!”
Conversely, on the shepherd’s side there has developed a great affection and devotion to his flock. He would never think of parting with such sheep. Healthy, contented, productive sheep are his delight and profit. So strong, now, are the bonds between them that it is in very truth — forever.
The word house used here in the poem has a wider meaning than most people could attach to it. Normally we speak of the house of the Lord as the sanctuary or church or meeting place of God’s people. In one sense David may have had this in mind. And, of course, it is pleasant to think that one would always delight to be found in the Lord’s house.
But it must be kept in mind always that the psalmist, writing from the standpoint of a sheep, is reflecting on and recounting the full round of the year’s activities for the flock.
He has taken us from the green pastures and still waters of the home ranch, up through the mountain passes onto the high tablelands of the summer range. Fall has come with its storms and rain and sleet that drive the sheep down the foothills and back to the home ranch for the long, quiet winter. In a sense this is coming home. It is a return to the fields and corrals and barns and shelters of the owner’s home. During all seasons of the year, with their hazards, dangers, and disturbances, it is the rancher’s alertness, care, and energetic management that have brought the sheep through satisfactorily.
It is with a sublime feeling of both composure and contentment that this statement, “I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever,” is made.
Actually what is referred to by house is the family or household or flock of the Good Shepherd. The sheep is so deeply satisfied with the flock to which it belongs, with the ownership of this particular shepherd, that it has no wish to change.
It is as if it had finally come home again and was now standing at the fence, bragging to its less fortunate neighbors on the other side. It boasts about the wonderful year it has had and its complete confidence in its owner.
Sometimes I feel we Christians should be much more like this. We should be proud to belong to Christ. Why shouldn’t we feel free to boast to others of how good our Shepherd is? How glad we should be to look back and recall all the amazing ways in which He has provided for our welfare. We should delight to describe, in detail, the hard experiences through which He has brought us. And we should be eager and quick to tell of our confidence in Christ. We should be bold to state fearlessly that we are so glad we are His. By the contentment and serenity of our lives we should show what a distinct advantage it is to be a member of His “household,” of His flock.
I can never meditate on this last phrase in the psalm without there welling up in my memory vivid scenes from some of the early days on my first sheep ranch.
As winter, with its cold rains and chilling winds, came on, my neighbor’s sickly sheep would stand huddled at the fence, their tails to the storm, facing the rich fields in which my flock flourished. Those poor, abused, neglected creatures under the ownership of a heartless rancher had known nothing but suffering most of the year. With them there had been gnawing hunger all summer. They were thin and sickly with disease and scab and parasites. Tormented by flies and attacked by predators, some were so weak and thin and wretched that their thin legs could scarcely bear their scanty frames.
Always there seemed to lurk in their eyes the slender, faint hope that perhaps with a bit of luck they could break through the fence or crawl through some hole to free themselves. Occasionally this used to happen, especially around Christmas. This was the time of extreme tides when the sea retreated far out beyond the end of the fence lines that ran down to it. The neighbor’s emaciated, dissatisfied, hungry sheep would wait for this to happen. Then at the first chance they would go down on the tidal flats, slip around the end of the fence, and come sneaking in to gorge themselves on our rich green grass.
So pitiful and pathetic was their condition that the sudden feast of lush feed, to which they were unaccustomed, often proved disastrous. Their digestive systems would begin to scour, and sometimes this led to death. I clearly recall coming across three of my neighbor’s ewes lying helpless under a fir tree near the fence one drizzly day. They were like three old, limp, gray, sodden sacks collapsed in a heap. Even their bony legs would no longer support them.
I loaded them into a wheelbarrow and wheeled them back to their heartless owner. He simply pulled out a sharp killing knife and slit all three of their throats.
What a picture of Satan who holds ownership over so many.
Right there the graphic account Jesus portrayed of Himself as being the door and entrance by which sheep were to enter His fold flashed across my mind.
Those poor sheep had not come into my ranch through the proper gate. I had never let them in.
They had never really become mine. They had not come under my ownership or control. If they had, they would not have suffered so. Even starting out under my management they would have been given very special care.
First they would have been put on dry, limited rations, then they would gradually have been allowed green feed until they were adjusted to the new diet and mode of life.
In short, they tried to get in on their own. It simply spelled disaster. What made it doubly sad was that they were doomed anyway. On the old, impoverished ranch they would have starved to death that winter.
Likewise with those apart from Christ. The old world is a pretty wretched ranch, and Satan is a heartless owner. He cares not a whit for men’s souls or welfare. Under his tyranny there are hundreds of hungry, discontented hearts who long to enter into the household of God — who ache for His care and concern.
Yet there is only one way into this fold. That way is through the owner, Christ Himself—the Good Shepherd. He boldly declared, “I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture” (John 10:9).
John 10:7 So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9 I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. 11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.” ESV
A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23
Interview 1 of 3
Interview 2 of 3
Interview 3 of 3
Duncan, Ferguson, Godfrey, Sproul
Mohler, Piper, Sproul, Wilson
Ferguson, MacArthur, Sproul
Ferguson, Sproul, Wilson
Ferguson, Godfrey, MacArthur, Sproul, Wilson
Ferguson, Godfrey, Jones, Lutzer, MacArthur, Sproul
Ferguson, Jensen, Mohler, Sproul
Brett Meador | Athey Creek
Nehemiah 11 - 13
m2-205 | 4-4-2018