Nehemiah 12 - 13
Priests and LevitesNehemiah 12:1 These are the priests and the Levites who came up with Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua: Seraiah, Jeremiah, Ezra, 2 Amariah, Malluch, Hattush, 3 Shecaniah, Rehum, Meremoth, 4 Iddo, Ginnethoi, Abijah, 5 Mijamin, Maadiah, Bilgah, 6 Shemaiah, Joiarib, Jedaiah, 7 Sallu, Amok, Hilkiah, Jedaiah. These were the chiefs of the priests and of their brothers in the days of Jeshua.
8 And the Levites: Jeshua, Binnui, Kadmiel, Sherebiah, Judah, and Mattaniah, who with his brothers was in charge of the songs of thanksgiving. 9 And Bakbukiah and Unni and their brothers stood opposite them in the service. 10 And Jeshua was the father of Joiakim, Joiakim the father of Eliashib, Eliashib the father of Joiada, 11 Joiada the father of Jonathan, and Jonathan the father of Jaddua.
12 And in the days of Joiakim were priests, heads of fathers’ houses: of Seraiah, Meraiah; of Jeremiah, Hananiah; 13 of Ezra, Meshullam; of Amariah, Jehohanan; 14 of Malluchi, Jonathan; of Shebaniah, Joseph; 15 of Harim, Adna; of Meraioth, Helkai; 16 of Iddo, Zechariah; of Ginnethon, Meshullam; 17 of Abijah, Zichri; of Miniamin, of Moadiah, Piltai; 18 of Bilgah, Shammua; of Shemaiah, Jehonathan; 19 of Joiarib, Mattenai; of Jedaiah, Uzzi; 20 of Sallai, Kallai; of Amok, Eber; 21 of Hilkiah, Hashabiah; of Jedaiah, Nethanel.
22 In the days of Eliashib, Joiada, Johanan, and Jaddua, the Levites were recorded as heads of fathers’ houses; so too were the priests in the reign of Darius the Persian. 23 As for the sons of Levi, their heads of fathers’ houses were written in the Book of the Chronicles until the days of Johanan the son of Eliashib. 24 And the chiefs of the Levites: Hashabiah, Sherebiah, and Jeshua the son of Kadmiel, with their brothers who stood opposite them, to praise and to give thanks, according to the commandment of David the man of God, watch by watch. 25 Mattaniah, Bakbukiah, Obadiah, Meshullam, Talmon, and Akkub were gatekeepers standing guard at the storehouses of the gates. 26 These were in the days of Joiakim the son of Jeshua son of Jozadak, and in the days of Nehemiah the governor and of Ezra, the priest and scribe.
Dedication of the Wall27 And at the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem they sought the Levites in all their places, to bring them to Jerusalem to celebrate the dedication with gladness, with thanksgivings and with singing, with cymbals, harps, and lyres. 28 And the sons of the singers gathered together from the district surrounding Jerusalem and from the villages of the Netophathites; 29 also from Beth-gilgal and from the region of Geba and Azmaveth, for the singers had built for themselves villages around Jerusalem. 30 And the priests and the Levites purified themselves, and they purified the people and the gates and the wall.
31 Then I brought the leaders of Judah up onto the wall and appointed two great choirs that gave thanks. One went to the south on the wall to the Dung Gate. 32 And after them went Hoshaiah and half of the leaders of Judah, 33 and Azariah, Ezra, Meshullam, 34 Judah, Benjamin, Shemaiah, and Jeremiah, 35 and certain of the priests’ sons with trumpets: Zechariah the son of Jonathan, son of Shemaiah, son of Mattaniah, son of Micaiah, son of Zaccur, son of Asaph; 36 and his relatives, Shemaiah, Azarel, Milalai, Gilalai, Maai, Nethanel, Judah, and Hanani, with the musical instruments of David the man of God. And Ezra the scribe went before them. 37 At the Fountain Gate they went up straight before them by the stairs of the city of David, at the ascent of the wall, above the house of David, to the Water Gate on the east.
38 The other choir of those who gave thanks went to the north, and I followed them with half of the people, on the wall, above the Tower of the Ovens, to the Broad Wall, 39 and above the Gate of Ephraim, and by the Gate of Yeshanah, and by the Fish Gate and the Tower of Hananel and the Tower of the Hundred, to the Sheep Gate; and they came to a halt at the Gate of the Guard. 40 So both choirs of those who gave thanks stood in the house of God, and I and half of the officials with me; 41 and the priests Eliakim, Maaseiah, Miniamin, Micaiah, Elioenai, Zechariah, and Hananiah, with trumpets; 42 and Maaseiah, Shemaiah, Eleazar, Uzzi, Jehohanan, Malchijah, Elam, and Ezer. And the singers sang with Jezrahiah as their leader. 43 And they offered great sacrifices that day and rejoiced, for God had made them rejoice with great joy; the women and children also rejoiced. And the joy of Jerusalem was heard far away.
Service at the Temple44 On that day men were appointed over the storerooms, the contributions, the firstfruits, and the tithes, to gather into them the portions required by the Law for the priests and for the Levites according to the fields of the towns, for Judah rejoiced over the priests and the Levites who ministered. 45 And they performed the service of their God and the service of purification, as did the singers and the gatekeepers, according to the command of David and his son Solomon. 46 For long ago in the days of David and Asaph there were directors of the singers, and there were songs of praise and thanksgiving to God. 47 And all Israel in the days of Zerubbabel and in the days of Nehemiah gave the daily portions for the singers and the gatekeepers; and they set apart that which was for the Levites; and the Levites set apart that which was for the sons of Aaron.
Nehemiah’s Final ReformsNehemiah 13:1 On that day they read from the Book of Moses in the hearing of the people. And in it was found written that no Ammonite or Moabite should ever enter the assembly of God, 2 for they did not meet the people of Israel with bread and water, but hired Balaam against them to curse them—yet our God turned the curse into a blessing. 3 As soon as the people heard the law, they separated from Israel all those of foreign descent.
4 Now before this, Eliashib the priest, who was appointed over the chambers of the house of our God, and who was related to Tobiah, 5 prepared for Tobiah a large chamber where they had previously put the grain offering, the frankincense, the vessels, and the tithes of grain, wine, and oil, which were given by commandment to the Levites, singers, and gatekeepers, and the contributions for the priests. 6 While this was taking place, I was not in Jerusalem, for in the thirty-second year of Artaxerxes king of Babylon I went to the king. And after some time I asked leave of the king 7 and came to Jerusalem, and I then discovered the evil that Eliashib had done for Tobiah, preparing for him a chamber in the courts of the house of God. 8 And I was very angry, and I threw all the household furniture of Tobiah out of the chamber. 9 Then I gave orders, and they cleansed the chambers, and I brought back there the vessels of the house of God, with the grain offering and the frankincense.
10 I also found out that the portions of the Levites had not been given to them, so that the Levites and the singers, who did the work, had fled each to his field. 11 So I confronted the officials and said, “Why is the house of God forsaken?” And I gathered them together and set them in their stations. 12 Then all Judah brought the tithe of the grain, wine, and oil into the storehouses. 13 And I appointed as treasurers over the storehouses Shelemiah the priest, Zadok the scribe, and Pedaiah of the Levites, and as their assistant Hanan the son of Zaccur, son of Mattaniah, for they were considered reliable, and their duty was to distribute to their brothers. 14 Remember me, O my God, concerning this, and do not wipe out my good deeds that I have done for the house of my God and for his service.
15 In those days I saw in Judah people treading winepresses on the Sabbath, and bringing in heaps of grain and loading them on donkeys, and also wine, grapes, figs, and all kinds of loads, which they brought into Jerusalem on the Sabbath day. And I warned them on the day when they sold food. 16 Tyrians also, who lived in the city, brought in fish and all kinds of goods and sold them on the Sabbath to the people of Judah, in Jerusalem itself! 17 Then I confronted the nobles of Judah and said to them, “What is this evil thing that you are doing, profaning the Sabbath day? 18 Did not your fathers act in this way, and did not our God bring all this disaster on us and on this city? Now you are bringing more wrath on Israel by profaning the Sabbath.”
19 As soon as it began to grow dark at the gates of Jerusalem before the Sabbath, I commanded that the doors should be shut and gave orders that they should not be opened until after the Sabbath. And I stationed some of my servants at the gates, that no load might be brought in on the Sabbath day. 20 Then the merchants and sellers of all kinds of wares lodged outside Jerusalem once or twice. 21 But I warned them and said to them, “Why do you lodge outside the wall? If you do so again, I will lay hands on you.” From that time on they did not come on the Sabbath. 22 Then I commanded the Levites that they should purify themselves and come and guard the gates, to keep the Sabbath day holy. Remember this also in my favor, O my God, and spare me according to the greatness of your steadfast love.
23 In those days also I saw the Jews who had married women of Ashdod, Ammon, and Moab. 24 And half of their children spoke the language of Ashdod, and they could not speak the language of Judah, but only the language of each people. 25 And I confronted them and cursed them and beat some of them and pulled out their hair. And I made them take an oath in the name of God, saying, “You shall not give your daughters to their sons, or take their daughters for your sons or for yourselves. 26 Did not Solomon king of Israel sin on account of such women? Among the many nations there was no king like him, and he was beloved by his God, and God made him king over all Israel. Nevertheless, foreign women made even him to sin. 27 Shall we then listen to you and do all this great evil and act treacherously against our God by marrying foreign women?”
28 And one of the sons of Jehoiada, the son of Eliashib the high priest, was the son-in-law of Sanballat the Horonite. Therefore I chased him from me. 29 Remember them, O my God, because they have desecrated the priesthood and the covenant of the priesthood and the Levites.
30 Thus I cleansed them from everything foreign, and I established the duties of the priests and Levites, each in his work; 31 and I provided for the wood offering at appointed times, and for the firstfruits.
Remember me, O my God, for good.
ESV Study Bible
What I'm Reading
What the Bible Does (and Doesn’t) Say About the Life (or Death) of the Soul
By J. Warner Wallace 5/26/2014
As Christians, we believe humans are more than merely physical creatures. We are also “soulish” beings; living souls who also possess physical bodies. As a result, the vast majority of Christians believe our souls are unaffected by our physical death. We are eternal beings, even though our earthly bodies eventually die. Other groups, also using the Bible as their source of information about the soul, have argued souls die along with the body, entering what is sometimes called “soul sleep”. Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventists, and Christadelphians all hold this position. Part of the problem is simply a matter of terminology. When we use the term “soul” as we have been using it in this post, we are referring to the existence of our immaterial being. But when Bible translators translate the original Hebrew and Greek words used by the Biblical authors, they are actually translating words typically used to describe something else:
The Old Testament word, “nephesh” (neh’-fesh) | This word has been translated as “soul” on occasion in the Old Testament, but that’s not how the ancient Israelites understood the word. They used it throughout the Old Testament to describe any breathing creature or animal, and it is more often translated as “appetite”, “beast”, “body”, “breath”, “creature”, “dead”, “lust”, “man”, “mind”, “person”, or “life”, than it is translated as “soul”.
The New Testament word, “psuche” (psoo-khay’) | Like “nephesh”, this word has been translated as “soul” as well, but literally means “breath” and can accurately be translated as “heart”, “life”, “mind”, “us”, or “you” in addition to the connotation we would understand as “soul”.
How, then, are we to know exactly how the original writers of Scripture were using these words? How do we know whether they were using the words to describe some aspect of our temporal life or whether they were using the words to describe the soul? Let’s take, for example, Ezekiel 18:4, a passage often cited by Jehovah’s Witnesses trying to make the case we, as living souls, die or sleep when our bodies die:
Ezekiel 18:4 | “Behold, all souls are Mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is Mine. The soul who sins will die.”
James "Jim" Warner Wallace (born June 16, 1961) is an American homicide detective and Christian apologist. Wallace is a Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview and an Adjunct Professor of Apologetics at Biola University in La Mirada, California. He has authored several books, including Cold-Case Christianity, God’s Crime Scene, and Forensic Faith, in which he applies principles of cold case homicide investigation to apologetic concerns such as the existence of God and the reliability of the Gospels.
Why did Jesus wash the disciples’ feet?
By Lydia McGrew
The Gospel of John says that, on the night in which Jesus was betrayed, he did something unusual: He washed the disciples’ feet, and he did so in an extremely deliberate and even formal manner, taking upon himself a servant’s garb and role.
(Jn 13:1–15) 13 Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. 2 During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, 3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, 4 rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. 5 Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. 6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” 7 Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” 8 Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” 9 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” 10 Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.”
12 When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? 13 You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. ESV
It is certainly possible that Jesus did this on that particular night for no special reason. Perhaps he simply wanted to teach this lesson about mutual service and humility before his death, as he instituted the Lord’s Supper on that same night. Still, one cannot help wondering why he washed their feet and drew the moral from it just then. If we could find an explanation in another Gospel, this would be interesting and satisfying.
As it happens, there is such an explanation. Better still, it comes up in a Gospel that does not mention the foot-washing at all, though it is describing the same night:
(Lk 22:24–27) 24 A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest. 25 And he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. 26 But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. 27 For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves. ESV
Once this piece of information is in place, it is difficult to doubt that this is the explanation for Jesus’ object lesson. 10 Like competitive siblings, the disciples were arguing, not for the first time, about which of them was the greatest— probably about which was to be the most important when he established his kingdom. (Compare Mark 9.34 and Matt 20.21.) In response to their dispute, Jesus rose from supper and served them by washing their feet as a servant would do, then explained to them what they were supposed to understand from what he had done.
(Mk 9:34) 34 But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. ESV
(Mt 20:21) 21 And he said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Say that these two sons of mine are to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.” ESV
This coincidence illustrates an important point. While the strength of a coincidence will indeed be greater if an event that prompts a question is highly improbable, it does not follow that a coincidence is valueless if the events involved might have other explanations. In this case, while we could envisage Jesus as washing the disciples’ feet “out of the blue,” simply to teach a lesson, the further information that they had been bickering fits together in such a satisfying way with Jesus’ action that the conclusion that the bickering explains the foot-washing on that particular night is quite well-supported when all data are taken into account. I note, too, that the Gospels of Mark and Matthew already give an example in which Jesus used an object lesson to reprove the disciples for one-upmanship. In Mark 9.33– 37 the disciples have been debating which of them is the greatest. There, Jesus takes a child and places him in the midst of them after telling them that whoever wants to be the first among them must be the servant of all. (Compare Matt 18.1– 4.)
(Mk 9:33-37) 33 And they came to Capernaum. And when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” 34 But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. 35 And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” 36 And he took a child and put him in the midst of them, and taking him in his arms, he said to them, 37 “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.” ESV
(Mt 18:1-4) 18 At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2 And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them 3 and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. ESV
Alert readers may have noticed that there is also an undesigned coincidence in the opposite direction between the passages in Luke and John concerning the disciples’ dispute and the foot-washing. Luke explains John; John explains Luke. This is not the only case where John and Luke fit together in such a way that each explains the other within the space of a few verses.
John does not mention the dispute among the disciples. Luke does not mention the foot-washing. Put together, they give us a more complete picture than either gives alone. The fact that each Gospel gives different details is a reason to believe that they represent independent accounts of the same night.
This mention of the dispute on the night of the Last Supper is found only in Luke. It is thus evidence of Luke’s independent access to the events, not only independent of John but also independent of Matthew and Mark. 11 If the author of Luke was indeed a companion of the Apostle Paul, he may, for example, have interviewed a different disciple about the events of that night. That person might have mentioned the dispute but not the foot-washing. The author of the Gospel of John apparently remembers the story in his own way and chooses to describe the foot-washing but not the dispute. He doesn’t particularly feel a need to tell why Jesus washed their feet. His interest lies in telling about what Jesus did. Both are accurate, but their emphases are different, and they complement each other. This, again, is a mark of testimony to real events.
Hidden in Plain View: Undesigned Coincidences in the Gospels and Acts
What Happens to Our Souls When We Die?
By J. Warner Wallace 5/12/2014
There are many good reasons to believe we, as humans, are more than simply physical bodies. Humans are “soulish” creatures; we are living souls united to physical bodies. Even without the guidance of Scripture, there are good reasons to believe our lives will not end at the point of our physical death. The existence of an afterlife is reasonable, particularly given our dual nature as immaterial souls possessing physical bodies. But what precisely happens to each of us, as living souls, when our physical bodies cease to exist? What will we experience the moment we close our eyes for the last time in this temporal life? The Christian worldview offers an answer to this question, and it can be found by surveying the teaching of the New Testament:
Those Who Accept God’s Offer of Salvation Will Be United with Him Immediately | There is good reason to believe our afterlife experience begins the minute we close our eyes for the last time here on earth. For those of us who are believers, the instant our earthly bodies die our souls will be united with Jesus in the afterlife:
2 Corinthians 5:6-8 Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. We live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.
Luke 23:39-43 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”
Those who have accepted God’s offer of Salvation will be with Jesus in what we commonly refer to as “Heaven”. But our experience in Heaven prior to the earthly return of Jesus (and the resurrection of our bodies), while much better than our life here on earth, will not be complete. It will only be partof the experience we will one day have when Jesus returns to earth and resurrects the bodies of those who are already with Him in spirit. While He’s at it, He’ll bring those of us who are still alive home as well:
James "Jim" Warner Wallace (born June 16, 1961) is an American homicide detective and Christian apologist. Wallace is a Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview and an Adjunct Professor of Apologetics at Biola University in La Mirada, California. He has authored several books, including Cold-Case Christianity, God’s Crime Scene, and Forensic Faith, in which he applies principles of cold case homicide investigation to apologetic concerns such as the existence of God and the reliability of the Gospels.
Are There Any Good Reasons to Believe in Heaven (Even Without the Evidence from Scripture
By J. Warner Wallace 5/8/2014
Humans have been thinking about the notion of an afterlife from the earliest of times. Some of the most popular books and movies have been written around this topic, even though few of them have been consistent with the teaching of Christian Scripture. But even without the guidance of the New Testament authors, there are good reasons to believe we will live beyond the grave. The evidence related to the existence of God and the “soulish” nature of humans ought to incline us toward a belief in the afterlife:
There Are Good Reasons to Believe God Exists | While this may seem controversial to those who dismiss the existence of God out of hand, there are several lines of evidence supporting this reasonable conclusion. The reality of objective moral truths, the appearance of design in biology, the existence of a universe that has a beginning and the presence of transcendent laws of logic are best explained by the existence of God.
There Are Good Reasons to Believe God Is Good (In Spite of the Problem of Evil) | Skeptics sometimes point to the problem of evil (in one form or another) to argue against the existence of God (or His good, all-loving nature). But when examined closely, the presence of moral evil, natural evil, Christian evil, “theistic” evil, or pain and suffering fail to negate the existence of God, even as they fail to blemish His righteousness.
There Are Good Reasons to Believe Humans Have Souls | In addition to this, there are many good reasons to believe humans are more than simply physical bodies. The arguments from private knowledge, first-person experiences, part-independency, physical measurements, self-existence and free-will make a powerful, cumulative circumstantial case for the existence of our souls.
There are Good Reasons to Believe Souls Are Not Limited to Physical Existence | While our physical bodies are obviously limited to their physical existence and cease to function at the point of material death, there is no reason to believe the immaterial soul is similarly impacted. If we are truly “soulish” creatures, our immaterial existence can reasonably be expected to transcend our physical limitations.
James "Jim" Warner Wallace (born June 16, 1961) is an American homicide detective and Christian apologist. Wallace is a Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview and an Adjunct Professor of Apologetics at Biola University in La Mirada, California. He has authored several books, including Cold-Case Christianity, God’s Crime Scene, and Forensic Faith, in which he applies principles of cold case homicide investigation to apologetic concerns such as the existence of God and the reliability of the Gospels.
The kingdom of God is not our only inheritance
By R.C. Sproul
The kingdom of God is not our only inheritance. In His last will and testament, Jesus left His heirs something else, something very special: See John 14:27 above.
This is the legacy of Christ: peace. It is His peace that is our inheritance. He gives the gift in a way that is different from gifts that are given in this world. There are no ulterior motives and no sinister strings attached. He gives us His peace not for His benefit, but for ours. It is an otherworldly gift given in an otherworldly manner. It is ours to keep forever.
Peace is only one immediate fruit of justification. Added to this holy peace is something else: access. The word access is crucial to anyone who has ever wrestled with a holy God. We see signs all around us in our secular world about access. One sign may read, “NO ACCESS” and another reads, “LIMITED ACCESS.” At one time in history a “NO ACCESS” sign was posted at the gates of Paradise. Even in the Old Testament temple there was no access to the throne of God by the ordinary person. Even for the high priest his access was “limited” to once a year under very guarded circumstances. A thick veil separated the Holy of Holies from the rest of the temple. It was off limits. Restricted. No admission was permitted to the rank-and-file believer.
The moment Jesus was slain, the instant the Just One died for the unjust, the veil in the temple was torn. The presence of God became accessible to us. For the Christian the “NO ACCESS” sign was removed from the gates of paradise. We may now trespass freely on holy ground. We have access to His grace, but even more, we have access to Him. Justified men need no longer say to the Holy, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man.” Now we can be comfortable in the presence of a holy God. We can take our questions to Him. He is not too remote to hear our cries. We come as those covered by the righteousness of Christ. I repeat: We can be comfortable in the presence of God. To be sure we still come in awe, in a spirit of reverence and adoration, but the tremendous news is that we can come:
Jesus the Great High Priest | (Heb 4:14–16) Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Robert Charles Sproul, 2/13/1939 – 12/14/2017 was an American theologian, author, and ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America. Dr. R.C. Sproul was founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries, an international Christian education and discipleship organization located near Orlando, Fla. He was also copastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., chancellor of Reformation Bible College, and executive editor of Tabletalk magazine. Dr. Sproul has contributed dozens of articles to national evangelical publications, has spoken at conferences, churches, and schools around the world, and has written more than one hundred books. He also served as general editor of the Reformation Study Bible.R.C. Sproul Books | Go to Books Page
By Don Carson 5/29/2018
“For the LORD GOD is a sun and a shield: the LORD bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless. O LORD Almighty, blessed is the man who trusts in you” (Ps. 84:11-12).
Much of this Psalm exults in the sheer privilege and delight of abiding in the presence of God, which for the children of the old covenant meant living in the shadow of the temple. “My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God” (Ps. 84:2). To have a place “near your altar” is to have a home, in exactly the same way that a sparrow finds a home or a swallow builds a nest (Ps. 84:3). “Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you” (Ps. 84:4; see also the meditation for April 17).
But what about the last two verses of this Psalm? Don’t they go over the top, promising too much? The psalmist insist that God withholds “no good thing” from those whose walk is blameless. Well, since we all sin, I suppose there is an escape clause: who is blameless? Isn’t it obvious that God withholds lots of good things from lots of people whose walk is about as blameless as walks can get, this side of the new heaven and the new earth?
Consider Eric Liddell, the famous Scottish Olympian celebrated in the film
.Liddell became a missionary in China. For ten years he taught in a school, and then went farther inland to do frontline evangelism. The work was not only challenging but dangerous, not the least because the Japanese were making increasing inroads. Eventually he was interned with many other Westerners. In the squalid camp, Liddell was a shining light of service and good cheer, a lodestar for the many children there who had not seen their parents for years, a self-sacrificing leader. But a few months before they were released, Liddell died of a brain tumor. He was forty-three. In this life he never saw the youngest of his three daughters: his wife and children had returned to Canada before the Japanese sweep that rounded up the foreigners. Didn’t the Lord withhold from him a long life, years of fruitful service, the joy of rearing his own children?
Perhaps the best response lies in Liddell’s favorite hymn:
Be still, my soul! the Lord is on thy side;Click here to go to source
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain.
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change, He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul! thy best, thy heav’nly Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.
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 56In God I Trust
56 To The Choirmaster: According To The Dove On Far-Off Terebinths. A Miktam Of David, When The Philistines Seized Him In Gath.
1 Be gracious to me, O God, for man tramples on me;
all day long an attacker oppresses me;
2 my enemies trample on me all day long,
for many attack me proudly.
3 When I am afraid,
I put my trust in you.
4 In God, whose word I praise,
in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.
What can flesh do to me?
5 All day long they injure my cause;
all their thoughts are against me for evil.
6 They stir up strife, they lurk;
they watch my steps,
as they have waited for my life.
7 For their crime will they escape?
In wrath cast down the peoples, O God!
By Gleason Archer Jr.
The most reasonable explanation for the meaning of Malachi (Malʾākɩ̄, Hebrew) is that it is hypocoristic for the full form Malʾak-Yah, or “Messenger of Jehovah.” In its abbreviated form, the name could only mean “my messenger,” or possibly, if an adjective, “one charged with a message.” It should be noted that many authorities have expressed uncertainty as to whether the real name of the author has been preserved. Such doubt is grounded upon the fact that the LXX translates 1:1 as “by the hand of his messenger” (rather than by the hand of Malachi ). This discrepancy would indicate a textual variation; the LXX must have read the final letter as w (waw), meaning “his,” rather than the final y (yod) of the MT. On the other hand, it should be noted that the LXX entitles the book Malakhias, or Malachi. The Targumic tradition indicates uncertainty, since it paraphrases the first verse as “by the hand of my messenger, whose name is called Ezra the scribe.” It should be observed that every other prophetic book in the Old Testament bears the name of its author. It would be strange if this one were left anonymous. Moreover, if the archetype or previous manuscript used by the LXX spelled Malachi’s name with a longtailed yod, it could easily have been misunderstood as signifying His messenger. Even if yod were read (as apparently the Targum of Jonathan did so read), it might well be misconstrued as a common noun followed by the suffix my. Of course it was true that any of the numerous Hebrew names that ended in i (such as Palti, Bukki, Buzi, etc.) could be misconstrued as “my,” since the gentilic ending ɩ̄ happens to resemble the suffix pronoun my.
The theme of Malachi is that sincerity toward God and a holy manner of life are absolutely essential in the Lord’s eyes, if His favor is to be bestowed upon the crops and the nation’s economic welfare. Israel must live up to her high calling as a holy nation and wait for the coming of the Messiah, who by a ministry of healing as well as judgment will lead the nation to a realization of all her fondest hopes.
Outline of Malachi
I. Introductory appeal: God’s love for Israel, 1:1–5
II. Oracle against the priests for dishonoring the Lord, 1:6–2:9
A. Neglect in liturgical functions, 1:6–2:4
B. Insincere, corrupt teaching of the law, 2:5–9
III. Oracles against the laity, 2:10–4:3
A. Treachery toward God in divorce and mixed marriage, 2:10–16
B. Warning of judgment by the coming Lord, 2:17–3:6
C. Repentance in tithing will bring blessed prosperity, 3:7–12
D. Vindication of the godly against sneers of cynics in the day of the Lord, 3:13–4:3
IV. Concluding admonitions: to keep the law and wait for Christ’s coming, 4:4–6
Malachi: Authorship and Date of Composition
As indicated above, the name of the author was probably Malachi or Malachijah (the Targumic tradition that he was Ezra is hardly worthy of consideration), and apart from that we have no knowledge of his background or circumstances. Judging from internal evidence, it seems clear that his prophecies were given in the second half of the fifth century, probably around 435 B.C. We come to this conclusion from the following indications: (1) The temple had already been rebuilt and Mosaic sacrifice reinstituted ( 1:7, 10; 3:1 ). (2) A Persian governor (or peḥah mentioned in 1:8 ) was in authority at that time; hence it could not have been during either of Nehemiah’s governorships (in 445 and 433).7 (3) The sins which Malachi denounces are the same as those Nehemiah had to correct during his second term, namely, (a) priestly laxity ( 1:6; Neh. 13:4–9 ), (b) neglect of tithes, to the impoverishment of the Levites ( 3:7–12; cf. Neh. 13:10–13 ), (c) much intermarriage with foreign women ( 2:10–16; cf. Neh. 13:23–28 ). It is reasonable to assume that Malachi had already protested against these abuses in the years just preceding Nehemiah’s return; hence a fair estimate would be about 435 B.C.
Even rationalist critics, for the most part, find no objection to this date, although a few, like Pfeiffer, prefer to date him somewhat earlier, about 460 (Pfeiffer, IOT, p. 614). Nor do they question the integrity of the book either on stylistic or ideological grounds, since they concede that a messianic hope may have been cherished by the Jews as early as the late fifth century.
The Continual Burnt Offering (Matthew 4:18-19)
By H.A. Ironside - 1941
May 29Matthew 4:18 While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. 19 And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” ESV
It is a great thing to be called of God to sacrificial service on behalf of a lost world; a tremendous event in the history of a soul when the voice of Christ is heard saying, “Follow Me, and I will make you ——.” All are not fitted for the same tasks; all cannot work in the same way. But each one who yields himself to the Lord Jesus for definite service will find that He enables, trains, and directs, so that the life thus surrendered will be used to His glory and to the winning of the lost and the blessing of the saved. “Fishers of men” is an apt figure. It requires much wisdom and great patience to become an effective agent in the business of “taking men alive,” but he who is willing to learn at the Master’s feet and is quick to obey His commands will indeed be “made” whatever He would have one be.
Some have gone forth far from loved ones and home,
Leaving their all for His service alone;
Counting the gain of this world only dross,
Seeking no glory save that of His cross.
Some have gone forth into darkness so dense,
Darkness that crushes, a darkness intense;
There in far lands where their Lord is not known;
Gladly to work for His glory alone.
Some have gone forth, but so many remain
Safely at home—other honors to gain;
Millions of lost ones who never have heard,
Few—oh, so few—to go forth with His Word!
--- Grace Troy
The Continual Burnt Offering: Daily Meditations on the Word of God
The Institutes of the Christian Religion
Translated by Henry Beveridge
14. But I do not see that any credit is due to their allegation of
Peter's occupation of the Roman See. Certainly it is, that the
statement of Eusebius, that he presided over it for twenty-five years,
is easily refuted. For it appears from the first and second chapters of
Galatians, that he was at Jerusalem about twenty years after the death
of Christ, and afterwards came to Antioch.  How long he remained
here is uncertain; Gregory counts seven, and Eusebius twenty-five
years. But from our Saviour's death to the end of Nero's reign (under
which they state that he was put to death), will be found only
thirty-seven years.  For our Lord suffered in the eighteenth year
of the reign of Tiberius. If you cut off the twenty years, during
which, as Paul testifies, Peter dwelt at Jerusalem, there will remain
at most seventeen years; and these must be divided between his two
episcopates. If he dwelt long at Antioch, his See at Rome must have
been of short duration. This we may demonstrate still more clearly.
Paul wrote to the Romans while he was on his journey to Jerusalem,
where he was apprehended and conveyed to Rome (Rom. 15:15, 16). It is
therefore probable that this letter was written four years before his
arrival at Rome.  Still there is no mention of Peter, as there
certainly would have been if he had been ruling that church. Nay, in
the end of the Epistle, where he enumerates a long list of individuals
whom he orders to be saluted, and in which it may be supposed he
includes all who were known to him, he says nothing at all of Peter. To
men of sound judgment, there is no need here of a long and subtle
demonstration; the nature of the case itself, and the whole subject of
the Epistle, proclaim that he ought not to have passed over Peter if he
had been at Rome.
15. Paul is afterwards conveyed as a prisoner to Rome. Luke relates that he was received by the brethren, but says nothing of Peter. From Rome he writes to many churches. He even sends salutations from certain individuals, but does not by a single word intimate that Peter was then there. Who, pray, will believe that he would have said nothing of him if he had been present? Nay, in the Epistle to the Philippians, after saying that he had no one who cared for the work of the Lord so faithfully as Timothy, he complains, that "all seek their own" (Phil. 2:21)  . And to Timothy he makes the more grievous complaint, that no man was present at his first defence, that all men forsook him (2 Tim. 4:16). Where then was Peter?  If they say that he was at Rome, how disgraceful the charge which Paul brings against him of being a deserter of the Gospel! For he is speaking of believers, since he adds, "The Lord lay it not to their charge." At what time, therefore, and how long, did Peter hold that See? The uniform opinion of authors is, that he governed that church until his death. But these authors are not agreed as to who was his successor. Some say Linus, others Clement. And they relate many absurd fables concerning a discussion between him and Simon Magus. Nor does Augustine, when treating of superstition, disguise the fact, that owing to an opinion rashly entertained, it had become customary at Rome to fast on the day on which Peter carried away the palm from Simon Magus (August. ad Januar. Ep. 2). In short, the affairs of that period are so involved from the variety of opinions, that credit is not to be given rashly to anything we read concerning it. And yet, from this agreement of authors, I do not dispute that he died there, but that he was bishop, particularly for a long period, I cannot believe.  I do not, however, attach much importance to the point, since Paul testifies, that the apostleship of Peter pertained especially to the Jews, but his own specially to us. Therefore, in order that that compact which they made between themselves, nay, that the arrangement of the Holy Spirit may be firmly established among us, we ought to pay more regard to the apostleship of Paul than to that of Peter, since the Holy Spirit, in allotting them different provinces, destined Peter for the Jews and Paul for us. Let the Romanists, therefore, seek their primacy somewhere else than in the word of God, which gives not the least foundation for it.
16. Let us now come to the Primitive Church, that it may also appear that our opponents plume themselves on its support, not less falsely and unadvisedly than on the testimony of the word of God. When they lay it down as an axiom, that the unity of the Church cannot be maintained unless there be one supreme head on earth whom all the members should obey; and that, accordingly, our Lord gave the primacy to Peter, and thereafter, by right of succession, to the See of Rome, there to remain even to the end, they assert that this has always been observed from the beginning. But since they improperly wrest many passages, I would first premise, that I deny not that the early Christians uniformly give high honour to the Roman Church, and speak of it with reverence. This, I think, is owing chiefly to three causes. The opinion which had prevailed (I know not how), that that Church was founded and constituted by the ministry of Peter, had great effect in procuring influence and authority. Hence, in the East, it was, as a mark of honour, designated the Apostolic See. Secondly, as the seat of empire was there, and it was for this reason to be presumed, that the most distinguished for learning, prudence, skill, and experience, were there more than elsewhere, account was justly taken of the circumstance, lest the celebrity of the city, and the much more excellent gifts of God also, might seem to be despised. To these was added a third cause, that when the churches of the East, of Greece and of Africa, were kept in a constant turmoil by differences of opinion, the Church of Rome was calmer and less troubled. To this it was owing, that pious and holy bishops, when driven from their sees, often betook themselves to Rome as an asylum or haven. For as the people of the West are of a less acute and versatile turn of mind than those of Asia or Africa, so they are less desirous of innovations. It therefore added very great authority to the Roman Church, that in those dubious times it was not so much unsettled as others, and adhered more firmly to the doctrine once delivered, as shall immediately be better explained. For these three causes, I say, she was held in no ordinary estimation, and received many distinguished testimonies from ancient writers.
17. But since on this our opponents would rear up a primacy and supreme authority over other churches, they, as I have said, greatly err. That this may better appear, I will first briefly show what the views of early writers are as to this unity which they so strongly urge. Jerome, in writing to Nepotian, after enumerating many examples of unity, descends at length to the ecclesiastical hierarchy. He says, "Every bishop of a church, every archpresbyter, every archdeacon, and the whole ecclesiastical order, depends on its own rulers." Here a Roman presbyter speaks and commends unity in ecclesiastical order. Why does he not mention that all the churches are bound together by one Head as a common bond? There was nothing more appropriate to the point in hand, and it cannot be said that he omitted it through forgetfulness; there was nothing he would more willingly have mentioned had the fact permitted. He therefore undoubtedly owns, that the true method of unity is that which Cyprian admirably describes in these words: "The episcopate is one, part of which is held entire by each bishop, and the Church is one, which, by the increase of fecundity, extends more widely in numbers. As there are many rays of the sun and one light, many branches of a tree and one trunk, upheld by its tenacious root, and as very many streams flow from one fountain, and though numbers seem diffused by the largeness of the overflowing supply, yet unity is preserved entire in the source, so the Church, pervaded with the light of the Lord, sends her rays over the whole globe, and yet is one light, which is everywhere diffused without separating the unity of the body, extends her branches over the whole globe, and sends forth flowing streams; still the head is one, and the source one" (Cyprian, de Simplie. Prælat.). Afterwards he says, "The spouse of Christ cannot be an adulteress: she knows one house, and with chaste modesty keeps the sanctity of one bed." See how he makes the bishopric of Christ alone universal, as comprehending under it the whole Church: See how he says that part of it is held entire by all who discharge the episcopal office under this head. Where is the primacy of the Roman See, if the entire bishopric resides in Christ alone, and a part of it is held entire by each? My object in these remarks is, to show the reader, in passing, that that axiom of the unity of an earthly kind in the hierarchy, which the Romanists assume as confessed and indubitable, was altogether unknown to the ancient Church.
 See Calv. Adversus Concilium Tridentinum. Also Adversus Theologos Parisienses.
 French, "Pour ce faire, ils alleguent la pretrise souveraine qui etoit en la loy, et la jurisdiction souveraine du grand sacrificateur, que Dieu avoit establie en Jerusalem."--For this purpose, they allege the sovereign priesthood which was under the law, and the sovereign jurisdiction of the high priest which God had established at Jerusalem.
 "Car c'est tout ainsi comme si quelcun debattoit que le monde doit etre gouverné par un baillie ou seneschal parce que chacune province a le sien."--For it is just as if one were to maintain that the whole world ought to be governed by a bailie or seneschal, because each province has its own.
 French, "Ils ont Four leur bouelier, qu'aucuns des Peres les ont ainsi exposees."--They regard it as their buckler, that some of the Fathers have so expounded them.
 The French adds, "Vision receue du Seigneur; Le Seigneur des armees l'a dit,"--A vision received from the Lord; The Lord of hosts hath spoken it.
 Eph. 4:10, 7, 11.
 110 D110 Calvin apparently believed that Paul's conversion occurred about three years after the death of Christ; that Paul visited Peter in Jerusalem three years later (Gal. 1:18; Acts 9:26); that Paul saw Peter again at the Jerusalem Council fourteen years later (Gal. 2:1, 2:9; Acts 15:1-11); and that these three numbers were meant to be added together. He therefore locates Peter at Jerusalem about twenty years after the death of Christ.
 111 D111 Nero committed suicide in A.D. 68. A subtraction of thirty-seven years brings us back to A.D. 31 for the date of Christ's death. An addition of twenty years would place Peter in Jerusalem until A.D. 51. And following this date, Peter went to Antioch.
 112 D112 Paul's arrival in Rome as a prisoner is put at A.D. 60. If his epistle to the Romans was written four years before, then that book should be dated A.D. 56. In this letter, there is no salutation of Peter (as would be expected if Peter had been bishop of Rome). In fact, there is not even so much as a mention of him! (although many other names, some of them obscure, appear in the closing chapter). The implication that Peter was not in Rome at this time (A.D. 56) seems difficult to avoid.
 113 D113 During his first imprisonment in Rome (from A.D. 60 to 62), Paul wrote his epistle to the Philippians. No mention is made of Peter, but there is a strong commendation of Timothy, who not only was with Paul in Rome, but also sought for the things which are Christ's (Phil. 2:19-21). In addition to Paul's own epistle, Luke's account of Paul's two-year imprisonment in Rome (in Acts 28) says nothing whatever concerning Peter. It would appear that Peter was not in Rome from A.D. 60 to 62.
 114 D114 In Paul's second epistle to Timothy (the last of the Pauline epistles, dated A.D. 67), he states that at his first defense no man stood with him, but that all forsook him (2 Tim. 4:17). Where then was Peter? A number of theories might be advanced in reply to this question. Let us examine for: (1) Peter was in Rome, but in hiding. This theory is not very complimentary to Peter, who must in such a case have been among those who forsook Paul, for whom Paul prayed that it might not be imputed to them (implying wrongdoing on their part). (2) Peter, at the time of writing of 2 Timothy (in A.D. 67), had not as yet arrived in Rome. This theory would hold that Peter arrived later in A.D. 67, and was martyred a short time after, perhaps in the spring of A.D. 68, with Paul. This view suffers from the fact that 2 Peter, believed to have been written by Peter at Rome, is dated A.D.66. (3) Peter had already been martyred, and thus obviously could not stand with Paul at his first defense. This theory would date Peter's death in Rome at A.D. 64, during Nero's persecution of the Christians following the great fire in Rome. Once again, this view conflicts with the date of the writing of 2 Peter, in A.D. 66. Peter's second epistle, obviously written by Peter, just as obviously could not have been written by someone who had died two years before he wrote it! (4) Peter was imprisoned in Rome at this time, expecting shortly to be executed (note 2 Peter 1:14), and thus was simply unable to stand with Paul. This theory, although it has certain problems, nevertheless has one important feature in its favor. It can take into account a two-year period of imprisonment (A.D. 66-68) ending in Peter's execution (during which period, in A.D. 67, he was unable to stand with Paul); and include within that period Peter's second epistle (dated A.D. 66).
 115 D115 Calvin in this one sentence states his conclusions on three distinct questions: (a) Did Peter die in Rome? (b) Was Peter bishop of Rome? (c) If Peter was bishop of Rome, did he hold this office for a long period of time? With regard to the first question, Calvin does not dispute the contention that Peter died in Rome. Although there is no specific statement to this effect in Scripture, yet Peter's presence and martyrdom is attested by so many early writers, including Clement of Rome, Ignatus, Papias, and Irenaeus, that there appears to be no sound reason to reject a tradition about which so many authors agree. However, in relation to the second and third questions, Calvin does not feel that he can answer affirmatively. His reasons are found in the argument which he has developed in this section and the previous one. If Calvin's development in these sections, and the appended annotations are substantially correct, then it would appear that at least three conclusions follow: (1) There is no evidence that Peter founded the church at Rome. (2) There is no evidence that Peter was in Rome for any considerable length of time. He may have been there, at the most, for six years (if he came in A.D. 62 and died in A.D. 68). He may have been there for five years (if he arrived in A.D. 66 and was executed in A.D. 68). (3) There is no evide7nce that Peter was the (first) bishop of Rome; or that such an office, distinct from that of elder, even existed at this early date. Such an office, clearly extra-Biblical, appeared only later in the history of the Church.
Christian Classics Ethereal Library / Public Domain
Institutes of the Christian Religion
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
4/1/2010 Taking Captive All Things
Not too long ago my family and I were eating at a local restaurant known for its home style southern cuisine and quaint family atmosphere. As we were leaving, I couldn’t help but notice a family sitting together, and each one of them — Dad, Mom, big brother, and little sister — was engaged in a conversation with someone else, somewhere else in a galaxy far, far away. With shoulders hunched down and their eyes staring lifelessly into their electronic mobile devices, their frantic fingers typed away as their carefully placed emoticons (electronic emotional images, such as smiley faces, sad faces, etc.) presumably took their appropriate places as emotional substitutes for their dispassionate, electronically glowing faces.
As a constant observer of my sociocultural surroundings I had to somehow capture this sad twenty-first century familial phenomenon. I immediately took out my handy iPhone and took a digital picture. Yes, it is indeed a brave new world in which we live — look how far we’ve come.
For better or worse I’m a bit old-fashioned, and I have a tendency to resist the new, the improved, the trendy, and whatever is deemed a product of supposed progress. However, ever since I became a Christian I have had an overwhelming conviction that I should make the most of my time and seize every minute of every day to accomplish whatever is worthy for God’s glory, using any appropriate new media or technology wisely and carefully, just as the apostle Paul instructs us: Redeem the time because the days are evil (Eph. 5:16). Similarly, Jonathan Edwards resolved “never to lose one moment of time; but improve it the most profitable way I possibly can” (fifth resolution). For this reason, we should not shy away from whatever comes at us in this brave new world, however fast it might come. Rather, we should live each day in light of eternity, before the face of God who not only condones but commands the right use of all right things as long as they are all used for the edification of His people, for the worldwide mission of Christ’s church, and for the proclamation of God’s unchanging Word, which was superintended by the Holy Spirit and written with pen and parchment, and is now readily available to the entire world, by God’s sovereign plan all for His glory.
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Dr. Burk Parsons (@BurkParsons) is editor of Tabletalk magazine, senior pastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., a visiting lecturer at Reformed Theological Seminary, and a Ligonier Ministries teaching fellow. He is editor of John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, and Doxology.
Ligonier coram Deo (definition)
by Bill Federer
The 35th U.S. President was born this day, May 29, 1917. He was awarded the Navy's medal for heroism for his service during World War II, and the Pulitzer Prize for his book Profiles in Courage. The youngest man ever elected President, he served three years before being assassinated. His name: John F. Kennedy. In his Inaugural Address, President Kennedy stated: "The same revolutionary beliefs for which our forebears fought are still at issue around the globe - The belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state but from the hand of God."
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
It always strikes me,
and it is very peculiar,
that when we see the image of indescribable and unutterable desolation -
of loneliness, of poverty and misery, the end of all things, or their extreme -
then rises in our mind the thought of God.
--- Vincent van Gogh
Dear Theo: The Autobiography of Vincent Van Gogh
The vigor of our spiritual life will be in exact proportion to the place held by the Bible in our life and thoughts.
--- George Mueller
George Müller of Bristol: And His Witness to a Prayer-Hearing God (Classic Reprint)
There is true consolation in our faith, but it is not dispensed in convenient doses like cough medicine. It can be shared only by those who know what it’s like to be so far down in the pit that they feel as though God has abandoned them. If you want to be a true comforter, there is a price to pay; and not everybody is willing to pay it. Paul wrote about this in 2 Corinthians 1:3–11.
--- Warren W. Wiersbe
Be Patient (Job): Waiting on God in Difficult Times (The BE Series Commentary)
We need not fear shipwreck when God is the pilot.
--- Henry Ward Beecher
Proverbs From Plymouth Pulpit ... from here, there and everywhere
Hear O Israel: the Lord is our God, the Lord is One
Blessed be His Name
whose glorious kingdom is forever and ever
And you shall love the Lord your God
with all your heart
and with all your soul
and with all your might.
And these words which I command you this day
shall be upon your heart,
and you shall teach them diligently to your children;
and you shall talk of them
when you sit in your house
and when you walk by the way
and when you lie down and when you rise up.
And you shall bind them for a sign upon your hand,
and they shall be for frontlets between your eyes.
And you shall write them
upon the door-posts of your house
and upon your gates.
The Shema: Spirituality and Law in Judaism
Thanks to Meir Yona
Aristobulus Is Taken Off By Pompey's Friends, As Is His Son Alexander By Scipio. Antipater Cultivates A Friendship With Caesar, After Pompey's Death; He Also Performs Great Actions In That War, Wherein He Assisted Mithridates.
1. Now, upon the flight of Pompey and of the senate beyond the Ionian Sea, Caesar got Rome and the empire under his power, and released Aristobulus from his bonds. He also committed two legions to him, and sent him in haste into Syria, as hoping that by his means he should easily conquer that country, and the parts adjoining to Judea. But envy prevented any effect of Aristobulus's alacrity, and the hopes of Caesar; for he was taken off by poison given him by those of Pompey's party; and, for a long while, he had not so much as a burial vouchsafed him in his own country; but his dead body lay [above ground], preserved in honey, until it was sent to the Jews by Antony, in order to be buried in the royal sepulchers.
2. His son Alexander also was beheaded by Sci-pio at Antioch, and that by the command of Pompey, and upon an accusation laid against him before his tribunal, for the mischiefs he had done to the Romans. But Ptolemy, the son of Menneus, who was then ruler of Chalcis, under Libanus, took his brethren to him by sending his son Philippio for them to Ascalon, who took Antigonus, as well as his sisters, away from Aristobulus's wife, and brought them to his father; and falling in love with the younger daughter, he married her, and was afterwards slain by his father on her account; for Ptolemy himself, after he had slain his son, married her, whose name was Alexandra; on the account of which marriage he took the greater care of her brother and sister.
3. Now, after Pompey was dead, Antipater changed sides, and cultivated a friendship with Caesar. And since Mithridates of Pergamus, with the forces he led against Egypt, was excluded from the avenues about Pelusium, and was forced to stay at Asealon, he persuaded the Arabians, among whom he had lived, to assist him, and came himself to him, at the head of three thousand armed men. He also encouraged the men of power in Syria to come to his assistance, as also of the inhabitants of Libanus, Ptolemy, and Jamblicus, and another Ptolemy; by which means the cities of that country came readily into this war; insomuch that Mithridates ventured now, in dependence upon the additional strength that he had gotten by Antipater, to march forward to Pelusium; and when they refused him a passage through it, he besieged the city; in the attack of which place Antipater principally signalized himself, for he brought down that part of the wall which was over against him, and leaped first of all into the city, with the men that were about him.
4. Thus was Pelusium taken. But still, as they were marching on, those Egyptian Jews that inhabited the country called the country of Onias stopped them. Then did Antipater not only persuade them not to stop them, but to afford provisions for their army; on which account even the people about Memphis would not fight against them, but of their own accord joined Mithridates. Whereupon he went round about Delta, and fought the rest of the Egyptians at a place called the Jews' Camp; nay, when he was in danger in the battle with all his right wing, Antipater wheeled about, and came along the bank of the river to him; for he had beaten those that opposed him as he led the left wing. After which success he fell upon those that pursued Mithridates, and slew a great many of them, and pursued the remainder so far that he took their camp, while he lost no more than fourscore of his own men; as Mithridates lost, during the pursuit that was made after him, about eight hundred. He was also himself saved unexpectedly, and became an unreproachable witness to Caesar of the great actions of Antipater.
5. Whereupon Caesar encouraged Antipater to undertake other hazardous enterprises for him, and that by giving him great commendations and hopes of reward. In all which enterprises he readily exposed himself to many dangers, and became a most courageous warrior; and had many wounds almost all over his body, as demonstrations of his valor. And when Caesar had settled the affairs of Egypt, and was returning into Syria again, he gave him the privilege of a Roman citizen, and freedom from taxes, and rendered him an object of admiration by the honors and marks of friendship he bestowed upon him. On this account it was that he also confirmed Hyrcanus in the high priesthood.
The War of the Jews: The History of the Destruction of Jerusalem (complete edition, 7 books)
by D.H. Stern
3 When a wicked person comes, contempt comes too,
and with disdain, provocation.
4 The words of a man’s mouth are deep water,
a gushing torrent, a fountain of wisdom.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
Reformation Study Bible
Author The author of this epistle identifies himself as “Jude, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James” (v. Jude 1). The name “Judah” (Greek Judas; English “Jude”) was common among first-century Jews, and at least eight different persons of that name are mentioned in the New Testament, including two of Jesus’ disciples (Luke 6:16). The author cannot, therefore, be identified on the basis of name alone.
The best clue to his identity is the description “brother of James” (v. Jude 1). The only James known well enough in the early church to be referred to in this unqualified way is James, the prominent church leader (Acts 12:17; 15:13), author of the epistle that bears his name, and half brother of Jesus (Matt. 13:55; Mark 6:3; Gal. 1:19). If this identification of James is correct, the author of the present epistle is Jude, the half brother of Jesus (Matt. 13:55; Mark 6:3), who along with his other brothers did not believe in Jesus until after the Resurrection (Mark 3:21, 31; John 7:5; Acts 1:14).
Jude might be one of those referred to at another point in the New Testament, in Paul’s reference to the itinerant ministry of the Lord’s brothers and their wives (1 Cor. 9:5). Probably it is Jude’s humility that explains why he does not mention that he was related to Jesus (note the similar reserve in James 1:1).
Several objections to the authenticity of Jude have been raised, but all rest on questionable assumptions or exegesis. Most are linked with proposing a date too late for Jude’s lifetime (“Date and Occasion” below). Some argue that the quality of the Greek used in this epistle is better than one could expect of a Galilean, but Galilee was bilingual (Greek and Aramaic) in the first century, and too little is known about Jude’s Greek to conclude that he could not have written this letter. We can accept that the author is Jude, the brother of Jesus.
Despite its brevity, the epistle was widely used in the early church because of its obvious orthodoxy and value. Questions about its canonical status arose largely because of its use of apocryphal literature (vv. 9, 14, 15 and notes; “Interpretive Difficulties” below). In addition to possible allusions in the so-called “Apostolic Fathers” (e.g., Clement of Rome; the Shepherd of Hermas; the Epistle of Barnabas; all prior to 150), Jude is listed in the Muratorian Canon (c. 200) and was accepted as authentic by Clement of Alexandria (c. 150–c. 215), Tertullian (c. 160–c. 225), Origen (c. 185–c. 253), and Athanasius (c. 296–373).
Date and Occasion Practically the only evidence for the date of Jude is what can be inferred about the time of its author and of the heresy he combats. If Jude was younger than Jesus and James, as his position in the lists of brothers in Matt. 13:55 and Mark 6:3 suggests, he could have survived well into the last quarter of the first century. Assuming that Peter wrote 2 Peter, and with most scholars that 2 Peter uses Jude, Jude would have been written before A.D. 65–67, the likely date for 2 Peter.
Some argue for a second-century date on the grounds that Jude is combatting Gnosticism. While the teachings Jude opposes may have been precursors of Gnosticism, they cannot be identified with the fully-developed Gnostic heresies of the second century.
There is no indication in the letter of its place of writing or its destination. While some believe Jude’s use of the Old Testament and Jewish apocryphal literature points to a Jewish Christian audience, this material reveals more about his own background than that of his readers. Perhaps Jude wrote the letter as a circular letter to a number of churches whose conditions he knows from having conducted an itinerant ministry among them (cf. 1 Cor. 9:5).
The Reformation Study Bible: ESV
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
At that day ye shall ask in My name … The Father Himself loveth you. --- John 16:26, 27.
“At that day ye shall ask in My name,” i.e., in My nature. Not—‘You shall use My name as a magic word,’ but—‘You will be so intimate with Me that you will be one with Me.’ “That day” is not a day hereafter, but a day meant for here and now. “The Father Himself loveth you”—the union is so complete and absolute. Our Lord does not mean that life will be free from external perplexities but that just as He knew the Father’s heart and mind, so by the baptism of the Holy Ghost He can lift us into the heavenly places where He can reveal the counsels of God to us.
“Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in My name …” “That day” is a day of undisturbed relationship between God and the saint. Just as Jesus stood unsullied in the presence of His Father, so by the mighty efficacy of the baptism of the Holy Ghost, we can be lifted into that relationship—“that they may be one, even as We are one.”
“He will give it you.” Jesus says that God will recognize our prayers. What a challenge! By the Resurrection and Ascension power of Jesus, by the sent-down Holy Ghost, we can be lifted into such a relationship with the Father that we are at one with the perfect sovereign will of God by our free choice even as Jesus was. In that wonderful position, placed there by Jesus Christ, we can pray to God in His name, in His nature, which is gifted to us by the Holy Ghost, and Jesus says—“Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in My name, He will give it you.” The sovereign character of Jesus Christ is tested by His own statements.
My Utmost for His Highest
the Poetry of RS Thomas
July 5 1940
Nought that I would give today
Would half compare
With the long-treasured riches that somewhere
In the deep heart are stored.
Cloud and the moon and mist and the whole
Hoard of frail, white-bubbling stars,
And the cool blessing,
Like moth or wind caressing,
Of the fair, fresh rain-dipped flowers;
And all the spells of the sea, and the new green
Of moss and fern and bracken
Before their youth is stricken;
The thoughts of the trees at eventide, the hush
In the dark corn at Morning,
And the wish
In your own heart still but dawning-
All of these,
A soft weight on your hands,
I would give now;
And lastly myself made clean
And white as the wave-washed sand,
If I knew how.
Selected Poems, 1946-68
A number of years ago, a well-known college football coach told the story of receiving three envelopes when he started his tenure. They were from his predecessor, given to the new coach with a note: "When things get bad, open the first envelope. When things get worse, open the second envelope. When things get really awful, open the third envelope." The new coach and his team struggled during the first season, hardly able to put any points on the scoreboard. He opened the first envelope and found a note inside: "Blame the players." In the off-season, he spoke about how the players were not motivated enough and how they lacked the necessary discipline to become winners. The second season, the team continued to lose, and as the season drew to a close, the coach opened the second envelope. In it was a note that read: "Blame the alumni." And the coach spoke about how critical the alumni had been of the college's football program, how the school could have a winning record with everyone behind the team. The third season was not much better, and as the team wrapped up another losing season, the coach opened the third and final envelope. In it were these words: "Prepare three envelopes."
This story points to the reality that responsibility means something more than words which, as we know, can be cheap. In saying "There goes your donkey," Rabbi Tarfon is acknowledging this fact. Admitting that we are wrong, apologizing to the person we have hurt, and feeling a sense of remorse are steps taken to begin the appeasement process. However, there are times when "I'm sorry" is not enough, where one must make amends as well.
We are pleased when the president of the United States admits: "I take full responsibility for this mistake." In the end, though, his words fall short of what we are looking for. The apology does not cost him anything except, perhaps, face. Nonetheless, in our day and age, taking a fall and admitting wrongdoing and responsibility have not only become widespread but even are seen by some as a sign of strength and maturity. Rabbi Tarfon and Rabbi Akiva are saying that words by themselves are not enough. This attitude toward responsibility helps not only the injured party, but also the one who did the injury, Rabbi Tarfon himself, for he will never feel as if he fully made amends until he does something to help the one he hurt.
If we hurt someone and cause a loss, shouldn't we both apologize and compensate them for their loss? At times, we let others—the community, friends, an insurance company—take care of the compensation. Rabbi Tarfon is saying that we, the offending individuals, must involve ourselves in the restitution process, for with every privilege comes responsibility. We should not exempt ourselves from it or leave it to others.
Centuries later, Thomas Paine wrote: "What we obtain too cheaply, we esteem too lightly." Rabbi Tarfon would certainly agree and would add: "In a situation where words are cheap, or just less than adequate, deeds must be added to them."
The third tongue kills three.
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 / The school of Rabbi Yishmael taught: "Anyone who gossips is considered as having committed the grave sins of Idolatry, Sexual Immorality, and Murder. It is written here: 'Every tongue that speaks arrogance [gedolot]'
[Psalms 12:4], and concerning Idolatry it is written: 'Alas, this people is guilty of a great [gedolah] sin' [Exodus 32:31]. Concerning Sexual Immorality it is written: 'How then could I do this most [gedolah] wicked thing?' [Genesis 39:9], and concerning Murder it is written: 'My punishment is too great [gadol] to bear' [Genesis 4:13]. You could say gedolot
[in Psalms 12:4] refers to two [sins]! Which one [of the three] would you then eliminate?" In the west they say: "The third tongue kills three." It kills the one who tells, the one who hears, and the one they talk about."
Context / Men speak lies to one another; their speech is smooth; they talk with duplicity. May the Lord cut off all flattering lips, every tongue that speaks arrogance.
Context / Idolatry: - The Lord spoke to Moses, "Hurry down, for your people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt, have acted basely. They have been quick to turn aside from the way that I enjoined upon them. They have made themselves a molten calf and bowed low to it and sacrificed to it, saying: 'This is your god, O Israel, who brought you out of the land of Egypt!' " (Exodus 32:7–8)
Context / Sexual Immorality: - After a time, his master's wife cast her eyes upon Joseph and said, "Lie with me." But he refused. (Genesis 39:7, 8)
Context / Murder: - … and when they were in the field, Cain set upon his brother Abel and killed him. (Genesis 4:8)
Our section discusses the sin of leshon ha-ra, literally "evil speech," otherwise known as gossip. Many people do not even consider gossip as a sin, let alone a serious one. The Rabbis take a very different view. They equate gossip with three sins that are traditionally considered the most grievous: Idolatry (in Hebrew "worshiping stars"), Sexual Immorality ("uncovering nakedness") and Murder ("spilling blood").
The Rabbis arrive at their teaching of the power of language through a careful analysis of the language used in the Bible. The Rabbis were very sensitive to words and how and where they were used. The repetition of the same word in different places was seen as a hint that the separate sections were in some way related. This is the basis for the Rabbis' startling claim that gossip is on the par with Idolatry, Sexual Immorality, and Murder. They observed that the word "great" appears in a verse in the Psalms (12:4) that discusses sins of speech, and is also found in the verses that speak about the three most serious sins. The example of Idolatry is the story of the Israelites' worshiping the Golden Calf. Sexual Immorality is seen in the attempt of Potiphar's wife to seduce Joseph. Murder is in the tale of Cain and Abel.
The Rabbis note that the word in Psalms, referring to gossip, is in the plural, gedolot. Usually, an unspecified plural is understood by the Rabbis to imply two. Thus, "every tongue that speaks arrogance [gedolot]" equates gossip with two capital crimes. This interpretation undermines the Gemara's notion that the sin of gossip is equal to three sins. The Talmud responds to the arithmetic objection by asking "which of the three would you drop?" In other words, the Rabbis say, we prefer to ignore the usual methodological approach in order to focus instead on the content of the message.
This teaching is a serious one: Gossip can destroy three lives. Many would interpret this literally: The person gossiped about may attack the person who defamed him. Both may die in the violence that ensues, and their relatives may then seek vengeance against the person who initiated the slander.
Swimming in the Sea of Talmud: Lessons for Everyday Living
The Teacher's Commentary
Each of the Gospel writers adds details not included by the others. By studying the four accounts, we can know what happened almost hour by hour.
For instance, we know that Jesus had not just one trial, but six! He was taken from court to court, examined (at times in actual violation of Jewish Law), and shunted off to another jurisdiction. Finally He was condemned by Pilate, the Roman governor, who alone had authority to pronounce the death sentence.
Jesus' religious trials
|Before Annas||John 18:12–14|
|Before Caiaphas||Matthew 26:57–68|
|Before the Sanhedrin||Matthew 27:1–2|
Jesus' civil trials
|Before Pilate||Luke 22:66–23:7|
|Before Herod||Luke 23:8–12|
|Before Pilate||Luke 23:13–25|
While the Gospels tell the story of Jesus' death, we need to look to the Old Testament and to the Epistles to explain its meaning. How good to lead our group to sense once again the wonder of what Jesus did on Calvary for you and me. How great the price of our salvation.
Commentary / If Jesus' prophetic picture of the kingdom's future has its roots in the Old Testament, what is about to happen has even deeper roots. All of revelation focuses on the events of the next few days: Millennia and centuries of time strain forward to it, while additional millennia and centuries find meaning by looking back to it.
Matthew puts it in perspective as he gives us Jesus' words: "As you know, the Passover is two days away"
Passover / The Passover marked the Jewish new year: it was the time of beginnings for Israel. The annual festival recalled a historic event which marked a true spiritual beginning for God's Old Testament people.
Exodus 11 and 12 record the story. Great plagues had ruined the land of Egypt in Moses' day, but they had failed to move Egypt's ruler to let Israel, then a slave race, go. God then determined a final judgment. But He instructed each Hebrew family to select a lamb, to be kept in the home for four days. On the fourth day the lamb was to be killed, and its blood sprinkled on the doorposts and lintel of each Jewish home. The lamb itself was to be roasted and eaten.
The night this happened, God's death angel swept through the land of Egypt. Each home unprotected by the blood of the lamb suffered the loss of its firstborn son. But the homes marked out by the blood of the Passover lamb were safe.
Impelled by the horror of the multiple deaths, Pharaoh released the Jews. Israel had been redeemed by death from slavery, to fulfill its destiny as the people of God.
And God commanded the Jews, each year after this event, to commemorate it by reenactment. Fresh lambs were slain, fresh blood sprinkled, and each generation was taught again the lesson that freedom could come only through the shedding of the blood of the lamb.
This Passover. This Passover, Jesus was about to fulfill the deepest meaning of the Old Testament celebration rite. Passover not only looked back to the Exodus; it looked forward to the Cross. "The Passover is two days away," Jesus said, "and the Son of man will be handed over to be crucified" (Matt. 26:2).
John the Baptist had foreseen it that day back at the River Jordan. "Look," he said, "the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29) For three to four years after this Jesus had been among the Jewish people, teaching, healing, caring. But then, when Passover came, like the lambs that represented Him, Jesus had to die. He had to die that through His death those who sprinkle His blood by faith on the doorposts of their hearts might know the ultimate freedom. Through the blood of Christ we are freed from sin and from sin's power—freed even from the fear of death.
The culminating act of service and self-giving had been clearly taught in the Old Testament, even apart from the Passover symbolism. We see it, for instance, in Isaiah 53. The death of Christ and its meaning are so clearly portrayed in this passage that we can hardly believe we are reading words penned over 600 years before Jesus' birth!
He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to Him, nothing in His appearance that we should desire Him. He was despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces He was despised, and we esteemed Him not. Surely He took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered Him stricken by God, smitten by Him, and afflicted. But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; He was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent so He did not open His mouth. By oppression and judgment He was taken away. And who can speak of His descendants? For He was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of My people He was stricken. He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in His death, though He had done no violence, nor was any deceit in His mouth. Yet it was the Lord's will to crush Him and cause Him to suffer, and though the Lord makes His life a guilt offering, He will see His offspring and prolong His days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in His hand. After the suffering of His soul, He will see the light of life and be satisfied; by His knowledge My righteous Servant will justify many, and He will bear their iniquities. Therefore I will give Him a portion among the great, and He will divide the spoils with the strong, because He poured out His life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
--- Isaiah 53:2–12.
The Teacher's Commentary
The Apologetics Study Bible
Like any ancient book, the NT has a strange feel about it. It reports unusual events as well as strange customs. This naturally raises the question of whether we can trust what it tells us. These six statements of fact affirm that the NT can be trusted.
1. The books of the NT were recognized through a careful sifting process. The process stretched from the first to the fourth century. The catalysts for the formation of the NT were the use of Scripture in worship, the rise of false teaching (which necessitated identifying the authentic works), and persecution (which called for the burning of holy books—so one needed to know which those were!). The books included in the NT were those regarded as giving evidence of divine authority. Was it associated with an apostle? Was it in line with other authentic biblical books? Was it widely used and received? These were the questions used to identify the trustworthy and authoritative books of the NT.
2. The NT is based on reliable sources carefully used and faithfully transmitted. The Bible is both like other books and unlike them. Luke explained that he used sources (Lk 1:1–4). Jesus taught that the Spirit would help these apostles recall what Jesus taught them (Jn 14:25–26). To argue that the Bible is inspired by God does not dismiss the human elements that make up the book. What are the sources and how were they handled? The texts surrounding Jesus stress the role of eyewitnesses as the root of the tradition (see Lk 1:2). An apostolic association ensured the account's credibility.
The distance between event and recording is not great—less than a lifetime, a small distance of time by ancient standards. For example, the first-century Roman historians Livy and Dionysius of Halicarnassus were centuries removed from many of the events they chronicled. Judaism depended on the ability to pass things on with care from one generation to the next, recounting events with care. This does not exclude some variation, as is obvious by comparing the Gospel accounts or parallel accounts in 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, and 1 and 2 Chronicles. Judaism, and the Christianity that grew out of it, was a culture of memory. People memorized long liturgical prayers and more often than not worked from memory rather than from a written page. Anyone who has read a children's book again and again to his child knows that the mind is capable of absorbing vast amounts of wording and retaining it.
Finally the biblical text we have today basically reflects the text as it was originally produced. The NT has far better manuscript evidence than any other ancient document. Where most classical works, such as those of Plato, Herodotus, and Aristophanes, have from one to 20 manuscripts, the NT has about 5,400 Greek manuscripts that we can compare to determine the original wording, not to mention more than 8,000 ancient Latin manuscripts.
3. Assessing trustworthiness means understanding history's complexity. Differences in accounts do not necessarily equal contradiction, nor does subsequent reflection mean a denial of history. Events can be viewed from different angles or perspectives without forfeiting historicity. Thus the differences in the four Gospels enrich our appreciation of Jesus by giving us four perspectives on Him—Jesus in four dimensions, so to speak. Neither is reflection a denial of history. Sometimes the significance of a historical event, such as a football play, becomes clear only when we see successive events. History involves both what happened and its results. Trustworthiness simply affirms that the assessed account is an accurate portrayal of what took place and a credible explanation of what emerged, not that it is the only way the events in question were seen.
4. Trustworthiness demands not exhaustive but adequate knowledge of the topic. Sources are selective even when they are accurate. The Bible makes this point in John 21:25: "There are also many other things that Jesus did, which, if they were written one by one, I suppose not even the world itself could contain the books that would be written." When people call Scripture trustworthy, they are arguing that its testimony is not contrary to what happened and is sufficient to give us a meaningful understanding of God and His work for us (2 Tm 3:16–17). Speaking accurately is not the same as speaking exhaustively.
5. Archaeology teaches us to respect the content of Scripture. Archaeology seldom can prove that events took place. What it can show is that the details of an account, some of them incidental, fit the time and culture of the text. Archaeology also shows that we should be cautious in pointing out errors in the Bible merely because only the Bible attests to something.
For example, there was once debate about the description in John 5:2 of a pool with five porticoes in Jerusalem, called Bethesda or Bethsaida. Many questioned its existence despite its wide attestation in ancient tradition. Different spellings of the locale in the NT manuscript tradition added to the tendency by many to reject the claim. In 1871 a French architect, C. Mauss, was restoring an old church and found a cistern 30 meters away. Later excavations in 1957–1962 clarified that it consisted of two pools large enough to hold a sizable amount of water and people. Today virtually no one doubts the existence of John's pool.
6. The Bible's claim for miracles are plausible when one considers the response to resurrection claims. The events of the Gospels were recorded within the lifetime of several of those who claimed to have observed them. Perhaps the greatest evidence for the resurrection is the change and reaction of those who testified to it. They disciples openly admitted that they had no formal training and for a long period were shockingly inept at responding to Jesus. Yet they become courageous leaders. They stood firm in the face of the threat of death and rejection by the Jewish leaders who resisted them. This did not involve one or two people but a whole host of leaders who left their mark on history, notably the former chief persecutor of the church, Paul. Both Peter and he, along with others such as the Lord's brother James, died for their belief in Jesus' resurrection.
The Apologetics Study Bible: Understand Why You Believe
Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism
As the liberated Judean exiles returned from Babylon to Jerusalem and environs, they gradually rebuilt the Temple, the walls, and the city. Religious leaders also assumed the responsibility of reconstituting the literary heritage from the monarchic culture as well as producing new religious works that attempted to help the people refocus their understanding of their relationship with God after the disaster.
The literary heritage from the monarchic era—which would have been primarily transmitted orally, even if priests or scribes possessed written copies—was rich and diverse. Early Israel in all likelihood had some kind of oral accounts of its formation as a people; it seems inconceivable that they lacked any traditional accounts of their origins. Martin Noth posited five themes of oral traditions that were eventually woven together to form what became the Tetrateuch or Hexateuch: the promise to the patriarchs, the guidance out of Egypt, the wandering through the wilderness, the revelation at Sinai, and the occupation of the land. Historically it is unlikely that any single group experienced the events behind all five of these traditions. Rather, different groups experienced different events which eventually were memorialized in these themes, and some individuals wove the themes together, probably adding new insights and commentary, to form what could be called a national epic. As the unity among the disparate groups developed, all groups increasingly accepted all components of the tradition as “our” story, giving it a pan-Israelite significance.
In addition to the origins narratives, various preexilic traditions would have survived in the memory of the people, including the Deuteronomistic History, or at least many of the tribal, royal, military, and religious traditions which served as the sources of that History. Included also in that early heritage were collections of sayings of and stories about prophets, such as Elijah, Elisha, Amos, Hosea, and Isaiah of Jerusalem, as well as collections of priestly rituals, liturgical hymns, and wisdom instructions.
For the most part Second Temple tradents or scribes assiduously recited or recopied those traditions as accurately as they could, but occasionally there were creative minds that sought to revise and expand the texts with insights addressing new situations and making the works meaningful to the current generation. A priestly edition of the Torah was produced and interwoven into the earlier origins traditions to help the people understand that the ancient covenant was not ephemeral and did not necessarily rest on land, autonomous kingship, and the historical process, but rather was eternal and rested on theocracy, Temple liturgy, and adherence to Torah. The Deuteronomistic History was also updated, putting heavier emphasis on the curse which would result in war, defeat, and exile from the land flowing with milk and honey. In contrast, certain prophetic collections with oracles of judgment were supplemented with much-needed oracles of salvation or consolation (e.g., Amos 9:11–15, and Isaiah 40–55 joined to Isaiah 1–33).
New compositions were also produced in reaction to the shocking loss of independence, land, king, and temple. In addition to the expanded and retheologized editions of the Torah and the Deuteronomistic History, Second Isaiah joyously trumpeted the exiles’ imminent and glorious return to Jerusalem, typologically promising a new creation, new exodus, new covenant, and new Jerusalem. Job may be seen as an attempt to understand and deal with life and the God-human relationship after the Exile. New Psalms emphasized themes of lament and the ideal of Torah as wisdom. New works, such as Chronicles and Ezra, Haggai and Zechariah, also depicted the efforts at restoring the Temple, the religion, and the people.
The Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. --- John 14:27
Peace is not apathy, not stagnation. (RS Thomas Preached in St Paul's Cathedral ) It is certainly not freedom from labor nor suspension of energy. The peace that Christ has left us is not only consistent with the manifold occupations, interests, cares of life, but through and in these we must seek it. Peace is not freedom from trial and suffering. In the same breath Christ offers to his disciples tribulation and peace—the one as accompanying the other, the one as the condition of the other. He holds out no escape from vexation, from misunderstanding, from lies, from persecution, from any of the thousand forms of evil that friend or foe may inflict. But he has promised to endow us with a spirit that will rise triumphant over all these things and bear us to a region of unbroken, perennial peace. Two worlds are ours: this lower world with its privations, its miseries, its distractions, its cares; that higher world into which we are even now translated by faith, where even now the tear is wiped from every eye, and there is no more death nor sorrow nor pain.
This promise flows directly from the revelation of God in the Gospel: the consciousness of one all-powerful, all-comprehensive, presiding will is the first stage. And the recognition of this one God as our Father is the second stage. Only when we have learned to throw ourselves unconditionally on the all-embracing love of our Father in heaven will we find that complete satisfaction, that perfect peace that transcends all understanding.
And this lesson we learn through the incarnation of the Son. God taught us his love in the life and teaching of Christ; God sealed for us his love in the cross and passion and resurrection of Christ. Henceforth it is written in large letters, written right across the scroll of this world’s history, so that people cannot choose but read. Christ has drawn us to the Father, has reconciled us to him, has folded us in the arms of his infinite love. Here alone our deepest yearnings are satisfied; here alone we find repose for our weary spirits, repose from distraction and anxiety and temptation, repose in all time of our tribulation, in all time of our wealth, in the hour of death, and in the day of judgment.
--- J. B. Lightfoot
Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
The Restoration May 29
Joseph Alleine’s imprisonment was occasioned by the restoration of the English monarchy and the laws passed by England’s government in the 1660s. For years England had seesawed between Catholic and Protestant mandates, depending on the monarch in power. When the king was Catholic, Protestants were burned. When Protestant, Catholics died. In both situations, Puritans and non-Anglicans (Dissenters) were hunted down with such vengeance that they finally rebelled. King Charles I was beheaded, his young son fled to France, and a Puritan government was installed.
But the people missed their monarchy, and in 1658 young Charles II headed home from France promising religious liberty. He entered London on his thirtieth birthday, May 29, 1660. Twenty thousand soldiers escorted the young king through flower-strewn streets. Trumpets blared, crowds cheered, bells pealed from every tower. His love life and his dubious faith in God made him the most scandalous leader of his time. But his easy smile and approachability caused few to dislike him.
Some did. In 1661 a pack of religious fanatics known as Fifth Monarchy Men tried to overthrow him and set up a kingdom awaiting the return of Christ. They failed, but the experience left Charles more suspicious of Dissenters than ever. Such preachers as John Bunyan found themselves languishing in prison, and a series of laws put the screws to Dissenters.
Five different acts were passed: (1) the Corporation Act of 1661 excluded all Dissenters from local government; (2) the Act of Uniformity in 1662 required all ministers to use The Book of Common Prayer as a format for their services. It was this act that drove 2,000 preachers from their pulpits in a single day; (3) the Conventicle Act of 1664, aimed primarily at Baptists, forbade religious meetings by Dissenters; (4) the Five Mile Act of 1665 prohibited dissenting ministers from coming within five miles of any city or town in which they had ministered; and (5) the Test Act of 1673 excluded Catholics from civil and military positions.
Baptists, Catholics, Quakers, Presbyterians, and Congregationalists all found themselves again under the lash. In the jail. At the stake. So much for religious liberty.
We don’t want any of you to be discouraged by all these troubles. --- 1 Thessalonians 3:3.
On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - May 29
“Thou hatest wickedness.” --- Psalm 45:7.
“Be ye angry, and sin not.” There can hardly be goodness in a man if he be not angry at sin; he who loves truth must hate every false way. How our Lord Jesus hated it when the temptation came! Thrice it assailed him in different forms, but ever he met it with, “Get thee behind me, Satan.” He hated it in others; none the less fervently because he showed his hate oftener in tears of pity than in words of rebuke; yet what language could be more stern, more Elijah-like, than the words, “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayer.” He hated wickedness, so much that he bled to wound it to the heart; he died that it might die; he was buried that he might bury it in his tomb; and he rose that he might for ever trample it beneath his feet. Christ is in the Gospel, and that Gospel is opposed to wickedness in every shape. Wickedness arrays itself in fair garments, and imitates the language of holiness; but the precepts of Jesus, like his famous scourge of small cords, chase it out of the temple, and will not tolerate it in the Church. So, too, in the heart where Jesus reigns, what war there is between Christ and Belial! And when our Redeemer shall come to be our Judge, those thundering words, “Depart, ye cursed” which are, indeed, but a prolongation of his life-teaching concerning sin, shall manifest his abhorrence of iniquity. As warm as is his love to sinners, so hot is his hatred of sin; as perfect as is his righteousness, so complete shall be the destruction of every form of wickedness. O thou glorious champion of right, and destroyer of wrong, for this cause hath God, even thy God, anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.
Evening - May 29
“Cursed be the man before the Lord, that riseth up and buildeth this city Jericho.” --- Joshua 6:26.
Since he was cursed who rebuilt Jericho, much more the man who labours to restore Popery among us. In our fathers’ days the gigantic walls of Popery fell by the power of their faith, the perseverance of their efforts, and the blast of their Gospel trumpets; and now there are some who would rebuild that accursed system upon its old foundation. O Lord, be pleased to thwart their unrighteous endeavours, and pull down every stone which they build. It should be a serious business with us to be thoroughly purged of every error which may have a tendency to foster the spirit of Popery, and when we have made a clean sweep at home we should seek in every way to oppose its all too rapid spread abroad in the church and in the world. This last can be done in secret by fervent prayer, and in public by decided testimony. We must warn with judicious boldness those who are inclined towards the errors of Rome; we must instruct the young in Gospel truth, and tell them of the black doings of Popery in the olden times. We must aid in spreading the light more thoroughly through the land, for priests, like owls, hate daylight. Are we doing all we can for Jesus and the Gospel? If not, our negligence plays into the hands of the priestcraft. What are we doing to spread the Bible, which is the Pope’s bane and poison? Are we casting abroad good, sound Gospel writings? Luther once said, “The devil hates goose quills” and, doubtless, he has good reason, for ready writers, by the Holy Spirit’s blessing, have done his kingdom much damage. If the thousands who will read this short word this night will do all they can to hinder the rebuilding of this accursed Jericho, the Lord’s glory shall speed among the sons of men. Reader, what can you do? What will you do?
Morning and Evening
AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL
Katharine Lee Bates, 1859–1929
Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people. (Proverbs 14:34)
After what I owe to God, nothing should be more dear or more sacred to me than the love and respect I owe to my country.
--- Jacques Auguste de Thou
Each time we join together in singing the vividly descriptive lines of “America the Beautiful,” we are moved emotionally as we contemplate the wonders of our great nation. The scenic beauties, the courage of the early settlers, and the sacrifices of heroes in battle all stir us to avid appreciation of our country’s heritage. But this national hymn does more than inspire us to praise our great nation. It also encourages us to pray for it. Each stanza is completed with an earnest plea for God’s grace, God’s healing, and His refining until we as a people achieve true brotherhood, law-abiding control, and nobility.
The author felt deeply about the message of her patriotic hymn:
We must match the greatness of our country with the goodness of personal godly living. If only we could couple the daring of the Pilgrims with the moral teachings of Moses, we would have something in this country that no one could ever take from us.
As we consider this hymn, we are reminded that America owes its birth to the living, vital and dynamic faith in God that our founding fathers demonstrated. There is a real need today for a return to such a national dependence upon God as well as a renewed pride in our wonderful land.
Katherine Bates, who was a teacher and head of the English department at Wellesley College in Massachusetts, wrote the original lines of this text in 1893, while teaching summer school in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where the Rocky Mountains and Pike’s Peak had especially impressed her.
O beautiful for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain, for purple mountain majesties above the fruited plain! America, America! God shed His grace on thee, and crown thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea.
O beautiful for pilgrim feet, whose stern, impassioned stress a thoroughfare for freedom beat across the wilderness! America! America! God mend thine ev’ry flaw, confirm thy soul in self-control, thy liberty in law.
O beautiful for heroes proved in liberating strife, who more than self their country loved and mercy more than life! America! America! May God thy gold refine, till all success be nobleness, and ev’ry gain divine.
O beautiful for patriot dream that sees, beyond the years, thine alabaster cities gleam—undimmed by human tears! America! America! God shed His grace on thee, and crown thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea.
For Today: Isaiah 32:17; Romans 13:1–7; 1 Peter 2:13–17.
Give thanks to God for the noble heritage and the many beauties of our great country He has entrusted to us. Raise your voice in praise to God and country ---
Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
Martin Luther | (1483-1546)
Sect. XXXIX. — BUT why do I go on enlarging? Why do I not conclude this discussion with this Exordium, and give my sentence against you in your own words, according to that saying of Christ, “By thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned?” (Matt. xii. 37.) For you say that the Scripture is not quite clear upon this point. And then, suspending all declaration of your own sentiment, you discuss each side of the subject, what may be said for, and what against, and nothing else whatever do you do, in the whole of this book of yours; which, for that very reason, you wished to call DIATRIBE (The Collation) rather than APOPHASIS (The Denial), or something of that kind; because, you wrote with a design to collect all things, and to assert nothing. But if the Scripture be not quite clear upon this point, why do those of whom you boast, not only remain blind to their side of the subject, but rashly and as fools, define and assert “Free-will,” as though proved by a certain and all-sure testimony of Scripture, — that numberless series of the most learned men, I mean, whom the consent of so many ages has approved, even unto this day, and many of whom, in addition to an admirable acquaintance with the Sacred Writings, a piety of life commends? — Some have given, by their blood, a testimony of that doctrine of Christ, which they had defended by Scriptures. If you say what you say, from your heart, it is surely a settled point with you, that “Free-will” has assertors, who are endowed with a wonderful understanding in the sacred writings, and who even gave testimony of that doctrine by their blood. If this be true, they certainly had clear Scripture on their side, else, where would be their admirable understanding in the Sacred Writings? Moreover, what lightness and temerity of spirit must it be, to shed ones blood for a matter uncertain and obscure? This is not to be the martyrs of Christ, but the martyrs of devils!
Now then, do you just set the matter before you, and weigh it in your mind, and say, to which of the two you consider the greater credit should be given; to the prejudices of so many learned men, so many orthodox divines, so many saints, so many martyrs, so many theologians old and recent, so many colleges, so many councils, so many bishops and high-priest Popes, who were of opinion that the Scriptures are quite clear, and who (according to you) confirmed the same by their writings and by their blood; or to your own private judgment, who deny that the Scriptures are quite clear, and who, perhaps, never spent one single tear or sigh for the doctrine of Christ, in the whole of your life? If you believe they were right in their opinion, why do you not follow them in it? If you do not believe they were right, why do you boast of them with such a trumpeting mouth, and such a torrent of language, as though you would overwhelm us head and ears with a certain storm or flood of eloquence? Which flood, however, will the more heavily rush back upon your own head, whilst my Ark is borne along in safety on the top of the waters! Moreover, you attribute to so many and great men, the utmost folly and temerity. For when you speak of them as being men of the greatest understanding in the Scripture, and as having asserted it by their pen, by their life, and by their death; and yet at the same time contend yourself, that the same Scripture is obscure and ambiguous, this is nothing less than making those men most ignorant in understanding, and most stupid in assertion. Thus I, their poor private despiser, do not pay them such an ill compliment, as you do, their public flatterer.
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”
Almost every day I am literally rubbing shoulders with men and women “on the other side of the fence.” What is my impact upon them? Is my life so serene, so satisfying, so radiant because I walk and talk and live with God, that they become envious? Do they see in me the benefits of being under Christ’s control? Do they see something of Him reflected in my conduct and character? Does my life and conversation lead them to Him — and thus into life everlasting?
If so, then I may be sure some of them will also long to dwell in the house of the Lord forever. And there is no reason why this cannot happen if they come under His proper ownership.
There is one other beautiful and final sense in which the psalmist was speaking as a sheep. It is brought out in the Amplified Bible where the meaning of this last phrase is, “I will dwell in the ‘presence’ of the Lord forever.”
My personal conviction is that this is the most significant sentiment that David had in his heart as he ended this hymn of praise to divine diligence.
Not only do we get the idea of an ever-present Shepherd on the scene, but also the concept that the sheep wants to be in full view of his owner at all times.
This theme has run all through our studies. It is the alertness, the awareness, the diligence of a never-tiring master that alone assures the sheep of excellent care. And from the sheep’s standpoint it is knowing that the shepherd is there; it is the constant awareness of his presence nearby that automatically eliminates most of the difficulties and dangers while at the same time providing a sense of security and serenity.
It is the sheep owner’s presence that guarantees there will be no lack of any sort; there will be abundant green pastures; there will be still, clean waters; there will be new paths into fresh fields; there will be safe summers on the high tablelands; there will be freedom from fear; there will be antidotes for flies and disease and parasites; there will be quietness and contentment.
In our Christian lives and experience, precisely the same idea and principle applies.
For when all is said and done on the subject of a successful Christian walk, it can be summed up in one sentence. “Live ever aware of God’s presence.”
There is the “inner” consciousness, which can be very distinct and very real, of Christ’s presence in my life, made evident by His gracious Holy Spirit within. It is He who speaks to us in distinct and definite ways about our behavior. For our part it is a case of being sensitive and responsive to that inner voice.
There can be a habitual awareness of Christ within me, empowering me to live a noble and richly rewarding life in cooperation with Him. As I respond to Him and move in harmony with His wishes, I discover that life becomes satisfying and worthwhile. It acquires great serenity and is made an exciting adventure of fulfillment as I progress in it. This is made possible as I allow His gracious Spirit to control, manage, and direct my daily decisions. In fact, I should deliberately ask for His direction even in minute details.
Then there is the wider but equally thrilling awareness of God all around me. I live surrounded by His presence. I am an open person, an open individual, living life open to His scrutiny. He is conscious of every circumstance I encounter. He attends me with care and concern because I belong to Him. And this will continue through eternity. What an assurance!
I shall dwell in the presence of (in the care of) the Lord forever.
Bless His Name.
A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23
Dr. Keith Essex | The Master's Seminary
Dr. Keith Essex | The Master's Seminary
Skip Heitzig 2005
Brett Meador | Athey Creek