1 Chronicles 9 - 11
A Genealogy of the Returned Exiles1 Chronicles 9:1 So all Israel was recorded in genealogies, and these are written in the Book of the Kings of Israel. And Judah was taken into exile in Babylon because of their breach of faith. 2 Now the first to dwell again in their possessions in their cities were Israel, the priests, the Levites, and the temple servants. 3 And some of the people of Judah, Benjamin, Ephraim, and Manasseh lived in Jerusalem: 4 Uthai the son of Ammihud, son of Omri, son of Imri, son of Bani, from the sons of Perez the son of Judah. 5 And of the Shilonites: Asaiah the firstborn, and his sons. 6 Of the sons of Zerah: Jeuel and their kinsmen, 690. 7 Of the Benjaminites: Sallu the son of Meshullam, son of Hodaviah, son of Hassenuah, 8 Ibneiah the son of Jeroham, Elah the son of Uzzi, son of Michri, and Meshullam the son of Shephatiah, son of Reuel, son of Ibnijah; 9 and their kinsmen according to their generations, 956. All these were heads of fathers’ houses according to their fathers’ houses.
10 Of the priests: Jedaiah, Jehoiarib, Jachin, 11 and Azariah the son of Hilkiah, son of Meshullam, son of Zadok, son of Meraioth, son of Ahitub, the chief officer of the house of God; 12 and Adaiah the son of Jeroham, son of Pashhur, son of Malchijah, and Maasai the son of Adiel, son of Jahzerah, son of Meshullam, son of Meshillemith, son of Immer; 13 besides their kinsmen, heads of their fathers’ houses, 1,760, mighty men for the work of the service of the house of God.
14 Of the Levites: Shemaiah the son of Hasshub, son of Azrikam, son of Hashabiah, of the sons of Merari; 15 and Bakbakkar, Heresh, Galal and Mattaniah the son of Mica, son of Zichri, son of Asaph; 16 and Obadiah the son of Shemaiah, son of Galal, son of Jeduthun, and Berechiah the son of Asa, son of Elkanah, who lived in the villages of the Netophathites.
17 The gatekeepers were Shallum, Akkub, Talmon, Ahiman, and their kinsmen (Shallum was the chief); 18 until then they were in the king’s gate on the east side as the gatekeepers of the camps of the Levites. 19 Shallum the son of Kore, son of Ebiasaph, son of Korah, and his kinsmen of his fathers’ house, the Korahites, were in charge of the work of the service, keepers of the thresholds of the tent, as their fathers had been in charge of the camp of the LORD, keepers of the entrance. 20 And Phinehas the son of Eleazar was the chief officer over them in time past; the LORD was with him. 21 Zechariah the son of Meshelemiah was gatekeeper at the entrance of the tent of meeting. 22 All these, who were chosen as gatekeepers at the thresholds, were 212. They were enrolled by genealogies in their villages. David and Samuel the seer established them in their office of trust. 23 So they and their sons were in charge of the gates of the house of the LORD, that is, the house of the tent, as guards. 24 The gatekeepers were on the four sides, east, west, north, and south. 25 And their kinsmen who were in their villages were obligated to come in every seven days, in turn, to be with these, 26 for the four chief gatekeepers, who were Levites, were entrusted to be over the chambers and the treasures of the house of God. 27 And they lodged around the house of God, for on them lay the duty of watching, and they had charge of opening it every morning.
28 Some of them had charge of the utensils of service, for they were required to count them when they were brought in and taken out. 29 Others of them were appointed over the furniture and over all the holy utensils, also over the fine flour, the wine, the oil, the incense, and the spices. 30 Others, of the sons of the priests, prepared the mixing of the spices, 31 and Mattithiah, one of the Levites, the firstborn of Shallum the Korahite, was entrusted with making the flat cakes. 32 Also some of their kinsmen of the Kohathites had charge of the showbread, to prepare it every Sabbath.
33 Now these, the singers, the heads of fathers’ houses of the Levites, were in the chambers of the temple free from other service, for they were on duty day and night. 34 These were heads of fathers’ houses of the Levites, according to their generations, leaders. These lived in Jerusalem.
Saul’s Genealogy Repeated35 In Gibeon lived the father of Gibeon, Jeiel, and the name of his wife was Maacah, 36 and his firstborn son Abdon, then Zur, Kish, Baal, Ner, Nadab, 37 Gedor, Ahio, Zechariah, and Mikloth; 38 and Mikloth was the father of Shimeam; and these also lived opposite their kinsmen in Jerusalem, with their kinsmen. 39 Ner fathered Kish, Kish fathered Saul, Saul fathered Jonathan, Malchi-shua, Abinadab, and Eshbaal. 40 And the son of Jonathan was Merib-baal, and Merib-baal fathered Micah. 41 The sons of Micah: Pithon, Melech, Tahrea, and Ahaz. 42 And Ahaz fathered Jarah, and Jarah fathered Alemeth, Azmaveth, and Zimri. And Zimri fathered Moza. 43 Moza fathered Binea, and Rephaiah was his son, Eleasah his son, Azel his son. 44 Azel had six sons and these are their names: Azrikam, Bocheru, Ishmael, Sheariah, Obadiah, and Hanan; these were the sons of Azel.
1 Chronicles 10
The Death of Saul and His Sons1 Chronicles 10:1 Now the Philistines fought against Israel, and the men of Israel fled before the Philistines and fell slain on Mount Gilboa. 2 And the Philistines overtook Saul and his sons, and the Philistines struck down Jonathan and Abinadab and Malchi-shua, the sons of Saul. 3 The battle pressed hard against Saul, and the archers found him, and he was wounded by the archers. 4 Then Saul said to his armor-bearer, “Draw your sword and thrust me through with it, lest these uncircumcised come and mistreat me.” But his armor-bearer would not, for he feared greatly. Therefore Saul took his own sword and fell upon it. 5 And when his armor-bearer saw that Saul was dead, he also fell upon his sword and died. 6 Thus Saul died; he and his three sons and all his house died together. 7 And when all the men of Israel who were in the valley saw that the army had fled and that Saul and his sons were dead, they abandoned their cities and fled, and the Philistines came and lived in them.
8 The next day, when the Philistines came to strip the slain, they found Saul and his sons fallen on Mount Gilboa. 9 And they stripped him and took his head and his armor, and sent messengers throughout the land of the Philistines to carry the good news to their idols and to the people. 10 And they put his armor in the temple of their gods and fastened his head in the temple of Dagon. 11 But when all Jabesh-gilead heard all that the Philistines had done to Saul, 12 all the valiant men arose and took away the body of Saul and the bodies of his sons, and brought them to Jabesh. And they buried their bones under the oak in Jabesh and fasted seven days.
13 So Saul died for his breach of faith. He broke faith with the LORD in that he did not keep the command of the LORD, and also consulted a medium, seeking guidance. 14 He did not seek guidance from the LORD. Therefore the LORD put him to death and turned the kingdom over to David the son of Jesse.
1 Chronicles 11
David Anointed King1 Chronicles 11:1 Then all Israel gathered together to David at Hebron and said, “Behold, we are your bone and flesh. 2 In times past, even when Saul was king, it was you who led out and brought in Israel. And the LORD your God said to you, ‘You shall be shepherd of my people Israel, and you shall be prince over my people Israel.’” 3 So all the elders of Israel came to the king at Hebron, and David made a covenant with them at Hebron before the LORD. And they anointed David king over Israel, according to the word of the LORD by Samuel.
David Takes Jerusalem4 And David and all Israel went to Jerusalem, that is, Jebus, where the Jebusites were, the inhabitants of the land. 5 The inhabitants of Jebus said to David, “You will not come in here.” Nevertheless, David took the stronghold of Zion, that is, the city of David. 6 David said, “Whoever strikes the Jebusites first shall be chief and commander.” And Joab the son of Zeruiah went up first, so he became chief. 7 And David lived in the stronghold; therefore it was called the city of David. 8 And he built the city all around from the Millo in complete circuit, and Joab repaired the rest of the city. 9 And David became greater and greater, for the LORD of hosts was with him.
David’s Mighty Men10 Now these are the chiefs of David’s mighty men, who gave him strong support in his kingdom, together with all Israel, to make him king, according to the word of the LORD concerning Israel. 11 This is an account of David’s mighty men: Jashobeam, a Hachmonite, was chief of the three. He wielded his spear against 300 whom he killed at one time.
12 And next to him among the three mighty men was Eleazar the son of Dodo, the Ahohite. 13 He was with David at Pas-dammim when the Philistines were gathered there for battle. There was a plot of ground full of barley, and the men fled from the Philistines. 14 But he took his stand in the midst of the plot and defended it and killed the Philistines. And the LORD saved them by a great victory.
15 Three of the thirty chief men went down to the rock to David at the cave of Adullam, when the army of Philistines was encamped in the Valley of Rephaim. 16 David was then in the stronghold, and the garrison of the Philistines was then at Bethlehem. 17 And David said longingly, “Oh that someone would give me water to drink from the well of Bethlehem that is by the gate!” 18 Then the three mighty men broke through the camp of the Philistines and drew water out of the well of Bethlehem that was by the gate and took it and brought it to David. But David would not drink it. He poured it out to the LORD 19 and said, “Far be it from me before my God that I should do this. Shall I drink the lifeblood of these men? For at the risk of their lives they brought it.” Therefore he would not drink it. These things did the three mighty men.
20 Now Abishai, the brother of Joab, was chief of the thirty. And he wielded his spear against 300 men and killed them and won a name beside the three. 21 He was the most renowned of the thirty and became their commander, but he did not attain to the three.
22 And Benaiah the son of Jehoiada was a valiant man of Kabzeel, a doer of great deeds. He struck down two heroes of Moab. He also went down and struck down a lion in a pit on a day when snow had fallen. 23 And he struck down an Egyptian, a man of great stature, five cubits tall. The Egyptian had in his hand a spear like a weaver’s beam, but Benaiah went down to him with a staff and snatched the spear out of the Egyptian’s hand and killed him with his own spear. 24 These things did Benaiah the son of Jehoiada and won a name beside the three mighty men. 25 He was renowned among the thirty, but he did not attain to the three. And David set him over his bodyguard.
26 The mighty men were Asahel the brother of Joab, Elhanan the son of Dodo of Bethlehem, 27 Shammoth of Harod, Helez the Pelonite, 28 Ira the son of Ikkesh of Tekoa, Abiezer of Anathoth, 29 Sibbecai the Hushathite, Ilai the Ahohite, 30 Maharai of Netophah, Heled the son of Baanah of Netophah, 31 Ithai the son of Ribai of Gibeah of the people of Benjamin, Benaiah of Pirathon, 32 Hurai of the brooks of Gaash, Abiel the Arbathite, 33 Azmaveth of Baharum, Eliahba the Shaalbonite, 34 Hashem the Gizonite, Jonathan the son of Shagee the Hararite, 35 Ahiam the son of Sachar the Hararite, Eliphal the son of Ur, 36 Hepher the Mecherathite, Ahijah the Pelonite, 37 Hezro of Carmel, Naarai the son of Ezbai, 38 Joel the brother of Nathan, Mibhar the son of Hagri, 39 Zelek the Ammonite, Naharai of Beeroth, the armor-bearer of Joab the son of Zeruiah, 40 Ira the Ithrite, Gareb the Ithrite, 41 Uriah the Hittite, Zabad the son of Ahlai, 42 Adina the son of Shiza the Reubenite, a leader of the Reubenites, and thirty with him, 43 Hanan the son of Maacah, and Joshaphat the Mithnite, 44 Uzzia the Ashterathite, Shama and Jeiel the sons of Hotham the Aroerite, 45 Jediael the son of Shimri, and Joha his brother, the Tizite, 46 Eliel the Mahavite, and Jeribai, and Joshaviah, the sons of Elnaam, and Ithmah the Moabite, 47 Eliel, and Obed, and Jaasiel the Mezobaite.
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What I'm Reading
Train Up a Child
By Gene Edward Veith 2/1/2007
Many years ago, someone pointed out that the book of Proverbs has 31 chapters, making it ideal for a month-long Bible reading project. So I read one chapter a day for a month, and the experience was so rewarding I kept doing it, month after month for about a year, repeating the same verses as I was going through different issues in my life, to the point that at least some of them started to sink in.
Though some of the Proverbs went over my head, others were startlingly illuminating. “The mercy of the wicked is cruel” (12:10). Exactly! As we see in the whole continuing history of godless ideologies that win traction by promising compassion, empathy, and niceness, but end with varying combinations of gulags, tyranny, terrorism, and AIDS.
“He who is estranged seeks pretexts to break out against all sound judgment” (18:1 rsv). Exactly! That is why the most persuasive arguing - including Christian apologetics - often fails to change people’s minds. And why sin is the beginning of unbelief, as the sinner, wanting to justify himself, then comes up with all kinds of reasons why Christianity must not be true. (Other translations render the verse along the lines of the esv: “Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment.” The same notion is there, that a prior alienation gives rise to “breaking out” against truth, and that unbelief has its roots in the will.)
I kept finding a wealth of advice both practical and profound, telling me how to resolve conflicts and get along with people. I learned that I am to plan, make decisions, and take action, but that God, nevertheless, is the one who leads, determines, and establishes the outcome. “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps” (16:9). “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand” (19:21). I learned that my own mind, apart from God’s Word, will lead me astray. Even if my idea seems to make so much sense. “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death” (14:12). And even if I am convinced that I am really a good person, that I am virtuous, that I reside on the moral high ground, “All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the spirit” (16:2).
Not only the individual verses but the structure of the book of Proverbs conveys wisdom. Its purpose, according to the first chapter, among other things, is to give “knowledge and discretion to the youth” (v. 4). Though the wise too will “hear and increase in learning,” many of the proverbs take the form and context of the teaching that goes on within a family.
“Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching” (1:8). And, indeed, it is all here, showing that not much has changed after all in the temptations and problems that teenagers face. Whether in the twenty-first century or the time of Solomon, “youth” must be taught to resist peer pressure (“My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent,” 1:10) and extra-marital sex (“Why should you be intoxicated, my son, with a forbidden woman?” 5:20). As are other traps such as drunkenness (20:1; 23:29-30; 31:4-7) and laziness (15:19; 19:24; 24:30-34), each of these temptations and the consequences of succumbing to them are explicated in vivid detail. As are the contrary rewards of faithfulness, such as the fruits of industry (13:4), the proper use of wine (31:6-7), true friendship (17:17), and the blessings of marriage, including sexual satisfaction (5:15-19).
All of these flow not from external restrictions or legalistic rules but from a living faith in the Lord: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths” (3:5-6).
Parents are to form their children - morally, spiritually, and in the pragmatic ways of how to function in everyday life. The book of Proverbs both teaches and models how this should be done, how to “train up a child in the way he should go” (22:6). This is what families are for. Culture, whose foundation is the family, is supposed to help.
Anthropologists tell us that the artifacts of a culture - its songs, stories, and works of art - help to convey the values of that culture to the next generations. Adults “enculturate” children. And those children, when they grow up, “enculturate” their children. If they do not, the culture will die out.
Conscientious parents trying to fight today’s trends must now deal with the phenomenon known as the “toxic parent,” one who does not try to “train up a child in the way he should go” but instead wants to be considered “cool” and so indulges the child, to the point of enabling his experimentation with sex, alcohol, and drugs. (Something to keep in mind when your teenager assures you that a parent will be chaperoning the party. Is this a Proverbs-type parent or a “toxic parent”?)
Today’s pop culture is unlike any other in history, in being driven by children rather than by adults. Us aging baby-boomers still tend to listen to the music that we listened to as children. Our styles and fashions and entertainment - and even, increasingly, what we do in church - are determined by what young people like. No wonder they have all become, literally, juvenile. In today’s topsy-turvy and increasingly infantile culture, Proverbs not only helps children become adults; it also helps adults become adults.
Dr. Gene Edward Veith is provost emeritus and professor of literature emeritus at Patrick Henry College and director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Ind.
Gene Edward Veith Books | Go to Books Page
Preparing For Death | Hebrews 9:27
By Alistair Begg
Joseph’s words to this baker must have really stung him. Imagine knowing you have three days to live. If the baker had known what his dream was going to mean, we can presume he wouldn’t have asked for the interpretation. He would rather have lived those three days in ignorance. The Certainty of Death and Judgment
(Genesis 40:18–19) 18 And Joseph answered and said, “This is its interpretation: the three baskets are three days. 19 In three days Pharaoh will lift up your head—from you!—and hang you on a tree. And the birds will eat the flesh from you.” ESV
Lawson says of Pharaoh’s baker that he died three days before his time. Thoughts of the fatal moment and of the birds feeding on his carcass must have taken possession of his soul, whether he was sleeping or awake.
But we do have an important message to deliver about death and what follows it. “Man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). We need to say that Jesus taught more about hell than He ever taught about heaven.
We need to help people understand that they cannot have a heaven without a hell, that it is intellectually implausible to have the one without the other, and that they must prepare for the day when they will stand before God and face eternal judgment.
Do you suppose Pharaoh’s baker used his final three days of his life to make preparation for his death? Perhaps he seized the chance to go back to Joseph and say, “Joseph, I’m scared to death. I don’t know what it is about you, but you seem to know the true God.”
Did he say, “Joseph, can you help me deal with this?” Or did he while away his final three days, doing nothing about his soul? We don’t know, but we can say this: If the baker failed to make use of the time that was given him, it was his own fault.
My mother died suddenly during the routine of a very normal evening, in a very normal house, with a very normal family, as a very normal forty-seven-year-old woman. In the goodness of God she was prepared for that unanticipated moment.
Are you prepared to die? If you don’t know the answer to that question, put this book down now and settle the issue with God. Don’t miss this lesson from the dungeon. Pharaoh’s baker and people on death row aren’t the only people living with a death sentence. Death is an appointment we all must keep.
Let me tell you, the baker got a deal. He had seventy-two hours to prepare. We have no such guarantee. That is why the Bible says, “Now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2).
When it comes to preparing for death, I think of the two thieves crucified with Jesus.
Both were in immediate proximity to Christ. Both were aware of the injustice being done to Him. Both were aware of the justice being meted out to them. Both knew they were not going to leave those crosses alive.
And yet one thief cursed Jesus while the other shouted over at the first one, “Don’t you fear God?” (Luke 23:40). Then he said to Jesus, “Remember me when you come into your kingdom” (v. 42). Jesus gave him the great promise, “Today you will be with me in paradise” (v. 43). I call that making preparation for death.
Dr. Alistair Begg | (Trent University; London School of Theology; Westminster Seminary) was born in Scotland and spent the first 30 years of life in the United Kingdom. Since September of 1983, he has been the senior pastor at Parkside Church in suburban Cleveland, Ohio. He is the daily speaker on the national radio program Truth For Life which stems from his weekly Bible teaching at Parkside. He and his wife, Susan, have three grown children.
Alistair Begg Books | Go to Books Page
The Certainty of Death and JudgmentJoseph told the baker the hard truth. You say, “Well, fortunately, we don’t have to say that to anybody today.” That’s right; we aren’t given specific prophecies of people’s death to deliver to them.
He Gave Us Songs
By R.C. Sproul Jr. 2/1/2007
He was at least an insightful man, if not a wise man, who first said, “I care not who writes a nation’s laws, as long as I write the nation’s songs.” He understood that what shapes our lives is rather more potent than that which merely hedges our lives. We are at least obtuse men, if not foolish men, when we labor so hard to seize the engines of political power for the sake of the kingdom. It is a good thing that we aspire to see every knee bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. His reign indeed covers all things political. But it is a bad thing that we would rather see His lordship confessed in a courtroom than in a song.
While we rightly affirm that man is soul and body (not as we too often think, souls in bodies), we would be wrong to pass over the remaining distinction between mind and heart. We are two things, the material and the immaterial, and that which is immaterial is at least two things, what we think, and what we feel. A man of integrity has mind and heart in harmony. Few of us are there, however. Excitement, more often than not, is a function of the heart more than the mind. As we consider law, usually our minds are more engaged than our hearts. It is a rare bird indeed whose nerves begin to twitter when they hear, “In re: Carleton versus the state of Nevada…” or “Whereas the charter of the town of Mendota gives license to all who live therein to….” Music, on the other hand, has charms.
Music has the unique ability to bring together heart and mind, to both teach and inspire at the same time. Music, more than abstract arguments, more than abstract law, shapes souls. We are what we sing. Which is why He who is wisdom wisely gave us songs.
One of the weaknesses of the loss of psalm singing in the church is that we have lost sight of the power of psalms as song. We know that the book of Psalms are God’s Word. We know that they contain wisdom. We may even read and study them in an attempt to internalize the wisdom they contain. They become fodder for sermons, proof texts for sundry theological positions. But that’s not the way God intended us to be shaped by the Psalms. He wrote them so that we would sing them. (This doesn’t mean, of course, that this is all we might sing. Sadly, however, too many of us who conclude we may sing songs that are not Psalms don’t take the trouble to sing the Psalms. We seem to think our only choices are Psalms only, or no Psalms at all.) Singing the Psalms moves their wisdom from our brains into our hearts. And our hearts are the font of our actions, our lives.
It seems even the world is beginning to figure this out. A recent study (apparently sponsored by the Institute for the Incredibly Obvious) demonstrated that the more teenagers are exposed to sexually explicit media, whether it be television, video games, movies, or music, the more likely they were to engage in sexual behavior at an earlier age. The world has not yet passed laws requiring teenagers to be sexually active. While we’re busy creating political action committees to keep condoms out of “our” schools, while we push for “abstinence training” in “our” schools, “our” iPods are telling us (and forgive the anachronism) that we feel like making love, that what we need is sexual healing. The iPods win every time.
If we who serve Christ sing His songs, the songs of wisdom, and the world outside the church sings songs of folly, what we would expect is different worlds. We should expect our lives to be marked by wisdom, by fidelity, by godliness. What we find, again according to sundry studies, is that evangelicals, both unmarried young people and married adults, are roughly as likely to be fornicators or adulterers as their unbelieving counterparts. The reason is likely this, we don’t listen to the music of wisdom, but instead listen to the music of the world. Our ears are as plugged into folly as the ears of our neighbors.
James Adams, in his fine book War Psalms of the Prince of Peace, affirms that the Psalms, however a rich source they might be on the life of David, exist first to tell us the story of Jesus. The Psalms cover the gamut of human experience. You will find there triumph and defeat, confidence and uncertainty, joy and despair. It is because these songs tell us the story of Jesus, however, that they are songs of wisdom. As these songs indwell us, as they shape not just our thinking but our feeling, we will become more like Jesus, who is the very personification of wisdom. As these songs proceed from our lips, we not only speak wisdom, but speak Jesus, showing forth His glory. We ought to be distinct from the world around us. We are called to be a set-apart people. Perhaps by His grace we might become distinct, if we would sing an old song to the Lord, if we would sing the Lord’s songs to the Lord. If we would sing wisdom, perhaps Wisdom might bless us.
R.C. Sproul Jr. has served previously as a pastor, professor, and teacher. He is author of numerous books. Some are listed below.
R.C. Sproul Jr. Books | Go to Books Page
The Song of Solomon
By Harry Reeder 2/1/2007
I confess the Song of Solomon has always intimidated me as a preacher. Its vivid and excitable statements of marital sexual intimacy and the penchant of commentators to interpret it allegorically have combined to make me cautious. Even the ancients recommended that a young man not read the Song of Songs until he was either married or age 30. Yet, “all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable…” (2 Tim. 3:16).
The Song of Songs is presented as a dramatic narrative that includes Solomon’s bride, the never-named Shulammite, secondly Solomon, thirdly, the daughters of Jerusalem, and fourthly, the brothers of the Shulammite. It could be the Shulammite is Naamah the Ammonite, Solomon’s first wife; the mother of Rehoboam (1 Kings 14:21) who was born one year before Solomon became king, which probably occurred around age 20. Thus she would be his first love. It’s possible that Solomon met her through one of his father’s mighty men, Zelek the Ammonite who might have lived in the rural Ammonite town of Shulah. Now, how can a pastor use this “profitable” book? Let me recommend five ways.
First, this book celebrates marital, sexual intimacy enjoyed as God’s good gift. It elevates erotic love with dynamics of care and tenderness, associated with the depths of transparency, intensity, and delight between husband and wife. When read, one quickly recognizes the God-designed, benevolent, and powerful instrument of sexual intimacy within marriage. This explains Hebrews 13:4, which declares the marriage bed is to be held sacred and honored by all.
Second, it extends and promotes intimacy within marriage by affirming recreational and ministerial sexual intimacy and not only procreational sexuality. In 1 Corinthians 7:1-5 Paul emphasizes the husband and wife are to give themselves to each other with this ministry mindset. They do not come together to take from the other but to give - the sexual relationship is not hierarchal but reciprocal. The husband/wife relationship and the gift of sexuality is not for personal gratification but for the joy of giving gratification knowing that it is “more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). In other words, giving actually heightens one’s experience, and taking diminishes one’s experience.
Third, the Song of Songs is countercultural. It powerfully presents sexuality to be enjoyed within a relationship that is defined by God. It is covenantal, monogamous, and heterosexual. Any other definition of marriage will destroy a society.
Fourth, it attacks today’s resurgence of neo-paganism, which declares the spiritual as good and the physical as evil. When God made man - male and female - and the marriage covenant, He declared that both the spiritual and physical are “good.” The fall brought death to both. Therefore, redemption renews both. We are not only born again spiritually, we are renewed so that our bodies become “temples of the Holy Spirit” anticipating the new body, the new heavens and new earth. This includes God’s good gift of sexual intimacy within marriage as renewed and by grace properly enjoyed. Any other use of sexuality is idolatry and is destructive.
Finally, while one must refrain from allegorizing the text in its entirety in order to promote spiritual meaning, it is valid to see how Christ is being presented. Ephesians 5, while defining the marriage relationship between man and woman, also declares that the marriage covenant is a proper way to understand the relationship between Christ and His bride, the church. In 1859 the great Presbyterian preacher James Henley Thornwell had the opportunity to announce the wedding of his daughter, Nancy. In the weeks leading up to this event, the hundreds traveling would end up at a funeral, not a wedding as she took ill from cholera typhoid and began a rapid demise. Thornwell, overcome, came to his daughter’s bedside in her waning moments and said, “Oh my dear daughter, such tragedy!” She replied, “Father, do not weep. I know my Savior.” He said, “But this was to be your wedding, your whole life now before you.” She, the youth, yet with greater maturity said, “Father, but I now go to a greater Groom that I am prepared to meet.” Nancy Witherspoon Thornwell was laid to rest in a wedding gown, and the tombstone reads: “As a bride prepared for her Groom.”
The Song of Solomon obviously has much pastoral use in the issues of marriage and biblical sexuality. Yet, its glorious and ultimate use is to point the people of God as the bride of Christ to our glorious, majestic, and intimate relationship with the Bridegroom, Jesus Christ. Our gown is spotless, our relationship pure by His blood, righteousness, and promised presence. With Him there are more than ten thousand joys.
Harry L. Reeder III earned an MDiv from Westminster Theological Seminary and a DMin from Reformed Theological Seminary. He is senior pastor of the 4,000-member Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham.
The Book of Job
By R. C. Sproul 2/1/2007
In the arena of biblical studies, there are five books that are generally included under the heading of “wisdom literature” or “the poetic books of the Old Testament.” They are the books of Proverbs, Psalms, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, and Job. Of these five books, one stands out in bold relief, manifesting significant differences from the other four. That is the book of Job. The wisdom that is found in the book of Job is not communicated in the form of proverb. Rather, the book of Job deals with questions of wisdom in the context of a narrative dealing with Job’s profound anguish and excruciating pain. The setting for this narrative is in patriarchal times. Questions have arisen as to the authorial intent of this book, whether it was meant to be historical narrative of a real individual or whether its basic structure is that of a drama with a prologue, including an opening scene in heaven, involving discourse between God and Satan, and moving climactically to the epilogue, in which the profound losses of Job during his trials are replenished.
In any case, at the heart of the message of the book of Job is the wisdom with respect to answering the question as to how God is involved in the problem of human suffering. In every generation protests arise saying that if God is good, then there should be no pain, no suffering or death in this world. Along with this protest against bad things happening to good people, have also been attempts to create a calculus of pain, by which it is assumed that an individual’s threshold of suffering is in direct proportion to the degree of their guilt or the sin they have committed. A quick response to this is found in the ninth chapter of John, where Jesus responds to the disciples’ question regarding the source of the suffering of the man born blind.
In the book of Job, the character is described as a righteous man, indeed the most righteous man to be found on the earth, but one whom Satan claims is righteous only to receive blessings from the hand of God. God has put a hedge around him and has blessed him beyond all mortals, and as a result the Devil accuses Job of serving God only because of the generous payoff he receives from his Maker. The challenge comes from the evil one for God to remove the hedge of protection and see whether Job will then begin to curse God. As the story unfolds, Job’s suffering goes in rapid progression from bad to worse. His suffering is so intense that he finds himself sitting on a dung heap, cursing the day he was born, and crying out in relentless pain. His suffering is so great that even his wife counsels him to curse God, that he might die and be relieved of his agony. What unfolds further in the story is the counsel given to Job from Job’s friends, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar. Their testimony shows how hollow and shallow is their loyalty to Job, and how presumptive they are in assuming that Job’s untold misery must be grounded in a radical degeneracy in Job’s character.
Job’s counsel reaches a higher level with some deep insights by Elihu. Elihu gives several speeches that carry with them many elements of biblical wisdom, but the final wisdom to be found in this great book comes not from Job’s friends or from Elihu, but from God Himself. When Job demands an answer from God, God responds with this rebuke, “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me” (Job 38:1–3). What ensues from this rebuke is the most intense interrogation of a human ever brought to bear by the Creator. It almost seems at first glance as if God is bullying Job, in as much as He says, “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?” (v. 4). God raises question after question in this manner. “Can you bind the chains of the Pleides? Or loose the belt of Orion? Can you lead forth the Mazzaroth in their season, or can you guide the Bear with its children?” (vv. 31–32). Obviously, the answers to these rhetorical questions that come in machine gun rapidity is always, “No, no, no.” God hammers away at the inferiority and subordination of Job in His interrogation. God continues with question after question about Job’s ability to do things that Job cannot do but that God clearly can do.
In chapter 40, God says to Job finally, “Shall a faultfinder contend with the Almighty? He who argues with God, let him answer it” (v. 2). Now, Job’s response is not one of defiant demand for answers to his misery. Rather he says, “Behold, I am of small account; what shall I answer you? I lay my hand on my mouth. I have spoken once, and I will not answer; twice, but I will proceed no further” (vv. 4–5). And again God picks up the interrogation and goes even more deeply in the rapid fire interrogation that shows the overwhelming contrast between the power of God, who is known in Job as El Shaddai, and the contrasting impotence of Job. Finally, Job confesses that such things were too wonderful. He says, “I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes” (42:5–6).
What is noteworthy in this drama, is that God never directly answers Job’s questions. He doesn’t say, “Job, the reason you have suffered is for this or for that.” Rather, what God does in the mystery of the iniquity of such profound suffering, is that He answers Job with Himself. This is the wisdom that answers the question of suffering — not the answer to why I have to suffer in a particular way, in a particular time, and in a particular circumstance, but wherein does my hope rest in the midst of suffering.
The answer to that comes clearly from the wisdom of the book of Job that agrees with the other premises of the wisdom literature: the fear of the Lord, awe and reverence before God, is the beginning of wisdom. And when we are befuddled and confused by things that we cannot understand in this world, we look not for specific answers always to specific questions, but we look to know God in His holiness, in His righteousness, in His justice, and in His mercy. Therein is the wisdom that is found in the book of Job.
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 5/4/2018
One of the ways God talks about the future is . . . well, by simply talking about the future. There are places in the Bible where God predicts, in words, what will happen: he talks about the future. But he also provides pictures, patterns, types, and models. In these cases he establishes an institution, or a rite, or a pattern of relationships. Then he drops hints, pretty soon a cascade of hints, that these pictures or patterns or types or models are not ends in themselves, but are ways of anticipating something even better. In these cases, then, God talks about the future in pictures.
Christians who read their Bibles a lot ponder the connections between the Davidic kingship and Jesus’ kingship, between the Passover lamb and Jesus as “Passover Lamb,” between Melchizedek and Jesus, between the Sabbath rest and the rest Jesus gives, between the high priest’s role and Jesus’ priestly role, between the temple the old covenant priest entered and the heavenly “holy of holies” that Jesus entered, and much more. Of course, for those who lived under the old covenant stipulations, covenantal fidelity meant adherence to the institutions and rites God laid down, even while those same institutions and rites, on the broader canonical scale, looked forward to something even better. Through these pictures, God talked about the future. Once a Christian grasps this point, parts of the Bible come alive in fresh ways.
One of these picture-models is Jerusalem itself, sometimes referred to as Zion (the historic stronghold). Jerusalem was bound up not only with the fact that from David on, it was the capital city (even after the division into Israel and Judah, it was the capital of the southern kingdom), but also with the fact that from Solomon on it was the site of the temple, and therefore of the focus of God’s self-disclosure.
So for the psalmist, “the city of our God, his holy mountain” is not only “beautiful” but “the joy of the whole earth” (Ps. 48:1-2). It is not only the center of armed security (48:4-8), but the locus where God’s people meditate on his unfailing love (48:9), the center of praise (48:10). Yet the psalmist looks beyond the city to God himself: he is the one who “makes her secure forever” (48:8), whose praise reaches to the end of the earth, for ever and ever (48:10, 14).
As rooted as they are in historic Jerusalem, the writers of the new covenant look to a “Jerusalem that is above” (Gal. 4:26), to “Mount Zion,” to “the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God” (Heb. 12:22), to the “new Jerusalem” (Rev. 21:2). Reflect long and often on the connections.
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 45Your Throne, O God, Is Forever
45 To The Choirmaster: According To Lilies. A Maskil Of The Sons Of Korah; A Love Song.
6 Your throne, O God, is forever and ever.
The scepter of your kingdom is a scepter of uprightness;
7 you have loved righteousness and hated wickedness.
Therefore God, your God, has anointed you
with the oil of gladness beyond your companions;
8 your robes are all fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia.
From ivory palaces stringed instruments make you glad;
9 daughters of kings are among your ladies of honor;
at your right hand stands the queen in gold of Ophir.
10 Hear, O daughter, and consider, and incline your ear:
forget your people and your father’s house,
11 and the king will desire your beauty.
Since he is your lord, bow to him.
12 The people of Tyre will seek your favor with gifts,
the richest of the people.
By Gleason Archer Jr.
25 | Nahum, Zephaniah, and Habakkuk Nahum
THE NAME of the prophet ( Nahum ) signifies “consolation” His theme deals with the holiness of God, a holiness which involves both retribution toward rebellious unbelievers and compassion toward His own people, especially those who sincerely believe and trust in Him alone. The believer is represented as rejoicing at the sight of God’s righteous vindication of His holiness in the destruction of the God-defying power of Assyria.
Outline of Nahum
I. A psalm of God’s majesty, 1:1–2:2
A. God’s vengeance upon sinners and His goodness toward His own people, 1:2–11
B. The coming restoration of Judah, 1:12–2:2
II. Prophecy of the fall of Nineveh, 2:3–3:19
A. The siege and destruction of the city, 2:3–13
B. Reason for Nineveh’s fall, 3:1–19
Nahum: Place of the Author’s Origin
Nahum is stated to have been a native of Elkosh, but the identification of this town is in much dispute. There are four competing theories: (1) Jerome identified it as Elkesi or El Kauze in Galilee. (2) Others identified it as Capernaum, since Capernaum (Kepar-Nāḥûm) signifies the village of Nahum. According to this theory, Elkosh would have been later renamed after its most celebrated citizen. (3) Some identified it with Alqush near Mosul in Assyria, although the foundation of this conjecture is very slight. (4) Still others have pointed to Elcesei, which according to Pseudepiphanius was a village of Judah below Bet Gabre in the territory of Simeon, midway between Jerusalem and Gaza. Eiselen, Raven, and Young concur in favoring this fourth conjecture, since the internal evidence of the text suggests that the author was a native of the kingdom of Judah, rather than of the Galilean region.
Nahum: Date of Composition
Since Nahum refers to the fall of Thebes to the armies of Ashurbanipal as a past event, and this event took place in 661 B.C., the prophecy must have been written subsequently to that time. On the other hand, the fall of Nineveh is predicted as a future occurrence; therefore the work must have been produced prior to 612 B.C. Walter Maier in his posthumous Book of Nahum: A Commentary (1959) marshals considerable evidence to indicate the 654 date when Nineveh was still in its glory. Other scholars prefer a time closer to the fulfillment, perhaps 625 or 620 B.C. Rationalist critics who explain this fulfilled prediction as a prophecy after the event naturally date it after 612. Some of them, like Robert Pfeiffer, regard only 2:3 – 3:19 as original and explain chapter 1 as partly original and partly supplemented by a redactor (sometime around 300 B.C.). Pfeiffer alleges that 1:2–10 has nothing to do with Nineveh but is a corrupted piece of acrostic poetry of a type that did not become popular until the fourth century B.C. It should be pointed out, however, that as the text stands, there is virtually nothing acrostic about it. Instead of following along in the order of the letters of the alphabet (as an acrostic poem is supposed to do), the opening letters of verses 2–10 come in the following order in the Hebrew alphabet: 1, 10, 3, 5, 12, 9, 6, 13, and 11. Only by the most radical emendations and reshuffling of verses can the acrostic theory be made out. Furthermore a late origin for acrostic poems has never been proved by any kind of objective evidence. The Lamentations of Jeremiah are largely acrostic, and the same is true of Davidic Psalms like 25 and 34, and the post-Davidic Ps. 119 ( 176 vv.) is entirely acrostic.
Message of Nahum
Nahum 2:6 contains a remarkably exact prediction, for subsequent history records that a vital part of the city walls of Nineveh was carried away by a great flood, and this ruin of the defensive system permitted the besieging Medes and Chaldeans to storm the city without difficulty. Some have objected to the joyous attitude with which Nahum greets the prospect of the fall of Assyria’s capital, and regard it as an exhibition of nationalistic fanaticism and vengeful malice. This however, is a misunderstanding of the ground which the prophet occupies. Because he is a man of God, he speaks as one who is wholly preoccupied with the Lord’s cause on earth. His earnest desire is to see Jehovah vindicate His holiness in the eyes of the heathen, as over against the inhumane and ruthless tyranny of that God - defying empire which had for such a long time trampled upon all its subject nations with heartless brutality. Only by a crushing and exemplary destruction of Assyria could the world be taught that might does not, in the long run, make right, and that even the mightiest infidel is absolutely helpless before the judicial wrath of Yahweh. The fact that the God of Israel could predict with such startling accuracy the fact and the manner of Nineveh’s fall was best calculated to prove to the ancient world the sovereignty of the one true God. It was a most remarkable reversal of fortune for the proud pagan capital to fall to its enemies within less than two decades after the reign of the mighty Ashurbanipal. In just fourteen years after his decease in 626 B.C., the apparently invincible empire which he had so successfully maintained toppled in ruins, never to rise again.A Survey of Old Testament Introduction
The Continual Burnt Offering
By H.A. Ironside - 1941
May 4Daniel 1:8 But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank. Therefore he asked the chief of the eunuchs to allow him not to defile himself. ESV
Daniel and his three friends, and Paul the apostle, are striking examples of men who would not risk the ruin of their testimony by self-indulgence or pandering to “fleshly lusts which war against the soul” (1 Peter 2:11). Christians cannot afford to be careless as to these matters. The body is the Lord’s. It is the temple in which the Holy Spirit dwells. To defile it by any form of unclean living is to dishonor God and to render one powerless in the hour of stress.
In the world we hear much today of efficiency experts. Men realize that if a workman, a clerk, a professional man, or an executive, is to be at his best, he must avoid many things that others indulge in who think only of momentary pleasure and sensual gratification. The man to be trusted is the man who rules himself and holds all his appetites in subjection. In spiritual things the same rule applies. He who purposes in his heart that he will not “defile himself,” but yields to the control of the Holy Spirit, is the one who will be most used of God on earth, and some day will stand before the King to be rewarded in the day of revelation.
1 Peter 2:11 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. ESV
There is a purity of heart,
A cleanness of desire,
Wrought by the Holy Comforter
With sanctifying fire.
There is a glory that awaits
Each blood-washed soul on high,
When Christ returns to take His Bride
With Him beyond the sky.
The Continual Burnt Offering: Daily Meditations on the Word of God
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
10/1/2005 Sects of Seduction
From time to time I get a knock on the door from two exuberant representatives of one of the local cult chapters. Although such visits have become less frequent in recent years, it is generally my practice to step outside for a nice little chat. The friendly couple always seem overjoyed at the fact that I am willing to take the time to talk with them, and usually, during our formal introductions, I am thinking to myself: “They have no idea what they’re in for.” After listening intently to their presentation and their questions, I begin to reply with concise, reasoned questions that always seem to be a factor in their change in demeanor. Within minutes, the exuberant facade that radiated from their smiling faces turns into a fortress of defense.
The last couple who visited me told me plainly they were Jehovah’s Witnesses, to which I responded, “So am I.” They soon discovered, however, that my definition of being a witness of Jehovah was quite different to theirs. After I spent some time explaining the necessity of the deity of Christ for fallen man’s salvation, I asked them one simple question: “If Jesus were to walk up and greet you, what would you do?” To this question they had absolutely no programmed response. “According to your beliefs,” I said, “if Jesus were to come and greet us here and now it would be entirely appropriate for you to shake His hand and say, ‘It is so nice to meet you, my friend.’ But, if He were to come and greet me, the only appropriate thing for me to do would be to fall at His feet and worship Him as my Lord and my God.” After I said this, I observed something I never had before. The younger of the two men began to cry. Then, within seconds a van pulled up and they were whisked away.
When I recall that experience, I still pray for that young man. For just as every member of every cult is enticed by those who have disguised themselves as angels of light (2 Cor. 11:14), that young man had been seduced to follow and serve as a witness not of the one and only eternal, triune Jehovah but, instead, of the prince of darkness whose minions have deceived multitudes throughout the world. For this reason, the cults of the world cannot rightly be called “sects of Christianity.” On the contrary, they are sects of Satan himself, for they have manufactured another gospel, and they have exchanged the truth of God for a lie. And, indeed, without repentance, it is before His face they will suffer His judgment.
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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
Selling one million copies a year for over one hundred years, McGuffey's Readers were the mainstay of pubic education in America. Millions of school children read them, making them some of the most influential textbooks of all time. They were written by William McGuffey, who died this day, May 4, 1873. He was a professor at the University of Virginia, president of Ohio University, and formed one of nation's first teachers' associations. A lesson in McGuffey's Fifth Eclectic Reader stated: "How powerless conscience would become without the belief of a God."
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
People see God everyday,
they just don't recognize him.
--- Pearl Bailey
Between You and Me
How tired God must be of guilt and loneliness,
for that is all we ever bring to Him.
--- Mignon McLaughlin
The Complete Neurotic's Notebook
Faith is the assurance that the thing which God has said in His word is true, and that God will act according to what He has said in his word... Faith is not a matter of impressions, nor of probabilities, nor of appearances.
--- George Mueller
The Complete Neurotic's Notebook
For humility and holiness are twins in the astonishing birth of obedience in the heart of men. So God draws unworthy us, in loving tenderness, up into fellowship with His glorious self.
--- Thomas Kelly
A Testament of Devotion
... from here, there and everywhere
Thomas A Kempis
Book Three - Internal Consolation
The Fifty-Fifth Chapter / The Corruption Of Nature And The Efficacy Of Divine Grace
O LORD, my God, Who created me to Your own image and likeness, grant me this grace which You have shown to be so great and necessary for salvation, that I may overcome my very evil nature that is drawing me to sin and perdition. For I feel in my flesh the law of sin contradicting the law of my mind and leading me captive to serve sensuality in many things. I cannot resist the passions thereof unless Your most holy grace warmly infused into my heart assist me.
There is need of Your grace, and of great grace, in order to overcome a nature prone to evil from youth. For through the first man, Adam, nature is fallen and weakened by sin, and the punishment of that stain has fallen upon all mankind. Thus nature itself, which You created good and right, is considered a symbol of vice and the weakness of corrupted nature, because when left to itself it tends toward evil and to baser things. The little strength remaining in it is like a spark hidden in ashes. That strength is natural reason which, surrounded by thick darkness, still has the power of judging good and evil, of seeing the difference between true and false, though it is not able to fulfill all that it approves and does not enjoy the full light of truth or soundness of affection.
Hence it is, my God, that according to the inward man I delight in Your law, knowing that Your command is good, just, and holy, and that it proves the necessity of shunning all evil and sin. But in the flesh I keep the law of sin, obeying sensuality rather than reason. Hence, also, it is that the will to good is present in me, but how to accomplish it I know not. Hence, too, I often propose many good things, but because the grace to help my weakness is lacking, I recoil and give up at the slightest resistance. Thus it is that I know the way of perfection and see clearly enough how I ought to act, but because I am pressed down by the weight of my own corruption I do not rise to more perfect things.
How extremely necessary to me, O Lord, Your grace is to begin any good deed, to carry it on and bring it to completion! For without grace I can do nothing, but with its strength I can do all things in You. O Grace truly heavenly, without which our merits are nothing and no gifts of nature are to be esteemed!
Before You, O Lord, no arts or riches, no beauty or strength, no wit or intelligence avail without grace. For the gifts of nature are common to good and bad alike, but the peculiar gift of Your elect is grace or love, and those who are signed with it are held worthy of everlasting life. So excellent is this grace that without it no gift of prophecy or of miracles, no meditation be it ever so exalted, can be considered anything. Not even faith or hope or other virtues are acceptable to You without charity and grace.
O most blessed grace, which makes the poor in spirit rich in virtues, which renders him who is rich in many good things humble of heart, come, descend upon me, fill me quickly with your consolation lest my soul faint with weariness and dryness of mind.
Let me find grace in Your sight, I beg, Lord, for Your grace is enough for me, even though I obtain none of the things which nature desires. If I am tempted and afflicted with many tribulations, I will fear no evils while Your grace is with me. This is my strength. This will give me counsel and help. This is more powerful than all my enemies and wiser than all the wise. This is the mistress of truth, the teacher of discipline, the light of the heart, the consoler in anguish, the banisher of sorrow, the expeller of fear, the nourisher of devotion, the producer of tears. What am I without grace, but dead wood, a useless branch, fit only to be cast away?
Let Your grace, therefore, go before me and follow me, O Lord, and make me always intent upon good works, through Jesus Christ, Your Son.
The Imitation Of Christ
Practical religion. The Christian life
Keeping Is Continuous
Another thought. This keeping is not only all-inclusive and omnipotent, but also continuous and unbroken.
People sometimes say: "For a week or a month God has kept me very wonderfully: I have lived in the light of His countenance, and I cannot say what joy I have not had in fellowship with Him. He has blessed me in my work for others. He has given me souls, and at times I felt as if I were carried heavenward on eagle wings. But it did not continue. It was too good; it could not last." And some say: "It was necessary that I should fall to keep me humble." And others say: "I know it was my own fault; but somehow you cannot always live up in the heights."
Oh, beloved, why is it? Can there be any reason why the keeping of God should not be continuous and unbroken? Just think. All life is in unbroken continuity. If my life were stopped for half an hour I would be dead, and my life gone. Life is a continuous thing, and the life of God is the life of His Church, and the life of God is His almighty power working in us. And God comes to us as the Almighty One, and without any condition He offers to be my Keeper, and His keeping means that day by day, moment by moment, God is going to keep us.
If I were to ask you the question: "Do you think God is able to keep you one day from actual transgression?" you would answer: "I not only know He is able to do it, but I think He has done it. There have been days in which He has kept my heart in His holy presence, when, though I have always had a sinful nature within me, He has kept me from conscious, actual transgression."
Now, if He can do that for an hour or a day, why not for two days? Oh! let us make God's omnipotence as revealed in His Word the measure of our expectations. Has God not said in His Word: "I, the Lord, do keep it, and will water it every moment" (Isa. 27:3)? What can that mean? Does "every moment" mean every moment? Did God promise of that vineyard or red wine that every moment He would water it so that the heat of the sun and the scorching wind might never dry it up? Yes. In South Africa they sometimes make a graft, and above it they tie a bottle of water, so that now and then there shall be a drop to saturate what they have put about it. And so the moisture is kept there unceasingly until the graft has had time to stroke, and resist the heat of the sun.
Will our God, in His tenderhearted love toward us, not keep us every moment when He has promised to do so? Oh! if we once got hold of the thought: Our whole spiritual life is to be God's doing--"It is God that worketh in us to will and to do of his good pleasure" (Phil. 2:13)--when once we get faith to expect that from God, God will do all for us.
The keeping is to be continuous. Every Morning God will meet you as you wake. It is not a question: If I forgot to wake in the Morning with the thought of Him, what will come of it? If you trust your waking to God, God will meet you in the Morning as you wake with His divine sunshine and love, and He will give you the consciousness that through the day you have got God to take charge of you continuously with His almighty power. And God will meet you the next day and every day; and never mind if in the practice of fellowship there comes failure sometimes. If you maintain your position and say: "Lord, I am going to expect Thee to do Thy utmost, and I am going to trust Thee day by day to keep me absolutely," your faith will grow stronger and stronger, and you will know the keeping power of God in unbrokenness.
Absolute Surrender (The Colportage Library)
by D.H. Stern
7 When a man’s ways please ADONAI,
he makes even the man’s enemies be at peace with him.
8 Better a little with righteousness
than a huge income with injustice.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus. --- Hebrews 10:19.
Beware of imagining that intercession means bringing our personal sympathies into the presence of God and demanding that He does what we ask. Our approach to God is due entirely to the vicarious identification of our Lord with sin. We have “boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus.”
Spiritual stubbornness is the most effectual hindrance to intercession, because it is based on sympathy with that in ourselves and in others that we do not think needs atoning for. We have the notion that there are certain right and virtuous things in us which do not need to be based on the Atonement, and just in the domain of ‘stodge’ that is produced by this idea we cannot intercede. We do not identify ourselves with God’s interests in others, we get petulant with God; we are always ready with our own ideas, and intercession becomes the glorification of our own natural sympathies. We have to realize that the identification of Jesus with sin means the radical alteration of all our sympathies. Vicarious intercession means that we deliberately substitute God’s interests in others for our natural sympathy with them.
Am I stubborn or substituted? Petted or perfect in my relationship to God? Sulky or spiritual? Determined to have my own way or determined to be identified with Him?
My Utmost for His Highest
the Poetry of RS Thomas
But what to do? Doctors in verse
Being scarce now, most poets
Are their own patients, compelled to treat
Themselves first, their complaint being
Peculiar always. Consider, you,
Whose rough hands manipulate
The fine bones of a sick culture,
What areas of that infirm body
Depend solely on a poet's cure.
Selected poems, 1946-1968
Every day, we hear stories of people who volunteer and who do great good in the world. These accounts are inspiring, and the Rabbis would have only praise for those people who act, care, and help, though not required to. Our text does not take away anything from these men and women. Volunteers are, indeed, praiseworthy. This Gemara, however, sings the praises of people who have to act, those who simply do what is expected of them, day in and day out. Their actions are not glorious or newsworthy, but they are commendable and praiseworthy.
Each and every day, people go to work and earn an honest living, supporting their families and paying their taxes. They do so, in part, because it is expected and required of them. There is little distinction in their actions—other than the fact that they are doing precisely what they should be doing, day in and day out.
Every day, most parents impart positive values to their children through hard work and honest living, often holding down more than one job. These are people for whom making ends meet may be a struggle, but for whom cheating and fraud would be unthinkable ways of making a living. The newspapers will carry stories both of the mother who stole to feed her drug habit but not her children, and of the father who refused to work to support his family. The everyday heroism of honest, hard-working folk does not make the news, but it is worthy of praise.
A single mother rears her children without benefit of spouse, teaching her youngsters love and pride. When parents have no time or interest in religion, a grandparent may be the one who brings the child to synagogue and helps keep tradition alive. A widow or widower manages to remain involved and active despite the fact that it's a "paired-off" world; widows and widowers overcome sorrow and loneliness, creating new, active lives for themselves. Parents take a firm stand against dishonesty in schoolwork, even though it means bucking the trend and swimming upstream. A family gives charity generously, though money is tight and so many of their peers are selfish.
There are these and hundreds of other examples of simple people who live honest, genuine yet ordinary lives. Rabbi Ḥanina speaks to everyday responsibilities and mundane living, not to the generals of our society but to the foot soldiers. We should not relegate them to mediocrity or dismiss them as unimportant, even though they will not get their names into "Who's Who" or receive a medal for their actions. These people are the salt of the earth, and their strength and endurance makes them true heroes of life today.
The rabbi who gave up his honor, his honor is given up.
Text / Rav Yitzḥak bar Shelah said in the name of Rav Matneh, who said in the name of Rav Ḥisda: "The father who gave up his honor, his honor is given up. The rabbi who gave up his honor, his honor is not given up." But Rav Yosef said: "Even the rabbi who gave up his honor, his honor is given up, as it says: 'The Lord went before them in a pillar of cloud by day' [Exodus 13:21]." Rava said: "Is this [the same case as] that? There, with the Holy One, blessed be He, the world is His, and the Torah is His; He can give it up. Here, is the Torah his?" Rava came back and said: "Yes, the Torah is his, as it is written: 'In his Torah he studies day and night' [Psalms 1:2, author's translation]."
Context / A person must be very careful about the honor and the reverence due his father and mother. What is reverence?… Not to sit in their special place, not to contradict their words … not to call them by their names.… What is honor? To give them food and drink, to dress them, to help them come and go. (Shulḥan Arukh, Yoreh Deah 250:1, 2, 4)
Context / A person is obligated to respect and honor his rabbi even more than his father. It is forbidden for a student to call his rabbi by his name.… He should not greet his rabbi, nor return his greeting the way he would with anyone else, but must do so with respect and reverence.… It is forbidden to walk next to him; he should rather distance himself somewhat behind him. He should not sit in his presence until he tells him to sit. He should not sit in his [teacher's] place, nor contradict his words. (Shulḥan Arukh, Yoreh Deah 252:1, 15, 16)
Jewish tradition demands that a child, as well as a student, must show respect and reverence to a parent and a teacher. Our section raises the question as to whether that parent and teacher (or rabbi) may dispense with the formalities that tradition requires. The first conclusion is that a parent may do so. The Gemara goes on to bring in a disagreement between Rav Yitzḥak bar Shela and Rav Yosef: The former holds that a rabbi is different; the formal relationship between master and disciple must always be maintained. The latter believes that a rabbi, like a parent, is able to relax the rigid rules of behavior expected of his student. Rav Yosef brings proof for this point of view from a verse in Exodus that describes God acting as a guide for the Israelites as they wandered through the desert for forty years. At night, God became a pillar of fire; in the daylight, God was a pillar of cloud. Foregoing greatness, God became a mere pillar in order to help and guide the Israelites. If God could forgo honor to help a student, then certainly a rabbi of flesh-and-blood could do the same.
Rava questions whether this analogy is really apt: God can forgo honor, because the honor was God's to do with as God pleased. But is the honor due a rabbi really the rabbi's to do with as he pleases? Rava is at first inclined to believe that the honor accorded to a rabbi is given to him because of mastery of the Torah, and the Torah belongs to God! Hence, the rabbi has no right to dispense with something that is not truly his own. Later, apparently, Rava rethinks this opinion and changes his mind, basing himself upon an interpretation of a verse. Psalm 1 refers to a righteous man (a rabbi): "The teaching of the Lord is his delight, and in his Torah he studies day and night." The first half of verse 2 refers to the "teaching of the Lord," "torat Adonai." But the second half speaks ambiguously of torato, which can be translated as "his teaching" or "His teaching." Rava chooses to interpret the word torato as referring to the teaching of the righteous. Therefore, since the Torah does belong to the rabbi, he can choose to forgo the honor ordinarily due him.
Swimming in the Sea of Talmud: Lessons for Everyday Living
The Bible knowledge commentary
But Christians may become discouraged with spiritual sowing because the harvest is often long in coming. In the face of this reality the apostle charged the Galatians not to become weary or give up because the harvest is sure. (Paul included himself as he no doubt contemplated his sometimes frustrating labors on behalf of the Galatian Christians.) The reaping will come at God's proper time, which may be only in part in this life and in full in the life to come at the judgment seat of Christ.
The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures by Dallas Seminary Faculty [New Testament Edition]
The Book of Judges spans a period of several hundred years. During this time the people of Israel consistently turned away from God, seduced by the religions of the peoples they had been commanded to drive out of Canaan.
The "judges" of this era were charismatic leaders, who typically led one or several tribes to military victory over oppressing peoples. They then served as civil and religious leaders, and during their lives the people they judged typically remained faithful to the Lord.
Biographical Study. There is great value in looking at the lives of Bible men and women. What do we look for? We observe their experiences: How do these mirror our own experiences? What errors did they make we can avoid? What positive choices can we imitate? We look at their character: What traits do we want to see developed in our own lives? How did that person grow and mature? We look at their relationship with God: What lessons can we learn? How did their faith find expression? What difficulties helped develop their trust in God? How was love for the Lord displayed? By their example, we learn and grow.
The judges of ancient Israel have captured the imaginations of children in Israel and the Christian era. But there is much here for adults, as we lead biographical studies of these men and women of faith.
In studying this section of Judges we're guided by a principle of biblical interpretation we can call "selection and emphasis." All the events that God chose to have recorded in Scripture are there for a reason. But the story of some events is given more emphasis than others. This rightly draws our attention to those reports that the Bible emphasizes.
For instance, we can look at the number of verses given in this Bible book to the story of each judge.
|Deborah/Barak||4:1–5:31 5||5 verses|
In terms of the impact of the judges on the men and women of their own times, each may have been equally significant. But in terms of the message for us in the life of these judges, it is clear that Deborah, Gideon, Jephthah, and Samson are more important to us. So in this unit we'll examine the message in each of their lives, and how to convey that message to children and to adults.
Deborah/Barak: Judges 4–5
Ancient civilizations were patriarchal in structure. In such societies, the role of men was emphasized. In many cultures women were viewed as nothing more than property, and were not permitted even to inherit the possessions of their husbands, much less given authority.
Israel too was patriarchal, but women were not oppressed there as in other lands. Women are even among the Old Testament prophets, who were called by God to be His spokeswomen.
Deborah was one of these special women, who even before the military victory over the Cannanites was "judging" Israel from Ramah.
The term "judging" is important if we are to understand this woman's importance. A judge was more than a person who settled disputes (which Deborah did: see Judges 4:5). A judge in Israel exercised all the functions of a governor: he or she held executive and legislative authority, and often military authority as well. We can sense Deborah's authority as she "sends for" Barak, and he comes. It is only when Barak arrives that Deborah speaks in her role as prophetess, and tells him,"The Lord, the God of Israel, commands you."
The Lord's command. This area of Palestine had been oppressed for 20 years by a powerful Canaanite king. His power rested in military strength: the Canaanites had 900 chariots of iron.
These military chariots often had sharp blades attached to the hubs of their wheels: foot soldiers were devastated by the charge of these heavy vehicles, their whirring knives flashing.
God promised through Deborah to give Barak and just 10,000 Israelites a victory over the larger, better equipped Canaanite force.
Barak was willing to obey only if Deborah promised to go too. "If you go with me, I will go; but if you don't go with me, I won't go" (Judges 4:8).
Clearly Deborah had won not only the respect of the leading men of her day, but also was held in awe by them. No one who observes Barak's response to Deborah could ever believe that women were, because of their sex alone, second-class citizens in Israel. This woman was a leader; a leader on whom men like Barak had learned to depend.
Deborah's secret. While we have to believe that Deborah was an exceptional person in her own right, there was more to her leadership than her special talents. We can be sure she was wise and fair: the readiness of Israelites to trek to where Deborah held court so she could settle their disputes tells us that (Judges 4:5). But what really made Deborah special, and won her the respect of the men of Israel, was her closeness to the Lord.
God spoke to this woman.
And God spoke through her.
She was one of those few spokesmen that God selected to communicate His will to His Old Testament people: Deborah was a prophetess (Judges 4:4). It was Deborah's special relationship with God that was recognized by all the people, and that won her their respect.
And it was Deborah's closeness to God that led Barak to call for her to go with him.
Barak was willing to fight. But he wanted to be sure of God's presence. In this particular historical situation, it was Deborah who represented to Barak the very presence of God.
The victory. Deborah did go with Barak, and he led his forces to a stunning military victory. But even there Barak was directed and encouraged by Deborah (Judges 4:14).
As if to underline the role of Deborah, a woman, and to protect her place, neither Barak nor his men killed the Canaanite leader, Sisera. He was killed by another woman, Jael, who drove a tent peg into his temple when he fell into an exhausted sleep! Women played the leading parts in this familiar story from the days when Judges ruled.
The Teacher's Commentary
The Jewish Diaspora from Pompey to 70 C.E.
After suppressing the Jews of Mesopotamia, Lusius Quietus was elected consul, and Trajan then appointed him governor of Judea. There are no specific details concerning any war in Judea related to the Diaspora uprisings of 115–117, and none of the Greek or Latin sources refers to fighting in Judea during this period. Rabbinic sources (Seder ʿOlam Rabbah 30; m. Soṭah 9:14) do mention a “War of Kitos” that occurred fifty-two years after Vespasian’s war and sixteen years before the Bar Kokhba Revolt. Like these two wars, the “War of Kitos” saw the passage of sumptuary laws by the rabbis and a prohibition of teaching Greek. Nevertheless, the rabbinic sources are ambiguous at best. Rabbinic tradition preserves an account of two martyrs, Julianus and Pappus, who supposedly died under Trajan, but these deaths could have taken place anywhere (m. Soṭah 9:14; Megillat Taʿanit 2:9).
However, war and rebellion soon came to Judea, led by a charismatic leader, Shimon ben Kosiba. Later rabbinic sources claim that Ben Kosiba received the support of Rabbi Aqiba, who renamed the revolutionary leader Bar Kokhba (Aramaic for “Son of the Star”) in reference to the prophecy in Num. 24:17 (“A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel”). Bar Kokhba does not make any messianic claim in his letters, but on his coins he is called “prince (naśiʾ) of Israel,” a title that had a long history of messianic associations.
The immediate causes of the war are unclear because we lack a detailed narrative of its course. It is likely that economic distress, hatred of the Romans, and anger over the destruction of the Temple played major roles in inciting Jews to rebel. Further, land confiscations probably exacerbated economic hardship, and religious factors also seem to have been influential. According to the Historia Augusta, the revolt began because Hadrian issued an edict prohibiting circumcision (14.2). The ban was part of a wider, empire-wide prohibition on mutilation, including castration, but Hadrian must have known how the Jews would respond. Dio suggests that the emperor also had decided to turn Jerusalem into a new pagan city, Aelia Capitolina (Dio 69.12.1–2), and perhaps this prohibition was connected to that larger plan.
The rebellion’s territorial extent is also unclear, but most evidence suggests a concentration in the part of Judea closest to Jerusalem and the Dead Sea. The Jews seem to have had some success in the beginning, but it is not clear if the Jewish rebels ever managed to seize Jerusalem. The rebel letters found in the desert refer to Herodion and not Jerusalem as the insurgent headquarters, and their last stronghold was Bethar, not Jerusalem.
The Romans responded seriously to this new threat, and Hadrian sent Gaius Julius Severus from Britain to take over command of Judea in 134 C.E. Dedicatory inscriptions indicate that legions from all over the empire were sent to Judea, but otherwise there is no indication of troop size or makeup. The paucity of evidence from Greco-Roman authors suggests hesitancy on the part of the imperial government to mention a brutal suppression of rebellion, which did not fit well with Hadrian’s image of benevolent patronage of the provinces.
According to Dio, the Romans killed more than 500,000 Jews and destroyed 50 towns and 785 villages in the suppression of the revolt. He also claims that they enslaved many of the survivors (Dio 69.14.3). Although these numbers likely are inflated, the bones discovered in the Judean Desert caves testify to Roman thoroughness and ruthlessness. Rabbinic sources state that many sages were martyred, including Rabbi Aqiba, and a period of strict persecution followed in which Jews could not practice many facets of their religion, including studying Torah, observing the Sabbath, and circumcising their sons. Indeed, Jews did not receive permission to circumcise their sons until after Hadrian’s death. Perhaps the most long-lasting and devastating result of the war, however, was the expulsion of the Jews from Jerusalem (now called Aelia Capitolina) and its territory (Justin, Apology 1.6). Hadrianic coins celebrated the new city with a Greek figure representing it, and a temple dedicated to Hadrian was constructed atop the Temple Mount itself. Thus, what began as an attempt to liberate the Jews of Judea ultimately led to their death and to the enslavement and expulsion of Jews from their Holy City. With the failure of the Bar Kokhba Revolt, a major period of Jewish history comes to an end.
The Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism
There is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents. --- Luke 15:10.
Beloved, the angels sing over sinners who repent because they know what the poor sinners have escaped. ( Classic Sermons/Angels (Kregel Classic Sermons Series) ) You and I can never imagine all the depths of hell. Shut out from us by a black veil of darkness, we cannot tell the horrors of that dismal dungeon of lost souls. But the angels know better than you or I could guess.
They know it. Not that they have felt it, but they remember that day when Satan and his angels rebelled against God. They know what hell is for they have looked within its jaws and have seen their own brothers fast enclosed within them. Therefore, when they see a sinner saved, they rejoice because there is one more soul escaped out of the mouth of the lion.
There is yet a better reason. The angels know what the joys of heaven are, and, therefore, they rejoice over one sinner that repents. We talk about pearly gates, golden streets, white robes, harps of gold, crowns of amaranth, and all that, but if an angel could speak to us of heaven, he would smile and say, “All these fine things are but child’s talk. God has given you an alphabet in which you may learn the first rough letters of what heaven is. But what it is you do not know.” You may talk, think, guess, and dream, but you can never measure the infinite heaven that God has provided for his children. Thus, when they see a soul saved and a sinner repenting, they clap their hands. They know that all those blessed mansions are yours, since all these sweet places of everlasting happiness are the exclusive inheritance of every sinner who repents.
You remember the occasion when the Lord met with you. Ah! little did you think what a commotion there was in heaven. If all the rulers of earth had marched in pageant through the streets with all their robes and jewelry and crowns and all their regalia, yet an angel would only have stopped to smile at those poor tawdry things. But over you—the vilest of the vile, the poorest of the poor, the most obscure and unknown—over you angelic wings were hovering, and concerning you it was said on earth and sung in heaven, “Hallelujah, for a child is born to God today.”
--- C. H. Spurgeon
Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
Weak Lungs May 4
Sickness proved a blessing for W. Robertson Nicoll, for it determined his career and ministry. He was born in 1851 with weak lungs. His mother, brother, and sister died from tuberculosis. He was raised by his father, Pastor Harry Nicoll, whose church numbered 100 souls—but whose library numbered 17,000 books.
Inheriting his dad’s love for literature, Robertson began a weekly column for the Aberdeen Journal. He started pastoring, but doctors told him his lungs were too weak for preaching. He contracted typhoid and pleurisy, resigned his church, and retreated to his books. Here Robertson found his calling.
He was already editing a magazine called The Expositor, and in 1886 he began The British Weekly. It became a leading Christian journal in Britain. He then started The Bookman, and two years later The Woman at Home appeared in magazine stalls. While editing his four periodicals, Robertson began publishing books (he read two books a day throughout his life). The Expositor’s Bible, a series of 50 volumes, was released between 1888 and 1905. Then The Expositor’s Greek New Testament appeared. Robertson persuaded Alexander Maclaren to issue his expositions; then he found and developed other writers. In all, Robertson edited hundreds of titles and wrote 40 books of his own. He became the most prolific and respected Christian journalist in the English-speaking world.
In 1909, while being knighted, he said, “I never contemplated a literary career. I had expected to go on as a minister, doing literary work in leisure times, but my fate was sealed for me.” His illness forced him to do much of his work propped in bed amid the clutter of newspapers, books, pipes, and cigarette ashes. His cats purred nearby, and he always kept a fire burning, claiming that fresh air was the devil’s invention. His library contained 25,000 volumes, including 5,000 biographies. “I have read every biography I could lay my hands on,” he said, “and not one has failed to teach me something.”
Sir W. Robertson Nicoll died on May 4, 1923. Among his last words were, “I believe everything I have written about immortality!”
“Rain and snow fall from the sky. But they don’t return without watering the earth That produces seeds to plant and grain to eat. That’s how it is with my words. They don’t return to me without doing everything I send them to do.”
--- Isaiah 55:10,11.
On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - May 4
“Shall a man make gods unto himself, and they are no gods.”
One great besetting sin of ancient Israel was idolatry, and the spiritual Israel are vexed with a tendency to the same folly. Remphan’s star shines no longer, and the women weep no more for Tammuz, but Mammon still intrudes his golden calf, and the shrines of pride are not forsaken. Self in various forms struggles to subdue the chosen ones under its dominion, and the flesh sets up its altars wherever it can find space for them. Favourite children are often the cause of much sin in believers; the Lord is grieved when he sees us doting upon them above measure; they will live to be as great a curse to us as Absalom was to David, or they will be taken from us to leave our homes desolate. If Christians desire to grow thorns to stuff their sleepless pillows, let them dote on their dear ones.
It is truly said that “they are no gods,” for the objects of our foolish love are very doubtful blessings, the solace which they yield us now is dangerous, and the help which they can give us in the hour of trouble is little indeed. Why, then, are we so bewitched with vanities? We pity the poor heathen who adore a god of stone, and yet worship a god of gold. Where is the vast superiority between a god of flesh and one of wood? The principle, the sin, the folly is the same in either case, only that in ours the crime is more aggravated because we have more light, and sin in the face of it. The heathen bows to a false deity, but the true God he has never known; we commit two evils, inasmuch as we forsake the living God and turn unto idols. May the Lord purge us all from this grievous iniquity!
“The dearest idol I have known,
Whate’er that idol be;
Help me to tear it from thy throne,
And worship only thee.”
Evening - May 4
“Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible.”
1 Peter 1:23.
Peter most earnestly exhorted the scattered saints to love each other “with a pure heart fervently” and he wisely fetched his argument, not from the law, from nature, or from philosophy, but from that high and divine nature which God hath implanted in his people. Just as some judicious tutor of princes might labour to beget and foster in them a kingly spirit and dignified behaviour, finding arguments in their position and descent, so, looking upon God’s people as heirs of glory, princes of the blood royal, descendants of the King of kings, earth’s truest and oldest aristocracy, Peter saith to them, “See that ye love one another, because of your noble birth, being born of incorruptible seed; because of your pedigree, being descended from God, the Creator of all things; and because of your immortal destiny, for you shall never pass away, though the glory of the flesh shall fade, and even its existence shall cease.” It would be well if, in the spirit of humility, we recognized the true dignity of our regenerated nature, and lived up to it. What is a Christian? If you compare him with a king, he adds priestly sanctity to royal dignity. The king’s royalty often lieth only in his crown, but with a Christian it is infused into his inmost nature. He is as much above his fellows through his new birth, as a man is above the beast that perisheth. Surely he ought to carry himself, in all his dealings, as one who is not of the multitude, but chosen out of the world, distinguished by sovereign grace, written among “the peculiar people” and who therefore cannot grovel in the dust as others, nor live after the manner of the world’s citizens. Let the dignity of your nature, and the brightness of your prospects, O believers in Christ, constrain you to cleave unto holiness, and to avoid the very appearance of evil.
Morning and Evening
JOYFUL, JOYFUL, WE ADORE THEE
Henry van Dyke, 1852–1933
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy … against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22)
While gazing at the magnificent Berkshire mountains of Massachusetts, Henry van Dyke described in “Joyful, Joyful,” the many aspects of life that should bring us joy. He insisted that his text, written in 1911, be sung to the music of “Hymn of Joy” from Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. This combination of words and great music makes “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee” one of the most joyous expressions of any hymn in the English language.
One of the forceful ideas expressed by van Dyke is that God’s gracious love for us should create a greater “brother love” for our fellow man. With God’s help we can become victorious over strife and be “lifted to the joy divine” as we daily show more love to others.
Henry van Dyke was a distinguished Presbyterian minister who served as a moderator of his denomination for a time and as a Navy Chaplain in World War I. Later he was the ambassador to Holland and Luxembourg under President Wilson. He also served a number of years as a professor of literature at Princeton University. High honors came to him for his many devotional writings. Yet this one inspiring hymn is the reason Henry van Dyke is best remembered today:
Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee, God of glory, Lord of love; hearts unfold like flow’rs before Thee, hail Thee as the sun above. Melt the clouds of sin and sadness, drive the dark of doubt away; giver of immortal gladness, fill us with the light of day!
All Thy works with joy surround Thee, earth and heav’n reflect Thy ways; stars and angels sing around Thee, center of unbroken praise; field and forest, vale and mountain, bloss’ming meadow, flashing sea, chanting bird and flowing fountain call us to rejoice in Thee.
Thou art giving and forgiving, ever blessing, ever blest, well-spring of the joy of living, ocean-depth of happy rest! Thou the Father, Christ our Brother—All who live in love are Thine: Teach us how to love each other; lift us to the joy divine.
Mortals, join the mighty chorus which the Morning stars began; father-love is reigning o’er us; brother-love binds man to man. Ever singing, march we onward, victors in the midst of strife; joyful music lifts us sunward in the triumph song of life.
For Today: Job 38:7; Psalm 98; Habakkuk 3:17–19; 1 Peter 3:8, 9.
Would it be possible for you to offer your praise to God for His matchless love in some creative way—original poetry, music, painting …?
Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
Martin Luther | (1483-1546)
Sect. XIV. — UNDER your third head, you attempt to make us some of those very modest and quiet Epicureans. With a different kind of advice indeed, but no better than that, with which the two forementioned particulars are brought forward: — “Some things (you say) are of that nature, that, although they are true in themselves, and might be known, yet it would not be prudent to prostitute them to the ears of every one.” —
Here again, according to your custom, you mingle and confound every thing, to bring the sacred things down to a level with the profane, without making any distinction whatever: again falling into the contempt of, and doing an injury to God. As I have said before, those things which are either found in the sacred Writings, or may be proved by them, are not only plain, but wholesome; and therefore may be, nay, ought to be, spread abroad, learnt, and known. So that your saying, that they ought not to be prostituted to the ears of every one, is false: if, that is, you speak of those things which are in the Scripture: but if you speak of any other things, they are nothing to me, and nothing to the purpose: you lose time and paper in saying any thing about them.
Moreover, you know that I agree not with the Sophists in any thing: you may therefore spare me, and not bring me in at all as connected with their abuse of the truth. You had, in this book of yours, to speak against me. I know where the Sophists are wrong, nor do I want you for my instructor, and they have been sufficiently inveighed against by me: this, therefore, I wish to be observed once for all, whenever you shall bring me in with the Sophists, and disparage my side of the subject by their madness. For you do me an injury; and that you know very well.
The Bondage of the Will or Christian Classics Ethereal Library
W. Phillip Keller | (1920-1997)
6 He Guides Me in Paths of Righteousness for His Name’s Sake
A similar procedure applies to flocks of sheep taken out on summer range in the hills by itinerant herders. They deliberately lead or drive their sheep onto fresh range almost every day. A pattern of grazing is worked out carefully in advance so that the sheep do not feed over the same ground too long or too frequently.
Some shepherds set up a base camp and fan out from it in wide circles, like the lobes of a clover leaf, covering new pasturage each day, returning to camp at night.
Coupled with this entire concept of management, there is of course the owner’s intimate knowledge of his pastures. He has been all over this ground again and again. He knows its every advantage and every drawback. He knows where his flock will thrive, and he is aware of where the feed is poor. So he acts accordingly.
A point worthy of mention here is that whenever the shepherd opens a gate into a fresh pasture, the sheep are filled with excitement. As they go through the gate, even the staid old ewes will often kick up their heels and leap with delight at the prospect of finding fresh feed. How they enjoy being led onto new ground.
Now as we turn to the human aspect of this theme, we will be astonished at some of the parallels. As mentioned earlier, it is no mere whim on God’s part to call us sheep. Our behavior patterns and life habits are so much like that of sheep it is well nigh embarrassing.
First of all, Scripture points out that most of us are a stiff-necked and stubborn lot. We prefer to follow our own fancies and turn to our own ways. “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way” (Isaiah 53:6). And this we do deliberately, repeatedly, even to our own disadvantage. There is something almost terrifying about the destructive self-determination of a human being. It is inexorably interlocked with personal pride and self-assertion. We insist we know what is best for us even though the disastrous results may be self-evident.
Isaiah 53:6 All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all. ESV
Just as sheep will blindly, habitually, stupidly follow one another along the same little trails until they become ruts that erode into gigantic gullies, so we humans cling to the same habits that we have seen ruin other lives.
Turning to “my own way” simply means doing what I want. It implies that I feel free to assert my own wishes and carry out my own ideas.
And this I do in spite of every warning.
We read in Proverbs 14:12 and 16:25, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.”
Proverbs 14:12 There is a way that seems right
to a man,
but its end is the way to death. ESV
Proverbs 16:25 There is a way that seems right
to a man,
but its end is the way to death. ESV
In contrast to which Christ the Good Shepherd comes gently and says, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10).
John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. ESV
John 10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. ESV
The difficult point is that most of us don’t want to come. We don’t want to follow. We don’t want to be led in the paths of righteousness. Somehow it goes against our grain. We actually prefer to turn to our own way even though it may take us straight into trouble.
The stubborn, self-willed, proud, self-sufficient sheep that persists in pursuing its old paths and grazing on its old polluted ground will end up a bag of bones on ruined land. The world we live in is full of such folk. Broken homes, broken hearts, derelict lives, and twisted personalities remind us everywhere of men and women who have gone their own way. We have a sick society struggling to survive on beleaguered land. The greed and selfishness of mankind leave behind a legacy of ruin and remorse.
Amid all this chaos and confusion Christ the Good Shepherd comes and says, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34). But most of us, even as Christians, simply don’t want to do this. We don’t want to deny ourselves, give up our right to make our own decisions—we don’t want to follow; we don’t want to be led.
Mark 8:34 And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. ESV
Of course, most of us, if confronted with this charge, would deny it. We would assert vehemently that we are “led of the Lord.” We would insist that we would follow wherever He leads. We sing songs to this effect and give mental assent to the idea. But as far as actually being led in paths of righteousness is concerned, precious few of us follow that path.
Psalm 25 4 Make me to know your ways, O LORD;
teach me your paths.
5 Lead me in your truth and teach me,
for you are the God of my salvation;
for you I wait all the day long. ESV
Actually this is the pivot point on which a Christian either “goes on” with God or “goes back” from following on.
There are many willful, wayward, indifferent, self-interested Christians who cannot really be classified as followers of Christ. There are relatively few diligent disciples who forsake all to follow the Master.
Jesus never made light of the cost involved in following Him. In fact, He made it painfully clear that it was a rugged life of rigid self-denial. It entailed a whole new set of attitudes. It was not the natural, normal way a person would ordinarily live, and this is what made the price so prohibitive to most people.
In brief, seven fresh attitudes have to be acquired. They are the equivalent of progressive forward movements onto new ground with God. If one follows them, he will discover fresh pasturage; new, abundant life; and increased health, wholesomeness, and holiness in his walk with God. Nothing will please Him more, and most certainly no other activity on our part will or can result in as great a benefit to other lives around us.
A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23
2015 Q & A 2 with Ligon Duncan
2016 Q & A 1 with Ed Welch
2016 Q & A 2 with Ed Welch
Brett Meador | Athey Creek
1 Chronicles 11-13
m2-176 | 8-16-2017